Obama after Wisconsin

Barack Obama made a 45 minute campaign speech in Texas after his victory in Wisconsin. His theme is change, but his speech was themed on a return to failed policies of the past. I heard Woodrow Wilson, I heard FDR, I heard George McGovern, I heard every union organizer of the twenties and thirties.

 If Obama is the Democratic party’s candidate for the general election that speech will come back to haunt him, McCain’s speech on change in the right direction is a better direction. McCain (full disclosure, he has been my “man” for years) has a problem in presentation, and how much of that is due to injuries in his captivity is not clear (broken jaw and shoulders).

 Until that speech tonight by Obama I was rooting for him over Ms. Clinton because I thought that if my man lost the general election he would be a better President than she (a tabula rasa who would learn in office, a fox versus her badger). That one speech has changed my opinion – this man is committed to policies that might have been valid seventy years ago, but are not now. This is not the empty suit I thought of him as, this is a committed leftist who would “kill the goose that lays the golden eggs”, i.e., our free market economy that, although flawed in many ways, is an engine of productivity – and in being that is also a fount of help for the weakest of the world.

Prayer, and faith

By now any of you who have read my posts on this site know that I’m atheist – not an Atheist – just a man without enough certainty of knowledge to take sides on the issue. Technically that defines me as agnostic (the Greek “a” prefix meaning “without” and the word “gnostic” meaning, approximately, knowledge). Agnostic, however, is often used for one who is “seeking”, when used in the religious sense – so I prefer the more definitive “a” “theist”, without a god.

Nice preamble, now to the point. This evening I watched a TV show called Fight Quest on Discovery, an obvious play off their successful series on martial arts. The protagonists were learning the French Savate form of fighting (in a week, of course they were already fighters). Just prior to the defining fight (a set up, of course) one was taken to the church in Marseilles to pray – and the side bar said this was the norm for the French fighters.

Much of the press, and all of the group that Bill O’Reilly calls the “secular progressives”, say that President Bush in his open admission of praying to God each morning is asking God to tell him what to do. The fighter said it right, “I always pray before a fight – so this is nothing new to me. I don’t pray for victory or help, I pray for strength and courage to do what I must do”. Our President said a similar thing, although not so succintly, in his recent interview with Chris Wallace of Fox News – and has said it often before. I pray that I may have the strength and wisdom to do the right thing.

I have no problem with that, I do the same. In my case it is an introspection rather than an appeal to a higher authority, but it is yet a prayer. One can never be sure that one is right in one’s decisions, but the decisions have to be made. Some of the faithful pray to God for guidance in their decisions, that could be taken as resigning their judgement to the interpretations of the scriptures. I think that fighter, and our President, pray only for that indefinable calm/strength to look at the future with clear eyes. It matters not whether there is a God to answer the prayer, it matters only that the prayer is offered and the man has the humility to see a greater purpose outside himself.

A disclaimer, I notice that my only examples are President Bush and the anonymous Savate practitioner. I don’t mean that to be an endorsement of either in general, I chose them as they were the testimonies I’d just seen.

A greater purpose may not be a universal purpose, it may just be one defined by the random events of evolution that have brought us to being mankind. It doesn’t matter how you read it, or define it, there is a value set that is ingrained in most of mankind. Whether we find it within our selves, or in the communal conversation with our God, is a personal matter. What is important is to live by those values, and to make our decisions with regard for them.

There are those within each of the many religious communites of the world who do act according to interpretations of scripture – but most of the religious act according to the universal principles that may for some be written on stone tablets, and for others be the simple gift of humanity. When the action is the observance of some “laws”, such as Kosher or meatless Fridays, then it is innocuous. When it involves violence against others who don’t obey those laws then it is a matter for concern for all.

A Personal Manifesto

I am a Republican. I have been a Republican all my independently sentient life (born 1935, you decide when I became sentient). My parents were resident aliens (green-carders) from the British Empire (he Canadian, she English) – they intentionally didn’t involve themselves in US politics as they felt they had no right to unless they chose to take citizenship.

They tended toward the Democrats, as FDR was a hero to them for supporting Britain in WWII, but US politics weren’t dinner table conversation. I chose to be a Republican while in college in the fifties – a basic conservative attitude. But back then there was an overlap in the spectrum.

 I am tired of listening to the right end of my party speaking of  “real Republicans” as only the conservatives who pass all their litmus tests.  In the sixties I would have been called a “Rockefeller Republican” or a “Progressive Republican” – but I voted for Goldwater in 1964. I am also tired of listening to the left end of the Democrat party using litmus tests for their candidates. Democracy is a bad system, Plato pointed that out – but democracy isn’t what we have. True democracy would be the system suggested by Ross Perot of having an electronic vote by the entire populace on each and every bill before the Congress – that would be a recipe for chaos, and no Congress would be needed. Ron Paul and the libertarians, and the anarchists of the left, would like that. But it is necessary for a bit of balance and compromise to have a viable government.

 At the extreme, let us take a population divided into two uniform groups, each of which share all opinions among themselves and are diametrically opposed to the opinions of the other group. Let us make them 50.1% on one side and 49.9% the other. Stability of the nation would be impossible, a shift of a small percent in the population would make a radical change in the nature of the nation. My Jurisprudence professor in college likened the job of the Supreme Court versus popular opinion to the pendulum on an old clock. Popular opinion swings through the full range of the weight at the end of the pendulum, the Courts should follow popular opinion only to the extent that the root of that pendulum swings from side to side. Should the swing become permanent then it is time to review the Constitution.

 What a wonderful document, the ability to change it legislatively is in it – the strictures are assignment of responsibilities rather than details (do you want a 500 page Constitution like the EU). There are things proposed as Constitutional amendments by both left and right – but they are themselves unconstitutional – the key to the Constitution is the clause that assigns to the several states all powers not assigned to the Federal government.

 I have digressed, I started this as the personal manifesto of a Republican. I am liberal – in that I have an open mind, and that I subscribe to the Utopian goals of eliminating poverty and bringing a decent life to all. I am conservative – in that I believe those goals can be best attained with a free market capitalist society, and that I believe in “family values” (more on that in a moment). I am strongly conservative when it comes to international matters – I believe in the best defense being a good offense, but I’m also strongly liberal there – I’m all for negotiations and compromises in the internation arena where there is any chance that they will bear fruit. “Trust in God, but keep your powder dry”.

 All in all I’m a “moderate Republican”, and I don’t like it that Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter would read me out of their party – I was a Republican before they were born! And for the other side, the denigration of Joe Lieberman by the left wing of the Democrats is equally anathema to me. His domestic policies I find far to “left” for me, but he is a man of principle whom I admire personally.

 Where is the place, in this polarized environment, for those of us in the middle. A third party is not a solution, there are too many disagreements as to the methods for reaching that unattainable Utopia. Government dictat versus free markets, personal responsibility versus the “nanny state”. What is needed is a return to the two parties being more representative of the general population. May I refer you, if you have read this far, to my essay on the Shape of Politics in this same blog.

It was the great genious of the Constitution to balance the popular vote with the representation of interests (and being an interest is not a sin, whatever John Edwards says – neglecting his interest in tort lawyers, and their support of him). It has recently been pointed out by Ralph Edwards that our concept of democracy is inappropriate for many nations  – as the “one man, one vote” will suppress minority tribal populations. But he left out that our own Constitution recognizes that. The bicameral legistature of the Senate and the House recognized the particular interests of the several States, and the democratic interest in “one man, one vote”. It remains applicable today in our representative democratic Republic. We are not called the United States for nothing. There have been objections to the Electoral College – and they come from either side “depending on whose ox is gored” in a particular election.

 So why do we insist that other “democracies” follow the principle of “one man, one vote” when we don’t – and when we have been quite successful over the long haul by combining the “tribal” interests (the States) and the majority vote of the general populace? One size does not fit all, but the principle of the rights of all the people pertains. My cat (Lucky) is luckily not watching me type this – so I can say that there is more than one way to skin a cat.

 The goal of all good men should be that all people should be able to rise to the level that they can, opportunity should never be suppressed. But there is a great divide in the way that can be accomplished – and my view is that general prosperity is best achieved through free markets and individual efforts. There will always be those who fall between the cracks (and I’m one of them), it is the responsibility of the “tribe” to address that.

 Let me address primitive mankind. Many millenia ago there were cave paintings made, and musical instruments. Given that there was a lot of work to do just to feed the family/clan/tribe these would seem to be frivolous. We can see from burials of 50,000 years ago that some members of the clan could not have been productive, they had dehabilitating injuries that had healed long before death. The culture took care of their disabled, and perhaps they were the painters and musicians. A value to the clan despite their incapacity, or perhaps even just a love expressed for the weaker members of the family.

 It doesn’t require a belief in a higher being to have a love of family – I’ll give to the religious right that it could be a commandment of God that we should take care of our own, but I’ll ask them to accept that it could be a natural evolution of our social hominid to do the same. It is a mystery of life that we are as we are, it is a mystery that I’ll accept as a mystery. I’ll not denigrate those who see it as the result of divine providence, nor those who see it as the result of natural selection. But I will object to those who denigrate the opposite view. Man is man, and there are good men and evil men – whether the evil are influenced by Satan or just bad seeds of the evolutionary process is of no concern to me. They both exist.

 I am a Republican, I think my party (as a whole) has the best route for the future of our nation, and all the people within it. I think the Democratic party’s general view would be counter productive (kill the goose that lays the Golden Eggs), but I do not think that the Democrats (as a whole) are the radical left that the primaries suggest. I wish for the days when Dirkson and O’Neill would argue all day, then toss back a couple of drinks together afterwards.