Monday, December 24, 2012

Should Republicans cave on the Fiscal Cliff deal?


The President seems unwilling to budge on Fiscal Cliff negotiations. He has said he will not sign a bill that doesn't include tax hikes on incomes over $250,000/year and has made no proposals for meaningful spending cuts. In fact, he wants to spend more, growing the Federal Budget to over $5.63 Trillion by 2022 (assuming estimates are accurate and everything goes swimmingly over the next 10 years). 

If there is no deal, all the Bush era tax cuts will expire and automatic spending cuts, including huge cuts to the military budget, go into effect. There are calls, even from some Republicans, to just go along with some tax increase for now, and deal with the rest later. But why?

If you believe our debt crisis is for real, why would you sign on to a plan that does nothing to address it, and in fact, perpetuates it? Raising taxes on the rich wont close the gap. I'm sure they'll be just fine in either case, but the tax hike will just be a political stunt. Serious spending cuts have to be made. Government has to get smaller and the Democrats have no interest in making that happen. A politically motivated deal might make it look as though reason prevailed, but it would be an illusion. 

True, Republicans will likely get a lot of bad press if no deal is reached. What are the consequences? You lose the next election? So what? You get to go home with your integrity intact. If America believes the right way to go is to give the left the power to spend at will, so be it. They're either right or they're wrong. If you believe they're wrong, let them be wrong without you. 

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Culture of Violence or Culture Sensing the Inevitable?


 Many people, pundits and politicians have blamed recent violent tragedies on the "culture of violence" in our country; movies, games, TV shows that glorify death, destruction and killing. But is it really about violence for violence's sake, or is their something deeper behind it?

Consider some of the biggest block buster movies, year after year. Although Hollywood is generally on the side of the touchy, feely, left, they continue to crank out shoot 'em ups and explosion ridden films. They have to because they produce the money that keeps them in the lifestyles to which they have become accustomed. Why do these movies do so well, even when the directing and acting is often sub-par, to put it nicely?

There is a common theme among these movies, when you look past the gratuitous violence. It's almost always an individual or small group of individuals against an all powerful, authoritarian government or global organization. It's essentially the same in the video game world. The individual is put in a situation where they must overcome a seemingly invincible force. On the conscious level, maybe people think they just get a kick out of the virtual violence and the adrenaline rush. On the subconscious level, maybe they recognize that inevitably, there will be a showdown between the individual and the collective.

It is the nature of human beings to be individuals first, connecting with various collectives when and if it suits them. We oscillate between the role of individual and member of our collectives (family, work, church, town, state, country) on a moment by moment basis. The key is that the default setting is individual and the individual controls the switch. The State, on the other hand, would like to make the default setting be member of the collective. They would like to see a world where one's interests as an individual are irrelevant; where all anyone thinks about is what they can do for society, the state, the collective; like ants or bees.

But we are not ants or bees. As we watch government grow ever larger in size and scope, we must see a day coming when our very individuality will be challenged and perhaps crushed. Maybe this generation, maybe generations from now, but it seems inevitable, as the State's appetite for more power and more resources shows no sign of being satisfied. At some point, our base instincts as human beings to protect ourselves will kick in. We'll pick an issue, like taxes on tea or something, to rally around and the push/pull cycle between collective and individual will have come full circle. Neither side is going to back down lightly, which is why, throughout history, periods of ever expanding government have always ended in violent conflict. Maybe that's why people are drawn to films and games with these underlying themes. It rings true.

Friday, December 14, 2012

God favors limited government

I know, you're not supposed to mix God and politics, but there is one thing that's undeniable. If you believe in God you must believe God could stop bad things from happening to good people. He could stop people from making bad decisions. He could eliminate pain and suffering. God has chosen not to do so. If you believe in God you must believe he has chosen individual human freedom over authoritarian control. With all the negative aspects of individual freedom, He, the all knowing, all wise, all good, has determined that the net benefits of freedom are preferrable to the predictability and security of central control. If you believe in God, do you believe your government knows better? Does God have it wrong? Did God forego interfering with your decisions and behavior only to leave them in the hands of an elite group of humans? Freedom is unpredictable. It can be frustrating, scary, uncertain, risky. Sometimes bad things happening to good people. So why would an all loving omnipotent God subject you to such a thing? Perhaps a better question, if you believe in God is - Why are so many people who claim to believe in God working so hard to negate His model?

Monday, December 3, 2012

Bob Costas, the Second Amendment and the First Amendment

During an NFL broadcast Sunday, sportcaster Bob Costas opined about the tragic murder/suicide perpetrated by a member of the Kansas City Chiefs.

While he didn't call for any specific legislation, the suggestion was that the American  "gun culture" was responsible for the tragedy. Since the perpetrator had no history of violence or criminal activity, the implication is that law abiding citizens should not have guns.

This upset second amendment proponents, some of whom called for Costas to be fired. While I personally believe that the unilateral disarmament of law abiding citizens is not a good solution for combating gun violence, I also believe that a sportcaster, working for a private company, can say whatever he or she wants to say and that his or her continued employment is entirely between them and their employer. Viewers are free to turn the sound off, switch the channel, send an angry letter to the network, even boycott advertisers.

The First Amendment is at least as important as the Second Amendment. I strongly disagree with the sentiments expressed by Costas, but the fact that he said it doesn't keep me up at night. If you want to advocate for a different point of view, do so. If you do it well enough, a few sentences from a sportscaster during a football game wont sway a majority of the country to change the Constituion. Combat bad ideas with good ideas, not with outrage or censorship.