Monday, September 8, 2008

How I would solve society's ills

After the previous political post (and in preparation for one ready to drop in a couple days), I just thought I might clarify my own positions on some of society's issues. Basically, I'm a hard-edger. Neither fully liberal or conservative, but taking positions from the edges of both sides.

For the record, I am not a member of any political party. In California, however, that goes on the voter rolls as "decline to state," instead of "none" or "non-partisian," which I think is disingenuous as it makes it sound like I have a party leaning but am afraid to let people know. Not the case.

I lean a bit to the left, which in the Bay Area makes me a "cold-hearted conservative" and everywhere else a "flaming liberal."

My positions on selected political issues:

Social Issues

  • Abortion, euthanasia/assisted suicide of the seriously ill, and the death penalty should all be legal. Or all should be illegal (I lean toward legal). I think it's a bit hypocritical to be for or against one and not the others. Frankly, there are not enough executions to make it a worthwhile deterrent and too many "unwanted" children barely cared for by people unfit to be parents;
  • Anyone -- male, female, whatever -- should be able to marry anyone else they want: male, female, whatever, as long as all parties are of legal age, fully sentient and marrying of their own free will. Adam and Steve's relationship down the street has absolutely no effect on my marriage, nor does it make mine any less special. For those who are going to ask what's next: Polygamy? (Sure, as long as it follows the rules above -- although I'd limit the tax benefits.) Child marriage? (No, check the legal age requirement.) Bestiality? (Only if the animal is fully sentient, e.g., a gorilla with a transplanted human brain or a really smart dolphin.);
  • Teach abstinence in schools. It is the most effective way of preventing the spread of disease and pregnancy, and frankly might slow the rush of some kids who are just not ready for the responsibility. But be realistic -- kids are going to have sex, lots of it if they can. Teach the facts of life and hand out free condoms in a welcome pack at the beginning of every semester;
  • Guns. To me, the text of the Second Amendment is clear: "A well-regulated militia ... " You want a Glock? Fine. Join the National Guard. Anyone not serving in a militia should hand in their firearm, save for the occasional licensed hunting rifle. I'm fine if the angry red states want to form "citizen volunteer militias," or something like that, so long as it's government-monitored and has frequent lessons about gun safety and ethics. (Really, does anyone in the gun lobby think that their guns are going to save them from a truly oppressive government? Ask David Koresh.)

National Security

  • The United States should leave Iraq and send every last one of those troops to stabilize Afghanistan;
  • If you're a terrorist and you want to attack civilians, you're fair game for the American military, whether you're in Iraq, Iran, Pakistan or Canada (or any other country, ally or otherwise);
  • If you're an alleged terrorist and we catch you, you get every single right that we give imprisoned Americans, including legal representation, an appeals process and open hearings.

Legal issues

  • Legalize medical marijuana and treat it as a controlled substance, like Vicodin. Get a real doctor's prescription and tax the hell out of it;
  • Continue tough persecution (yes, I do mean persecution, not just prosecution) of criminal street gangs, with limited suspension of the Fourth Amendment's search clause of convicted gang members and those who associate with them. Yes, I know you cannot force someone to give up their constitutional rights -- this suspension could be included in plea bargains and volunteered to by those convicted;
  • There should be a federal shield law for reporters. The press is probably the only defense against government malfeasance that is still effective.

Civic duties/voting

  • In order to vote, you must be at least 16 (not 18) years of age, a citizen and possess a high school diploma or higher degree (with classes in government and economics a necessary part of the curriculum). I'm am aware that this proposal will bring up comparisons to the "literacy tests" that were used to deny the vote to blacks in the old South, but that's a false comparison. Those laws were based in racism -- my proposal is based on the ability to think critically. Critical thinking is a necessary part of voting and if you don't understand the process, you should not participate in it. I will grandfather in those already voting without a diploma or degree;
  • If one is convicted of a felony, they must serve the term of their prison sentence, complete any probation or parole and then wait one year before they are again allowed to vote. Any conviction regarding bribery of a public official, malfeasance while a public official, assault on a public official or voter fraud will impose a lifetime voting ban;
  • Everyone (male or female) must serve at least one year of national service before the age of 25 years old. This requirement can be satisfied by service in the armed forces, Ameri-Corps, the Peace Corps, teaching in a public school or certain other government employment. Those who have not satisfied the requirement by their 25th birthday get drafted into the armed forces.
  • Everyone who has at least a high school diploma, citizen or non-citizen, should serve at least one week of jury duty each year. Their employers must continue to pay regular wages during the service and the courts shall provide at least minimum wage, a lunch stipend and mileage in addition to whatever the juror's regular employer pays.

Energy policy

  • No new oil drilling. The problem isn't really foreign oil, it's just plain oil. I once heard my father exclaim -- while in a heated conversation -- that "The Liberals want to take away our cars!" No, I want your car to run more efficiently, produce fewer (or no) greenhouse gases and eventually use an alternative fuel. Save the oil to make plastics, which are the true bulwarks of the American economy; to make things go, use ...
  • Nuclear power. Despite the protests of many I respect, the evidence suggests to me that nuclear power is safe, efficient and more productive than wind, solar etc. Nuclear power is like air travel -- it's statistically very safe, but on the very few times there is an accident, it's a friggin' doozy!;*
  • Solar power. Nuclear love aside, let's see massive tax credits for anyone who wants to put solar panels on their roofs. Let's take every building we can off the grid during daytime hours.

Evolution vs. Creationism

  • Feel free to teach creationism. In church. To people who think that the world is flat, the Sun revolves around the Earth and a great flood killed all the unicorns. In schools, stick with natural selection. It's observable around us every flu season, when a drug-resistant strain becomes prevalent. Some try to dismiss evolution as "just a theory." Those people weren't paying attention in science class, else they would have heard how much observation and experimentation and evidence is needed to turn a hypothesis into a theory. By way of comparison, gravity is a theory. So is a2+b2=c2. Pythagoras hasn't been proven wrong yet.

Immigration

  • "Illegal" immigration is wrong, but so is scapegoating or forcing the migration of undocumented immigrants. While I think we should keep regulating our borders, I'm not prepared to triple the price I pay for produce, clothing, lodging, janitorial services or many of the other occupations traditionally manned by undocumented immigrants. Let as many guest workers in as industry needs, make them pay taxes, give them some services and then send them home after a few years to allow new guest workers to rotate in. No "amnesty" for non-documented immigrants currently here, but give them first dibs in the guest worker program. I really don't see why immigration is the issue that it is for some -- I've never met a single person who's lost a job to an "illegal immigrant" and don't expect to, despite living in a very Latinized area.
  • Reform legal immigration. Go to a point system, like Canada, Australia, etc. Give people points for education, business acumen, prior service, etc. Immigration lotteries are just dumb, where people get something for nothing.

Education

  • School years should be longer, there should be a mandatory grade 13 and two years of optional, free community college should be given to every recent graduate. Most of the extra time in education should be used to teach foreign languages and science, technology, engineering, and math. This country isn't educated nearly enough as it is and more education will be needed to keep the American workforce the best in the world. No, I have no realistic idea how to pay for such an extension of school, but in the meantime, though, let's work in more of those STEM classes.

Nationalism

  • In the early days of my college education, I wrote a short opinion piece in the college newspaper about how not saying the Pledge of Allegiance was my own protest against the forces of rampant nationalism. We paid our taxes, and that was allegiance enough to warrant protection and services from the government, I argued. My opinions have changed. While I still think nationalism for nationalism’s sake is wrong and the wording of the Pledge is not necessarily how I would I put things, I say the Pledge now. If anything has dawned on me in the past 16 years, it’s that the United States is one of a rare breed among nations – one can express any opinion they want in this country, including how displeased they are with the government or the country’s overall direction. It is this freedom of expression that certainly warrants my allegiance. So I now say the Pledge, not because I would do anything the country asks without question ... but because I actually don’t have to.

That's my two cents.

* Note: This post was written before Fukushima. Obviously.

1 comment:

Rob said...

My two cents:

* Life and death issues: Agreed!

* Marriage: After doing some wikiing, I now realize that marriage is not just a religious ceremony, but has simultaneously been adopted as a legal and customary institution since before recorded history. So yes, be gay and get married! How dare any religion lay claim to it as their own.

* Guns: with today's modern technology, I don't see why it isn't possible to have a non-lethal weapon like a taser or bean bag gun that uses a biometric thumb identifier on the handle. That would eliminate 80% of the issues with people owning guns. It can't kill, be used against you, or need to keep the ammo separate. Of course, we'll still need traditional guns around to act as the plot device in mystery novels.

* Marijuana: I've never believed in arguments that people need to be saved from themselves. Preventing people from harming themselves is akin to stopping forest fires or preventing recessions. You only make things worse in the long run. Besides, it's a damn plant that grows in the ground. Do people believe in accepting nature or not?

* Voting: What about the homeless! Suffrage for Bums!

* Nuclear power: You forgot about all the waste generated. Hey wait, maybe we can use it to grow Super Marijuana!

* Creationism: we should teach why it's wrong.

* Immigration: Ha! You think they all wanna come here to be janitors? Sure, we let them in now, the next thing you know they'll become the most populous minority by condemning birth control and humping like rabbits! Once they take over, WE'LL be the ones scrubbing Jorge's toilet. It's all part of their master plan to take back the Southern US in the name of Spain!

* Education: School years should be longer? Are you smoking marijuana? The current system of schooling, which I might remind you is less than a hundred years old, is flawed. Schools are too constricting, focusing on a scant few topics that many children find boring. There are far, far too many subjects out there that children never even hear about because of the narrow focus on the basics. I say teach the basics until school year nine, then open the floodgates of possibility by allowing them to pursue whatever interests they wish. Want to write comics? Learn about it. Work in the porn industry? Study away. Play video games for a living? Go ahead, just make sure you excel at it. Bring back apprenticeship! That's how they did it in the old world (and why your name is Baker!) Life is too short and there are too many damn lawyers in the world.

* Nationalism: Whenever someone asks what nationality or ethnicity I am, I tell them I am American, plain and simple. Teddy Roosevelt didn't trust hyphenated Americans and neither do I.