Sunday, July 08, 2007

Sunnis and Shiites... A Young Person's Guide to America's Cultural War

Conservatives and liberals in current day America have grossly disparate views on almost all moral and ethical topics and the debate is rather fascinating in its severity. Each side accuses the other of hypocrisy and dogma. When an argument gets to the point where each side thinks the other is hypocritical, that's an ugly fight... one that probably has no reconciliation in sight. But that's what we've got now. It's almost identical to the differences between Sunnis and Shiites... only it's right here in the Good 'Ol US of A!

I thought that I might write this article with the pretense that it was unbiased, since the original premise was to lay out for my children the main political issues facing Americans. But who's kidding whom? If there's a nice conservative provacateur out there who would like to write the story from the other side, that's probably more valuable.

The key disputes in 21st century America that are defining our social fabric are:

  1. Global Warming (no, not 'climate change" or even precisely "the environment")
  2. Liberals believe that it's likely we are seriously damaging the world and we should do something without waiting for incontrovertible proof. Conservatives don't know what incontrovertible means. Or at least their entire reaction to this issue seems to be one of anti-science, its-not-for-real, head-in-the-oil-sands denial.

  3. The Environment (fooled you, eh?)
  4. Liberals believe that we are already "paying" for damage to the environment and 1) making everyone share the cost is simply a matter of survival, never mind that it's fair; 2) Adding the long-term cost of environmental damage to immediate prices of all energy consumption is simply a smart adjustment to supply-and-demand; 3) environment-enhancing activity doesn't decrease business growth proportionately, it increases it geometrically. We hear over and over that conservatives think environmentalist causes are laughable impediments to economic growth.

  5. Guns
  6. Liberals believe that American gun laws are based on a time long-since past, when the fear of tyranny was perfectly justified. Although the prospect of tyranny is still conceivable, it is not as substantive as the fact that guns have proven, in inner cities in particular, to make homicide so easy that children do it... and even our founding fathers would acknowledge when it's time to change the constitution.

    Conservatives think that guns have nothing to do with the problem and we can solve the problem by just putting all the gun abusers in jail.

  7. Abortion
  8. Conservatives think there's some cosmic moral imperative that lets them decide what other people should do with their bodies.

    Liberals believe that abortion might be ugly but it's not your body. This sort of ugliness happens countless millions of times a day in the natural world, human and animal alike. The fact that we would like to think of ourselves as better than animals is nice but has nothing to do with this issue. Making the abortion issue part of American politics is a totally selfish, pointless, and misdirected position. We have desperately important issues to deal with where our neigbors' business IS our business. Abortion is not one of them.

  9. Welfare
  10. Conservatives think that lazy, cheating, ignorant people are ruining the country and that all government spending encourages the cycle of laziness and corruption.

    Liberals think that there are lazy, cheating, ignorant people in the upper and lower classes in roughly equal proportions. Managing progressive programs requires good work no matter how much or little cheating there is.

  11. Capitalism and Socialism
  12. This is the oft-unspoken undercurrent upon which much of the debate rides. Liberals believe that competition alone does not solve all problems. Capitalism left entirely to its own devices will not react quickly enough to save the environment, and will continue to concentrate wealth in fewer people. And that government spending, while it might require a constant battle against corruption, and a balancing act between entitlement and self-sufficiency, is our strongest tool for improving society. I personally think that the US Government---despite all the jokes about its inefficiency---is the most accomplished organization in the history of the world, welfare notwithstanding.

    Conservatives are simply scared by the word socialism. Not a thought is running through their minds other than repeating over and over again that all socialist regimes fail. They don't happen to understand that the highways they drive their Hummers and pickup trucks on are our "socialist" goods... and that managing where to draw the line is a never-ending choice, not a black-and-white issue.

  13. Immigration
  14. This is one of the trickier issues. I don't know if the diametric extreme points of view represent liberals or conservatives accurately. Liberals believe that we should try to let people from other countries into America as much as possible since so many Americans are themselves immigrants. All but "native" Americans are immigrants. Conservatives think immigration is out of hand. But I think you'll find a lot of liberals, who think as I do that our borders should be completely controlled... especially now that the world has gotten it into the lack-of-security state it has. And if our society is based on taxation to support our social infrastructure, then clearly all immigrants should be working in the tax system. One thing's clear: it's hypocritical to have tolerated the entry of millions of immigrants and let employers hire them with impunity, and now act as if it's the immigrants' fault.

  15. The Death Penalty
  16. When you can figure out how to make the legal process infallible, let's talk. Until then there's no issue here. (My personal position is this: I'm not totally against the death penalty. I think that the criteria for it should be stronger than "reasonable doubt." There should be three components corresponding to "past, present, and future" criteria: a past life dominated by crime, a present crime of "inconceivable doubt," and a future marked by little potential for contributing to society.)

  17. Homsexuality
  18. Everything that was stated about abortion is exactly the same for homosexuality. No matter how much it might offend you, it is not important. If you want to live in a country where such matters are state policy, go to a fascist regime. The real issue is that the government should get out of the business of providing tax incentives or legislating insurance technicalities based on marriage. People should be able to declare their benficiaries and guardians irrespective of marital laws. Tax incentives, if any should be based on declaring others as dependents; nothing else.

  19. Drugs

    There have always been and will always be intoxicants and people to complain about them. Get over it. What matters is whether our society offers its people enough alternatives to a life of drug sales and addiction.

That's it. When we're not aghast at the barbarity perpetrated by Sunnis and Shiites against one another, we mock them for the seeming monstrosity of their entrenched differences. But we're quickly on our way to such a rift ourselves. Are you a Sunni or a Shiite?

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Great Economy or Greatest Failure?

The economy is great... on Wall Street, and some would argue on Main Street, too. If you have health insurance and a job, and look at only certain statistics, who could argue? I'll tell you who:
People who will pay the countless trillions of dollars borrowed from our children.
People who don't have healthcare.
People who've been giving up more pieces of the American dream than ever before.
People who know the environment is being bartered away in the name of short-term greed.

It's an interesting question especially for the fortunate among us, like myself, who have healthcare, an upper middle class job, and just enough security to pretend that all is well. But the national debt, the destruction of our environment, and the increasing disparity of wealth are enough cause to ask the following question: Is the current economy proof that George Bush is doing a great job or proof that the American economy is strong enough to absorb even the worst abuses and mismanagment it's seen in its 200+ years of existence?

Sadly, the answer is the latter. There won't be any proving it; it will be left entirely to our perceptions. But make no mistake, the balance of judgment will eventually demonstrate that the current administration is just spending every bank account that we've built up over our entire history.

Our country is incredibly strong. In terms of economic and industrial might, our country has just hit its stride. Technology and resources are perfected and powerful to an unprecedented extent and nowhere moreso than in the good ol' US of A. But it is only through our country's huge reservoir of talent, resources, cash, international goodwill, and military might that the outrageous blunders of W are absorbed at all, let alone converted into net gains. The Bushies aren't geniuses with their tax cuts, quite the contrary. They're breaking the bank one day at a time and hiding the damage with good spin, sucked up by a populace that apparently is 49% ignoramuses... Paris Hilton before her jailhouse epiphany.

Fueled substantially by the Cenezoic (?) era's oil deposits under the Middle East, we've spent the last 60 years paving suburban, private-motorized sprawl... training China how to manufacture enough goods to cover the entire surface of the planet ten times over... burning every drop of fossil fuel on earth... conquering outer and cellular space... wiring the world, from Al Qeada to Mountain View without censorship... and arming every militant to the teeth in the name of Liberty. Gold bless America.

Now all that history isn't George's doing, but he's the one steering the ship right now and at every turn he's choosing self-interest over society, wealth over distribution, dominance over interdependence, and moralism over morality.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

What If Dem's Failed to Chase Bin Laden?

Apropos only of yet another anniversary for an ignorantly conceived, hideously executed, and irresolvable "war," I shudder to imagine the vitriolic invective that would spew forth from the John Wayne-ish conservatives if it were instead the Democrats who had failed so miserably to even try to bring to justice the man who openly boasted of killing 3000 Americans and committing the greatest onshore atrocity in our history.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Scripted Answers for Democrats

Why did you support the war?
  1. I supported the Executive Branch....
  2. I supported the power and decision making of American Presidency, whatever action was needed, and gave the President my faith...
  3. I did so because in situations where we must choose between only bad options, the brilliance of our founders in creating a powerful executive still shines through to this day...
  4. In the wake of the unprecedented attack on America, granting such faith seemed a straightforward decision...
  5. If the action was to be war, I accept responsibility for choosing it, just as each American whether one voted for a particular President or not, must accept ownership of his Presidency. He is my President as much as those who voted for him, and we own the decision together...
  6. But time after time he has failed to answer my faith...
  7. He failed to protect the explosives stores that continue to shatter American soldiers' limbs and lives...
  8. He failed to maintain the Iraqi army or replace it with enough American troops, undermining all civil order...
  9. He failed to provide enough equipment to protect American bodies...
  10. He failed to protect the honor and future safety of our military, earned by the blood of generations, squandering it in one day with the torture at Abu Ghirab...
  11. He failed to protect the goodwill of America, earned over centuries, by not really intending to repair the damage of our bombs, let alone succeeding in doing so...
  12. He failed to protect the wealth of our grandchildren by mortgaging their economy to today's special interests...
  13. Finally, he failed may faith in the most unimaginable measure, even after I granted him the power to prosecute the war against terrorism however he saw fit.... by failing to capture Osama Bin Laden. (What would the Republicans be asking, what vitriol would be spewing forth from their lips if the Democrats failed so miserably? I can't even imagine.)
  14. He proved me wrong and I am sorry.

What is your plan for Iraq?

  1. Through the worst strategic blunder in our history, the President created a situation in which there is no right answer...
  2. So don't get sanctimonious and suggest that our lack of a magic solution has any bearing on the situation or the debate.
  3. Irrespective of how we forewarn or otherwise negotiate the situation with the Iraqi government, we need to withdraw to the borders, and let the Iraqi people fight it out.
  4. Whether any of us like it, the net result of President Bush's failed war is to have empowered the Iraqi people to fight openly for their interests. While this is commonly viewed for its negatives, it is partly a just thing whose violence is simply proportionate to how long it's been suppressed.
  5. It is already proven that there will be no stopping it. Believing otherwise is monstrous self delusion... ignorance in the name of saving face. Continuing to spend American lives in its belief is irresponsible to the point of being impeachable.
  6. The Shiites will win and the Sunnis will be left with whatever power remains at the time they realize that suicide bombing is not mathematically practical.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

The Olbermann Award

What's better than receiving an award? Having it named in your honor. He doesn't even know it yet, but here is... The Olbermann Award.