Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Welcome to the Slaughterhouse!: GOP Environmentalist?

"If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter." George Washington

Welcome to the Slaughterhouse, America!!

By Nicholas Meyeres

I've always been of the assumption that conservatives conserve. So, why are so many conservatives today not more conservationist-minded and therefore good stewards of the earth and her environment? After all, what is more conservative than producing less waste and responsibly disposing of said waste? It seems to me that purveyors of a wasteful and unnecessarily filthy earth would be the liberals of today, not the conservatives.

After all, a conservative strives to hold onto traditional attitudes and values about things in life, and as a result is cautious about most change. Similarly, if a conservationist wishes to protect the earth from harm or destruction- wouldn't it makes sense for conservatives to be the ones who want the environment to remain unharmed or unchanged by unneeded and unnecessary things that are indeed in our control? Not the few things out of our control, clearly, but those things we can affect in our own everyday lives?

Of course, as with everything, public perception changes the narrative and thus the reality of any one thing when it is distorted for personal or political gain. But I never personally understood popular conservative opinion when it came to the environment. Sure, some people go too far with their rhetoric and what they propose to do to fix the issue, but at the end of the day it is all the same for every one of us. In my mind this shouldn't even be a political or partisan issue since it effects us all the very same way.

Having said that, people that take it to the sometimes illogical extreme like some Global Warming alarmists of the day do tend to get under my skin, as well. I don't do well with the obvious hypocrisy of that level of person, or others who try to tell me that if I don't do exactly as they think I should the universe will implode. Like many Americans, if I am confronted with most ultimatums- especially ultimatums built from lies, half truths and fear mongering- I will generally go the other way even if I agree with what the end result may be. Still, it perplexes me at a fundemental level that it isn't ingrained into all conservatives to police themselves and their own back yards and communities thereby ensuring a safe and clean environment- not to mention a much more fiscally sound one!

In fact, the GOP's own online party platform in regard to Energy and the Environment states in part that we must:

•increase energy efficiency
•develop alternative fuels, particularly cellulosic ethanol, and vehicles that run on biofuels and electricity
•create permanent tax incentives for renewable energy technologies like wind, solar, geothermal and hydro- power.
•develop new technology to burn coal and liquefy it for use in power plants and vehicles that don't pollute.
•enact a "Climate Prize" for scientists who identify solutions to global warming

The platform even goes one step further by stating, "While the scope and longterm consequences of this are the subject of ongoing scientific research, common sense dictates that the United States should take measured and reasonable steps today to reduce any impact on the environment." So, that being the case, why don't we see more republicans who tow the party line require more from themselves in regard to the earth and the environment?

In truth, we CAN— and we probably should— address the risk of climate change based on sound science without succumbing to the no-growth radicalism that treats climate questions as dogma rather than as situations to be managed responsibly. But truth be told, this is all about personal responsibility and intergrity, not the other. And if modern day republicans want to be seen in that much more positive light, they need to be consistant all the way across the board- not just in parts.

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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Welcome to the Slaughterhouse: Freedom IS Free!

"If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter." George Washington

Welcome to the Slaughterhouse, America!!

By Nicholas Meyeres

More often than not, Americans have the tendency to want to say that “freedom isn’t free”, or talk about the "cost of freedom" as justification for sacrificing some liberties. But they couldn’t be more wrong.

Take faith for instance. No government should prohibit you or prevent you from ever practicing the faith of your choosing. Having said that, by that very same principle, it shouldn't mandate that you accept or practice one religion over another, either. Too many other countries do as much.

The Islamic doctrine in Iran for instance became law right around the time I was born. In essence, it proposes to steamroll everyone in the country to embrace only one religion, regardless of any individual’s personal belief system or morality. Incidentally, that also includes mandatory prayer in a public school setting- something a lot of Christian Americans call for very loudly these days. But that’s why we aren’t Iran, and that's the very reason we have an establishment clause to the First Amendment of our Constitution.

It is the charge of no government to force religion upon its citizens, regardless of whether that religion is Islam, Christianity, Judaism, or lack thereof. In fact, just as important as the right to free speech in this country, freedom of religion and the establishment clause is GUARANTIED by that First Amendment of the Constitution, and should always be honored. That’s why we should endeavor to recognize faith for what it is- a private and very personal choice for each and every individual. After all, isn't that the basic definition of freedom- the power to act, speak, or think as one wishes to without hindrance or restraint from anyone, including one’s own government?

But there is still opposition to this way of thinking. Sadly it is from the one group of individuals whom you would think would champion that cause more than any other- from none other than the church itself. To my mind every church in the free world should be thanking those of us who are willing to stand up and fight for separation of church and state, not against us. After all, wasn’t it England who was run by the church and who burned heretics alive before we seceded from that country to form our own?

As a result, our founders and framers decided to not repeat that monstrous mismanagement of justice by subjugating its people with a state sponsored religion. They knew that religion never elevates the state, but that the state somehow does seem to always demean the religion. That's why every theocracy in recorded human history has become a tyranny.

Still, many Christian Americans say that it isn't fair that the church doesn't have a true say in how the government is owned and operated. Don’t THEY have the right to free speech, as well? Not in so many words exactly.

Individual voters pay taxes, and in exchange, we are allowed the right to inform the government on how it should be run. But in return for not being able to do the same, the church doesn't have to pay taxes and is therefore exempt from most Federal and State laws. It’s an adequate exchange I think, even though it is true that IF churches did pay taxes, our National deficit would most likely be wiped out almost overnight.

But yet, because no one church has a vested power in the government, every religion and denomination is afforded the right to flourish and prosper in this great country of ours, which is the very reason there are more churches here in the United States than anywhere else in the entire world. All thanks to "separation of church and state".

Unfortunately, some church leaders I am sure feel that if they ran the government, it would be run much better and smoother, not to mention much more “moral” than it currently is. They would also have you believe that there is in reality no such thing as separation of church and state, and that the First Amendment applies mainly to their religion and not my lack of one. I say, “If you want a voice in how the government is to be run, then you should pay your fair share of taxes just like every other American citizen.” However, more often than not these same church leaders will run to their separate houses of god yelling, “You can't tax the church, it's against separation of church and state!”

Ironic or not, you can’t have it both ways. In fact, the bottom line is: If you want the same rights each and every American citizen is guaranteed in order to shape the government as they see fit, you have to pay that same burden as a citizen. That's simply how it works.

So, yes- separation of church and state is indeed the church's best friend regardless of what they would have us believe. Besides, it's all that stands between them and their absolute worst nightmare: Finding out that some OTHER religion has the power to tell THEM what to do.

And freedom? As opposed to what you may have been told- it IS free. Every bit of it. After all, in the long run, it doesn't cost you nearly as much as you gain. And that's why it’s "FREE"!

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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Welcome to the Slaughterhouse: How Pro-Life Are You, Really?

"If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter." George Washington
Welcome to the Slaughterhouse, America!!
By Nicholas Meyeres

Both terms "pro-life" as well as "pro-choice" are loaded terms. “Pro-life” advocates are typically also pro-death penalty, pro-military action and sometimes war even if it results in the death of countless innocents, and not vegans. “Pro-choice” advocates similarly are generally not for the choice of the father to have a say even though he was clearly involved, or the fetus who will eventually have a voice if left to grow. These individuals are, in essence, “pro-women-only-having-a-say” no matter what the cost because they claim that it is their “right” because it is their body.

And though there are still questions about where life begins, the point is a point of one person’s rights VS another person’s rights and should be considered on a case by case scenario as far as I a concerned. For instance- if the mother’s life is in danger- the mother should be saved without question. That is to say, if the baby will likely not survive, as well. However, this argument is largely invalid because of technological advances lately.

To use abortion as a means of birth control is simply unacceptable. For the government to mandate that tax payers fund abortion is also equally unacceptable. But the Morning After Pill should be allowed, and perhaps abortion should even be available before a beating heart is heard. Having said that, sexual education is key, and we should be free to teach it in conjunction with abstinence programs and proper birth control usage. Both sides need a say in this issue, but we need to be realistic that human beings have sexual urges and desires that are often difficult to suppress. For that reason, while I personally feel that abortion is a poor choice- it is currently a choice. The law doesn’t necessarily need to be repealed, but it surely needs to be amended greatly.

And as far as that law is concerned:

Even if Roe v Wade was overturned tonight, it would just send the issue right back to the states, so the argument is fairly moot on both sides at the end of the day. After all, the only thing the Supreme Court ruling did years ago was to say that individual states couldn't ban first trimester abortions, but they are free to regulate anything beyond that.
Even before 1973, somewhere around 15 states allowed legal abortion already. That being the case, the ONLY way abortion would be illegal in all 50 states is if a Constitutional amendment were passed. And let's be intellectually honest, the chances of that happening are exceptionally slim.
As a result, I feel we should stop perpetuating the myth that women can or will lose their "rights" under ANY president. The hyperbole is simply out of control at this point, and is nothing but a scare tactic to make women buy into the false narrative that republicans somehow hate them because they also support the lives of the unborn.

But regardless of where one stands on the issue of abortion, it is none of the Federal government’s business. If you stab someone to death, it is murder. As a result, you are typically charged with a STATE offense of murder. And if it is not murder, then the Feds similarly don’t need to be involved because no crime is ever committed.

However, as the Declaration of Independence states, we all have “certain unalienable rights, among these is life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness…” Which leads me to believe that even the unborn have those same rights, as well. Of course, the debate is open-ended since we have yet to come to a consensus of what first constitutes “life”.

Either way, the essence of the issue for me is one of hypocrisy first and foremost. The terms need to be changed to reflect a more realistic and less propagandist connotation before the debate can ever continue in an honest and straight forward fashion. “Pro-life” should become “anti-abortion"; and the term “pro-choice” should simply become “pro-abortion”. You are either for it or against it with few exceptions. Only at that point can the conversation continue honestly.

As for assisted suicide- while I agree up to a point on the issue (after all, I would probably wouldn't want to live like that, either)- I disagree on the procedure for the sake of my own personal integrity.

Fetuses have no say in their death. Animals don't, either. Nor do inmates on death row who may or may not be innocent, and who may be able to yet be rehabilitated. But a competent, sane persons with the ability to make proper choices do. 

To put that burden on anyone else but the person wanting to die- whether that person be a doctor or a family member- is simply beyond the pale of what anyone should ever ask of another person. In other words, if you can't commit the act yourself, you probably shouldn't ask anyone else to do your dirty work for you. In the event that an individual can't act for themselves because of some debilitating disease; they usually know what's coming, and should probably have ended their own lives before they ever get to that point if that is really what they choose to do. It sounds cold, but it is true as far as I see it.

That all being the case, sanctioned murder should never be allowed in a civilized society. And no matter what we decide to call it- that is exactly what it is.

Which brings me to stem cells research. This is a relatively controversial topic today because it is a relatively new issue and because it is a commonly misunderstood one at that. Stem cell research and pro-abortion do not necessarily go hand in hand as some have contended. After all, fetal stem cells are not the only stem cells available to science. All humans (fetal to adult) contain stem cells that may be harvested for research.

Embryonic stem cells are taken from a developing embryo at the “blastocyst stage”, destroying the embryo- a developing human life anti-abortionists contend. Adult stem cells, on the other hand, are found in all tissues of the growing human being and, according to latest reports, also have the potential to transform themselves into practically all other cell types, or revert to being stem cells with greater reproductive capacity. Besides, embryonic stem cells have not yet been used for even one therapy, while adult stem cells have been successfully used in numerous patients, including for cardiac infarction (the death of some of the heart tissue).

The choice is clear on this point of view. When you have an adult who is capable of making proper choices about the usage of their bodies vs a life form that is not (much like vivisection), there should be no debate at all. Adult stem cell usage should be pursued. Embryonic stem cells should not.

And the death penalty? In a nut shell, capital punishment does not deter crime, and the death penalty is uncivilized in theory and unfair and inequitable in practice. While the debate of where life begins is still in question, death is exact. And when the state has control over a person’s very life-force they MUST be certain of every fact. Sadly, they rarely are. People are fallible and corrupt by nature, and even if one innocent person is put to death on death row it is one too many. The government should hold no dominion over the life or death of ANYONE without their consent no matter what the context.

Furthermore, capital punishment is cruel and unusual, and murder demonstrates a lack of respect for human life- period. For this very reason, murder is abhorrent on any level, and any policy of state-authorized killings is therefore immoral government-sanctioned murder. Not to mention, capital punishment denies due process of law, and also violates the constitutional guarantee of the equal protection of those laws. Not to mention, executions send society the unmistakable message that human life no longer deserves respect when it is useful to take it and that homicide is legitimate when deemed justified by pragmatic means.

After all, reliance on the death penalty obscures the true causes of crime and distracts attention from the social measures that effectively contribute to its control. Plus, capital punishment simply wastes resources. It squanders the time and energy of courts, prosecuting attorneys, defense counsel, juries, and courtroom and correctional personnel- not to mention it is much more expensive than to put a prisoner in prison. And frankly, if you are in favor of “true” punishment- the death penalty lets a murderer off the hook with much more ease than without suffering for their crime.

Simply put, a decent and humane society does not deliberately kill ANY living being no matter who pulls the proverbial trigger, or for whatever reason. Life is life, plain and simple. And if you indeed choose to call yourself such, you must live that principle all the way across the board lest you prove your hypocrisy true. You simply can not pick and choose your convictions like candy from a candy store, and expect to remain credible.

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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Welcome to the Slaughterhouse: Won't Some Party Claim Me?

"If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter." George Washington
Welcome to the Slaughterhouse, America!!

By Nicholas Meyeres

Let's try an experiment, shall we?

I'm a leftist-leaning democrat who voted for Barack Obama in 2008. And anyone who didn’t is a tea-bagging racist!

See how that worked? Half of you just mumbled something about me being a typical liberal. And the other half cheered out loud. And still, it was about as subtle as a sledgehammer and as divisive as a militant atheist at a Catholics-only convention.

It was certainly straight forward, but was it the truth?

Not if you really delve into the complexities of both major parties, it isn't. Democrats aren't just democrats anymore. Republicans aren't just republicans. And most of us would much rather be somewhere in the middle if we really had our way about it, as opposed to most of the other political groups out there who are just too small to matter in the country club that is the political machine today.

After all, let's just be frank, the Libertarian Party (which is probably the largest of all the third parties in the United States today) is essentially a politically-impotent movement for the most part and likely always will be. Sure, some will raise up arms in protest by saying it is solely because of the Republican and Democrat Party's ability to overshadow any other movement like the libertarian movement, but that wouldn’t be entirely true, or intellectually honest. For the sake of argument, though, even if it were the case, and even if you buy into the philosophy that your party can be emasculated by any other party by the simple nature of their existence, you are (in essence) saying your own party is filled with so many weak-willed and inept members that you are either so easily swayed into another camp or can't mobilize your own troops well enough to make any real difference anyway.

Don't get me wrong. I understand, and even celebrate the side of me that is overtly libertarian in nature. But I am what you may call a "developing libertarian". After all, the exact term "libertarian" isn't entirely true to who I am, but then again, neither is “republican” or "democrat”. I like most of the core ideals of the Libertarian Party, but not the sometimes wild ideas of what is right and what is not so right morally that often come from many party members- much like the Republican and Democrat Parties. I suppose I am best described by some as a "libertarian-leaning conservative", which isn't to say I don't share some of the ideals that liberals in America do today, because I do. Still, does that make me a republican or a libertarian, or even a democrat in the most general of definitions?

Let's take state's rights for starters. Unlike most liberals, I am for state's rights almost to a fault. I also feel that individual states do have a right to institute universal health care if they choose to; to hand out free cars if they want, ban drug and alcohol, or even force people to eat red lollipops and crap sunshine if the citizens of that state want it that way. But only if it doesn’t violate the United States Constitution in any way, shape or form.

The Federal Government is essentially barred from such actions, but individual states are not for the most part. And guess what? If a state also wants to have a collective mad-on hate for “queers”, “wetbacks”, “hillbillies”, “cowboys” or “car salesmen”- so be it. It is their right to institute a vote to make it an insane venture for any Hispanic, gay or lesbian, Black-American, or pony-riding hick to live there. You can't force these people out of your state by law, or out-rightly discriminate against them, but you can make it near impossible for them to WANT to be there- and I am frankly okay with that. Not the racism that would surely ensue, but the rights of the citizens of that state to decide for themselves what they want within the confines of Federal discrimination laws.

If you don't like Arizona, then move to California. If you don't like California, then head on down to Mexico. If you don’t like Mexico, then I couldn’t blame you at all.

But personally, I am no more a libertarian then I am a republican; or for that matter, even democrat. I have a little bit of each party within me, and I feel that's what makes me the free thinker I believe I am today. I don't pander, and I am no partisan hack for any side. Frankly, anyone who identifies with any party 100% should be institutionalized for bat-shit craziness right out of the gate, and have the key thrown away forever. To be that much behind your party without any reservation makes you an automaton at best, and no better than the other side you choose to attack.

What I believe is different about me is my personal perspective- not my political persuasion. Most libertarians eschew the culture wars, think drugs and pornography should be legal, favor an almost isolationist foreign policy for the most part and generally believe in shrinking the government to about the size of a walnut- all of which appalls most mainstream conservatives. On these matters, I am a fairly typical conservative republican for all intents and purposes.

Sure, I think Federal Government should have much less power than it does today, but to shrink it so small that it has virtually no power at all is sheer lunacy, and also wildly dangerous in this day and age. And to bring all of our troops home right now would be a great idea and one I am all for, but also equally dangerous if not extremely naive to do all in one fell swoop. But so many libertarians I know of would love these ideas to be made a reality. Not me. Not in the slightest. I am no anarchist or isolationist. I guess I am no “true” libertarian.

Generally, I am in favor of a strong military and am not afraid of our government using it within the confines of our Constitution (which it currently doesn’t anyway). I also reject the idea of immediately pulling American troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan and many other places for a multitude of different reasons which places me directly at odds with the Libertarian Party. But like many libertarians, I feel that a president MUST have approval before he decides to go to war, that preemption in war is about as wrong as it gets on nearly every single level, and that war in general is a very, very bad idea.

However, in the post-911 world we live in today, if you aren't at least somewhat vigilant and don't say you won't retaliate against aggression when it happens to you, you are either a fool who might as well choose to live in a fantasy world where nothing bad ever really happens, or close the door to our country and never let anyone in ever again. Essentially, if you come after my country first and do harm to my people, we have the right and we WILL pound you into squirrel snot given the chance to do so. Otherwise, we're minding our own business for the most part.

Yet, for whatever reason, a lot of libertarians are seemingly in favor of completely open borders with no restrictions, and want every illegal alien, criminal, and Allah-loving terrorist to flood our country like never before. I can't even touch on this idea without my head exploding. In this regard, I am COMPLETELY the opposite of a libertarian!

So, does that make me a conservative republican? Not unless you think the terms "militant atheist" or “bleeding heart vegan” are synonymous with republicanism, it doesn't.

I identify with the Republican Party on a great many levels, but not all- including the religious right who seems to rule the direction the party is headed today.

Take capital punishment for example. I am against it on every level possible. And I am just fine with gays and lesbians getting married and divorced and even joining the military given the chance to do so. And abortion? I actually understand it when some people decide to go that route, believe it or not- but I still think it is personally one of the worst choices you could ever make. So, does that make me a democrat in conservative’s clothing, or someone trying his best to pretend not to be what others’ believe him to be?

I am also against the welfare state to an almost vitriolic degree- including welfare for veterans, corporations, and the elderly- not just the poor, the lazy, or the inept. I feel unions have way outlived their usefulness. I believe that redistribution of any sort of wealth at all is the birth of the downfall of this great country we live in. I am completely for making drugs of any kind extremely hard to get, if not completely illegal- including cigarettes AND alcohol. And while I am not at all behind the Patriot Act, I am also just fine with a little water boarding every now and then if it gets the job done. I am just not so sure I want to know about it when it happens. Oh, and I love my guns and country, too.

So, that must bring me back to being a jingoistic republican, right?

After all, the most common belief republicans have is fiscal conservatism- specifically, advocating for lower taxes at every level of government, a reduction in the level of spending in the federal budget, easing the burden of federal regulations on business interests, the reform of the entitlement system, and ending or making significant cuts to the welfare state. Additionally, they claim to oppose budget deficits and deficit spending, and work to minimize it as much as possible. Too bad that is only in theory. Republicans have become just as diametrically opposite to this way of thinking as the democrats have.

And the Constitution?

Come on, libertarians aren't the only ones who have the market cornered on the Constitution and the rights it affords to all American citizens. Republicans do, as well- again in theory, that is. And I bet I can even find one or two Blue Dog Democrats that would stand behind the greatest document ever written if I look hard enough. But to be clear, these concepts are not exclusively mutual to just the Libertarian Party. Because, while the United States Constitution may have been birthed by forming a multitude of different concepts throughout the history of the world, and from different civilizations and societies and countries over time- it is wholly American, as well. However, the birth of the libertarian movement is predominantly a French concept, not an American one.

Let me repeat that in case you missed it the first time: The birth of the libertarian movement was French!

Wikipedia says, "The use of the word 'libertarian' to describe a set of political positions can be tracked to the French cognate, 'Libertaire', which was coined in 1857 by French anarchist communist Joseph Déjacque who used the term to distinguish his libertarian communist approach from the classical liberalism advocated by Pierre-Joseph Proudhon. Hence the term 'libertaire' has been used as a synonym for left wing anarchism or libertarian socialism since the 1890s."

“Libertarian communist?!”

Now, I'm not saying the French are all bad, or had only bad ideas, but... come on, they're French!

And the Democratic Party? It "evolved from Anti-Federalist factions that opposed the fiscal policies of Alexander Hamilton in the early 1790s" also according to Wikipedia. So, it is truly an American concept, as well, as opposed to libertarianism. And in its inception, the party favored states' rights and a strict adherence to the Constitution; while opposing a national bank and wealthy, moneyed interests much like the Libertarian and Republican Parties do today.

And finally, there's the Republican Party, which is also a 100% American-created and born institution with one of the greatest men to ever be elected to the high office of the Presidency- Abraham Lincoln- as its first. Bottom line, you don't get any more "American" than the Republican Party.

So, that must mean I am one even though I sound libertarian by libertarian standards today even though libertarians were formed out of communist and socialist roots which is what most people accuse the Democrat Party of being today... is anyone else confused yet?

Bottom line, the Republican and Democrat Parties today are not the Republican and Democrat Parties of days gone by, and that concerns me. I am often called a RINO, or "Republican in Name Only", or even the opposite extreme- a neo-conservative- by people who claim to know me. But is that truly fair to me, and does it even matter if I am not EXACTLY the embodiment of one party or another? After all, republicans don't act or talk or think at all like the republicans of the past, nor do democrats, nor do libertarians for that matter.


"Where do I stand?"

"Who do I most closely align myself with?"

"What party best represents ‘me’?"

If I call myself a republican, I am automatically aligned with the religious right and George W. Bush whom I did not vote for. If I say I am a democrat, I am a born again socialist who dreams of communist sheep jumping over Marxist revolutionaries wearing brown SS shirts who voted for Barack Obama- whom I also did not vote for. Independents are nothing more than the bi-sexuals in the political spectrum who vacillate from side to side when it is convenient for them to do so, but never seem to want to really commit themselves to any actual cause or side. And the renewed interest in libertarianism via the Tea Party movement over the last couple of years only seems to me a knee-jerk reaction to conservative republicans losing to our current president in 2008. It seems like it is more of an anti-democrat and anti-liberal movement rather than a pro-liberty or constitutional one.

So, where do I stand?

Perhaps, I am a "diet libertarian", or perhaps even "libertarian light". In other words, I think nearly exactly as most libertarians do, but because I live in Utah and can't vote in the primaries as anything other than a democrat or a republican, I chose the lesser of two evils and am a registered “little (r)”. Just don’t try telling all the other conservatives out there in Mormonland that I am an atheist who supports gay marriage, and who is also against the death penalty. They’ll take my card away, and never give it back.

Perhaps I am with all of these groups and perhaps I am with none of them. That is about as clear as it gets for me… for right now at least or maybe even forever. Maybe that's where it should choose to even stay. Maybe I am more than the label I am forced to be given, or the mantel I choose to wear. Maybe I am more than the sum of my political parts. Maybe just being called an "American" is more than enough in the world we live in today.

Maybe Superman had the right idea. Maybe "truth, justice, and the American way" is all there really is to believe in when it’s all said and done. Maybe we should form a new political party altogether. Maybe.

Raise your hands if you're for the newly formed "Truth, Justice and the American Way Party"! Now, that's something I could get behind. Up, up, and away, America! It’s time to move beyond the labels we are given by others, and make our own way in the world for ourselves, and for liberty.

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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Welcome to the Slaughterhouse: Proof of Evolution?

"If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter." George Washington

Welcome to the Slaughterhouse, America!!

By Nicholas Meyeres

The Theory of Evolution is just that: a theory. There are holes in it, to be sure. But make no mistake about it, even having said that- evolution is clearly the best explanation we have by far, and it leaves very little room for doubt. In fact, the little doubt that does remain is so astronomically small that it makes one wonder why even have a discussion about it at all. But that is the point of science, and as with all good science, it will remain the best explanation as long as all other scientific disciplines agree with it- which they do for now. Of course, that isn't to say that this won't change. This is because science is ever evolving itself, and leaves no stone unturned. I personally trust that approach in life far more readily than any blind, benighted view that is dictated and never adjusted as we learn and grow over time.

Thus, creationism is neither a science nor a discipline from this standpoint- to say otherwise is deceiving at best. Nor is it terribly rational. It is magic, and we all know magic does not exist. Sure, it’s common knowledge that I don't personally believe in any version of a higher power, but it's not because any scientist told me not to, or for that matter, because I believe in evolution on its own. It is an idea born simply out of reality, and what I see as lending itself to rational and critical thinking. But does that mean that if one believes in creationism their scientific or rational knowledge is severely lacking? Not necessarily.

After all, like I said before, it is a theory- it is not the PROOF of Evolution. But to say that there is no basis for it being a more rational "truth" than, say, a view that a cosmic Zombie Jewish carpenter who was somehow conceived without a father, but who is in some way his own celestial father born of flesh and blood to a virgin; who can also make you live forever only if you symbolically eat his skin and telepathically tell him every night before bedtime that you accept his claim as lord and master over everything in creation; so he can mystically remove the invisible evil force living inside of you like an undetectable tumor all because a woman wearing a fig leaf who was born from a bone fragment and who was convinced by a talking snake to eat a magical fruit from a forbidden tree in a lush, tropical, beautiful garden somewhere in the Middle Eastern desert is laughable.

But is it more laughable than humans evolving from apes? Considering that we have nearly identical DNA as some apes I would say that evolution from this standpoint is much more believable than the other, yes. Is it perfect? Not in the slightest. But we already know (and can see with our own two eyes) that evolution exists all around us without having to take anyone's word for it, and that makes all the difference in the world.

We can see many animals around us that have adapted to their surroundings. We know the Earth has done it's fair share of adaptation, as well. We are aware that plants evolve to suit their circumstances and needs. So, why is it such a leap to believe that we, too, have evolved as a species?

After all, no one knows how old the Earth really is, but geologists were beginning to make estimates that the earth was considerably older than explained by biblical creation long ago. Geologists were learning more about the layers formed by successive periods of the deposition of sediments centuries ago. This suggested a time sequence, with younger layers overlying older layers.

And discoveries of fossils were accumulating during the 18th and 19th centuries. At first naturalists thought they were finding remains of unknown but still living species. As fossil finds continued, however, it became apparent that nothing like giant dinosaurs was known from anywhere on the planet. Furthermore, as early as 1800, scientists pointed out that the deeper the layer of earth, the less similar fossils were to existing species.

And further, we know the world to not be flat today, and that the Earth is not the center of the solar system all thanks to science. But in centuries past we believed it to be so. Again, all thanks to science, we now know the error of our thinking. As a result, I know very few people today that would deny that much, but yet those same few people would deny evolution and the date of the Earth given scientific evidence. Why?

The answer seems to be a simple one for me- willful ignorance. Evidence is something that adds weight to an argument or theory. Proof is absolutely undeniable. Is there proof of evolution? Not in exact terms, no, but there is an abundance of evidence for it. Consequently, there is neither proof NOR evidence for creationism at all. Therefore, in order to believe in creationism all you need is “faith” in your theory, and a healthy dose of skepticism for anything but your point of view and it becomes true in your mind. Willful ignorance.

So, will we ever prove evolution correct without any shred of doubt? Not likely, since that isn't how science really works. Put another way, Nobel Prize winning scientist Linus Pauling aptly described science as “the search for truth”. Plainly put, there is always doubt. But it is far more likely that evolution will be proven much more true than creationism ever will be considering the overwhelming evidence that already exists for evolution and the lack of any shred of evidence for creationism.

In other words, science constantly tries to prove its assumptions to be false and rejects implausible explanations. In this way, scientific knowledge and understanding grow over time. Religious explanations for the order of things are not science because they are based primarily on faith and do not subject themselves to be objectively falsified.

So, when scientists speak of evolution as a theory they do not mean that it is a mere speculation. It is a theory in the same sense as the propositions that the earth is round rather than flat or that our bodies are made of atoms are theories. Most people would consider such fundamental theories to be sufficiently tested by empirical evidence to conclude that they are indeed facts. As a result of the massive amount of evidence for biological evolution accumulated over the last two centuries, we can safely conclude that evolution has occurred and continues to occur to this day.

Having said that, do I believe in evolution hook, line and sinker? Not in the slightest. I just recognize that it is the most palpable theory out there today. If something more reasonable is presented, including proof of creationism, I will gladly and gleefully entertain the idea just as I have entertained the Theory of Evolution. After all, as Thomas Jefferson said, "Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blind-folded fear."
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Friday, July 29, 2011

Welcome to the Slaughterhouse: Government: Stay Out of My (Gay) Marriage!

"If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter." George Washington

Welcome to the Slaughterhouse, America!!

By Nicholas Meyeres

Equal rights are not special rights unless you're the one who doesn't have them.

Rights belong only to individuals, not collective groups of people. Therefore, there should be no affirmative action for any one group, and no special rights for them, either. However, ALL rights should be equal rights for individuals regardless of your personal preference against any one individual or type of person. Likewise, we should repeal any and all laws currently on record if they are blatantly unconstitutional, or if they deliberately single out one type of person over another one.

For instance, 'gay rights'.

Of course, when I refer to gay rights I am not referring to special rights for the gay and lesbian community apart from the straight community, I am referring to equal rights all the way across the board for all persons- period. What is afforded to one legal citizen MUST be afforded to all legal citizens- without exception. Besides, straight Americans are the ones currently benefiting from special rights by nature of disallowing the gay community to partake in those same privileges- not the other way around.

If you allow special tax breaks, financial incentives, the simple ability to even be married in the eyes of the state, or to have or adopt children in some areas- then, you must by constitutional law offer those same benefits to all the people of this country. If you want to not allow two gay men or two gay women to marry in your private church- so be it, that is also your right. But, the government cannot, and should not allow popular opinion, bigotry or religious belief to sway how they govern individuals.

Basically, everyone should be allowed a civil union sanctioned by the government if they so choose it; or no one should have them at all. The same should go for special benefits and incentives for those people, too. However, if a person would later wish to sanctify that union in the privacy of one’s own church, that should be allowed, as well.

But honestly, I feel the government shouldn’t even be in the marriage business at all. It shouldn’t advocate or allow those benefits to ANYONE. After all, if you do offer special perks for individuals who partake in a civil union or a marriage, you are effectively discriminating against individuals who choose to be single. And that is just as unacceptable to me as the other.

If you want to have your priest sanctify your marriage, or have a ceremony at the top of a mountain while shouting to Mother Earth that you want to spend the rest of your life with another person for all of eternity, you should be allowed to. I just personally believe that the government shouldn’t be involved in any way shape or form in that aspect of our personal lives whatsoever. And they certainly shouldn’t offer you bribes to do so, either.

Frankly, I don't know why anybody would be against gay couples getting civil union licenses in America. I can understand why a Christian would object to the government forcing their hand to allow gay people to be married in their private church- after all, they believe it to be a sin. But what's wrong with them having a civil union in a public, tax-paid-for court house? They are still citizens, too, and the Constitution mattered last time I checked.

The solution, some may argue, is to amend the Federal Constitution, which is what George W. Bush, Newt Gingrich and others endorse. But there is one problem with that: Article Six reads:

"This Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding."

Boiled down, this means that the Constitution is barred from contradicting itself. Thus, a Federal Marriage Amendment that would deprive a singled-out populace of any rights runs in clear contradiction to Article Four and also Amendment Nine of the Constitution. And the Ninth Amendment states:

"The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people."

Likewise, in reference to another lateral subject akin to civil rights and gay marriage: Gays not being allowed in the American Armed Forces.

For the sake of preserving our nation’s oldest and most treasured and revered document, we should remove and replace the current 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' system with a system giving the same benefits to everyone in the line of duty for U.S. armed services. Equality of all individuals must be honored lest our rights be someday taken away from the rest of us.

After all, in reference to special rights and privileges for some, but not for others: Military members and their spouses are eligible for a wealth of benefits, including health insurance and survivor benefits. However, if a spouse is injured or killed in the line of duty, a gay or lesbian partner does not qualify for any financial or emotional assistance at all. There is no spin available to corroborate this type of behavior for our government to engage in.

Still, one of the largest casualties of 'Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell' may very well be the stifling of fellow service members personal lives while allowing others the opportunity to grandstand and throw in the faces of gay and lesbian soldiers how much they are afforded. This is no more glaring than when gay and lesbian couples are prohibited from bringing their chosen partner to military functions, even if they have been in a long-term committed relationship, nor can they even talk about their partners without fear of losing their jobs. Straight service members are not only allowed to bring their significant others, but encouraged to do so.

If the private sector isn't allowed to openly discriminate in this way or fashion, why is the government allowed to do so?

As a consequence, more than 265 service members have been discharged on the basis of this discriminatory, outmoded, and counterproductive policy since the law was first enacted. Furthermore, the policy has deterred untold others who would wish to defend their country from serving. Gary Gates, a senior research fellow at the UCLA School of Law, found that if the proportion of gay men in the military was allowed to rise to equal that in the general population, “the military could raise their numbers by an estimated 41,000 men.” And in a time when we have record low numbers of enlisted persons in our armed forces, we must endeavor to allow ALL individuals the opportunity to serve if they so choose it whether we approve of their personal life choices or not.

Simply put, can they do the job set before them? The answer is, “as well as anyone hired for any job can.” Will their orientation become an issue while on the battlefield? No more than any straight man’s would. Will it cause disruption to all if only a few are allowed to serve openly? Ask the countless other nation’s of the world that currently allow homosexuals the opportunity to serve openly how well it is working for them. And conversely, consider which nations have laws similar to our laws like Saudi Arabia, North Korea, Cuba, Iran, Pakistan, and Venezuela. That is never good company to be in for any reason if you ask me.

In fact, countries as Catholic as Spain, as different as Sweden and South Africa, and as near as Canada have embraced gay and lesbian marriage as well as have allowed gays and lesbians in their respective militaries without any noticeable effect-- except the increase in human happiness and social stability that comes from permitting people to marry for love. Several states have individually repealed their bans on same-sex marriage as inconsistent with a decent respect for human rights and a rational view of the communal value of marriage for all individuals. But basic constitutional rights cannot depend on the willingness of the electorate in any given state to end discrimination. If we were prepared to consign minority rights to a majority vote, there would be no need for a constitution.

Mind you, I am not a Constitutional scholar, nor a lawyer. I am a common, average American citizen who treasures the deep values of justice and equality our Constitution embodies and veterans across the ages have fought and died to preserve.

Ultimately, I am utterly in shock that the fighters for liberty, equality and the right to marry a person with a different skin color than you some 50+ years ago would be the very same ones seemingly to promote that same exact discrimination, hatred and inequality of today against the gay and lesbian community. The Republican Party has changed not only its policies, but also its heart, mind and very soul today. It's no wonder that liberals have co-opted the 'freedom and liberty debate' in this day and age, and have changed the narrative so that conservatives are simply hate-mongers who would discriminate against anyone different than they are- because, if that is the argument, it would sadly be true.
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Thursday, June 9, 2011

Welcome to the Slaughterhouse: Do Animals Deserve Rights?

"If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter." George Washington

Welcome to the Slaughterhouse, America!!

By Nicholas Meyeres

Let’s talk animal rights for a bit, shall we?

Admittedly, this is a tricky one for a plethora of different and varying reasons, and one that I could write entire books about. So, where to begin….?

While it is clear that animals and humans are vastly different on a great many levels, they are also very similar on enough levels to warrant the discussion in the first place. After all, the scientist will say he tests on monkeys because they are like us, and then when asked if it is right to do so, he will say “yes” because they are NOT like us. That type of hypocrisy is not uncommon when we discuss animal rights issues with nearly anyone- not just the vivisectionist.

But first, let’s define what animal rights means to me. In my view it is the right not to be made to die and suffer by humans except in self-defense. Period. However, if you take issue with the concept of a "right" for animals, you can instead think of this position as being equivalent to the following proposition: "It is MORALLY wrong to kill animals UNNESISARILY and make them suffer except in self-defense.”

Now, let’s take this oft-discussed hypothetical conversation as an example of why I am for some form of animal rights:

Opponent of animal rights: How can you say that animals have rights? That’s ridiculous.

Proponent of animal rights: Why is it ridiculous?

Opponent: For one thing, animals can't reason. They can't be held responsible for their actions. To have rights, you must have these capacities first and foremost.

Proponent: Wait a minute. Infants can't reason in the regard you are meaning, either. Does that mean that it's open season to hunt and kill babies?

Opponent: Of course not. Infants will be able to reason someday. We must treat them as prospective rights-holders.

Proponent: But what if the infant is terminally ill and has only six months to live? What about a person who was born with part of his brain missing and has the mental capacity of a pig? What about a senile, old person? Is it OK to kill, eat, and otherwise use these people for our own ends, just as we now use pigs and cows and sheep and monkeys?

It's easy to grasp this fact if you do some introspection and ask yourself why it is morally wrong to inflict suffering on a human who can't reason. Why is it morally wrong to torture an infant? Is it because he or she has the potential to become a moral entity at some point? Now, be honest about this: Isn't it really because the infant can suffer and has an interest in NOT suffering? Isn't it because forcing the infant to suffer against his or her will violates its “rights”? Why is it immoral to use a victim of Alzheimer's for target practice? Is it because he is a member of a species whose more normal members can think conceptually and can be held responsible for their actions? Surely not. It's because he can suffer, and therefore, he has an interest in not suffering. To treat him this way against his will goes against his “rights” I am sure everyone will agree.

In essence, all of this also holds true for the monkey, the dog, the cat, or any other animal we know of for that matter. Like a human, the monkey can suffer, and he has an interest in not suffering. To force him to die and suffer needlessly, except in self-defense, violates his “rights”, as well. It's a simple matter of treating like cases alike with pure categorical logic.

Sometimes skeptics make the following objection to animal rights: “If animals have a right not to be made to suffer, doesn't it follow that we should police the wilderness and prevent predatory animals from attacking their prey?” No, this does not follow. Animals should be allowed to defend themselves, but they do not have the right to protection any more than human beings do. What the “like cases alike” argument proves is that it is immoral for moral creatures like humans to treat animals in ways we would not treat humans like except (again) in self-defense.

In truth, because animals are not moral creatures as we know it, what they do is outside the purview of our ethics system. We might as well ask whether a zebra has a “right” not to be crushed by a falling rock. Therefore, we can only concern ourselves with what WE should do and not do. Animals in the wild are on their own for all intents and purposes. At least an animal who is preyed upon in the wild has a fighting chance. It is not locked in a cage or hunted with tools he has no privy to.

Another popular objection is “animals kill and eat each other in nature, so why shouldn't we be able to do the same thing?” In other words: “If animals do it, then we can do it, too.” But that would mean that we are like the animals, and surely it would be illogical to base our moral principles on the actions of animals who can't even engage in simple moral reasoning, correct? Some animals eat their offspring. Does that mean I am morally entitled to eat my offspring, as well? This is one of the many reasons I am a vegan; we are not at the top of the proverbial food chain- we are far, far BEYOND it.

So, do animals deserve “rights” afforded to them? Perhaps not in the context of the same equal rights we are afforded in our United States Constitution, but some basic rights should indeed be in order. Perhaps the same rights infants are allowed and afforded, but not the same rights adult humans are given. Besides, in theory all suffering is immoral when inflicted upon the innocent. After all, animals have no proper voice to speak out, but that doesn’t mean we still cannot hear them cry.

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