Friday, March 17, 2017

A question for 'REAL Conservatives'™

I've got a question for my 'REAL Conservatives'™ friends out there. While I've come to think of myself as more as more of a Liberal Conservative - Politically Liberal (Not Leftist, but Liberal in the classical sense of advocating for liberty), and culturally Conservative (not socially conservative, but seeking to conserve the ideals and treasures of Western Culture) - I like to think of myself as someone who has an understanding of the nature of Principles, to the point of preferring Principled thinking, over attempting to think with prefabricated store bought 'principles' (IOW I can get a bit obnoxious over it).

Between Scylla and Charybdis

I like to think of myself as someone who has an understanding of the nature of individual rights, the vital role that property plays in upholding them under a system of justice based upon the Rule of Law, which restrains and restricts the necessary power of government to defending the lives and rights of its people from all enemies, foreign and domestic. I've spent a lot of time thinking through how those abstract rights, follow from perceptual realities, in a conceptual chain that is perilous to abridge. And while I rarely find politicians who think as I do, I do seek out and support those who at least show a deep regard for our rights, for the rule of law, and the structure and purpose of our Constitution.

Given that focus, I couldn't find a way to support Donald Trump in the Primaries, because I didn't see any evidence that he understood, or gave much thought or regard, for what I did. I couldn't exactly support him in the general election either, although I strongly advocated for casting your vote, as I did, with his name on it, as the most effective means of defeating the greater evil facing us, from the Pro-Regressive Left.

My question for 'REAL Conservatives'™, is this: Why is it, that with all the 'REAL Conservatives'™ we've supported and elected over the decades, why is it that this billionaire, Twitter headed, Reality T.V. star, Donald J. Trump, is the ONLY one to propose the type of budget measures he has, the ONLY one who's moved to slay the Hydra of the Administrative State, the ONLY one who's used his executive powers to attack it, the ONLY one whose told the hell hole of North Korea that the era of 'strategic patience' is at an end, and the ONLY one to begin to pull back from the Charybdis of suck that is the United Nations?

That seems like a question that might be worth giving some thought to.

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Dear GOP: To Repeal Is To Replace; to Replace Without Repealing Is To Suck

When it comes to the question of what to do about ObamaCare, there once seemed to be clarity on 'The Right': Repeal it. That was soon, slowly, altered to Repeal and Replace it. Why?

Andrew Breitbart once made a remark along the lines of,
'If you can't sell Freedom and Liberty, you suck.'
Dear GOP: You suck.
(And yes, I understand that there's a mirror out there waiting for me)
I am forced to say that, because, if you do understand Liberty, Individual Rights, the Constitutional Rule of Law, then you'd also understand that "Full Repeal", IS to replace ObamaCare with the most superior option available: being at liberty to find the services, care, associations, charities, to be offered and chosen, in a free market.

There IS no better option available than that. There is no more moral system available, there is no more inclusive system available, and there is no more efficient system available. To give 'careful consideration' to all other available options, is to not understand the best available option!

The blatantly obvious, and supremely depressing fact is, that 'The Right' in general, and the GOP in particular, do not fully understand this, and so they have little enthusiasm or commitment to, capital "L" Liberty. Sure they like the sound of it, it has marketing utility for them, but they do not 'get' it, and so they can't sell it, and worse, Americans as a whole are obviously not clamoring for it, or the politicians would at least put more effort into faking it.

To recap: Repealing ObamaCare IS replacing it with a vastly superior option - the Liberty to act in a Free Market - and going any further with tweaking regulations, adding laws, manipulating taxation, forcing options and 'choices' upon patients, doctors, insurers and other providers, is restoring all of the essential evils that was, and is, inherent in Obamacare.

Worse than simply sucking at selling Freedom and Liberty, is not even trying to. Despicable.

Note: I'm disgusted with Paul Ryan & Congress on this, not Trump. Trump at least ran on this muck, he's doing what he promised to. Paul Ryan & Congress are the dishonest pukes who've pretended to be against this, have pretended to understand why this should be opposed, and yet have written and proposed this.

For my friends on the Right, a far more important question than the spastic 'How was Trump elected?!', is 'Why is this being accepted?', and until that is understood, your complaints about Trump, RINO's and the Left, are pointless.

(Libertarians: pipe down and keep your two cents, most of you suck just as bad or worse at it.)

Thursday, March 02, 2017

Jeff Sessions' Recusal: The GOP's continuing pursuit of publicly preening their political stigmata.

So Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself, in response to a spurious, baseless, charge. Was this an admirable act of selflessly sacrificing himself to maintain the appearance of justice? Is he rising above "... any semblance of a conflict of interest...", by appeasing the calls of those who have no concern for impartiality, or truth, or justice?

No (begin rant).

His action today lifts no one, ennobles no process, and is itself a form of injustice. It's a dereliction of duty, sacrificing that Justice which he has been put in office to defend. His action will reduce no political temperatures for the Trump administration, but will only serve as a means to turning up the heat. Why is it that the Right positively loves indulging in and bathing in these waters of judicial snake-oil, do they really think that they look good preening in them before the media, and the nation?

It is unsightly and obscene.

Am I going too far? I wish. There was no honest question of propriety involved here, only the Left's relentless pursuit of an opening, any convenient pretext, to gain political benefits for themselves by means of the media, which they have not been able to achieve through public elections.

This is the main exchange that is being manipulated against Attorney General Sessions:
"SEN. PATRICK J. LEAHY: Several of the President-elect's nominees or senior advisers have Russian ties. Have you been in contact with anyone connected to any part of the Russian government about the 2016 election, either before or after election day?" the Vermont Democrat asked in a questionnaire.

He was asked if he had been in contact with any member of the Russian government 'about the 2016 election', and he answered, 'No'.  Did that question, or his answer to it, in any way imply that he had not met with representatives of the Russian Govt at all?


Why? Because as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, it would be not at all unusual for him to have met with ambassadors from other nations, including Russia, as a part of his job, and his having done so in that capacity, does not impact the answer he gave in any way, shape or form, not even if he were running for his own re-election, because it is part of such a senator's job. Even my own Senator from Missouri, Sen. McCaskill did, although she claimed that she'd never met with a Russian Ambassador in her position as a senator on that same Armed Services Committee, which Twitter and the Washington Post quickly showed to be a, by Democrat standards, blatant lie.

Are we to presume then, that, as a Democrat herself, that she now intends to tender her resignation in an attempt to live up to those same preposterous standards she demands of the Right?

No? Huh. Such a surprise.

Sessions should not have even offered a verbal 'PC Penance' of '... despite appearances, in fact...'. Instead, he should have called out these deceptive, dishonest, manipulative allegations, as being what they are, and continued on with the business he was put in office to do.

Did he?


Instead, following the traditional GOP passion for publicly preening in ritual acts of political self mutilation, he chose to recuse himself from those duties that, if he cared about Truth and Justice, he should have diligently insisted upon personally overseeing, with extreme care and attentiveness, because that's what he owes, not to the media, but to the American people, on whose behalf he is now serving as Attorney General.

Instead, we're treated yet again to the GOP's preferred means of parading about in their political stigmata, by indulging, again and again, in actions that are the equivalent of those who cut and scar themselves for attention, offering up the plaintive cry:
'Aren't our wounds admirable and impressive?!'
The truly despicable truth is, that the GOP's indulging in these actions gives the left's deliberate lies and aspersions a sheen of credibility, serving to empower and embolden their efforts to increase their own ill-gotten political powers, by any means necessary. And this recusal will fuel and intensify their pursuit of those powers.

Will it accomplish anything at all for the GOP? No. Will it encourage the Pro-Regressive Left to treat them more fairly? No. Will it lessen pressure on the Trump administration? Hell no. Will it in any way shape or form enable the GOP to better uphold and defend justice for the people of the United States of America? No.

Will it weaken the GOP's ability to faithfully advance what they were elected by the people of the United States of America to do? Yes. Will that weakness encourage the left in its pursuit of even more power? Yes, it absolutely will do that.

For this, President Trump ought to tell Jeff Sessions: "You're fired!"

There are a lot of things that I take issue with Trump on, but in this case, I'd like to see a lot less GOP/Reince Preibus - Trump, and a lot more News Conference-Trump, something like 'This is a fake story and we're not going to treat fantasy as reality, so sit down!''s times like this that 'the Right' disgusts me, and I am so proud to Not be a member of the GOP.


Tuesday, February 28, 2017

President Trump lands an ace of a speech, and shows off his mad Political-Fu skills

A couple quick thoughts before bed, on Trump's speech to a joint session of Congress.. Although I had a positive response to it, overall, especially in the 'political-fu' of it, there were several things that I liked, and several that I disliked about Trump's speech, and some I was delighted to be surprised by.

Being that eliminating the Administrative State is my highest political priority, on the road to returning us to a nation of laws dedicated to upholding individual rights under the rule of law, and defending our people from all enemies, foreign and domestic, you can probably guess what 'sent a thrill up my leg'.

His comments about
"...creating a deregulation task force inside of every Government agency..."
, was music to my ears. As were those geared towards seeing to our military and law enforcement, and the various 'draining the swamp' measures. For those asking the easy question 'If reducing regulations is good, why not just eliminate the agencies?' There are no magic means of doing that, and as frustrating as it is, government can only be reduced by governmental means. Baby steps. It took us 140+ years to get here, no president is going to rid us of them armed only with a phone and a pen.

The surprises, were he didn't go for bombast, he didn't call out congress or the press, and, amazingly, he turned several promising 'Do a shot when you hear___' Memes into a dry, temperance fest of an evening, by not saying "Believe me!" or "let me tell you!" a single time.

But there were a number of things that were disturbing. What seems to be his idea of handling several issues, from infrastructure, to education, by means of "Public/Private partnerships", those alarm me. Such partnerships are conduits for politically driven favoritism, corruption, and expanding the reach and depth of the administrative state - the very things I'm thrilled that he is intent upon reducing.

While removing barriers to selling health insurance between states is a big plus, and repealing ObamaCare is a HUGE plus, when he appends '... and Replace' to the 'Repeal', it disturbs and infuriates me just as much today, as it did when I first heard Boehner floating it, years ago.

Trade Deficits are protectionist bogeymen, and pursuing them is very likely to damage the economy he is intent upon aiding... and so on, see-sawing back and forth through the speech.

So yes, overall it was an excellent speech, he completely disarmed and flummoxed the foolish democrats in their white dresses and sour faces. There was much in it to raise hopes, but also a fair measure to warrant heightened alarms.

So, ok, off to bed, more to come on this later, but for now, we'll watch, hope, and see what we see.

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Would Judge Gorsuch on the Supreme Court be some of that promised 'Winning'? Maybe so!

Well. I'm late to the SCOTUS party and just getting started on looking into Judge Neil Gorsuch's legal opinions, but... suffice to say that for the moment, it's looking good. While skimming various bios of him last night, my attention was caught by this bit from the Atlantic,

"...The most remarkable thing about the book is its measuredness. Gorsuch is a Jesuit-educated Episcopalian, but he does not rely on theology to make his argument. In fact, he takes pains to ground his work in “secular moral theory,” laying out a careful case based on the writings of thinkers from Aquinas and Epicurus to contemporary scholars Peter Singer and Ronald Dworkin. His work reads more like a philosophy paper than a legal brief, which is appropriate given his background: He holds a doctorate in philosophy from Oxford.

Gorsuch reveals a few interesting lines of thinking in his book. First, it’s clear that he’s deeply interested in fundamental moral principles. The common wisdom around his nomination is that he’s an originalist, reading laws and the Constitution based on their authors’ intended meaning. During his nomination announcement, he emphasized this principle: “I respect … the fact that in our legal order it is for Congress and not the courts to write new laws,” Gorsuch said. “It is the role of judges to apply, not alter, the work of the people’s representatives.”..."[emphasis mine]
This was especially timely, in that I was just grousing to folks, about how, with the rare exception of someone like Justice Clarence Thomas, few in our courts have much, if any, regard for the concepts of Natural Law that our Constitution was drawn out of in our Founder's Era. Instead, we've had to settle for, at best, the more primitive modernist 'Originalists' and 'Textualists' - and now here this fellow Gorsuch is sounding as if I may have to, well, not quite 'eat my words', but I may possibly have to nibble on them a bit. Around the edges.

And frankly, that's the kind of crow I'd gleefully chow down on all day long - fingers crossed!

Then this evening, in the first opinion I selected, his concurring opinion (starting on about pg 15) in Gutierrez-Brizuela v. Lynch, 834 F.3d 1142 (10th Cir. 2016), which focuses upon how Administrative Agencies have been allowed to overstep their power (to say the least (which the 'Chevron' case is referring to), the concurring portion starts with a Bang! and keeps getting better, and better.
"There’s an elephant in the room with us today. We have studiously attempted to work our way around it and even left it unremarked. But the fact is Chevron and Brand X permit executive bureaucracies to swallow huge amounts of core judicial and legislative power and concentrate federal power in a way that seems more than a little difficult to square with the Constitution of the framers’ design. Maybe the time has come to face the behemoth..."
, and they just keep coming,
"...Even more importantly, the founders considered the separation of powers a vital guard against governmental encroachment on the people’s liberties, including all those later enumerated in the Bill of Rights. What would happen, for example, if the political majorities who run the legislative and executive branches could decide cases and controversies over past facts? They might be tempted to bend existing laws, to reinterpret and apply them retroactively in novel ways and without advance notice. Effectively leaving parties who cannot alter their past conduct to the mercy of majoritarian politics and risking the possibility that unpopular groups might be singled out for this sort of mistreatment — and raising — along the way, too, grave due process (fair notice) and equal protection problems. Conversely, what would happen if politically unresponsive and lifetenured judges were permitted to decide policy questions for the future or try to execute those policies? The very idea of self-government would soon be at risk of withering to the point of pointlessness. It was to avoid dangers like these, dangers the founders had studied and seen realized in their own time, that they pursued the separation of powers. A government of diffused powers, they knew, is a government less capable of invading the liberties of the people. ..."
, and,
"...But however that may be, none of it rescues us from our riddle. For whatever the agency may be doing under Chevron, the problem remains that courts are not fulfilling their duty to interpret the law and declare invalid agency actions inconsistent with those interpretations in the cases and controversies that come before them. A duty expressly assigned to them by the APA and one often likely compelled by the Constitution itself. That’s a problem for the judiciary. And it is a problem for the people whose liberties may now be impaired not by an independent decisionmaker seeking to declare the law’s meaning as fairly as possible — the decisionmaker promised to them by law — but by an avowedly politicized administrative agent seeking to pursue whatever policy whim may rule the day. Those problems remain uncured by this line of reply"
, and,
"...Even supposing, too, that we could overlook this problem — even supposing we somehow had something resembling an authentic congressional delegation of legislative authority — you still might wonder: can Congress really delegate its legislative authority — its power to write new rules of general applicability — to executive agencies? The Supreme Court has long recognized that under the Constitution “congress cannot delegate legislative power to the president” and that this “principle [is] universally recognized as vital to the integrity and maintenance of the system of government ordained by the constitution.” Marshall Field & Co. v. Clark, 143 U.S. 649, 692 (1892). Yet on this account of Chevron we’re examining, its whole point and purpose seems to be exactly that — to delegate legislative power to the executive branch..."
, and,
"...Even under the most relaxed or functionalist view of our separated powers some concern has to arise, too, when so much power is concentrated in the hands of a single branch of government. See The Federalist No. 47 (James Madison) (“The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands . . . may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.”). After all, Chevron invests the power to decide the meaning of the law, and to do so with legislative policy goals in mind, in the very entity charged with enforcing the law. Under its terms, an administrative agency may set and revise policy (legislative), override adverse judicial determinations (judicial), and exercise enforcement discretion (executive). Add to this the fact that today many administrative agencies “wield[] vast power” and are overseen by political appointees (but often receive little effective oversight from the chief executive to whom they nominally report), and you have a pretty potent mix... "
My initial reaction to all of this?

I'm feeling like I'm in judicial heaven, or at least the Court Candy Store... but... that's a first impression. And yes, I've heard some folks complaining that he didn't come out with a full throated defense of the 2nd Amdt in another case - worrisome, but it's a bit difficult to see how that gibes with the ideas put out in this case - if he is stays consistent with the ideas dealt with here, having this judge on the Supreme Court, would be a big step back onto the road to restoring the Rule of Law.

Still though, I've got quite a bit more reading to do before I really buy into it - good or bad.

But so far? This is the kind of 'Winning!' that I could get used to.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

"...President Trump took an ax, gave the Govt Agencies 40 whacks..."

Here's another case of my 'partial good/potential bad' take on Trump, that has me both cheering, and sighing, at the same time. A friend brought it to my attention that, along with his many other recent actions against regulatory excesses, Trump's people are apparently planning on severely reducing the size, or even existence, of a number of federal agencies.

As you might expect, that makes me cheer! But the reported reasons for it... 'budget savings', leaves me somewhere between a 'meh' and a sigh.

As I commented to my friend, IMHO, the budget should not even enter into the question, and if it does, then they either don't understand the question, don't understand the budgets, or are weakly using budgetary reasons as excuses to cut what they feel some vague ideological compulsion to do.

But I'll take it!

But if it was me that had the power to swing the ax, the very first ones that I'd cut, would be the National Endowments for the Arts, and for the Humanities. They'd be the first to go, because they are the most extreme examples of why they all should go (with the possible exception of the 'Community Oriented Policing Services', and 'Civil Rights Division (though I strongly suspect a cursory examination would show them to be worthy in name only)), which is because the Federal Govt has no justifiable purpose or power for involving itself, and us, in them.

And also because, above almost any other institutions in society, I care about the Arts and Humanities the most. The inevitable result of political powers involving themselves in the arts, is the contamination, degradation and corruption of them that has to follow from the politicization of artists and their art.

As to all of the other agencies, I'd gleefully sever them from the public teat, because they are ideological perversions of the public trust, justice and the rule of law, which operate under the barest pretexts of furthering 'the greater good'. These 'Federal Agencies' are blights upon the land.


So, to sum up, this is unfortunate:
"Some of President Donald Trump's planned budget cuts appear to be targeted more at undercutting Democratic priorities than at shrinking the national debt."
, but this sure as hell isn't!
"the following 17 ... federal agencies reportedly on the chopping block..."

  1. Corporation for Public Broadcasting
  2. National Endowment for the Arts
  3. National Endowment for the Humanities
  4. Minority Business Development Agency
  5. Economic Development Administration
  6. International Trade Administration
  7. Manufacturing Extension Partnership
  8. Office of Community Oriented Policing Services
  9. Office of Violence Against Women
  10. Legal Services Corporation
  11. Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department
  12. Environment and Natural Resources Division of the Justice Department
  13. Overseas Private Investment Corporation
  14. UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
  15. Office of Electricity Deliverability and Energy Reliability
  16. Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy
  17. Office of Fossil Energy

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The Donald becomes The President

Ok, so, a few quick comments about Trump's inaugural speech. It was simple, direct, unpretentious, even pithy in its restatement of those themes he campaigned upon, which, given his reputation, is all the more striking, as he apparently waved off the speech writers who customarily put words into our president's mouths, and wrote his speech himself. Personally, I thought it was a good speech; I have some concerns about parts, but in comparison to the soaring rhetorical pap and constitutional horror shows of Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush...?, this inaugural speech was a tonic.

That being the case, of course, the Left hated it, hated it in pretty much every way it could be hated, and not surprisingly, some of the more interesting things about his speech, from an event perspective, are what Leftist's have been saying about it. I won't waste space here going over their reactions, but I urge everyone to read NPR's attempted fisking of it - an exercise in tag team biased editorial commentary, arrogantly dressed up in 'annotated' drag. What's amusing though, is how much they manage to reveal about themselves through the lines they comment upon, what they say about them, and even more so through what they skip right on by without comment. It gives us a fine illustration of why the left lost so badly in the last election, at every level, across the nation.

It's easy to find the theme of his speech reflected in multiple passages (which, BTW, is what good speech writers strive for, yet often fail to do), and they indicate both why he was elected, and why the media's go-to buzzward of the day on Friday was "Dystopian". :-)

This one passage sums up both why the Left is so upset by it, and why the Right was so not:
"Today's ceremony, however, has very special meaning. Because today, we are not merely transferring power from one administration to another or from one party to another.

But we are transferring power from Washington, D.C., and giving it back to you, the people."
The Pro-Regressive Left, conceived as it was upon the intent to centralize power away from the people, and under the watchful eyes of agency experts in Washington, absolutely hates that! Yet as much as I enjoy the imagery which that evokes, it is also conveys the 'partial good/potential bad', that most things Trump do. See if you can see what I mean, as he continues:
"What truly matters is not which party controls our government but whether our government is controlled by the people. January 20th, 2017 will be remembered as the day the people became the rulers of this nation again.

The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer."
Right on the face of it, those are very satisfying, even reassuring sentiments. Also welcome, was his reference to the 'Forgotten Man' (which NPR completely whiffed). The Forgotten Man was a term from an essay at the opening of the 20th century, describing how one group of men in society are made to bear the brunt of that society's demand that they struggle and pay for the benefit of another portion of society, are made to follow the orders of yet another, smaller, self aggrandizing portion of society who take the credit for those efforts, while that first group of men who made all of their plans possible, are taken advantage of, abused and forgotten by society. Amity Shlaes, in her book "The Forgotten Man", detailed how FDR twisted that term to the purpose of expanding govt power, making the true 'Forgotten Man', even more forgotten (maybe NPR left it out because they remembered).

Of course, if Trump even partially succeeds in righting that (and his movements out of the box on the ACA, the EPA, TPP, and pledges to drastically cut regulatory controls, are extremely encouraging), that'll be a very good thing.

But righting society in that way isn't exactly what he said, is it? That's not what 'returning power' and '...become rulers once again' mean, or could be played out as. What he did say... well, not quite 'say' exactly, but what he evoked, was the idea of government deriving its power from the consent of the governed, and that they will not be ignored, and will regain their power - an admirable sentiment to be sure - but... that's also where the slope begins to get slippery, and a host of potentially bad things begin to loom before us.

For instance, how do you 'return' power to the people?

You can't, of course - if you were to try, which people would you return it to? Sure, most common sense people, and perhaps even Trump, would assume that meant stopping the government from usurping the powers which rightly belong to the people, but however it was meant, I assure you that politicians and bureaucrats mean something very different. A phrase like that evokes in them numerous committees, studies, oversight boards and commissions, because their livelihood, their very political futures, are rooted in power, and that is derived from extending favors or fears. At best, they'd set about picking some few to be empowered to 'return' powers to this neighborhood committee, or that economic forum, etc, all at the expense of everyone else, which is unlikely to be an improvement for them, and will surely put a burden upon still others, who will in turn become a new crop of forgotten men.

Of course, if Trump does cause the federal govt to cease and desist in usurping those powers which the Constitution doesn't give it the power to claim, that would be a very definite good - but the fact is that that isn't what he said, and what concerns me, despite the very middle class tenor of the passage, is that he spoke of 'Rulers', with the people becoming '...rulers once again'.
(You should check out the Gigapixel)

That's something that may be benign, but it could be much worse. Political power is a dangerous thing, it is why we do not have rulers in the United States of America, and keeping a vigilant and wary eye on those 'could's', is extremely important to keeping rulers out of the United States of America. Instead of 'rulers', we have a representative system, which, when adhered to, is very much about not giving We The People such power; rather, it is designed to separate the Sovereign, which is 'We The People', from the reigns of power, and it is also intended to separate their hired management team (our elected officials), from having full control of the reigns of power as well. Our Constitution is all about mediating political power, between powers, by means of laws derived from our Constitution, and in concert with it (Larry P. Arnn, president of Hillsdale College, has an excellent, and extraordinarily brief book explaining this aspect of our system, called 'The Founder's Key'. Highly recommended).

It is an ingenious feature of our Constitution that it derives its just powers from the consent of the governed, but even more ingeniously, it does not give either they, or their representatives, direct power. Any opening that enables the bureaucracy to do end-runs around it, even with the pleasing sound of 'returning power' to the people, however that might be accomplished, will inevitably further short circuit the Constitution's structure, balance and purpose, and lead to the further powerlessness of We The People.

The next section is problematic as well,
"...For too long, a small group in our nation's capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost. Washington flourished, but the people did not share in its wealth. Politicians prospered, but the jobs left. And the factories closed."
The first line there, is of course true, and detestable, as is the last, but the second line opens up the rhetorical gates. How could 'the people' be made to "share" in the nation's wealth, without redistributing it? Now relax Trump supporters, I'm not saying that Trump is proposing to pull an Obama by seeking to 'spread the wealth around'. But the nearness to an open door that this edges towards, is concerning to me; it is concerning to me that he apparently doesn't notice that the good intentions he feels over the wrongs he sees, just might intensify those same wrongs, through an unanticipated angle - and that won't be a good either.

That double edged sense flows and stirs throughout the rest of the speech, as in the next section,
"...At the center of this movement is a crucial conviction -- that a nation exists to serve its citizens. Americans want great schools for their children, safe neighborhoods for their families and good jobs for themselves.

These are just and reasonable demands of righteous people and a righteous public."
Again, there is a positive sense evoked, a very welcome sentiment, that the citizens are the reason why the nation exists - and issues of family, good jobs and educations are reasonable expectations, but if they are made into demands, they will soon transform their reasonability into something a great deal less reasonable. Does the nation exist to serve 'them'? No, in a very important sense, it most emphatically does not exist to serve them. Our constitutional government exists to uphold and defend the individual rights of its citizens from all enemies, foreign and domestic, but there is a sense where casting its purpose to be 'serving' its citizens, can, has, and will easily continue to abuse their rights in the name of providing them that 'service'. BTW, this is not simply speculation on my part, the fact is that the first solid fractures in our Constitutional government, the first instance of the federal government intruding upon the states with carrot and stick mandates (soon followed by laws and regulations) came upon us through exactly what he is focusing upon here: the notion that great schools and good jobs, are something that Govt should have an active hand in.

That particular good intention, which I've often gone into before, such as in this post, was originally proposed by Republicans, back in the 1860's, and it spawned both the Dept of Education (yes, in the 1860's, not 1960's) and the Dept of Agriculture, and all of the 'brooding monstrosity of American educationism' that we battle today, sprang from those very fertile weeds. It has helped to destroy the concept of Education in this nation, transforming it from the community efforts to provide the exemplars and information which best aid in becoming a moral, self-governing person capable of making intelligent decisions... into becoming economic chits in the workforce, something for businesses to order up by the bushel with these or those skills.

These are not good things, but they are easily and very understandably taken to be as such, by those who are too quick to reach for the apparent good, without further reflection, and a sense of direction that is rooted in a framework of our laws, and the concepts behind them.

And this, finally,
"...At the bedrock of our politics will be a total allegiance to the United States of America and through our loyalty to our country, we will rediscover our loyalty to each other. When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice...."
This is as it should be, America should be the first concern of Americans, and with a patriotic commitment to individual rights defended by the rule of law, there is no room for the hateful and stunted notions of prejudice. And of course our politics should devote total loyalty and allegiance to the United States of America, but that is only possible, through an understanding of, and adherence to, the Constitution and the concepts it was derived from. If we understand those, and their purpose, and we strive for those, we will reawaken and reanimate the greatness that is inherent in America... but without that... like unskilled miners, we are more likely to chase the fools gold of populism and nationalism, than the real thing of constitutionalism.

I am not a Trump supporter (though I certainly used his name on my ballot to help defeat the greater threat facing us in Hillary Clinton), but I am also, most definitely not a NeverTrump'r, or an anti-Trump'r. I do not buy into the easy lies and delusions that have been served up by all the various forms of media, as well as by other more well intentioned observers who are nevertheless so eager to find failures and offenses in Trump, that they will sully their perceptions of reality with pleasing bits of half chewed principles, petty illusions and sad to say, outright lies. If your argument hinges upon portraying President Trump as a dullard, a narcissist, a puppet of Russia, then your argument lacks an argument, it substitutes self delusion, credulous reporting spun from 'sources say', and flagrant propaganda, where its premises should have been. And frankly, both the Trump supporters, and the NeverTrumpr's, are speculating on his coming actions, for good or ill, on the basis of their own emotional evaluations, based largely upon the hearsay that resonates most with their own preferred enthusiasms/fears. I have no use for such 'arguments', or the peddling of them.

Of course I'd have preferred to have had someone with a track record of commentary on constitutional ideas and positions so that I could have something to base my evaluations and expectations on, but just because we don't have that, doesn't mean that I'm now going to conclude that I should buy into all of the ginned up fears about him that come along - but.. yes, I'm also very conscious that that too is based upon my hopes and off the cuff evaluations of him. The die is cast and we will have to see what we see, and respond accordingly.

But leaving the hysterics aside, there is much to be wary of in a Trump administration, but not because I think that he's a fool, a crook, or a Russian puppet, but precisely because I do not think he is a fool, a crook, or a Russian puppet. I do believe that President Trump loves America and wants to improve it... but I'm also painfully aware that such good intentions, without a solid respect and understanding for what is essential and primary to what truly does make America great, can, especially in the hands of a skilled manager and showman, easily, unintentionally, become every bit as dangerous as the actions of those who do mean to do us harm, and his supporters should not ignore that.

Still though, despite the best efforts of the masked thugs of the fascistic pro-regressive Left, his inauguration is past, and we have yet again been able to thank God for the peaceful transfer of power, from one worldview, to another - and that is damned near miraculous!

Now let's keep an eye on that power, and let's be especially on the lookout for any well, or ill-intentioned moves that might tarnish America's luster even further, and let us all hope and pray that President Trump is able to help de-grime, de-clutter, and pollish up America's greatness once again.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Red, White and Inaugural Blues - a Rant

On Friday, the 20th of January, 2017, the 45th President of the United States of America, Donald J. Trump, a man I did not support in the recent election (though I opposed his final opponent, with him), will be sworn into office, and with that oath of office, he will become my, and every other American's, President.
‘On each national day of inauguration since 1789,
the people have renewed their sense of dedication to the United States.’

We're told on the eve of his inauguration that somewhere in the area of 70 Democrat members of Congress are declaring that they will not be attending the inauguration, as a means of protesting the man who will occupy the office of the President of the United States.

These are elected representatives of the government of the United States of America. They were, and are, elected to represent their constituents in the upholding and crafting of the laws of the land, under that very government, whose laws, and governance of them, impacts every one of our individual rights and lives.

To explicitly attempt to delegitimize the peaceful and complete transfer of power, to the person duly elected by We The People, in accordance with our laws, to the office of the President of the United States of America, for partisan political purposes (whether from the Left or the NeverTrump'r Right), is, at best, extreme political negligence, and it is undermining to not only the peaceful transfer of political power, but to the preservation of every value which these 'lawmakers' supposedly believe in, and were elected to represent.

That, in my book, is despicable, it is disgusting, and they, and those who blithely see that as somehow being worthy behavior, should be ashamed of themselves.

Yet people are converging upon Washington D.C. to protest, they are churning out gimmick after gimmick to shout down those they differ with, even calling them 'nazis!' , in order to 'protest' ... what?
[Note to SJW Snowflakes: The real Nazi's spent years taking it to the streets, marching and verbally and physically abusing people, intimidating the populace until they feared holding any 'politically incorrect' positions, forcibly paving the way for them to come to political power - it is you who are following in their footsteps!]
Whatever distractions they might flood social media with, what they are actually protesting, is the lawful, peaceful, election of the 45th President of the United States of America. What they are protesting in the name of 'Democracy!', is the democratic election of their fellow Americans in accordance with the laws of the land, in a peaceful political contest which is understood upon entering into, that one side is guaranteed to lose, and so by their own actions they show themselves to be immature, dishonest and uncivilized wretches, who are made all the more repulsive by attempting to drape themselves in the spirit of 'Democracy!', while deliberately undermining the democratic process.
Who needs Russians when you have Pro-Regressive Leftists!
Who needs Russians, when you've got Pro-Regressive Leftists?! They lost the electoral argument, and yet they feel entitled to protest, deride, and even to refuse to abide by the decision of their fellow Americans, with these cheap, juvenile, theatrics. Some of them, friends of mine and even relatives of mine, I'm ashamed to say, have even characterized these protests and pledges of 'not my President!' as, and I quote: Beautiful.

There is nothing beautiful in people treating the solemn and peaceful transfer of  political power, as if it were some sort of cheap piece of roadside performance art.

A Presidential Inauguration is the ritualized transfer of the reigns of power - that pure, dangerous, deadly, political power to penalize, punish, put to death and mandate actions and make war - this immense power is not being wrested away by violent slaughter, but is simply, boringly, being signed over across a sea of vastly differing and turbulent political viewpoints, peacefully, according to law, in a ceremony that has been solemnized by 228 years of tradition, under our Constitution which has been proven more successful and enduring than any other system in all of human history.

These protesters see nothing remarkable in that. They see nothing disturbing or dangerous in delegitimizing that. They see nothing admirable in this incredible and historic track record which we in America have, of binding down the powers of violence and ambition, by nothing more than the cords of law. They seem unaware that our laws don't gain the strength to do that by the paper they are printed upon, but by being written upon the hearts of We The People of this nation, as they were for We The Peoples and any who show the 'wrong' beliefs and allegiances.

Fascists projecting fascism
at least least two centuries. What these 'beautiful protests' ominously trumpet to the world now, is that that writing is fading from the hearts and minds of We The People; a people who are foolish enough to think that those laws can be made to fade away, and yet somehow imagine that those ever lurking beasts of ambition and brutality which they've made to stir with temptations of escape, will simply remain docile, tame, and quiet as they are unleashed, rather than break free and do violence to

Good Lord People, our Government, IS US - it isn't in our buildings, or in our courts, in our military or even in our written laws, but is in our understanding and respect for them. Our Government lays in our self-government, our willing agreement to set aside the resort to use of force, or the encouragement of it, for peaceful and reasonable dispute and agreement and our willingness to abide by reasonable judgments, even and especially when we 'lose' the dispute. If we lose that IN US, then it all falls apart, and cannot do otherwise.

For those hysterical supporters of 'Democracy!' who are out to overturn or undermine the results of a democratic election, and the Rule of Law, in order to force the rest of us to comply with their desires, you should keep in mind, that for all of your claims of caring about this or that disadvantaged minority such and such - if our respect for our laws, and our expectations of being able to rely upon those law to subdue the violent passions of ourselves and our fellows - if We The People are made to feel that a just government can no longer be counted upon to provide justice and order, then it's not the powerful who are going to suffer - no, that only happens under a system of laws - it is the weak, the weird, and the non-conformist, who will be made to feel the brunt of the powers unleashed by your discarded and forgotten respect for individual rights under the Rule of Law.

No one who is weak or in need of assistance, will survive that - and especially not any snowflakes.



Monday, January 16, 2017

The Powerful threat from within Representative Government

Ok, sure, it might be a total Captain Obvious move to point out that the term 'Representative Government', is one that contains two very different words, but what's less obvious, is the fact that before you can understand why the first of those two word's meaning is so important, it's necessary to have a fair understanding of what the second word of the term means, and just how dangerous it is to the meaning and purpose of its first word. As noted in my previous post, the trite heads or tails dilemmas that most of our attempts at discussing such matters are so easily diverted into ('A Democracy! No, a Republic!', 'Electoral College vs. Popular Vote', or 'He Is/Isn't my President!'), do nothing to deepen our understanding of either term, and serve mostly to divert our attention away from the questions we're supposedly considering. But not even the questions can be compacted into the space of calling heads or tails, and the more you puff up one preferred answer over the other, the further away we are all drawn from a useful discussion of them.

So, with that in mind, it's worth reminding ourselves of the basics of what it is that government is, how it derives its power, and how and why it is so important to limit its ability to use that power. As the old saying says,
'Government, like fire, is a troublesome servant and a terrible master'.
You want to use the Power... don't you...?
We don't need to try and attribute that phrase to one or more Founding Fathers, as it often has been, in order to make the truth of it more important and relevant, especially when we're so often tempted to turn to govt to impose our very best intentions upon the rest of us. The greatest dangers to our liberty, come from our best intentions to improve upon it. It is precisely when we're caught up in such
enthusiasms for 'doing good!' unto others, that we're most in need of being tempered by an understanding from history - that is what it is was that made our form of government possible, it is what made, and makes, it exceptional, and without which, neither it, nor we, can be exceptional - at least not in a good way.

So what is Government? Stripped of the finery and fanfare:
Government is the means of harnessing the collective power of a community towards... ends. 
What those ends are, who determines them and authorizes the pursuit of them, and most importantly, what it, and they, will not be allowed to do, depends upon how well your society delimits the powers of those holding the reigns of power. Where Government gains its power 'to do' what it will, is by enforcing claims, in whole or in part, upon the possessions, time and lives of its people, and if there are no limits to its claims or ends, then it will turn the collective power of your society, towards accomplishing whatever those in government (or those with their ear) desire to do, and with all of their very best intentions urging them on to do whatever 'it' might be.

Despite the aspirations of our Declaration of Independence, government does not need your consent - it can gain legitimacy from that, sure - but that's a later development, a 'nice to have' (in the eyes of those in positions of power within it), which is in no way necessary for it to wield its power over you.

At this point it might be useful to take note of a rather shocking point, especially shocking for those of us, like myself, who look to government as the means of establishing justice and defending our rights, and that point is this: those are not the most basic requirement that a society demands from their government! And with a very grudging nod towards Hobbes, what people do demand, first and foremost, is: Order. As Hobbes put it,
"...For before constitution of Soveraign Power (as hath already been shewn) all men had right to all things; which necessarily causeth Warre: and therefore this Proprietie, being necessary to Peace, and depending on Soveraign Power, is the Act of that Power, in order to the publique peace...."
I disagree with him, that that provides either a definition or justification for government, but it is, and should be, a frightening and sobering realization that that is the tipping point of political gravity that is always tugging at our perceptions, eagerly awaiting for us to forget our balance and fall back down to its baseline. That point is extremely dangerous to ignore, or to evade the realization that the government that does not effectively provide that fundamental service, will not stand for long; as a society sufficiently shaken up, will sink to any level, in order to enforce that basic compliance upon its own people, if they think it'll mean escaping from chaos - real or perceived (and if you think that doesn't apply to modern man, it's you who are being primitive in your thinking). That ground floor of order forms what I've called the 'Societal Baseline', and is what I was pointing out in an earlier post that looked into the Yanomamö Indians in the Amazon, it is what makes the brutality of a tribal thug, preferable to having no order at all, and it is that point which all real progress, is measured through the horizontal (legislative, via Govt) and vertical (ethical, through the people) distance a society manages to put between itself and that baseline.

The first step of real progress, up and away from that baseline, comes when a society's begins forming rules for its governance, rather than following exclusively upon the wishes of its rulers, and in making them known for all to see and understand, they give a sign that they are developing what can loosely be called 'laws'. As societies' begin doing so, they begin forming political structures that move beyond the moment to moment exercise of brute force, by brutes, and take on the various forms of all of the familiar ___cracys' and ___archy's (you remember, democracy, oligarchy, etc), which takes them further up the winding path of Chieftains, Tyrants & Kings, until they finally arrive at the Prime Ministers and Presidents that typically head up what we like to think of as legitimate, Representative Governments.

If you examine the laws of a society as they progress along that path - if they manage to continue along it - there's an essential characteristic that you'll see becoming more and more pronounced, which is what makes it possible for their laws to be able to be regarded as capital 'L' "Laws" with a straight face, rather than just an assortment of rules written down by thugs, and it's a development of an idea that I went into some depth upon in previous posts (two in particular, pt 2:Why a Govt of Laws, and not of men? & pt 3:Who Benefits from transforming Rules into Laws), which, sparing you a few thousand of those post's words, can be summed up in what's best captured in two translations of one potent phrase from Aristotle's Politics,
'The law is reason unaffected by desire',
'The Law is reason free from passion.'
The more that a people's laws adhere to and exhibit that sensibility, the more legitimate they and their Laws, are likely to become - it is the means of putting the point upon the arrow of political progress; pointing their society in the right direction, onwards, upwards, and away from that societal baseline of barbaric order. And while it may seem a bit counter-intuitive, that characteristic, in the raw, is also what is being crudely expressed in that primal desire for the societal baseline of Order; seeking relief from the chaos brought on by violent passions and desires that've run rampant. Surprisingly, at least a little bit, it is in seeking that order that they also find that the seeking itself, demands an exercise of methodical reasoning in order to bring even that baseline condition about, and continuing with that, developing and reflecting upon that, refining that, that is the natural means of eventually implementing Laws that one day will tower above the mere scribblings of one or another tyrant's demands of the moment.

Following closely on Aristotle's essential ideal, are two from the Roman jurist, Cicero, with his,
"No one can be judge in his own cause; Hear the other side"
, and,
“True law is right reason in agreement with nature"
These are also logical developments of Aristotle's advice to separate your passions and desires from your attempts to realize justice; in pursuing that it soon follows that a fair and impartial hearing should be given to both sides of an issue, it is a result of seriously taking that advice to heart, and as a result, your laws, and the application of them, become more reasonable, and those applying and enduring them also begin seeking conclusions derived from factual evidence, rather than reacting to impassioned desires.

These are not inventions of The West, they are discoveries about what is common to all of mankind, but they were first fully realized in The West. Following these dictums, and ridding the writing and administering of a society's laws of personal passions and biased desires, is, in the real sense of making progress away from the baseline, Progressive, and it will be accompanied by a visible increase in the methodical, reasonable nature, of their laws. On the other hand, shedding that quality, seeking to appeal to the passions and desires of the many, is Regressive, and deliberately seeking to do so, while justifying those actions and stirring up the passions of the people in order to satisfy the ambitions of their rulers (whether they be one, or the many), is what I refer to as being Pro-Regressive. If you want to know whether your society's laws are truly Progressive, or Pro-Regressive, look at how those who propose them, urge you to embrace them.

The direction that our laws move in can be objectively measured as progress over what came before, moving from chaos, to order, to recorded and predictable rules, to rules which make sense together and integrate with each other, developing a progressively less contradictory nature - reasonable, understandable, and flexible enough to be applied in a variety of circumstances, yet rigid enough to be familiar to, and understood by 'the common man'; that is the path of progress. As these advanced ideas, and the attitudes which accompany them become the norm, such laws as that people govern themselves through, begin to lose their erratic nature, as both the people and their laws become more ordered, more reasonable, more respectful of their fellows lives.

The Best of Times, and the Worst of Times
But as wonderful and profound as such progress is, a society has to be on their guard against their own hubris, for while they may have become convinced of the soundness of their good intentions, the nature of government has not changed - not one bit - and the raw force and power which it is, will seep through such blind spots, like groundwater through an old foundation, progressively saturating and weakening it. Government is power, it is force, it can fine, punish, stifle, intimidate, imprison and persecute, it can kill and it can destroy, it is like fire, a troublesome servant and a terrible master, and if you dare presume that you can fully domesticate such primal forces through law, that you can safely use that primal power best suited to preventing or punishing actions, to initiate and do good unto others for what you consider to be for their own good, then you fail the test of Tolkien's Ring of Power, and turn towards darkness with all of the urgency and false light of your very best of intentions.

It is at this point, that the question arises as to who it is that will, and should, write a society's laws. How are they to be chosen? The means of binding both laws and its officers, from engaging in erratic or passionate actions, is best made by means of those laws themselves being ordered by objectively higher laws (see Cicero's “True law is right reason in agreement with nature"), so that society becomes compatible with what all can see as being true and right.

 But how will they be written, and how will those charged with writing and attending to them, be chosen? This is where 'The consent of the governed' begins to come into play, but how so? Is their consent to be gathered and given in any way shape, manner or form? Are there good and bad ways to gain that consent? Is it possible to curry that consent in such a way as to subvert the consent of the governed, for the benefit of those who would govern them?

There's more to the matter than simply encouraging individual choices and preferences; giving political power to the administration of our laws, if those laws are to be Laws, rather than rules in drag, they must be written and applied in a manner as free from personal passions and desires as is possible. Simply having all of the people of that society participating in that process, appealing to them to 'express their choice!', means putting people into power over the laws, by means of inciting passionate desires for wide approval and calls for collective action, which means turning against the very thing that the Laws, and the administration of them, are designed to bar from issues of Law!

And yet, the consent of the governed is vital to a 'Representative Government' - that's the puzzle at the heart of the first of our terms, 'Representative'.

What the 'Representative' portion of 'Representative Government' must never forget, is that the 2nd word in its term is representative of a fearsome and dangerous power, one that feeds upon your own confidence in your own ability to master it, and especially through your belief that you can 'do good' by imposing your own best judgment upon the choices that other people are trying to make for their own lives. The 1st word in that term must keep in mind, that it can, at best, tame the beast inherent in the 2nd word, but only as a trainer tames a tiger, and that if you turn your back upon it, thinking that your laws alone will keep it in its place (as if they somehow had the power of judgment outside of your own ability to govern yourself), then you can rest assured that your own government will use them as the means of devouring you, from the inside out.

Despite all of the fear mongering, the real threats to a 'Representative Government' rarely come in the form of thuggery and violence from external 'others!', instead they come upon a society from within themselves, through there own good intentions (and thinly disguised desires), by the means of which Frédéric Bastiat's understood all too well:
“Government is the great fiction through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else.”
As a people begin to give in to that con, then soon enough they will discover how the expectations of achieving unworthy ends, through high minded laws, is a most perilous matter. If We The People fail to require that our Representatives be, and be selected by means as free of passionate desires as the laws they are to be in charge of, then the troublesome servant will have become the master of them, once again. Unless they and their laws are bound down by recognizably external, and constitutional fixtures, their representatives will become every bit as representative of the most tyrannical of individual tyrants - and especially as they do so in the name of "We The People!".

Progress is made when the people support taking substantial steps towards turning their power towards the service of judgment, rather than passionate desires. The Representative portion of our term 'Representative Government', is the means open to us for doing that, at least in part, it is the means of seeking and using good judgment, cool, reasonable deliberation and disinterested action, in service to those interests. But before getting into the best means found for electing the Executive of such a system of laws - the Electoral College - we need to dig a bit more into what we mean by the 'Representative' portion, of Representative Government - next post.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

If Democracy, Republic, Electoral College, Popular Vote, are the answers, WTH was the Question? Representative Government pt. 1

I find that when it comes to New Year's Eve, rather than making new resolutions, I prefer pursuing older and more satisfying questions. And going into this new year, with all the post election controversy, the maligning of the Electoral College, and the bi-partisan angst over the new President-Elect, I hereby resolve to pursue a whole line of old questions, into the new year, beginning with one that has been going loudly unasked for so long, and that is:
What do we mean by 'Representative Government'?
Unfortunately, if anyone does attempt to have that conversation, it typically takes an immediate turn, Left or Right, into one of a number of polarizing false dilemmas, such as 'Electoral College vs. Popular Vote', or 'He Is/Isn't my President!' or everyone's favorite fever-fest of replies that follow from that long dead little old lady's question of 'what type of government did you give us, Mr. Franklin?'. Old Ben had answered: "A Republic, if you can keep it.", which should provide a fine crop of follow up questions to anyone who is actually interested in what his answer meant, but instead, we turn down the road of:
We're not a Democracy! We're not a Republic!
We are America!
  • 'We're Republic!'
  • 'We're a Democracy!'
  • 'Wrong, we're a Republic!'
  • 'You can't have a Republic without a democracy!!!'
  • 'Democracy means two wolves and a sheep voting on what's for dinner!
(and then of course the one point they all agree on:)
  • 'Why do you hate America?!'
Unfortunately, the only thing that we seem able to keep, is fighting over those same dead end answers, over, and over, and over again. I know that I've often been diverted into that dead-end cycle, and good lord how I'd like to punch my fellow man in the nose after just a few rounds of it! But the truth is that those answers might as well have been designed to shield us from considering the question that they are supposedly given in answer to. And as the true answer is that we are an intricate formulation and development of both, rather than either one answer or the other, we never get past the false either/or answer, in order to ask them.

That is the nature of these coin-toss dilemmas, which is a clue for us, if we care to pay attention. Such answers prevent any real consideration of the questions that prompts them, and maybe, the fact is that when what you're looking for is a cheap fight, then an answer which encourages more questions and requires respectful conversation - well that just won't do, will it( self, I'm looking at you...)?

I think you'll see what I mean if you imagine that same coin toss played out on a different field - like this: Picture walking up to someone on the street and calling out to them: "Hey, you're an animal!", it's unlikely that such a comment would be taken well.

Right? Right. But would it be technically wrong? No, it wouldn't. Human beings are, in the biological sense, Animals. But... how much better of a reaction do you think that'd get, if someone else ran up and yelled out "No! That person isn't an animal, they're a Mammal!'?

Sure, yes, technically... that is also correct... but....


The nature of such coin tossed false dilemmas (which are kissing cousins to "Have you stopped beating your wife yet?"), is that they ensure our failure to acknowledge that we are a more developed form of that subject - whatever it is - that either answer alone provides for - and that should catch our attention like an mid-day siren, that an important context has been dropped from our awareness. The nature of that 'Heads or tails?!' answer which they expect you to give, is to manoeuvre our discussion away from recognizing that that particular 'more' which you are being diverted away from, which in this case, is that you are, in fact, Human - and that's the part it doesn't want you to take notice of.

The coin toss dilemma of 'Democracy!' or 'Republic!, is doing the political equivalent of demanding that you answer to being either an Animal, or a Mammal, in regards to our form of government. Both answers are technically correct, within a given context, but without defining that context, and in fact wiping the need for context from your context, they instead restrict the discussion from noticing or questioning the full hierarchical nature of the issue, and in that sense both answers are wrong. Wrong, because when taken, or given, on their own, they effectively drop the context of the critical question which America is the most revolutionary answer in history, to:
  • How best to provide Representative Government' to an entire nation?
Plato asked a similar question to this too, though in a very different context, in his Republic, but his Republic, is nothing like our Republic, and no coin toss level answer can ever supply the reasons for explaining why our republic is so different, let alone answering what those differences are, or why. Today it's perhaps even more important to realize that the discussion you're being prevented from having, is the discussion we so desperately need to be having... but which we can't have, while the answers we've become so accustomed to giving and arguing over, are keeping us from really considering the question that we thought we were answering.

One result of not allowing the full context to be dropped, is that, we'd waste little or no time on the arguments we've been so bogged down in having! If the context were clear, no one would even assume that anyone was advocating for 'Democracy!' in the sense of unlimited majority rule, as it'd be obvious that they were only advocating for a political system of self governance. And by that same token, if the full context were taken into account, no one would ever assume that those who answer 'a Republic!', would intend that to mean some sort of rule, where laws were issued by an unelected platonic elite, but would instead understand that they meant only that very particular form of a Republic, which our nation was designed to be, something along the lines of:
A constitutional, representative government of laws which stand in opposition to the fickle rulings of men's passions
, and the fact that we are that form of a republic, of course requires some degree of democratic participation from the electorate.

IOW, the arguments we've been having, are little better than diversions from those conversations that would have been extremely valuable, to have been having these last many years. As it is, I know that in the past when I've let that context be punted away with my answer that we're a 'Republic!', the next thing I knew was that I'd been practically prevented from going a syllable beyond that coin toss of an answer, and no matter how ardently I might have tried to explain that what I meant was less a case of my calling out heads or tails, but the act of planting my flag on the peak of that mountain which America is the pinnacle of... instead it became apparent that the nature of the coin-toss, is that its answers are expected to not only evade that full context, but to seek (as if it had a will of its own) to prevent our gaining an understanding of the principles and purposes which that full context would have self-evidently demanded of us.

So for this coming new year, please, resolve to stop giving answers that answer nothing, instead start asking questions that lead away from easy answers. 'Why is a democratic means of self determination, worthwhile?' is a question worth asking, but realize that the easy answer that's dying to be given, is not the answer that's worth being accepted. Pursue it! Yes, it is necessary, it is the foundational layer of our political structure, but why is it so important? We need to begin asking that, because without asking that question, the answers of Democracy or Republic become the means of losing our understanding of what we are so very fortunate to have. To accept the 'Democracy!/Republic!' answer, is to ignore the vitally important features which our system of government has developed, features which could not have been built without that foundation, and which resulted in our Republic - and realize that answering only 'Democracy!/Republic!', is the means of dropping the necessary context, and is willfully dismissive of, and insulting to, all that has been built upon that foundation, and all of that which make us so much more than simply either a 'Democracy!', or a 'Republic!'.

Seeing that our answers have become the means to ignoring the questions that gave rise to them, it's worth asking why... isn't it?

America is, and can only be, an answer, to that full context of questions being asked. If they are no longer asked, or even known, then either answer will become truly meaningless, and the historic exceptionalism that America is, will cease to exist, drowned out, no doubt, in a war of competing answers shouted after coins tossed into the air, answers that are doomed to be shouted down, as the coin falls to the ground.

In order to determine how to provide Representative Government, we need to understand what Representative is, and why it's needed so that when those representatives are elected to positions of power in our government, they will govern in that particular manner, that makes our government so very different from any other in the history of the world. Those are the conversations that we need to engage in, even more so now, than four or eight or sixteen years ago, but before we can, we've got to ask, and pursue, those questions which alone can spawn answers that are worth understanding the meaning of.

Those are the questions I'll be pursuing over the next few posts, into the new year of 2017.

Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 25, 2016

What gifts has Christmas brought you?

(With a post from 2011, here's wishing you a very Merry Christmas!)
What meaning is there to be found in Christmas, even by those who find no meaning in Christmas at all?

First off, grant that the false alternative of 'Not all Christians are good, therefore Christianity is bad', is in fact a false alternative, one that you should not burden your thoughts further with. Don't look at how Christians often misbehave as badly or worse than non-Christians, or that Christianity has failed to make heaven on earth, look instead at what is here in our lives as a result of the birth which Christmas commemorates.

Christianity has given us the ability to see that each person, peasant or prince, is as beloved of God as another, and that their choice is such a holy a thing that even God himself does not attempt to prevent it - not even with the choice of whether or not to accept God into their lives - Christianity declared that every man has the ability to accept God into their life - or to reject him - and that such godlike power is given to every man, the power to gainsay the will of All Mighty God - now there's a gift worth giving.

And every man, Christian or Gentile, has profited from it.

It has brought us the concept that the mistakes you make are of little value against what you eventually get right and true. Even if everyone of your choices were to reject God and what God wanted for you... your change of heart is enough to restore you to him... as if you who had persisted your whole life in adding two plus two and behaving as if the answer were three, or one, or any number of other numbers - the fact that you might finally see, and admit, that two plus two equals four, wipes your slate clean (note: it doesn't claim that the consequences of your errors will be wiped away, only that you would be accepted as finally whole and true).

Western Civilization is inextricably a Greco/Roman Judeo/Christian One
Through Christianity and the philosophy of the Greeks and Romans; the Good, the Beautiful and the True, are not just ideals, but principles of eternal Truths attainable by every person, birthrights, no matter their station in life. With this understanding comes the realization that every man, woman and child has the God given right to pursue them, and that the worldly power of government should be devoted to defending their choices in that pursuit. That is an ideal that would not exist, America would never, could never have been, without Christianity having come into the world first.


Has this realization made men better? Perhaps not entirely so. But it has made it possible for men to see that they can, and should, be better, and because of that the world is immensely better off than it was before the advent of Christianity.

Prior to the Judeo-Christian views, the world was ruled by power without rival. Even on those rare occasions where truth and wisdom was sought, and an effort to see the scales of justice balanced was made - Greece and Rome - nowhere did the desire to do good have value in and of itself, so much so that people would expend great amounts of time, effort, blood and treasure in an attempt to improve the lot of others, to bring them not just goods but Goodness, nowhere else did this occur upon the globe (and I do not mean do-gooders, a mirror image, and often a rejection of doing good).

Charities are something you will look in vain to see in pre or non-Christian cultures, and those few exceptions which you might find some semblance of them, simply prove the rule.

Even Art - not as decoration or garish depiction, but as an idealization of truth and goodness and a means of mending and lifting the soul - that is not found outside the Greco/Roman-Judeo/Christian, world view (and no, do not attempt to compare an oriental gong or pipe to Gregorian Chants or Bach, do not attempt to equate a golden Buddha with the Sistine Chapel - do not).

More than all of that, Christianity has brought with it the idea of 'you must be born again', or 'born from above' to a central position in every life; even to secular views this brought the conviction that your ideals and actions must come from and align with higher principles, rather than settling for greater quantities of measures and pleasures; that Quality is infinitely greater than Quantity. With the idea that God became Man, came the possibility of the idea that man could participate in the divine, and that even though you will never become perfect yourself (itself a monumental realization), you can strive to become more perfect through aligning your ideals with those of God - the meaning of progress itself is meaningless without that.

And that is Good.

And through this, there comes the possibility that men can, and should, strive for peace on earth and good will towards all. And whether or not you believe that Jesus was ever even born, let alone the Christ, the idea that he was, has opened the possibility of more meaningful lives for all in this world, than was ever possible before Christ.

Merry Christmas to all!

Monday, December 12, 2016

Burning our Freedom of Speech in action

In light of all the uproar last week over Trump's questioning of whether burning the flag should perhaps be protected as 'freedom of speech', or not, I'll exercise my freedom of speech by questioning some common assumptions about what freedom of speech is, and isn't.

To get the easy part out of the way, here's Trump's tweet that started the latest round of 'discussion':
"Donald J. Trump ✔ @realDonaldTrump Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag - if they do, there must be consequences - perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!"
, now, even allowing for his 'perhaps', the notion of losing your citizenship over burning the American Flag, or being imprisoned for a year, is, IMHO, silly, and further sensationalizes a subject that is already too saturated with it. But, that being said, what we associate with the 'flag burning issue' is something that needs a lot more consideration than the two existing poles of 'Burn it!' and 'Revere it!', tend to permit, especially since the burning of the flag is the least important aspect of it, and more often than not, it is a distraction from what the real issue is: our Freedom of Speech... and the rest of the 1st Amendment.

As much as I disrespect those who disrespect our flag, it's not the burning of the flag that I have an issue with, from a legal standpoint at any rate. What I do have an issue with, is what has become one of those default 'givens' that we hear and have heard over and over, from all sides, for so long, and so often, that we no longer get around to seriously questioning it, and that 'given' is the idea that the action of destroying property in as inflammatory a means as possible, can be considered 'speech' - let alone constitutionally protected speech. For decades I've heard that position being asserted (from the Left, and now even from the Right), and while I've heard objections to it being ridiculed, I've rarely heard the assertion really being questioned, and it seems like maybe it's about time to begin doing just that.

Here's the text of the 1st Amdt:
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
Simply reading the text of it isn't enough though, you need some understanding of what the idea is, and why it was considered important to prevent the Govt from infringing upon it, before you go attributing your own preferred meaning to it. If it's been a few years since you've done anything of the sort, here are a few links worth reading, beginning with the ideas and debates that went into writing it, up to the case most often referred to in flag burning discussions, Texas v. Johnson:
In reading these cases and comments, and thinking about what is meant by 'Freedom of Speech', it seems to me that most of the judgments attributing the actual burning of flags (or draft cards, etc) to being a form of speech protected under 'freedom of speech', or to 'symbolic speech', are not only inappropriate, but they cheapen, degrade, and dangerously blur that concept of speech which the framers of the amendment were seeking to preserve and defend. The treatment of the action of burning objects as that were equivalent to speech, waters down and weakens our understanding of what Freedom of Speech is and was meant to be, which I think jeopardizes our hold on this fundamental right far more than even an authoritarian government ever could.

Examples of just that are easy to find in our recent news headlines, with masses of people