Friday, October 17, 2008

Presidential Elections

I'm so absolutely sickened by the way Presidential politics are in this country. Is this really a democracy? Are we really choosing the President? This is a major frustration point every election.

First of all, we are absolutely limited to the two parties. They've got the money, the organization, and the media. The parties, with the media, have completely shut out any other candidates. The media declares, "They're not viable." Well, of course they're not. If you don't get any media exposure, the only way to get it is to spend insane amounts of money to buy the exposure, a la Ross Perot. Without the exposure, they won't register on opinion polls (which is another problem), and are then, magically, not viable.

So, accepting that we have a two party system, what about the way candidates are selected in the primaries? If you don't get solid support in Iowa and New Hampshire, you're done. These are rural states with a total of 11 (eleven) (XI) (xB) (b1011) (o13) of the 538 electoral votes! Why do these states get this much power? How about a single-day, national primary, with a majority vote required to carry a state? If you don't get a majority, take the top three or four and have a run off. If you still don't have a majority, have one more run off with the top two.

The conventions - what a joke! At one point, these served a purpose. Now, it's just a three day media whoring event. They should be done away with or at least considered irrelevant to media coverage. It's an excuse to rent arenas, wear stupid hats, spout your propaganda, and mud rake the opponent.

Negative campaigning - you know, it's OK to go negative about a candidate's positions and OK to highlight pertinent things about a candidate's past. That's legitimate. I want to hear what a candidate plans to do, but they can also separate themselves based on the other candidate. What drives me crazy is the lying, the half truths, and the outright smears. If a candidate voted against a bill in Congress because it had blackmail pork tied to it, that doesn't mean the candidate is an enemy of the main intent of the bill. To imply it is dishonest. If he voted for something, that doesn't mean he's the champion for it either.

Associations - This is a part of negative campaigning. Obama is getting creamed with this one right now. I don't know what his associations were with various people, but politicians schmooze with all sorts. They get money from all sorts. To get to the position of party nominee, they've probably sold most of their soul to the devil by that point. Exaggerations and unfounded implications are dishonest and sensationalist propaganda.

The problem is that all of this stuff works. The machine seems to be OK with the selection process and negative campaigning works. People allow themselves to be corralled into the two party system and the process has polarized them. The other side is a bunch of irrational, evil people. The American public seems to have no idea the degree in which they're being manipulated.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Anarchy/Anarchism

"Strange women lyin' in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony. You can't expect to wield supreme executive power just 'cause some watery tart threw a sword at you! If I went 'round saying I was an emperor just because some moistened bint had lobbed a scimitar at me, they'd put me away!" - Dennis, peasant



This isn't exactly the Anarchy I'm going to talk about, but it's just funny as hell! Help! Help! I'm being repressed!

I've been presented recently with the idea of Anarcho-Capitalism. I immediately rejected the concept of anarchy, but that was a little premature. This is not the anarchy I was thinking about. I pictured something out of The Road Warrior. This is not the case at all.

This is libertarianism on steroids (if you thought that was even possible!). Not only are we limiting government to the minimum, we're actually eliminating it all together. The free market handles it all.

Taxes? Not needed. I suppose there would be pseudo-taxes to fund community things, but those would probably be best called contributions.

Police? Minimal. Communities voluntarily fund a police force, if needed. There can be more than one too.

Court system? Outside of criminal cases, this would be more of a private arbitration system. Criminal cases would still need to come before a community court with funding similar to the police force.

Roads? As free enterprise dictates, roads would be built. The builders would charge usage fees, based on market pricing.

Schools? Freed from all of the stuff that holds it down now, community schools would theoretically be inexpensive.

I'm not sure if I'm buying it, but it has some merit.

See the Wikipedia entry for more information: Anarcho-capitalism


Saturday, July 19, 2008

Morality

Where does morality come from? Who gets to decide whose morality is right? Is it the same for everybody?

Morality is divinely inspired, no? Uh ... no ... at least not in my world. Issues of morality can generally be defined in secular terms, without the use of a religious tome. Do we really need the Bible to know it's not ok to kill people, steal things, etc.? There are things like premarital sex that are a little trickier. There are definitely arguments relative to pregnancy, STDs, emotional maturity, etc. Is it immoral? That's up to the individual at that point.

In our society, morality and sins are slippery terms. When it comes to what is right and wrong for everybody, you need to step back from religious dogma. The test is a little different. This is where a secular government. like the U.S., presents the ideas of protection of life, liberty, and property. If what somebody is doing doesn't infringe on your right to these three things, then keep on truckin'.

That doesn't mean that what they're doing is good or bad within their view of the world. It just means that one person's moral code doesn't necessarily equal another's. Think about the things that you consider sinful. Do you need religion to tell you that they are bad? If that's the only reason why it's bad, then it's probably not something you want to apply to the country as a whole.

Christian without God?

Someone said to me the other day, "I'm a Catholic atheist: love the Church, but don't believe in God. The rituals of the Catholic Church feel like home to me."

Wha-wha-what?!?

How can this be? Then, I realized how close to home this actually is.

My wife is Catholic. We were married in the Catholic Church (thank God or my marriage wouldn't be real and my kids would be bastards!). She is hardly ├╝ber Catholic, but she is not an atheist either. She feels very safe and at home in the Catholic Church. She doesn't get much out of it spiritually from what I've gathered, but the tradition and rituals give her this comfort.

She does feel the guilt... "Boom boom boom boom ... row ya bastards!" - Eddie Izzard

As a result, we are raising our kids Catholic. This has created a strange problem for me. I have a hard time going to church when I don't believe in God and a divine Jesus. I feel like a hypocrite or dishonest sometimes, even though I do like a good sermon/homily. In spite of this, I do go with them a fair amount.

My kids know I'm not Catholic, but they haven't really questioned me too much yet. I did get asked by my second oldest once after CCD (catechism), "Dad, what do you love most about Jesus?" "Eh ... uh ... I think he's a good role model for how to treat other people. He said some really great things that people 2,000 years later still connect with." I try not to contradict what they're being taught, but I will inject what "some other people think" when I feel it's warranted.

So how can someone feel at home in church as an atheist? I think it's easier for Catholics because there is more of a cultural side, like being Jewish. I've know several Jews that probably fit into a similar mold.

I've considered converting to Catholicism for a consistent front for my kids. My wife has never asked and was quite surprised when I brought this up the first time. I told her, "We have four kids, you'd think they'd make me honorary by now!"

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Being an atheist

An atheist? Really?

Yes, I am an atheist. I’m not quite sure when I figured this out. I think it was some time in early high school, but I didn’t have the guts to admit it. It's not exactly a welcome admission. Later in high school, I was in an environment where politics and religion were discussed often. It was probably during that time that I was finally able to admit that I didn’t believe in a supreme being.

But why? How? You seem like a good and moral person!

Well, I was not brought up with any religion. My parents were not raised in particularly religious families, although both consider themselves Methodists. They never practiced and we never talked about it. It was a complete non-issue.

Given that, how do you become a Christian (or any other religion) if you have no foundation for one? My answer is that you don’t. People find Jesus all the time, right? Well, I’ve never hit rock bottom in my life and haven’t needed to be lifted up like that. In fact, my life is pretty good overall. There’s no void. I don’t yearn for God and/or Jesus.

Imagine two paths – one where someone starts from day one with all the stories, teaching, and reinforcement of the Bible. How hard is it for that person to make a leap of faith as an adult? The other path, someone starts with no opinion on the Bible, etc. How hard is it for that person?

Honestly, have you ever looked objectively at some of the stories of the Bible? They’re not a far cry from fairy tales. I mean no disrespect by that, but it’s not exactly something you read and go, “Ya know, God parts the Red Sea for his chosen people all the time. These definitely happened.”

I was introduced a year or so ago to the Flying Spaghetti Monster. This is just as plausible to me as stories of the Bible are. Okay, maybe it’s a little more far fetched, but the point should be clear.

So, I toil away in Red State Land, generally keeping my religious views to myself. Too many people in this neck of the woods don't really know what to do with an atheist. It's like a big "does not compute" blinks across their face.