Thursday, September 23, 2010

Proving Churchill Wrong - Or Maybe Not

Winston Churchill is famously quoted as saying, "Show me a young conservative and I'll show you someone with no heart. Show me an old liberal and I'll show you someone with no brains."  While the Churchill Centre says this quote is falsely attributed to the late statesman, many hold the saying to be true and it has become part of our popular culture.  Yet, if the quote is valid, I may not possess either a heart or a brain.

I'd be tender, I'd be gentle, and awful sentimental...

With the thoughts I'd be thinking, I could be another Lincoln

For anyone that has known me during high school and kept up with me through the years, you know that I have been undergoing somewhat of a political switch.  Perhaps this is just true of most students of politics (especially those who attend liberal arts universities); however, I think this change has been somewhat marked in my philosophical evolution.  Even before I could vote, I was ├╝ber conservative.  To continue with the German you might could say I was a potential wunderkind of the Republican Party.  I would debate politics with my high school teachers and was even there for the chartering of the Cherokee County Republican Party and attended the first several annual fundraiser banquets.  When I began to drive, I had four (no more, no less) "Bush/Cheney '06" bumper stickers on my car along with my three magnetic "Support our Troops" ribbons.  I even tried to found a chapter of the Teenage Republicans at my high school but could not find a faculty sponsor.  However, it would not stay this way for long...

It all began with my reading of On Liberty by John Stuart Mill (which continues to be one of my favorite reads, both fiction and non-fiction).  Notions like "One person with a belief is equal to ninety-nine who have only interests" and "If mankind minus one were of one opinion, then mankind is no more justified in silencing the one than the one - if he had the power - would be justified in silencing mankind" and "When there are persons to be found, who form an exception to the apparent unanimity of the world on any subject, even if the world is in the right, it is always probable that dissentients have something worth hearing to say for themselves, and that truth would lose something by their silence" changed my life forever.  I read this for the first time in high school and have read it dozens of times since then.  That combined with many other readings, classes and discussions since then have broadened my horizons, opened my mind and made me a more logically empowered skeptic.  However, others have said that it made me a liberal.  ;)  

While I hesitated to except any political labels for the longest time (both because of my philosophical objections to labels and the diversity of my various political beliefs), I have started to accept this.  Perhaps this is true seeing as I made my support of Barack Obama's campaign for the presidency as well as his job since then and just this week referred to myself for the first time as Democrat.  ;)

Yet, all this (while important I suppose) was all just a preface to the real subject of this blog.  Earlier today, I read the new "Pledge to America" authored by contemporary Republicans and reminiscent of Newt Gingrich.  And in the vein of my new political ideology (and perhaps fledgling party identification) I would like to share my thoughts with you.

Rather than ordering my thoughts, I'm just going to begin at the beginning of the document and provide you with some quotes on which I would like to comment.  To clarify, I'm not going to comment on everything as that would last forever, so I know that I am being selective with my comments but I am also trying my best not to take them out of context.  Then I will provide some summary thoughts at the end.  If you've read this far, perhaps you will stick with me through the end.  And away we go:

They start off with some flowery language about liberty and invoking the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.  It's all nice and pretty, but clearly not uniquely Republican.

An unchecked executive, a compliant legislature, and an overreaching judiciary have combined to thwart the will of the people and overturn their votes and their values, striking down long-standing laws and institutions and scorning the deepest beliefs of the American people.

Ok, I'd like to stop again here.  While I would disagree with the assertion that Obama is "an unchecked executive," I think it is important to point out that the power of the executive in this country has been expanding well beyond what I believe the founders intended for over a century now if not longer.  Furthermore, this legislature has been anything but "compliant."  When Bush II was still president with a Republican majority in Congress, he could get anything pushed through without thinking twice about it (i.e. The Patriot Act).  However, the Democrats had a super-majority and it still took them over a year to pass healthcare legislation that had been stripped to the bones by the time it met the president's pen.  Lastly, I'm not exactly sure what will they've been thwarting or what values they've been overturned.  In fact, I feel very confident that very few people either in support or opposition of the legislation ever read it and just took some pundits word about it's content and have no idea whether or not it is in line with their personal beliefs and values.

An arrogant and out-of-touch government of self-appointed elites makes decisions, issues mandates, and enacts laws without accepting or requesting the input of the many.

I have serious problems with anyone asserting that our politicians should be overly responsive to public opinion polls.  While certainly they should not ignore public opinion, I know that you can structure certain questions to get pretty much any kind of results you want and firmly believe that our "infotainment" news media (not to mention some of our politicians) would stoop that low.  

We pledge to honor the Constitution as constructed by its framers and honor the original intent of those precepts that have been consistently ignored

I wonder if this includes the part of the 2nd Amendment that talks about a militia.

We pledge to honor families, traditional marriage, life, and the private and faith-based organizations that form the core of our American values.

For people who are so expressive about the need for being responsive to public opinion, they seem to ignore the recent polls (the results of which aren't all that new) that show that most Americans are in favor of allowing the LGBT community the same rights that every other American has without question.

In addition, the marriage penalty will return, the child tax credit will be cut in half, and the Alternative Minimum Tax will ensnare more than 25 million taxpayers.

That number sounds high, but they don't tell you if those 25 million tax payers are the richest in the nation or how much of the share of general revenue is generated by taxing this group of people.  It's very simple to be fast and easy with numbers without giving them any context.

We will help the economy by permanently stopping all tax increases, currently scheduled to take effect January 1, 2011.

This is part of their solution to the economic problems we are facing but again they make no mention of who these taxes are on.  While I'm certainly no expert, whose to say that they aren't stopping all taxes on those who are making millions and then get more millions in bonuses and benefits at the expense of the poor.

We will set strict budget caps to limit federal spending on an annual basis. Budget caps were used in the 1990s, when a Republican Congress was able to bring the budget into balance and eventual surplus.

They don't mention that they did this in cooperation with a Democratic president, something that they have been reluctant to do since Obama took office.

Earlier this year, House Republicans launched the YouCut initiative to combat the permissive culture of runaway spending in Congress. Over the course of nine weeks, YouCut produced proposals to save taxpayers more than $120 billion. We will continue to hold weekly votes on spending cuts.

YouCut...  While some herald this as the pinnacle of democratic involvement, I say it is American Idol goes to Congress.  And if you've seen some of the people who get tons of votes on American Idol, you will know that this may not be the best idea.  In addition, they don't tell you what asinine things that the people suggested and voted on that comprise those cuts, but I'd bet there wasn't any reduction of military spending proposed.  I'm not necessarily opposed to trimming the fat on our federal spending but this is the most ridiculous way to do it that could ever be conceived.  Our Founding Fathers would roll over in their graves if they had any idea what the internet was...

We will impose a net hiring freeze on non-security federal employees and ensure that the public sector no longer grows at the expense of the private sector.

So there solution to creating more jobs, is not allowing the federal government to create new jobs?  They say the private sector will pick up the slack, but if that doesn't happen when the government is dumping billions of dollars into the economy, I don't see it happening all of a sudden when we stop that funding.

Because the new health care law kills jobs, raises taxes, and increases the cost of health care, we will immediately take action to repeal this law.

I disagree with this out of hand.  There are many provisions of the healthcare bill that go into effect this week that will immediately begin to help Americans throughout the nation and from all income brackets.

We will repeal President Obama’s government takeover of health care and replace it with common-sense reforms focused on strengthening the doctor-patient relationship.

I didn't realize the healthcare bill made me and my doctor adversaries...

We will make it illegal for an insurance company to deny coverage to someone with prior coverage on the basis of a pre-existing condition, eliminate annual and lifetime spending caps, and prevent insurers from dropping your coverage just because you get sick.

I'm confused...  Isn't that what the bill that they are vilifying does?

Despite having the largest Democratic majority since 1993, the current Congress marked the first time in the history that not a single spending bill was considered under an “open” amendment process.

If they are asserting that they would not have added pointless amendments to uselessly bog down legislation, I'm gonna go ahead and throw the BS flag.

We will ensure that bills are debated and discussed in the public square by publishing the text online for at least three days before coming up for a vote in the House of Representatives.

I've always been able to read legislation online...

Legislation should be understood by all interested parties before it is voted on.

With the media pushing skewed versions of everything these days, nothing would ever get passed if it must "be understood by all interested parties" before it comes up for a vote.

We will require each bill moving through Congress to include a clause citing the specific constitutional authority upon which the bill is justified.

This is an interesting idea, but I have some hesitations.  Firstly, they are already complaining about legislation being too long but are suggesting adding more clauses.  Secondly, I foresee this adding pointless debates as I doubt there will be agreement on what constitutional precedent should be cited or whether the bill is a legitimate expression of that precedent.  Lastly, this seems to be overstepping the Legislative branch's authority.  It is given to the Courts to interpret and apply the Constitution, but this seems to give the Congress the power to specify which parts of the Constitution should be applied.  That in and of itself sounds un-Constitutional and I would like them to cite "the specific constitutional authority upon which the bill is justified"  ;)

The number of House legislative days devoted to action on noncontroversial and often insignificant “suspension” bills is up significantly in this Congress by comparison with the past several Congresses, wasting time and taxpayer resources.

I submit that this has been the case since the first Congress was in session.

And we will never apologize for advancing the cause of freedom and democracy around the world, nor will we abandon our historic role in lifting up those who struggle to receive the blessings of liberty.

You mean like we helped the people in Rwanda or Darfur... Oh wait...

We will hold President Obama and his administration responsible for any Guantanamo Bay detainees they release who return to fight against our troops or who have become involved in any terrorist plots or activities.

Instead, we should apparently keep holding them illegally...

Foreign terrorists do not have the same rights as American citizens

I remember reading something somewhere about all people are endowed with certain rights by their creator and that those sorts of things should be self-evident...

While that is certainly  not everything in this pledge on which I have an opinion, but I think it is a fair summation and also think that I have picked out some of the true highlights of the piece.  While I agree with some of what they say and like the appeal to the Constitution and things of that nature, it is blatantly obvious that all of this is politically motivated and has nothing to do with any legitimate attempt to restore us to the Constitution.  If they truly cared about Constitutional principles or ensuring liberty and freedom, they would abandon such items on their agenda like extending certain provisions of The Patriot Act or opposing overturning Don't Ask, Don't Tell.  While I'm not necessarily an apologetic for the Democratic Party (in fact, I have plenty of problems with the left that I will save for another day), this blog is a direct call out of the Republican Party.  The party that once stood for equality, balanced spending and protecting the rights of individuals has become bogged down in the same political games of which they accuse their opponents.  

But it's time for both parties and every elected official to realize that they aren't playing a game.  They have been called to be responsible and reasonable representatives of the American people and those same American people are suffering while Congress plays around with their lives.  It is nothing new, but if we really want to restore the true essence of our republic, I suggest that the Republican and Democratic Parties alike take some advice from Michael

 So, while my own personal political journey may be confounding to the esteemed and Right Honourable Mr. Churchill, I would like to think that I am now better empowered to be an open-minded, logical skeptic and that there is some validity to my criticisms.  Until next time, I am -- as always --

Very truly and sincerely yours,

The Apprentice Philosopher

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

My Aplogies Again

So, it seems that Steinbeck was correct about planning.  I always have such ambitious plans for blogging, that never come to fruition.  I promised a variety of topics on which I would share my thoughts over the summer and I only covered one of them.  While I may go back and address some of the others later, I wouldn't advise holding one's breath.  However, I have recently discovered that a popular thing to do among academics in my discipline is to blog.  And as someone who is now (at least according to my professors) a member of the discipline, I will endeavor once again to be true to this new calling and post at least once a week (as has been my intent all along).  Although I have no intentions of posting long lists of upcoming topics ever again, I do know that I will be posting my thoughts on the Sept. 19 Alabama Gubernatorial debate which I was able to attend.  I know that not many people even visit this page, but if you are reading this, I share with you my deepest appreciation and look forward to your comments.

As always, I am most humbly and sincerely yours.

The Apprentice Philosopher