Saturday, December 6, 2008

Reproba Vexillum

Sometimes I hate being right.

Obama's campaign was a historical and ground-breaking achievement, even beyond the obvious accolade of becoming the first elected black (well, half) president. Voter turnout was unprecedented, as well as funds donated by individuals for the campaign. Inspired by a campaign of hope and a slogan of "change", voters turned in a landslide victory for Obama and left neo-cons cringing.

But the neo-cons are singing a different tune, now that Obama has announced his cabinet selections. Karl Rove calls them "reassuring". Right-wing commentator Max Boot, who supports the use of "America Might to promote American ideals", stated, "I am gobsmacked by these appointments, most of which could just as easily have come from a President McCain." In conservative magazine The Weekly Standard Michael Goldfarb reviewed Obama’s appointments and declared that he sees “nothing that represents a drastic change in how Washington does business. The expectation is that Obama is set to continue the course set by Bush in his second term."

The radical shift in opinion by Conservatives is mirrored on the Left; the liberals sense of hope and desire for change has been replaced by dismay. Not a single one of Obama's top members of his national security and foreign policy team was against the war in Iraq. None of them are against any other conflicts the US is currently embroiled in either. Expect more of the same as these hawks take over, promoting the same policy of military intervention that's been strung along since George Sr. was in office. War with Iran is practically guaranteed.
Obama's economic team is just as bad. His economic plan is merely stop-gap for an upcoming depression, unless he makes big changes fast.

The troubling thing is that this dismay over Obama's cabinet stops at a certain level. It's hard to look at that sort of picture when nearly 2 million jobs have been lost in the last year, and yours could be next. When unemployment is at 6.7 percent, unless you count those people who dropped out of the workforce altogether, in which case it's 8.7 percent. Unless you count those people who can only find work at part-time jobs which don't make enough to live on, in which case it's almost 13 percent.
That can be pretty strong blinders.

Of course, we're also the people who trample a store employee to death at Wal-mart druing a stampede to get the best deals on the shelves during Black Friday. So how much do we care about politics anyway?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Monastica quod Respublica

A friend of mine posted a bulletin concerning the Separation of Church and State, in which he lists quotes from the founding fathers about how important the Bible and Christianity is, and the obvious religious beliefs these people had. The obvious implication being how separate did the founding fathers really want religion from the state? Especially because "the separation of Church and State" doesn't appear in the Constitution of the United States.

What does appear in the Constitution is an Establishment Clause in the First Amendment, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..."
The framers of the Constitution did not want an established National Religion, nor did they want the government to be able to oppress a group because of their religious beliefs. This adheres pretty closely with John Locke's idea of social contract. This is the argument that government lacks authority over an individual's conscience, as it was something rational people could not give over to the government for it or others to control.
What resulted in America was a policy of religious tolerance, albeit a shaky one.

The actual phrase "separation of Church and State" doesn't show up in history until the beginning of the 19th Century, when Thomas Jefferson writes a letter to a small sect of Baptists, offering them reassurance that the government will leave them alone. He writes,

"Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between Church and State. Certainly no power to prescribe any religious exercise, or to assume authority in religious discipline, has been delegated to the general government. It must then rest with the states as far as it can be in any human authority."

The conflict over this issue didn't enter the courtrooms until 1878, in the case of Reynolds v. United States. Reynolds argued that it was his religious duty as a Mormon to marry multiple wives, and a law prohibiting polygamy violated his First Amendment Rights.
The court cited Jefferson's letter, emphasizing the difference between religious belief and action stemming from religious belief. They argued that allowing polygamy could establish precedent so that someday someone might argue that human sacrifice was necessary for their religion, and "to permit this would be to make the professed doctrines of religious belief superior to the law of the land, and in effect to permit every citizen to become a law unto himself."

Up until the 1980s, "The Separation of Church and State" was considered as Constitutional a term as the First Amendment. In 1985, in the case of Wallace v. Jaffree, the Supreme Court ruled that forcing children to observe prayer in school was unconstitutional. Justice William Rehnquist dissented, however, arguing that the reasoning behind the Establishment Clause was flawed in that it was based on Jefferson's letter, who was not the author of the Clause.
Nevertheless, the Court ruled in favor of Wallace, holding
"Just as the right to speak and the right to refrain from speaking are complementary components of a broader concept of individual freedom of mind, so also the individual's freedom to choose his own creed is the counterpart of his right to refrain from accepting the creed established by the majority ... when the underlying principle has been examined in the crucible of litigation, the Court has unambiguously concluded that the individual freedom of conscience protected by the First Amendment embraces the right to select any religious faith or none at all."

They further held the opinion that "...The State's endorsement of prayer activities at the beginning of each school-day is not consistent with the established principle that the government must pursue a course of complete neutrality toward religion."

And that is the crux of the issue: The government must pursue a course of complete neutrality. My friend disagreed with people getting mad when they hear a legislator ruling or voting based on their religious belief. That voting based on belief was not the same as a government-established religion.

I'm okay with religion. I think it's fine that we have religious people in office. But their belief is a matter between them and their god, and as a constituent they have no right to include me in their belief. Hence the necessity of neutrality: ruling and voting in a way that will benefit everyone equally.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Quoad vos vereor nos

This is going to sound a bit conspiracy theory-ish, but I'm okay with that...

So you ever wonder if the dumbing down, hypnotization, lowest-commen-denominator style of entertainment that is offered to children-- definitely since I used to be one, and probably before that-- is deliberate?

The power of creation and destruction comes from our imaginations, and our imagination is at its most fertile when we are younger, when we don't understand the laws of science and math, don't recognize the repetition of history, and have no real concept of law and order beyond that which gets us disciplined.
Mass entertainment, specifically television, somehow manages to keep us docile, keep our brains turned off, keep us from asking too many questions. Essentially, it puts locks and bars around our imaginations, guiding and limiting the way in which we use them.

I wonder if those grown-ups who dictate policy and attempt to manipulate the direction in which society flows feared so much the power of destruction in our imaginations that they were willing to sacrifice the power of creation in them as well.
If blinders and binders aren't fettered on our children, it stands to reason (at least a little bit) that we'd have more artists and appreciators of art. More scientists and a willingness for innovation and experimentation.

More than just a digital connection to the world, and perhaps therefore more of a feeling of responsibility for it.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Meun Asper Pectus

You and I, we may look the same
But we are very far apart
There's bullet-holes where my compassion used to be
And there is violence in my heart

Into fire you can send us
From the fire we return
You can label us a consequence
Of how much you have to learn

You can try but you'll never understand
This is something you will never understand
Can you hear it now?
Hear it coming now?
Can you hear it now?

On hands and knees
We crawl
You cannot stop us all
Our bones, our skin
We will not let you in

You have set something in motion
Much greater than you've ever known
Standing there in all your grand naivety
About to reap what you have sown

Time will feed upon your weaknesses
And soon you'll lose the will to care
When you return to the place that you call home
We will be there, we will be there

On hands and knees
We crawl
You cannot stop us all
Our blood will stay
We will not go away

On hands and knees
We crawl
You can not stop us all
Our blood, our ways
Will never leave this place

by NIN

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Tria Populus

So I voted yesterday. I voted my conscience, so I voted for Nader.
Don't gimme any of that waste your vote crap, the only vote you waste is the one you don't cast.
Frankly, more people like Nader are exactly what this country needs. The two party system of government is failing, and just like how we have three branches of government (even though they aren't very good at that whole checks and balances thing) a third major political party will help stop the bickering. Ideally, anyway.

The big problem, though, is the major players are scared of a third major party. It would upset the system they've so cunningly crafted: mainly, being able to ignore their constituents.
Why are debates and townhall meetings limited to just the democratic and republican candidate? Why does the media ignore every other candidate?

The system needs defibrillation, and a third major political party may be exactly the shock we need.

Monday, September 22, 2008


1. War in the middle east.
So we're bringing death and destruction to Iraq and Afghanistan. We pubicly back Israel's death and destruction efforts against the Palistinian people and Syria. We're sending commando troops into Pakistan (an ally) without the approval of the Pakistani government. And we're pushing hard for conflict in Iran.
Cheney even suggested having Navy Seals dress up as Iranians and fake an attack against US naval troops to garner support back home for attacking Iran.
And then we backed Georgia's play for South Ossetia, and then confronted Russia when it responded to an invasion of its territories.
It's like we're trying to take everything between the 40th and 80th verticals and erase it from the map.
Wait, isn't that what we claim Ahmadinejad wants to do with Israel? Ok, so instead of erasing it, we'll redraw it to be a huge vertical bastion of democracy on the Asian continent.

This is a problem.

2. The economy.
So it starts simple, right? Investors taking advantage of weak rules in hedge fund and commodity markets to start a gambling process for fast cash. Then all this speculative betting starts affecting the actual price on hedge funds and commodities (like oil).

Add into that a housing market scam by loan companies, where you can borrow home equity at a low rate, but after a set time, it becomes a high rate. Housing investment booms, and then actually goes "Boom" when people suddenly can't afford their mortgage.

Suddenly, the simple house of cards is a complicated mess that will fall if someone breaths on it wrong.
And then somebody breathed on it wrong.

Indy Mac goes belly up. Bear Stearns goes belly up. Merril Lynch is bought out by BofA. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are bought out by the government. Lehman Brothers goes under. AIG goes under.
And the government comes in and starts bailing everyone out (except Lehman Brothers, probably because they would have to choose between them or AIG). Hundreds of billions of dollars given to these companies, not to settle debts, but to keep running.
When the government bailed out Fannie and Freddie, they didn't help people pay their mortgage, they helped Fannie and Freddie continue to offer loans to more people who won't be able to pay their mortgage. That, my friends, is retarded government.

So, our economy sucks, and the people holding the bonds for all our debt are other countries (including all the bailouts). What happens when China and Saudi Arabia stop buying our debt bonds?

And of course, the value of the dollar is dropping against the Euro and Chinese Yen, so it's only a matter of time before the world market stops trading on the dollar.

And this is a problem.

3. Of the two major presidential candidates, only Obama offers a definitive change from the current status quo.
The problem here is, his proposed changes may not be enough.

He supports troop reduction in Iraq, but escalation in Afghanistan. We'd still be keeping major military presence in the region between the 40th and 80th verticals. We need major troop reductions around the world.
We need to cut our military spending budget in half or more. Currently, our military budget is greater than every other country in the world, combined. If we cut it in half, our military budget would still be greater than any other country in the world. Russia's and China's put together, ranked 2nd and 3rd on military spending, still wouldn't match us. Oh, and you know what? Cutting our military spending in half will give us billions of dollars we can use in other places, like, um, the economy. Medicare. Education. Infrastructure.

He also has no plan to raise taxes on any Americans making less than $250 thousand a year, which is 95% of America. He has a careful plan to stimulate the economy, but economic stimulation isn't enough. We're at the point where we'll need economic defibrillation if things get much worse.

Most of my friends see Obama as a great savior, a bringer of change, to America. But right now, the most he can save us from is more Bush style of government. Which America can't handle four more years of, granted. But we need something more than that from him.

Because at this point, it's not going to matter.