My July 4th tribute to America

July 2, 2007

Another July 4th approaches, and for most Americans it is a day of fireworks, hot dogs, and wearing patriotic clothing. I’d like to talk about what is sometimes forgotten in all the celebration; what makes America great.

Part of what makes America great is our ability to be able to celebrate July 4th in peace without the fear of an army coming and taking away our property, freedom, or our lives. For the past two hundred years, America has been one of the most stable and safe countries on earth. We have only been attacked on our own soil a few times, and except for the damage we inflicted on ourselves in the civil war, have never suffered the kind of devastation nearly all the countries of Europe suffered in world war two. Our government and constitution are among the oldest and most enduring in the world.

But safety, stability, and security don’t make a nation great. Nor does it mean much to a people oppressed and made powerless by their own government. Not only does America have one of the oldest continuous governments in the world, but that government has always been one of the most free in the world. America was the first nation since the ancient era to allow the people to govern instead of a monarch or other sort of top/down approach. And with that came radical changes to the fundamental nature of a nation.

The first and most important to our political system, is what it means to be loyal. In a dictatorship, loyalty is to the ruler, and believing the official line that the government tells you to believe. In America, loyalty is not to anyone person but to the nation as a whole. And most important, loyalty means questioning that leader. Thinking critically and honestly about what is right and best. America is founded on an open exchange of ideas and facts. That is why Americans can easily watch as the rulers of this nation make laws. Freedom of speech and press is not just a right, it is the foundation of our entire system. Even other nations that hold mostly free elections and would be considered democracies don’t have the kind of absolute freedom of speech to express ideas that we do, even in Europe. In Turkey one can be arrested for insulting “Turkishness” or questioning the official line on the Armenian genocide that states that it didn’t happen. In France, Germany, and elsewhere holocaust denial and expressing extremist ideas can land you in jail. In America, even those who follow so ideologies so antagonistic to the rest of society as neo-nazism or engage in acts such as flag burning are allowed to do so. One might expect that allowing extremists to preach freely would make them more popular than in countries where they are suppressed. In fact, the opposite is the case. America with the most free standards on free speech in the world is also one of the few countries to never face a serious threat of an internal revolution by either fascists or communists. Because in America, ideas are not spread through the use of force, but by words. By dialog. And because they spread that way, the best more often prevail.

Just as open political diversity is a foundation of our nation, so are other types of diversity. Some like to claim that America is a Christian nation. Or a white nation. They are wrong. What unites Americans is not ethnicity or religion, like in some other countries, but the democratic ideals of our nation. Being a Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, or atheist does not make anyone less of an American. Nor does being Anglo-Saxon, African American, Hispanic, or Asian. America is one of the most diverse nations in the the world, and is better for it.

Of course, America has had it’s share of problems. We have sometimes failed to live up to the ideas that have made us great. For most of our nations history, we treated a large part of our population as 2nd or 3rd class citizens because of the color of their skin. We have given into the temptation to try to silence by force or intimidation voices for unpopular viewpoints. We failed to resolve disputes through peaceful means and fought a civil war. In our zeal to protect our own liberty and prosperity, we have sometimes denied it to the people of other nations. But we have overcome many of those problems, because people stood up and got involved. Because of the open dialog that has made our nation great. And we still have many problems to overcome. America was never made better by men who talked about how great it was. It was always those who spent all of their time criticizing America and talking about what was bad about it who forced us to move closer to the American ideal and make progress.

Than why do I choose to talk about what is good in America? We’ll, most of the time I focus on what is wrong. But it is good to on occasion go back and remind ourselves of what we have done right. Of what we have and how lucky we are to have it. But most of all, what we need to preserve and guard. Some Americans like to retreat into apathy, believe that we can’t fix things. But we have, and we can. We owe a great debt to the founders, soldiers, statesman, and average citizens who stood up so that we might have what we have. We must work to preserve that heritage and do our part to make America what we want America to continue to be, a beacon of good governance, prosperity, and freedom.

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Don’t be a one issue voter

June 8, 2007

As the presidential campaign progresses, one thing that has really annoyed me is people who write things like “I won’t ever vote for ____ (names candidate) because he supports/opposes ______ (names issue)”. Here’s a real example from the comment section of Bill Richardson’s campaign add on youtube:

i will NEVER vote for this ass! He is against the MISSing Angels bill! HE VETOED IT!
bastard…

My niece was a fullterm baby who was stillborn from an umbilical cord accident. She deserves the acknowledgement of being born. She has a birth certificate, she was born in Virginia, a state where govenors actually have a soul and heart and care about other people than themselves!

“She may have been stillborn, but she was STILL-BORN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

Not only did this person post this, but she posted it several times, like people didn’t get the idea the first time.

Campaigns, elections, and political offices, are rarely only about one issue. And rarely does one issue trump all others combined in importance. When you are figuring out what candidate or what party to support, you have to look at all of the issues, not just one. You also have to look at the qualifications of each candidate, and what issues are important for that position. For example, what a presidents foreign policy stances are crucial, while I could basically care less what my state legislators opinion on foreign policy matters is. The president’s stances on the death penalty, gay marriage, or other social issues aren’t very important because he doesn’t have much influence on those issues, while for a state legislator they are more important because he does have influence on those issues. Having experience is very important for a presidential candidate, while it isn’t for a state legislator or for other low level positions.

As my friend Allison said, “You can’t have all the qualities you want in a candidate unless you run yourself right?” Voting is about choosing the candidate that is most acceptable to you. You are very rarely going to find someone who you agree with on everything 100%. For example, right now my top choice for president is Bill Richardson even though I disagree with his stances on Iraq, Israel (he is very pro-Israel, I’m moderate on that issue), and the death penalty (he’s for it, I’m against it.) But because I like the qualities he has and agree with him on most issues, I support him. The same with being a Democrat, I don’t agree with them on everything, but I agree with them on most things and that’s why I consider myself one.

When you refuse to support someone because of one issue even though you might agree with them on most issues, you are doing yourself a dis-service because you are giving up the chance to support someone who would represent you well.


Thoughts on the Presidential Race 1

April 16, 2007

I figure I’ll have a consistent naming scheme for thoughts on the presidential election, since between now and the election I’ll likely post a number of times on that subject.

Right now, I remain for the most part undecided. It still is very early and I don’t feel I know enough about them to commit yet. One thing I am growing very tired of is phony “controversies” over something stupid a candidate said. We are all human and say something we shouldn’t have said every once in a while, and focusing on some verbal blunder a candidate or someone associated with a candidates said is ridiculous. Unless the offensive aspect of it really represents what the person believes, which 99% of the time it doesn’t, than the candidate should apologize and acknowledge that he shouldn’t have said it, the other candidates should ignore it instead of expressing “outrage”, and it should than be a non-issue. Unless the candidate is pulling a Kinky Friedman and trying to defend it, why does it matter? The press and the candidates need to focus on the issues and the real qualifications of each candidate, not irrelevant goofs.

As far as the candidates are concerned, at this point I only have much to say about 3 of them:

Barack Obama: Everything about him that we know I like. He is very charismatic and is a wonderful speaker. I especially like how he articulates his position on the war. This is an excerpt from his speech at the 2004 Democratic convention

When we send our young men and women into harm’s way, we have a solemn obligation not to fudge the numbers or shade the truth about why they’re going, to care for their families while they’re gone, to tend to the soldiers upon their return, and to never ever go to war without enough troops to win the war, secure the peace, and earn the respect of the world.

While giving good speeches is important, it is not the only quality necessary to be president. His credentials on some of those other issues remain unknown, and a full evaluation of his candidacy can’t be made until they are answered. Is he a bunch of hot air, a good speaker but without much depth, or is their more to him than just his speaking ability? That remains to be answered.

I do however, believe the charge that he is too inexperienced is not a fair one. As far as time in office, he served 8 years in the Illinois Senate and by the time the election comes around 4 in the US senate. Compared to the 6 Bush had as Texas governor, 8 Hillary will have had in the Senate and 8 as first lady, and 6 years Edwards had in the Senate, he is not inexperienced.

He is in a good position at this point, and I know many people, including moderates, who are very enthusiastic about him. However, he hasn’t had any large obstacles to face yet,

Hillary Clinton: Hillary Clinton is the only candidate I’m negative about at this point. I just have a bad feeling about her and while it is not a deal breaker, she is a polarizing figure. Their isn’t anything in about her that makes her appealing. She has a lot of strength in the establishment and has front runner status right now, but I don’t know anyone enthusiastic about her. I believe that her support in the polls is wide but thin because people support her more as a default than out of real love for her. Obama’s supporters are much more enthusiastic about him and I think he is in a much better position to gain grass roots support.

Bill Richardson: Bill Richardson stands out because out of all the candidates, he is the only one with real foreign policy experience that would qualify him to be president. That is crucial, especially given that whoever is the next president will have to pick up the shambles of our foreign policy left by George Bush. Having extensive diplomatic experience dealing with foreign powers and political experience as a very successful Democratic governor of Republican New Mexico, he is very qualified to be president. This speech shows that his grasp of foreign policy is very sound, balanced, substantive, and intelligent. This kind of hire level reasoning without tons of fluff beats Obama’s speeches on the subject, in my opinion.


The Minutemen and the protestors

April 10, 2007

Just for the hell of it I went to see Chris Simcox, the leader of the Minutemen (a group that patrols on the border to report illegal immigrants) speak, hosted by YCT (Young Conservatives of Texas). Lo and behold, protesters came and tried to shout down the event. They chanted for about 15 minutes, yelled slogans, and several had to be led out by police before the speaker had a chance to speak. Even when he was able to speak, they interrupted quite often with rants and name calling. It was disgraceful. I didn’t agree with everything Simcox said, but he was reasonable, respectfully, surprisingly moderate in his viewpoints, and even willing to address some of the protesters remarks. That didn’t stop the protesters from calling him a racist and a fascist. In trying to disrupt the event and discredit him, they did a great job making him look legitimate and reasonable. The protesters did very little to defeat his viewpoints and did a great job of making themselves look like ignorant assholes. I’m all for making your viewpoints and objections heard, but you have to do it in a respectful and intelligent manner, not try to shout down the other side with slogans. When the protesters chanted “this is real democracy”, my thought was that it was the exact opposite. They were more like a mob, and it was shameful to those that hold their viewpoint, to the University, and to the political discourse in this country.


The Children of Hurin

March 23, 2007

My favorite fictional tale, aside from 1984, is the entire serious of books about the fantasy world J.R.R. Tolkien created including the Lord of the Rings. I also really enjoy The Silmarillion and all of the many writings about the first age. My favorite story from The Silmarillion (it is a narrative of an age, including many individual stories) is the story of Turin Turambar. So when it came out that Tolkien’s son was putting together a full book with a constant and complete narrative like a regular book (and unlike some of the other books he’s put together), I was ecstatic. The book, entitled The Children of Húrin, is set to come out next month. This is the cover page:

Childrin of Hurin cover

Also, for amusements sake, a funny You Tube video about the Lord of the Rings:

Of course this isn’t exactly plausible as the eagles were not meant to take a direct roll, but were observers for Manwe, the ruling god on earth.

I’m part way through writing a very long post about Iraq, and hopefully will finish it within the next week.


Ego Brain

March 9, 2007

I haven’t posted in a while and I need to. I have plenty of things that I want to write about but never make the time to do it. I’ll try to change that in the future. At some point next week I’ll write a very long post about Iraq. For now, I’ll post the lyrics to a song I like a lot by System of a Down song titled “Ego Brain”. System of a Down, who does a variety of styles revolving around hard rock/metal, is my favorite band. I really like the lyrics to their songs and I also like their alternative style. This song is one of their songs that isn’t at all metal and is one of their more alternative and different songs.

Life is but a dream
Drifting on a stream, a stream
Consciously it seems
All of what remains

Ego brain
That makes shame, shame love after it rains

You see my pain is real
Watch my world dissolve
and pretend that none of us see the fall
As I turn to sand
you took me by the hand
and declared that love prevails over all

I am just a man
Fighting other man for land, for land
while I turn to sand
In spite of the pain

Ego brain
That makes shame, shame love after it rains

You see my pain is real
Watch my world dissolve
and pretend that none of us see the fall
As I turn to sand
you took me by the hand
and declared that love prevails over all

All of what remains

Ego brain
That makes shame, shame love after it rains

You see my pain is real
Watch my world dissolve
and pretend that none of us see the fall
As I turn to sand
you took me by the hand
and declared that love prevails over all

(Love after it rains)


How Homosexuality could be natural

January 21, 2007

This is another copy of something I wrote on another forum, with a few additions:

A common argument I see against homosexuality being natural is that if homosexuality was a genetic trait it would be wiped out because those who hold that trait would not reproduce. The problem with this “it couldn’t be passed on” argument is it assumes that there is some gene that automatically make someone homosexual, and that people either have the gene or they don’t and that makes them homosexual or not. Their could be genes in human beings that create conditions where homosexuality will appear in a small number of people who have those genes, and those genes could be universal. How that randomness is created could have something to do with the child in development or any of a number of things, perhaps it is triggered by some relatively unlikely development while the child is growing in the woom. Other traits follow this pattern of a small probability of something happening within humans that is hard-wired but not determined directly by inheritance, for example left handedness vs. right handedness.

If the traits that lead to potential homosexuality are beneficial in other ways (very likely since they have to do with sexuality which is extremely important as far as an animal reproducing) then it would be passed on even though the potential for homosexuality would hurt the species. The negative impact of a small number being homosexual could have been outweighed by the positive benefits to the community.