Posts Tagged ‘Conservative’

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Think for Yourself: Political Affiliation Not Determined Solely By Pundits and Extremists

12.16.10

With our polarized political climate comes the inevitable cases where specific groups lay claim to being the “true” party, leaving others as being “in name only.”  Not only is this annoying and arrogant in principle, it also leaves a wide swath of people in political no-man’s land wondering: what party do I belong to?

Boiling complex issues down into a strictly “Democratic” or “Republican” viewpoint losing much of the nuance that is required when dealing with real-life scenarios.  And unless you’re just a blind follower who agrees with everything that your chosen party tells you to believe, you’re going to disagree with some aspects of their policies.

Let’s say you’re fiscally conservative but socially liberal — you want low taxes on the rich and low spending all around but are all for gays getting married and gays serving openly in the military.  You’re going to find yourself finding it tough to vote for a representative that shares those views, who would be willing to truly implement policies to those ends.  (Then again, finding anyone to actually lower spending is quite a feat these days.)

Everyone claims to be the “right” version of something.  It’s like middle school all over again and I take no part in it.  Who am I to say that you’re not “really” a Republican or not “really” a Democrat, as if I am the Definer of All Things Political? Who does get to determine?  Rush Limbaugh?  Glenn Beck?  Olympia Snowe?  Ben Nelson?  Keith Olbermann?  NPR?  Fox News?

Suffice to say if anyone tells you what you are or aren’t based simply on themselves as the defining characteristics of a group, they’re not worth listening to. People like that are the geocentrists of political theory, thinking that whatever they’re version of being a Republican/Democrat/Centrist/Libertarian is the right one — and only one. It’s closed-minded, exclusionary, and based on fear. Fear of being wrong and not being able to handle the reality that life and thoughts exist on a spectrum.

It’s why I prefer to voice my stances on issues, not on broad strokes. I do consider myself a Democrat because that is how I tend to vote and usually with whom I relate the most in terms of both fiscal and social issues. But it doesn’t mean that I agree with everything the Democratic President says or the Democratic Congress does.  It also doesn’t mean that I can never agree with anything a Republican says or wants to do politically, either.

Same for most people who choose to think about the issues and not just listen to what’s being told to them to believe.

Another thing: it’s okay to not be sure quite where you stand. In fact, I find it extremely refreshing when people say, “I don’t know about _____” because it means they’re thinking about it, and not just regurgitating what they think they’re supposed to say.  I haven’t yet written about WikiLeaks and the whole Julian Assange saga for this very reason: I’m still trying to wrap my head around it, trying to figure out quite where I stand.  It’s not easy.  It’s not cut-and-dried. There are valid points to all sides — except for the ones who call for his execution without so much as a trial.

It’s okay to have wavering ideas. It’s okay to change your mind on things.  It’s okay to be skeptical of those who so clearly think they know what’s right or what’s wrong.

Don’t let someone tell you that you’re not something just because they don’t think you’re up to par. In fact, I’d say defend your stance and say that is your party and that you can be one yet also agree with ______ or ______.  Too much of our society right now has lost all sense of nuance in favor of straight-line ideology.

The more people who bring the reality back into it, the better we will all be for it.

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Want Smaller Government? Let’s Have Fewer Politicians

11.30.10

I’ve heard some of my conservative friends calling for smaller government saying that they want fewer government workers, fewer government jobs and more private sector jobs. They complain about how much more money government employees make versus the average private employee — although, they never do give specifics on just who they’re angry about: teachers? postal service employees? DMV attendants? city clerks?

How about elected officials?

I’d be curious to know if anyone would be in favor of this: let’s get rid of some of those nearly 500 representatives. These people get amazing pensions, fantastic health benefits, nice salaries all of which cost us taxpayers quite a lot of money.

Rather than cutting programs which all of us like — because, let’s be honest, who of the population truly wants less Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security?  A huge majority want all of those things intact – including the defense budget, which is currently at $700 BILLION dollars, the most since WW2 – even if they also want to cut spending.  No one wants the safety net if they’re not aided by it at this very moment by terrible circumstances or just, y’know, life; but, threaten to take it away and people will freak out.

So, let’s keep with the idea of cutting government and go right to the source: the politicians who are in government.  I mean, think about the money saved if this guy weren’t in government. Since the country is polarized nearly 50-50 these days, with the Independents just switching sides every two years to halt any momentum from either side (and to keep their Independent monikers), would it make much of a difference if we just chopped it down to 300 reps?  250?  How many representatives do we need, sucking up taxpayer dollars, enacting those dreaded earmarks that are crushing our grandchildren with excessive debt from which they’ll never recover?

While we’re at it, do we really need a Vice-President when we already have a President?

And since the Republicans are the more cohesive of the two parties, save for a few (Olympia Snowe, Scott Brown, and a few others) who occasionally tempt the Democrats by possibly voting the other way, they are in lock-step agreement with each other to vote the same way on nearly every single issue.  Rather impressive, actually.  But, since that’s the case, do we need so many?  I mean let’s get rid of half and the party’s votes would still be the same. Of course we’d get rid of half of the Democrats, too — the ones who all vote the same way, anyway — to keep things even, since that’s what we love here in America: things fair and balanced.

Who’s with me?

Image courtesy of Diliff – Wikipedia Creative Commons

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Vote, Vote, Vote: Do Your Civic Duty in the General Election Tomorrow

11.01.10

I just got done researching the nine different measures on the ballot in tomorrow’s general election — it takes some work to do your civic duty right.

For those of you fellow Californians, check out this online resource for learning about each of the propositions, both sides of the story, so that you can form your own opinion on whether or not to vote yes or no.  It puts the onus on you, the voter, to read up on what the proposition actually stays and decide for yourself.

It also tells you which groups and/or companies are supporting and opposing the measure and how much they spent on the campaign, as well as which side the different newspapers took — which can be helpful if you’re on the fence or just completely unsure.

From the same link, you can check out information on the other races, the main one being for governor.

Whichever way you vote on any of the measures or races, just voting is the important factor. Especially for us blowhards on the Internet who love to espouse our opinions to the masses via blogs which sure can be productive in creating dialogue, it isn’t exactly the most effective way to change things.  Voting is.

There’s a recent thread on The Daily Dish which goes back and forth between a liberal notion that our freedom to vote is more crucial than property rights while a conservative notion values the opposite.  Both are strong arguments and I’d prefer to not have to choose either — but, being able to own my own property yet not be able to vote could allow the government to tax my property so high that it would render it nearly worthless.

Long story short: go vote.  Tomorrow.  Election day.  Make your voice heard.

Image courtesy of wallyg’s Flickr Photostream.

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How to Start Blogging: Read Andrew Sullivan’s The Daily Dish

10.12.10

Andrew Sullivan’s political commentary blog, The Daily Dish, has just celebrated its 10-year anniversary of existence.

Why is this a big deal?

Well, for me, my own year-plus of blogging here on Agree to Disagree started in large part because of Sullivan’s writing.  His and John August’s eponymous blog are the two blogs that I’ve read since I knew what a blog was (honestly: I can’t remember the first time that I started reading either, it’s been so long) that I never fail to read on a consistent basis — it used to be daily, but now it’s more like every two or three days when I get the chance to catch up on everything, which takes a while since Sullivan is nothing if not prolific.  (Seriously, this guy blogs a TON.)

Why do I read Sullivan (almost) daily?

He’s a phenomenal writer and he has integrity.  He’s one of the few out there in the political realm who is willing to admit he’s wrong and change his mind on something if the facts present a different view than he originally saw. Sure, it helps that I see eye-to-eye with him on many levels — gay rights, Sarah Palin being insane, the intellectual dishonesty of the GOP, the appalling stances on the legality of torture, the legalization of marijuana — just to name a few.

On the other hand, he is a classic conservative while I consider myself a liberal; whatever that means.  If it’s one thing that I’ve learned over the years of reading Sullivan, it’s that those labels mean much less than the actual stances one takes on specific subjects and policies.

I’ve always had trouble with people generalizing and being overzealous about casting aside an entire group of people — whether based on religion, race, sexual or political orientation, etc. —  and Sullivan helped me realize that neither “conservative” nor “liberal” nor “moderate” can truly describe the thoughts and feelings of a person — many in the conservative community don’t even consider Sullivan one of their own.

I don’t mean to give him such high praise as if he’s perfect and unerring.  Far from it, just like the rest of us.  But, the candid quality of his writing is immediately relatable and inspiring — even when I disagree with him — because I know it’s coming from an honest place.  He doesn’t take a stance just for the sake of being sensational.

It’s because it’s how he feels.  It’s because it’s what he thinks.

What does this mean for you?

Probably nothing.

Other than that you read me (thank you!) and probably have seen me quoting Sullivan frequently or giving him hat tips for providing source material for my own blogs.  He’s been a huge inspiration to me and it’s blatantly evident in how I write in these posts. I have no shame.  Might as well learn (read: imitate) from the best.

Here’s to you, Andrew and the team at The Dish: many thanks for your continued excellence in adding quality content to the blogosphere.  I hope to one day hold a candle to what you’re able to do.

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Miranda Rights Get Conservative Treatment by Supreme Court

08.03.10

The Supreme Court recently altered the Miranda rights requirement that police officers must inform a suspect upon arrest:

The high court has made clear it’s not going to eliminate the requirement that police officers give suspects a Miranda warning, so it is tinkering around the edges, said Jeffrey L. Fisher, co-chair of the amicus committee of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

“It’s death by a thousand cuts,” Fisher said. “For the past 20-25 years, as the court has turned more conservative on law and order issues, it has been whittling away at Miranda and doing everything it can to ease the admissibility of confessions that police wriggle out of suspects.”

The Miranda rights have been tweaked numerous times over the past decade or so, many times with overwhelming if not unanimous support from the justices, which spans liberal and conservative minds.  This latest change requires those taken into custody to break their silence in order to inform the police that they will in fact be remaining silent.  Simply remaining silent will not count as observing one’s right to remain silent. It passed on a 5-4 vote.

I agree with Justice Sonia Sotomayor who said about the ruling:

Criminal suspects must now unambiguously invoke their right to remain silent — which counter intuitively requires them to speak.  At the same time, suspects will be legally presumed to have waived their rights even if they have given no clear expression of their intent to do so.

It’s hard to see how this is a conservative move, though.  Conservative in terms of the current political climate in the GOP and Tea Parties, yes; but, it doesn’t seem so as far as small-c conservatism goes.  This change gives more power to the state, to the authorities, to the police, and while it doesn’t necessarily take away any rights from the individual, it does make those rights more confusing to understand and enact, and, given the lack of civics knowledge amongst the general populace, puts those who are deemed innocent until proven guilty by a jury of their peers at the disadvantage.

For a political movement that champions smaller government and individual freedoms, this move is just the most recent in a long line of bi-polar decisions that undermine personal liberties under the guise of added security to ensure their passing — the Patriot Act, the Arizona immigration bill, etc. — that actually run contrary to the notion of having an empowered citizenry against a limited government.

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Why Is Spending a Four-Letter Word?

04.17.09

splash_commem_coin_stack

States are going through their budgets right now trying to cut costs and balance the numbers before their fiscal year starts on July 1st.  States like New York are looking to raise taxes on those who make over $500,000 while Iowa wants to cut taxes on the poor and middle classes.  Naturally these changes will only go through if the Democrats can carry enough votes in both legislatures.

Georgia is taking a different approach.  They cut education spending in order to lower its captial gains tax rate by half to 3%.  Capital gains are profits made from selling a non-inventory product at a price higher than the one at which it was purchased – essentially, stocks, bonds, and other similar investments.  Typically the poor have very few, if any, of these assets.  The poor do, however, tend to have children who need higher quality education than they are receiving.  While the conservatives piss and moan about Obama’s so-called socialism is taking away money from the rich to give to the poor, they fail to acknowledge how slashing education spending in order to cut taxes on those rich enough to send their children to the best private schools in the world is doing the same thing in the opposite direction.

Since when has robbing from the poor to give to the rich ever been solid governmental policy?  This is the reason why Democrats took over in the past two elections.  It turns out that majority of the American population aren’t in the top 2% of income earners after all.  Shocking, I know.  And conservative or liberal, some government spending can be good.  I will always champion more spending for education and the arts.  Nothing bad can come from keeping our youth competitive in the world arena and the best way to do that is to offer the best public education we can provide.

Not all spending is inherently bad.  We have a government for a reason.  This isn’t every man for himself.  It’s frustrating that of course when you spend money it has to come from somewhere and that tends to be the rich.  That’s just the price you pay for having the privilege of earning that kind of income within our society.  We are not each totally autonomous.

Warren Buffett, billionaire and market genius, says it best:

“If you’re in the luckiest 1 percent of humanity, you owe it to the rest of humanity to think about the other 99 percent.”

Hear, hear.

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Older and Wiser

04.07.09

old-man-portrait(Photo by Brooks Fritz)

We ate at Perkin’s Restaurant for breakfast today and we were by far the youngest group in there.  Being in charge of the band’s tour money, I went up to the counter to pay for our meal.  I waited in line behind two geriatric patrons, one of whom was paying for his meal with loose change while the other arched his neck as much as possible, scanning the restaurant for his wife who came shuffling up to the counter slowly and deliberately.  Perhaps it was just the fact that I’m on the eve of my birthday and now entering what one may call the “late 20s,” but I had an instant image of things I don’t want to lose as I grow old:

I don’t want to lose my tolerance and open mindedness.

I don’t want to be negative or adverse to new ideas.

I don’t want to reject changes, cultural and physical, while being bitter and angrily nostalgic.

The GOP is completely out of touch with the youth (and by youth, I mean the 30s and under – a definition that evolves as I get older) as shown by voting records, and the gap is getting greater and greater.  While that makes me happy for the future, it also makes me wonder if these conservative old men and women – who vote against gay marriage, support the prohibition of marijuana, and only want abstinence-only sex education taught in the schools (if at all) – were once the rebellious kids who lied to their parents and snuck out of the house to meet up with a lover, or stole a swig off a bottle of their dad’s whiskey bottle, or skipped class to go smoke cigarettes on a warm, spring afternoon.  I can’t imagine that they were all straight-edged and scared of change and the new like they are now.

What happened to them?

Did becoming parents change them?  Or maybe their own personal demons caused them to alter their point of view on life?  I’m sure it’s a different story for everyone but with the same similar components.  I couldn’t tell you what it would take for me to drastically shift my opinions to the other side and that scares me.  It means I don’t know what I need to avoid in order to keep my current outlook.

I am aware of it, though, and I think that will help me maintain an honest approach to the ever-changing and evolving world in front of me.  I know that I’m different now than I was five years ago and I’m fine with that.  I’m learning.  I’m growing.  I’m getting stronger.  I’m getting better.  While I know that I can’t avoid aging, I can avoid losing my humanity.

In a matter of hours, I will be another year older.  I still feel like I’m ascending the mountain of life, not yet even near the summit, and excited about the rest of the climb.  And there’s still a chance that maybe I’ve got it all wrong.  Maybe it’s not a mountain at all.  Perhaps it just keeps going up and up and up and up…