Slowly working my way east. I'll hit New Jersey sometime very late tonight. I had to stop and take a nap this afternoon though, I was getting kinda sleepy.
I am resolving myself to the fact that I will probably not be able to catch up with Agnes this weekend. I have not been able to reach her and have little hope of doing so before the end of the day. Oh well, it was a fun taste of excitement for a little while, I guess.
Quite some time ago, a person whose journal I read did a wonderful entry detailing their personal politics on relevant issues, etc. Ever since reading that it has made me think of doing the same, and for the past several weeks I've been solidifying them in my head. The problem is I can be somewhat wishy-washy on my politics. I don't think it's so much that I don't have conviction, but that I tend to be a pragmatist and find credence and absurdity at both ends of the political spectrum. I guess one would call me a "moderate" but I think that's oversimplified. I have some moderate views, I also have some very liberal views and some very conservative views. At any rate, this is the reason that it makes it hard for me to pin down my politics. I spent the first 14 years of my voter eligiibility as a registered Republican, yet I tended to vote with the Democrats mostly. At least, their candidates seemed to be the lesser of two evils in most elections in recent memory.. Last year I switched my registration to the Democratic party since it seemed to be where I voted most consistently. I don't really feel an affinity for either party and have yet to find a "third" party which matches my politics. Libetarians, Green, Reform, they all have planks in their platforms which I can identify with but as a whole, much like the major parties, there is nothing which appeals to me as a "whole". As a general rule, my politics look something like this. Like conservatives, I believe in a limited role of government. Government should exist to protect and ensure our liberties, provide basic public services, provide for the commen defense, and provide minimal reuglation that can only be done at the federal level. Laws should be based at the lowest level of local government first and only filter up to federal level when it is clear that certain rights/liberties need to be protected at a federal level. However, more like a liberal, I think the rights of the individual is soveregin and should only be infringed when they interfere with the rights of another or present a direct danger to another individual or the republic. This, in essence, is my definition of crime. Any action which does not interfere with a person's individual rights or loss of private/public property should not be criminal, and in most all cases, perfectly legal. There are services and provisions of government which I think are too far reaching as any conservative will agree (education, aspects of our welfare system), but at the same time, there are basic human services which our government does not currently provide for which I think should be within the scope of the federal government, like lliberals (healthcare). That being said, I think that both ends of the spectrum spend far too much time bickering with political rhetoric and line toeing rather than rolling up their sleeves and tackling the issues with any practical sense. Of course, this is the beauty of the American system: issues evolve, water down, and a middle ground is eventually achieved, with both sides making concessions and the will of the general populace is more or less honored. The down side is that the process is usually a long and arduous one and the end result is imperfection which requires decades, generations, and even centuries to perfect, if ever. The practical plus though is democracy without mob rule, which no one wants. A "true" democracy would be tyranny in sheep's clothing.
So, without further ado; subject to change without notice and presented with a disclaimer of "read at your own risk", here is part one of "My Politics". I don't know how many parts this will end up being, but here is the first seven.
Let me start by saying that what any person does with their body is their choice. The presence of a fetus in a woman's womb is a part of her body that she has full sovereignty over. This is my liberal stance. That being said, I think there should be some practical, "real world" considerations. Waiting until the third trimester to abort an unwanted pregnancy, which, by this point, the fetus is most likely a viable child, is unconscionable. I think third trimester abortions should be limited to cases in which there is a hazard to the mother in bearing the child or there is a clear indication that the child is horribly malformed in some manner. I don't agree with the conservative or liberal view of "in case of rape or incest" because, well, that's like saying to a 4 year old, "You're daddy is an asshole, you gotta die." If the mother chooses to make that decision for her personal convictions in the first two trimesters, then fine, but that logic of the rape/incest argument is absurd to me. First and second trimester abortions should certainly remain legal and protected by federal law. So that is my political stance. My personal stance: I don't think I could in good conscience advise someone I know to have an abortion simply because it was unwanted. I would support them in whatever decision they made because of my philosophy on personal choice, but my personal inclination is that pregnancy is a calculated risk of sex. If you deem yourself old enough and responsible enough to be doing such a grown-up activity, then you must be willing to accpet all of its potential consequences. I'm not saying that a person has to necessarily be ready to be a mommy or daddy, there are options to abortion and plenty of loving people willing to take them in. I have an adopted sister who I love as dearly as if she were my own flesh and blood. Despite my "personal choice" and "body sovereignty" veiws, I do recognize that at even the earliest stages of conception, the fetus is a living thing. It may not be viable outside a woman's body at this moment, however, the wheels of human life have begun turning. My personal view is that terminating a pregnancy because it is an inconvenient side-effect of sex is somewhat selfish and irresponsible. But, I know people view it differently and I do believe in personal choice, therefore, I recognize the need for it to remain safe and legal. As one pro-choice person but it so succincntly, "If you don't believe in abortion, don't have one." I have a very dear friend who had an abortion. I think no less of her for her decision, it is just not something I would have recommended. But it was her choice and that's good enough for me.
2. Gun Control
Our founding fathers intended without question for the common man to be able to keep and bear arms. This was deemed necessary as deterrent to tyranny. A population incapable of armed revolt was subject to unchecked oppression from its government. This was the foundation of our country: bloody colonial revolt. In the event that our democratic experiement should fail miserably and give rise to tyranny, our founding fathers believed that the common man should be capable of this. Of course, in this day and age of smart bombs, cruise missiles, tanks, and aircraft - the prospect of an armed populace successfully thwarting some unforseen aggression on the part of our government against its own people is slim to none. Gun rights activists therefore tend to focus on the issue of crime and fighting back. While I'm certain some of this concept might have been intended by the founding fathers in terms of protecting one's property, I doubt they envisioned an America where potential gun battles were around every corner and inner city gangs organized relatively well armed militas to protect gang turf. I don't think it is an afront to the Constitutuon to provide for reasonable regulation of guns in our country, however I am opposed to an outright ban on them.. Waiting periods, background checks, licensing and registration all seem perfectly reasonable to me. I don't see any reason that a law abiding citizen of our country shouldn't be allowed to own a firearm. There are certainly many more instances of persons who own guns and use them in legitimate, responsible manners than there are people who do otherwise. I also don't understand why a law abiding citizen would have any trouble with these regulations. Whether they are avid hunters, collectors, enthusiasts, or stocking up for Armageddon - I don't see what harm waiting a week or having your criminal record checked will do. At the same time, this will help curb firearms landing in the hands of criminals that gun activists are so concerned about that they have to pack a piece in the first place. Make laws which place just as much responsibilty on the gun owner if they choose to give/sell their firearm to someone. One cannot legally give/sell a car to someone without registering it with local/state governments. Oh but driving isn't a Constiutional right? Well, free speech is but it is legally regulated that you cannot say/do things like incite riots or commit fraud or libel someone. Constitutional rights have practical limitations and the gun issue should be no different.
3. Seperation of Church and State
Should be maintained. Ten commandments issues, etc... they should be removed and enforced. I'm not as abolitionist as some folks about removing "In God We Trust" or "one nation under God" from currency and pledges. A vast majority, upwards of 90%, of the human race believes in some higher being. George Washington simply referred to his concept of God as "Providence". But when it comes to organized religion, their moralities and dogma, these things should be striclty detached from government institutions, practices, and legislation. Morality should not be legislated and the practices of government should not be steeped in religious imperative.
4. Victimless crime
So-called victimless crimes should be decriminalised and in some cases, legalised.. As a younger man, I used to be a proponent of flat-out legalisation, however, I've gravitated to a more practical approach to this issue. With concern to drug laws, I am a propoent of decriminalisation. Much like the abortion issue, it boils down to personal choice and sovereignty of the body, however, I think as matter of public policy it wouldn't be prudent to send a statement saying that it is "ok". Speeding is not ok, however, you're not going to go to jail for ten years. Drug laws should be relegated to this type of offense. Public drug deals and intoxication should be public nuisance sort of offenses while private and discreet transactions in people's homes would not be. I don't think anyone wants pushers on our street corners or herion sold in liquor stores. But people who want to grow or import limited quantities for personal use should have that freedom if they choose to do so. I think a middle ground can be found on this issue, if we ever get around to the business of decriminalising it. Sure it will take decades of tweaking, but I think a more sensible approach to recreational drug use in this country can be achieved than the current one. Like traffic offenses, fines and a limited appearance on criminal record which disappears after a period of time should be sufficient. Work place drug testing should be prohibited as an issue of personal privacy - criminal background checks will spot people with "problems" while the casual, responsible user who is not baked at work but does it on his personal time can not fear being fired or limited from certain jobs on the basis of his personal choices away from the work place. Prostitution should be legal as should gambling. What people choose to do sexually or with their money so long as it does not interfere with the rights of another person is their business. All of these should be regulated to some degree. however. Local municipalities should have rights to decide if a new Caesars or a big business brothel appears on their street corners, but at the same time some guy running a poker game or a working girl turning tricks "on call" should be free to do so. I think there needs to be a distinction between the "entrepreneur" and the organized business. A guy can sell you some steaks obtained from the butchering of his cow and it's perfectly legal. Businesses and corporations are subject to regulation by the FDA and commerce laws to protect the public from unscrupulous business practices. I think the same could be achieved with gambling and prostitution. These three victimless crimes are estimated to be a black market industry totalling into the hundreds of billions of dollars per year. It seems silly to waste more money curbing what people will do anyway, when we could save that money plus make more on top of it through taxation. The resulting windfall could provide better education on the risks of these behaviors so that people can make informed decision on their choices and provide for rehabilitation programs.
5. Sexuality and Marriage
This is closely tied to the previous two. Most sex laws and views are grounded in moral beliefs stemming from religion. With concern to simple sexuality, what any two consenting adults do in the privacy of their homes is their business. We need a constitutional amendment, or at the very least, a revision of the Civil Rights Act which would guarantee protection to people of all sexual persuasions and the rescinding of all anti-sodomy laws. Same sex marriage and multiple marriage laws should be rescinded immediately. The concept of one man/one woman is tied to relgion and laws which support this narrow view of family smack of a relgiious state. People should have the right to love whomever and of whatever quantity and have it legallly recognised by the government should they choose to take it to that level. Homosexual and polyamorous families cannot enjoy the legal beneifts of tax breaks and other private sector "perks" which legal marriage can provide and continuance of these laws is a continuance of legal and social bias. A priest may not marry you, and that's fine, religion is meant to foster particular moral beliefs, but the legal contract of marriage in a civil sense should not be biased.
6. Criminal behavior, the correctional system, and capital punishment
In this country we aesthetically uphold the idea of rehabilitation within incarceration. I think we should. Unlike, libertarians, I don't think we should just expect criminals to serve their time and then let them go. However, I think some of our practices in the prison system are antithetical to the premise of rehabilitation. First and foremost, I do not think that a criminal record should be "forever". This serves to brand citizens who may have made a horrible error in judgment as criminal. We cannot expect a citizen to return to civilian life successfully by forever labelling him a felon. Obviously, this should work on a some sort of scale - certain felonies are obviously more atrocious than others. Past criminal offenses should only remain on one's criminal record as long as the length of the maximum sentence. For instance, murder and rape carry possible life sentences, therefore should probably remain on criminal records for life, regardless of parole. Sometimes I think this may be too harsh though. I suppose some 18 year old could murder someone in a momnet of passion, then serve his 25 year minimum and want to try and make a life for himself in the straight world. Having a life-long murder record would certainly be a hinderance to that, but I guess it would be better than the current system. The seperation of juvenile records from adult records is a decent start, but there are plenty of othersie good people who end up in stupid circumstances and learn their lesson. Crippling them for life with a permanent criminal record adds insult to injury. When people aren't given a fair chance to redeem themselves through their current behavior and actions, it becomes a recipe for recidivism.
With the increase in technology providing for better monitoring (wireless technologies, GPS, etc) non-violent, first time felons should be removed from the traditioanl correctional systems and some sort of home incarcertaion should be established provided they can support themselves. Their wages should be garnished to absorb some of the cost. I have no problem with my taxes removing sociopaths from the general population but for the guy who just fucked up a little and needs to be monitored a little to make sure he's learned his lesson who is gainfully employed should foot some of the bill. This would have the added benefit of allowing first time offenders of non-violent crimes to remain productive memebrs of society and would thwart institutional mentality and recidivism. Repeat offenders on the other hand are already starting to display a pattern of disregard for the laws of society and should be locked up. Under the above proposed plan for self-erasing criminal records, repeat should be held in this light. Someone who commits to crimes decades apart should not be viewed as a repeat offender or a life of crime, they just screwed up really bad twice removed.
I am a proponent of mandatory sentencing, but ones which are reasonable and on a scale which takes into account recidivism. However, this needs to be tempered with a parole system based on merit. Human prejudice is a fact of life. Humans will always find reasons to be predjudiced, whether it be an issue of race, religion, or whatever. Mandatory sentencing removes this bias from the judicial system where judges and juries have historically used it capriciously. For every crime, there should be a uniform time. We need more degrees of criminal defintion and less room for human prejudice. Robbery is a crime with varying degrees based in circumstances. We should expand the degrees with appropriate mandatory sentences. Attorneys would be responsible for convincing a jury of a particular degree of crime and have a time of incarceration/level of restitution which befits that degree of crime, without regard to any other possible "circumstances" like the victim/perpetrator's race, level of education, religion, sexual orientation, class, or general appearance.
Capital punishment is not a practical form of punishment. The lengthy automatic appeals process which is necessary to insure absolute conviction is more costly than simple life-time incarceration which utilizes an appeals process based on a need-to-hear basis.. Unless executions are made public, the argument for deterrent is proposterous. The argument concerning the barbaric nature of the punishement for me is a moot point, it is a punishment reserved for the most heinous crimes for people who are unfit to remain memebers of our society. I don't have any ethical problems with execution, simply a practical one. Since I don't think we should execute someone unless we are 100% reasonably sure of their guilt and pursuing this endeavor is so costly, for me it becomes a matter of pragmatism. While this has happened rarely, but it has happened. Should someone convicted for life or given a death sentence and wishes to waive the appeals process and wants to be humanely executed, I think we have an obligation to honor it. I believe there are some sociopaths are have a better understanding of their compulsions than we will ever have and understand that they are a danger to society and do not wish to be a burden to them either. Like I said it is rare, but I think the option should exist should it present itself.
7. Suicide and other forms of man-caused death
With regard to criminals requesting execution I am a proponent of legal suicide, assisted or otherwise. Again this comes down to sovereignty of the body. People should be free to make this choice for whatever reason, legally and humanely. With concern to assistance, it should be striclty regulated for the wishes of the individual. Legal contracts should probably be made so that the individual's wishes are clearly stated as a matter of law so that there are no civil or criminal legal proceedings. While I think it's sad when young people kill themselves when they've barely had a chance to live, someone who has lived half or most of their life have a pretty good idea of where it's been and where it is headed. Their decision to simply stop participating should be protected should they choose to do so and any attempts to medically "save" a suicide attempt should be negated by a legally binding contract. This contract should probably be drawn with not only the assistance of lawyers but with the inclusion of a psychiatrist who can vouch for the person's ability to make a concious, rational decision that isn't steeped in depression due to chemical imbalances. Depression as a result of just a generally shitty life though is purely warranted. If life isn't fun or rewarding anymore due to age or life circumstances which are insurmmountable, I don't think anyone should be prohibited from ceasing it. The cliched notions that one can not worry and be happy or that anyone can overcome anything is naive. For some people, life just plain sucks due to things beyond their control or their own ineptitude and I don't think they should be expected to continue living if they choose not to. The right to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness espoused in our Declaration of Independence is not a blanket guarantee of these things. We are not at liberty to do anything we want, this isn't an anarchy, and the pursuit of happiness doesn't always yield it. Life, likewise should be a right, but not a guarantee that the individual has no control over.
Likewise, should two individuals choose to duel to the death, so long as it doesn't result in any collateral injury, fine by me. There was a time in this country when duels were perfectly legal. I don't see why this ever ceased to be. Consenting adults should have the option to do whatever they choose for the most part, I don't think by making it legal that hordes of people will begin dueling to the death. But it needs to be defined as a matter of law with contractual intent and not in the heat of passion, where the dead guy can't speak up for himself that he wanted to participate. If two assholes want to duel to the death, well at least there's one less asshole on the planet. Let 'em at it.
Feel free to comment, flame, argue, discuss among yourselves and with me.