vendredi, octobre 21, 2011

New Federalist Manifesto, Part One

Partially because Apples are not Oranges, and partially in the vain hope that people will arrive at a place of understanding, I hereby publish this personal Manifesto. (It is called "federalist" after my made up political tour de force, the New Federalist Party. But it should be noted that this document is in no way affiliated with the NFP, which may agree with me in principle, but which is categorically opposed to feckless grandstanding.

Or maybe this is written because I'm sick of people. I'm sick of arguments that are really just petty bickering. I'm sick of people screeching a political non answer to a philosophical point by changing the subject.

For instance, I have, numerous times, in sundry public fora, made a statement that goes something like this: "Helping others makes you good and noble. Inspiring people to help others makes you important. Wanting to force people to help others makes you a fascist." Naturally, there are many who feel a need, deep in their bones, to dislike the statement. Perhaps their stated political credo is full of beautiful intentions. Perhaps they dislike seeing the word fascist so closely related to the idea of helping people. Thing is, NO ONE really disputes the statement. EVER. No one ever confronts the truth of the position. Those who disagree never do so on the grounds established within the statement. They change the subject. They talk about millionaires not doing their fair share. They talk about people suffering. They talk about the need for social services. They insult, deride, and dismiss their political enemies. Check back with what I said. It has nothing to do with any of those things. I can only determine that they cannot dispute the statement itself. Whether its true or not (it is palpably true) their inability to face it is a signifier. It is fair to conclude that they are either unaware of, or unwilling to confront, the philosophical realities of their intentions.

I need you to confront philosophy. In fact, if we all do it together, somebody somewhere might actually have a constructive conversation. We have a long way to go, but we have to start somewhere. It might as well be at the beginning.

It begins with the political spectrum. We have it wrong. We've altered the boundaries and definitions beyond any usefulness. Not only do our current descriptors NOT accurately describe political points, they actively obscure them. Let's clear it up.

Imagine a see-saw (called by some a "teeter-totter"). On the far left is total Anarchy, wherein there is no centralized power, and individuals can do WHATEVER they want. On the far right is pure Fascism, characterized by total control of the individual (by what must obviously be some kind of centralized power). This is not the place to argue the merits of either extreme. Suffice it to say that our Founders recognized that neither extreme could lead to freedom for individuals or societies, and placed their mode of governance as the fulcrum in the middle. Their goal was to protect the individual, not just from other individuals, but from the oppression of anyone acting allegedly in the name of all the individuals. They recognized that a government must act as a barrier to oppression from both sides of the spectrum, and therefore designed a government that could protect individual rights, but just barely. Because if it became too powerful, the government itself would become the agent of oppression.
(Editor's note: All of you who are choking on the slavery issue right now are doing the apples to oranges cha-cha already. Certainly, as flawed human beings in a flawed world, the implementation of their aims could only be flawed. Please, for once in you life, permit yourself a few moments to consider philosophical principles without changing the subject to your own bile and superiority. Stay with us.)

According to this model, LEFT means individual freedom, but in reductio ends in the oppression brought about by Anarchy (survival of the fittest=subjugation of the weak). RIGHT means societal stability, but pushed to its limit means the loss of individual liberty, even identity, brought about by dictatorial control. I hope you never meet anyone stupid enough to pretend that this definition of left vs. right isn't clearer and more useful than the hodge-podge of phony identifiers we bandy around today. Think of how this clears things up. A person, or political party, who seeks to make individuals more free (which by definition, can only mean diminishing centralized power), is leftist. A person, or party, that seeks to increase centralized power, is rightist. If we remove the obfuscations attached to terms like "liberal" or "conservative" or "progressive," and let such terms adhere to a coherent model, we can begin to accurately evaluate political movements, opinions, and parties. For instance, a person who wants to empower the government to stop abortion is "conservative." But so is a person who wants to empower the government to take money from one person and give it to another. Defined correctly, a person who wants the government to do more is DECIDEDLY conservative, or, in other words, far to the RIGHT. Defined correctly, the notion that individuals should fend for themselves and decide their own fate, and be left with the consequences of both their choices and their circumstances, is ABSOLUTELY liberal--in very fact, far to the left. The view that individual rights and responsibilities are paramount to the greater good is a leftist concept. The idea that individuals should be subjugated by a slim majority into action for the greater good is clearly on the RIGHT of the spectrum. Hence, a person who wants the government to do more, and take more, and spend more, no matter what they want to spend it on, must accurately be labeled a right wing fascist. This is not a comment on the nobility of their intentions, or the goodness of their heart. Philosophy is distinct from these considerations. It is so, not to make these moral considerations moot, but rather to make them valid. One positive result of accepting this conceptual model is that moral beliefs cannot be robbed of their validity by philosophical dishonesty. Before espousing a belief, you first have to confront where on the spectrum the belief lies. Your belief has to be based on the fact that you can establish some kind of utility or nobility that trumps fascism, rather than on the flimsy good feelings the belief gives you, or worse, on the sad myth that it makes you a better person than someone who doesn't share it.

But the happiest by-product might be that a new definition of "centrist" (see also "moderate") can emerge. It is not merely someone who "sees both sides," or takes a little from the liberals and a little from the conservatives. It isn't just a wishy-washy person who can't decide one way or the other. And is it certainly not merely someone who is "socially liberal and fiscally conservative" (although, this comes closest to the point). No, a centrist is a person who sees the government where the Founders saw it: the fulcrum between centralized power and individual liberty. The delicate structure balancing the extreme tendencies of individual people and bureaucratic systems of control. The see-saw may favor one side or the other from time to time, depending on the political wind, but as long as it's tipping back and forth, the fulcrum is doing its job, and we can all breathe easy.

Another possible result remains a bit of a dream: If two parties can be correctly identified as one seeking to expand centralized power (for whatever honest motives), and the other seeking to limit it (for their own opposite, but equally honest motives), said parties can actually fulfill the functions for which they were intended: Balance. As it stands, both parties, empowered by their philosophical dishonesty, have managed to entrench fascism whilst claiming to do otherwise. If we cannot reshape the extant parties, perhaps a third party can actually emerge that stands in the philosophical center, seeking to distribute power to states, so that it retains (or regains) its vital function as the aforementioned fulcrum between two extremes.

As much sense as this makes, I must here admit that my motives are slightly less than philosophical. I'm simply tired of feeling forced to call people who want to expand centralized power "progressive." I want a spade to be a spade. If you want to take away other people's stuff, and therefore limit other people's freedoms, you are a fascist, pure and simple. No matter what political party you support. I'm sick of people hiding behind good intentions. If you want the government to have the power to tell people what to do with their children, born or unborn, you are a fascist. Whether you want the government to bail out banks (institutions drunk on greed), or alcoholics (individuals drunk on booze), the philosophical framework is the same. The moral merits of both can be argued, but not coherently, until said framework is clearly established.

Let's establish it, and see where we end up.

(And if you're not smart enough to do so, you are hereby granted permission to never discuss politics with me or anyone else again . . . Yes that makes me a bit of a conversational fascist.)

vendredi, septembre 09, 2011

Keep Hope Alive!

At this point in our history, an honest politician with legitimate ideas is a national treasure. Mostly because there is only one such person. Sadly, we have reached a point where voting for Ron National Treasure Paul may not be the best idea.

Because a national treasure, by its very nature, is something to preserve. And if by some miracle he gets elected, he will be dead in less than a year.

Not because he is old, or because he couldn't handle the stress of the job. He wouldn't die of natural causes (though, come to think of it, there might be an attempt to make it appear so), and he wouldn't die in an accident (despite how it might certainly look to the public). No, because he brooks no compromise, and holds fast to certain core principles, he would die at the hands of an assassin, and it wouldn't be Jodi Foster putting out the hit.

Think about it.

Based on the bizarre idea that our constitution does not designate us as the world's policeman (and based on the expense to a nation deep, DEEP in the throes of debt), Mr. Paul would immediately withdraw all troops from all foreign shores. Do you really think that extant powers within the military industrial complex would allow that? And might not the ensuing chaos in the policed nations allow the fomenting of some kind of retaliation? We're just getting started.

Based on the extreme idea that a nation deep, DEEP in the throws of debt cannot in good conscience throw money it doesn't have into swirling toilet bowls around the world, Mr. Paul would immediately phase out nearly all foreign aid. Based on the violent reaction of dependent parties in Greece and England (who went from being shiftless to riotous in seconds when their freebies were threatened), do you really think that the multitude of nations who sit with their hands out for billions in US funds would really stand up and say, "That's alright, we understand you're deep, DEEP in the throes of debt. We'll take it from here" ?

Based on the absurd idea (or the facts of the case, for those of you who are picky about these things) that the war on drugs has been a gigantic waste of federal dollars, Mr. Paul would put an end to federal drug enforcement. Should this empower the drug cartels that run Mexico with easier distribution to an expanded idiot client base, there's nothing to worry about. But if this leads to locally produced products available cheaply to a static idiot client base, thereby taking billions out of the pockets of the cartels that run Mexico, how long do you think these entities, already well versed in the art of mass and individual murder of high level officials, would leave an uncompromising president alive?

Based on the insane notion that the bailout sent billions of dollars through the anus of the FED into a mysterious corporate black hole, Mr. Paul will audit the FED, attempting to account for past expenditures, and ensure that future funds were handled in a responsible, transparent way. Do you really think that the multi-billionaires who so obviously and regularly benefit from the currently shady practices and policies would allow their golden goose to be cooked?

He would also push to make abortion a States issue, effectively removing it from the purview of the federal government. This, in the eyes of some, would be interpreted as the legalization of abortion, making President Paul a baby murderer to some very stridently active people. Do you really think that someone willing to blow up a single abortion doctor or clinic wouldn't also feel justified in forcibly removing the man who made it all legal? (on the other hand, many states would quickly make it illegal, causing a very similar problem. . .)

We're just scratching the surface here. If Ron Paul were to make good on his principles and promises, it would jeopardize the position of some very powerful, very shady individuals and entities. He would be a further threat to entities who have long been dependent on the government, from shifty corporations to shiftless individuals, all of whom would be introduced to the absurd idea that Human beings are created equal, and have equally infinite potential, and have a right to Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness under our limited government and everything else they are capable of (and responsible for) handling for themselves. Who's to say what might happen in the ensuing unrest? He might actually limit the expansion of government and balance the budget! Can you imagine the displeasure of the really powerful people who benefit financially from the interest on our debt, and politically from the blatant purchasing of votes with promises made with the money of others? You don't want to think about it. You don't want to believe that the flagstones of your leftist or rightist ideology are capable of evil. Or maybe you want to believe that the nation and the world would be brought to see the justice and efficiency in the principles of President Paul. The first group is in denial and the second is just plain Utopian (which is to say, stupidly believing in a world that has never and can never exist). Neither belief system will save his life.

Or perhaps we can take comfort in the fact that a principled person with actual ideas could never get elected in this country, or in the fact that a president, once in power, is beholden to so many shadowy forces that he or she is effectively hog-tied (and therefore bound, for instance to keep Gitmo open and send 30,000 extra troops into a doomed foreign war despite promising the exact opposite.) But I say that in this case we must err on the side of caution. We cannot in good conscience sign the death warrant of a national treasure, though it leaves us in political limbo.

There is absolutely NO ONE else to vote for. But don't vote for Ron Paul. Like Hope itself, it may have been the will of the Gods that he remain locked in Pandora's Box.

dimanche, mai 15, 2011

Right Bad, Left Good

The current President acted without Pakistan's permission, but maybe the term "cowboy diplomacy" is outdated. Pakistan is angry. They say we violated their sovereignty. Do we accept it because of WHY we crossed their border? Has the time for people to criticize the President for acting "unilaterally" passed? Or maybe . . .

The President ordered an unarmed man to be shot in the face in front of his wives and children. Do we accept it because of who we shot, or because we spent our venom on the "enhanced interrogations" that put us on the dead man's trail? Or perhaps . . .

The President has friends high up in the business world who have gained privileges and profit from his policies. Have we embraced cronyism? Perhaps our opinion of oligarchy changes according to the chief oligarch. Or, um . . .

I remember people defacing their bumpers with stickers decrying the fact that the price of gas had gone up under the last president. They were, apparently, very angry. The price of gas has now gone up even more; but I haven't seen any updates. Did we as a people finally wise up and calm down? Have we given up the idiotic practice of synopsizing our venomous personality on a bumper sticker? Or maybe, just maybe . . .

One President had virulent protesters everywhere condemning his war. The next President continued these war policies, increased the death toll, added 30 thousand or so troops to the effort, and doubled the amount of drone attacks. One of these men was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Did the world embrace the war on terror? Are we just suckers for changes in terminology? Or is it possible that . . .

. . . we are a nation of knee jerk hypocrites, beholden to myopic political philosophies defined by hoodwinking, morally defunct political parties consisting of extremes designed to enforce each other for profit?

vendredi, février 04, 2011

The Keith Lowell Jensen Comedy Prosperity Joke Redistribution Plan

No one on either side of the political spectrum would disagree with the notion that, in these tough economic times, a nation has to pull together. To what extent, and whether that solidarity should foment publicly, or privately, is of course a matter of contention.
Keep in mind that homeowners and union labor aren't the only ones hit hard by the recent downturn. In fact, according to a preponderance of experts, the comedy bubble burst even before the housing and .com markets crumbled. In the wake of the crash, comedians bonded together, joining arms and standing tall for each other.
Which all added up to very little.
This is due, say a growing number of activists, to the fact that no amount of solidarity can come to any sort of fruition without a framework of policy set up by a proactive government.
With new legislation recently passed by congress and signed by the president, comedians and citizens everywhere can look forward to a new dawn of egalitarian prosperity.
The historic Keith Lowell Jensen Prosperity Joke Redistribution Plan (KeLJePJoRP) revamps the comedy industry and levels a playing field that has marginalized countless millions of unfunny individuals.
Named in honor of journeyman stand-up impresario Keith Lowell Jensen, a very funny man who generously shared his solidly hilarious laugh lines with those in need (even when it mean cutting his own set short), KeLJePJoRP sanctions the newly created Bureau of Comedic Affairs, authorizing them to confiscate jokes from prolific and funny comedians, and redistribute them to those with inferior comedic talents. The bracketed system allows the most successful comedians to keep 60% of their jokes. Above average comics will have the privilege of involuntarily sharing 20% of their humor. Marginally talented and less prolific comics will only have to give up 10%. The appropriated jokes will subsidize the careers and (more likely) the social interactions of people who dream of comedy, but who lack the insight or timing to be truly funny. It further extends a hand to those who may well be very funny, but who are unable to put in the hard work required to create solid material.
"This is great," says an early beneficiary of the program, "I was ready to throw in the towel. Writing jokes is so hard, and since my cannabis prescription ran out I've had trouble focusing. When I got the first batch of jokes, and people laughed at them, I thought, 'thank God people care enough to vote for people who will create an agency to give me someone elses jokes!' No matter how unfunny I am, I have hope for the future now." The above mentioned unfunny person (who requested anonymity) is currently doing 1 to 2 shows a week, and getting good laughs, almost completely with material from other comics. "I put in one of my own into my set the other day, and it didn't get much of a laugh. I think I'll stick with stuff from the program for the time being. I'm flat out killing. Being funny is awesome."

Some comedians have referred to recipients of the program as "welfare comics," a turn of phrase that participant Jake Rubenstein calls "hurtful, and dismissive." He explains further, "Most of those so-called 'funny' people inherited their sense of humor anyway. It's not like they earned it. Just because you have funny parents doesn't mean you are better than me, or anyone else." He mostly uses the laugh lines he receives to "break the ice" with women. "Before I was funny, I used to bomb with the ladies. Since I got in the program, and with the extra delivery coaching from the comedy counseling unit, I'm scoring twice the chicks."

Opponents of the program maintain that the Constitution makes no provision for the confiscation of intellectual property (i.e. jokes). But they have also pointed out that it contains no language authorizing the confiscation of income at gunpoint--a practice that has been carried out at the federal level since Lincoln. They attempt to bolster their point claiming that large amounts of really great comedy are eaten up in bureaucratic waste. Phillip Smooot, founder of government watch dog group Citizens for Responsible Administrative Policy, recently stated (on NPR's Fresh Air) that "for every 20 jokes sent to Washington, only 5 reach the intended recipients. The rest are petered away in the endlessly churning bureaucratic Rube Goldberg machine that is the Federal Government. These are the same people who are currently feeding soldiers into a sausage grinder in the Middle East. Do you really want them in charge of our nation's comedic reserves?" Other opponents wonder if a country with trillions of dollars of crippling debt has the means to maintain yet another expensive agency.

"Absolutely," responds Amy Douglas, spokesperson for the Keith Lowell Jensen Foundation (the advocacy group that lobbied for the legislation). "Reaching out to the comically challenged is the responsibility of everyone blessed with a sense of humor. It breaks my heart to think of people telling bad jokes, and passing them on for generations. We can break that chain. Everyone should have a chance to be humorous. Telling funny jokes is a right. We cannot deny it to people and still call ourselves a compassionate society." Other advocates maintain the position (as did a recent blogger on the Huffington Post) that comedy is a precious national resource that "merits management." If for no other reason than to prevent downturns in comedic institutions like Saturday Night Live. "When that show hits a bad stretch," said the blogger, "it takes the whole country to a very dark place." They point out that if we can get a greater percentage of the populace to be funny, we will no longer need to import such large quantities of humor from countries where socialized comedy has been prospering for years.

Most polls indicate that the American people in general, eager for a laugh, have adopted a "wait and see" approach. The next few years will set a critical precedent, and we may see an already polarized electorate take sides in disturbing numbers. Or perhaps, as some predict, expanded possibilities for laughter will bring people together. This much is clear: With the law set to expire halfway into the next president's term, the debate is far from over. Insert punchline here. I couldn't think of one, and I didn't qualify for the program.