Category Archives: Politics

Romney as (Perhaps) Most Liberal Candidate

A follow-up on yesterday’s post about Romney, written in response to a friend who said he considered Romney and Huntsman the most liberal candidates still running.

I don’t think the position of the candidate on the conservative scale is what matters the most. I think it’s important to know where a candidate’s heart is, basically, but trying to determine relative conservatism is mostly guesswork. Even if we had a reliable calculus for measuring such a thing, I don’t think picking the candidate who has the most of it is going to give you the best candidate.

I think the ability to get the job done is a bigger concern, and a good candidate will be one who has that ability and who is on the conservative side of the issues. And nobody on the stage has a resume that can match Mitt when it comes to the ability to get the job done. Not even close. He and Huntsman are the only ones standing who have executive experience, and he has more experience in the business world than any of them. The history of candidates who only have legislative experience being elected president is not long — our current president being the exception that supports the rule — and most presidents in my lifetime have been governors (or vice presidents).

I recognize that many folks just want the vision guy who talks the most conservative platitudes and makes them feel good, and Mitt is not that guy. When elected, the constraints of the office are going to grind off any range on the conservatism spectrum the available candidates have, and what will be left is their ability to do the job. To bring together the interested parties and find a plan that can be implemented and make it happen. As much as I like the other candidates (and I do like all the non-symbolic candidates), they haven’t shown the ability to do that well. Newt did good work with the Contract for America, but recall that the only commitment made on the Contract was that all of the elements of it be brought before the Congress for an up or down vote in the first 100 days. That happened. And it was useful in electing Republicans to the Congress. But few of the bills actually passed. They were feel-good pieces that made no fundamental change in how government did its business.

I don’t expect my reasoning to prevail. But I do want to be on record asking people to stop seeking the perfect candidate — there never will be one, and there never has been. Letting the (imaginary) perfect be the enemy of the (real) good is unwise.

Making Peace with Mitt

I’m making peace with the idea of voting for Mitt. I think we need to pick a candidate based on his competence, not every nuance of his positions. Mitt isn’t a vision guy, and I think folks want a vision guy, because they inspire you and make you feel good. Reagan was a vision guy — saw the big picture and understood it well enough that he could bring you along and help make it happen. Mitt is a technician — he knows how to make the process work to bring out the optimal possible outcome. This is what is causing him so much trouble in the primary — he made the best of a number of bad situations, and some of them couldn’t be that good. I think he’s got a bit of knight-in-shining-armor going on, and that makes him a sucker for a lost cause, and nobody can fix them all all the time.

He’s not an ideologue, and ideologues will hate him because he seems to have no principles. He has principles, but he understands that the policy world is about where you can find agreement — the best possible deal that can be made is better than the perfect deal that can’t. So he accepted deals in Massachusetts that gave him half a loaf, because this was Massachusetts, and he had to fight to get any loaf at all. The last Republican technician president was Bush 41, and ideologues hated him too. But Bush 41 tied together an improbable international coalition that was able to militarily dominate Ba’athist Iraq — totally dominate it — without making the whole region explode — even kept Israel from retaliating when the Scuds hit. That’s really an amazing thing to have done — arguably tougher than getting Churchill and Stalin into an alliance. But he lost badly his re-election because people didn’t like him, just as they don’t like Mitt, and for the same reasons.

The reality is that president’s have a limited impact on policy decisions. They have to deal with the Congress, and congresscritters live relatively anonymously when compared to the attention the president gets, and most folks expect the president to just force his way through them. But presidents can’t do that very often, so the Congress is a real restraint on the available options. And, also, events outside the President’s control can limit those options further. This is why Pres. Obama’s foreign policy actions (not his speeches) have been very similar to those of his predecessor – they were the best available option, and the price of doing those things the way he had promised during the campaign proved to be too high. John McCain would have made most of those same decisions the same way.

So I have made peace with voting for Mitt when the time comes. I may choose another candidate in the primary if he’s got the nomination locked before we caucus. I don’t know. I won’t be excited voting for Mitt, and I may not enjoy his presidency very much. But if there was ever a time for a knight-in-shining-armor who wants to save a potentially losing cause in the form of our economy, I’d say this is it. He’s not sexy. He won’t make a thrill run down your leg (probably). But I believe he’ll do the job well, and I can’t really say that about anybody else in the race.

About the Mormon thing (because I’m sure it’s on some people’s minds, due to my own Mormon status), I don’t really care about it.  It has nothing to do with this making of peace, or my subsequent voting.  If you think he’s going to try to steer the country toward Mormonism through anything other than his own example, or that he’s going to be controlled by the Church leadership, or any of the other conspiracies floating around of that nature, then I’m afraid you really don’t know what you’re talking about.  Nobody has brought forward evidence of him trying to steer Massachusetts in a way to favor Mormons, or that he was controlled by the Church leadership then — I’ve never even heard any rumors of that nature.  I’m find with people not liking Mitt, and not voting for him because they don’t like his hair-cut, the sound of his voice, or because they don’t like what they know of his business or government record.  I’m not okay with people who oppose him due to anti-Mormon bigotry.  The people who are doing so know who they are, and my finger is not pointed.

Constructively Responding to Child Molesters

This is a response to a friend’s discussion thread on the merits of executing child molesters on the grounds that this is a crime that, once proven, the molester is never forgiven for it by society, giving them an effective life sentence, and that execution is more honest and humane than this.  Having pointed to problems with this as a matter of policy, I was asked what my solution would be to the problem of molesters.  This is what I said:

Solutions — It is a wicked and adulterous generation that thinks it can find solutions for every problem.  Hubristic as well.  We have found solutions for practically no criminal behavior which prevent them from happening, but we are supposed to be able to solve one of the most repugnant crimes perfectly without taking the time to really understand it?  Let me rain on that little parade here and now — it won’t happen.  No matter what we do with the law, we can not stop people from choosing to do wrong in whatever way they decide to preemptively.  It is a power God has not chosen to exercise, so why we think we can escapes me completely.
Continue reading Constructively Responding to Child Molesters

Don’t get caught by the slight-of-hand.

Presidential politics is to the political process what the pretty assistant to a stage magician is — something that draws your eye so you don’t notice what’s really going on.  Do you know how little your individual opinion means when it comes to the selection of a nominee?  If you spend more than an hour deciding who you will support for president, you’ve wasted your time — your vote there will be so diluted that it’s only slightly better than not voting at all.  Pay more attention to the races where your vote is worth more — Congressional races, legislative races, State and local races.

A Mechanism for Finding Better Solutions and Implementing Them

This is a reconstruction of several comments of mine as part of a discussion with some valued and respected friends who disagree with me about political things.  In the process of it, I have found a vision, and I’m liking it.  I’d like some further thoughts about it from thoughtful people of different positions.  It began with a link to an article I posted which was written by a black Republican woman, and the discussion of that led to a request for sources who could answer questions about the relative causes of factors of poverty in the black community, particularly as concerns social welfare programs and imprisonment on drug charges. Continue reading A Mechanism for Finding Better Solutions and Implementing Them

Economic Choices: Choosing one thing over another, and paying the price for it.

Most of a comment made in a thread over at By Common Consent.  The dear friend might recognize herself in this description.  Some of this won’t make sense without reading over at least some of the thread, and some won’t make sense to people not familiar with Mormonism.  Sorry.

Costs and benefits. Sacrifice. Quid pro quo — something for something. Very basic economic concepts. We get what we want by doing something we don’t want to do, and wouldn’t do if it didn’t bring us what we want.

I remember a talk given by a dear friend of mine who described a time in her life where her family raised rabbits to supplement their food budget, because cash was so very tight, and rabbits happen to be a cost-effective way of producing dietary protein. She spoke of the day that she involved her young sons in killing the rabbits they were eating, so they would understand directly the sacrifice being made for their benefit. So they could see the price being paid for their lives. Continue reading Economic Choices: Choosing one thing over another, and paying the price for it.

The 3/5 Compromise

I’ve just run into one too many mentions of the Three Fifths Compromise that shows that people know about it, but don’t understand what it was, why it was there, and what it accomplished.  So I’m going to rant about it a little bit.

In the U. S. Constitution as ratified, included this in Article 1, Section 2, Paragraph 3:

Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.

“[A]ll other Persons” refers to slaves, while “those bound to Service for a Term of Years” refers to indentured servants. Continue reading The 3/5 Compromise

80-85% Ally, or 100% Bigoted Homophobe

Ronald Reagan said “My eighty percent friend is not my twenty percent enemy.”  I was thinking about that while bumping into yet another rant about Orson Scott Card being a “huge homophobe,” and decided to see how it might play out.  So I came up with 10 statements (one divided into two) that I could make about gay people (GLBT if you prefer, although I’m not certain all will apply as well to the BT folks as they will to the GL) which I think most GLBT advocates would agree with, and that would be useful in determining percentage of friendship a la Reagan.  Here’s what I came up with:

  1. Gay people should not be subject to violence due to their orientation.
  2. Gay people should not be subject to discrimination in employment due to their orientation.
  3. Gay people should not be subject to discrimination in parenting due to their orientation.
  4. Gay people should be able to engage in civil unions which bring them the same legal protections for their partners that heterosexual people have for their spouses.
  5. Homosexual orientation is not a matter of choice.
  6. Homosexual orientation is not primarily about sex.
  7. Gay people should be welcome in regular LDS meetings, regardless of their membership status.
  8. Gay people should be able to function as leaders in Boy Scouts of America on the same basis as straight people (ie, subject to criminal background checks).
  9. Gay people should be allowed to marry their same-sex partners
    1. civilly
    2. in the temple
  10. Gay marriage/civil unions should be recognized by the LDS Church for the purposes of the Law of Chastity as equivalent to heterosexual civil marriages.

Now, I recognize that not all of these statements would be weighted equally by the hypothetical GLBT advocates mentioned above, but I don’t think those differences in weighting are so huge as to totally invalidate their usefulness.

Speaking just for me, I can agree with almost all of those statements.  I can’t go with #10, and I could probably go with #9.1 at some point, but don’t see #9.2 happening ever.  That would put me at a 80-85% score.  From more extensive reading of OSC than the average person (ie, I have read more than Ender’s Game and his columns opposing Same Sex Marriage), I think he would reject #9 and #10, and I have 50% confidence he would agree with #4 and #7, and reasonably confident he’d accept the remainder.  This would put him at 60-80%.  That might be high — he might be at 50% or even 40%.

And what does this mean?  Am I an 80% ally, or a 20% homophobe?  Or am I just 100% homophobe because I don’t whole-heartedly agree with SSM and reject the Church’s standard for sexual behavior?  There are Mormons who will be uncomfortable with my support for #8, and with me even suggesting #10 as a possibility, although agreeing with 100% of these statements would not make me ineligible to hold a Temple Recommend.

I do believe in the principle that we need to accept those who agree with us most, or even some of the time as at least partial friends as opposed to constant and total enemies.  I’ve never found anybody I agree with 100% of the time — not even myself.

Dear Dove World Outreach Center

I just heard about your plan to have a Quran burning event.  I am stunned at the stupidity and hatred you are demonstrating in the name of my master who commanded me to love my enemies.  I would request you suspend said stupidity, and spend your time gaining a better understanding of the message of Jesus Christ than you are demonstrating.

If, however, you are bound and determined to burn something, please burn copies of the Book of Mormon instead.  My Muslim friends are very sensitive to how you treat the physical text of the Quran, but I don’t care how many copies of the Book of Mormon you burn.  I don’t worship the physical text, nor the words of the text — I worship God, and love the text, and no amount of burning on your part can take it away from me.

Have a nice day,
Blain

Thoughts on the Prison System

This is a comment I made on Slashdot on a thread titled Building Prisons Without Walls Using GPS Devices, particularly a comment that said  “How about a compromise? A touchy-feely hippie ultra-authoritarian regime that prevents rape, gang fights, and drug dealing while providing education and therapy.”

A system that prevents rapes, gang fights and drug dealing while providing education and therapy would be hugely labor intensive, and would consume a huge proportion of people of very high moral character available in society, if there was a way to reliably identify them, if you had an incentive for them to want to do this. It would explode the costs of staffing prisons by whole number factors, when the existing system costs more than states can afford. Most of that increase would go for your first three criteria — stopping rapes, gang violence and drug trafficking. Continue reading Thoughts on the Prison System