Monday, June 30, 2008

and justice for all?

As I watch the babbling heads offering their paid opinions of the NEWS channels I am struck by problem with justice today. No matter how hard a judge may try to remove his/her personal bias and render a fair and impartial judgement, one of these babbling heads with find issue with it to spend a few moments in front of the camera. We have always had rabble rousers, and shills pushing one agenda or another, now we do it on an instant basis 24/7/365. If you missed the call to arms the first time, wait 30 minutes or an hour and it will be back.

The judge must render the verdict and be subject to the review and scrutiny of not only the appellate courts but now of anyone with a camera and access to the media or Internet. While it must be true there are a large number of "liberal" judges pushing their proactive views of how the courts should be used in social engineering, I wonder if their numbers match the conservative estimates, or does it all really balance out in the end?

Wouldn't it be grand if we could somehow separate the judge from the politic, but since the two have been intertwined since the creation of the nation state I guess that would just be wishful thinking.

Monday, June 23, 2008

On the Role of Government, continued

"To promote the general welfare" What does this mean for today's society? How does a government promote the general welfare? These seem to me to be the core questions before us as a nation. The founding fathers were visionary individuals who clearly reflect the whole can be greater then the seperate parts. Each brought into the convention the experiences of the confederation of states, the desires of their state governments and their individual natures. Many feared a strong central government, but recognized the expansion of the nation to the west was inevitable and the government would need to to adapt to the changes they knew must be an outcome of that expansion.

I believe this paragraph would reflect the desire of the signers to indicate that a central government provide all the benefits possible. Strong interstate commerce, freedom for the states to function as they saw fit, a stable economy and a minimally invasive government regulating their lives.

"and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity." This clearly links to the previous sentiment, in fact, the last two items summarize all that went before. The nation had just 10 years earlier secured the right to self government and was feeling its way to a form of union unknown before. This seems to be a prayer for this grand experiment to work.

So exactly what does this mean for all of us? It strikes me as a round about way to say the role of our government will be what we allow it to be. The central government must be a balance between the rights of the many and the rights of the one. Our represtatives must balance their personal desires against those of the constituancy. If we choose not to be a voice in the process, then the government will evolve into what those who wield power want and they will seek council with those of like views. We must participate, even when we are in a minority. We owe it to ourselves and our posterity to be true to ourselves, accept the views of those who disagree with us, and be respectful of the debate, for in debate comes compromise and with compromise comes effective government. As Thomas Paine noted "That government is best which governs least."

Saturday, June 21, 2008

On the Role of Government

As the political season cranks up I've been thinking about the role of government. John Locke felt the role of government was based on the consent of the governed. I agree with him. Locke augured against the prevalent views of the establishment that proposed God created men to be governed by sovereigns chosen by God. This was taught in school in the simplified phase "Divine right of kings." The concept of Natural Law existed before Locke but serves as the basis for his beliefs in Natural Rights, or those rights due all peoples. It was within the frame work of this rational philosophy the founding fathers were educated and drew on for the context of our nation.

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." The second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence clearly draws on John Locke's teaching to establish the separation of rights inherent to all, from those established for only the Monarchy.

If we agree with Locke, the government gains it legitimacy from our consent, then it seems reasonable to ask and understand what exactly the government will provide for that. This is the basis for all debate leading to our elections in on November 4th. As we become a nation of extremes, a nation of polarized individuals with little thought about anything other then their immediate needs, we put at risk the ability to provide a clear consent to be governed.

This brings me to the primary question, what is the role of Government? Our Constitution lays out five objectives for our government: "establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty." The issue: can a larger, more centralized, more bureaucratic and distant government provide this?

In the course of our history I think we've been less then perfect in establishing justice. If we were Divine this might not be so, but we are not. As humans we will strive for and fall short, but we must always strive, move forward and work towards the ideal. The problem I am having is with this desire to rewrite our histories to reflect the political correctness so in vogue today. We have a system of laws, and a judiciary to enforce them. The question which keeps challenging me is how is justice determined? We like to think the tenant "all men are innocent until proven guilty" guides us as a constitutional requirement. It does not! It comes from our English forefathers, but it does form the basis for our legal system. Unfortunately the media, and most opinionated writers, in furtherance of their own agendas, seem to have forgotten this principle. We now subject all manner of individuals to public pillory without a thought of due process. Why is that? Gossip has always been a part of human nature, is the advent of global instant communication intended to magnify this trait, or is it the need to fill 24/7/365 worth of broadcast time the driver?

"Insure domestic tranquility," I think of this as the toughest challenge for a centralized government. Whose view dominates? Whose tranquility is most important? This goal is so closely tied to the perception of justice as to be almost inseparable. But what is domestic tranquility and how do we insure it? Each of us must come up with our own understanding, but how many of us spend a second considering? Is domestic tranquility found in a polygamist's compound, in a city free from protest, or in a town where the lively debate of its citizens are on-going and expected? I think as a nation, historically we've strive to allow this to be defined at the lowest level. If we grow our government to be a dominate all controlling central power, will this remain true? As we move into instantaneous global communication and judgement will this remain true? I can only wonder.

As a retired professional airman I believe only the central government can provide for the common defense of this nation. The military is one institution no one seems to question. Our Department of Defense does a commendable job of providing for that common defense. The biggest challenge we face is understanding what that next challenge to national survival is, and what is the legitimate cost of that common defense. The challenge facing us today is the same one President Dwight Eisenhower pointed out. "Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But now we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense; we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United States corporations." We have created an acquisition process where the tax payer can not be the winner. Our arms are bought at astronomical costs where as billions of dollars roll of the tongue and a band of corporate lawyers with a 43 cent stamp can delay combat capability for years.

I will continue this on the next post.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Instant Citizenship?

Today I read in Parade, a Sunday supplement, that Sens Russ Feingold, (D. Wis) and Amy Klobuchar, (D Minn), are working to allow voter registration on Election Day. Have we really become a nation where instant gratification is so important we are willing to sacrifice our nation to it?

Obviously I must be way old fashioned to believe we as citizens owe it to ourselves to come into an election with an expectation that those who vote will be informed and decide based on the issues. The unfortunate truth is the average American chooses not to be so, and gives up their rights by not voting. This has been reflected in the dwindling voter turn out. So now, the members of the majority party believe it is in the National interest to lower the expectation to a point where almost anyone willing to walk in off the street will be allowed to vote? Is this truly a move to empower the people, or just a move to keep the elected empowered?

If a citizen can't be bothered enough to spend 30 or so minutes a month or so before the election complying with today's registration requirements do we really want them making the emotional, random, uninformed, inappropriate, illiterate choice they are likely to make as they wander by a polling place and decide to drop in? Apparently the Democratic Representatives of Wisconsin and Minnesota believe they do.

As for me, I would rather the 24% of voters who care enough to be informed, and who can follow the published rules decide on the future of the United States, then having the 76% to can't be bothered until they see the news on the first Tuesday in November and realize it is election day controlling the election. Call me foolish, and perhaps it is because I am one of those 24%, but if you don't care enough about those who govern to give a damn 364 days a year, why should you get a say on those 8 hours the polls are open?

In a better world, we would return to the point where children understand they have a say in their future and look forward to voting, where adults take seriously their responsibility to leave a strong, relevant nation to their children and accept their responsibility in a republic, and our politicians don't make every decision based on what is best for them personality. Unfortunately we are not in a perfect world, but as an adult all I can hope for is to leave the nation in a stable condition. This proposed law is wrong, will not improve voter participation, and only serves to weaken us as a nation.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Full Circle

Have you ever thought that life is like a day? They both have a beginning and ending. They both start with the unfilled promise, move through the bright light of discovery and end with darkness.

Those of us who each day explore, look forward to the next one. If we don't we fear the night and what it brings. I think this is a good allegory of our lives. If we reach out to others, if we explore ourselves and our world, we don't fear the coming of night as it is only a transition to our next day. If we hide in ourselves, find blame in others, and fear failure we will cower from the night.

My best friends Mother-in-Law passed away this week, she lived a full and loving life, her passing was peaceful as she looked forward to the next day, wherever it may be. I hope we all can live in fulfillment of our destiny, looking forward to the next day.

"Many people know so little about what is beyond their short range of experience. They look within themselves - and find nothing! Therefore they conclude that there is nothing outside themselves either." Helen Keller

Wednesday, June 4, 2008


I wonder how many of us take time to appreciate the natural world, and our place in it? This past week I was in New Mexico, spending the better part of each night on top of a mountain, evaluating some new technology. What struck me each night was the drive to and from the mountain top. One the way up we would come across Oryx, Elk, Antelope, and of course Jack Rabbits. At the top, I would watch a couple of Peregrine Falcons as they soared and dove on their pray. These all share one thing in common; adaptation to their environment. They thrive where humans choose not to live because of the harshness of the landscape.

Adaptation, what a strange concept for mankind. Our written histories talk of man's adaptation to the world around him. It talks to our attempt to understand the basis for that world. It seems ironic that as we gain a greater understanding we choose to change the environment, rather than adapt better. Alas, that seems to be the nature of man, to control and change the world around him.

Speaking of adaptation, this seems the perfect time for the evolutionists! Clearly as we contaminate the environment with our waste shouldn't we be evolving through natural selection to live in that environment? Shouldn't the citizens of LA be developing nasal filtration systems, or the citizens of sub-Saharan Africa be evolving to be able to store larger amounts of water for periods of draught?

It is all so confusing for me. Did Darwin ever identify how many generations it takes for a species to evolve?
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