Leaning to the Left

Writing from a liberal persuasion

Archive for April, 2009

Gay Marriage: Moving Towards Equality

Posted by Beau Winiger on April 30, 2009

Gay marriage is back in the headlines.  Between the recent legalization of gay marriage in Iowa, the controversy over Miss California’s statements regarding gay marriage, and legislation passed in New Hampshire to legalize gay marriage (contingent on the governor’s approval) the debate that will not die is back in the news.  This issue is one that has very little middle ground.  Either you are for it or against it, but very few people are apathetic on the subject.

As of this writing, there are four states that allow gay marriage (New Hampshire would become the fifth), and a handful of states that recognize some form of civil unions.  Proponents of same sex marriage claim that it is a matter of equal rights, while opponents use a number of arguments ranging from religious conviction to opposition to courts litigating values.  This author falls in the camp of believing that denial of gay marriage is a matter of denying equal rights to all citizens of this country.

In this author’s opinion it is not necessary to expound to greatly on the reasons for allowing gay marriage.  Denying gay citizens the same rights as straight Americans is simply a matter of rights.  If you believe that all citizens should be allowed the same rights then it is hard to see why gay marriage should not be legal.  Therefore the majority of this article will deal with opponents arguments.

The majority of opposition (though certainly not all) is based on religious conviction.  Those that use this argument believe that their religion opposes gay marriage, and for courts to legalize gay marriage is a denial of their religious rights.  Unfortunately for those in this camp this country is not a theocratic state.  Clergy members should have every right to refuse to marry same sex couples, but this does not immediately translate to denying marriage at a civil level to same sex couples.  No one should be attempting to force a clergy member to do something that violates their religious belief, but, as far as the government is concerned, only the civil marriage matters.  That is why a married couple needs to receive a marriage license in addition to the religious ceremony that they might wish to have performed.

Another main argument used by opponents is that the courts have no business litigating matters such as marriage.  They claim that the matter should be decided by the states, and any judicial decisions are usurping the rights of the citizens of that state to determine their own laws.  But one need only look at the case of interracial marriage, which was still illegal in many states until 1967, to see a powerful corollary.  In 1967 the Supreme Court, in the case of Loving v. Virginia, ruled that a ban on interracial marriage violated the constitution.  This ruling ended all bans on interracial marriage, even though many states had their own laws against it.  If opponents of gay marriage wish to remain consistent then they must also oppose the Supreme Court’s ruling.  After all, this ruling, passed down by judges that were not elected, overruled state rights to determine how they handle marriage.  Despite this I am not aware of anyone in the anti-gay marriage crowd that will publicly denounce the ruling ending interracial marriage.

One other main argument against gay marriage is that it attempts to rewrite “natural law” about what marriage is, namely between a man and a woman.  They claim that since marriage “has always been” between a man and a woman, it should remain that way.  Once again the example of interracial marriage provides a clear example of when it is okay to rewrite marriage.  In this country it was necessary to rewrite the laws on marriage to allow not only interracial marriage, but marriage between two black people as well.  If we buy into the argument that you shouldn’t rewrite marriage then there would never be any progress towards equality amongst all citizens. 

There are many other social arguments against gay marriage (harm to children, removing both a mother and father for children, harm to marriage, etc) but these arguments are not supported by anything more than a gut feeling.  Children raised by gay parents are not more likely to be gay, but only more likely to be accepting of gay people.  In other words these children are raised to be less prejudiced against other people, hardly a bad thing.  Also, gay parents are not removing children from homes that already have 2 straight parents.  In most cases they are adopting a child, a child that otherwise would not have any parents.  Even if you don’t believe that gay parents are as good as straight parents, it is hard to argue that no parents are better for children than gay parents.  Finally, the argument from harm to marriage is just ridiculous.  By legalizing gay marriage you are only working to strengthen marriage as an institution.  As the current divorce rate is testament to, it is hard enough for any couple to make marriage work for an entire lifetime.  When you compound that with the banning of gay marriage you are creating a situation where long term stable gay couples have to work twice as hard to survive.  There is also no documented rush of otherwise straight people suddenly becoming gay in states that have legalized gay marriage.  Just because it is now legal does not automatically make it “the cool thing to do”.  And anyone that was in a straight marriage and, upon gay marriage legalization, suddenly leaves their spouse to get married to a gay partner probably was not in a strong marriage to begin with.

In this author’s opinion, an opposition to gay marriage at the civil level is a clear cut example of prejudice, despite opponents claims to the contrary.  Gays in this country have been historically discriminated against, whether it be banning of gay marriage or arcane sodomy laws.  Just because all opponents may not recognize their own prejudice does not mean that such prejudice does not exist.  Gays in this country are, in almost all states, not allowed to marry because they are different from straight people.  But the tide is starting to turn, and in a few states courts or, in the case of Vermont and perhaps New Hampshire, legislators, are recognizing that denying gay couples the same rights afforded to straight couples is unconstitutional.  Hopefully one day the history books will look back upon this legalized discrimination against gay couples as just one more historical instance of prejudice, a legalized prejudice that was eventually overturned.

add to del.icio.us : Add to Blinkslist : add to furl : Digg it : add to ma.gnolia : Stumble It! : add to simpy : seed the vine : : : TailRank : post to facebook

Posted in politics | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

Obama’s First 100 Days: A Lack of Constitutional Respect

Posted by Beau Winiger on April 29, 2009

Today is the 100th day of the Obama presidency.  What this means is that today is a meaningless day that liberals will use to say what a great job Obama has been doing, and conservatives will use it to say what a horrible job he has been doing.  So this author has decided, if you can’t beat them, join them.

It is true, in my opinion, that Obama has done a pretty decent job in his first 100 days in office, but there are some areas that his lack of progress from the Bush administration policies has been very alarming, namely in the area of rights abuse.  If the first 100 days is any sort of indication, than it looks like President Obama has decided that the Bush administration knew what it was talking about when it asserted the policy of “I’m in charge, and I will do what I want.”

One area where this has become apparent is in regards to Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan, which the current administration seems determined to make into a new Gitmo.  While the administration has decided to shut down Gitmo, they have decided that Bagram would make a fine new base of operations for a black hole site.  The administration wishes to be able to deny any prisoners there judicial review of the legality of their detention.  A prison in Afghanistan, an active war zone, is a little trickier than one located in Cuba, and it is understandable to deny judicial review to prisoners caught on the battlefield.  What is alarming is that the Obama team also wishes to be able to fly prisoners into Bagram from around the world, and then deny them judicial review.  This is the exact same problemthat we faced at Gitmo.  When you are able to ship in prisoners and then deny them rights because they are now in an active war zone you might as well have kept Gitmo open.  Even more worrisome is the fact that since Bagram is located in a war zone far away from America it will become even easier to restrict investigation into any human rights abuses going on there. 

The Obama administration has also moved to strike down a law here at home that requires a lawyer be present for a police to question a suspect who has retained a lawyer or asks for one.  While some might say, “Well just don’t answer anything until your lawyer gets there,” it is easy to imagine the potential for abuse of mentally challenged or uneducated suspects.  There is little conceivable downside to waiting for a lawyer, and too much potential for abuse for this to be considered a reasonable move by the Obama team.

The Obama DOJ has also supported the continuation of the “state secret” privilige invented by the Bush administration, and has added to that a “sovereign immunity” claim which says that citizens cannot sue the government for illegal activities unless the government chooses to disclose what they learned from the illegal activities.  So, even if it is known the government is acting illegally, there is nothing that can be done about it unless the government essentially decides it is okay with being sued.  This is a claim that even the Bush administration didn’t see fit to create, and truly worrisome for anyone concerned about keeping checks on the government’s ability to invade the private lives of its citizens.  Combined with the state secrets privilege the Obama administration is seeking the power to be able to do whatever it wants, and, so long as it is classified as secret, any actions will not be subject to judicial review.

President Obama is also seeking to destroy the Fourth Amendment by forcing cell phone carriers to turn over cell tower data without warrants, a move that legal scholars reject as being unconstitutional.  This would allow the government to seize private data, without cause, to track the location of anyone in the U.S. that it sees fit.  Such brazen disregard for the constitution, by a former constitutional law professor, is ludicrous.

The examples listed above point to an administration that is continuing the previous presidency’s complete disregard for constitutional protections that people in America believe they are protected by.  While there is much to celebrate in the first 100 days of the Obama presidency, unfortunately a respect for the constitution cannot, at this time, be counted to highly on the list.

add to del.icio.us : Add to Blinkslist : add to furl : Digg it : add to ma.gnolia : Stumble It! : add to simpy : seed the vine : : : TailRank : post to facebook

Posted in politics | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Massachusetts to Ban Same-Party Marriage

Posted by Beau Winiger on April 28, 2009

Landmark legislation was introduced in Massachusetts today that would become the first of its kind to ban Republicans from marrying other Republicans.  The bill is the first in the nation that would attempt to legislate the union of members of political parties.

The bill was introduced by Senator Bob Cornhole, who says he believes the legislation is necessary to protect the sanctimony of marriage for the rest of his state.  “For far too long now I have witnessed the destruction of values that we as a people hold to be sacred,” Sen. Cornhole said.  “Republicans, with their love of war and torture, are actively working to destroy the very fabric of our society, and it is time for someone to stand up to their Republican agenda.”

The bill would not make it illegal for Republicans to wed Democrats, provided they agreed to refrain from imposing their beliefs on members of society.  “I don’t have any problem with Republicans,” says Suzie Carpetmuncher, a supporter of the bill.  “They should be free to do what they want behind their own closed doors, but they shouldn’t expect the state to endorse their lifestyle.”

The bill, which enjoys broad support across the state, would also make it illegal for Republican couples to adopt children or lead Boy Scout troops.  While there are no studies to support the idea that a Republican couple that raise a child will turn their children into Republicans, many members of the Senate have a gut feeling that Republicans raising children can’t be good.

Opponents of the bill claim that, if passed, the bill would treat them as second class citizens by denying them the same rights enjoyed by other citizens.  “My partner and I have been together for 8 years now, and for the state to suddenly say that we shouldn’t be able to marry is just unthinkable,” said a Republican that wished to keep his identity secret.  “How can the state expect to legislate how I feel.  I didn’t choose to be this way, I can’t help how I feel.”

When asked about such criticisms Sen. Cornhole’s office released the following statement:  “Yea, well that’s too bad.”

add to del.icio.us : Add to Blinkslist : add to furl : Digg it : add to ma.gnolia : Stumble It! : add to simpy : seed the vine : : : TailRank : post to facebook

Posted in politics | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Out With the Old: A New Conservative Party

Posted by Beau Winiger on April 26, 2009

The Republican Party is in a state of shambles right now.  This is not just the opinion of some left wing nut.  A look at the elections in 2006 and 2008 point to an America that is moving towards a center left point of view.  Republicans have a complete lack of leadership that will unite the country and bring moderate conservatives back into the Republican Party.  The main spokespeople for the Republican Party at this time are Dick Cheney, Rush Limbaugh, Karl Rove, Sarah Palin, etc.  While all of these people are very popular with the base, the majority of Americans view them as extreme right, and you never regain political power in America by appealing to your extremes.  That is why, in the opinion of this author, the Republican Party, in order to for conservatism to survive, needs to split.

The issues where Republicans have lost moderate America are almost purely social.  In talking to young conservatives this author has found that most do not care for the litmus test social issues that are so often stressed by the Republican talking heads.  Young conservatives are fiscal conservatives, period.  They are not worried about the threat of gay marriage or abortion rights.  They believe that either those issues have no bearing on the direction of this country, or that the government does not have the right to intrude into people’s personal life.  America is quickly becoming more and more of a mixed society, and there are few young conservatives out there that do not know someone who is gay and in a relationship or know someone that has had an abortion.  They see these people as normal people, no different from them.  This does not mean that they necessarily agree with the “choices” of their gay friend, but they also do not believe the government has any business designating them as people with less rights.

Yet when it comes to fiscal issues many young conservatives side with traditional conservatism.  They see the government’s role as very limited, and wish to see government spending brought under control.  The political issues they view as important are issues such as the growing deficit, welfare, taxation, etc.  But when they look to Republican leaders they only see politicians who were silent while George W. Bush grew the deficit to its largest size in history, and only now pay political lip service to fiscal issues, choosing instead to focus on social wedge issues.  They feel that there is not a major Republican leader out there that truly stands for the issues they believe in.  If you need any further proof one need only look at the enormous popularity of Ron Paul amongst young people in the latest election.

That is why, for the good of the country and for the good of conservatism, young conservatives need to leave the Republican Party and form a party that represents the future of conservatism.  For the good of the country because ours is a political system that needs a minimum of two major parties to function.  For the good of conservatism because conservatism will become known more and more by the platforms advanced by a increasingly out of touch Republican Party.  A new conservative party should focus almost exclusively on fiscal issues, adopting a more libertarian stance towards social issues.  That is the only chance conservatives will have to increase the size of their party amongst different demographics then solely aging white America. 

The future of the conservative movement in America is in their mid-20s now, and if the Republican Party continues to ignore them and chooses to stick to their wedge issues they will drive those young conservatives further and further out of the party.  But without a viable alternative conservative movement young conservatives will either vote Democrat out of a lack of choice or become increasingly apathetic.  It is quickly becoming a matter of political life or death for conservatives to create a new vibrant political party that more closely mirrors the issues that they hold dear.

add to del.icio.us : Add to Blinkslist : add to furl : Digg it : add to ma.gnolia : Stumble It! : add to simpy : seed the vine : : : TailRank : post to facebook

Posted in politics | Tagged: , | 3 Comments »

Torture, So What

Posted by Beau Winiger on April 23, 2009

The newest conservative defense of the torture/enhanced interrogation techniques authorized by the Bush administration can be summarized as follows, “Even if we did torture, is it really such a big deal since we got results”.  This viewpoint has been espoused by the likes of Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, and House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) in the past few days.  Boehner even went so far as to call the tactics torture, but quickly swept aside the severity of law-breaking actions since they got results and were used in protecting America.

For the sake of argument let’s agree that concrete information was gained by the use of torture (even though it is generally agreed that torture is best used for obtaining false information).  While this author in no way wants America to be subjected to future terrorist attacks, this does not automatically mean that all methods are open to use.  America needs not only physical protection, but the basic ideals that America represents also need to be protected, and one of those ideals is that America is a fair and just country that does not use torture.  It is against both American and international law, regardless of the usefulness of information obtained.  Once you start to sweep aside American values you have started to destroy the America that so many of us know and love.

Although not usually a source of sound political judgement, every once in a while Fox News will surprise you.  Yesterday Shepherd Smith repeatedly refused to buy into the new conservative talking point of torture not really being that bad when it provides useful information.    As you can see by the clip Mr. Smith is offended by the idea that torture is acceptable in certain circumstances, as we as Americans should be.

This author does not doubt that many of the severest techniques were reserved for suspects that truly did want to harm America, and they most likely did have information that would prove useful in the defense of this country.  But one of the hallmarks of American justice is that it should be universally applied.  This means that we are forced to treat others as we would wish to be treated around the world.  The same people that are dismissing torture by Americans would be outraged if the exact same techniques were used against Americans by a hostile nation.  What this says is that torture is bad, always, regardless of who it is used against. 

This does not mean that wantingto use torture to gain information is unreasonable, but it does not dismiss the crime.  For example, let’s imagine a case where a man’s child was brutally murdered.  The man knows who murdered his child, but he does not want to wait for the justice system to use the approved legal methods to apprehend the man, fearing he might kill again.  He tracks down the murderer and kills him himself.  While our emotions might lead us to believe the father did the right thing, this does not dismiss the fact that the father is now guilty of murder.  Just because you can sympathize does not  dismiss the action.

 The values that we hold to be dear should not be convenient values, ones that we dismiss when they become difficult to uphold.  The true measure of the sincerity of our beliefs can be seen only when we are forced to apply them to people who do not deserve them.  Such is the case with the torture of terrorist suspects.  If you are a terrorist plotting against America most people (including this author) would say that perhaps you have torture coming to you, you deserve what you get.  But we live in a country where we believe that torture is fundamentally wrong, and by excusing torture the same conservatives who claim to represent American values are actively destroying the America that we as citizens believe in.  Torture is wrong, always, no matter what, and it is a sad day when such a statement even needs to be argued.

add to del.icio.us : Add to Blinkslist : add to furl : Digg it : add to ma.gnolia : Stumble It! : add to simpy : seed the vine : : : TailRank : post to facebook

Posted in politics | Tagged: | 4 Comments »

Live from Crazytown

Posted by Beau Winiger on April 22, 2009

I have found a new fascination, and his name is Glenn Beck. Glenn Beck now has his own talk show on Fox News, and if you have not seen his show yet I would highly recommend it. For your own safety don’t watch the show in its entirety. The Glenn Beck Show is unsafe at full dose, as it has been known to cause nausea, headache, and in rare cases explosive diarrhea. Please don’t watch the show with hopes of learning some great insight into the world of politics, but rather think of it as a trip into Crazytown. Fun to visit, but in a nervous scary kind of way. With that I present what I dread could become a semi-regular series, Live from Crazytown.

Today in Crazytown the topic was the torture memos that have recently been released, and the possibility that President Obama is now leaving the door open to prosecution (which is good since it was never a door he had the option to close). GB was visibly upset, not by the idea that we tortured, or even that the memos were released, but by the very idea that someone would call what we did torture. “We do it to our own troops,” he cried. He was referring to SERE training, military training meant to prepare troops at high risk of enemy capture for the torture they might face from enemies that do not follow the Geneva conventions. For GB the torture wasn’t torture because it is the same as the torture tactics that we use on our own troops to prepare them for torture. The intellect needed to pull off such an amazing feat of acrobatic logic is truly testament to GB’s standing as a political mind. Having laid his foundation GB set out to build his house.

Now that the very idea of the torture being torture has been proven to be false, there is no legal basis for prosecuting any former officials. The only conclusion for why Obama would want to prosecute anyone for the not-really torture is because he doesn’t agree with it. His decision to possibly prosecute some people for committing war crimes is the exact same as if he had decided to prosecute someone for preferring paper over plastic. The obvious threat here is that if Obama can just go about the country prosecuting people willy-nilly for war crimes, what could he come prosecute you for?

GB wrapped up his case with a conversation on legal spectrums. In GB’s world legal framework is best thought of in terms of wide ranging fields, i.e. you ran a redlight vs. it turned red halfway through, or you just made that guy think he was drowning for the 5th time today vs. it’s not bad because there was a doctor there to give him a tracheotomy if necessary. He was worried that if an Obama adviser were called upon to make tough decisions, decisions that might make them think out of the box and want to commit war crimes, they would be less willing to do so if they knew there was a chance they might be prosecuted as a war criminal. GB is exactly right. It takes someone with a real set of brass balls to commit war crimes in public, and I just don’t know if there is anyone in the Obama administration man enough to do it.

add to del.icio.us : Add to Blinkslist : add to furl : Digg it : add to ma.gnolia : Stumble It! : add to simpy : seed the vine : : : TailRank : post to facebook

Posted in Crazytown | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

A New Face on Old Politics

Posted by Beau Winiger on April 21, 2009

The recent release of Bush-era torture memos has shed some light on just what that administration considered humane treatment.  President Obama made the correct decision about the release of these memos, regardless of what the conservative talking heads might be saying to the contrary, but the President has stumbled when he promised that none of the people who tortured but thought they were acting legally will be prosecuted.  The sanctioned actions described and rationalized in the memos are torture, and those that advanced these techniques should be treated as war criminals.

Simply exposing the memos to the public light is not enough to ensure that torture is not perpetrated in America’s name in the future.  Concrete prosecutorial steps must be taken to show both the citizens of America and the rest of the world that America does not believe in torture.  By saying that no one will be prosecuted the administration is saying that although torture is bad, it isn’t really bad enough to warrant any legal action.  Such a stance is indefensible, and is the exact kind of thinking that led to torture in the first place.  The authors of these memos have no place in an America that wishes to show the rest of the world that it does hold some respect for other people.

President Obama has said that this is a time for moving forward, and not looking backward.  This author could not agree more.  It is indeed a time to look forward, but what future are we looking towards when we accept that we live in a nation that justifies the use of torture and sees no need to prosecute the use of torture and the violation of international law.  The future that we should be striving towards should be one where we clean out the skeletons of our past.  One quickly sees the absurdity of Obama’s position when comparisons are made with other egregious acts of American history.  Whether it is slavery, Japanese interment camps, the genocide waged against Native Americans, or the denial of rights to women, America has never been served by simply turning the page on history.  In each of the examples mentioned above the people that were charged with carrying out these laws were simply doing their job.  The administration wishes to add to that shameful roll call by continuing the age-old American tradition of politicians protecting politicians.  One is forced to consider the idea that perhaps this administration is unwilling to prosecute the former administration out of fears that they themselves could be prosecuted by some future administration.  Why else would there be an unwillingness to set a precedent of punishing torture? 

In an issue that is filled with maddening illogical arguments, add to that the conservative pundits and lawmakers who are now bashing President Obama for releasing these memos.  They are not outraged by the fact that the Bush administration tortured, even when they said they didn’t.  No, their outrage stems from the fact that now people know that we tortured, and our enemies will know how to prepare for future possibilities of torture.  They prefer to live in a world where America is a land that will readily resort to secret prisons around the world that ship in prisoners in order to violate international law.  Since these same people often claim that terrorists hate our freedom and democracy one can only assume that they are trying to rid America of freedom in order to deprive the terrorists of their only recruiting tool.

During the election cycle, while I was being told over and over by Obama supporters that he would be different, that he was a new kind of politician, I held fast to my stance of “Let’s wait and see”.  While Obama is by no means a new Bush, he is also in no way a new politician.  He is simply a fresh smiling face plastered on the same old guard.  The new Obama morality holds that we don’t torture anymore, and we will make some of the facts known about the torture that we used to do, but we aren’t going to do anything about it.  The President has set an important precedent, and this author would unfortunately not be surprised if a future administration reveals torture tactics used at Bagram in Afghanistan under the current administration.

add to del.icio.us : Add to Blinkslist : add to furl : Digg it : add to ma.gnolia : Stumble It! : add to simpy : seed the vine : : : TailRank : post to facebook

Posted in politics | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

Towards a New Partnership

Posted by Beau Winiger on April 19, 2009

President Obama’s recent meet and greet with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez continues to usher in a new era in American relations with the rest of the world. When one takes the time to step back and look at the President’s recent well received tour of Europe, the easing of travel restrictions to Cuba, and now, with this most recent Summit of the Americas, it is hard not to see the immediate contrast between our current President and his predecessor. Could more be done in Cuba? Of course. Should we immediately trust President Chavez? Of course not. But President Obama has taken important first steps in showing the rest of the world that America is no longer the snobby rich kid next door that looks upon the rest of the world as inferiors who should only be tolerated, not listened to.
In the case of the recent announcement of the easing of travel restrictions to Cuba there is a clear example of the President charting a new course in American relations to Latin America. Since 1962 the American embargo has stood against Cuba, serving as a constant talking point for anti-American sentiment in Latin America. Although the embargo was started with definite purpose, it has long since ran its course. The embargo has remained in place seemingly without second thought to its relevance in today’s world. To believe in the idea of changing a dictatorial government from the outside through complementing the restriction of information and goods already put in place by the Cuban government shows little understanding of the way the world works. President Obama’s first step will allow a freer interchange of ideas between America, as well as a bolstered Cuban economy through the unlimited transfer of money from those living in the U.S. to family still in Cuba.  Hopefully these recent actions will lay the important groundwork for the long overdue end to the embargo.

The handshakes and small talk with President Chavez are also important in building a groundwork to better relations with Latin America.  For far too long the U.S. in Latin America has been seen as an imperial force bent on colonialism.  In some cases this has had the ring of truth, while in others it is simple propaganda used by Latin American governments to tighten their strangle hold on power.  But, as so often is the case in politics, it doesn’t always matter which instances are true and which are not.  The truth can lie almost exclusively in the perception.  The previous administration served to further these feelings of a colonial American power by treating Venezuala, and much of Latin America that went against the administration’s wishes, as unworthy of a dialogue.  Such treatment did not magically cause Chavez to lose power, but instead simply took the American voice out of the discussion.  These new overtures towards a respectful dialogue will hopefully take some of the wind out of the sails from Latin American politicians that hope to use American disrespect as a base point.

It is important to remember that handshakes and nicities between Chavez and Obama are only that, handshakes and niceties.  In the world of politics what really counts is action, and it will take much work from both Venezuela and America to prove that they are truly willing to work together as partners.  One can only hope that these first steps are not the last steps, and America can begin to foster a true partnership with her neighbors to the south.  It will be a long struggle, and their is much history on both sides that will need to be forgiven, but lasting change has never been brought about without small steps at the beginning.

add to del.icio.us : Add to Blinkslist : add to furl : Digg it : add to ma.gnolia : Stumble It! : add to simpy : seed the vine : : : TailRank : post to facebook

Posted in politics | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

The Growing Secessionist Tide

Posted by Beau Winiger on April 17, 2009

The year is 2009, and amazingly enough the topic of secession has made its way back into the public discourse.  There appears to be an alarming number of citizens that are starting to support their state pulling out of the Union (in the mind of this writer, any number greater than zero is alarming), and these citizens seem to have the support of some very high level officials.  Gov. Perry (R-TX) has recently made very strong statements in support of secession, and Gov. Palin (R-AK) is married to a former member of the Alaska secessionist party, in addition to making recent statements in support of secession.  Apparently Republicans, who for so long during the Bush presidency shouted down the left with cries of “Love it or leave it”, have now decided to leave it.

Those who cheer the idea of secession from the Union need to pause to take a quick look at themselves, and where such ideas place them on the sliding scale of Americanism and patriotism.  The oft repeated theme of the secessionists seems to be that the government has ignored the American people, and since a majority of Americans are being ignored they now have the right to secede and revolt.  This idea is based in the very root of American history, as well as the general root of government as we know it.  Unfortunately for secessionist’s, they are the same people who loudly proclaimed leftist protesters during the Bush era as un-American.  The Bush protesters, angered by court-decided presidential elections, wars fought in the absence of evidence, and a government that only 30% of Americans approved of, were called radicals who did not love this country.  And now, the very same group that threw about charges of anti-Americanism so cavalierly, are literally becoming anti-American.  There is no better definition of being against America than saying that you no longer want to be a part of America.

What the secessionists are truly saying when they claim that the government is ignoring Americans is that the government is not doing what they want.  According to a recent Gallup poll 70% of Americans believe that the President will do a better job handling the economy than Republicans.  So now you have that same 30% that approved of the Bush administration realizing that they are powerless. That 30% has now been out of power for almost 3 months, and they still claim that they speak for the majority of Americans. 

Perhaps they had grown so used to the Bush presidency that they forgot what a majority truly looks like.  A majority is what voted for the current President, and an overwhelming majority at that.  A majority is what swept into Congress in 2006, and was greatly added to in 2008.  A majority is not simply defined as your beliefs.  When those that hold your beliefs are soundly voted out of office it does not mean that you have had your rights taken away.  It means that democracy has decided that your beliefs aren’t working, and they aren’t worth trying in the present situation.

The Civil War was fought over two intertwined issues, slavery and state rights.  Slavery was a deeply moral issue that wrenched this country apart, something that touched the very core of who we were as people and what direction we wanted this country to move in.  The state rights piggybacked upon the slavery issue, struggling to give a redeemable gloss to the issue of one man owning another.  The current secessionist are thumbing their noses at all those that fought and died to keep this great country together.  Rather than wait for the election in 2012, they want to take their ball and go home.  In their minds an America that believes in democracy, justice, peace, and a collective sharing of the economic burden placed upon them by a very rich minority (which belongs to which political party…) is not an America that they want to be a part of.  This writer has had the term un-American thrown in his face many times since 9/11, and it is not a term to be used against someone lightly.  Unfortunately, when one group says that they no longer want to be a part of America, no other term fits.

add to del.icio.us : Add to Blinkslist : add to furl : Digg it : add to ma.gnolia : Stumble It! : add to simpy : seed the vine : : : TailRank : post to facebook

Posted in politics | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

The Problem Behind Tea Parties

Posted by Beau Winiger on April 16, 2009

Yesterday citizens all around this country gathered to protest at Tea Parties. The target of these protests ranged from taxation to government spending to state rights to socialism to Obama is Hitler. At first glance these protests might seem to be unworthy of serious cause for concern given the easily refuted nature of the protester’s causes. Taxes have gone down for most Americans, and the highest tax bracket is now taxed at a rate of 10% less than under Ronald Reagan. Furthermore, America has been a part socialist state for some time now, and to act as if Obama has brought about socialism is to show a willful ignorance of history. If you wish to stop socialism in America you had better be willing to explain to the seniors of this nation that Medicare won’t be there for them, and I don’t see many conservatives lining up for that job. Finally, it is hard to take the outrage of protesters seriously when these are the same people that stood by George W. Bush’s side as he greatly expanded the scope of the government, trampled the rights of Americans, and ran America into the largest deficit in history.
The true threat of these tea parties, and the movement that is propelling them, is revealed once you get past the issues that serve as the false front. These parties had more than their fair share of people who still believe President Obama was not born in America, people that believe he is the new Hitler as well as a Socialist anti-Christ (being both fascist and socialist is quite the feat), the same sort of people that were calling for him to be assassinated at Republican rallies during the election. Gov. Perry (R-TX) has made statements supporting secession, and this idea is popular among Texans despite the seeming infeasibility of an independent Republic of Texas.
Of course, there is always a fringe element to any cause, both left and right. The majority of conservatives are not radicals that believe Obama is Hitler, just as the majority of liberals are not radicals that believe Bush is Hitler. It is an inevitable consequence of causes that there are fringe groups. The danger apparent for the Republican Party is that they are allowing these fringe and radical groups to speak for them, to be their loudest voice. Radical elements in a political movement are only valuable when they have a counterbalance, and the Republican Party is absent that crucial balance.
Although there might be some liberals that would see the death of the mainstream Republican Party as a blessing, the growing fringe base of the Republican Party is driven by fear, and that makes it extremely dangerous. The times we live in are scary, there is no denying that, but when you have leaders whipping up support based solely on fear of terrorism, economic collapse, immigration, etc. there is no time for questions, for thought. One need look no further back then the Bush presidency to see the disastrous consequences of unreasoned reaction as leadership. For the sake of this country I hope that someone in the conservative movement has the integrity to stand up and ask people to question what they are hearing, not just from the left but from the right as well.

add to del.icio.us : Add to Blinkslist : add to furl : Digg it : add to ma.gnolia : Stumble It! : add to simpy : seed the vine : : : TailRank : post to facebook

Posted in politics | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »