Category Archives: Politics

Election clarification, just for the record.

I think everybody here is probably already clear with where I stand with regard to the presidential election. 

I am a Republican.  I’m voting for the Republicans that show up on my ballot.  I’m not voting for them because I necessarily, like/love/respect them.  I’m voting for them because, on more important issues than not, I agree with them. 

To be specific, I do not find John McCain to be the perfect candidate.  And, while I’m one of the few folks who has never been there who knew about Wasilla, Alaska before she was nominated, I’m not entirely ga-ga over Sarah Palin.  Neither one of them is perfect, and neither one of them is the source of all evil in the world.  And neither of them is in lock-step with George Bush or much of anybody else. 

And I do not think Barrack Obama is secretly Muslim, or racist, or particularly evil.  I think his agenda of “Change” sounds a whole lot older than he is.  Joe Biden can be fun to listen to sometimes, but I’ve not liked him very much for a long time.

I don’t trust any of them in the “Here are my car keys and fifty bucks and my daughter” sense.  I’m not choosing them to marry any of my children.  I’m just picking a candidate to vote for.  I’m not going to read through all of their policy and position papers (I’ve written positions and speeches and ads for candidates, including myself, and I know how much they do and don’t reflect who a candidate really is) (mine represented me).  I don’t want one that can leap over tall buildings in a single bound.  I just think things are better when more Republicans are in office. 

The only really fascist bone in my body is the one that wants to round up all of the idiots of any party that are spewing hateful nonsense about the other parties candidate (I should warn you that “McCain is just like Bush,” considering the sources, qualifies as “hateful nonsense” in my book, right next to “Obama is secretly Muslim/racist/evil.”) and tape their typing fingers together so they can’t spew more of that nonsense on the intarwebs until after the election is over (well, or not faster than they could tap out with pencils stuck between their teeth). 

Yeah, yeah, “constitutionally protected free-speech,” I know.  And I won’t.  But I really want to sometimes.  I’d feel better about it if there was more effort shown toward reading and, maybe, comprehending what is in the Constitution and why.  But it’s anti-democratic to want such things.  Sorry.  I slipped again.

So, if I have a favor to ask, it would be this:  please don’t participate in the flood of hateful and misinforming information about candidates for the rest of the election cycle.  Anybody who hasn’t picked who they’re going to vote for for president yet probably isn’t a vote worth chasing anyhow.  If you want to put a sign in your yard, or go doorbell for a candidate, or do something that requires some effort and courage, go right ahead. 

I don’t suspect this will be a problem for anybody who actually read this to the bottom.

The Return of Goodness, Democracy on the Wane

Not connected articles or concepts.  Today’s wins from Arts & Letters Daily:

The Return of Goodness, by Edward Skidelsky

But the pre-modern traditions remain alive under the surface. We cannot but admire feats of courage and self-denial; we cannot but feel disgusted by greed and sloth. Nor are such reactions merely snobbish or aesthetic; they are closely connected to the more strictly moral reactions of respect and indignation. Yet our public language forbids us to acknowledge this connection, forcing us to disguise what are at root ethical responses as something altogether different. For instance, hostility to smoking—clearly at heart a moral aversion to intemperance—must masquerade as a concern for public health or the rights of innocent third parties. Hence the stress placed on the (spurious) concept of passive smoking.

Democracy on the Wane, by Joshua Kurlantzick

The events unfolding in Thailand are part of a gathering global revolt against democracy. In 2007, the number of countries with declining freedoms exceeded those with advancing freedoms by nearly four to one, according to a recent report by Freedom House, an organization that monitors global democracy trends.

Democracy is hard work.  It takes responsibility, self-control and patience, none of which seem to be celebrated values. 

What Makes People Vote Republican

A very interesting article that shows a deep understanding of where political conservatives are coming from, without ever joining them.

When Republicans say that Democrats “just don’t get it,” this is the “it” to which they refer. Conservative positions on gays, guns, god, and immigration must be understood as means to achieve one kind of morally ordered society. When Democrats try to explain away these positions using pop psychology they err, they alienate, and they earn the label “elitist.” But how can Democrats learn to see—let alone respect—a moral order they regard as narrow-minded, racist, and dumb?

Let me see if I have this straight.

Being a freshman U.S. Senator with no executive branch experience at any level — qualified to be U.S. President.
Being a sophomore U.S. Senator elected because your spouse used to be U.S. President — qualified to be U.S. President.
Being a governor who cleaned up a high-level corruption scandal — not qualified to be U.S. Vice President.

The current president served as a governor, never as a senator.
His predecessor served as a governor, never as a senator.
His predecessor served as Vice President and representative, never as a senator.
His predecessor served as a governor, never as a senator.
His predecessor served as a governor, never as a senator (unless you count the Georgia State Senate),
His predecessor served as Vice President and representative, never as a senator.
His predecessor served as a senator.  He left office in 1974. 

It’s been thirty four years since the seated president had previously served in the U.S. Senate.  We will have again starting in January.  But there’s nothing about being a governor that just screams “unqualified” when four out of the last five presidents have been governors. 

Again, feel free to vote however you wish.  This question of who is “qualified” comes up most years, but keep in mind that if years of public service is the main criterion for “qualification,” there is no question who is the most qualified candidate to be the president.  Unless you want to bring Sen. Biden into the mix, in which case he’s spent more time in the Senate than Sen. McCain, Sen. Obama and Sen. Clinton combined, but he’s still on the bottom of the ticket.

I’ll probably have another thing or two to say about silly campaign slogans over the next while.  There’s another one that’s been annoying me for some time.

No matter who wins in November, you’re going to be disappointed

I was looking around for something else and found this headline attractive, and the article underlying it well reasoned.  I don’t agree with all of the author’s points, but his big point I definitely do.  I’ve been trying to get that point across to folks for quite some time, to encourage people to have more realistic expectations of what candidates can (and can’t) do. 

On Inauguration Day, a new U.S. president is a demigod, the embodiment of aspirations as vast as they are varied. Over the course of the years that follow, the president inevitably fails to fulfill those hopes. So the cycle begins anew, and Americans look to the next occupant of the Oval Office to undo his predecessor’s mistakes and usher in an era of lasting peace and sustained prosperity.

 

This time around, expectations are, if anything, loftier than usual.

There are no perfect candidates on the ballot, folks.  Most of the things you don’t like about the current administration are going to be present in the next administration, and most of the problems facing the current administration around the world are going to continue into at least the next administration.  Particularly if you’re looking at the military situation in Pakistan/Afghanistan, which is likely to still be an issue for a decade or longer, again, no matter who is elected in November.  As are the new-old Russian expansionism, and China’s desire to expand their influence around the world. 

So, ignoring the pie-in-the-sky promises you’re going to hear from the candidates, no matter how much you might want them to be true, is going help have some more realistic expectations over the next four to eight years. 

Georgia on your mind?

I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s not all that much.  It’s hard to understand what’s going on, who the players are, or what it all means.  This article by Michael J. Totten helps straighten those things out with the help of “[r]egional expert, German native, and former European Commission official Patrick Worms, [who] was recently hired by the Georgian government as a media advisor…” and “another regional expert, author and academic Thomas Goltz….”  Worms points out the following as a beginning point of the regional conflcts happening in the former Soviet republics.

A key tool that the Soviet Union used to keep its empire together…  was pitting ethnic groups against one another. They did this extremely skillfully in the sense that they never generated ethnic wars within their own territory. But when the Soviet Union collapsed it became an essential Russian policy to weaken the states on its periphery by activating the ethnic fuses they planted.

They tried that in a number of countries. They tried it in the Baltic states, but the fuses were defused. Nothing much happened. They tried it in Ukraine. It has not happened yet, but it’s getting hotter. They tried it in Moldova. There it worked, and now we have Transnitria. They tried it in Armenia and Azerbaijan and it went beyond their wildest dreams and we ended up with a massive, massive war. And they tried it in two territories in Georgia, which I’ll talk about in a minute. They didn’t try it in Central Asia because basically all the presidents of the newly independent countries were the former heads of the communist parties and they said we’re still following your line, Kremlin, we haven’t changed very much.

There is reason to be concerned about the implications of what’s going on in Georgia right now across that region, which is one of the largest regions there is. 

Sedro Woolley council approves Secret Harbor permit.

This story lays out some of the basics of what happened.  It doesn’t include that the permit is somewhat conditional base on the impact of the home on the sewer system.  Nor does it include the step about the phone call from the Secret Harbor attorney pointing out that discriminating in housing against residents on the basis of their mental illness is illegal.  But, whatever.  The new home is slated to open in November, after the Cypress Island facilities are completely removed (including the six year-old $3 million sewage treatment system, but not including the Richter Home and surroundings, which the state is keeping for retreats) to make the area pristine and original (except for the Richter Home, again).

Just to update.

Population bomb more complicated than it appears.

I was recently a participant in a discussion about population growth in Sunfell‘s LJ.  Just today, I ran into this article from the Independent that reports that a number of the things being said in that thread turn out to be oversimplified or, even, incorrect.  An excerpt:

The conventional wisdom – academics call it the demographic transition – is that when people are poor they have lots of children. When half your kids die before they reach adulthood you need to have lots to ensure there is someone to look after you in old age. If it takes one person all day to plough or weed the fields, or fetch the firewood, or find grazing for the goats, or carry the water and pound the grain, then you need a big family. And if there is no contraception available you don’t have much choice anyway.

But when you get richer family sizes start dropping. The health of your children improves. You have savings for your old age. Girls go to school, get jobs outside the home, marry and have babies much later. Contraception becomes available. You move to the city where you don’t need so many children to do the household chores. Make people prosperous and the population falls.

“That’s the biggest lie that’s ever been perpetrated,” says Professor Cleland, who is something of a hawk on population control. “People are very bad at calculating survival probabilities. Twenty years ago fertility started to decline in Nepal and Bangladesh when they were still poor. Korea wasn’t rich when fertility declined. By contrast the Gulf oil states continued with high birthrates long after they got huge wealth.” It’s even true in Western Europe, adds Professor Falkingham, where the upper class has more children than the middle class.

It also talks about how birthrates in Europe are growing in northern secular countries, but are declining in southern Catholic countries, rather counterintuitively.  It’s an interesting addition to the conversation.

Another comment.

This is in response to a question in the blog of the opinion page editor of the Bellingham Herald, where he asks if labels like “conservative” and “liberal” have meaning anymore:

Bush 41 said “Labels are for cans.” I think they can be useful, so long as their inherent limitations are taken into account. Some people believe what they believe, and those things are liberal or conservative things. Other people will attach to the label, and then believe the things that fit the label. And some people will have beliefs that fit one label a majority of the time, but have other beliefs that fit the other label as well. So it’s safer to say “Liberals/conservatives tend to X” than “Liberals/conservatives X.”

But, mostly, this is a tribal problem. There are many kinds of tribes, some racial, some gender-based, some ethnic, some political, some age-based, some geographical/regional, some religious, some musical, with many kinds of sub-tribes along the way to help people collect and separate themselves in any way they wish. Labels are used to push people in or out of the tribe, and the way you know you’ve crossed a tribal line is when you stop talking about “us” and start talking about “them.”

It is not uncommon for people to demonize “them,” and to make “them” responsible for all of “our” problems (or “our” most serious problems). It is, fortunately, uncommon in this country for people to use that demonization as justification to kill rooms full of people. But the step from the one to the other can be a very small one, and we would all be well advised to be cautious about using these kinds of tribal condemnations and demonizations, and to discourage their usages, not only because they can lead to atrocities, but because they are logically sloppy. Have you ever heard “Of course he said/did X, he’s a Y”? That’s the logical fallacy of reverse-construction, attributing a characteristic of a whole to its parts.

It also helps to spend time getting to know people across these tribal lines. Tribal divisions are only as real and divisive as we allow them to be. Listening to people you disagree with to try to understand them, rather than just to argue with them, is also helpful.

My letter to Marvel Comics

This is in response to an attempted letter-writing campaign to Marvel Comics opposing their collaboration with Orson Scott Card due to his statements against same-sex marriage:

You may be getting a flurry of emails opposing your publication of Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game.  Or, you might not — I’m not certain that the individual who’s trying to generate that flurry has as much influence as he might wish.  However, I want to rise in opposition to that flurry, attempted though it might be.

I am very familiar with Scott’s work.  I’ve read almost every word he’s published in every genre he’s written in, including his columns.  I’ve read and listened to not a few interviews with him.  I attended EnderCon, where I got to attend the Q&A session, and then attended the writing class he offered over the next few days, where my son and I got to meet him.  My former room-mate had dinner in his parents’ home.  I’ve participated in live chat sessions he used to hold on his own areas in AOL.  And I’ve talked to a number of people who have known him for many years.  Just for background — I know Scott and what he has to say.

He is not a homophobe, nor is he hateful.  He has written gay characters and been very respectful to them.  He has stated that he didn’t see how gay marriage could be as damaging to families as heterosexual divorce is.  While he is opposed to same-sex marriage, and does not wish to see homosexual behavior normalized, he does not advocate mistreatment of gay people. 

His largest alleged “sin” is that he disagrees with the militant side of the GLBT movement, and he is both blunt and eloquent in doing so.  Hardly mortal sins.

All of which is irrelevant to the choice you folks have made to publish Ender’s Game.  There isn’t a moment in the Ender’s Game world which is harmful to gay people in any way, and I encourage you to continue with the project.  It will produce a great title for you, and will tie you in with what is anticipated to be a brilliantly executed film. 

These folks are trying to hit Scott in the pocket book to punish him for not agreeing with them.  I encourage you to not participate in this punishment.  It makes no sense.