January 18, 2005

american coliseum

I stumbled across an interesting op-ed in the New York Times today that provides some scientific support for my earlier blog posting entitled what it was.

In Joshua Friedman’s piece, This Is Your Brain on Politics, an analysis of brain activity is presented based on MRI observations of partisan Democrats and Republicans while watching political ads. He concludes:

This [research] suggests that the passions swirling through elections are not driven by a deep commitment to issues. We are not fighting over the future of the country; we are fighting for our team, like Red Sox and Yankee fans arguing over which club has the better catcher. Both in an election and in baseball, all that really matters is who wears the team uniform.

While this conclusion is essentially the thesis of my blog, what it was, I hesitate to jump on Friedman’s bandwagon because I do not agree that our being and thought can be reduced to nothing more than neurology and brain chemistry. Still, it is kind of interesting that some objective scientific evidence supports what I have been saying for a few years.

I think the evidence of politics as an American spectator sport continues to grow. Witness the reactions to the Presidential election and you see prototypical fan type of reactions. What a shame it is that we treat it as a game, when the stakes are far higher than laying claim to a championship trophy or bragging rights for the coming year.

110 Comments:

Blogger David R said...

Along the same lines, I think it was Brooks in the Times who came up with this gem:

"This was not an election, this was station identification".

9:48 AM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...

DavidR,

Wow...I missed that Brookism. What a perfect encapsulation of what it was all about.

9:53 AM  
Blogger Texas Conservative said...

I think this sort of trivializes the type of America with Democrats at the helm as opposed to Republicans. I agree that in both scenarios, we have men who fall short of those who came before them. In both scenarios we have political parties that are consumed with self interest and arrogant greed. In both scenarios, we have men that don’t speak the truth “in the traditional sense.” What separates me from you, curmie, is that I DO see a difference between them that you don’t seem to. With one party, there is an agenda to make us part of the global family with little or no deference to our National Interest. With one party, there is an agenda that includes reversing a moral culture of preserving life all in the name of tolerance and personal choice. With one party, there is an agenda that giving your brother a fish supercedes teaching him to fish. I DO see a difference and it’s quite a bit deeper than that between the BoSox and Yankees.

Still, I know there are a great number of people, and I’m thinking specifically of delegates at the conventions, that are all about the party and less about the policy. I can’t argue too much with this article in that sense and can only say my reasons for choosing the Right in our TWO PARTY SYSTEM is less neurological and perhaps a bit more theological. That’s just me.

10:12 AM  
Blogger Andrew Dunlap said...

Texas Conservative: Could you elucidate a little more about your theological reasons for voting republican? IMO neither party passes the sniff test. I'm like the curmudge, disenfranchised. The republican party has done little if anything at all in advancing the agenda of the religious right whose agenda is neither religious nor right. When you have buffoons like Pat Roberson saying that God told him that he would take supreme court justices out if we didn't overturn roe v wade, how could anyone identify with that movement? Also, the anti-gay marriage movement, which I agree with but would handle in a different way will not be pursued by this administration. Bush played the right once again, whipped them up into a frenzy and then after, the election, put tort reform on the front burner.

When I assess the religious rights agenda, i find it lacking when it comes to support for traditional marriage, the eradication of poverty by providing a better education for all people, and the jobs that go with it and also creating a health care system that's affordable. I can't identify with that group because they are not obeying the gospel.

On the other hand, I can't identify with the freak show aka the democrat party that is so inclusive that it's outside the mainstream. I voted for Kerry because I felt that he would be a better president when it came to domestic issues and he would bring some sanity to our foreign policy. It was the lesser of 2 evils. However, I will not be voting for anyone if the democrat party doesn't get back on track. I won't get played by the republicans because they have a 24 yr track record of being nothing but a big business, big govt, no help for the little guy ,party.

10:52 AM  
Blogger Common Good said...

Tony,

I think I will both agree and disagree with you. I definitely think it has become sports contest... winning or losing (particularly on the part of the candidates... winning has become everything... that's why you hear the Dems asking "what do they have to do to change". If their ideas were right to begin with, the answer is no change at all, win or lose.). We might could survive that if the sports contests were always over two great presidential candidates... but we instead the nation gets polarized over two WRONG choices. Here is where I will disagree. I think the choice (even if both are bad) matters bigtime. With Bush, I see a president trying his best to turn our democracy into a theocracy. I see a president that thinks he is conducting church service rather than running our government. I just posted the following on another site... maybe we could discuss it here.

"What does God have to do with our government? We have to define government services and required tax collection together. There is absolutely no need to exchange religious beliefs in public in our democracy. Government is a public pluralistic matter, religion is a private matter. The president should not be running church service, but rather our government. Every single time he invokes a Christian God as a source of direction for this country, non-Christians automatically become second class citizens. You can't have it both ways. It is an oxymoron to say we are a nation of equal rights, and then in the next sentence say those equal rights came from a Christian god. We all need to be honest here. If one is lobbying for the US to be a Christian nation (as opposed to a nation with a Christian majority), just be honest about it... you aren't really for an "equal rights" nation. It ceases being a battle of ideas when one faction can put their personal label and ownership on our democracy. Michael Newdow is treated as a communist when he points this hypocrisy out. Although I think most things like "under god" in the pledge were insignificant enough to ignore (before the religious right felt obligated to push their religion in my face in my democracy), I think he is actually 100% correct. Every argument he makes is pointing out the underlying hypocrisy of claiming "we are a Christian nation", basing our entire law on the fact that our rights come from a Christian god, allowing Christian customs in public but not other faction customs, and then telling the non-Christian "BUT YOU ARE EQUAL". Don't we still require the atheist to put their hand on a bible in the courtroom? If so, isn't it hypocrisy to say we all have equal law in this country, but the swearing in process is still married to Christian belief? You can't have it both ways... you are either for theocracy or you are not. Intelligent people ought to at least be honest and drop the "EQUAL RIGHTS" bs if they believe in theocracy, or theocracy-lite."

CG

12:04 PM  
Blogger Common Good said...

Andrew,

What's your reasoning that the black man is entitled to equal rights, but not the gay man?

12:05 PM  
Blogger Common Good said...

Do you think Bush knows the difference between playing WMD chicken with Russia and the Middle East? I don't.

12:08 PM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...

CG,

I’m glad for you and that you believe the choice between Democrats and Republicans matters. Trust me, it is a safer place to be intellectually.

The truth is that all bona fide lefties will vote Democratic and almost all bona fide righties will vote Republican out of a sense of realpolitik. They may hold their nose, but they realize that this is our system and one choice is a lot closer to them than the other. It is this reality that causes the “party bases” to be taken for granted. It is this that leads to the mentality of “our team, right or wrong”.

As much as I hate the two dimensional analysis, here I go anyway. The great irony is that true leftists will never get even a smidgen of their utopia and rightists will never get a glimpse of their shining city as long as they agree to play the game by these rules. The agendas get lost in the mindless clamoring for the “middle”. The political elite know who their bases are and count on them election after election. They know that even if caught boinking an intern in the oval office or cooking WMD tracking books, the base will still give them their vote. So, from a policy standpoint, the “party base” doesn’t matter.

This is the part of the game that just galls me. For all the passion I hear put forth in the name of conservativism and liberalism, the one way you can GAURANTEE that no meaningful amount of your passionate agendas are implemented, is by voting for Democrats and Republicans.

Oh, I know you are all worried about theocracy-lite but we have been their as a Republic before: remember prohibition. This aspect of current stupidity will correct itself no matter how ominous the juggernaught may presently seem. This mentality will pass away with the next Presidential electon. Now the absence of any kind of substantive debate and the growing stupidity of the American electorate are permanent problems that aren’t going away.

Say it matters all you want but the facts tell us otherwise.

1:03 PM  
Blogger Texas Conservative said...

Dunlap,

The premise of all my responses, let it be known, is that I do NOT consider myself disenfranchised. I want to make sure that is out there for several reasons. Only one of which is I think the premise of that state is a bit self-aggrandizing and lacking in “3rd planet from the sun” perspective. There is NO NATION that resembles the ideas, feelings, tenets, etc. of every citizen. This political utopia exists only between the ears of, albeit intelligent, politically-jaded individuals. I’m not there…yet.

So, as to your request to elucidate, I present you with these questions which are meaningful to me – and in no way would I suggest they should be meaningful to you.

Should a terrorist strike the US again, whom do I want commanding our troops, providing adequate response and restoring peace? In the 30’s and 40’s that may have been a Democrat. Alas, perhaps even more recent than that. Today, it is Republicans.

Do I want for partial birth abortions to be a legal practice in the United States and if not, whom can I expect to carry out legislation preventing it? Today, it is Republicans.

Do I want to create special laws that protect the choice of individuals to practice homosexuality (in sharp contrast to the black man that doesn’t wake up and decide he’s going to be Hispanic that day)? If I don’t believe these laws to “pass the sniff test” on the moral premise of our nation, I choose Republicans.

Do I want another Souter or another Thomas on the bench when it comes down to the pledge of allegiance and school prayer and which party would provide a means for more traditional judges to take the bench? Today, that party is the Republican party.

So you made your choice, with which I (as a flawed Christian) disagree. You put your issues on your scales of morality and evidently, you believed that Kerry tipped the scales when it came to things that were important to you – the economy and the war? I ask since I won’t presume. MY priorities are different, and that’s no dispersion on you, though, should you take offense, perhaps they should come under review.

Would Kerry have signed the ban on partial birth abortions? No.
Would Kerry have appointed the types of federal judges that represent your moral beliefs? Nu-ugh.
Would Kerry have acted in a League of Nations style to terrorist threats on our soil? Yes, believe so, Mr. Dunlap.

Do I want my taxes raised? No, thanks. Would Kerry have raised them? I do believe he would have tried.
Would he have signed another tax cut passed by both houses of Congress? I do believe he would not have.
Would Kerry have supported a school voucher program? No, I believe he would not have.

Forget Kerry, replace his name with “The Democratic Party” and the situation is the same.

I will take what I can get from a conservative administration. I may not get an overturn of Roe but I WILL and DID get a ban on PB abortions. I may not get an amendment defining marriage as being between a man and a woman but I WILL and DID get a clear response on gay marriage from this President. I even AGREE that we should leave it up to the states as long as it’s not in the hands of judges. I don’t agree with it but I like the idea of being able to live in Texas without Texas courts being forced to acknowledge homosexual relationships from Mass. I may not get a well-oiled, well-run war against a global terrorist threat that, unless you are Michael Moore, DOES exist, but then again, I don’t know a war that has not been marred by huge blunders. Even the “perfect war”, the “just war”, WWII had a deluge of problems. Did FDR ever hone up to those, that s.o.b. Of course, the media attention on those problems was quite different then. Heck, they didn’t even report on Kennedy’s plethora of affairs but Clinton got raked over the coals as a result of his. I may not get some of these things but there are some fundamental differences that prevent me from taking a bi on our political system.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I live in the real world. I know it could be better but I’m not ready to opt out of my system of beliefs because I choose the economy over a child’s right to life. I won't abstain from our system because I choose to propagate electoral sloth and I don’t trust anyone (after all, abstinence begets change right?). I’m just not there yet. I don’t leave things because things are not perfect. Only by participating will change be brought about. Just look at today. It’s 2005, the ACLU is suing over prayer and evolutionary theories and a voice from within this nation has spoken and said WE DON’T WANT THAT. Agree or disagree, some of us actually BELIEVE in the good that can be done and still want to participate in that change. Pontificating is fun, but thought is nothing without action.

2:29 PM  
Blogger Common Good said...

I will ask again.

Who here in Curmudgeon land believes my rights as a US citizen comes from a Christian god? Own up or deny... further debate/blog-slapping to follow.

btw.. TC.. gays choose to be gay? Good grief, you need to get out more. You know, you choose to suck in air every few seconds... good thing it wasn't a commandment not to. It isn't special rules to give another human being the same equal rights in our society... it's special rules to deny them.

3:06 PM  
Blogger Ed Abbey said...

Can we cure this problem of voting for the "winning team" mentality? Two thoughts of mine are to get rid of political parties all together or to mandate three parties with the third being more towards the center. If you really want to get radical, how about a government by a jury composed of your peers, i.e. joe taxpayer. At any rate, I think as long as we have a strong two party system, it is only going to get more divisive.

3:08 PM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...

To TexaCon, et. al.:

I would like to briefly state again why I feel disenfranchised. It isn’t because of some simple desire for perfection. Heck, I pulled the GOP lever for a lot of years because I really thought they meant that physical conservatism thing. I was never happy with them on the civil liberties front. I do not vote because I have nothing that my conscience will allow me to vote for. Primarily this is because of abortion and civil rights.

Further, I truly believe that a vote for either of the major parties is a vote for certain destruction. The events of recent years have borne out that belief on my part. As soon as a alternative ballot vehicle appears, I’ll be right there to cast my vote as I did for most of my adult life up until the point that good reason got a firmer grip on my mind.

I will admit that saying I “pontificate” hurts a bit. I do not think of myself as pompous or dogmatic. But, I am perhaps not sufficiently self-reflective. At a minimum I hope that at least I consider every viewpoint before rejecting any. To the extent that I am flawed in my ability to accomplish that goal, I am sincerely, and hopefully sufficiently, penitent.

3:15 PM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...

CG,

I have never failed to “own up” that I believe our rights come from the one God who is. But I have always said consistently that this does not prevent me from supporting a political philosophy that is independent of my personal view on Man’s special position in Creation. What I mean is of course that as legal matter, we merely need to view Man’s rights come from his Manishness or Humaness if you prefer. If you take this view as a matter of political philosophy, then it is up to individuals to determine for themselves what the origins of Man are in fact.

Now, you have put me in the odd position of defending TexaCon. It is clear to the most casual observer that gay people choose to be gay just as heterosexual people choose to be heterosexual. We have had this conversation in the past; you know where I stand. The short version is that just because someone has a deep felt passion is immaterial to whether acting on one’s passions is volitional. I dare say, if I acted on my deepest passions, there would be a few dead people laying around but thankfully, I have another moral voice in my head that prevents me from making that choice. You may intellectually be consistent and view homosexuality as moral, however it is a hard thing to argue that it is not a choice.

3:25 PM  
Blogger Common Good said...

"What I mean is of course that as legal matter, we merely need to view Man’s rights come from his Manishness or Humaness if you prefer."

No, I won't let you slide this time. It's much more than just a "legal" matter. The basis of our entire set of societal laws (constitution) hinges on "where our rights come from". If you have 80% of the population marching along in lockstep believing our rights come from a Christian god, but just "don't make a point of saying it out loud"... you have a false contract. In other words, you couldn't have a constitutional convention today, and invite Muslims, Jews, atheists, etc. representatives and agree that our rights come from a Christian god... or even a god for that matter. I think this is important... I think we are living under a Constitutional myth/lie. It's the dirty little secret that never gets discussed. Michael Newdow's actions brings this to light. I think he is right, and the judges are wrong... it's intellectually dishonest to say we have equal rights when only our government openly displays ONE religion (Christianity).


"You may intellectually be consistent and view homosexuality as moral, however it is a hard thing to argue that it is not a choice."

I never said it was moral. This isn't a morality issue, it's an equal rights issue. Also, my comment to TC was intended to be "they are born that way". I think TC, and I guess you, still think they just wake up one day, and say, you know I prefer to be gay. Do you have any idea how stupid that sounds? Everything is "a choice" so that doesn't even seem to be relevant. You are free to follow your sexual preference, fall in love, marry, and get federal and state rights from that marriage. Nobody gets to pull out their religion and say... you know, I don't think your marriage falls under what is "religiously acceptable". Why should you get to dictate another's human's (humaness remember) rights because of your religious beliefs? Customs... please get a better argument. Slavery was a custom.... Indian slaughtering was a custom.

4:00 PM  
Blogger yoshitownsend said...

TX. Conservative wrote: "I guess what I’m trying to say is that I live in the real world. I know it could be better but I’m not ready to opt out of my system of beliefs because I choose the economy over a child’s right to life."

I understand where you are coming from but I don't think you are aware of the millions dying on account of poverty in developing countries over structural reasons. John Kerry promised to double the spending on fighting HIV/ AIDS in Africa. Of course, I seriously doubt Congress would have honored that promise, but still. George W. Bush hasn't taken enough of a leadership position on this issue, and 4 more years will be too long to wait. AIDS is just one aspect of the problem. See this link please.
Yoshi's Debt.AIDS.Trade.Africa. Link

4:07 PM  
Blogger yoshitownsend said...

better still, check this link.
Yoshi's Why Africa? Link

4:10 PM  
Blogger Common Good said...

Hello Yoshi... you get around. :)

I heard this the other day... 150,000 died in the Tsunami... 3,000,000 die every single year in the Congo. The 150,000 got a week of US cable news attention.... Congo, not even on the radar.

4:12 PM  
Blogger Texas Conservative said...

Far be it for curmie to defend me on the homosexual issue. I'll take a stab at it even though I think us debating this is akin to arguing a case where I’m using US laws for my position and you are using French laws. You can reverse the analogy if you’re offended by that, the principle point remains the same.

Your analogy to me deciding to be a hetero falls short, even if you only look to natural law as the basis for the supposition. I am a man. I have male genitalia. Ta-daa. I suppose you would need to assume that our creator intended for us to reproduce and if you don’t, we’re arguing from two different planes. With reproduction being at or near the center of our basis for living, I can reproduce only with another woman. I don’t choose that. That’s the way it is. Now, I can choose to use my bits and pieces how I see fit, but natural law proposes one way to reproduce. So, what is “natural.” Well, civilizations before us have decided that unions between men and women were natural. This has been the way for thousands of years. Do you disagree? Incidentally, how many civilizations accepted marriage between two men or women (and are still in existence)? No good? Of, course. Now, remember. We’re not arguing policy in this paragraph. Just whether homosexuality is a choice or not. Here’s how I think of it. I have a propensity to chocolate that my wife does not share. All things being equal, I will choose to consume more chocolate than she will though my propensity does not dictate my choice. I believe that it is quite possible, and likely, that homosexuals have some genetic predisposition to their impulses as I believe I have a predisposition (genetic or otherwise) to consuming chocolate. And oh, I don’t mind saying it, I agree with curmie that them choosing to act on it is still a matter of their own volition. Is your interest heightened at the idea, nay fact, that homosexual relationships are by and large identified by a masculine and feminine partner? Why is it that one partner takes the masculine role as the other submits in a feminine role? It’s not just the happy, nice gay partners that I know personally is it? You obviously disagree, and I understand that. Just one of the questions on my growing list for God.

And as for the comparison to blacks, really. I have yet to hear a black person NOT be offended by this analogy. Their offense is only one indication at the non-existent correlation proposed by comparing a homosexual’s choice to have a male partner this week and a female partner the next to waking up every morning black; no matter whom you bed. Hardly a choice a black person can make wouldn’t you agree?

Yoshi - President Bush has provided more US funds to aid in AIDS-related assitance to Africa than ANY OTHER PRESIDENT. Even President Clinton! Ask yourself this, since you may believe that John Kerry is far more generous to the cause: WHAT DID HE DO IN HIS 20 YEARS IN THE SENATE TO BRING THIS TO LIGHT? WHAT PIECE OF LEGISLATION HAS HIS NAME ON IT THAT ADDS MONEY TO THIS CAUSE? WHAT DID HE DO ABOUT THIS BEFORE HE RAN FOR PRESIDENT? NOTHING. Did he travel to Africa after the election to show his support? Nope. He went to Syria to meet with yet another government sponsoring terrorism. He hasn't flip-flopped on that. It's a problem and we should do more, I agree. Raking Bush over the coals for doing something no other president had done is a bit of a cheap shot.

4:22 PM  
Blogger yoshitownsend said...

TX.Conservative wrote: - President Bush has provided more US funds to aid in AIDS-related assitance to Africa than ANY OTHER PRESIDENT. Even President Clinton!

Agreed. I've praised the President publicly over and over for this, especially his Millennium Challenge. He also mentioned it in his 2003 State of the Union address. That's great. But not enough. Look at the World Health Organization's estimate of what the U.S. should be spending (not just us, but everyone). We should pay about 1/3 of the total amount, and we are falling far, far short. Also, I mentioned Kerry simply promised more, I didn't say I thought he'd be able to deliver. I'd be riding him too right now if he were elected. In any case, there is an emergency, and it isn't being addressed.

Furthermore, the Millennium Challenge isn't properly funded, and the global AIDS program has it's problems (treats 15 countries and spends 51% of it's budget on expensive pharmacueticals instead of generics). I think Bush could fight harder to lobby Congress for the Millennium Challenge, and could keep the lobbyists out of his global AIDS plan.

"Since you may believe that John Kerry is far more generous to the cause: WHAT DID HE DO IN HIS 20 YEARS IN THE SENATE TO BRING THIS TO LIGHT? WHAT PIECE OF LEGISLATION HAS HIS NAME ON IT THAT ADDS MONEY TO THIS CAUSE? WHAT DID HE DO ABOUT THIS BEFORE HE RAN FOR PRESIDENT? NOTHING."

-Nothing? John Kerry authored major elements of the Global AIDS and Tuberculosis Relief Act of 2000, legislation which at the time provided the most money ever for fighting AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis around the world.He sponsored the bipartisan U.S. Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria Act of 2002, comprehensive legislation that was unanimously approved by the Senate and became the foundation of the global AIDS legislation that was passed by congress and signed by President Bush. There was a major piece of legislation co-sponsored by Bill Frist (R) and Kerry, I think it was the one mentioned above in 2000.


"Raking Bush over the coals for doing something no other president had done is a bit of a cheap shot."

With all due respect, there is a continent caving in on itself, and there will be 20 million orphans by 2010. So yea, I have a sense of urgency about this, and I don't see that in the President. This isn't a time to drag our feet.

You said you care about this, and 55% of Born-Again Christians do. Please look over the related issues on the DATA site I sent you about debt and trade (room for serious improvement by Bush). You need to get informed on this issue, I think you'll be very interested in what's actually going on.

5:04 PM  
Blogger Texas Conservative said...

Yoshi - good points. As I said, though. What did he do BEFORE he ran for president. He's been in the Senate a long time. I'll agree to disagree with you on him.

I always get a little put off when I hear people say how "the US has to do more." It's like helping someone and only hearing them say "More, more, c'mon, you have to do more." And then having them calling you cheap and stingy during times of crisis. I can't wait for the day when Canada does something to offend another country and then faces another situation where they need help.

I know, I know, It's a condition. I'm taking pills.

5:16 PM  
Blogger Brackenator said...

Well good gentle folk, I see that some things get everyone excited.

I will start by addressing Common Good's question. Well, do our right come from a Christian God. Our fore-fathers certainly believed so, even Thomas Jefferson, the closest person to an enlightened man our country had to offer at the time, wrote in the Declaration of Independence that we "..are endowed from our Creator with inalienable rights...", to whom was Mr. Jefferson referring to if not the Christian God. Our currency still bears the phrase "In God We Trust", to which god do you feel this is acribed to?
The way we see the Establishment Clause in the First Amendment these days changed drastically in the 1950's. Before the 50's the separation of Church and State was tenuous at best in definition.
Ok back to Curmie's question. Which states were red and which were blue? That definition seems more like a sport's contest than an election. If you took out ALL metropolitan areas, Bush would have won with more than 80% of the vote. For those who may not know, the republican party has bailed out the American farmer from several years of bad harvests, continued to provide goverment subsidies, and seems to share more of a view with the american heartland. The Democrats, though sympathetic with the farmer, fought to put those dollars to social programs.
If you talk to any political analyst before September, no one would have predicted an outcome like this. Gay marriage, whether you are for or against it, whether you support or admonish states rights, no one would have guessed how important a part that would play.
I only use the small farmer demographic because it shows how far most politicians have drifted from reality in both parties.
Those politicians in the rural areas they must continue to be liberal on certain things while conservative on others. It does not matter what party you belong to as long as you share you neighbor's values. Though many values of the american farmer may seem conservative, the one thing they dislike the most is radical change. They need moderation in change.
Think about that people.

5:24 PM  
Blogger Common Good said...

TC,

I could have saved you a lot of time. I'm not very interested at how or why you don't understand gay folks are born gay. You can pick many out early on... they are born gay. You can certainly argue about morality based on ... well whatever you want ... but arguing that "gay" is a "choclate craving" is just stupid. When I hear otherwise intelligent people say this, it becomes apparent that their religious teachings are in conflict with obvious reality.

I think the black rights / gay rights analogy is dead on... and certainly no offense intended. Folks at one time justified slave ownership. Folks now justify having seperate rights for heterosexuals. You could take the stance that no federal rights should occur from marriage, and that would be an equal rights argument. The only other equal rights choice is EQUAL marriage rights regardless of sexual preference. Right now you can marry 1 person... so anyone should be able to marry 1 person and obtain the same rights. IMO, it's totally wrong to be able to obtain "rights" from a religious ceremony. The keepers of the religious ceremony take a direct role in citizen rights... the church acts as the state. I'm no Constitution expert, but I missed the part where you could be denied equal rights because 1) church filtering 2) some shortsighted view of how animals act in nature (you must have not heard about the flaming monkeys) 3) some dominant gay partner theory 4) the fall of previous socities (newsflash, all the great socities fell). I just missed those parts I guess. btw... 50% of all heterosexual marriges fail. I don't think that happened because of the two lesbians next door... unless they were really hot. If divorce rates spell our doom, then quit using that as an argument against the homosexuals... it's obviously lame.

Brack... how you doing buddy? I hope everything is going well. Glad to see you join the fray. Thanks for being honest... you believe our rights are sourced from a Christian god. You believe that's the way it was at our founding, and you believe that's the way it has to be read now. I agree, and that is the reason I think our Constitution defines, by law, non-Christians as un-Equal. I think this is important, so I'm looking for you, Tony, Andrew to convince me I am wrong. How can you tell a non-Christian citizen that their equal rights are based on something they don't believe in. This isn't as simple as saying "we don't all get what we want in a democracy". We are talking about the basis of our entire law... where our rights come from. We are basically saying our "rights come from the god of the majority religious faction in the US". Mr Muslim US citizen, your rights come from Jesus. How can that work going forward? Doesn't this further foster religious tension in our society and the world. In case anyone hasn't noticed, we seem to be on the brink of a war of civilizations... a war of Muslim vs Christian... amplified by fundamentalism, extremism, and zealotry. My country says it's not a theocracy, and in the very next sentence tells me my rights come from Christianity. The religious right is running through the streets claiming they are under attack. How can the majority be under attack... they are the majority who claim the country and the constitution is theirs. If the country goes 55% Islam, do we switch which god our rights come from? I see real fundamentalist intolerance in this country, and I live here... wonder how we look to foreigners (oh yeah, we aren't suppose to care about that... pound your chest and repeat after me... "I am an American".) Not to hard to see the Falwell - Bin Laden fundamentalist coming attractions. Hope we aren't going to perish over superstition... hope it all was true and worth it.

Brack was honest. What about Tony and TC? It occurs to me that we have always been living under theocracy-lite, and just didn't know it.

7:05 PM  
Blogger yoshitownsend said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

12:18 AM  
Blogger yoshitownsend said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

12:34 AM  
Blogger someone else said...

I agree with the thesis that electoral politics plays out a lot like team sports. i think there's a structural component to it, stemming from the two-party, winner-take-all setup that we have, but I think the Republicans instilled this mentality in recent American politics, from Reagan's 11th commandment to the 1994 congressional takeover strategy to the shutdown of the government and the Clinton witchhunts and now the extremely divisive policies that bush pursues.

but that's the situation--the rules of the game, and i'll live with them even as i try to change them. the point, i think, is not whether you buy into the team id mentality, but whether there's something else you believe in too.

i will always vote strategically-- if i live in a swing state, i'll vote for the left of center party. if i live in a non-swing state, i'll vote to push the left of center party in whatever direction i think is better. in primaries, i'll also make calculations trying to figure out who will make my team better and reflect my values more than the dominant position in my team. i want my team to get better, be more in accord with my values, be more successful, etc.

but i'm close to not identifying with the democrats anymore because they've strayed so far away from my sensibilities, but that's not really all that important if i continue to act strategically. i'm to the left of the democrats, and i spend most of my free time trying to push the political spectrum to the left. not elctorally, but on an idea basis. after the ideas are changed, the political spectrum will change. movement building and all that. i'll still vote for them when it's strategic to do so, and i'll never, ever vote for an alternative party that, in my view, represents a movement to disempower the vulnerable and give more and more power to those who already have a lot of it.

most importantly, i recognize that electoral politics is a loser for people on the left right now-- we need a social movement that will transform the political debate, and i think that it's starting to happen. the key is to not to confuse opposition to Bush with opposition to the values that Bush and his predecessors (Reagan, Goldwater, etc.) and allies (Pat Robertson, Dick Cheney, etc.) represent.

4:58 AM  
Blogger Common Good said...

Saurav... welcome, and good post. Although I think there a many specific things to chastise this president over, the bigger issue is moving the country back to the left ... undoing Reagan if you will.

Yoshi: "They give us these Pro-Life values, and the moment we start to care about anyone beyond unborn children suddenly we are "liberals."

We did the pro-life thing here in Curmudgeon land. Several of us conclude that what passes for pro-life in the US is more often than not just pro-birth.

9:38 AM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...

First, I must say this is a most excellent discussion. I’ve enjoyed reading this greatly.

On to CG and his attempt to hold me accountable to that for which I am gleefully accountable...

I think you are way off base CG to suggest that just because 80% of Americans view humans as having value endowed by a Creator that that in anyway reduces anyone else to second class citizens. You attempt to reject my parsing apart of the personal beliefs from legal arguments, but I think you are very inconsistent in doing so. On the one hand, you maintain that you support this vision of secularist utopia, but then you have a problem when I advocate our traditional framework for separating the laws of men from the laws of God.

You asked me where I believe our rights come from. I have a strong opinion on that matter because I have repeatedly confronted the question over many years. It is clear to me that any philosophy that roots the value of man in anything other than our creation in the image of God, leads anyone who gives serious contemplation of the meaning of life and personal quest for significance on a path of personal destruction.

But, the great wisdom of our system of laws is that it totally and completely sets philosophy aside and endeavors only to be a system of man’s law. I believe this is the only way you can build a successful heterogeneous society. I don’t believe from a legal perspective that your assumption that we must perfectly agree on certain things is workable in even a more homogenous society such as that of Revolutionary-era America. I think your statement that it is a “false contract” totally misses what our agreement was and by legal succession through the generations is in fact. That contract is that we will not root law in personal philosophical beliefs.

It is a happy thing that rooting rights in our humanness is consistent with most of the philosophical belief systems that are out there, though the growing nihilism of Western Culture cuts against this proposition. If you are unhappy that 80% of Americans believe also that Man’s special position is a gift from God and not a chance occurrence and/or product of evolutionary processes, then that is OK. You are simply in the minority and the truly magnificent thing about our rejection of building on a theocratic foundation is that your right to believe as you do is as solidly protected as is my own.

Or at least has been. And this is why the whole discussion over gay rights is so critical because the debate frames the issues clearly and puts one’s thinking right in the bull’s-eye of the most important discussion of our day: Are we to continue our path of classical toleration or are we going to set down a new path where the personal philosophical belief the majority can be codified into law?

And in answer to that question, I utterly reject the notion that somehow the Creator is between the lines of our Constitution simply because a majority happens to reason things out for themselves that way. I celebrate the fact that the majority does not rule in America.

9:55 AM  
Blogger David R said...

Common Good,

I'm most curious about one of your proofs of the "obvious reality" that gays are born gay: your contention that you "can pick many out early on". How early is "early on"? And I'd love to hear more about this skill you have for picking them out. What criteria do you use? What are the tell-tale signs of gayness at age 4? Truly, this is an interesting assertion on your part, I think some additional details would be most enlightening.

...R

10:41 AM  
Blogger yoshitownsend said...

"And I'd love to hear more about this skill you have for picking them out. What criteria do you use? What are the tell-tale signs of gayness at age 4? Truly, this is an interesting assertion on your part, I think some additional details would be most enlightening."

You know, it wasn't too long ago that I got out of high school. And sometimes I run into friends who tell me about other kids we knew in elementary and middle school, and how they are "gay" now. And to be honest, looking back on those guys... I could've saw it if you weren't so naive. And funny enough, I have an aunt who is homosexual. And she was always the one riding the dirt bikes and playing witht the B.B. guns, while her hetero-sisters were playing dolls. Just a coincidence? Yea, right.

What are the tell-tale signs for a child? The same tell-tale signs that there are for an adult. Cmon. You don't need a Ph.D in biology to spot a homosexual, do you?

And I even know homosexuals who don't "choose" to be, meaning that they have wives, etc. In fact, they would never admit they are, and are in denial about it. But trust me, they are. They are as gay as you get.

11:13 AM  
Blogger Common Good said...

Tony,

"I think you are way off base CG to suggest that just because 80% of Americans view humans as having value endowed by a Creator that that in anyway reduces anyone else to second class citizens."

If you don't want to really address the issue, that's fine. You are a smart debater, but not smart enough. Anyone here can go read my post and see that the hypocrisy I see in our Constitution is basing "our rights" on "one factions God" (i.e. religious belief). I don't need to be concerned "how you value humans". We need common laws and basis of those laws... we don't have to have the same common values.

"It is clear to me that any philosophy that roots the value of man in anything other than our creation in the image of God, leads anyone who gives serious contemplation of the meaning of life and personal quest for significance on a path of personal destruction."

Yeah, I have heard you say that enough and have always let it slide. Let me comment this time. IMO, this society (or any society) that limits it's evolution to religious superstition will be stunted. I don't really feel like "I have to be significant". Believe it or not, I'm perfectly able to strive for society evolvement (and be honest, we live in a evolvement need rich environment) without solving the meaning of life... i.e. there can be zilch meaning and our society can still seek to improve how we treat each other and "make it through" this existence. I'm not knocking that some "need to be significant or find meaning", but you should be aware some of us deal with it just fine... i.e. it has not led to any personal destruction... yet anyway. It's perfectly understandable for humans to seek religious shelter from a fairly cruel world... but there is a profound difference from treating that a personal matter or as a template for government.

"I don’t believe from a legal perspective that your assumption that we must perfectly agree on certain things is workable in even a more homogenous society such as that of Revolutionary-era America."

Again, you do want to avoid the debate, that's fine. Who of my friends do you think has most beat into my mind the underlying basis of our rights being the source of our laws? Hint: that person is sharing a chair with you. There is no way denying my premise... if you believe your rights come from a Christian god, you believe our pluralistic nation's rights come from your religious belief. We are not talking about differing on safety-nets... we are talking about the foundation of our base society contract (the constitution). What kind of contract says "believe our rights come from whatever you want". You throw out the word humanness, but that's not what you believe. That's not what the religious right means on it's march to theocracy. That's not what TC or Falwell means when he proclaims the US to be a Christian nation. I don't think that's what you really mean when you claim it's a battle of ideas. You make the point all of the time that "all ideas are not equal, and your absolute truth ideas are superior". In your view our rights come from god... what about our nation's laws. Do our laws come from god? If so, why a partial implementation of the bible? Why not just use the bible for our laws? What does basing "some of our laws" on the bible mean? If we didn't have a religious right revival going on concerning our government, maybe I would say "the basis of our rights don't matter much". Until a couple of years ago TC's religious beliefs would have never hit may radar... not my interest or concern. That has changed however, because of this tidal wave of proselytizing in the public square and government with the lead preacher occupying the oval office. However, something doesn't add when the religious say we are a Christian nation, all of our rights come from a Christian god, and the rest of you just need to deal with it. Again, we aren't talking about public school funding... we are talking about the basis of all of our laws. I stick to my statement... we are living a hypocrisy. It happens to be a hypocrisy that works out fine for a majority... and therefore it lives on. We are most definitely already a theocracy-lite, and yet that isn't good enough for the religious right. The "secularist are coming" is a most comic comment in this light... there rights come from a god they don't believe in, or a particular god they don't believe in.

not equal rights... not a meritocracy... not evolving. God bless USA ... a fundamentalism franchise.

The poor, the sick and the non-Christians should just go throw themselves into the ocean... it would kill two birds at once (both those who are a strain on capitalism and personal entitlement... and those who don't have the "right" values).

CG

11:20 AM  
Blogger Common Good said...

Hello David,

"I'm most curious about one of your proofs of the "obvious reality" that gays are born gay: your contention that you "can pick many out early on". How early is "early on"? And I'd love to hear more about this skill you have for picking them out. What criteria do you use? What are the tell-tale signs of gayness at age 4? Truly, this is an interesting assertion on your part, I think some additional details would be most enlightening."

Wow... you really want to bust my balls over my gay detection ability. :)

Here are some signs: 1) you think Bush is an idiot 2) you have musical talent 3) in your younger years you wore a ponytail... later opted for the shaved head 4) earring... in any ear 5) friends referred to you with nicknames... like say... banana 6) one wing bandit on the tennis court... huge forhand, wimpy backhand 7) thought wingtip shoes were a new invention and made you stand out.

Stuff like that... you just have to watch for the signs. :)

11:30 AM  
Blogger Brackenator said...

Well to complete the earlier thought before I digressed to the common famer. One could argue inclusion, where the mercy and love of God outweigh disbelief. You could go pantheist talking about the creative force of all. You could go polythiest and look for the good is all people, no wait, that is polyanna-ism.
Also, I was stating that our forefathers did not see the difference, and neither did our government until the mid 20th century. Our forefathers would have considered it a person's duty to worship according to their own conscience, whether Jew, Islam, Budhist, Hindi, etc.

Ok these next statement will probably get me in trouble, but here we go. Homosexuality can be viewed as a trait. It can be a trait that can be enforced, supressed, or learned.
In some persons there will be over-whelming urges according to that trait, and others it will not be as prevelent.
You can think of it in terms of latency. For example, some are born with tendencies toward addiction, it can manifest in cigarette smoking.
I am not saying that homosexuality is a habit that should be broken or it is anywhere near that easy, but as the science of psychology continues to evolve, so does its view on prevelences and traits.
This is where I am really going to get in trouble. No one can say that there is no evidence of homosexuality in History; on the contrary, there is a great deal of evidence of it. Some societies thought it was a part of growing up, some societies it was an aspect of how men act, especially rich men.
Realize that our views are influenced by western ideaology which stem from Judeo-Christian beliefs, and homosexuality is considered an abomination before God, according to the Old Testament and those aforementioned beliefs.
Let me digress here a moment. When Ben Stein went to California to start working in Hollywood, he made commentary that most of the people in the business were not just left of center. They ALL WERE VERY LIBERAL. So in Hollywood, very liberal IS main stream. As a result, those who control what you see visually see liberal thinking as main stream. How has that influenced us? Really a discussion for a different time.

My point is that there is a growing section of the populace that would like to share in the pursuit of happiness like every other american. Traditional American Values say one thing, and most world religions agree with those values. However, many Americans are questioning the stance of the world religions on the subject.
If you do not hold the tenets of whatever you believe, how can you claim to be part of that religion? Americans are more and more wanting religion to be like a cafeteria where you can pick and choose what you want to believe. Most religions are not like that.

Now to the crux of the arguement, since the power of each major political party has been centered around polarizing issues, where is the party of middle american and the common man? The democrats would like to think it was them, they stand for protecting the common man, but their intrests are far from what the common citizen wants. The republicans would like to think it was them, they hold traditional values dear, but their free trade and big business ties holds too many conflitcs for them.

And you readers of our dear Curmie, what do you think?

Brackenator

11:46 AM  
Blogger David R said...

Common Good:
HAHAHAHAHAHA!!! That was great. I'm impressed.

Yoshi:
Your post was absurd. There are millions of tomboy girls don't turn out to be lesbians. There are millions of effeminate men who are not homosexual. And lots of pro football players who are. Give me a break. You can spot gays who want to be spotted, and generally won't spot those that don't. I think that's pretty much what it boils down to. Just like you can go to a bar and pick out the girls who might be "easy".

The point I'd like to make here is that I think the whole born-with-it/choose-to-be argument is completely irrelevant. Committed gay couples deserve rights the same as committed hetero couples get. It matters not to me how they came to be what they are. How a gay couple being married became a "threat" to anyone is beyond me.

Marriage is proven to have many positive social effects, both for the individuals who are married and for society as a whole. Evidence overwhelmingly suggests that gays would realize, and contribute, those positive effects just as much as anybody else. We should be encouraging gays to marry and settle down just like anybody else, it would be to society's overall benefit for them to do so.

Lots of times it seems like the whole problem is over a word. Religious folks don't like the word Marriage being associated with an act they see as unholy. That's why the word sanctity is so often part of the sentence. I think sanctity of marriage is a concept that's full of crap, myself. Sanctity only exists, and can only be judged, in one marriage at a time. The institution itself has no particular sanctity.

My proposal is to make a separation between church and state here. The state should promote civil unions for any two people, with all the rights and privileges, for the proven positive social effects that result from people being in committed relationships. The state no longer issues marriage licenses. Everybody gets civil unions.

Churches are in charge of marriage. The state is in charge of the social contract. The church can decide whom they will and will not bestow the "sanctity" of marriage upon. The state offers the social contract to all, without prejudice.

...R

12:10 PM  
Blogger Common Good said...

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12:22 PM  
Blogger Common Good said...

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12:23 PM  
Blogger Common Good said...

Back to the original Curm point... two party system about winning. With Bush, I would say not just winning, but cramming down his ideology (yeah, I know, I just did an injustice to the word ideology) come hell or high water. It has nothing to do with what we think, or even the religious right he pandered to and then dropped post election... but rather it's all about what HE thinks. He will lie to act on what HE thinks. He thought the Iraq war was the right thing to do... lying the public into war over false WMD hyping was perfectly ok. Now he says social security is in crisis when it is obviously not in crisis. Long term problems... maybe, maybe not... it's all about 50-75 year projections... who really knows. But the point is he looks into the cameras and says "Iraq has WMD... he gased his own people (14 years ago)". He looks into the camera and tells us that social security is in crisis. He looks into the camera promoting private accounts when in his dreams he hopes to get rid of social security. Safety-nets are against what HE believes. He is president... he is suppose to lead which he confuses with he is suppose to decide for the rest of us.

The following is a very good read on Social Security and it's current state. I think here is a related point to the two party/ideology contest. Everything is framed as either or. Either we have private accounts and reduced social security promises OR we keep everything like it is. How about 1) keep the citizen low risk safety-net social security AND promote wealth and saving accumulation by the public with additional private accounts. And if you really believe social security funds should be invested in a more risky manner.. you can just have the government do that with the funds rather than create millions of individual social security lottery accounts which send billions to wallstreet? The anwer is because it's simply about ideology... it's not about personal accounts. It's about getting rid of safety-nets... it about Grover Norquist.

Note.. the CBO makes 3 projections... pesimistic, moderate, optimistic. Under optimistic projections, there is NO PROBLEM with social security. CBO has a recent history of projecting too pesimistically. Did you hear any of that from our fearless leader claiming a crisis... don't think so.

Truth about Social Security

12:25 PM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...

CG,

You say I’m ducking the issue, I say I’m meeting it head on.

What part of our Constitution not mentioning God, our Creator or Providence aren’t you getting? There is a powerful negative inference that We the People consciously chose to exclude personal philosophy from the legal equation. No matter what Shrub, Falwell and Robertson say nor how many times they say it will change this legal principal.

You have read enough of the history of the day to know that the concept of “natural rights” is the meat and potatoes of what our political institutions were built upon. And this is exactly what I believe in as a political philosophy.

You incorrectly describe my viewpoint when you say, “if you believe your rights come from a Christian god, you believe our pluralistic nation's rights come from your religious belief.” In fact, I do believe our rights belong to us because we are human. As a matter of social contract, I think that Americans generally have held this common belief.

You further mischaracterize my position when you say, “You throw out the word humanness, but that's not what you believe.” This is an incorrect statement: I absolutely do believe that. And from a legal standpoint, we need not explore further. As long as you, I and the rest of society agree to that point as a legal proposition, it doesn’t matter what we individuals think regarding the next level of that discussion.

I have known people of extremely diverse religious and philosophical backgrounds that concur with the rest of society on this very point. What problem you have with this foundational principle I still have not discerned.

And for the record, I have been vociferous in making the point that this is most definitely NOT a Christian Nation. And I am prepared to go a step farther in my argument and assert that not only is the United States not a Christian nation, but for one to claim that it is so is blasphemous to God.

I don’t know how to make it any planer than that. If you still think I’m ducking, maybe you should clarify the issue for me.

2:13 PM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...

DavidR,

As you and most of the readers here already know, I totally agree with your outlook on the gay marriage issue. Thanks for a succinct articulation of a very reasonable approach to the problem.

2:23 PM  
Blogger yoshitownsend said...

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2:59 PM  
Blogger yoshitownsend said...

Tony,

I read your editorial on gay marriage. It was good. What I don't understand is how you manage to write so many things in such a short time without sacrificing the quality of content. You seem to be right on with everything you say... you should get Scott's job on the radio.

3:05 PM  
Blogger yoshitownsend said...

There may have been some absurdity in my "gaydar" comments. The point I was making was that there seems to be something intrinsic in the person's personality, that they seem to be born gay, and don't have a choice over it.

I don't have any problem or feel uncomfortable at all around homosexuals, for the record.

I wasn't saying 100% of guys who wear pink are gay, or all football players are not gay. (In fact, any guy who likes to get "tackled" by a bunch of other guys, and hangs out in a looker room naked with a bunch of buff guys... that meets my hyper-sensitive gaydar criteria. :)

3:13 PM  
Blogger Common Good said...

"In fact, I do believe our rights belong to us because we are human. As a matter of social contract, I think that Americans generally have held this common belief."

OK, you are off the hook. :)

You would agree with me that's not what Bush is going around saying, right? Within the last two days I saw Bush on TV say "our rights come from God". He doesn't seem to understand the "common belief", or that he's the president of all citizens.. not just Christians. The religious right certainly doesn't share this "common belief". Ask your buddy TC... I'm sure he doesn't share this common belief based on his statements here. I don't think that common belief is that common... and that's my entire point. I don't think it's trivial at all when US presidential elections are determined by those who don't share the "common belief". It would appear the reality is that "what part of this nation thinks is beyond the humaness" dictates how they view our democracy... we do not start from the same page. You seem to be right by law but not in our nation's practice.

We should probably call that "common belief" "common understanding" or it's going to get confusing. :)

Let me ask you something based on the fact "our rights come from being human". Why wouldn't Newdow be right in his cases where he claims government is endorsing/promoting religion. Custom certainly doesn't seem to be a good enough defense, IMO. You can make the defense if our rights came from God, but the defense falls apart if our social contract is based on "being human"... humans with different beliefs.

David, let me briefly support Yoshi's and my "you know it when you see it... or for sure hear it :)". My wife grew up next to a nice young man who was her next door neighbor. By 4th or 5th grade (that would be around 10 years old I guess), everyone in the neighborhood referred to the young man as skippy peanut butter. You've met my wife... the words innocent and naive were invented for her, right? Now I can't say for sure she really knew the implications of calling her little friend skippy peanut butter, but she can now. He grew up to be quite gay... not that their is anything wrong with that. :) So, I offer that as evidence in support of my friend Yoshi... Yoshi is a regular over in WilderBlog land where Tony and I travel.

This message was approved to be shared with banana by Common Good's wife... and she says hello. :) She also told me to get the hell off the message board and get back to .NET. :(

btw... what Curm said. I agree totally with state civil unions (and therefore rights) and church marriage (which has nothing to do with rights). It's so obvious it should have always been that way. Curm and I had come to that aggreement a while back... I think before you started visiting here.

3:48 PM  
Blogger Common Good said...

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3:55 PM  
Blogger Common Good said...

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4:05 PM  
Blogger Common Good said...

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4:09 PM  
Blogger Common Good said...

Is it just me, or is there a lot of very wierd things going on lately?

Is there such as thing as frog plagues in scriptures?

4:10 PM  
Blogger Common Good said...

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4:10 PM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...

CG,

Whew! Thank goodness you let me “off the hook”...I was soooooooo worried. :-D

And yes, I agree that the social contract I describe is not what 43 and many in the radical religious right are peddling. It is clear to me that this is revisionist.

As far as the larger public and what it believes, I think you are trying grasp the non-existent with that one. This is much of what I decry about our society: people are willingly ignorant on such important matters. If you asked people where our rights come from, you would get a plethora of answers most of which don’t even make sense much less which are tried to a coherent political philosophy. In fact, most people even luxuriate in their own ignorance and are very comfortable with adopting simple labels like conservative, liberal, patriotic and democratic.

I personally don’t know Newdow’s work well enough to comment comprehensively. I will say that I agree that custom is not an adequate defense. I think it is a combination of things which revolve around simple practical notions. Can I defend “In God We Trust” on our money any other way? I think custom is about the only defense. Does the anti- crowd have a legitimate complaint? Certainly. But I simply am not concerned about it because it frankly is not very important. As I said in an earlier blog post, nobody seriously gives a second thought to that issue except when the argument is running hot and it is a matter of principal. Simply put, equal protection under the law is far more significant than any of a number of things that are in fact customary.

4:16 PM  
Blogger Texas Conservative said...

I don't know about you guys...well, I guess I do, but I'm pretty proud to be an American today. Truly, no other place I'd rather live. I think I've said this before but immigrants and first-generation Americans (myself inc.) see this country with quite a different perspective and while problems abound, being a part of it is really special. Cheer up!

10:24 AM  
Blogger Common Good said...

TC, never confuse being anti-religious right, anti-conservatism, anti-treating the US as a playground for the rich, or anti-current administration with anti-America. Currently, I'm hearing Bush declare the "liberty jihad" against the entire globe. I guess that would be what ever he "defines liberty" to be. This guy doesn't care what other's think... not other nations or other's in his nation. I think this guy is having a cocaine flashback and holding a global church service. Glad you are so proud today... for others today is a very sad day indeed.

11:26 AM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...

TC,

I am personally of very good cheer. God has blessed me richly and high on the list is the blessing of being born in the United States of America. It is out of gratitude that I blog and express my opinions. If I didn’t care about America, I would remain silent and let the corrupting influences which are destroying our land go unopposed.

The danger is, of course, that you come across as being very negative in a personal way. While my out look on America is extremely bleak, my personal attitude is anything but negative. I take great comfort that God is sovereign and will provide-not capitalism. America is dying and I mourn that death, but there is one of two possibilities that give me great joy. The first is the possibility that we are entering the end times and the second advent is at hand. The second is that while America fails around us, the spirit of classical liberalism is being taken up around the World and out of the ashes of the American Empire we may yet see a larger global liberalism that will bring peace and prosperity to a larger segment of mankind than what has ever been so blessed before.

That is what you call winning either way.

This is, of course, a depressing day for most of Western civilization and I feel shameful regarding what is being done in my name. But we have a long and rich history and We the People are far more than a sum of our recent past. We are far more than a sum of our worst moments and worst leaders. But the question remains whether We the People will rise to the challenges before us and set America back on the course to the traditional values of human rights and the rule of law which have served us so well in preceding generations.

There is precious little time for the barbarians are at the gates.

Rather than the challengers to Western civilization being the Franks and the Visigoths, instead they are the Democrats and Republicans. These latter day barbarians wish to impose their will on us, but the vehicle of their power is a new and different weapon that has only existed for around a century or a little less. It is the weapon of public relations and their products are public images. Brilliant in their devices, these minions of Madison Avenue use a tool that is hidden by its own ubiquity and disguised further by its passivity: a mirror. They give us that for which we clamor and we gleefully ask for more.

If you wish to see the enemy, it is into that mirror which you must look.

11:47 AM  
Blogger Common Good said...

"If you wish to see the enemy, it is into that mirror which you must look."

I agree, TC is the enemy. :)

12:04 PM  
Blogger Common Good said...

Whales, frogs and now squids. Don't forget the Tsunami, mudslides and giant iceberg. Weird.....

Suicide Squids protest Bush's election and America

12:10 PM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...

CG,

I can personally vouch for TexaCon: If all of my enemies were like TexaCon, it would be a happier world indeed.

He sure is woefully misguided at times though. :-D

12:19 PM  
Blogger Common Good said...

Hypocrisy:

The Bush dynasty has lined their personal bank accounts with Saudi connection and money. Jr's speech today included the following:

"We will persistently clarify the choice before every ruler and every nation: The moral choice between oppression, which is always wrong, and freedom, which is eternally right. America will not pretend that jailed dissidents prefer their chains, or that women welcome humiliation and servitude, or that any human being aspires to live at the mercy of bullies.

We will encourage reform in other governments by making clear that success in our relations will require the decent treatment of their own people. America's belief in human dignity will guide our policies, yet rights must be more than the grudging concessions of dictators; they are secured by free dissent and the participation of the governed. In the long run, there is no justice without freedom, and there can be no human rights without human liberty."

I guess there must be some small print at the bottom that excludes nations with oil or family connections with US presidents.

C Student to save the world

1:48 PM  
Blogger Common Good said...

I just heard that people had to pay for seats at the Inauguration parade... better seats at higher prices. Are you frickin kidding me. Speaking of customs... it appears that it is definitely time to shut down this $41 million inauguration custom.

CNN just had audio coverage of a section of protestors on the parade root. One guy was heard saying over, and over... F*** Bush, F*** Bush. Classic. :) Looks like another guy will be added to that list that Curm is on. :)

2:16 PM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...

I guess I miss how Shrub's toture endorsement is consistent with "America's belief in human dignity". I guess dignity is less than rights?

2:20 PM  
Blogger Texas Conservative said...

Isn't freedom of speech grand.

CommonlyJaded - sheesh, lighten up. What do you LIKE about this country? DO you like this country? As venemous as you are about our system of government, what KEEPS you here. I'd ask the same question from curmie. Oh, I know, I'm not saying you shouldn't criticize, please, don't preach to me about that. But judging by WHAT you write, this country doesn't reflect ANYthing you like does it? Seriously, you write like I probably would if I didn't live in Texas and instead, was forced to live in Mass or New York. At what point do you either "take up arms" or leave? Seriously, and I'm not telling you to leave because reading your statements helps me realize how much I love this country and WHY I do.

Curmie, how 'bout it? WHAT do you like about this country? I'm interested to know. Knowing you believe this is NOT a Christian nation, our schools are poor, our government leadership is comprised of greedy and crooked politicians with no regard for our civil liberties and run by a DOD that endorses torture, what's left? Our rivers and streams aren't THAT nice are they? At what point do you say, "You know what. This country will not ever be what it once was and I need to move my family to another country that more closely supports my views and values." Honestly. No harshness intended, just a question.

Commie - another question. Do you think that if we redistributed all the wealth in this nation that the gap in wealth between the haves and have nots would remain stagnant? Do you think that the industrious would again become very wealthy while the others would lose their wealth significantly? Your answer to me would indicate the type of government/economy (socialistic) that you would favor as opposed to our market-driven economy. If you think the gap should be eliminated, that's not the U.S. that's, I don't know, Norway or something. If you think the gap would still exist and grow again, what does that say about building wealth in this country?

Curmie, do you think the Geneva convention has been violated with the reports of torture with detainees? I know you are morally opposed to it, I'm just trying to find some common ground before I share too much.

Curmie/Commie - is it possible, even slightly, that Bush didn't LIE about going to war but instead made a decision you disagreed with based on what he was hearing from his advisers on a daily basis? Do you think that maybe if he was lying, he would have considered he would be "found out" once we actually got there? If for no other reason than the fact he would be found out if he did lie, is it possible he did NOT lie? Again, just some common ground here.

2:53 PM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...

TexaCon,

Wow. You loaded up on the question asking with that one. Not that I really mind being asked to “pontificate”. :-D

Believe it or not, I have thought seriously about what the threshold would be that would cause me to leave the United States. The truth is I like living in the richest country in the world. I like my comfortable lifestyle. I’ve never denied that. I love the freedoms I still enjoy and hope, probably vainly, that I will be able to enjoy most of that Liberty for a bit longer. And frankly, whatever the warts are on our formerly great nation, America is still home. Where I have come out on it is that I’m here for the long haul. This determination is equal part selfishness and equal part defending the home I love.

I do love America, but I do not love the direction it is heading. Things are changing and the direction is very bad indeed. I’m not sure where the point of no return is, but my hunch is that it was the Clinton impeachment circus. This is what causes me to think about places like Australia and New Zealand, but the realist in me knows that there is no land with out flaws. And as I said, America is home even though at times it has begun to seem alien to me.

In short, I’m in it for the long haul but I’m not ruling packing up and leaving entirely out.

One thing that just occurred to me that might tip the scales. That would be the reinstatement of the draft in furtherance of the desire by the rich and powerful to impose their neo-con imperialist utopia on yet more of the world. This is an increasingly real possibility and a development I would look upon with the utmost gravity.

On the Geneva Convention: yes, of course it was violated.

On Shrub’s lying, I doubt we have much common ground. There is no possibility whatsoever that the administration was doing anything other than lying through its teeth on any of a number of things said to garner support for their Iraqi excursion. They do not worry about being “caught” because they, much like the administration which proceeded it, are masters at building in plausible deniability and spinning things in ways that the lemmings will accept.

It frankly mystifies me how anyone could believe otherwise. Do you think Shrub was lying about supporting the Federal Marriage Amendment? My hunch is you buy the story they are just holding back for lack of votes.

4:00 PM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

4:00 PM  
Blogger Common Good said...

TC,

I don't think you read very well. I made it pretty clear I was "jaded" against "your kind of religious right conservative government". Hate to break it to you, YOU aren't America. You have quite an ego to think YOUR IDEAS define America for everyone. I intend to battle your backward ideas for many years to come. That said, in all "seriousness", if we did become a theocracy or became some insane form of eat-your-own-kill laissez-faire (the safety-net free zone the zealots can't wait for), and if my family obligations to senior parents were not a factor, I could see myself moving... or as you say, some form of civil war. It's hard to imagine any military version of civil war in the US in the 21st century, but you could certainly imagine other forms of anarchy where a minority refused to give the country over to religious zealots. I would have never thought I would say that before this country elected this incompetent fool for his second term. I'm really not to worried about having to move... globalization will put the spotlight on our cavedwellers eventually. Now read that again, slowly. Not anti-America... anti-some warped idea of what the religious right thinks America should be.

"Do you think that if we redistributed all the wealth in this nation that the gap in wealth between the haves and have nots would remain stagnant?"

Grow up... we are going to make sure 44 million have healthcare coverage for them and thier families. I don't remember anyone demanding equal lake homes.

"Do you think that the industrious would again become very wealthy while the others would lose their wealth significantly?"

Grow up... lots of hard working industrious folks today having a very hard time. Your ideology and preaching doesn't feed their family, or pay the rent, or cover medical bills.

"Your answer to me would indicate the type of government/economy (socialistic) that you would favor as opposed to our market-driven economy."

Grow up... read more slowly. First, our so called market-driven economy isn't the pure angelic economic system you have wet dreams over. Lot's of fixes are in, particularly corporate wealth redestribution from government (consider red state america farm subsidies)... but I know, that form of wealth redistribution is American as apple pie. Second, it's you that keeps talking about dropping the free market system... I never have. Here is a clue... social safety-nets do not equal Communism. I know, you aren't ever going to get that. You must be a product of the public education system Tony rants about. I'm going to have to quit defending public education at this rate.

"If you think the gap should be eliminated, that's not the U.S. that's, I don't know, Norway or something."

Grow up... again not asking for equal income or equal lake homes... but thanks for a potential country to move to. So, a huge wealth gap defines America? Wealth gap = apple pie and baseball? Very interesting.

"If you think the gap would still exist and grow again, what does that say about building wealth in this country?"

Good god... where you visited by a wealth gap Jesus or something. Can you not look around you and see people prospering through immoral means, and very good moral people working hard and struggling with their families. Do you not see that this isn't a penalty for the wealthy, but a need of the poor? I know you believe God ordained all wealth (no matter the means)... it was all preordained. I can't help you there... but I can certainly battle to push you back in the box.

"is it possible, even slightly, that Bush didn't LIE about going to war but instead made a decision you disagreed with based on what he was hearing from his advisers on a daily basis? "

Dude, you have to be smoking the same thing Bush Jr must be smoking. There are two issues here... Tony tried to help you out several times before, but your uptake seems to be a bit slow. First issue: was Iraq worth doing for reason x, y or z? Worthy of debate. For example, was installing a democracy in Iraq possible and worth the risk? Worthy of debate. Second issue: Did President Bush present the Iraq war honestly to the US population? Did he give the population the truth to weigh the risk and reward of taking on Iraq? Absolutely not... not even debateable. The best case you can make is that there were conflicting intelligence on Iraq WMD... and some of it promoted the idea that Iraq did have WMD. You did not hear that from our president... that is called lying when it comes to taking a nation to war. I listend to the Rice confirmation, and she tapped dance all around those questions. Here is the simple fact TC... pay attention. Bush and company knew they had zero chance to sell the Iraq war to the American public without WMD. Think about it... if Bush went before the public and said "we are going to go to war with Iraq to start a democracy domino in the middle east", do you think the public would have backed that? Of course not. Bush couldn't even take the chance of presenting the WMD conflicting opinions within the Intelligence agency to the public, because Iraq to our C student Prez was an "absolute truth". He had decided it had to be done. Still keeping up? Good. Bush and the neocons had Iraq on the playlist the day the Supreme Court gave them the election. 911, and some lying made it possible. Wake up and smell the spiked coffee.

Finally, try this out. Let's suppose Saddam did have a nuke? Did you really buy the lame argument he was going to slip it to Terrorist are Us? Get real. Saddam would have been just as scared of the Jihad boys as we are. No doubt Saddam having a nuke is a very bad thing, and blackmail issues would be real. But then, here is a newsflash... what about North Korea, Iran, Pakistan, India (with tensions with Pakistan). I still don't see how Iraq moves to the front of that list unless Jr and his admin had it in for Saddam from the start... make up for daddy's war.

This entire government is bought and paid for. They even sold the inaugural. Yeah, I know... applie pie.

Grow up... quit calling yourself America.

4:13 PM  
Blogger Common Good said...

Tony said: "That would be the reinstatement of the draft in furtherance of the desire by the rich and powerful to impose their neo-con imperialist utopia on yet more of the world. "

Of course you mean the type of draft where the "Bush's and the Cheney's of this world" kids get a pass.

4:19 PM  
Blogger Common Good said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

4:20 PM  
Blogger Common Good said...

Wealth gap comes up to highlight an unhealthy state of in US society... not to make incomes equal. Duh!

TC... you realize that you and I aren't going to become pen pals. :)

4:29 PM  
Blogger yoshitownsend said...

Hey Texas Conservative,

I posted a message especially for you on YOUR website, under the Morals vs. Money topic you wrote on. Please read it, it took me a while to write it, and it was aimed towards you in particular. I had it up on this site, but took it down because it was so far off the topic here.

8:30 PM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...

Yoshi,

No need to worry about being off-topic here. We are pretty much anything goes.

8:51 AM  
Blogger Common Good said...

The following gets better every time I read it... this one is for you TC.

Supply Side Jesus

9:37 AM  
Blogger yoshitownsend said...

good comic C.G.

Have you seen "The Passion of the Jew" on SouthPark?

there is another episode where the kids start a Christian Rock Band. It's worth renting.

11:36 AM  
Blogger Texas Conservative said...

CommonPoop,

Geeze. You put so many words in my mouth I want to THROW up. Thanks for reminding me how NOT to grow up, though. I ask you why you still live here and you retort with “It’s not YOUR America! You’re not the boss of me! Waaaaa!” That’s why no one likes you. :O)

Curmie, as usual, you outclass those among you with direct responses not prone to bloviation (with only hints at condescension). Others can, and should, learn from you. Can’t vouch for bloviation, that may not be a word. I had to re-read the 4th Geneva Convention article (3) to see why you believe it was a violation. Of course the “it” is torture and I think the administration’s argument, on a legal premise, cannot be completely thrown out. The degrading acts (fotomat-gate – that’s for you Ding Dong) at Abu Grrreat are definitely a violation, though you can argue whether or not it was sponsored by the US. You can also argue as to whether those believe to be degraded/tortured fit the definition of “protected persons” as described:

The fourth Geneva Convention ("Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War") covers all individuals "who do not belong to the armed forces, take no part in the hostilities and find themselves in the hands of the Enemy or an Occupying Power".Without telling you to grow up, how do you reason this? Maybe you’ve done this before in a different posting. Let me know. I’d like to know.

In terms of the U.S. sponsoring the degrading acts, you’ve concluded, rightly so, that it comes down to the “benefit of the doubt.” I don’t necessarily believe Bush would sponsor torture, though it did happen on his watch. I DO believe he would do all that is legal to save the lives of Americans. The moral question is a slippery slope because, as its been proven here – what IS moral? I wish there was a bit more Truman in him when it comes to saying “the buck stops here.” The tsunami-like response by the left/media levied upon the administration for any introspective criticism (“miscalculations”) would make ANY administration, good, bad or otherwise, gun shy to say the least. Still, I’m not as dogmatic about torture as you are since people’s lives are at stake and I don’t see how those who target civilians are protected by the Geneva convention.

The reason I ask about your relocation thoughts is because I don’t EVER see the US resembling your ideal form of government. I’m not convinced it EVER existed either. However, it is MY AMERICA and I’d like you to leave now. Sheesh, how asinine is that.

I’m curious to know if you have come up with any answers as to how we gather the necessary information we need from these terrorists to attempt to prevent future atrocities. If not the Patriot Act and not torture, it seems like an impossible situation is the only thing left. We’ve seen what intelligence can bring us – a very inexact presumption – so really, what DO you propose. Like I’ve said, pontificating is fun but, some possible solutions to some things would be good some times.

1:55 PM  
Blogger Common Good said...

TC,

" You put so many words in my mouth I want to THROW up."

Sorry, that mirror Curm suggested can be tough on a guy. Go ahead and hurl, then move away from the dark side.... run away... run away...

I think “the buck stops here” perfectly describes the GOP and preacher Bush. Not saying the GOP is tight with their tax dollars, but rumor has it you can shove a piece of coal up thier ass and they can produce a diamond. Makes sense if you think about it, because afterall, they are the "industrious ones". Oops, now I need to grow up.

btw... Did you enjoy Supply Side Jesus?

4:36 PM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...

TC,

Sorry but I literally only have seconds to respond...heading to Tulsa to visit a very ill Grandmother.

First, Shrub clearly has sponsored torture. If there was not enough proof before, the steadfast support of Rumsfeld in spite of his admitted knowledge and the subsequent appointment of Alberto Gonzales for AG is an explicit endorsement of torture.

We have lots of tools for protecting ourselves from terrorists. I have written extensively on how the Patriot Act is unnecessary-perhaps CG can help out because I don’t have time to dig out my words from before. The really short version is that there is precedence for obtaining warrants without a face to face appearance before a judge and I think that should be built upon.

As to torture, all I can say is that it is simply not acceptable. As moral actors on the world stage, we should set the standard. We can not lower ourselves to those standards to protect freedom with out becoming the very monsters which we purport to loathe.

Sorry for the poor and hasty response. I’ll be back Monday.

5:19 PM  
Blogger Common Good said...

I thought we had a pretty good discussion about the intelligence agencies data mining the public for information to protect against terrorism... but I couldn't find it. I think your old blogs must roll off at some point. ?????

10:04 AM  
Blogger Common Good said...

Thomas Friedman would make a much better president than... say our last six presidents. Also, I bet you could go to any major university in our country and find a professor that would also make a better president than any we elect.

Thomas Friedman: New York Times

"There are Euro-conservatives, but, aside from, maybe, the ruling party in Italy, there is nothing here that quite corresponds to the anti-abortion, anti-gay, anti-tax, anti-national-health-care, anti-Kyoto, openly religious, pro-Iraq-war Bush Republican Party."

"While officially every European government is welcoming the inauguration of President Bush, the prevailing mood on the continent (if I may engage in a ridiculously sweeping generalization!) still seems to be one of shock and awe that Americans actually re-elected this man."

"Before Mr. Bush's re-election, the prevailing attitude in Europe was definitely: "We're not anti-American. We're anti-Bush." But now that the American people have voted to re-elect Mr. Bush, Europe has a problem maintaining this distinction."

Thomas Friedman - Europe dislikes Bush but not the US. Now, after electing Bush again, they don't see a distinction.

6:02 PM  
Blogger Common Good said...

OT: GOP Social Security subterfugeI think the GOP must not have gotten the following memo:

Social security is NOT an investment, but rather insurance. Social security is the last line of defense between your old age and poverty. Ignore the personal responsibility and work or starve snake oil salemen... old age poverty can happen to anyone. I heard today that there are many newly retired Enron employee's who thought they were set, and now social security is all they have. It can happen to anyone.

So GOP class members, repeat after me... social security is insurance, not an investment. I think it's a valid debate for society to determine exactly what the baseline social security gurantee should be... for example $2000 a month, $3000, etc... but whatever it is, it should be the same for every citizen regardless of life's income. It's an equal old age poverty insurance policy. It has nothing to do with providing life styles one was accustomed to... it's about covering baseline housing and food. There should be means testing... it's poverty INSURANCE... not in poverty, don't pass go, don't collect $. I think you have to throw in medical needs in this discussion also. It makes no sense to insure baseline housing and food, but not address medical care and prescription medicine costs. It would seem you have to discuss retirement preperation on three levels 1) social security 2) medical needs 3) personal savings... I think this is what they are talking about when they use the term "three legged stool" regarding retirement safety net/welfare. So, we have to define baseline social security benefits, but that has nothing to do with personal/private accounts. We already have personal accounts... they are called 401k's and IRAs. If government can add to that, great... we should be encouraged to save more.

So all of that seems pretty obvious. It's so obvious, you feel compelled to ask the prez and his admin a few questions:

1) Why do you guys have any interest in messing with the guaranteed part (the insurance part) of social security? Why would any citizen want to risk the guaranteed insurance part in investments? Any wealthy individual will tell you... once you achieve wealth, lock some guaranteed amount away you can never lose. You can be as risky as you choose with the rest, but you are a moron if you ever achieve wealth, and risk it all.

2) You guys are the pro-business party, right? Why don't any of you EVER make the suggestion that social security should not be part of an employer's concerns? I hear you say all of the time that the payroll tax is too high and reduces employment. OK, why don't you EVER follow that logic with suggesting that business owners shouldn't be required to be in the "social security" business? Same question for medical benefits... why do you want to leave business owners straddled with health insurance concerns of your employees?

3) Everyone knows the Medicare/Medicaid issue is a real crisis, rather than this social security made up bs. So why social security NOW? What's your motivation to deal with social security before medicare/medicaid?


The answer is obvious. Facts don't matter... if it's part of the government, no further discussion is needed. Government safety nets are sacrilege... you will even choke down your pro-business core values to avoid "anything government, or anything collective".
I guess you figure if your starve the beast dreams come true, and you finally succeed in killing off the New Deal safety nets... everything else will just take care of itself. If social security goes BK, I guess employers wouldn't have to mess with it anymore.

I heard that something like 70 million US citizens depend on social security. I think it's been one of the most spectacular successes of our nation... probably any nation. I try to envision the world that so many in the GOP long for. What's the plan for the old folks who blow thier investments? Will they all gather in one place like gays in San Francisco? Probably the south, so they don't freeze under the bridges.

10:16 PM  
Blogger yoshitownsend said...

Okay, everyone out in cyberspace who reads this should take a moment or two to call their Representative about this. They might not care, but they REALLY won't care if we don't call and remind them how important this is. It's not time to get cynical now.... so pick up the phone and....

Jubilee USA Network
January 2005

“The people of impoverished countries need a chance; they need full debt cancellation.”
— Congressional Letter to Treasury Secretary John Snow

Take Action: Call Your Member of Congress and Ask them to support Debt Cancellation!

Requested Action: Ask your representative to sign on to a congressional letter to Treasury Secretary John Snow urging him negotiate an agreement at the G-7 Finance Ministers meeting on February 4-5 for 100 percent cancellation of the multilateral debts owed by impoverished countries. To call your member, dial the capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121 or see your member's Web site at www.house.gov. We need Jubilee supporters to act now more than ever—this is a critical moment on debt.

Summary of Letter to Treasury Secretary Snow :
Members of the House of Representatives urge Treasury Secretary John Snow to negotiate an agreement that provides 100% cancellation of multilateral debts owed by impoverished countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America at the upcoming meeting of the G-7 Finance Ministers on February 4-5 in London.

The letter states impoverished countries will never have sufficient resources to pay their debts, and that the money they are paying to creditors such as the International Monetary Fund and World Bank is being diverted from pressing social needs like health care, education and clean water. Furthermore, the letter argues, debt payments to multilateral creditors take away funds that could be directed toward poor countries’ efforts to recover from disasters like the recent earthquake and tsunami in Asia.

For complete info

11:49 AM  
Blogger Prof. Ricardo said...

As long as we’re jumping on various pet topics...

Tony, Did you see the article on the front page of the Star-Telegram this morning (1/25/05) entitled “Bill Would Track Children’s Weight”? I assume this is going in a direction you would not like to see public education going.

If they are so concerned about tracking and informing parents of their child’s BMI (body mass index), then maybe they could provide some good old fashion example setting and frame of reference by giving a list of the legislators who voted for this bill and their BMI as well as the faculty and staff of the public school your child goes to and their BMIs.

Would this “grade” on your child’s obesity also include suggested dietary changes? And given that there are a multitude of dietors that disagree on the fundamental make up of diets, which one’s will accompany the report card, and when did those example setting legislators and teachers begin on that dietary regimen?

Once again, the government seeks to take another part of our child’s life and put it under their control. Government never seeks to withdraw from control, but always to advance. It is its nature. It is impossible for it to act contrary to its nature.

On May 6 and 7 of this year the Home School Book Fair will be at the Arlington Convention Center. If you are even a little bit curious about home schooling or supplementing your child’s education with good Christian material, I implore you to make the effort to visit the book fair. If all you did was take your children to see Gettysburg: The Second Day by Bob Farewell, your family would be truly blessed. It is worth the price of admission alone. If you are even the least bit curious, go to www.homeschoolbookfair.org for more information.

Prof. Ricardo

8:41 AM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...

Prof,

Hey there!

No, I missed the BMI tracking story. Very interesting and yet, very typical. Consistently we try to track and control things that are easy to track and control. This is really no different than the extraordinary effort we put in to traffic control. I often wonder what might be possible if half of the resources currently devoted to catching speeders were put into catching real criminals. But I digress.

But as a society, we are so enamored with the superficial that it is unsurprising that we are becoming caricatures of ourselves. I’m not saying that America doesn’t have a problem with BMI: I regrettably am one of those who hurts the averages. Rather I am suggesting that we have bigger problems. We a have a societal rot that eats at not just the body, but the mind and soul as well. And clearly, our mental and metaphysical rot are of proportions that threaten our continued survival.

On home-schooling, I appreciate the reminder. We are actively looking at those options right now. We are presently leaning toward home-schooling our Son next year but this has more to do with his social immaturity than any thing specific. We do plan on attending the Home School Book Fair as well. I didn’t realize there was one in Allen this month so that might work out well for us because we are needing some new materials for my Son. It doesn’t seem most of what we find at the teacher’s supplies really fits well with what we need.

I don’t know at this point if home-schooling is a long term answer for our Son or not. We still envision him being in a traditional classroom at some point. But who knows what our future holds. We are also considering programs like Corum Deo and some other novel approaches that may allow us to tailor things to our boys particular learning style. I appreciate the heads up. Some time I might enjoy getting together with you to discuss home-schooling since you are so passionate on the subject.

9:11 AM  
Blogger Common Good said...

Good morning Prof,

Have you heard of Usborne Books and Educational Development Corporation (link at bottom) before? I am friends with the CEO and sons (EDUC)... they are out of Tulsa. I own a significant amount of stock (for me) in their company. These have the US distribution rights to Usborne (England) kids books. I'm hoping the homeschoolers are very aware of EDUC. :)

Regarding your post... Tony may still be in Tulsa btw. I think it's always difficult to draw the line between individual autonomy and legit government/society concern. My general guiding principal for making that call is that it has to have overwhelming consequences to the public before the individual autonomy is violated. It's like everything else... there is no black and white and sometimes the line isn't that clear... we (government) have to make those calls. To me, an example of where we obviously made the wrong call is seatbelt laws. IMO, there was not an overwhelming society damage that trumped the individual autonomy. Insurance rates and deaths are legitimate concerns, but that spectrum would include eating habits (like living off of McDonalds cheeseburgers). So IMO, seatbelt laws was a wrong call... society has a right to protect others, but not necessarily protect an individual from dumb choices. My wife tried to use the human driver projectile argument to reach the "protect others" threshold... you have to give her an "A" for creativity. :) So how about an example where I think we got it right and the government did have the right to violate individual autonomy.... I think a perfect example is the smoking bans. There is no physical way for you to smoke a cigarette next to me without a direct effect on my health. You can say we probably all do that to each other by driving our cars, and we do what we can with automobile polution standards. When it comes to secondhand cigarette smoke, we do have effective remedies available.

IMO, the kiddy school weight report card is laughable... it is wrong on multiple levels. Schools are for education, not for policing child health. If we ever decide to address the US eating habits (they are bad), it should be at a national level... kids and adults and health costs. If we weren't in the middle of a real crisis over affordable health insurance, individual eating habits should never come up. That said, we are in that crisis, and in that case... "we" concerns get a legitimate foot in the door to include "eating habits" in a very large problem.... but not in public schools. Just teach the little critters for crying out loud.

All JMO of course,

CG


Educational Development Corporation

9:32 AM  
Blogger Common Good said...

Tony is not in Tulsa. :)

9:32 AM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...

CG,

Shilling for Randy White may be a deletable offense on this board!

:-D

9:48 AM  
Blogger Common Good said...

"Shilling for Randy White may be a deletable offense on this board!"

LOL. Think of it as more of a survey question. :) Maybe after Prof answers my question, I can go back and delete that portion of my post. :) If you meet with Prof (and I think you guys should), give him a liberal hug from me. :)

btw... did you see we now have a grammar god on the Wilder blog?

10:10 AM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...

I can promise you a hug is not in the works. You touchy-feeling hugger types have to take care of that business on your own.

I am proud to say we ain't got no stink'n grammer on this blog.

10:14 AM  
Blogger Prof. Ricardo said...

Afternoon Good,

“Have you heard of Usborne Books and Educational Development Corporation (link at bottom) before?”

There is always a distributor of Usborne Books at the book fair and often other book vendors that carry them in addition to other books. They are quite popular. We own a few at our house. Your welcome.

“I'm hoping the homeschoolers are very aware of EDUC. :)”

They are quite colorful and catch the eye. Their science books are carried by a number of the science vendors. I hope the dividend checks are flowing nicely.

Re: obese students
I liked your comment about if its that big of an issue it should be addressed societal rather than hitting on the kids at school. Rarely are these obese children the children of gorgeously sculpted parents. We all have strayed at varying degrees from healthy eating (which I believe should be our prerogative to do so), but to go into schools without first asking the parents of the students if they wish to have the schools monitor their children’s health, to me, shows their(the legislator pushing the bill and all who vote for it) desire to control rather than serve.

I feel for the parents in the wake of these and similar decisions.
--------------------------------------
Tony,

Social issues are definitely reasons many people choose to home school their children. Its one of my biggies. Any time (relatively speaking, this is tax season) you would like to meet, I would be glad to oblige you. If you go to the book fair, its quite probable that you would see me there. As we get closer I’ll tell you in an email how to find me there.

Prof. Ricardo

1:15 PM  
Blogger Common Good said...

Prof,

Glad to hear you own some Usborne kiddy books.... yes indeed, keep the dividends coming. If it makes you feel any better, EDUC is definitely run by red state america. The CEO called me a commie once, as I recall. Strange way to treat a stockholder. :)

"I liked your comment about if its that big of an issue it should be addressed societal rather than hitting on the kids at school."

It is truly an awsome moment when we agree on something, isn't it? :)

1:57 PM  
Blogger Common Good said...

Anyone else see the HBO movie last night "Dirty War"? If not, I recommend you catch it if they run it again. If your top priorities for America still include stuff like gay marriages after watching it... I would recommend getting off the medication. The GOP Senators rolled out their Top 10 list yesterday to the media. There was not one mention of homeland defense, providing funding to our frontlines (those brave fireman everyone brags about when they die, but then forget about soon after), protecting domestic chemical and bio sites, educating the public for what's coming, etc. Not one mention of it... but they do put Social Security which is solid until 2042 (at least) right there at the top. We live in a time where our elected types really do matter. This time we may very well not be able to live through their self-aggrandizement and criminal lack of leadership. We have elected people who are not up for their jobs. They will cost lives because they were never "our best". Whether it's public ignorance, or a faulty election process, or both... we do not elect the best of "us" to office.

On a related matter, I would like to express some opinions about torture (TC had brought it up earlier).

1) If you are unwilling to torture humans under any circumstances, you are automatically not qualified to be president of the US. If we have someone in custody that knows where the nuke is about to go up, and you aren't willing to torture that person, you are not qualified to be president. Imagine it's you... imagine it's your kid or your wife about to blow up... imagine it's only you and the guy who knows where the bomb is. If you can imagine all of that and still say you wouldn't do anything you have to this guy to save your kid or wife... you aren't being honest.

2) So, IMO... not only should the public know that a president would use torture in some situations, but they should demand it in some situtations. If a city is at stake, and we are very sure we have the bad guys, the gloves should be off.

3) Saying there are times when torture will happen is not even close to saying that it should be common. In fact, it should always be considered a last option and major hurdles (semi-public) should exist to safeguard it's usage. If most of us agree that a situation could exist to warrant torture, it is morally wrong to leave an individual (including a president) to legal risk doing exactly what we would do (and what the public demands of a president) if we were stuck in the same situation. Some torture approval process should be thought through now prior to it's use. That's the world we live in... ignoring it won't help. It may take another 911 or two to convince some, but that's probably what's coming. Maybe something like a required supreme court vote of 5 to 4 approval for each torture requirement. Even then, if we are talking about field agents having to make life and death decisions, we won't have time to have Supreme Court debate. Whatever the solution, it would be absolutely wrong to leave any citizen (including the president) in legal jeopardy doing exactly what we would do, and what we would demand them to do. Said another way, it is wrong to leave this to a wink and a nod behind the scenes.

Time to be honest and face reality. Ignoring it won't make it go away. You have to be willing to let a city blow up "out of principal" to take another stand, or you have to leave a Intelligence officer, policeman or president in legal jeopardy doing what has to be done. Both are not acceptable, IMO.

Just or legal war or not.... Iraq was a fatal mistake. The worse possible action we could have taken is one that multiplied the jihad Amway movent. Saddam's time may have come, but it wasn't now. Think about the lives we have lost and the money spent. We always said we wouldn't put the US soldier as a target between Israel and the Palestinians. Well, would that have cost more than 1400 soldiers. Would the potential net benefit have been infinitely better than the Iraq civil war that is brewing. Bush went there to "show them" and get pay back. He made one of the biggest blunders any president has ever made. These may not be the kind of mistakes/calls you get a "do-over" on. Arafat would have died without the Iraq war. Whatever our shot is with Israel and Palenstinians would have occured anyway. Sure Saddam was paying the Palenstinian families to keep up the suicide attacks, but you have to figure an Iraq style effort would be too much to overcome. We needed chess players... and we had checkers players.

CG

3:18 PM  
Blogger Common Good said...

Forgot part of what I meant to say. The Iraq "tortures" don't even come close to being justified. We aren't talking about the consequences of losing a city to a nuke or a dirty bomb (30 years of dead spots and financial disaster). Don't get me wrong... if I was trying to protect my troops who had become sitting targets wondering Iraqi neighborhoods, I would be tempted also. That said, I can hardly think of anything more damaging or more stupid than invading a Muslim country and torturing Muslims while we are there. I don't even think I could have invented that one if I was writing a movie script.

3:34 PM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...

Probably most of you have seen that another commentator is on Shrub’s payroll. We can talk about this more on the old thread if anyone is interested.

10:22 AM  
Blogger Common Good said...

John Stewart just had Seymour Herst on as a guest. I think it's pretty safe to say that Sey isn't on Bush's payroll. :) The Daily Show showed a graphic where they overlaid Mess-O-Potamia with Mess-O-Persia. Jon suggested that the Bush admin might want to market the upcoming Iran fun as the Persian Incursion.

10:41 AM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...

Stewart missed a lay-up. It clearly should be called The Persian Mug.

10:44 AM  
Blogger Common Good said...

Senator Joseph Biden certainly disagrees with my opinion that we should put into law those rare cases where would use torture. A reporter asked him that very question... about the legal risk incurred by the policeman, president, etc.

paraphrasing: "Allowing torture for exigencies would be a severe threat to our liberties. If I (Biden) were president, no telling what I would be willing to do... but then I would need to throw myself on the mercy of the court".

I respect Biden about as much as any Senator. I think he is both smarter than I am, and WRONG on this issue. :) IMO, it is morally wrong to ask a president, intelligence officer, policeman to do what is necessary maybe to protect a city from a nuke, but still face legal jeopardy... basically a wink and a nod, hope you don't become the scapegoat. We all know this gives the guys at the top a pass.

11:50 PM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...

CG,

As you well know, I would agree with Biden.

The suggestion that we have formal guidelines for the use of torture certainly appeals to the rule of law side of me. But the rule of law is only admirable when the body of law is moral. Now we can argue about how to define moral in a pluralistic society and that discussion is a good thing. But I take it as an axiom of our American law that human rights reign supreme. Now, I know that you have philosophical problems with the concept of individual sovereignty, and that discussion is also an interesting one, but there is little doubt that natural rights is the basis from which our law has proceeded up until very recent days.

So, I look at it as simply a matter of what human rights our government have the right to infringe upon. Clearly, the protection against cruel and unusual punishment that was unnecessarily promulgated (unnecessary because of redundancy that comes from the foundational concept of reservation of rights) in the Bill of Rights would encompass torture. So at a minimum such legislation would need to start at least with a Constitutional Amendment.

Now a Constitutional Amendment itself gets pretty complicated. There are Due Process considerations that I think would founder the whole attempt such as what kind of finding by what judicial body would constitute sufficient due process and whether there would still be some sort of limits on the type and means of torture.

But all of that is strictly legal and misses what I consider the most significant reason for not giving the government the power to torture no matter how limited and circumscribed by the law. The fundamental reason we can not do this is that humans are not to be trusted with such power. The revelations of Abu Graib and Camp X-ray prove that humans are not to be trusted. Just look at how far people are willing to go when the legal reigns are relaxed even the slightest little bit.

And in honesty, I would not want that power myself. The restraint of having to face a judicial body and account for my actions is an appropriate brake to ensure that individuals do not spin out of control on this point. If you know you are breaking the law when you stick the electrodes to a witness, you are much more likely to do so only when the stakes are extremely high. Which is the exact situation that advocates of such laws seek to clarify.

But looking at it the other way, lets say this legal structure was in place. Mr. Gliddy is trying to extract information from Mr. Onorth. He has the torture warrant in his pocket. He zaps Onorth with the electrodes and is told, “OK. I don’t know where the bomb is exactly, but it will detonate in New York city in one hour. Mr. Agonzales knows where the bomb is.” Mr. Gliddy’s warrant doesn’t cover walking to the next cell and torturing Mr. Agonzales. What is he to do? There is no time for a new finding that would permit the torture.

OK. So you say, well, that isn’t the way we would write the law. The law would be written broadly where people in that situation could torture whomever they might need to if there was big risks. The problem is, once you do that, then officers will still be forced into gray areas. What risk is big enough? New York City is clear, but what about a smaller town like Hope, Arkansas? Or smaller still, say Mayberry? Or a different risk like the assassination of the President?

You see, once you write such things broadly enough to be useful, then all sorts of acts might fall under the color of law. Look at the Supreme Court rulings that have set out a reasonable belief exception for warrantless searches. I totally disagree with those rulings that allow evidence into court that was not seized under a warrant where the officers reasonably believed they were acting under a valid warrant. Can you see the complexity of these things? What about the official who “knew” they were within the spirit of the law but it turns out that an informant was lying? I’m not saying some of this can not be solved, but rather that I believe this is far more complex than what most people even start to consider.

And of course I would repeat that I fundamentally do not trust the government with that power. When I look at how they abuse there other powers, I can not fathom opening that door even with the slightest of cracks. Our protection against such things is too hard won to abandon it when the benefits are so speculative and uncertain.

11:09 AM  
Blogger Common Good said...

Curm,

You and Biden are both smarter than me, and both wrong on this issue. Of course the law would be complex... of course it's a slippery slope nightmare. But, no matter what your reasoning, or how long the paragraphs, at the end of the day you are asking those on the frontlines ... intelligence officers, cops, presidents (I put that in my order of trust :) to be put in legal jeopardy for doing what the majority of the population would require of them. Why wouldn't the CIA just tell the public to go **** themselves... protect yourself. We are currently witnessing an administration and all of those congress bottom dwellers scapegoat the CIA to protect thier political collective asses. Keep working on it ... you are the lawyer. Give me a way to protect the CIA folks and their families when they have to determine where the dirty bomb is about to go off... you know the dirty bomb that will force a 3 mile section of a downtown to be quarantined off for 30 years.

"But I take it as an axiom of our American law that human rights reign supreme."

But they are not a suicide pact. We can draw that line in the sand wherever we choose. We are free to decide we are willing to perish to WMD rather than make exceptions to "individual sovereignty". We are also free to decide otherwise. Let's vote.

11:43 AM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...

CG,

I guess I wasn’t being clear on the complexity of creating such law. What I was trying to say, and in retrospect never said so directly as to have made an intelligible argument, was that it is too complex to be codified into law. I’m saying it is impossible.

That doesn’t mean we do not have legal devices that provide a defense for would-be torturers. There is the tried and true affirmative defense of “self-defense”. Within that body of law there rests most of the answers to your concerns.

If found the following succinct summary of the law on self-denfense here:

One may justifiably intervene in defense of any person who is in actual or apparent imminent danger of death or serious bodily harm, and in so doing he may use such force as he has reason to believe, and does believe, necessary under the circumstances. The defender must be reasonable in his belief that the third party is in dire peril of death or serious bodily harm. He must also have a reasonable basis to believe that the force he uses is necessary to protect the apparent victim from the threatened harm.

So I do not really agree that by leaving things as they are we are putting them in any special legal jeopardy any more significant than if a police officer fires a weapon and must endure hearings and potential prosecution. People that don’t have the guts to do that type of work, such a you and I, have no clue as to how these people would approach such problems. My instinct is that they know that these kinds of risks are part of the job or they don’t get there in the first place.

On the whole “suicide pact” non-sense: I would look at it much differently though I too agree that the Constitution is not a suicide pact. Giving the government explicit power to torture would indeed be suicidal and I for one don’t want to go down with you because you want to cut law enforcement some slack. I for one am grateful that our legal system has at its core the concept that you do not get to vote on what my human rights protections should be.

12:03 PM  
Blogger Common Good said...

"So I do not really agree that by leaving things as they are we are putting them in any special legal jeopardy any more significant than if a police officer fires a weapon and must endure hearings and potential prosecution."

Agree to disagree. Although the self-defense law is helpful, IMO, it doesn't cover what we are talking about. We are talking about a rare... hopefully never... need (we know about it in advance and should do the best to define the limits into law... the only other choice is a wink and a nod because it WILL happen). It makes a lot more sense to require a supreme court vote of some kind (or per crisis situation cover in the case the guys in the field are running against the clock.. don't you watch 24 :), than to think every "dirty bomb guardian" has to throw himself/herself on the mercy of the law.


"People that don’t have the guts to do that type of work, such a you and I, have no clue as to how these people would approach such problems."

What does that mean?

"My instinct is that they know that these kinds of risks are part of the job or they don’t get there in the first place."

Sure, and it's ok to have a volunteer army where a minority only share in the deaths of war. At least you are consistent. We don't deserve soldiers or policeman or intelligence agents if we are willing to hang them out to dry. It's high time we start to ALL BE IN THIS TOGETHER.

"On the whole “suicide pact” non-sense: I would look at it much differently though I too agree that the Constitution is not a suicide pact."

You called it nonsense, and then you agreed. huh?

"Giving the government explicit power to torture would indeed be suicidal and I for one don’t want to go down with you because you want to cut law enforcement some slack."

Hey, like I said, let's vote. It will be interesting to see if you hold the line after multiple dirty bomb attacks. You may very well. I think it ludicrous to think "torture limits under supreme court oversight" is as dangerous as the upcoming dirty bomb attractions. If we are smart, and make common sense civil liberty concessions... we may very well survive for a future day where we can revert back. Or, we can go down with our righteous line drawn in the sand (i.e. suicide pact). I have told you before that I think you can make a very solid moral argument that one should perish rather than change or modify ANY civil liberty. The problem is we have to decide this together... we don't all draw the line in the sand in the same place. For example, I may very well say I would rather allow the CIA to have robust public data mining for terrorist information during these dangerous times. Does that make me against civil liberties... I don't think so... I think it makes me against "your definition" of civil liberties.

"I for one am grateful that our legal system has at its core the concept that you do not get to vote on what my human rights protections should be."

Oh, but I do. See above. WE can modify our constitution any way we choose... and I agree... that should require a constitutional ammendment.

It sucks to have to have such a conversation... but that doesn't change reality. Whether you are right, or I'm right, or somewhere in the middle, this is the time for such conversations. Just think where we are as a nation after 911. We came together briefly, but ended up more polarized than ever... both on Iraq and social policy. You certainly believe the government has done a power grab since 911. What do you think Bush and company are capable of after something much more devestating. Why wouldn't you want to address what's likely coming with a discussion and laws ahead of time... rather than leave Jr to do it in crisis mode?

12:58 PM  
Blogger someone else said...

Before I forget, I want to respond to one comment by TC in which he claimed to have a different perspective on the U.S. as a first generation immigrant (and thereby attempted to dismiss criticism of the government). I'm an ABCD, not 1st gen, but when I was provoked, called a "dothead" (racial slur for South Asians), told it was okay by the perpetrator because "you're brown and i'm white", I consulted a 1st gen immigrant who immigrated in the 60s. Her response: "We'll always be second class citizens in this country."

Please don't try to speak for everyone in your identity group in the future. On to torture..

Let's be frank. The U.S. government has directly and indirectly sponsored torture or murder at various times
for its entire history, even if by proxy. Some recent examples include El Salvador in the 80s, the Middle Eastern governments like Egypt's that "created" terrorists through torture in jails, some Israeli tactics (you can quibble about the use of the word torture here), Guatemala in the 50s (60s?), and lets not forget the sponsorhip of Saddam Hussein. What we're talking about is the U.S. Government under the Bush Administration doing more overtly what it has done backhandedly for generations. I think that that's the context in which this discussion needs to take place.

I do agree that the formal attribution of the word "torture" to particular acts and the consequences thereof are an important discussion; just one that i'm not really privy to as someone who's not familiar with the nuances of the law. But I think the logical and scary fruition of a set of values that denies worth to particular lives (usually people of color, people of different national origin, ideological opponents, etc.) is even the horrendously frightening thing that makes me care at all where we land on the civil liberties / investigative authority spectrum.

1:50 PM  
Blogger Texas Conservative said...

Before I (I is capitalized) forget, I'm not sure how saying that immigrants and 1st gen Americans see this country with quite a different perspective is attempt[ing] to dismiss criticism of the government... but maybe I'm not that bright. Seems like quite the leap but whatever. Maybe you can scroll up and read MY words.

The spirit of the thought dealt with the FACT that people that have families that have been here for generations don't see the US like those that don't. Aw, crap. I just spoke for all THOSE people. Ah, you got me.

Your good.

This guy [pointing at Sorryav].

He's good.

2:41 PM  
Blogger Common Good said...

"What we're talking about is the U.S. Government under the Bush Administration doing more overtly what it has done backhandedly for generations. I think that that's the context in which this discussion needs to take place."

Saurav, that's a fine context :), and part of what I'm saying. We agree... this has been already going on and we certainly look the other way when other countries do the dirty work. Before 911 and Iraq, I would have said that is fine. I don't think so anymore. First, life did change after 911... the people who say that (including Bush Jr) are correct. IMO, we are in the fight of our lives/nation. It turns out that an organized group of angry young men really can threaten a nation as big as ours... for the very liberties and openness we are discussing here. To put it context, terms like "winning the hearts and minds" applies to the next generation of baby jihadist. The current generation of angry Jihadist are locked in... nothing short of death is likely to change them. To me, this means a fight at least as long as the rest of my life. So I am imagining thousands of angry young men sitting around with one life ambition of hurting the great satan... us. What I'm saying here is the potential for several decades of life as Israel knows it... or worse... losing cities to dirty bombs... or worse... don't even want to go there. If we act like sheep, and cling to a pre-911 reality, we will not come out the other side IMO. These thoughts may surprise those who have read my posts about Bush and my terms of Democracy Crusades. I agree with almost nothing Bush believes in as far as social policy, but on the foreign front I think he was "partially right". I think he was right that "we have to think different" and I think he was right "that this new fight will require legal changes... Patriot Act and even laws about torture". TC is probably falling out of his chair about now... CG semi-aggreeing with Bush about anything. Well, here is where I go back to Bush slamming. If you view our fight against terrorism as both immediate and longterm (several decades)... what moves do you take FIRST. Maybe Iraq could actually turn into a democracy... IN A COUPLE OF DECADES. The point being that you are smoking something if you think Iraq offers anything but pain in the shortterm, and increased terrorist recruiting. Maybe you look at that and say there will be a time shortly where we will make our longterm plays... but not yet. The immediate thing to be done is REAL homeland security measures. Bush and anyone who says "we are fighting them in Iraq to avoid fighting them here" should be removed from office.. do not pass go. How could one say anything more stupid. Maybe... we are fighting in Iraq to avoid fighting "next generation" jihadist... but how about dealing with the current generation first. We don't have border security worth a jack... we don't protect chemical and bio sites... we check 10-20% of ship cargo... our ports are vulnerable... we don't have citizen education about dirty bombs to avoid mass chaos when it does happen... I could go on. Another line that should get an elected official impeached "we can't protect everything in an open society". I think most of us understand that but do not understand why you can't even spring for a padlock on the chemical site gates. I don't know about you, but it's almost like Bush believes it would be some big government violation on business to actually require dangerous chemical and bio site to have... I don't know... SECURITY MAYBE.

This is my entire point. Bold and smart and flexible (civil liberty lines in the sand) is going to be required to survive. You have to figure the Bush admin has already looked that reality in the eyes... and that partially explains their aggressive foreign posture. It doesn't explain their mean-spirited social policy against the "have nots"... but that's another 1000 posts I intend to write. Iraq just doesn't fit in the smart, IMO. It just seems like a tragic mistake in prioritizing. Granted, I'm just another citizen with too many opinions... picking which war is next is certainly above my pay grade... but's that the way I see it. Iraq ... now ... was tragic. Risk must be measured in probabilities... 911 was a probability on 910. So what are the probabilities of suicide bombers in the US in malls and movie theatres, dirty bombs in downtown streets, assinations of key individuals, etc. I don't know, but I will take a wild guess the probabilities are higher without aggressive data mining (checking our email, etc) by our CIA and FBI. Some say the Patriot Act was evil. Would it be evil after a dirty bomb, 2 dirty bombs, 10? Is there a threshold where we will change our civil rights line in the sand, or will we have a unified national Patrick Henry moment. It would be interesting as hell if we weren't living it.

2:57 PM  
Blogger Texas Conservative said...

Curmie, contact the Russian dudes. Someone stole CommonGood's handle and is making sense. Wow, I was reading your comments like a [pick your author here] novel. You went right back to slamming but you had me at "partially right".

There is a valid argument as to whether we should have gone after Iraq after Afghanistan, I know this. The reason that I am unequivocal about the idea it was the EXACT right thing to do is that no other country had used up its chit at the UN table like Iraq. When you think of the posture that country had toward the type of terrorism that hit us on 911, how could you choose to go anywhere else? It was a great place to "set up shop" and show the Middle E what Democracy can be. Who cares about us, just see what Democracy can do for you. "Try it, you'll like it."

It wasn't feasible to go after the other thugs - N. Korea, Iran (partially due to a large uprising of a level-headed generation) and Syria. I think a strong commentary on that decision was Libya and the great cooperation we received from Pakistan.

Having a Democracy in Iraq could be the Peace Coupe of all time. I know, we don't know if it can happen and how successful it can be. However, I don't disagree that Iraq needed to go down.

On September 10th, 2001, maybe we could have inspected a bit longer. It seems kind of silly to me now.

4:03 PM  
Blogger Common Good said...

TC, I'm glad we agreed... if even for a while. It had to happen eventually. :)

"The reason that I am unequivocal about the idea it was the EXACT right thing to do is that no other country had used up its chit at the UN table like Iraq. When you think of the posture that country had toward the type of terrorism that hit us on 911, how could you choose to go anywhere else?"

Because it wasn't about them... it's about us.

btw... I think the entire weapons inspection thing was basically a farse. I never thought we could find anything Saddam didn't want us to find, particularly the bio stuff. Iraq was a done deal the day our troops started moving that direction.

4:15 PM  
Blogger someone else said...

Here's what changed after 9-11: The U.S. public and U.S. elites became aware that the continental U.S. could be threatened on a large scale. But the underlying conditions were well in place before 9-11; the U.S. elite just didn't care enough to do anything about it (and in some cases fostered it--like arming the jihadis in Afghanistan in the 1980s). Other countries like Britain, India, etc., have been dealing with political violence for decades, but because the U.S. was blessed with being in a different hemisphere, it never had to worry about something like this before. I was thinking about this today also, because, as a queer, I think I might have been as afraid, if not more so, when Matthew Shepard was strung up as when the World Trade Center was attacked. i think a lot of wealthy white American men who might have been in the wtc or the pentagon on 9-11 got a taste of a kind of fear they're not used to but other people experience more often. Long story short: how afraid you are, relatively speaking, of an al qaeda attack depends on what social roles you occupy and where you're coming from. but don't get me wrong-- i'm still scared:)

I agree that a lot of things needed to change after 9-11, but there's a difference between recognizing a problem and devising effective solutions. You guys really should take a look at of my post on my blog of this DOD report (particularly chapter 2 of the report). It shows that even if you agree with their priorities and their assessment of the level of the threat, the Bush admin analysis of the situation has been thoroughly wrong and their response has been correspondingly moronic. As CG pointed out, ports, chemical plants are unsecured. The War in Iraq is about the LAST thing that they should have engaged in; I consented to it internally once upon a time because i felt cowed down by fear and i thought it was the only chance for humanitarian intervention in iraq but i see now that i was wrong and that this invasion has endangered the u.s. and a lot of the world for a long time to come. there are going to be thousands and thousands of terrorists for years on end pursuing a new caliphate because the bush administration decided, through its actions, to look at osama bin laden's arguments and make them look like good critiques.

so we can secure ports for now, but the real solution--slowly promoting democracy (real democracies, with real civil societies, debates like this one, conversations, institutions, ngos, etc., not bullshit elections) where there is none, should have started a long time ago. maybe it's too late.

whew...sorry. i got off on a bit of a rant there:)

4:25 PM  
Blogger Texas Conservative said...

I think going to Iraq WAS about us. I believe he was made bold by what happened on 911. Even Duelfer said Saddam was going to pick right back up with his weapons program after sanctions were lifted. The threat would have been far greater.

I can understand not liking Bush and being suspect of every decision he's made; that's almost the exact language of this blog's Mission Statement. But the notion that we went after Iraq for oil or to settle a score about someone's daddy is ludicrous. Think of these nations as suspects in a lineup. These are people that can possibly hurt you very soon. I'd point at the dude with the 'stache and say 'That one, right there.'

My fellow citizens: let no one doubt that this is
a difficult and dangerous effort on which we have
set out. No one can foresee precisely what course
it will take or what costs or casualties will be
incurred. Many months of sacrifice and
self-discipline lie ahead—months in which both
our patience and our will will be tested—months
in which many threats and denunciations will keep
us aware of our dangers. But the greatest danger
of all would be to do nothing.
-JFK, 1962
I may have voted for him.

4:29 PM  
Blogger Texas Conservative said...

Sorry,

The queer analogy was a bit melo-dramatic and sorta fell flat. Not sure you can equate the tragic death of one person to the type of planning that was involved in killing over 3 thousand people.

So what you're saying is that we were complacent. I'm not sure that anyone would DISagree with you. I'll count myself in that category of 'elites', as un-fitting as that may be. I felt all warm and cuddly as the bear hug of our two best friends (Atlanticus and Pacificus) kept us warm as we watched movies and got fat on pizza and Phish Food.

I've argued this before and it's one of only a few subjects that really interests me. I believe that in the short-term, we will make lots of enemies. However, having the youth in the Middle East, specifically places like Iraq and Iran, grow up in a democracy as opposed to a dictatorship will provide the type of environment that helps them release their energy more peacefully. As young Iraqis, Iranians and possibly Syrians are raised with McDonalds, PS3's and Dell computers, they won't have so much time on their hands to be hating us. The problem now is that their economies are so in ruins that ALL they have is time to sit around and hate us. I know, many will become martyrs and attack us. I believe that 911 provided a highlight reel for that already. The question I will ask is how many lives did we save by doing this today. Ours AND theirs.

IMO, of course.

4:51 PM  
Blogger Common Good said...

Saurav,

Good points about fear never being shared equally here. I think the main difference this time is moving out of the realm of random, statistical crime/death into economic meltdown. Life goes on with random murder... Israel finds a way. It an entirely different situation when and if you start having to condem major portions of cities for 30 years. How much of that can an economy absorb... even if we are talking about the US?

4:57 PM  
Blogger someone else said...

TC, in short, I think I agree with you about Iraq in that the central problem is large numbers of disgruntled, unemployed or underemployed young men, and that if they had functioning societies with jobs, dates, opinions to hold forth in public forums, etc, there wouldn't be as big a problem. So we can agree that colonialism was a bad thing and local elites haven't done much better since independence in most places:)

But we disagree about how to solve this problem, or more precisely, how to envision solving this problem: the point about Iraq and 9-11 is precisely that nation-states don't pose as much of a threat as groups of highly motivated individuals. You can put together a lineup of nations if you want, but this current "war" is about about potentially destructive technologies (like commercial airplanes) becoming accessible to large numbers of people, including those groups of destructive individuals. It's more like the "war on drugs" than World War II. Nation states, no matter how fucked up they are (see: Burma), can be held accountable by other nation states because they're tied to land, elites, etc., and can be invaded, deposed, etc. It was easy for the American elite to eliminate the ruling Iraqi elite (although replacing it seems to be more of a challenge). Not the same for eliminating a decentralized group of violent political and religious fundamentalists, or, more importantly, the ideas that motivate those people and the options available to them to hurt others. That's the point about the Bush admin's misunderstanding of Iraq-- what they saw as a WWII/Cold War type effort (you can see it in the rhetoric, from "axis of evil" to "totalitarian" to "good vs. evil" to "enemies") is really a social situation--a movement, although not one that i like. There is a certain level of technical expertise and financial capital that's necessary, but by and large, I think Al Qaeda can disappear tomorrow, but it's methodology won't and neither will organized political violence against the US until people with resources all over the world lead more satisfactory lives (and therefore aren't driven to kill people). I think Bush and co don't understand this because they probably don't really understand democracy as a social phenomenon.

The other part of it--oil--isn't about naked theft of oil. That argument's a little too simple I think, although it's hard to put anything above the current admin. I think my point was that U.S. economic strength currently depends on having vast supplies of oil secured--not owning it, but making sure it's available and cheap for American economic use. In that way, the war in Iraq is very much about oil.

As for the "queer analogy being melodramatic", well, what can I say? That's how I felt and feel, and an honest assessment of how one feels in one's life is at the heart of honest independent judgements which in turn ideally ought to make up our political views, right? Maybe I haven't come to terms yet with how much 9-11 affected me, but when Matthew Shepard got killed, it felt like very immediate to me--like a crucifixion. I don't think you can understand unless you've personally felt persecuted on the basis of something your whole life, rightly or wrongly, and then something like that happens.

But yes, CG, an uninhabitable city (or a tsunami that devastates your entire province or an earthquake in Iraq that destroys much of a city) is very different in real physical impact than the death of one individual that has symbolic resonance for you. I think 9-11 was more like the former than the latter in terms of the direct effects on broader society. The response to 9-11 is a different story.

7:54 PM  
Blogger Common Good said...

TC,

"The question I will ask is how many lives did we save by doing this today. Ours AND theirs."

"This" being Iraq, right? The anwswer of course is "we don't know". We don't know if Iraq will make it to some form of democracy or at least a society without a brutal dictator... or some civil war results that would have never happened if we didn't invade. It is possible that a theocracy that hates us even more takes hold. Time will tell.

Let me ask you a question. Do you think the potential terrorism downside (or risk) of Iraq is greater now, or was greater before we invaded. Note: I'm not asking about a potential upside... we both agree a democracy could happen and if it did, it's bound to be a plus. My answer is we have a tremendous greater terrorism risk (if things go poorly) than we did when Saddam was there. Saddam was a bad guy, but it is apparent he was contained. Also, I have never bought the theory he was about to try and attack the US or give WMD to terrorists to do it. Iraq wasn't Afghanistan... the country wasn't run by Jihadist... but rather Saddam (as sick as he was). He didn't appear ready to die. Actually, looked like the opposite... some form of Middle East Tzar aspirations. So what's the potential Iraq risk now? For sure "some" terrorist types on now running in Iraq. What happens now if the elections fail? What is the worse case Iraq scenario now? Could post-Saddam Iraq be worse than Iraq w/Saddam. I have to conclude ... yes. A fundamentalist infidel hating theocracy still persuing nukes ... worse. I civil war in Iraq that spreads to neighboring countries ... worse. Terrorist getting a foothold in Iraq they couldn't have with Saddam, leading to terrorism control throughout the middle east... an absolute nightmare. I conclude we just played some very high stakes nation building poker. Both the chance for a much better outcome, AND a much worse outcome. I think I told you before I was for the Iraq war, but viewed it as a 60/40% proposition. These decisions don't come with a crystal ball, and I would be the first to recognize that we don't always get to know the outcome ahead of time. That said, a war of choice (including timing) presents the opportunity to make sure the planning is solid. It seems criminal to me that someone chose to go in with this few of troops.

You know what one thing I think this administration got right, and is still right on? N. Korea. I think they are taking the absolute right stance to avoid a one-to-one with midget Elvis. China, S. Korea and Japan or the neighbors with a real stake in the matter. It's high time someone else actually dealt with a problem other than just the US. Curm disagrees with this... just another example he isn't right about everything. The only caveat I would put on backing the Bush admin on it's N. Korea unilateral policy is I'm not sure what "group" meetings they are turning down. As long as China, S. Korea and Japan are physically present in meetings, we should be their also... I assume that is the US policy... otherwise, I reserve the right to bash Bush on this also. :)

8:12 PM  
Blogger Texas Conservative said...

Sorry,

Me thinks you doth protest too much.

I think one of the greatest benefits we will see from Iraq will be the stance on not turning a blind eye to countries that HARBOR terrorists. That's something you appear to discount. I agree with what you say about the type of non-nationalistic type of war in which we are engaged but I do not discount the stance against these countries who turn a blind eye. What I believe the Bush administration has done a VERY good job of is making it extremely more difficult for terrorists to operate indiscriminately.

CG:

Let me ask you a question. Do you think the potential terrorism downside (or risk) of Iraq is greater now, or was greater before we invaded.Today, the downside is probably greater. Today. After you come back from your AA-haa, let me say that the question, on it's premise, leaves out the greater issue. I believe their future is much brighter. The amount of damage that can come from an Uday-Kusay-run Iraq is now non-existent. I'll concede that short-term, there will be bombings, killings and death. It's tragic. It's like a fire-ant hill that we turned over. It looks really bad but its potential to be better cannot, and should not be ignored. U & K were on the verge of inheriting a sanction free Iraq and George Bush prevented that. I believe that history will judge him that way.

I’ll accept your criticism for that today.

It seems criminal to me that someone chose to go in with this few of troops.You wrote ‘seems’ so there’s at least some doubt there. The troop level is up for debate and certainly, Powell would have taken more. You read Bob's book so you know that Bush left it up to those that know. I still believe that had he insisted on more troops, it would have played the same way in the media and he would have been criticized for endangering too much of our military in the region. I think that’s called a lose-lose situation.

8:13 PM  
Blogger Common Good said...

TC,

"Today, the downside is probably greater."

Just to be clear, my question was about the long term. It seems apparent to me Iraq could have a meltdown that could be much worse than the aging Saddam in charge... both for Iraq and it's neighbors (and Europe)... and therefore us. Both the upside and downside potential stakes were raised, IMO. Stay tuned... what's playing out now in Iraq is high stakes poker for much of the globe. I just watched a Frontline episode on terrorism. They interviewed a professor from a University in France. He pointed out that when we started/forced the Iraq war, the US citizens were still thousands of miles away from the battlefield. It's just a couple day drive in a car from Iraq to France. Europe has a huge Muslim population that is not assimilating. Europeans understand what we are up against with the fundamentalist/extremist Caliphate movement. The really dangerous hate doesn't come from poverty, but from Muslim's moving to Europe and feeling shunned. Many of these angry men come from upper class families and move to Europe because they have so few opportunities at home. They don't seem to develop the hate until they move to Europe. The Europeans don't think Bush has a clue... they think that he thinks they are fighting old type threats... like the Irish Republican Army. They know why Iraq was the wrong play at this time... they should know, they live in the neighborhood. The fight against terrorism is more complex than simply US concerns. If we make a move that helps us but devestates Europe... we still lose. Offer up Europe as a sacrificial lamb, you split the west... which plays right into Bin Laden's dreams. Economies or global now... we are way past the stage of making these kinds of decisions from the narrow nationalistic eyes Bush seems to be using.

There was never any doubt the Iraqi population deserved to be freed from Saddam. The humility lesson may very well be that we left these poor people and the neighborhood worse off. You have to ask yourself... do we have the right to put them in this high stakes poker game? Let's hope they make it to a great democracy like ours so they can have a polarized society that argues 24 x 7, and proselytizes thier form of government to others. Seems like if we are proselytizing democracy and the Caliphates are proselytizing world domination... the script must be playing out like many believed it would.

11:30 PM  
Blogger Common Good said...

I was thinking about this today. What if our troops had taken control of Baghdad, caught the deck of card most wanted (we really are arrogant to use such terms in the middle east), turned the country back over to the remaining Iraq military for security, and then said we are going to go hang out in the country (dessert or whatever away from the cities) and watch. We could have told them, the US is done here unless you guys start a civil war, or you go back to raping and murdering, or the Sunni's refuse to setup a government which also included the Shi'ites and Kurds, or ?????. In other words, they had a shot early on before any insurgency to work this out on their own. It may not have worked, but it might have. What did we have to lose considering the mess that exists now? The military could have retaken Baghdad anytime it wanted. Someone tell me what I'm missing.

6:07 PM  
Blogger someone else said...

It sounds like bad strategy...it would have left the existing power structure in place minus Saddam. After the German revolution (after WWI), one of the problems (certainly not the only one) with Weimar was that they left all the bureaucrats in place who never were on board with the democracy to begin with. Sounds like something similar could have happened.

Plus, the American army would be sitting there like ducks, while you allow the opposition army to strengthen itself--it would have been an even worse public relations nightmare and even worse for whoever has to tell the parents of the American soldiers dying exactly why.

12:00 PM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...

I agree Saurav. I think there is no real choice once you make the decision to intervene militarily in the internal politics of a country. What we did in Germany and Japan was to climb into the mess and get totally involved. This was sticky in Germany in particular because Nazis were everywhere. Different Allied leaders were criticized for leaving Nazis in place for many years to follow. They were decades sorting all of this out and Iraq, assuming it makes a transition to a reasonable facsimile of a democratic government will be no different.

Americans love to look for quick efficient fixes, but sometimes it just takes a lot of hard work and time to work things out. And by going into Iraq unprepared for the post-war situation, we guaranteed that at a minimum “fixing things” would take much longer. The administration was so dishonest with the American people on this at so many different levels, it boggles the mind.

10:40 AM  

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