Thursday, August 25, 2005

Pat Robertson - American Political Leader or Citizen exercising his 1st Amendment Rights?


Suprement Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. said "The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theater and causing a panic". One wonders whether or not the statements made by Pat Robertson on Monday regarding the suggestion that the United States should assassinate Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez are protected under the 1st amendment. Where does the protection of free speech end? Would speech still be protected if it endangered the national security of the United States? Does Pat Robertson's standing in the community as a political leader and public figure put us more at risk from retaliation by Chavez than an ordinary pubic citizen with little to no public face? Does speech change protections based on the speaker's public standing? It seems reasonable to assume that me, you or any other citizen advocating the assassination of a governmental official is less dangerous to the US from retaliation that if someone say like a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, or the Executive administration or the Congress says this. In fact, it is against the law for a governmental employee to advocate this. However, if a public citizen does this is it protected speech? Any constitutional lawyers out there? I'd like know what is protected and what isn't. Does Robertson get a bye because he is simply a public citizen, or does he get held to higher standard because of his public image and visibility?

Tell me what you think,

Best Regards,
Dennis

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Conservative and Liberal - Let's define the terms


Political hegemony aside, let's talk about the definitions of the terms Conservative and Liberal. We (the populace at large, meaning you and me) are assaulted daily by relative use of these terms. Are you a Conservative or a Liberal? Politically, these terms are loaded with presumption and mis-direction. From each side of the political spectrum the terms mean different things. I think it is a appropriate to talk about the words from an objective point of view and then we can discuss the relativism on the meanings that pervades our political process.

First, a recitation from the dictionary. For this, I'm citing my antiquated volume from 1975, The Random House College Dictionary, revised edition, unabridged version published by Random House, Inc. ISBN- 0-394-43600-8 thumb-indexed edition.

Conservative: adj. 1. disposed to preserve existing conditions, institutions, etc. and to resist change. 2. cautious; moderate: a conservative estimate. 3. traditional in style or manner; avoiding showiness: a suit of conservative cut. 4. (cap.) of or pertaining to the Conservative party. 5. of or pertaining to political conservatism. 6. having the power or tendency to conserve; preservative. 7. of or pertaining to Conservative Judaism or Conservative Jews. - n 8. a person who is conservative in principles, actions, habits, etc. 9. a member of a conservative political party. 10. a preservative.

Now, let's see what Random house says about the term Liberal:

Liberal: adj. 1. favorable to progress or reform, as in religious political affairs. 2 (often cap.) noting or pertaining to a political party advocating measures of progressive political reform. 3. of or pertaining to representational forms of government that aristocracy and monarchies 4. of, pertaining to, based on, or advocating liberalism. 5. favorable to or in accord with concepts of maximum individual freedom possible, esp. as guaranteed by law and secured by governmental protection of civil liberties. 6. favoring or permitting freedom of action, esp. with respect to matters of personal belief or expression. 7. free from prejudice or bigotry; tolerant. 8. open-minded or tolerant, esp. free of or not bound by traditional or conventional ideas, values, etc. 9. characterized by generosity and willingness to give in large amounts. 10. given freely or abundantly. 11. not strict or rigorous; free; not literal. 12. of, pertaining to, or befitting a freeman. - n. 13. a person of liberal principles or views. 14. (often cap.) a member of a liberal party in politics, esp. of the Liberal party in Great Britain.

Ok, now we've got the academic definitions out of the way, which definition would you apply to yourself? Interestingly enough, if you are a member of the National Rifle Association, you would have to assume the "Liberal" label for your beliefs regarding the individual freedom as defined in the Liberal definition above. But we know from our current circumstances that most people who are advocates for unrestricted gun ownership align with the Conservatives which in most people's eyes are represented within the Republican party. I'm an avowed and confirmed Liberal, but the clothes I wear are extremely conservative in cut and description. The point of this is that we make the words fit the definitions we want. Relativism abounds with these words, as we all have a tendency of defining the terms in varying their meaning to meet our requirements or circumstances.

Why then, do we have these strong, visceral responses to the terms? Politicians today will run as fast as they can away from the term Liberal. The meaning of the word has become synonymous with anti-god, gay loving, tree-hugging pussies that hate America and all she stands for. During the recent presidential election, Senator John Kerry refused to be "labeled" a Liberal because he knew that if he aligned himself with the term it would cost him votes. Since the Reagan Revolution in the early 1980's, Conservative has become closely associated with the iconic "John Wayne" type of American. This person is god-fearing, fair, individualistic, self-made, and all around righteous. Compound this with the influence of fundamentalist Christianity, and Conservative basically means that you are part of the community of the blessed. You believe in God and that He has chosen America as his beacon for the rest of the world. Conservative as a term used to be scorned not so long ago, as it was associated with those out of touch, out of step, older generations of people who hated that "hippie music", and all that "free love" that was pervasive in the 1960's.

Attributed (although probably falsely) to Winston Churchill, this phrase has another view of portraying the differences in the terms: "If you're not a liberal when you're 25, you have no heart. If you're not a conservative by the time you're 35, you have no brain." The point of this is that when we are young, we are idealistic, open-minded and tolerant of other people, but when we get wiser and older, we become more convinced of our views and less tolerant of others.

I believe we all have liberal and conservative traits that we carry. I'm very conservative when it comes to what my 14 year old daughter watches on TV or listens to on the radio. This music today. Jeez! I'm pretty liberal though when she asks me to explain matters of religion. Most of us probably have similar characteristics.

Politically, the terms are very relative when applied to the entire world. Would you consider the former Soviet Union "Liberal" or "Conservative"? Characteristics of the U.S.S.R. included an atheistic credo disavowing religion. Afghanistan, under the Taliban, by contrast was a fundamentalist Islamic theocracy whose legal system was a particularly conservative interpretation of the Koran. The former U.S.S.R. was a communist country, led by a few well-heeled dictators whose enforced autocracy was incredibly restrictive. Both examples in my view are an example of an extreme form of conservatism. Liberal countries are generally more closely associated with democracies. England, France, the United States, Australia, Canada, Spain, Italy, Japan, etc. etc. could be classified as Liberal because of their general tolerance for other points of view and for their relatively progressive political approaches. We, as a society hold dear the term Liberty and indeed, have fought wars to attempt to bring it to those that are held hostage by a dictator (see recent adventure in Iraq).

Bring the terms back to America and we have to ask ourselves a few questions. What does it mean to be conservative or liberal? If you go by the strict definition supplied above (I, by the way have absolutely no idea whether or not the publishers are liberal or conservative) then the term conservative means resistant to change. If one agrees with that, then you conservatives by all means should believe we should still have segregated schools, women shouldn't be allowed to vote or own property, and we should still be burning witches in the public square. I would contend that we have no true conservatives. I think instead, we have different degrees of liberalism. No one wants to go back to the days of Dred Scott or Jim Crow. We like our scientific progress. Anyone want to give up their cell-phone or their microwave?

Conservatism and Liberalism alike have been polluted by special interests. The Liberals are co-opted by PETA and the Sierra Club, the Conservatives by the Moral Majority and John Birch society. I think very few people would align themselves with these groups. So, why do we get so worked up when someone calls someone else a Liberal, or Conservative? I think these terms have been Madison Avenued by a small group of people to really confuse and irritate the rest of us. Let's stop this. If you want to be conservative on some things fine, just recognize the word means that you don't want things to change. If you want to be liberal on some things fine, just recognize that the word means you are open and tolerant of other ideas and opinions (including conservatives, so stop whining).

Tell me what you think,

Best Regards,

Dennis

CH CH Ch Changes......




With apologies, to David Bowie, I want let you know about some blog changes that I've recently completed. The site has gone commercial, with the placement of ads at the bottom of the page. No, I'm not shilling for corporate interests, as I don't know what ads will be placed by the provider. It is primarily an effort to get my blog out to more viewers. I'm not sure how this will go, so I'm going to monitor it closely over the next few months and if I see ads for things I'm opposed to, I'll shut it off.

Anyway, more changes. Blogger.com, the site that hosts this blog has quite a few templates and customization options that I've tried out. I think the new format makes the site a bit more interactive and easy to read. I'd like to hear your opinion.

I've also changed the location of the cost of war counter to be underneath the title page. I realized it was originally placed at the bottom and didn't get viewed regularly when the site was accessed. This is important to me, as I'm an avid proponent of getting the hell out of Iraq. As soon as the Iraq Body Count site comes up, I'll be adding a counter to the same area as the cost counter. I don't believe the idea that we should get out of Iraq is a liberal or a conservative view, it's a common sense view. So, for all you folks that support the war, don't turn this off, tell me why you support the war and why we should stay. Your views are as important to me as mine. The only way we move forward as a community is when all views are heard and we come to a conclusion of what is best for all of us versus some of us. For those liberal friends of mine who expect this to be a totally one-sided site in favor of bashing Bush and his administration, look somewhere else. We will attempt to remain independent here. I don't agree with those who support the war and will continually say so. I will however post comments, listen to opinion and allow those who do support the war an opportunity to have their views heard.

Let's raise the level of debate about this. I think the people who are dying (soldiers and civilian alike) deserve nothing less...

I've also added some additional links to sites I regularly read. A cross section of sites like the Economist, the New Republic, Wikipedia (my favorite site on the web), the Huffington Post are readily available for you if you have an interest. I find these sites literate and well reasoned. I hope you will enjoy them as I do.

A very good friend of mine whose opinion I respect a great deal suggested more visual aids to assist the reader to determine where I stand on a particular issue. As this is a political blog, I heartily agree. Like most of you I'm sure, I don't hold a particular consistent ideology on all issues. On some, like Gay Marriage, I'm very liberal. On others, like tax policy, I'm very conservative. I've added a spectrum slide (see the picture at the top of this post) to indicate where I stand on a particular issue. Generally, I'll come down on the "Center Left" of the political spectrum. As always, I'm interested in where you are. When I get a bit more technically literate, I'll attempt to have a survey section on each post to get feedback from everyone.

Tell me what you think,

Best Regards,

Dennis

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Say It Isn't So, Raffy!



I grew up playing baseball. Baseball and the guys playing in the majors was literally the only thing I cared about until I was about 15. In my day, my heroes were Pete Rose, George Brett, Hank Aaron, Reggie Jackson, etc. etc. I wanted to believe that these guys were stand-up guys because they were such good athletes. When Pete Rose got busted for gambling on sports, I felt like the kid who said "Say it isn't so Joe" to Shoeless Joe Jackson after the trial in the Black Sox Scandal after the 1918 World Series. For those of you who don't follow baseball, the Black Sox Scandal centered around 8 players on the White Sox who were accused of "throwing games" during the World Series with the Cincinnati Reds. While all 8 were acquitted, they were also banned for life by the Commissioner of Baseball, Judge Kennesaw Mountain Landis.

Now, one of the more recent "heroes" has endangered an almost guaranteed trip to Cooperstown because he was caught using steroids. The irony of course with this suspension is that Mr. Palmeiro defiantly denied using steroids to a congressional hearing last March. Rafael Palmeiro is a good baseball player. No, that's not right. He's a great baseball player. He's one of a handful of players that have hit over 500 home runs and had over 3000 hits. There is no doubting his ability to play. Rafael Palmeiro however, is also a liar. He lied about using steroids. When he failed the drug test that got him suspended on August 1st, he then incredulously said "I didn't knowingly use steroids". This weak defense is shameful.

Look, it's one thing to use performance enhancing drugs to stay level with the other guys who are doing the same. That's almost understandable. It's the guy's business afterall, and if he's going to compete to win, then it seems reasonable that he would behave like many other athletes do as well. But, for god's sake, if you get caught, don't try and weasel out of it. Be a stand-up guy. Raffy, you had a chance to do some good here. You could have said, "Yes, I did do steroids" during the congressional hearing and then if you truly believed it was bad for players to do and bad for kids to start to do, apologize and start working to rid the game of performance enhancing drugs. You blew it though. You defiantly and sanctimoniously wagged your finger and lied. You should be ashamed of yourself Rafael Palmeiro.

The use of steroids for enhancing performance is nothing new. Since the 1930's anabolic steroid use has been commonplace among sports where strength and speed are needed. Steroids aren't all bad, and they do have their place in healthcare. Steroids have been and are still used in many different treatments. AIDs and Cancer patients have benefited from their use. However, abuse of steriods can cause substantial side effects especially in kids. For a terrific description of steroids and their benefits and effects, go to this site: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anabolic_steroids.

Should steroids or any other performance enhance be used in professional sports? Most of us would say no. Certainly Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association could have stopped this stuff cold if they wanted to. All one has to do is look at the photographs on the rookie cards of some of the more well known ball players (I mean you Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds) to see that they used to be slender, graceful athletes and now they look bulked up and bloated. Weight training and calorie binging alone won't do that. About steroids, I really don't care, but I think if they are going to continue to use them, then the athletes need to come clean about this and just admit it. Palmeiro almost had his Hall of Fame ticket punched. The guy screwed up royally, and now the only way he gets to the Hall is if he buys a ticket. Say it isn't So, Raffy!

Tell Me What You Think,

Best Regards,

Dennis

A Bridge Too Far


Ever wonder why the American people get disgusted with the folks we send to Washington? I believe if you lined a thousand people up and asked them if they thought the Congress (and the President) for that matter were looking out for their best interests the majority of the people would say no.

Well, yesterday that list probably grew a little larger. (Although the people of Ketchikan and Gravina Island in Alaska are pretty happy. )

The US Congress passed and President Bush signed into law an enormous Transportation Bill that will spend approximately 286 Billion dollars on transportation improvements. Among the worthwhile investments is in infrastructure repair that will either enlarge or repair existing roadways and bridges. Certainly, in a country as vast as ours and a people so mobile, this is a good thing.

Then, wait for it, comes the most tasty of Washington morsels; PORK! How do you like yours? Personally, I'm a pulled pork fan, Carolina Barbecue, mmmm.

In this little bill, there are items such as a waterfront walkway in Hoboken New Jersey to be named after Ole Blue Eyes himself: Frank Sinatra. Now, I liked Frank a lot. He was a great singer and mediocre actor, but come on, do we really need to use federal funds (your and my taxes) to name a walkway after him that we likely will never walk on? That one was $1.6 million dollars. Please tell me why the good people of Hoboken couldn't honor their home-boy themselves...

Other celebrity porkers include spending $2 million on an replacing an elevated highway with a tunnel in New York to make way for a building by that pauper Donald Trump.

There are many other little finger sandwiches like this and I won't go into them here, but the doozy, the whole roast pig with the apple in its mouth is the Bridge. Actually two bridges, but the one that gets me is a $250 MILLION dollar appropriation to put a bridge between the (excellent I'm sure) township of Ketchikan and Gravina Island in Alaska. Now, between Ketchikan and Gravina, there are about 14,050 residents (14000 on Ketchikan and 50 on Gravina). It seems like an awful lot of money for a bridge, but that's not even the best part. No, there are 2 bridges. Each of the costing a quarter of a Billion dollars. I'm sure this had nothing to do with the fact that Representative Don Young, R-Alaska is a committee chairman on you guessed it, the transportation sub-committee. The best part, they named one of the bridges after him!

According to Citizens Against Government Waste, a watchdog group, estimates that the transportation bill funded $24 billion of special projects, which means over 8 percent of that budget went to pork.

Why are we putting up with this nonsense? I think we the people can stomach a little pork, maybe just a cutlet or two, but items like the bridge to the island with 50 people is bordering on the outrageous. Write your congressperson and complain about this. Say, "Where's my bridge?" "Where's my walkway to my local hero?" Actually say "What the Hell are you Doing With My Money?" You can get to them through www.house.gov/writerep.

It's ridiculous for us to continue to behave this way when we've incredibly pressing issues to worry about. This bill exemplifies yet again the worst about our government. The idea that you have to "bring home the bacon" to get reelected is upside down. We need to develop a different way of grading our legislators.

Tell me what you think.

Best Regards,

Dennis

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Mr. President - Mr. Chips?


The Washington Post published an article on August 3rd reporting President Bush's statement that he believes Intelligent Design should be taught along side evolution as competing theories. His contention is that schoolchildren should have the benefit of learning both theories of how we became who we are.

Mr. Bush said:

"Both sides ought to be properly taught . . . so people can understand what the debate is about," he said, according to an official transcript of the session. Bush added: "Part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought. . . . You're asking me whether or not people ought to be exposed to different ideas, and the answer is yes."

So, our Commander in Chief is asserting his views as "Commander in the Classroom". Is he right or wrong? I think it all depends on how you propose teaching Intelligent Design.

Whether you fall into the camp of believing in Intelligent Design or in the camp of those who believe in Evolution, the issue is notwhether Intelligent Design be taught. The issue is Intelligent Design capable of being taught as science. Science, according to Webster's New World Dictionary is defined as: "Systematized knowledge derived from observation, study, and experimentation carried on in order to determine the nature or principles of what is being studied. A branch of knowledge or steudy, especially concerned with establishing and systematizing facts, principles, and methods, as by experiments and hypotheses." If Intelligent Design can indeed be taught as Science, then there is little problem I see in comparing the two theories. The problem, I believe is that Intelligent Design presupposes the idea that something or someone that we can never observe, study or experiment with to establish that as a fact a creator is responsible for the origins of life and the eventual establishment of all species and sub-species of all organisms. I believe it is impossible to prove factually the existence of this something or someone. Therefore, the idea that Intelligent Design can be classified as science is flawed.

Science is generally focused on discovery and accumulation of knowledge through experimentation, theorizing and investigation. Intelligent Design has its origins in philosophy. The idea of a creator is not new, nor is it the exclusive property of a particular religion or belief system. If one taught Intelligent Design, how would it be taught? What explanations would be provided that the Intelligent Designer used to establish life on Earth? Would it be the story from Genesis, ancient Persian stories of creation or Native American explanations of how we got here? It seems problematic to decide on one particular story for expediency sake and forsake the others. One would have to make a choice in which story would be most compelling. Since there is no way of determining by scientific method which story of creation or "design" is the best, we would have to select the one we would be most comfortable with. That, most likely, would be the Judeo-Christian explanation for creation found in the Bible. And since the Bible has little ability to provide data to prove factually that there is an Intelligent Designer, we are back to the problem again of whether or not this can be classified as science.

So, now we have to go back to the definition of science to make a determination of whether or not Intelligent Design should be taught in an equivalent manner to Evolution or any other scientific theory for that matter. I believe Intelligent Design cannot be taught as science.

At the end of the day, I believe Intelligent Design should be taught as philosophy. There is room in our curriculums for this as well as other philosophical thought. The ancient Greeks explained many things both physical and metaphysical through Philosophy.

Here's an idea. There is a way to deal with this however that would allow both sides of the debate to have their views and issues heard and an objective opinion formed as to whether or not Intelligent Design could be taught as science. The President should convene a "Blue-Ribbon Commission" consisting of top scientists from every field of generally accepted science. This would include Biology, Physics, Earth (Physical), Anthropological, Paleontologica, Archeological, Geological, Astronomy, Medical, and any other accepted scientific field. The members of this commission should come from the best universities across the world. Asian, African, American (North and South) and European scientists would listen to the proponents of both arguments and at the end of the debate decide if Intelligent Design can indeed be taught as a science. Science is not exclusive to the United States. It is not exclusive to Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism or any other religion. Science is universal (or at least global) and belongs to no one group. Pulling in the greatest minds of our time together to discuss issues such as this would be of incredibly benefit.

Let's stop the bickering and politicizing of education. It is too important an issue. Treat science seriously and let's figure out a way to teach both views but in their proper context.

Best Regards,

Dennis

Monday, August 08, 2005

Time to Come Home


The war in Iraq is spiraling out of control and is doing little to staunch the flow of terrorism outside the middle east. As evidenced by the July 7 bombings in London and again with the failed attempts on the 21st of July in the same city, we are having little impact on the radicalism that is fostered by fundamentalist Islamists. Mr. Bush's belief that "We need to fight them over there so we don't have to fight them over here" is naive at best.

The war in Iraq is draining this country of our financial and moral resources. More and more Americans are becoming disenchanted with the Administration's policies in Iraq. A recent poll taken over the last week indicated the President's ratings with regard to the handling of the war in Iraq have fallen below 40 percent approval. The President is on the verge of "losing the nation" as Johnson did over Viet Nam. From a financial perspective, all one has to do is look at the counter at the top of this blog and see how much money we've poured into the war. One has to question the value of our investment. Has this money made us safer? I would argue no. Iraq, at the start of the war in 2003 was no more able to strike this country than it is today. It is ironic, that prior to 2003, Iraq and it's admittedly despicable leadership had killed less Americans in the period from the Gulf War in the early 1990's until this war was launched by the current President. Now, with over 1800 American soldiers dead, and several coalition soldiers lost as well, we are nowhere closer to a liberated, democratic Iraq than we were when we invaded. Don't believe me? Then just consider that when the Iraqis publish and and then ratify their constitution it will be based on Sharia, or Islamic law coming from the Q'uran. This is a radically conservative move to the right for most Iraqis and especially for Iraq's women. Want to know what the government will look like? Simply look eastward towards Tehran. Since the revolution of 1979, a theocracy has ruled the day in Iran. Strict adherence to Sharia has been enforced by the ruling clerics. The majority of Iran's population are Shiite Muslims. The majority of Iraq's population are Shiite Muslims. Already, during the early days of the current government, there have been significant altercations between Sunni and Shiite politicians regarding the make-up and structure of the new government. If and when the new constitution is ratified, then we will most likely be the mid-wife to a new, radical theocracy in the middle east, this time with the second largest supply of the world's oil reserves.

Americans would be better served by taking the $5 Billion dollars a month we are spending in Iraq and bring it home to focus on "homeland security". As shown by the terrorists in London (British terrorists I might add), all the effort in Iraq has not deterred Al Qaeda in its efforts to inflict destruction on the West. Let us figure a way to spend these resources on securing the homeland versus wasting it in Iraq. It is time to realize that we've wasted lives in Iraq and by wasting more, we will not achieve our aims. Ho Chi Minh once said "You will kill 10 of our men and we will kill 1 of ours, but we will still be here when you leave". These insurgents aren't going to leave. We will. They know it and we know it. So I say, the sooner the better.

Farewell Peter

On Sunday, Peter Jennings, veteran anchor of ABC's World News Tonight died of Lung Cancer. Jennings was with ABC since the early 1960's, and had been both a field reporter and the news anchor. Jennings was in my opinion the top of the class of anchors that included Tom Brokaw from NBC and Dan Rather from CBS. Mr. Jennings was 67 years old.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Time for Novak to Retire

Bob Novak, veteran news columnist and conservative talking head for CNN, stormed off the set of last Thursday's (8/4) edition of Inside Politics. Mr. Novak, James Carville (liberal pit-bull) and host Ed Henry were discussing the potential candidacy for the U.S. Senate of Katherine Harris, a republican congresswoman from Florida better known as the Florida's Secretary of State during the 2000 presidential election fracas. Carville, barged in on a statement Novak was making and apparently, Mr. Novak got fed up with Carville's taunting and said "That's Bullshit", stood up and took off his microphone and left the stage. Host Ed Henry and Carville continued their discussion.

CNN later indicated Mr. Novak would be taking some vacation time. Ed Henry, the host of Inside Politics had told Mr. Novak that he would be asking him questions regarding the Valarie Plame matter where Novak had released the name of the CIA operative in a column in July of 2003. Mr. Novak has been quiet about the matter for some time. So, Thursday's sudden outburst and departure from the set presumably to avoid questions from Ed Henry on the issue brings Mr. Novak back to the forefront of the story.

Bob Novak has been a journalist for several decades. Partnered with the late Rowland Evans, they had a sindicated column for sometime that was consistently conservative and generally regarded along with Bill Safire as the cogent voice of the right.

Is it time for Novak to retire? I think so. He's on the verge of becoming a cartoon character. Jon Stewart of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, affectionally refers to him as the "Douchebag of Liberty". I think that journalists are often and sometimes rightly subject to criticism and ridicule of their work. This is especially true if they move towards partison commentary versus objective reporting. Dan Rather is often accused of bias because of his liberal leanings. As such, his reputation as an objective news reporter has been tarnished over the last few years. Mr. Novak has moved himself towards those opinion makers and further away from being a reporter one can trust to look at the story without bias or prejudice. If Mr. Novak chooses to stay in the spotlight, then give him a show alongside Bill O'Reilly or Sean Hannity and call his reporting what it really is: Right Wing Spin.

Bob, take a breather man, you've earned it.


Best regards,

Dennis

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Voting Rights in Today's America

Not too long ago in this country people were lied to, defrauded, coerced and sometimes even physically beaten just for attempting to vote. The reason? The color of their skin. A landmark piece of legislation known as the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson. Appropriately, this law has done what it was supposed to do. It has protected all Americans' right to exercise one of the most important and indeed cherished rights of our citizenry.

Now, some 40 years later, the voting rights act is in the public debate again. Temporary provisions of the law are due to expire in the autumn of 2007. It would seem that we would simply make those provisions permanent and move on. That would make sense to me and I believe the majority of Americans would agree. However, there are some who would allow certain of these provisions to expire, and some who would keep these provisions temporary. Why? The reasons are detailed very well at www.tompaine.com in an article published today.

Voting rights abuses continue today in this country. Several elections in recent years have been tainted by suspicious behavior from both parties. Allegations of voter abuse in Ohio during the 2004 presidential election been levied and lawsuits filed. Doesn't this seem outrageous? It is a national embarrassment that we have still have voter fraud in this country. Our democracy depends on the ability of the citizenry to vote without fear or reprisal or shenanigan.

It is already well understood that money can sway votes. In our recent history we've seen millions of dollars poured into elections by the Democrats and Republicans in an attempt to win our votes. Let's not make it any easier for those who would threaten your and my ability to have our voices heard equally. Write your congressman and demand that they secure voting rights for all Americans. You can contact your local congressman at this web-site: www.house.gov/writerep. This is not a Democratic issue or a Republican issue. It's not a racial issue. It IS an American issue.

Best regards,

Dennis
Welcome to the Indie Blog! My name is Dennis Sherrard and I've decided to try my hand at posting and reading commentary from people like me who are "sick to the point of projectile vomiting" about our political environment today.

I'm excited about this opportunity to share views and read different opinions about what's happening in today's political climate.

First some ground rules. Anyone is welcome to the Indies Are Us Blog. It's not exclusive except for one thing: PLEASE try and keep some level of decorum when posting. No F-bombs, or suggestions of things better left to the Kama Sutra with regard to telling people what to do with themselves and no belittling other people's opinions (disagree mightily if you like with anyone), but let's try an raise the level of debate here in this little corner of the Cyber-Universe.

That's it! NO other rules are required.

A bit about myself for full -disclosure re: political bent. I'm a liberal. I'm a card carrying member of the ACLU, a member of Amnesty International and typically believe in the idea of governmental activism to support the common good. I've traditionally voted with the Democrats and continue to believe that the fundamental purpose of government is to help us achieve what the Founder's described as Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Well, with that out of the way, let me tell you why I'm no longer a member of the Democratic Party. I used to be of the opinion that political parties were generally focused on improving things for us average citizens. If you are a Republican, then the GOP would do this for you by getting government off your back and championing the individual to achieve their goals through good ole' hard work. Getting government out of the way and letting Americans get on with their lives was a Republican principal and one I admire very much. Democrats on the other hand believed much the same except with a view that the playing field has never been exactly level. Given both parties belief in the concept of fairness, the Democratic Party focused on lifting those up who needed a hand. By virtue of helping others who needed the help, the entire country would prosper. This is also a principal I admire very much. In the best examples of both parties, whether it is Reagan or Eisenhower or Teddy Roosevelt on the Republican side, or Franklin Roosevelt, John Kennedy or Bill Clinton on the Democratic side, there is much to admire from both parties. I used to believe that we weren't so much focused on taking shots at each other as genuinely disagreeing on how to achieve noble and purposeful causes.

I've come to the conclusion however that in the last twenty years or so, the parties are so interested in winning and expansion of their power that the idea of America as a "Shining City on A Hill" that President Reagan was fond of speaking of is lost in both parties. Each have developed well-oiled attack machines that will like sharks, smell blood in the water and then will descend in a frenzy of lies and smears to tear their opponents to shreds. This is not the political system that I want. President Clinton once described the "Politics of Personal Destruction", and indeed, it has become a blood sport. The talking heads on CNN, Fox News and other media outlets delight in bringing you the latest scandal. The irresponsible reporting of President Bush's and Senator Kerry's military records in the last election was a masterpiece of despicable behavior that was fueled by both parties. It is high-time we tried something new in the field of political debate. I know, issue debates are boring, and certainly not attention grabbers like presidents getting "serviced" by interns, or presidents that used to be coke-heads in their youth. But, I ask you, does that kind of reporting really help America move forward? Some people want to blame the media for this. I blame the political parties. The Democrats and Republicans have each pumped millions of dollars into attempting to smear each other and very little into attempting to educate Americans into making sound decisions about who will represent us in Washington.

Therefore, I've had enough. I want to see an independent voice come in from the wilderness that focuses on how we can be better to ourselves, our neighbors and our environment. Let's find a way to change the course of debate from destruction to construction. Here's a new idea, let's try and find a way to listen to the other guy and consider that they may be right sometimes and that it is not a betrayal to your beliefs or principles to agree with them every so often. At the same time, let's pull the blinders off and realize that there is an enormous need for cleaning our own houses. While not traditionally religious, I cherish the scripture where Christ says "Ye without sin cast the first stone".

Let us demand from those who we elect to represent our wishes that they debate honorably, and that the best idea rules the day. It should not the best funded or the most cleverly packaged idea that wins. It should be the best idea period with "best" meaning the idea is good for all Americans. Thomas Paine wrote a pamphlet during the infancy of this great country called "Common Sense". Let us look at our country through those eyes. How do we apply a common sense approach towards improving our situation and making our legacy to our children one that is held up in honor?

I have serious issues with the attempts of both parties to vilify the other. Liberals are not so different from Conservatives that we don't worship our creator or love our families. Conservatives are not so different from Liberals that they don't enjoy freedom, the right to privacy and the idea that a helping hand is sometimes needed. To the political parties, this is heresy. Each would have you believe that if you are a member of the other party, then you are in league with the devil. This is absolute balderdash.

Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country.

Remember this line? I do. I typed it over and over again in typing class a hundred years ago in high school. It is a phrase burned into my memory and more true today than at any other time. It is time for us, you and me to answer that call for help and begin to live up to our responsibility of being a part of the greatest political experiment ever designed. We have, for the most part boiled down our involvement in government to 30 second sound bites during an election year and perhaps 1-2 hours of time voting every two to four years. This behavior is what the parties love. They want us to be complacent and ignorant. They want to use fear, innuendo and character assassination to achieve their goals. Let us turn the tide on these nefarious organizations. Let us begin to raise a voice of independence that says "No, we aren't going to buy the idea that the other is totally wrong and you are totally right. Talk to us like intelligent people. Give us the facts. We can make sound decisions."

Independence is answer. Let's start sending more people like Bernie Sanders, the independent congressmen from Vermont to our government to represent us. We'll be a better nation for it.

So, that's it for now. Welcome to my blog. I really want to hear your opinions. Over the course of this blog's existence, I'll post on specific issues and want to hear replies, both in concurrence and disagreement of my opinions. We'll have some fun and maybe we'll all learn something together.

Best regards,

Dennis