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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Religion And Politics (from September, 2005)

It is interesting that the freedom of religion, speech, assembly, and complaints against the government are all addressed in the First Amendment,
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

It is as though the founding fathers knew that there was a connection, that if they were separated it might be easier to abridge these rights at a later time by eliminating one or the other. By combining all these rights into one article, these rights have been preserved en masse. The difficulty in such a comprehensive freedom is the ability to govern for the benefit of the general populace, the ability to limit one’s freedom so as not to impinge another’s freedom. Also, with regard to religion, what exactly is a religion? Many Americans get up every morning and religiously drink coffee. Should this be accepted as the religion of caffeine, and thereby afforded all privileges of a religion? Clearly, if all these coffee drinkers organized into a group with common practices, praising the bean, considering the Coffea arabica plant, being the first known source, to be sacred, then it should be formally recognized as a religion. Starbucks would love the tax breaks! If this system of religion were not recognized by the United States as valid, would this be an intolerable oversight, perhaps an unconstitutional denial? Ridiculous, you say? Yeah, actually it is, but recognition would not be as ridiculous as legislating these practices into law. The forefathers of this country may have believed in a Supreme Whatever, that there was a God of some form, a higher power, but they also had the wisdom to recognize that God didn’t give a fetid pair of dingo’s kidneys about the politics of the human race and that there was no place for God in government except as a humbling factor. George W. Bush however, professes that God in the form of his personal savior, Jesus Christ is concerned not only with his well being, but also the well being of the United States. “…our responsibility to history is already clear: to answer these attacks and rid the world of evil.” Presidential speech, 15 September, 2001. To exercise civil justice maybe is a valid reaction to terrorism, but not to exorcise demons. The United States is not God’s hammer of justice.
Bush is an anomaly. To claim to be a Christian politician is an oxymoron. One can either live as a Christian, or live as a politician, but one cannot truly be both. Jesus was an anarchist who although he accepted that government did exist, discounted it as folly. Jesus’ interpretation of the law was simple positive accountability. He saw no need for government, and expressed it succinctly saying, “In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets” Matthew 7:12, New Testament, Judeo-Christian Bible. To wrap oneself in the Bible, to declare alliance with the precepts of Jesus’ teachings and yet be entrenched in political machinations is antithetical.
The true purpose of the First Amendment is to keep the State out of the Church. The idea of “separation of church and state” is an extension of that principle, but not the principle itself. The idea of separation of church and state is derived from a letter Thomas Jefferson penned in 1802 to the Danbury Baptist association in Connecticut which stated, “Legislature should make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state.” The intent of this article is foremost to keep the state out of the church, not necessarily the reverse. For many however, religion, the church is of supreme value for the course of their lives. Therefore, it is mandated by their belief system that they must actively participate in government to ensure the principles of their faith be respected by the government. This double-edged sword is often carried high in self righteous indignation, and swung hard at perceived injustice and impingement of their freedoms, their unalienable rights. The difficulty of course, is that the wielder’s zeal often blinds them to the unalienable rights of others. Blind justice is one thing, but blind swordplay is quite another. George W. Bush wrapped himself in the bible during his gubernatorial campaign and has maintained his faith position throughout his Presidency. Bush is sincere in his faith convictions, but being sincere in carrying out his official duties guided by his personal religious convictions is dangerous, prejudicial, and narrow of view. We are mired in a holy war with another country and we are mired in a holy war here at home. The right wing conservatives applaud his efforts, but the rest of the country and the world question his judgment. With Bush we have a man who follows through with the ultra-conservative religious desires of a faction of his constituents to the discrimination of other religious groups. For instance, according to the Frontline report, The Jesus Factor, his efforts to encourage faith based assistance programs have catered to Christian groups while denying government support to Islamic, Jewish, and other groups. Was Bush directly involved in this discrimination, who knows? But Bush is implicitly involved by so fervently stating his Christian values time and again as paramount in his official decision making process.
The political aspects of this are of course profound. Politicians commonly establish platforms of religious ethics and ideals to win votes. They may or may not intend to follow through on these campaign promises, but they will issue statements catering to the majority of voters in order to garner popularity. Then once in office they can hide behind the bureaucratic machine to justify their inability to effect the promised changes. It is always someone else’s fault if things don’t go the way of the constituent’s desires. Yet with Bush, he has followed through with decisions based in religious, instead of impartial, judgment. Bush seems to confuse secular ethics with religious ethics.
One of the hottest buttons to push has always been the subject of abortion. The religious conservative considers abortion at any stage to be murder, but current law allows for an abortion at the mother’s discretion within the first trimester. Liberals see the ability to terminate a pregnancy as one of the unalienable rights of the mother, while conservative religious factions would have the government make the termination of a pregnancy illegal except under very narrow, extreme circumstances. Emotions run high in all camps at present for fear of who may be appointed for the two vacant Supreme Court positions. The two positions, O’Connor (Liberal-retired) and Rehnquist (Conservative-dead) were a balance to each other. The President now may attempt to shift the overall political climate of the court to conservative, balanced, or liberal. It frightens conservatives that the liberal anarchist may take control (which is a contradiction of terms), and adversely the liberal contingency fears that the highest court of the land may now become conservative and issue in a new era of the police state. Bush’s first nomination, John Roberts is a staunch conservative who the liberal bent fear, among other things, will if the opportunity presents itself overturn the Roe vs. Wade 410 U.S. 113 (1973) precedent decision. So far, in typical political fashion Roberts has given rhetorical non-answers to the Senates questions on the matter. Roberts however, or even Bush is not the problem. The deeper problem in all of this is today’s political climate and the acceptance by the American people of the evasion of our fundamental constitutional foundation. America as a people has become politically lazy. Americans, if they are not part of the elite within the system, typically either accept that the government knows what it is doing, feel impotent to change the system, or worse yet, they just don’t care.

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Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Political Party Ideas (from October, 2005)

Most American citizens consider the U.S. political system to be a two party political system, and for the most part this is correct. This political system is dominated by two parties; the Democratic Party and the Republican Party. Because it is every citizen’s right to form a political party, there are in actuality hundreds of recognized political parties in this country in any given election year. In addition to Democratic and Republican, we have Libertarian party, Green party, Reform party, Constitution party, Natural Law party, Communist party, American Nazi party, Socialist party, Workers World party, American Reform party, Freedom Socialist party, Socialist Labor party, Timesizing party, Labor party, America First party, New Union party, Young Democratic Socialist party, Pansexual Peace party, and the list goes on. With this much partying going on, we should be having a lot more fun, shouldn’t we?

In the developmental years of this country parties sprung up quickly to support candidates for elected office. It is the “Birds of a feather” doctrine and it works both for and against fair representation of the people’s interest; primarily against. The diverse fractionalization of the constituency tends to dilute the power of opposition to the point of impotence by separating candidacy and government into factions of sectional interest. So no longer are elected officials acting in the best interest of the country, but rather are acting in their own best interest to get re-elected by pandering to the vocal majority (which is most often the loudest money.)

The media in its effort to gain favor from the system panders to the idea of there being only two relevant political parties and this idea has been perpetuated throughout the world. In an article from New Zealand discussing the Japan/United States beef policies the author states, “Nearly two dozen US senators from both political parties urged…” leaving all readers with the impression that there are only two parties in the US political system. This is a subtle semantic argument, granted, but if the author had said, “from the Democratic and Republican parties” it would have eluded to the fact that there are other parties in existence. The word, “both” denotes only two.

Semantics are everything in politics. Semantics allow the politicians and the party machine to lie and display it as truth. Media coverage of events rarely mentions the Libertarian, Green, or any politician other than the Democrat or Republican. When a Presidential debate is held, Democrat, Republican, and occasionally a third party candidate are invited, but never has there been a debate with all Presidential candidates present. To have all candidates present would be an organizational nightmare, but we are talking about the leadership of this country. Isn’t that worth a little effort on the part of the present government and media to ensure there is adequate and fair representation of all political candidates? Oh no, that would be detrimental to the self interest of “The Party” and would reduce the power base of “The Party.” Power is the key; control.

The system is an entity unto itself. The party system operates in the same manner as a corporate system. The only driving force is to perpetuate itself. The only way to perpetuate itself is to support the powerful interests within the system. The Democratic and Republican parties are the most powerful interests in the system, so the system excludes others from disrupting the balance. The system is protected from change. Since the party system does not allow for diverse influence, it is limited and unfair. The delicate balance of the two parties is in effect way out of balance if one takes the global view and looks at the “big picture.” The Democratic Party tends toward more liberal platforms; a more socialist bent, and the Republican Party stands for order, and justice (he said mockingly); a more conservative bent, but in reality they are both pretty much the same. They both want to talk a lot and do nothing. Their primary concern is to achieve and maintain power. So, in effect citizens actually have no choice in the existing political system. One either votes for a third party candidate, who if elected will most often be impotent to effect change, or may vote for either the Democratic or Republican candidate who if elected will talk about important issues and yet do little to nothing about it.

Another major factor in securing power is money. Only the rich elite have any real access to the political system, so the rich elite control the system. The rich elite own the media, so that also is controlled and manipulated to ensure the exclusion of outside influence; to protect the system from change. The populace is separated from the elite, and the elite are protected from the general populace. It is and always will be an economic issue. The vast majority of this nation, the general populace is placated with the pretence of involvement. It is every citizen’s right to create or join a political party, but if one creates a party, one has little hope of effecting any real change, and if one is effective, it will be on a very, very minute scale. Typically, a third party can do little more than make enough noise so that one of the two major parties will adopt an idea, but in the end the idea will be homogenized and diluted so much that it rarely resembles the original idea. Only occasionally, such as in the 1992 election where Ross Perot made so much noise about the national budget, will there be any effective change. And of course, that was short lived. Only if we had a strong third party showing every four years, would things perhaps change in a timely manner on a national level. Unfortunately, there are virtually none of the elite rich who wish to see change in the system. Ross Perot was an anomaly. And if one joins one of the two major parties, one is merely supporting the system that maintains the status quo. To the Democrats, the average citizen is a pet. To the Republicans, the average citizen is a slave. The commonality is that if one is not a member of the elite, one is a lower class citizen who must be managed.

The media support the system that owns them by running the propaganda machine. One point made by James Bowman of The New Criterion, “…but the media, being in the business of full-time reality-manufacture, are a bit slower to understand the difference between self-created realities and, well, the real kind.” So it is not that the media actually act in a malevolent manner to hide the truth, well sometimes, yes, but it is that the propaganda machine as with the political machine pretty much runs itself. It is once again all smoke and mirrors and slight of hand. It is a system being in place that by its own impetus protects itself from change. There are elite powers making decisions to ensure the elite stay elite, and the rest of the world stay separated from them, but the system itself perpetuates this.

Do not consider this a conspiracy, but rather the edge of conspiracy. A conspiracy must have conscious, active involvement. All of the actions in the propaganda machine and the political machine, or any human bureaucratic machine are innate. It is conspiratorial by nature, not by human design. It is too complex for mere mortals to take credit for putting it in operation. It is too grand. If one is of a religious bent, one may wish to blame Satan if one is in the oppressed majority, or credit God if one is within the elite minority. The existential view is to just ignore the “why” of it all and simply accept it. Either way, if you are not one of the elite, you are simply shit-out-of-luck in the current political system.

Crime in America (from October, 2005)

One cannot have freedom from crime. If there is society, some form of organized cooperative effort to coexist together, our nature as human beings ensures that at some point there will be conflict, and conflict breeds contempt, and contempt breeds retaliation; ergo, crime. Simply put, a crime is something done which is forbidden by law, or something not done which is required by law. To expand on that definition, crime can be painted with a much broader brush. In the course of daily events, if a person or persons through intentional action or inaction causes harm to another human being, or beings, this is a crime. Two key elements of crime are harm, and intent. Although the actual definition of what constitutes harm can be somewhat nebulous, harm is a given, but intent can be very subtle, and intent is an integral aspect of what constitutes a crime. Not necessarily the intent to commit a crime, but the intent to act or not to act, the choices made which result ultimately in a criminal act denotes complicity.

When Bush reacts to the terrorist attacks of 2001 by ignoring the principles of law on which this nation is founded, he has committed a criminal act. When Bush’s actions are upheld by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the court is then committing a crime against the nation, against the laws it is sworn to uphold. Robert F. Hawes writing for the Sierra Times, September 17th, 2005 sites the 1861 case of John Merryman whereby Merryman was roused from his bed and held without warrant by federal soldiers because he was allegedly involved with secession advocates. The parallel drawn by Hawes between this 1861 case and the 2002 case of Jose Padilla demonstrates how Bush is usurping authority in the same way as Lincoln, but more covertly. Hawes writes, “part of this new post-9/11, Lincolnesque reality is the ‘enemy combatant’ designation. Enemy combatants, the Bush administration tells us, are those individuals (including American citizens) whom the administration regards as potential terrorists. Those designated as enemy combatants, so says the administration, may be imprisoned without charge and held without trial. Yes, you read that right -- even American citizens.” Lincoln had given authority to the military to suspend the writ of habeas corpus in order to maintain order for the common good of the country. Bush suspended the writ of habeas corpus by simply ignoring Padilla’s rights as a United States citizen, and Judge Michael Luttig of the 4th Circuit Court in writing, “The exceedingly important question before us, is whether the President of the United States possesses the authority to detain militarily a citizen of this country who is closely associated with al Qaeda, an entity with which the United States is at war. We conclude that the President does possess such authority.” supports that Constitutional abridgement in its conclusion. The President has no such power, then or now. Whether or not John Merryman, Jose Padilla, you or I have committed a crime is irrelevant. As a citizen of the United States of America, there are first and foremost Constitutional considerations to be made in all action taken by the government, military, or police against the citizenry. In this country, one must consider the Constitutional implications of any action. To do otherwise and ignore those Constitutional implications would be to murder a living document.

Governmental crime is a subtle, rampant issue. From the abridgment of Constitutional rights, to the arbitrary citing of traffic violations, to actions taken by officials in violation of the law because they have no oath of office, the citizens of the United States are at the mercy and whim of government authority. Cities and States are corporations. Each corporation employs police to enforce the laws that the corporation imposes on its residents. The city and state employ judges to meet out sentences appropriate to the crime as required, or perhaps restricted by law; law promulgated by the governmental corporate entity. It is a grave injustice for an entity to have control over the creation of law, enforcement of law, and sentence under law, and yet these are the conditions under which we all live. Perhaps Madison was wrong, and mob rule would be better.

Freedom has historically been, and still is today the boisterous cry from the American people, but freedom comes at a great cost. Freedom is a violent, tumultuous course. Even though America leads the world in violent crime, violent crime is at an all time low in this country, and one theory in particular is quite interesting. According to Bob Brockie of the Dominion Post, “Between 1990 and 2000, the homicide rate in New York fell 74 percent, and, across the whole of the United States, by 40 percent.” Brockie points to a theory postulated by Professor Steven Levitt that the drop is caused by the increased accessibility of abortion to the poor allowing unwed mothers to avoid having babies when they have no means to care for them. Brockie writes, “Abortions were legalized in some American states before 1971. Twenty years later, the murder rates in those states suddenly fell 23 per cent. In 1973, after the landmark Roe vs Wade Supreme Court decision, legalized abortion was extended to the whole country. Twenty years later, violent crime fell dramatically over the whole country.” There is a link between the poor and crime. Poor people as a class have little or nothing to lose, psychologically tend to be more passionate than other classes, and therefore tend to react to any given circumstance with instinctual survival, self concern being the highest value. If you reduce the number of poor, you in turn reduce the number of violent crimes. The theory may well prove true, but violent crime as in murder, robbery, and hate crimes are only a symptom.

The criminal source is deep within our society, hidden within the political, governmental, and corporate systems. The true crime in this country is the confidence game being played out against the majority by the elite few. The wealthy contingent in America, the 5% of the population who control 45% of the country’s assets make well calculated decisions solely for their own interests, but by influencing politicians and government officials and judges, by controlling the corporate management of this country, the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial branches of our government, this 5% of the population effectively fool the other 95% of the population into believing that the majority rules. Through advertising and politicking the majority is given an ideal to pursue, the proverbial carrot in the form of the American Dream. This mollifies the majority into compliance, keeps the populace impotent to effect change, and keeps the majority, the mice in the maze all scurrying around seeking to satisfy their own self interest. There is division among the elite, but this only supports the system that separates the classes. Each elite faction fuels just enough of the poor and middle class opposing factions so as to keep the 95% from becoming a coalesced, organized majority. It is the ancient Latin maxim, Divide et impera which has been used throughout history by so many cultures in war and in government. If the 95% of the population, the poor and the middle class ever managed to put aside their self interest for but a moment, the revolution would come. The subtle underlying crime of the state and the elite would be stopped.

No group can ever be completely and totally free of crime, but the more sinister and subtle crime of the wealthy elite standing on the backs of the common man could be eliminated. The American people could rise up and take control of their lives, establish a new society, free from the tyranny of the elite. Although 100% freedom is anarchy, eliminating the control of the elite would establish a more free society for the majority, but is that truly what the majority want? The American people could have more freedom. Unfortunately, the one aspect of American patriotism that is true; if you want freedom, you must believe it is worth dying for. Now that I think about it, maybe I’m happier just being a mouse in a maze. Maybe the perceived safety of captivity is just right for me. I wouldn’t say, “Give me liberty or give me death.” as did Patrick Henry in 1775. I think I would say, “Give me a warm meal and then let me sleep.”