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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