Endless Rambling

One man's linguistic torrent on politics, religion, and people.

Location: United States

Well, I'm an avid net surfer, so if you happen to recognize my user name, that's likely me. Anyway, I'm passionate about the two forbidden subjects; religion and politics. I am an atheist and a libertarian (although I have intense disagreements with the American political party by that name). I'm very much into freedom and proper government, and that will likely be the center of much of what I say, with religion as a sidekick.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

The Bill of Rights; What Does It Really Mean?

There is, in the US, a grave misunderstanding of the bill of rights. Both sides of the political aisle tend to stumble over and make up explanations for some parts of it. I feel the need to quote here, verbatim, each ammendment, and then briefly define what that means, and what it doesn't. I will then give an aggregate explanation for it's existence. (I'm using the BoR copy at http://www.archives.gov/national-archives-experience/charters/bill_of_rights_transcript.html)

Amendment I
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances
Ammendment 1 is pretty simple; Congress shall make NO LAW that RESPECTS (it does not say ESTABLISH, it says just to RESPECT) an establishment of religion, meaing it can not do anything that legally gives support or preference to any religion, ever. It cannot limit the freedeom to worship as one pleases. Congress can not stop free speech or free press. It can't prohibit peaceable assemblies, and it must allow the people to demand change for error (aka, protests). There should be little question as to the intent; the founders wanted the basic rights of freedom of both thought and the right to express it maintained. Please see my look at ammendment 9 below for the only limits on these rights.

Amendment II
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed
Again, a simple ammendment is so rarely understood. First, the ammendment states that a well-regulated militia is necessary to the security of a free state; the founders believed the militia would both keep the government in check and repel invaders, because originally, a standing army was not permitted for longer than 2 years. It THEN says, in a seperate clause, that the right of the people to both own and use arms (again, see ammendment nine for limits) shall not be infringed. It doesn't say "shall not be erased", it says merely INFRINGED, meaning that any meddling is not allowed.

Amendment III
No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law
Thankfully, this is clear.

Amendment IV
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized
This lays out the process and reasoning by which the government may go through your things and into your effects. The intent was clear; unless the government can find someone to swear under threat of perjury that they believe there is good reason that a certain item has proof of a crime in a particular house, they can't look. This was before we had telephones and such, but that does not mean that the INTENT is no longer valid; unless the government can give to a court of law good reason to think that an individual is planning illegal activities over the phone, they can't tap his phone. Period.

Amendment V
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation
This is a doozy, but fairly easy to understand. First, a grand jury must establish that a case is merited (this has since been limited to only certain kinds of cases). Secondly, a person cannot be tried for the same crime twice; government cannot continually prosecute someone until a jury finally agrees with them. That is not justice, although appeals are permitted, if new evidence or other reasonable cause can be given for a new case. Third, no one can have their things, their liberty, or their rights taken without due process of law; that means being found in Afghanistan does not mean you can be thrown in a brig for years without a trial, Mister Bush. Finally, we have the clause of eminent domain; take a close look at the wording. It says public USE, not public GOOD; just because it might benefit the public means nothing if it's not being USED by the public. This was mentioned as well in the main body of the Constitution, where the only enumerated reasons the government can own land is to establish buildings of goverance or military. The public at large all uses the military and the government, as they are servants of the public, and thus, it may be necessary to take land from time to time. That's it. The public does not use a mall, or a marina, or a hotel.

Amendment VI
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence
Again, something the President isn't aware of; a criminal on trial has the right to a jury, to not be held for a needlessly long time before a trial, shall be tried where he committed the offense, and shall be told of his crime, of the witnesses against him, and shall be granted defense if he has none, which has the power to force witnesses to testify honestly. Basically, a fair trial.

Amendment VII
In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law
"Common law" is the term applied to the law made outside the Constitution (not in violation of it, mind you). Anyway, this just states that trials with large sums of money also must involve a jury, and that a court can look at the case again without legal reason. The reason the amount is so low is due to inflation; which I will examine in a different post.

Amendment VIII
Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted
This should be clear; ridiculously dispraportionate bales, fines, or other punishments may be inflicted at any point.

Amendment IX
The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people
Basic but extremely important amendment; no right, including free speech, right to bear arms, can be used as a weapon to take anyone else's right. This is why, yes, things like libel laws are permitted, or it's legal to prosecute people who were following their religion in committing a crime.

Amendment X
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people
Ah, the one of ultimate importance as it is the least followed; any, absolutely any, right not given to the federal government DOES NOT EXIST FOR THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT! It cannot do ANYTHING that has not been enumerated here. Who can? State governments, if the Constitution hasn't forbidden it, and if they don't have the right, the people. Again, simply, but clearly, ANYTHING that it doesn't say the government CAN do, they can't. Period. Ever.

The overall effect here was to enumerate some of the most important rights. However, it must be made clear; a right does NOT have to be in the Bill of Rights. Nothing says that. The BoR just says lists clearly some of the more basic rights. But, following the 10th ammendment, the government cannot limit any other conceivable right unless the Constitution says they can. So, the right to shoot up drugs, get drunk, or eat yourself enormous, although not LISTED, is fully protected under the BoR and the Constitution. So, any attempt to regulate is, indeed, a clear and direct violation of the US Constitution and should be vetoed, struck down, or eliminated by any means necessary. Because if one right can be unjustly cut, so can every other right. It's no more against the BoR to limit free speech than it is to limit the right to heroine.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Whence Rights, and What For?

Possibly the most fundamental argument about politics is that of rights. All of politics can essentially be broken down by these. Every government style (we'll eliminate crooked rulers and just assume all leaders are honest, if some foolish, for now) claims to be trying to protect the rights of the people. The US was founded, basically, following Jefferson's famous line in the American Declaration of Independence; "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.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men..." Every other country has something similar in statement; that this new government is going to protect the rights of man. However, the basic question is simple; WHAT is a right and WHERE does it come from? And most importanly, what does this MEAN? There is alot of double-speak on this issue, and hopefully, things can be cleaned up neatly.

A right, very simply, is something you CAN do or DO have a claim to, period. If you have a right, for whatever reason, to a million dollars, that million dollars is yours. End of story. A right is something built in to each of us. It isn't a "thing", so it's not like we need to identify how it got there, but regardless, theories vary from God, to social contracts, to evolutionary principle. This isn't relevant to the rest of the discussion, however, so I will not bother going into detail. So, any government protecting the rights of people must mean that it is guaranteeing that people can do or have something, whatever the right speaks of, as long as they don't lose it, give it away, etc. They are committed to making sure that no one else interferes (within physical reason), including themselves. The only way they get to step in is if your "right" is interfering with someone else's (like, pouring gas into that creek behind your house is poisoning the kids who swim in there downstream. Your right to your creek doesn't mean you can cancel their right to their part of the stream under risk of death). That is a right.

So all governments agree, right? Frankly, no. They don't. They say they do, but it's nothing but a bold faced lie. What most governments actually support are priveleges. A privelege is something an authority figure is ALLOWING you to do, something that can be limited, changed, or erased whenever they feel like it. The RIGHT to free speech means you can say whatever you want, whenever you want, as long as you cause no damage. The PRIVELEGE to free speech means that you are permitted to speak within specific guidleines with specific punishments for arbitrary reasons. Perhaps a country bans the right to speak badly about Muslims after the cartoon incidents; they can do that if the freedom was a privelege, but not a right. Priveleges mean that what you have today can be gone tomorrow, all at the whim of the government, for the government believes that freedom is something to be issued by them. It's like as if your very freedom to live had to be earned like your driver's licsense. And if The Man giveth, The Man can taketh it away. The only thing stopping this in, say, Britian, is voters. They have no rights in Britian (no offense intended, this is purely objective), just a list of things they can do right now.

So what does this really mean? It means that different forms of government are not merely "opinions" or "different ways of looking at it", etc. It means that socialism and libertarianism aren't just opinions people have. There is an identifiable and fundamental chasm that seperates these two ideologies, and it also clearly puts conservatism and liberalism squarely in as little brothers to Marxist thought. They both grow up into total rulers. The reason we have such a difference of a little word is because the nature of freedoms, whether they are intrinsic, meaning that they are inseperable from a person no matter what, or extrinsic, meaning that they are just granted for however long someone above you feels like, determines how government WORKS.

First, the common government; socialism, in some form. Socialism sees all freedoms as priveleges to be manipulated for "the common good". The what? Yeah, that's one of those spin phrases that mean little but sound good. What "Common Good" really is is whatever the leaders feel is better. There's no standard, of course, because without rights, everything is merely relative; whether upholding morals (conservatives) or protecting the environment at any cost (liberals) is the "Common Good" is anyone's guess. Generally, however, the main argument is thus; the greater good for the greater number. This position is called "collectivism", as it's a collective view; that we ALL must work for these effects. It sees all of society as a tool to be used as a whole; the individual parts don't matter, and if the hammer of justice has to be cut into a different shape and the cast offs discarded, so be it. The only rule is generally that more people are saved than hurt. The US once bombed a shipment of food and medicine heading into pre-war Iraq, which was estimated to kill about 100000 children. Madeline Albright, of the State Department, was questioned by the media and responded by saying that these were acceptable losses. Yes, that's right; to hurt Saddam, killin 100,000 civilians is perfectly acceptable. By this doctrine, no one is safe; today, the collateral damage today might be some you don't know or even dislike, but tomorrow it could be you and your family. As mentioned in previous posts, many ideologies are in this camp to varying degrees, but once the door is opened, the rest is just the time it takes for the rights to disappear.

Libertarians are the exact opposite; we are individualists. We recognize something simple; that there is no such THING as society. You can't see a society. You can't touch a society. A society is just a collection of INDIVIDUALS, and thus if you protect all the individuals, society will be saved. But if you start sacrificing individuals to save the group, you are really just sacrificing some individuals to save others. You are killing the group piece by piece. Onward; libertarians see freedoms as RIGHTS. That every person is made equal and has the same rights as everyone else. No one can take that from a person by force or fraud, and governments are made to ensure that. Nothing more. Doing thus means every individual is protected, which means society is protected, while preventing abuse or pain as much as possible by the constant sacrificing of the collectivists.

But, we need to be clear on what things are really rights. The reason collectivists always seem to have more rights than everyone else is because they make a bunch up. Every one, first off, has a right to life. This is obvious, because without this, you have nothing. The second is a right to liberty; to do things, to speak, to actually engage in living. Without this, again, life has no meaning. Being alive but having to liberty is a person we call a "slave". Finally, we have property. Property is often argued against, but it's really quite simple; we can't all do whatever we want, wherever we want. That can't work. If one man farms and a million try to live off that food, every starves, including the person who worked to make the food. That farmer can live and use his liberties only if he has the sole ownership of his food that sustains his life. Everyone needs the right to own property and things, so that they can use that as a means of which to facilitate life. EVERYTHING ELSE is either just a derivation of these, or is not a right at all. Health care, for example, clearly isn't a right. You can have no health care and live healthy till 90. It's very possible. It's not NEEDED for anything. Further, if we look at the second two rights, we see that they are rights you have to PURSUE; you CAN do what you want, you CAN own property, but you have to make it happen. All the government does is make sure you aren't cheated as best it can, minus a fee for that very service, for it must have funding to run.

This subject is of massive importance, and no matter how much one rights on it, one could continue. I will be refering back to the ideas here constantly, so my full view on this will come out piece by piece. The main idea here is the nature of rights vs priveleges and the two government forms, collectivist and individualist, that form around them.

I don't know what I will be typing next, but keep an eye out!

And finally, a thanks to Mr. G. Edward Griffin, author, activist, documentary creator, and otherwise insightful human being. His website is www.freedom-force.org, and much of what I said here is along the lines of his own writing, because I could think of no better way to portray it, such is his ability. I do not endorse every word on that website, mind you, lest I get discredited by the fallacy of association, but much of what he says is very true. Check it out.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

The Smoke and Mirrors of Liberalism and Conservatism

Continuing from my last post, here is my best definition of the two more common ideologies. Keep in mind that people in these groups range from moderate to near fascism while still being in these groups. I will try and represent the most general picture while still capturing the idea; anyone offended or feels I am off is free to comment, but remember that I can't please everyone and every view.

First, conservatism. On the Lockean Trinity, conservatives care about life, depending, and property. Liberty is hardly a concern. What's interesting in conservatism is that religion and morality is a huge a part of this, and these things are very often the guiding principle here. Conservatives tend to be big on the market; they want people to work where they want. They generally demand that people take care of themselves, so if they DON'T work, they go hungry, but basically, it's a market bent. They actually too tend to SPEAK of choice and freedom and life, etc. Oftentimes, people think conservatives are libertarians for this reason. However, a closer inspection shows the hidden clause, the one muttered beneath one's breath; that these rights are to be reserved to those who fit the moral and social framework THEY approve of. And therein lies the hitch. Although the degree can change drastically, here is the framework; you can choose your religion as long as your are of my religion, you can say what you want as long as I agree with it, you can print what you like in the press if I like it, etc. Generally, religion doesn't restrict the market too much, so that's left alone, but how one lives is completely guided. Theocracies very often come of conservatism. Some examples in american politics of conservatism are of the following; creationism and bans on homosexuality is okay because the bible says so, doing drugs isn't allowed because it's wrong, suggestive pictures or shows are to be foribidden or at least pushed to the edge of society (notice how most pornography shops are located in the inner city or on the freeway out of town) because they are "immoral", etc. These things may or may not have a rational backing (we can see some sense in drug laws, since they CAN and often DO cause major damage), but the first and foremost reason against them (and all that a conservative needs) is an appeal to morality. "It's wrong", without any explanation, is all they need. Of course, if you think something IS right, then, well, religious texts may be brought up, or often times the majority is invoked to simply burn your position. So much for "minority rights". Overall, conservatism is concerned with deciding how other people get to live. People are free to act in any manner within the arbitrary guidelines set by the conservatives. As such, it is funny to see that Ayatollah Khomeini and Pat Robertson are almost identical with regards to political theory. Life, at the extreme end, is also often ignored; being an infidel might get you killed, as the recent case of a convert in Afghanistan proved.

The last position, liberalism...is perhaps the most difficult to define. Liberalism is made up of several progressive movements all working somewhat in tandem with somewhat similar views, but often are not united. This is why liberals often ignore the people, and go straight to government, trying to push them around, because they know that the common people won't change as easily. In this way, money and rhetoric are utilized more than democracy; indeed, democracy is very often a key TARGET of liberals. On the Lockean Trinity, liberals are most concerned with liberty. They rally day and night for free speech, freedom of religion, free press, etc. This causes some people to think libertarians are liberals, because they are just as supportive if not more so of these things. However, liberals have little use for property. Indeed, the liberal platform is pretty much centered of abolishing property. Liberalism is a sub-set of the ideology of Marx, but are more closely aligned with the socialist founder, Jean Jacques Rosseau. Property is seen as theft, to be strictly limited. Property rights are to be limited for the following reason; so government can run the business (aka, take it over), to protect the environment at large, to protect a local endangered species (check out www.propertyrights.org/learn.asp), to make affordable housing for the poor, to clean up a place, to build a zoo or museum, to keep the natural beauty of an area, to feed the hungry...you get the idea. Property, it must be stated, refers to ALL property; money, things, land, your house, etc. Property RIGHTS are those things you are free to do to your property; that is, by the Lockean view, ANYTHING that does not damage others in a direct way. Property, then, is the enemy of liberalism; they want to limit or even reverse development of housing, cut off industry, take vast amounts of money to feed the poor, etc. Liberals believe that your money and land, no matter how hard you work for it, are just part of the "general pool", in which they are free to dip into at any time to give to whomever they want, be that person a wastrel or a funny-looking fish. Oftentimes, extreme liberals will attack property rights just for the sake of it; they don't even care about their cause, which might be a collection of lies, just their quest to kill the "evil capitalism".

My next post will be a further explanation on rights and what they mean, as well as what the reasoning for limited government is.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

A Plethora of Ideologies

In my experience, one of the most confusing aspects of politics is that of ideology; no one seems to know precisely what ideology is what. "Libertarianism is anarchism" says one liberal, while a conservative will proclaim that "Libertarianism is just liberal conservatives". Some trying to place a politician on the old, French scale of "left" and "right" often find themselves confused, depending on what they define "left" and "right" as and what positions a supposed "liberal" or "conservative" has. I hope to help a soul or two by introducing the definitions that most often have worked for me. These definitions are based off what "conservatives", "liberals", etc, DO, not what they say or claim. As such, any older definition needs to be seen as immediately suspect; politics involves endless smokescreens, and one needs to be quick to see how things ARE, not how they MIGHT BE. The constant dancing needs to be ignored and the DANCE needs to be identified. Please keep in mind that not everyone is cookie-cutter, but leans in certain ways. What I say might not be what EVERY conservative believes, but it's usually similar enough. I will also identify parties based off of the Lockean Trinity; the rights of life, liberty, and property, as espoused by the English Enlightenment thinker, John Locke.

The Communist/Fascist/Totalitarian;
Although several names are used, the scale of the the LT (see above) clearly shows these all to be identical for all practical purposes; total control. These groups often claim to be supporting rights, but in practice, they protect no rights. At most, they guarantee that no one will violate your liberties besides the government itself; hardly a comfort. There is little to say about this position; it defines itself. While there are some people CLOSE to this position who argues for allowing some small, meaningless rights, in general, no rights are given. Indeed, there aren't even any "rights" to speak of; at most, people are permitted PRIVELEGES, to be restricted, erased, or controlled whenever the state feels like it. No one can own anything, say anything, do anything, or even LIVE without permission; for the last part, look at China's draconian policy of KILLING children if a couple has too many, or Stalin's purges, where everyone who he didn't like had their privilege of life denied. The only supporters for such a government are starry-eyed idealists (like Marx), who believe that this will lead to some utopia, and the 1% of the population that would, if a government turned communist, be in control and get all the power. People mean nothing in this government. One final note; this is also anarchism. Despite the contradiction, that's what it is in practice; when all civil power is elimnated, he who has the biggest guns wins. And since he wins, he has all the power. Ipso facto, totalitarianism is in.

The anti-thesis to totalitarian control, libertarianism IS John Locke's philosophy. Not to be confused with the somewhat misguided American Libertarian Party (www.lp.org), libertarianism was best summed up by US Founding Father, Thomas Jefferson;
The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others.
That's it. That's the clear-cut way to run government under the libertarian mindset. Any acts that are injurious to others (and that is a direct and clear threat, not one that might sort of happen sometimes in certain cases maybe) are ones that must be restricted by government. Who pays for this? Everyone. The libertarian sees a fair and equal tax on all as only right, for everyone should recieve equal representation in government, equal police protection, etc. The rights of the government itself are inversely proportional to that of the people; it is permitted only those acts which further it's purpose of protecting individuals from other individuals. It is not allowed to protect a species of snake, as the snake has yet to pay his taxes and till he does, is berift of recourse. It can't own land and drive up (or down) property values just because it feels like it. It can't take from some and give to others. It can't be racist AGAINST the majority anymore than it can be racist WITH the majority. Libertarianism, if followed, prevents social engineering; it does not allow someone to attempt to do what's "best for everyone" because they are high-minded. It does not allow government to control, shape, or fix society. It simply protects each and every PERSON, not group or industry or union or PAC, every PERSON, from encroachments on their rights from the government itself, and from everyone else. A libertarian usually believes that the private market can do everything else better, faster, and cheaper than the government can, and that social ills will be worked out as long as the laws are kept impartial and fair. All rights are intrinsic and can never be violated unless that person is, in turn, violating another's rights.

I will write of the more complex liberal and conservative positions between tomorrow and Saturday. Again, just keep in mind, especially for the next two, that while I AM desribing what these groups do, not every member is 100% committed to every act. There are 100 subsets of these groups that no one can ever completely record. But I hope to capture the essence in general, for the reader to understand.

Welcome my unfortunate visitors.

Anyone who's ever had the misfortune of speaking with me on something I am passionate about has regretted the decision. Not immediately, or even in the following few minutes, but about an hour later after I've finished an unrequested speech. I know how to listen and how to be silent for that period, but to END a discussion...that's usually not high on my list of concerns. I tend to lack brevity, unless I'm trying, in which case I have too little substance.

This blog is just an experiment; I have no idea how much I'll get into it. All I can promise is that when I DO post, it'll probably be a ton. I plan to discuss things that intrigue me; politics, religion, philosophy, etc. Various things grab my attention and I'll let you know how I feel. The reason for this is simple; debate spurs me to learn. I'm only so motivated to gather static knowledge; I want to use it. Debating with someone has long been my drive to learn more about a subject. So, please, let me know what you think, where you disagree, etc. I WANT to discuss things, although I'll TRY and control my motor-mouth.

One final thing; I'm not very good with technology. I will be toying with settings and views for a while, so if something isn't working, please let me know, so I can disturb someone who knows more than I into fixing it.

So, that's all for this late night. I will probably be ignoring this blog for a little while, but after I finish moving (a couple of weeks), I'll try and make it worth your attention. Goodnight, gentle readers...