Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Why should anyone read another blog?

This is my first blog and first rant (in public, although I have gotten up on a soapbox for family, friends, and coworkers).  To start off, I want to say that I think that the United States of America is a really good place to live, arguably the best place in the world.  It’s not perfect, but who can say what perfection is – the definition or qualities that make it so will depend on who is asked – but it is better than most.  I want to have some discussions about why the US is good, and more importantly, what WE can do to make it better.

We live in a country that is defined by law: that is to say, that we have a common set of rules to live by, a process to create and regulate those rules, and several organizations that ensure that we uphold them.  We live in a large country made up of 50 individual states and several territories, that get along with one another without much strife.  If any one of these states is threatened by another state, or by another country, we have the greatest military on the planet to protect us.  We have, for the most part: places to live, work, and relax; enough food (too much in some cases), clean water, and adequate medical care; places to meet, learn, worship, and be entertained.  If you don’t like or agree with these things you can move, even to another country, because you are free to do so.

This paragraph stated another way is:  We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this constitution for the United States of America.

For an excellent site about the “Charters of Freedom” see:   US Constitution

This document, the U.S. Constitution, is not utterly unique but is one of few documents that has been upheld for so long, and still works in favor of the people.  Some other countries with constitutions, but without the resolve to live by them are: Afghanistan, Algeria, Bosnia, Colombia, Cuba, Ethiopia, Iran, Korea (North), Lebanon, Mexico, Rwanda, Somalia, Sudan, and others.  I’m not picking on these countries for any particular reason; just pointing out that just having a constitution is not enough.  It has to work for the people not just the rulers.  Remember the first three words – WE THE PEOPLE.

You can find a list of the countries with constitutions here:   National Constitutions

Follow the links to pages about the individual countries’ constitutions and think about the differences between what each country SAYS it will do for the people and what actually goes on there.

One of the reasons that the US will never seem perfect is that it can’t be all things to all people.  There will always be someone who is dissatisfied with the way things are.  Someone will always want to get ahead of the other guy, by whatever means necessary.  Some people are just never happy and want to complain.  All of this is alright because of our freedoms, and not necessarily a bad thing, but as Spock said in The Wrath of Khan, “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few”.  This is one of the purposes of a centralized government – to try to do the best we can for the most people: to ensure that a small, self-interested group can’t have their own way at the expense of the whole population.  Sadly, this is not always the case.  I’ve got more to say about government, in general, and our rights, liberties, responsibilities, and duty, but today’s specific topic is politicians.  This comes to mind because of the ramp-up in campaigning for the 2012 presidential elections.

Some careers have more of an effect on the general population than others.  The consequence of a customer service representative making a mistake is far less than that of a doctor.  If your personal accountant makes an error on your taxes you could be out some money, but if an international financier makes similar mistakes thousands of people could lose everything.  There are dozens of examples possible here: Car mechanic vs an airline mechanic; house plumber vs city water engineer; or lawyer vs law maker.  It’s this last one I want to think about, not that I am marginalizing the work that anyone does.  I appreciate my mechanic, my plumber, and my accountant, as I’m sure most of you do, but I think that some professions need to be held to a higher standard than others.

We don’t force anyone into politics – they general want to get into it (why, I have no idea) – but we do get to help choose who it will be.  To get there they make promises about what they, and no one else, can do for us, if only we will elect them.  To make sure that we know that they are the best choice we are bombarded with advertisements in every form of media available.  Also, to make sure that we know that the other guy is not suitable for office, we are gently and kindly made aware of their faults.  Once the best of the limited choices has been elected, we can look forward to several years of news reports about how it is not their fault that they can’t keep the promises; it’s the other guy’s fault for…blah, blah, blah, …fill in the reason du jour.

This is one of the things for which I think politicians should be held accountable – their campaign promises.  I understand that sometimes things seem possible or more probable than they really are, but let’s be realistic.  In 2008 the cry was for immigration reform, universal healthcare, closing Gitmo, letting tax cuts expire, and others (to be fair to Obama, these were some tough nuts to crack).  In 2004 it was personal investment accounts for retirement, big tax cuts (“No new taxes”), public education, and (surprise) healthcare. I could go on, but at least two studies have shown that the presidential promises are kept (for certain values of kept) more than half the time.  I just want to see more realistic promises and for the politicians to keep trying to up the average.

Here is an interesting essay on campaign promises.  Campaign Promises

Recently, the negative ad campaigns (which sounds ever so much better than mudslinging), are not produced by the candidate, but by “friends of …”.  I’m not sure that this is any better, but if the candidates don’t decry this action, it makes me believe that they were in favor of it.  This is not a new phenomenon – Benjamin Franklin said in 1789,

“If by the liberty of the press [it] were understood [to be] merely the liberty of discussing the propriety of public measures and political opinions, let us have as much of it as you please: But if it means the liberty of affronting, calumniating and defaming one another, I, for my part, own myself willing to part with my share of it, whenever our legislators shall please so to alter the law and shall chearfully consent to exchange my liberty of abusing others for the privilege of not being abused myself.”

This is another of the things for which I think politicians should be accountable: no more mudslinging.  If the friends of the politician are saying things that he disagrees with, then he should publicly say so.  I see this as a tricky way of keeping up the ‘slingin’ without being seen as responsible for it.

It also seems to me that there are too many scandals, which at the very least, detract from REAL problems.  Today it’s Herman Cain and harassment, who knows what it will be tomorrow.  But, if you expect to enter into politics I would think that you would be on familiar terms with all of your skeletons.  You probably shouldn’t have mistresses waiting in the wings, you definitely shouldn’t Tweet pictures of yourself, and trying to sell a Senate seat is right out.  If you want to play in politics you should be a better person than average – these are the “Leaders of the Free World” – and I don’t think it is too much to expect that their behavior is better than most.  There are so many scandals that there is a Wiki page for both Federal, and State/Local.

Finally, I think that more effort should be made for the political parties to work together for the common goal.  I don’t think that a particular person is evil or a saint because of membership in one party or the other.  Since there are only the two choices (my mind may change if any third party becomes more dominant), you have to affiliate with one of them to gain office.  There aren’t middle-ground candidates, you are either: hard-right or far-left, conservative or liberal, pro-government or anti, us or them.  This also detracts from the real problems, when we spend more time demonizing one party or the other, instead of balancing the budget, or reducing waste, or increasing employment, or whatever the problem is.  Not everyone has always been in favor of political parties.

However [political parties] may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.
-- GEORGE WASHINGTON, Farewell Address, Sep. 17, 1796

Now, this could be true even if there were no parties, or dozens.  It just seems to me, that since we are limited to the candidates that each party promotes, that more choices would be nice.

That’s all of the ranting for today, but tomorrow I will have another question, and I have a lot of them.  I may try and answer some of them myself, but I don’t necessarily think that it’s THE answer, just a possible answer, and maybe someone reading this will have a better one.  At the very least I hope to raise awareness of issues and stimulate some discussion.  Think of it as a nationwide brainstorming session.

One other thing – I will try and provide cites for information I use, but if you know of a better one, or know of one with dissenting views, or if you have something that needs discussion, let me know.  Comments here are more than welcome but if you would like, you can email me at

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