Saturday, September 12, 2015

Go Look It Up for Yourself

I get very angry with the widespread and flagrant abuse of the words “liberal” and “conservative” for over-hyped political activity.  What angers me most is how these words are used by each side to defame the other,  with all sorts of political agenda items incorrectly implied to be part of their definitions.

I suggest that you go look up the definitions for yourselves,  but I already know that the most flagrant abusers will not do that.  So,  here are the definitions from my old “Random House Dictionary of the English Language,  College Edition”,  published in 1968 by Random House,  New York,  and based upon their larger volume “Random House Dictionary of the English Language,  Unabridged Edition”,  from 1966 and 1967.  (Nothing about these words has truly changed since then.) 

(Page 286) 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.

Definitions 1,  2,  5,  8,  and 9 pertain to American politics.  Accordingly,  here is a related definition:

(Page 286) conservatism: n.  1. the disposition to preserve what is established and to resist change.  2.  the principles and practices of political conservatives.

The sense of all that for American politics,  expressed colloquially,  is that a political conservative is dominated by the idea that “if it ain’t broke,  don’t fix it”.  There is nothing wrong with that.  But it isn’t a complete philosophy,  because not all traditions do for us what we want. 

(Page 772) liberal:  adj 1. favorable to progress or reform,  as in religious or 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 rather than aristocracies or monarchies.  4.  of,  or pertaining to,  based on,  or advocating liberalism.  5. favorable to or in accord with concepts of maximum individual freedom possible,  especially as guaranteed by law and secured by governmental protection of civil liberties.  6. favoring or permitting freedom of action,  especially with respect to matters of personal belief or expression.  7.  free from prejudice or bigotry,  tolerant.  8.  open-minded or tolerant,  especially 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,  especially of the Liberal Party in Great Britain.

Definitions 1,  2,  4,  13,  and 14 pertain to American politics.  Accordingly,  here is a related definition:

(Page 772) liberalism: n. 1. the quality or state of being liberal,  as in behavior,  attitude,  etc.  2. (sometimes cap.) the principles and practices of a liberal party in politics.  3. a political or social philosophy advocating the freedom of the individual,  and governmental guarantees of individual rights and civil liberties.  4.  a movement in modern Protestantism that emphasizes freedom from tradition and authority in matters of belief. 

The sense of all that for American politics,  expressed colloquially,  is that a political liberal is dominated by the idea that “if it is broke,  then do fix it”.  And there is nothing wrong with that.  But it isn’t a complete philosophy,  either,  because some traditions really do work well for us. 

I submit to you all that both ideas are absolutely essential to the good governance of our country,  at all levels.  All of us must be both liberal and conservative,  whichever need arises,  and whenever they show up. 

What you really have to decide is whether something is “broken”,  meaning dysfunctional,  not serving its intended purpose.  If it is,  the intelligent thing to do is to be a “liberal” and fix it.  If it is not,  the intelligent thing to do is to be a “conservative” and leave it alone.  It’s really just that simple. 

The key advice I have to offer is to base your decision on whether something is “broke” on nothing but simple objective functionality.  That functionality evaluation should be a matter of demonstrable fact,  not anything political at all.  To do otherwise is a part of the madness that renders our governments so ineffective,  at all levels today.

The rest of that madness derives from dividing into two pigeon-hole categories (whose philosophies are dangerously incomplete at best),  and then each side misusing the words to tar the other.


Religious Freedom vs Sworn Duty?

Update 11-16-2015:  I have seen nothing since that would change any of these opinions or conclusions.

Original Posting:

Kim Davis,  a county clerk in Kentucky,  was recently sent to jail for contempt of court.  This was for refusing to issue marriage licenses to gay couples,  on account of her personal religious beliefs.  This refusal is in violation of a recent US Supreme Court decision making such licenses legal,  nationwide.

She has since been released.  But,  she is unrepentant,  and seems to have lots of supporters.

Videos posted on line do in fact show the nature of her interaction with that fraction of the public which actually is gay (under 10%).  She clearly refuses to issue the marriage license on account of her personal religious beliefs,  which in effect holds the requestor to the same religious practices as Ms. Davis

Yet issuing such licenses as this,  is the very nature of the job she holds.  It is county clerks who typically issue marriage licenses.  They are sworn to uphold the law regarding this function,  and many others. 

Nearly all of us have heard the old saw about how individual rights are not absolute:  your right to swing your fist ends before your fist reaches my nose.  We can always debate exactly where your right to swing your fist actually ends,  but the basic principle is always somewhere before you strike my nose,  no exceptions. 

Similarly,  all of you have a right to believe in any sort of religious traditions that you choose,  and to practice them in any way that suits you.  But,  that right of yours is not absolute.  Your right to practice your religion ends somewhere before you impose your personal beliefs and practices upon me.  Or anybody else.  Just like your right to swing your fist ends before you strike anybody. 

We do not all believe in exactly the same religious teachings.  That is precisely why we established a fundamental principle of separation of church and state,  for one thing. 

For another,  our common law must be the lowest common denominator we all can agree upon,  else the union will inevitably dissolve in some sort of insurrection.  We’ve seen this effect before – it led to the Civil War,  for one thing. 

To do otherwise than lowest common denominator for common law is thus demonstrably insane policy.  That common-denominator approach comes from the same limitations-on-rights principle as exists for fist-swinging.    In point of fact,  it underlies most of the truly fundamental American legal traditions. 

Ms. Davis is faced with a personal moral dilemma:  either she is true to her sworn oath to uphold the law,  or else she is true to her personal religious beliefs.  If she cannot find it within herself to issue marriage licenses to gay couples,  then she should not continue in her job as county clerk.  Simple as that. 

I would suggest that her county look for another position she could fill,  outside of this moral conflict,  before they either fire her,  or accept her resignation.  That is because her job expectations changed after she assumed the position,  thanks to the Supreme Court decision.  Fair is only fair. 

But,  I see no other practical options available to her,  or to her county. 

That being said,  this same limitations-on-rights principle has other applications in American life.  One obvious one has to do with the politics of abortion. 

Science says there is no distinct line between human life and not-life.  It is a gradual spectrum,  pure and simple.  Any line we draw is both purely human and entirely arbitrary.  Saying otherwise does not refute this truth. 

If you base your decision on the potential ability of cells to reproduce,  then you should never even contemplate clipping your fingernails.  That is patently ridiculous,  even to the most religiously-fundamentalist among us. 

Equally insane would be to base it on actual birth.  That’s because we have evidence of self-awareness in fetuses nearing full-term.  So where do you draw the line?  Everybody has a different suggestion,  but all lie between the two endpoints of conception and birth. 

But when you combine that inherent human uncertainty with the fact that not all of us share the same religious beliefs and practices,  you inevitably conclude that the “line” between human life and not-life is entirely an arbitrary matter.  There is no line,  except what we together choose to draw. 

Once you realize that any such line is arbitrary,  then inevitably it follows that we need to draw that line as the lowest common denominator that we all can agree upon.  We collectively,  who separately have such disparate beliefs,  must be able to live within any such law.  In other words,  the limitation-on-rights principle applies,  including any religious teachings we may bring to bear on the decision.

Why is this limitations-on-rights principle so important?  Why is separation of church and state so important?  These traditions are almost unique to America.  But,  these (and our other unique rule-of-law traditions) are the sources of much of our individual freedom.  That’s what makes them so important. 

Look at other countries that lack such traditions,  and you can readily see how easily one group dominates the others,  misusing religion to justify this,  and to justify virtually any atrocity to enforce it.  Africa and the Middle East are just eaten-up with that evil. 

We surely don’t want that here! Open that door for one,  you have opened it for all.  

Iran Nuclear Deal Nonsense

Update 4-9-17:

The conclusions of this article are now obsolete.  It has been superseded by “The Time Has Come to Deal With Iran and North Korea”,  dated 4-8-17,  with search keywords “current events”,  “Mideast threats”,  “North Korean rocket test”.  

Update 11-16-2015:  I have seen nothing since that would change any of these opinions,  conclusions,  or recommendations.

Original Posting:

I am so sick of all the political crap being spewed about the Iran nuclear deal that I could just throw up! 

The pros (mostly Democrats) talk about verification,  but not about what they would do if Iran cheats (and they will – see below).  The cons (mostly Republicans) cry excessively loudly about “how bad this deal is”,  but they have absolutely nothing credible to offer as an alternative (same as all the other things they want to reverse). 

I’m sick and tired of the whole lot of them.  But that’s a topic for another time.

The Iranians will cheat,  in fact there’s some hints floating around on the internet that their cheating attempts have already begun.  OK,  fine.  I have a plan for that. 

So,  there has to be a very dire consequence for cheating,  or else misbehavior and lying will continue unabated.  That’s been Iranian history ever since the old Shah was overthrown,  and even he was very far from truthful (I am an old guy,  I remember that). 

Don’t be misled,  Iran is not alone in this deceitfulness!  There are no Middle Eastern countries that value truth at all!  There never have been,  not since Hammurabi,  or the tales in the Old Testament (that Christians,  Jews,  and Muslims all share) would not read the way they do.  But that’s yet another topic for yet another time.

There is a solution to this problem that does not involve sending troops to the Middle East.  I don’t want to do that anymore,  no ordinary American does!  We’ve have quite enough of that BS in Afghanistan and Iraq,  thank you very much.  (I’m trying to be charitable here in how I express myself.)

But my solution does involve very extreme violence!  You must prepare yourself for that.  Nothing else is understood over there. 

If you do not make a grisly example of misbehavers,  then nobody over there will mend their ways.  They never have.  There’s over 5000 years of that very history recorded in the Old Testament,  verifying exactly what I contend.

What you do is start a countdown clock when the cheating reports start,  as regards the Iran nuclear deal.  You set the time interval fairly short,  somewhere between a week and a month;  there’s no point dragging this out. 

You tell them you started that countdown clock,  and if they do not correct their misbehavior (“here’s the written list”),  then you will nuke all of their nuclear facilities.  Period.  No argument.  No negotiation.  No leeway on the deadline. 

And then you carry out that threat,  on time.  You’ll have to,  as they will not believe it until you do it. 

Don’t tell them how you are going to do it!  But make this ultimatum quite public,  so all of Iran’s neighbors know in advance what is going to happen in that neighborhood.  “52 cards face up on the table”,  as it were. 

You do not want Russia,  for one,  to be surprised by what they see coming on the radar.  Because,  what I propose could risk World War 3,  if misinterpreted by any nuclear power in the region.  Leave zero room for misinterpretation on anybody’s part! 

Do NOT send warplanes.  Do NOT send bombers.  ABOVE ALLdo not send ships and troops.  Give them zero warning of what you are doing.  Hit their nuclear sites with nuke-tipped ICBM’s,  in at least 2 waves.  It’ll all be over,  in about 1 hour.

These sites we target are well outside Tehran and the other cities.  Civilian casualties will actually be very low,  if any at all.  But the message about “what could happen next” will NOT be lost on those ruling mullahs,  no matter how thick-headed they really are (and they really are !!!). 

This could be the beginning of the end for them,  as their people catch on to what just happened.  And that would be a good thing!  And not just for us,  as Iran and Saudi Arabia are the two biggest funders of organized terrorism in the world today. 

We do this,  and all the other Middle Eastern countries will fall into line for a while,  and behave themselves.  But only for a while.   You will have to do it again to a different one,  somewhere down the road.

Then,  all you need do is figure out how to destroy the evil extremists like ISIS.  But,  if you have actually nuked a bad actor like Iran,  then even they (ISIS) might start to behave a little better.    All it takes is an extreme punishment example.