This I Believe

In this election year, I find myself asea. On one hand, I know with a certainty bordering on faith that if the Democrats, especially one of these particular Democrats, gets into the White House, the country will dive head first off the thirty-foot board into a swimming pool filled with excrement, razor blades, and rubbing alcohol. On the other hand, none of the Republicans remaining, now that Fred has abandoned us, seem to be any better on the issues that matter to me.

So I thought maybe if I made a list of my stances, someone might be able to point me to a candidate I can vote for without feeling the need to repent and shower afterward. With that in mind…

Generally speaking, as long as whatever someone else is doing isn’t bothering anyone else, I think they should be left alone. This includes drugs, sex, and suicide, among other things. As long as everyone understands the risks, and does them in ways that don’t hurt anyone, have at it. Of course that’s not an absolute; nothing ever is. And of course it’s more complicated than that. Think of this as more of an ideal.

The second amendment to the US Constitution is an individual right, based on the premise that any government can become corrupt and the people might have to rise up in revolution to overthrow it someday. The “militia” is us.

Embryonic stem cell research is not murder. I don’t know the numbers, but I understand a lot of fertility clinic leftovers get thrown away. If they could all be introduced to the stem cell research industry, I imagine a lot of that research would be a lot farther along than it is today. Besides, why is it wrong to run tests on zygotes, but not wrong to put them in a Ziploc baggie and toss them out? I’m opposed to avoiding concrete scientific inquiry on the basis of moral arguments we can’t even all agree on. Yes, the skin cell->stem cell thing is cool. But are we missing anything by bypassing the source? I don’t know. That’s the point. Contrariwise, if there’s no difference between a skin cell that becomes a stem cell and an embryonic stem cell, then there’s no difference, and the altered skin cell also has a right to life.

I’m not in favor of abortion, but then again, I don’t expect I’ll ever have to decide whether or not to have one. I can, however, think of circumstances where the simple fact of a pregnancy can be detrimental to the health of the mother, even if she’s underage, and especially if she has to tell her parents about it. I’m not advocating it as preferable. I think it should be discouraged in every reasonable way. But after that, if that’s still what she wants to do, that’s her deal.

I already hear the counter-argument: she’s not just affecting herself! What about the life of the baby? There’s a heap fallacy at work here. It is not true that at time T there is no life and then that at some time T+x after sperm and egg meet, life appears. Life doesn’t begin. It continues. Any line we choose to draw as a society will be arbitrary, whether that is at the moment of conception or at birth minus one second, and we will never get everyone to agree on something that makes us all happy. Therefore, let’s compromise on something we all despise equally. For instance: viability. The baby gains human rights the instant it is able to survive as an independent organism, or has independence thrust upon it. That’s roughly 24 weeks and getting younger. And we won’t be fiddling with world records here, either. Let’s say 50% survival rate, corrected for normal infant mortality rates.

I’m in favor of nuclear power, and have been since I heard of the stuff in the 70’s. I’m in favor of ethanol as a replacement fuel for gasoline. If that company that claims they can do it for $1 a gallon from any organic waste isn’t lying or wrong, we should throw money at them as a nation until they perfect it, and let’s get started converting our engines. Oil’s more valuable as plastic anyway. I like solar power, but it’s difficult to imagine having enough surface area to cover all our power needs. Does anyone need Wyoming for anything?

One of the few legitimate reasons for the existence of the federal government is, and I quote, “provide for the common defence.” That means we can’t have people running back and forth over our borders whenever they feel like it carrying who knows what. People who are here illegally are “illegal aliens.” That’s a legal term, not an insult. They have no right to be here. They need to go home, and stay there until we decide to allow them back in. It shoud be remembered that the Mexicans aren’t a displaced indian tribe. They’re Spanish. They are of Spanish (and Portuguese, granted) descent. Their ancestors raped and pillaged at least as much as our did, and I betcha ours felt worse about it afterward. Then they lost the southwest to us in a war. If they want it back, they can start another one.

By the same token, the announced, avowed intent of fundamentalist Islam is to conquer the world by violent means. Right now, their main targets are the United States and the rest of western civilization. They have, and I think this needs to be said more often, declared war on us. Whether we like it or not, we are at war. The war doesn’t stop because we say so, because we aren’t the aggressors. We need to keep fighting until we win. The fact that we have massively superior firepower and the ability to project it anywhere in the world in as little as few hours or days does not make us the bad guy. All it means is that we’re going to win, eventually, unless someone convinces us to stop fighting. The war ends when they give up, not before. I think we should be careful not to hurt or kill innocents in the pursuit of the enemy, but to a certain extent that is inevitable, and we have to accept that.

Global warming: we haven’t been studying the weather long enough as a species to be able to say with any validity that humans are the cause of increased temperatures in the last few years. I’m not sure we’ve been studying it long enough to claim that temperatures are rising in the first place, instead of undergoing normal long-term variation. It’s possible the cycle is longer than the hundred years we’ve been keeping records. It’s possible the sun’s output is varying, as evidenced by warm-ups detected on Mars and Jupiter. And most importantly, the entire issue has become politicized and death-knelled by a man seeking relevance and his willing sycophants for too long for anyone to think rationally about it anymore. We should not be making national policy based on a doomsday boogeyman. That said, some of the things suggested as ways to combat global warming are good ideas anyway, such as recycling, as long as they don’t become mandatory.

National health care: keep the government away from my kidneys! I’m all in favor of every American having full access to medical treatment. I am vehemently opposed to the government having a finger in making my medical decisions. Does anyone remember HMO’s? The way they tended to screw over the people who needed expensive emergency care, forcing doctors to try cheaper, less successful alternatives? Also, does anyone have any idea what happens to any system or program run by the government? It costs more and does less with the money. Actually, that’s not just the government. Any one-size-fits-all system has the same limitation when individual variation is very large: the outliers are ignored or rationalized away. The system can’t account for everyone and be finitely complex at the same time. When dealing with health, economies of scale do not exist. Each case must be handled on its own merits. None of the systems I have heard being proposed will do that better than what we have now. The problem lies less in the fact that people can’t afford insurance than it does in the fact that common medical procedures cost thousands of dollars. That’s probably where more effort needs to be focused. Just, not by the government.

There is a basic, simple lack of sincerity and common decency in the country and the world today. I don’t mean “lack of decency” as in too much porn and drugs and general debauchery. That’s more of a symptom. I mean that people used to give a crap about the other guy. Nowadays it seems that everyone is always looking out only for himself all the time and to hell with anyone in his way. They’re looking for a payday, and if that means being a dick, so much the better. I haven’t mentioned any specific politicians up to this point, but here’s a perfect example: Hillary Clinton. I believe, and I think I’m not alone in this, that she will do or say absolutely anything to get to be the next President, even sleep with her husband. Not because she wants to be a great leader in this time of crisis or due to an overabundant sense of duty. Rather, because it’s the prize. It’s her golden ticket into the history books. It’s the stick with which she will spank the nation into doing things her way. She wants to be Queen, and I think that’s enough reason to keep her as far from the west wing as humanly possible.

But it’s not just her. It’s lawyers who get paid whether they win or not, so they sue as often as they can get away with it. It’s people who use tragedy to promote their personal agendas. It’s dictators who pretend to hold elections to legitimize their rule, and then offer to send observers to monitor our elections. It’s the fact that I can no longer believe independent election monitors are unnecessary in this country. It’s every politician who would rather get reelected than do the best thing for the country. It’s everyone who bases their votes not on what they believe but on who they think will win, just so they can say they voted for the winner, like it’s flippin’ American Idol. It’s everyone who thinks, “What’s in it for me?” before, “What can I do to help?” It’s everyone you meet and hear about every day who make you want to scream, “What the hell is wrong with you people?!”

We used to believe we were better than that. I don’t know what happened, but it needs to stop.

Okay, deep, cleansing breath.

I think that covers the high points. For personal liberty and rational thought, against idiots and criminals. Tell me, oh wise internet, who is my candidate?

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6 Responses to “This I Believe”

  1. Madrocketscientist Says:
    January 30th, 2008

    Gee, I agree with you on most points. Sadly, I see no such candidates out there in this race. I’d run, but I’m not yet old enough, and what are the chances a bald agnostic is gonna get to the White House?

    ReplyReply
  2. Nathan Says:
    January 31st, 2008

    I think Libertarian candidate Wayne Allyn Root is probably closer to you than any of the remaining Republican or Democratic candidates. I like him quite a bit. In addition to solid limited-government positions on most issues, he brings more charisma and less drug-addled weirdness to the campaign than many Libertarians. You won’t agree on everything, but his site might be worth checking out.

    ReplyReply
  3. Deety Says:
    January 31st, 2008

    If you are part of a society that votes, then do so. There may be no candidates and no measures you want to vote for . . but there are certain to be ones you want to vote against. By this rule you will rarely go wrong. If this is too blind for your taste, consult some well-meaning fool (there is always one around) and ask his advice. Then vote the other way. This enables you to be a good citizen (if such is your wish) without spending the enormous amount of time on it that truly intelligent exercise of franchise requires.

    At the risk of shooting myself in the foot, I’ll play the role of the well meaning fool.

    I’ve had to do some soul searching as to what I should do in the event that my Senator is nominated by the Republican party to be the candidate to oppose the Democrats for POTUS. I have some long-standing and fundamental disagreements with the man and am tempted to send a message that he can go shove it but I’ve narrowed it down to one issue that requires me to vote for him against the Democrats. Oddly enough, it is not foreign policy which will be a disaster no matter what even though I believe their options will be far more constrained than their current rhetoric about the war would suggest.

    I wasn’t around to say no thanks when FDR and LBJ offered to help the people out and in the process made radical changes to the relationship between the citizens of this country and their government. I’m here now though and I see a storm brewing which frankly scares me silly.

    The way I see it, the present situation is this:

    Whether right or wrong (wrong IMHO) the nanny class has managed to make a fetish of Universal Health Care as a way of dealing with the high costs of medical treatment. The peepul are crying out for health-care reform and baby wants that bottle NOW!

    If an Obillary becomes president, he/she/it along with a friendly congress will be highly motivated to make CHANGE like you wouldn’t believe and as fast as possible.

    The plans being proposed by Obama and Clinton are virtually indistinguishable and will push the public/private ratio of health care funding past its tipping point*. This will kill private health-care as an option for most people and will prove to be a one way ticket to Socialized Medicine a la the U.K. To try that one out for size just read some of the posts provided by the fine people who are hosting this here shindig.

    The proposals of the two remaining viable Republican candidates are attractive, workable and free-market based and may be the only way to counter the peepul voting themselves a massive and irreversible expansion of the nanny state.

    That pretty much sums up my take on the candidates and measures you may want to vote against. I do and have supported Mitt Romney as a candidate (sorry Fredheads, I just always felt that he was a great guy but applying for the wrong job) and if Hazel and Ted will indulge me I think I can make a positive case for voting for him that addresses your concerns in a separate post.

    I don’t know how successful I will be in making that case for you. For me though, I would definitely feel the need to repent and take a shower if I didn’t do what I could to deny the nannies this massive new expansion of intrusive government power.

    *I recommend the Review of Presidential Candidate’s Proposals for Health Reform published by PricewaterhouseCooper’s Health Research Institute in Nov. 2007

    ReplyReply
  4. Deety Says:
    February 1st, 2008

    Beyond Cybernetic Identity Politics: Why a self-aware computer should support “a robot-like presidential candidate”.

    Please accept my apologies in advance for the length of this post. I realize that it is probably not an inspirational cri de coeur but might I suggest that if one wants that sort of emotional excitement it can be had very cheaply by attending an Obama/Oprah rally. Remember you are in no way obligated to actually vote for the man.

    O.K. here goes:

    Generally speaking, as long as whatever someone else is doing isn’t bothering anyone else, I think they should be left alone…
    This is an ideal of mine as well. I think that its importance to me explains why I come to align with the economic conservatives more so than the other two kinds in the customary tripart division of the “coalition” even though I’m hardly what you would describe as wealthy or particularly concerned with striving to become so in order to gain status. Government regulation is anathema to free markets and I’m pretty confident that Romney understands that. I don’t find profit to be an inherently dirty word and whatever the motive, I’m all for any good excuse to promote individual freedom. I don’t see our government taking the eminently sensible (for example) step of de-criminalizing drug use any time soon but I can’t lay that the feet of any of those candidates who are serious about getting elected in our current climate. As for Romney’s stance against gay marriage I think it has less to do with what people do in their bedrooms than taking a stand against those busybodies in government who have a stake in undermining the role that ignorant un-credentialed parents have in shaping the values and character of their own children. You may not agree with the argument that children are best served by growing up in a stable family headed by two parents of the opposite sex but I think that it does have its merits and shouldn’t be dismissed out-of-hand as, “There those homophobic red-necks go again. Hatin’ on the gays”. I won’t deny that there isn’t a lot of that going on, but in this case, I think that there is more to the issue than even the moronic “Sodomite!!!” screechers understand.

    The second amendment to the US Constitution is an individual right…
    Yep, that’s what Mitt said. I don’t for a minute buy him as any sort of a hunting enthusiast and he has unfortunately fallen prey to the same confusion other policy makers (e.g. Bush) have in distinguishing between the cosmetic and functional properties of some scary looking guns but I’ll give him some credit. He may know jack about guns themselves but at least he gets it right when he recognizes that the right to bear arms is an individual right. Not perfect, but there really are people out there who seriously believe that only the government has that right and two of them have a shot at becoming POTUS.

    Embryonic stem cell research is not murder…
    I think you’re right but there are many people out there who do not agree with us. I can see how repellant ESC would be to those who do view it as murder though and find it reasonable to accommodate them at least as far as not forcing them to pay for it with federal tax dollars. Romney has said that he is fine with the practice of using embryos from fertility clinics remaining legal. He just won’t allow government funds to be used for it. You want to do embryonic stem cell research on the leftovers from fertility clinics? Go get yourself some private funding and have at it. No one is stopping you. If you ask me, the relentless pursuit of government research grants had a lot to do with the manufacturing of the climate “crisis”, but that’s neither here nor there. As far as the whole project of creating new embryos for the express purpose of research, we’re getting into some definitely weird ethical territory there and I’ll leave the ramifications of that as an exercise for the student.

    I’m not in favor of abortion, but then again, I don’t expect I’ll ever have to decide whether or not to have one.
    Physiologically I’m a member of that subset of the population that does have a dog in this fight. Operationally, it’s just not a big issue for me. Despite the shrieks from the coathanger back-alley bogeyman crowd in one corner, or the most fervent prayers from the zealots in the other, abortion is not going to be universally outlawed anytime soon. And even if it is, the scenarios drawn by the extremists on either side are simply not realistic. I’m all for your viability compromise and I also give kudos to the pro-life crowd for fighting the good fight and actually having an effect in helping to change attitudes and making it more likely for abortion to become the rare event we were promised when Roe-v-Wade was decided.

    I’m in favor of nuclear power…
    I’ll just combine this one with the global warming one and part of the “provide for the common defense”. Mitt Romney is the only viable candidate in the field who is not willing to take a flyer on the “scientific consensus” (BTW when the *@#! did we vote on the inverse square law? I must have missed that one.) concerning anthropogenic global warming and hobble the economy in order to effect a negligible reduction in carbon emissions. His Republican rival believes that even if global warming turns out not to be an issue there is no downside to mucking about in our energy economy with sin-taxes on gasoline, farcical cap and trade or carbon credit schemes. Gads.

    Romney supports encouraging the development of alternate energy sources such as nuclear power, bio-diesel and cellulitic ethanol. Near as I can tell, the other candidates figure we’re just going to go out into the hydrogen orchards and harvest batteries. I’m more of a methanol girl myself but it warms me to see that my candidate recognizes the importance of cellulitic ethanol research. I can’t think of a strategy more contra-survival than burning one’s food for fuel.

    He not only supports the environmentally friendlier alternative sources of energy I mentioned above but also sources of energy such as drilling for oil in ANWR and OCS along with coal gassification as alternatives to foreign sources of oil. For Romney, alternative more efficient energy sources are not merely a plus for the economy or a sop to the neo-Luddite adherents of the Goracle (my characterization not his). He consistently makes the point that developing and exploiting alternate energy sources needs to be a vital part of our long-term foreign policy and national defense. Speaking of….

    By the same token, the announced, avowed intent of fundamentalist Islam is to conquer the world by violent means…
    I believe that Romney really gets this and gets this in a way that the other candidates don’t. I urge you to read his position on this issue if you haven’t already. He does not suffer from the tunnel vision that so many of our leaders seem to today, mistaking the battlefields of the present for the totality of the conflict. My assessment of these matters should not carry too much weight with anyone, but Dr. Walid Phares is one of the leading experts on countering the jihadiis and he took the unprecedented step of recommending that Republicans vote for Mitt Romney in the primaries this year. If this is an important issue for you and you haven’t already read one of his books you might find them worth your while.

    One of the few legitimate reasons for the existence of the federal government…
    Of any of the candidates left likely to actually become president, Romney is the only one who has got your back on that one. He parallels your sentiments quite neatly. McCain says that he gets it now…he’s from a border state…. he understands these things. Ehhrm, my mom always said that if you can’t scream something nice don’t scream anything at all.

    National health care: keep the government away from my kidneys!
    I have already mentioned my same concerns about national health care and my belief that no one in the next administration will be able to punt the issue in the previous post. It’s something of a luxury that we have here in the states right now to read the occasional story about the state of health care in the U.K. where they are seriously debating rationing who gets what health care when or if based on someone else’s evaluation of the worth or value of the patient’s lifestyle. If you wonder how they could be letting that happen, remember well that he who pays the piper calls the tune.

    You said in your post that none of the systems that you have heard proposed would do better than what we have now. I would respectfully beg to disagree. The proposals put forth by Giulliani, McCain and Romney all have an underlying rationale of moving as many people as possible away from government funded health care (with its inherent problems that you seem to see clearly) and into privately funded health care. You are correct when you identify the real problem being the fact that medical care is too expensive for most people not health insurance.

    The outcome being sought by encouraging as many people as possible to obtain their own private policies through tax breaks, sometimes subsidies, expanding choice by allowing the individual to purchase plans from companies in another state etc. is not private health insurance per se. Although a higher proportion of private funding will ease the distorting and inflationary effects of government funding on the price of medical services, by itself it won’t be enough to drive prices down to a rational level.

    I could go into more detail as to how the systems proposed by the republicans would in fact, if enacted, make health care itself more affordable but this is not the time or place. Let me sum the issue up this way: Hillary Clinton says that under her program, if you currently have insurance through your employer nothing will change. On an individual, short term level that is true. What she and Obama neglect to mention is the fact that as more and more people who do not have employer provided insurance elect to have the government provide their coverage this will effectively drive private health care coverage out of the market entirely.

    Right now, in the U.K. if a patient wants to pay out of her own pocket for one cancer treatment that is not approved by the NHS she must foot the entire cost of her oncology care. If you are in the position to be able to entirely self-fund your medical care, congratulations. You were half right when you said that none of the systems you have heard proposed would be better than the one we have now. Some of the systems proposed would be far worse and remove what limited and admittedly imperfect options and alternatives we have now.

    Again, sorry for the long post but as you can tell, I really think that these things matter.

    ReplyReply
  5. Mycroft Holmes Says:
    February 1st, 2008

    I thank you for your detailed and reasoned response, Deety. I admit I have not read every candidate’s position papers; technically my statement was accurate in that I haven’t heard these health care proposals as yet. Now I have things to read this weekend.

    I absolutely agree that children raised in a home with two parents tend to turn out better than those from broken homes. There hasn’t been a large enough sample yet to determine if the parents must be of differing genders. We made it illegal before we were sure it was bad for people. Truthfully, this is pretty low on my list of priorities. If it’s the one way a candidate and I differ, we can work something out.

    Say, methanol is good, isn’t it? I didn’t know anyone was pursuing it as an alternative.

    There’s a belief in scientific circles that if you want to do any big science, groundbreaking type stuff, you need government money because everyone else expects a profit by the end of the fiscal year. When you cut government funding for research, you effectively kill that research. Maybe that isn’t true, but the people who hunt down the money think it’s true, so it becomes so. If I had more money than I could stand, I just might start a stem cell research lab.

    I’m not going to discuss every point, because that would wind up as a whole new post. Suffice it to say I appreciate your input.

    ReplyReply
  6. Ted Bronson Says:
    February 1st, 2008

    *standing*

    Brava, Deety. Brava!

    ReplyReply

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