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Posts Tagged ‘politics’

The Game Has Changed

The game has changed in American national politics. The players must change as well.

This is no longer a game between less taxes and more taxes. This is no longer a game of more government assistance programs vs less government assistance programs. It’s a much darker, much more dangerous game now. This is a game for the very nature and soul of this country. It’s effectively open combat between the forces of liberty and sanity vs. the forces of repression and madness. It’s that serious.

The Democratic Party is woefully unprepared to fight this battle. Despite a handful of stars like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, the bench and most of the first string are  weak and ineffective. They are uninspiring and lack the demeanor and passion required to fight hard for what they believe. They are riding on the decades-long inertia of union and government service sector support — both of which are dead and dying — and are incapable of the shift in tone and strategy required to save this country from the Cheeto Demon and his cadre of sycophants.

This is why the House Democrats must reject Nancy Pelosi as their House Minority Leader, and find someone new. She, like Hillary Clinton, represents the old, tired Democratic Party. That party is dead, and frankly, good riddance to it.

The Democratic Party needs to swerve away from tired, old, union-fed liberalism and change their modus operandi outright. Their new strategy must include:

  • Appealing to younger voters before they are captured by anger-fueled media outlets like Fox News and Breitbart
  • Giving minorities an actual, active role in their party, instead of the chronic lip service they’ve been given over the decades
  • Shifting Democratic economic policies towards building a strong freelance economy, including the support mechanisms to enable it, which is the only way the middle class will succeed in the future
  • Shift away from tax-and-spend arguments, including the wage gap (which makes them sound like they are anti-success), and shift toward being a country whose foundation is civil liberties, sane political discourse, and social and economic progress for all Americans

Nancy Pelosi is has been one of many at the Democratic Party helm for far too long. They’ve struck the iceberg, someone else must steer the lifeboats.

 

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It’s been close to a week since the midterms, and the disappointment still lingers.

Now if you’re still with me, you might be saying “another liberal scumbag” or something similar. But you’d be far from the truth. I actually agree with some GOP fundamentals. The cost of doing business here, including the hiring of employees, is too high. This keeps our economy depressed. There are many things controlled by the feds that really belong with the states. And many of our social programs actually result in a culture of entrapment and dependency that’s counterproductive.

Regardless, I’m not only incredibly disappointed in the GOP takeover, I’m actually disgusted.

It’s About Ethics, Stupid

Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign famously told its staffers “it’s the economy, stupid.” This was meant to keep them on-message: that all other issues are effectively meaningless in the eyes of voters. People vote with, and because of, their pocketbooks. Totally understandable, you can’t really fault folks for wanting to provide for their families.

Unfortunately, there is actually something more important than the economy. That something is ethics.

I’m not naive enough to suggest we have to elect ethical politicians. I’m not naive enough to suggest that Congress or state legislatures need to be squeaky-clean with nothing but honest men & women doing nothing but good, honorable work. That would be like suggesting unicorns are a sustainable food source. Unethical politicians are part-and-parcel of governing since the Roman Empire. Both parties have them, always have, and always will.

But there’s something deeply disturbing about today’s Republicans. They have reached a level of unethical behavior that’s well beyond free hot tubs and kickbacks.

The Pockets of Big Business

Big money in politics is also nothing new. But we have to go waaaay back to the robber barons to see the level of corrupting influence we have today. We have reached a point where our very freedoms are challenged by Big Business. Of course, you can pick apart big-money donations and find reprehensible influence-peddling amongst Democrats and Republicans, and say “they all do it”, but the Republicans made absolutely certain that this influence peddling not only continues, but that it’s absolutely protected as free speech.

Yes, I’m talking about Citizen’s United. Citizen’s United clearly puts the principle of free and fair elections, and sane and responsible government, at direct risk. Citizen’s United basically said it is perfectly acceptable for money to control the political process and the political discourse. And who supports Citizen’s United wholeheartedly, and refuses efforts to put political power back in the hands of the people?

Republicans.

Only the GOP is working to guarantee that big money will control our political process, even when it opposes the interests of the population as a whole. They’ve basically put corruption into law.

Denying Science

The worst of today’s influence peddling surrounds energy. The Koch Brothers and other moneyed interests are basically using their millions to fight science. And the Republicans are the town criers of this inanity. There is something specifically reprehensible about science deniers. Basically, these people are combating the very laws of physics because they are on someone’s payroll. I can’t barely form words to describe how disgusting this is.

Science denial is very nearly the worst of the unethical behaviors. When you deny science you directly put people at risk. You compromise safety. You compromise health. You compromise food supplies. You compromise the education of our children. You compromise damned near everything. And that makes you a reprehensible human being.

And for what? Because some rich bigwigs donate to your campaign, control the media, and manipulate the message? And why are they doing so? To make money.

Refuting the facts in order to make more money is the very definition of unethical, scumbag behavior.

But What’s Even Worse …

So if you had to pick something that was truly unethical amongst politicians, what would it be? What would be worse than intentionally supporting & passing bad policies in order to profit your supporter? What would be worse than intentionally combating scientific data simply so your supporters could make more money?

How about intentionally manipulating the system solely so you can stay in power?

This is the worst of the worst. This behavior has been used successfully by tyrants the world over, for decades and decades, and we’ve rightly condemned them for it.

Yet, this is what the GOP is doing, and not just doing, but doing with full admission and even bravado!

These Republicans intentionally derailed Obama’s presidency simply so they would have a better chance getting elected. They intentionally manipulated election rules to benefit themselves. They intentionally gerrymandered congressional districts to ensure their own victory (fair representation be damned). They intentionally passed policies with the express intention of disenfranchising folks who might vote against them! This is Boss Tweed stuff, this is the direct manipulation of the voting process, of our very democracy! It is a thumbing of the nose at the fundamental freedoms, the very basis of our Constitution, the very foundation of any definition of “liberty”.

The Democrats aren’t particularly honest, I have no doubt of that. They also aren’t particularly bright, nor are they particularly good at running campaigns. But all of that pales in comparison to the sleazy, slimy behavior of Republicans. They simply do not deserve to be in power, regardless of their policies.

And yet, put them into power is exactly what we did.

Congratulations.

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A Game-Changer? Hopefully

Yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court decided not to intervene in several appeals of same-sex marriage equality. There are reams and reams of analysis on the ramifications of this decision all over the Interwebs, all of it better than mine, so I won’t even try.

I think this is great news. I support same-sex marriage and general equality for the LGBT community. Part of this is my own system of values. I just don’t see anything wrong with it amongst consenting adults.

But beyond that, I think this is great news for the principle of a limited government. I think even conservatives should rejoice. It really boils down to good, limited governance of a free society.

I know staunch libertarians will disagree with me on this, but a free & prosperous society actually requires a strong, functioning government. The key is strong & functioning with regards to what a good government should be doing.

In my view, the good government of a free society needs to provide these functions:

  • defending the nation from external attacks
  • keeping the internal peace when individuals cannot do so themselves
  • providing a legal framework for conducting business and settling disputes
  • ensuring all citizens have equal voice and are subject to fair treatment; and that the weak are protected from being abused by the strong
  • funding and implementing beneficial public works projects that cannot effectively be completed by the private sector

And … that’s it. Sure, one can quibble on exactly how these functions should be done, but this is really the list on what a government should do for its people.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The problem many social conservatives have is they add this sixth bullet, in one form or another:

  • be the guardian of a moral code

This is what the gay rights limiters, the “no sodomy” lawmakers, the abortion deniers really want: they want the U.S. government to be the enforcer of a moral code (specifically, their moral code).

Ugh, what a horrid thought. It amazes me that these folks don’t see this as a horrid thought!

It’s not too hard to imagine a world where governments enforce moral codes. It’s happened ever since the dawn of civilization. Tyrannical regime after tyrannical regime has done everything from slavery to ethnic/religious cleansing to forced castration to progroms and ghettoization, all to enforce their “moral code”. These are all terrible things, and to think some people don’t see it this way is immensely troubling. A government, even the U.S. government, enforcing moral codes is a bad idea!

Plus it’s just a waste of money, if you’ll permit me to be so crass. Do we really want to pay taxes to enforce this stuff? I don’t

This ruling should be taken as a signal that laws governing behavior solely for the enforcement of a moral code, and for no other valid reason covered by good governance, should be overruled.

The Other Reason This Is Right

Awareness.

Enlightenment.

Piety.

Oneness.

Grace.

Ascendancy.

All are terms, terms across so many religions and belief systems. Toss in Heaven, or Nirvana, or Bodhi, or any of a number of more specific words. All words connoting the apex of spiritual existence.

Now look at all the greats across all these religions or philosophies. St. Thomas Aquinas. John the Baptist. Siddhārtha Gautama. Mohandas Ghandi. Mother Theresa. There are lots, lots more.

Do you think any of them needed a government entity to enforce their moral code upon them? No. They believed it, took it to heart, made it their own, and based their lives upon it. Oh, and what lives they led! Such lives, that we we still speak their names with reverance, even millenia later!

Religion, spirituality, philosophy: these are all things that are yours. They are personal to you. Your journey to whatever the apex of your own belief system is yours, your own, no one else’s.

And it is a hard journey. I don’t know of any major religion that claims it’s easy. It’s difficult, and it is intended to be difficult. Heaven isn’t just something that you can stroll into, you have to earn it, through good works, or a pious life, or self-sacrifice, or whatever your beliefs call for. It requires strength of will and strength of character.

if you need a government to enforce your morality upon you or another, you may want to consider not only what, exactly, that morality means to you, but also what your character lacks that you can’t lead the good, clean life you want on your own, without the government enforcing it for you.

This is a good ruling, no matter how you look at it.

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A Monument to the Politically Crazy

Somewhere in Mentor, Ohio, sits the well-kept home of our 20th President, James A. Garfield. Few Americans know anything about James Garfield, or perhaps their only knowledge of this man is through the lyrics of a Johnny Cash song:

Mr. Garfield been shot down shot down shot down

Mr. Garfield been shot down low

President Garfield was assassinated by spurned office-seeker and political nutbag, Charles Guiteau, on July 2nd, 1881, a mere 160 days after his inauguration. As far as assassinated Presidents goes, Garfield is simply one of four, an afterthought on a list that also contains one great (Abraham Lincoln) and one beloved (John F. Kennedy).

Few remember James Garfield, but I think the story of Garfield is tremendously valid today, and should be read and understood by anyone and everyone with a political leaning, whether left or right, whether they follow Fox News or the Huffington Post or even the Onion. The story of President Garfield is the story of dangerous political extremism.

Assassination of President Grant (www.authentichistory.com)

Anatomy of an Assassin

If I was to ask a panel of experts or non-experts, “what makes a presidential assassin”, I’m sure the bulk of them would say, in language academic or mundane, “they’re crazy”. By and large, anyone who would assassinate POTUS would have to be crazy. When you think about it, there’s not really a lot of point to it: our system of government isn’t particularly susceptible to change or overthrow in that manner. Between our tripartite government, our well-defined system of presidential succession, our deeply entrenched two-party politics, and the ponderous inertia of a democracy, the assassination of our President won’t really make much of a difference, other than to put the nation in a state of mourning. It could even steel our resolve to “stay the course” more than simply waiting until the next election to instigate change.

So if there’s no value in assassinating the president, then why do it? Well, John Wilkes Booth killed Lincoln in retaliation for the Confederate loss in the Civil War, and the abolishment of the institution of slavery. Leon Czolgosz, the man who shot William McKinley, was a turn-of-the-century anarchist inspired by a slew of assassinations in Europe. Lee Harvey Oswald was a Communist sympathizer (or maybe a patsy for the mob, or for the FBI, or by grey aliens, or who-knows-what). Slavery. Anarchy. Communism. Heavy, deeply philosophical ideas. Crazy, but deep crazy.

Charlie Guiteau? Charlie Guiteau killed James Garfield because his particular wing of the GOP (the Stalwarts) lost to Garfield in the Republican convention of 1880.

Um, seriously? That’s shallow crazy right there.

Charlie Guiteau (wikipedia)

The Drudgery Grudgery of Politics

There is a long, complicated story surrounding the 1880 Republican Convention. To summarize, there were two favorites. The Stalwarts stood behind former President Ulysses S Grant, and the Half-Breeds stood behind Senator James Blaine of Maine. During the convention (a weird affair, like all other 18th century conventions), dark-horse  James Garfield — a compromise candidate offered when neither favorite carried a majority — surprisingly won the nomination. He would then go on to defeat Democrat William Hancock in the general election.

There’s a lot more to this, of course, but it would probably bore you to tears. Which is kinda the point: all these inner workings of the two-party system, all the legerdemain cast by the party machines, it’s all fairly petty stuff. It’s all about favoritism, and patronage, and civil service, and all this other nonsense. None of it is “deep”, none of it is particularly soul-renching. None of it is, even in a madman’s eyes, cause for assassination! Unless, of course, you’re a person with the shallowness of purpose as Charlie Guiteau.

Political shallowness is exactly the point, and hence the subtitle of this post, “A Monument to the Politically Crazy”. Garfield was killed for no reason other than some whackjob took offense over a political process. There was no other reason! Sure, Guiteau also felt slighted for not getting the patronage job he wanted, but he also knew killing the president would result in him being hanged! There was no purpose to it, whatsoever. Just the total waste of a life, and the lost potential of a President. I think Garfield was on his way to being a very good President when he was shot, but we’ll never know that now.

Soccer Riot or Election Day? (http://www.thetimes.co.uk)

Crazy: Then and Now

Charlie Guiteau was a political nut-job. He was so fixated on his own faction that he took it upon himself to murder a president. He wasn’t fixated on a cause, but on a team. How shallow is that? But let’s look at this madness: this is exactly the type of bent most politically-minded Americans have today! How many people only vote for their own political party? How much punditry on 24-hour cable news, talk radio, or the blogosphere is really “our team is great, the other team sucks”? Listen carefully to what goes on in today’s popular media outlets, you’ll see this to be true most of the time. We are all being trained to be Charlie Guiteaus: not concerned with the facts or philosophies of governance, but wholly concerned about our “team” beating the other “team”?

None of this is good, none of this is wise. We need to stop playing team politics, and start paying real attention to real issues and the real results of our decisions, before we all end up crazy like Charlie Guiteau.

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Links:

James A. Garfield National Historic Site

How Our Partisan Loyalties Are Driving Polarization

Dark Horse: The Surprise Election and Political Murder of President James A. Garfield <– an excellent book and my key source for this post.

Google map

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