Who and What is the Happy Warrior

The Happy Warrior is the title of a poem... and yes, I love this poem. I do not wish to be mischaracterized, for the most part poetry is not my bag. I am not an afficionado of literature nor am I a metro-sexual (I despise that term) but a dear friend introduced me to this masterpiece of prose several years ago... it has provided no end of inspiration. The Happy Warrior by William Wordsworth outlines the qualities of a magnificent soul. I aspire to possess even one or two characteristics that "every man in arms should wish to be."

This blog is a representation, in conversational form, of my voyage to wrap my arms around the world in which Mr. Worsdworth's warrior finds happiness.

(Standing disclaimer: Luckily tests of spelling accuracy ended in 4th grade otherwise I would still be in Elementary School. Be forewarned, spelling errors ahead. I subscribe to the wisdom of a great man who said, "I have utmost disdain for a man who can only spell a word one way." -Benjamin Franklin)

Friday, October 31, 2008

Stop the Hate Accusations

I am tired of the hate defense. This is the strategy employed by “progressives” who accuse anyone who is on the opposite side of “hating” their candidate or position. Rational and civil people can disagree without either party being consumed with hate. It is a juvenile and utilitarian method to reduce an issue to the lowest human emotion. Those who propagate the “if you vote for __________ you are a hater” are perpetuating a dangerously uncivil society.

I will be very specific so I am not misunderstood:

-A vote for anyone other than Barak Obama does not make you a hater of Black people (does not make you a racist).
-Voting for Prop 8 (or Prop 102 in Arizona) does not mean you hate homosexuals.
-Voting against a minimum wage does not mean you hate poor people.
-Voting for tough illegal immigration laws does not mean you hate foreigners.
-Voting to reduce funds for education does not mean you hate children.
-Voting for restrictions on partial birth abortion (or "normal" abortion) does not mean you hate women.

Can’t we all see the danger of the hate defense/accusation? I'll try to illustrate with a couple of examples: In the case of the presidency, the difference in vote will not likely be greater than 55%-45%. If Obama receives 55% of the vote does that mean 45% of the people who did not vote for him are racists and haters? Come on; it is possible for people to take a political stance for differences on issues and philosophy that have nothing to do about race and/or hate. Do I recognize that there are a small number of idiots and ignoramuses who actually do hate Blacks and homosexuals? Yes, these idiots exist on both sides of the political spectrum but they are a very small minority.

Consider the question of same sex marriage (again assuming a 55% to 45% division). Do we really want a society where 45% of the people are viewed as and have been accused of being haters? Can’t you see how that has the potential to irreparably tear the social fabric. Does anyone really believe proponents of Prop. 8/102 are haters? I am one of them and have many friends who have allied themselves to the “hate accusation” campaign… do I really think my friends consider me a hater? No. So please, don’t say or support something that is not true; that you don’t really believe. If, on the other hand, you think I really am consumed with hate (even at a subconscious level)… well then, our society is really in bad shape and we should start counting the days of our demise.

Do I hate those who have adopted the hate dialog to gain supporters for their cause? No I don’t. I think they are wrong, passionate, ill-informed, naïve and even creating a dangerous social environment but they are simply mistaken. The best way to try and convince them of the error of their position is to engage in rational and civil conversation. I would think that their side would have sufficiently strong arguments without playing the “hate card”. A society that ceases to have the ability to “agree to disagree” but rather accuses everyone who disagrees as haters will soon cease to be a society. The logical extension of this condition is ominous and we are not without precedence: A house divided against itself in hate cannot stand.

Hate has a horrible self-fulfilling property. Accusations of hate dismiss all rationality and create a discussion based on emotions. Dr. King warned “hate begets hate.” I would add: unsubstantiated accusations of hate begets hate. Please, turn down the rhetoric. Same sex marriage is not about hate it is about the social benefit or injury of extending marriage to homosexuals. The vote for Barak Obama is not about voting for a Black man (soley or even predominantly) but about agreement with the policies, values and views he espouses.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Wacky Wednesday (well... Thursday): Fun Pictures!

I've been so caught up in the serious side of life that I failed to post a Wacky Wednesday... and here it is Thursday. Mrs. Wicke has taught me the importance of not being so serious and I am indebted to her. Although we face some HUGE challenges ahead (I am not too encouraged about what is just over the horizon vis a vis politics, social and cultural conditions, etc.) we must take time and laugh. To help with this lofty goal, I present you with: Truth through pictures and commentary.

I am exercising my best self-control to keep from offering some social, political and/or cultural commentary on these pictures... each one is so full of truth regarding contemporary society. No, I won't do it. I will resist. Just take another look and laugh yourself silly. There are times when we just need to laugh.

Same Sex "Marriage": 4 Points of Clarification

The sophistication and the emotions of this debate require precision for either side of the argument. Let’s therefore establish some fundamental terms, conditions and propositions central to this debate:

1. Love and marriage are two distinct and independent concepts
I love many people but I cannot, nor do I want to, marry them. I love my mom but I do not marry her. I love my son but I do not marry him. I love my dog but I do not marry him. I love my best friend and his wife but I do not marry them. In opposing the marriage of two individuals of the same sex, I am opposing their marriage, not their love.
Currently society (backed by legal enforcement of the state) limits the number of people I can marry to one. No one is denying, especially not legally, the ability or right of any person to love another. It would be entirely impossible to forbid love. There is no legal prohibition, no denial of civil rights, against two individuals loving each other -all adults are equally free to engage in this.

2. Marriage is, always has been and will continue to be a state authorized venture.
Both sides sometimes fall into the fallacious argument that the state has no business in marriage. Wrong. The state has a vested interest in marriage oversight. That is why two individuals wishing to get married must obtain a license. The logic is similar to the requirement that an individual who wishes to drive on public roadways must obtain a drivers license. The state has great interest in who it allows to drive and disqualifies many categories of people from driving. Likewise the state is very interested in limiting marriage to one man and one woman (i.e. it has compelling reasons why: for establishing this as the standard). More on these compelling reasons later.

3. Opposition to same sex marriage does not mean you hate or are a homophobe.
Two or more individuals can differ on any given topic without one or both hating the other either consciously or subconsciously. The most damning and destructive contemporary social development is to charge those of differing views with accusations of racism, hate, homophobia and the like. To play the race (of the hate) card is to immediately kill the dialog by reducing it to the lowest level of civility. This tendency has the potential to rapidly drag us down to a level of incivility, anger and violence.

I oppose same sex marriage because of my concern for the larger society (more specifics on this in a future post). My wife and I have many homosexual friends whom we have great hopes for their happiness and contentment in this life. Our affection and concern for these friends is deep and profound. To accuse us of hating them because we oppose same sex marriage is an infantile and naïve accusation. Furthermore, there are many practicing homosexuals who oppose the redefinition and legal transformation of marriage. The great majority of these are well adjusted and thoughtful homosexuals who likewise consider the traditional institution of marriage best left as between a man and a woman. These are not stteped in self-hatred. They consider the good of society more important than their individual desires. They recognize that this issue is one of profound importance and is not reduced to a question of hate.

4. Marriage is not exclusively about the rights of the two individuals involved in the contract.
Our society is so fundamentally self-centered and narcissistic that we have not even discussed one of the most germane and obvious issues inherent in this debate. The legal protections (prohibitions, pre-requisites, etc.) of marriage have little to do with the marrying individuals and everything to do with their potential offspring. Children have no control over the family environment they are brought into. They had no say in their arrival to a family and the make-up of that family. Children are powerless, captive, pawns subject to the effects of their parents expert, remedial or malicious treatment. Government has declared that certain circumstances will more likely lead to the development of a contributing member of society than others. A fundamental and, until the last several generations, widely accepted assumption is that an intact “nuclear” family comprised of a husband (male) and a wife (female) provide the best configuration to accomplish the emotional, educational, physical, financial, social and spiritual development of a child and the next generation of humanity. Summarily put, a man and a woman devoted to each other through a legally recognized partnership are best suited to bring their unique assets together to produce and then raise children.

Viewing the wellbeing of the children rather than the rights of the adults engaged in a marital relationship brings a different perspective to the larger question of marriage. This view explains why society has traditionally discouraged pre-marital sex, unmarried cohabitation, divorce and yes, same sex marriage. None of these is the ideal context for children. None of these provides the best possibility for their socialization and psychological wellbeing. It is not about Adam and Eve’s rights nor is it about Adam and Steve’s rights, the protection of marriage is about Junior and Jane’s rights to have the best possible context for their physical, social, emotional and spiritual development.

It is difficult to fathom someone who is not entirely a narcissist and consumed with the preeminence of their own rights above all others who disagrees with the following concise statement: “Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity.”

Is that too much to ask: children born to a man and woman committed to each other through legal union, children nurtured, raised and protected by a father and mother who are absolutely committed to each other? Some will say it is unrealistic. On the contrary, I assert that considering the tremendous accomplishments of the human race, we can certainly accomplish this. In fact, if we fail to accomplish the ideals of that statement, all the other technological, medical, engineering, economic, artistic and political accomplishments of the human family become largely meaningless.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Same Sex "Marriage"

I have spent much time describing why I feel the current presidential election represents a turning point for our country. For those new to my blog, the importance is summarized in the fundamental and essential question about the role of government in a democracy. I can put it in no more concise way: a Barak Obama presidency will be a definitive step toward a socialist state, a step away from the type of government the United States of America was built on. Furthermore it will evidence a profound social transformation by a majority of the citizens away from individual responsibility and citizen-centric liberty to government paternalism and state-centric allocation of services and liberties. Power (to make decisions about the details of their own lives) will be wielded by the state rather than by the citizens. Government will dictate to the people rather than people dictating the government. We are in the process of turning upside down the political values of the founders of this great country.

As passionately as I feel toward this contemporary tug-of-war, there is another equally weighty issue currently before the citizenry. The question of what constitutes a “marriage” will also have profound impact on civilization. The significance of this issue cannot be understated. As such I will devote significant time to the question of “homosexual marriage” over the next several days. It is an issue that we had better be sober, thoughtful and precise about. We must carefully consider the impact it will have on us and on generations to come. Is it really that important? Well, consider one truth that must be recognized by all sides involved in this debate: this will be the first time in the history of human civilization where the meaning of the institution of marriage will be altered to include two individuals of the same sex enjoining each other. This is no small change. This is not to say that homosexuality did not exist in history -of course it did. It was also socially accepted in various places and times, but it was never granted the legal and definitional privilege of “marriage”.

The proposed change is more consequential than the discovery of electricity, than the technology of flight, than the concept of germ theory, even more than the idea of democracy. It strikes at the core of family and child rearing. If there is a universal human condition, it is the necessity of family for the perpetuation of the human species. Societies where the family foundation is disrupted (by any number of forces: war, drought, disease, misogyny or misandry) may limp along for a few generations but they are always terminated or replaced by societies with more sturdy family structure.

Can we change the conception, the legal definition of, marriage? Sure, we can do anything; the human being has wonderful powers of self-reflection. Should we? That is another question entirely, a question we should consider very carefully. The precedent of all of human existence is against it. This alone should give us pause and instruct us to walk softly and slowly. If no one before us -in all the thousands of years and all the diverse peoples and societies who have existed, even among those where homosexuality was socially celebrated- saw fit to retain the integrity of marriage to a relationship between man and woman (some even expanded it include one man and many women or one woman and many men -but even in a polygamous arrangement the two wives were only married to the man, not to the other woman) then how are we so arrogant and cavalier as think we know better? Perhaps we do know better, perhaps our progressiveness is as glorious and positive as we think…. In a spirit of full and clear self-disclosure: I think otherwise. What is more, I think to go where human kind has never gone before will bring profound consequences that those on all sides of this issue do not anticipate nor desire. I invite you to a discussion that will be respectful, rational and thought provoking.

Monday, October 27, 2008

NFL Chandler Results

For those of you who chose to play Brett Farve in your fantasy line up instead of me, I just want to show you how we compared:

Farve 28/40 290 yards 2 TDs 3INTs
Wicke 26/31 387 yards 4 TDs 0 INTs
* 1 two point conversion (rush), also 1 sack

If you did play Farve instead of me, all I can say is: bad team management! As for next weekend, things will certainly get tougher as we move into the post-season but the first round should not be too difficult. Finally, I would appreciate your write-in votes for my selection to the Pro-Bowl. I have been overlooked every year (I think it is due to the lack of prime time television coverage of our league) but I'm hoping that my blogger presence will generate the publicity that television has failed to provide.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Taxation 101 and Obama’s Spreading the Wealth

I have a Ph.D. which means I know a lot about a very specific subject. It also means that I am smart enough to recognize that I know very little about most other things -even regarding the phenomenon I am an “expert” in, I know that our level of understanding is severely wanting. Hence, even in my area of expertise I have more questions than I have answers. Having a Ph.D. also means that I am somewhat adept at analyzing situations, systematically attacking a problem, rationally evaluating a set of factors and somewhat objectively observing the world. This last set of abilities is largely independent of my specific area of study and benefits me in the vast majority of human and natural circumstances in which I am not overly informed.

This being said, I know very little about economics. I find the whole financial world, especially macro-economics, extraordinarily baffling. I am somewhat distressed to see, during the current global economic troubles, even the economic experts vacillating and themselves unsure of how to explain or fix the present malaise. If they do not know what is going on, I certainly don’t.

There are, however, some basic economic fundamentals that I can understand. These things are not rocket science (or require a Nobel laureate to explain). Let me spell it out:

Taxation is legalized seizure of money.

Taxation that targets certain groups and not others is fundamentally (and definitionally) discriminatory.

Taxing the rich will take money that they otherwise would have invested in other money making endeavors.

Taxing businesses will cause them to: 1. raise prices, 2. reduce wages for employees, 3. lay off employees, 4. grow less rapidly (stagnate, recede and possibly go out of business).

That which is taxed decreases in strength (and will eventually die).

The rich are rich because they know how to grow their money. They grow money by having other people work for them. When they are made less rich they are not able to have as many people work for them. That is what we call being laid off and unemployed.

“Spreading the money around” is another way of saying: taking money from others under the guise of the legal convention we call taxation.

Here is a prediction: when taxes are raised on the “rich” (i.e. those who are effective at generating more money) they will not be unable to pay employees who will be laid off; unemployment will increase, businesses will fail and tax revenue will decrease because the person or business is no longer generating as much revenue as previous. This is what we call a receding or a depressed economy.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Wacky Wednesday 3.0: NFL -Chandler

I'm an idiot. I don't have a problem admitting it. My wife was right, in the end. (Actually I have the most supportive wife ever and when I earn the label of nincompoop, I deserve it). OK, so what is the reason for my self-described idiocy? Let me paint a picture for you:

Brett Farve and I have a lot in common. We are roughly the same age; we have both played football for many years; his hair is turning grey and so is mine; he throws touchdowns on the weekend and so do I; we both have beautiful wives; we both played through considerable pain... That is about where the similarties end. Now let's explore some of the differences:

-I have never retired
-I have thrown fewer interceptions
-I have an all-star receiver who has played on my team for years (my brother Ben)
-I (my team) had a perfect, undefeated season (2006)
-Brett has gobs of money, I don't

-Brett is very famous; I am not although my children think I'm the strongest man in the world (come to think of it, I'm sure I can bench press more than Brett)

So, why am I an idiot? Because at 38 years old I am still playing like a little boy. Next to a meteor crashing into the Chandler, Arizona and the Phoenix metropolitan area, not much will keep me from playing in our flag football league every Saturday afternoon. It is a little looney to be so fanatic about a game with a bunch of overweight, balding and trash talking men but to her everlasting credit, sweet Mrs. Wicke doesn't miss a game. To emphasize my idiocy she refers to this weekly contest as "NFL -Chandler". What she doesn't realize is that I'm bearing down on Brett's all time passing yards record... another reason for Brett Farve to fear me.

More action

Last one.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Fallacy of Change: Five Essential Changes and why Barrack Obama wants to keep things as they’ve always been

When it comes to considering a person’s past performance or their promises for future action, I side heavily on the former -on their track record. To borrow from one of the greatest movie lines in cinematic history, promises and patronizing speeches have a tendency to “disappear like a fart in the wind.”

So let’s talk about the promise of change that has become so vogue during this political season. Readers of my previous post (Oct. 9th) will know how cynical I am regarding the empty word “change”. It represents so many things wrong with the American electorate: emotional, shallow, disinterested, image versus substance, etc. Isn’t anyone else offended that politicians view you as mindless lemmings who can be placated with platitudes and empty phrases? How many American’s can elaborate on even five changes Barak Obama wishes to make? How will he accomplish these changes? What consequence will they have on American society? Why should these changes help America which has become the most prosperous, most powerful, most innovative, hardest working, most free, most diverse nation in the world? If things are not going so well now and we are losing some of our educational, technological, economic and moral standing it seems like we shouldn’t charge off into uncharted territory but rather it seems like we should get back to the things that made us great. Get back to the basics, not pursue some liberal, European-like policy. We passed Europe a half century ago, why should we now adopt their philosophies?

Sorry, I got off on a tangent. Let’s get back to the idea of change. Barrak Obama’s mantra of change is not only empty rhetoric aimed at the great mass of unthinking public but it is patently deceptive. He is counting on an unfortunate truth: that a majority of the voters in the United States are so naïve that they will not give his arguments serious independent thought; that his empty generalizations and emotion inducing anecdotes will stir them to excitement, furor or fear; that they need the government to make right what is wrong with their lives. The disappointing thing is it doesn’t take a college graduate to think long enough or hard enough to see through his deceptive dogma.

Here are five everyday examples that exemplify government ineptitude, corruption or waste. Five things that could be changed today if the American people were really serious about fixing their situation and changing “government as usual”

1. The Chicago Political Machine
Ironically Mr. Obama began his campaign claiming that he is not the old fashioned politician the American people have come to despise –that he is the antithesis of traditional partisan politics. Recent polls show how little trust the American people have in their politicians who cannot seem to stay out of scandals involving money, alcohol, interns, political contributions, other people’s wives, etc. It seems the only thing they are not accused of is actually being effective representatives. The archetype of this old school of politics is the Chicago Political Machine…. Opps, this is the very institution that made Mr. Obama’s political career. If Mr. Obama is not an old fashioned politician why has he not led a fight to dismantle the Chicago Machine? In fact, why was he absent when actual political reformers (both Republicans and Democrats together) were trying to fight the Chicago establishment. Hmmmm. No call for change here. In fact his early promise to change the way politics is done stinks worse than that elusive fart in the wind when he identified a man who personifies the old politician, Mr. Biden, as his running mate. Something doesn’t add up.

2. Educational change
Perhaps nothing needs changed more than our educational system which displays continually decreasing measures of competence. Over the past twenty years the American educational apparatus has been falling in comparison to the rest of the world and in comparison to previous accomplishment. All the while we have been spending more and more money on education, developing more and more federal programs and lengthening the school year. So where is the call for wholesale reform of the educational system? In case you need ideas Mr. Obama, here are a few: abolish tenure, dismantle the US Dept. of Education, stop taking money from and worshipping at the alter of the Teacher’s Union. How about allowing school choice. Let’s trying vouchers and charter schools and ANYTHING! Get rid of the peripheral programs and curriculum: teach reading, writing and arithmetic not environmentalism, sex education and Ebonics. Opps… Mr. Obama was involved in an organization that established a school based on principles and values of the United Nations… doesn’t sound like we are talking about the same kind of change. Mr. Obama is not really interested in educational change or he would confront the one organization that is responsible for making it the dismal institution it has become today: the Teacher’s Union. That would be “change”.

3. Fairness in taxation
Stop pretending to be a bold reformer and actually reform: change the current taxation schedule to a flat consumption tax. Unfortunately this is not rocket science or brain surgery… which is probably the reason why no politician will actually adopt it. There is a certain functionality that comes with dazzeling (i.e. confusing) people with complicated systems. The current system makes it easier to pit the haves against the have-nots; it makes it easier to make the citizenry focus their energy and angst on each other instead of focusing on a common enemy (the politicians). You want to be revolutionary? Change something that is against your own interest. Change the tax system to a flat consumption tax.

4. Rational, Scientific Based Energy Polity
This means nuclear power plants, leaving energy to the highly effective private sector and allowing them to drill in the most cost effective and potentially productive areas (not the hundred million-trillion acres they already hold leases on). This would mean, of course, alienating the environmental lobby…. and we can’t do that. Since I am a change-realist I will limit my proposal to one component: nuclear power. The arguments against nuclear power (i.e. safety and waste disposal) are scientifically unfounded as any rational person from the left or right is compelled to admit. If you are interested in actually educating yourself on the matter instead of clinging to a visceral political posture, read Power to Change the World by Gwynth Cravens (who happens to be a liberal). You will be enlightened (as was I) as you learn, for example, how much waste a nuclear power plant actually generates. Beyond the facts, lets use logic and consider the France –that nation which liberals want to model the US after- is largely dependent on the nuclear power produced by their numerous plants. Somehow they are able to do it, let’s make a real change.

5. Morality Credits (i.e. a spin-off of carbon credits)
The problem of children being born to unwed mothers has grown during the past century to epidemic rates. This phenomenon has tremendous social (including political and economic) consequence. Here is a change: how about morality credits to young people who do not have sex until marriage (“si, se puede”)? Revolutionary I know. But if we want to talk about change, here is a proposal. We can also enlarge these credits to a larger sense of “morality” that includes credits to those who do not default on their consumer debt, to those who go to college, etc. Like carbon credits we could fund it from those who are abusing their human responsibility to act morally…. Oh, but that would not be sensitive, politically correct and would be legalizing morality. Really? Tell me how it is any different than the logic behind carbon credits? There is no “morality” or political correctness involved there? I admit that the specifics of such a program need to be defined and developed, but how is this any different than ANY of the “changes” to which Mr. Obama alludes?

Proper Role of Government (on video)

Word, words, words... Here is a video presentation that might be a bit more interesting than my blabbering on and on about the role of government and the drastically different perspectives represented by Mr. Obama and Mr. McCain. Choose carefully, nothing but the fate of western democracy hangs in the balance (I've got to admit that I am surprised it took us less than 250 years to contaminate our democracy).

While I have some slight differences of opinion with the video, for the most part it is right on. It is difficult to disagree with the veracity and representation of the facts it proports. This stuff is not just made up, it carries the precedent of the modern age and the best political thinking of the enlightenment.

Friday, October 17, 2008

That which saves you, owns you

It is not the job of my government to save or to rescue me. That job falls first and foremost on me. If I cannot provide for my own “salvation” or wellbeing, the burden falls upon my family -my parents, brothers and sisters, children, etc. If none of these are capable of adequately assisting me with MY responsibility to take care of ME, we are fortunate enough to live in a very generous country where many faith based and other non-profit entities provide a variety of social, emotional, spiritual and even financial services. I am not such a purist or so naïve as to think there is never a scenario when the government might need to step in and assist in the salvation of its citizens… but I am also enough of a realist to recognize the great danger of granting to governments powers that rightly belong to individuals. The political progression of western society which is a road from despotism to democracy with stops at Machiavelli, Aquinas, Lock, Hobbes and Jefferson speaks with one voice of caution against the power of governments (most specifically of individuals bequeathing powers which rightly belong to them, to the government).

In plain language, a government endowed with the power to save me also, by definition, has the power to do the opposite. A government that provides my health care, my education, my wage, my home, my protection also has the power to establish the limits on each one. It has the power to control my decisions regarding health. It has the power to limit my unacceptably large wage. It has the power to press me into military service to defend the body politic. It has the power to forbid my behavior in the most trivial and personal decisions such as if I can smoke, if I can eat fried food, what temperature I must set my thermostat, who I can fire and who I must hire (the last four have actually been enforced or proposed by liberal/democrat controlled legislatures). How far, in the name of environmental responsibility and global sustainability, until that government puts restrictions on the number of cars I drive, on the size of my house, on the amount of energy I consume, on the amount of food or water I consume, or on the number of children I can have.

This is the evil and the inevitable end of a government to whom the citizenry has endowed with power to make a “better”, more equitable society. We trade our individual moral choices for governmental legal mandates. A government that is heavily involved in aspects of our social reality (economics, health, education, family decisions, etc.) is a socialist state. Responsibility is shifted from the individual to the state. The transformation is so slight and so subtle as to escape the notice of the apathetic masses who have been placated on the sweet milk of prosperity. The subtlety is illustrated in the alteration of a core American value. In outlining the fundamental differences between our government and all others, Jefferson declared our inalienable right to… “the pursuit of happiness”. Sometime in the last hundred years we have emphasized a right to happiness even though the grammatical and philosophical emphasis is not on the prepositional phrase (“of happiness”) but on the noun (“pursuit”). We have no inherent right to happiness, nor is it the governments job to ensure our happiness, heaven forbid that it ever mandates our happiness. Rather our right is to “pursue”. To have the opportunity to work for such a condition. There is a world of difference between guaranteeing our pursuit and guaranteeing an end or condition of that pursuit. Necessary to the right to pursue happiness is the right to possibly fail (heaven forbid that anyone in America –be it a little league team or a major investment firm be allowed to actually fail). Government, in ensuring my happiness (legislating the condition of my life), has stripped me of my freedom to pursue. It no longer is a freedom of means but a guarantee of ends. The only way to guarantee a specific end (i.e. happiness, safety, security) is to mandate a specific means…. Doesn’t this scare anyone?

The tragedy is that we have been complicit in the whole affair. We’ve traded the risks of a republic for the guarantees of a paternal government. I am a big boy, I don’t need government to provide my healthcare or to plan for my retirement or to make sure my child doesn’t get left behind. What happened to you America? Benjamin Franklin’s warning is as (perhaps more) applicable to day as when he described our government: “a republic if you can keep it.”

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Wacky Wednesday II

By "wacky" I mean amazing... this week at least. This made me sit back in my chair, mouth wide open (periodically a stalagtite of drool would fall to the floor) in absolute amazement at the world we live in. As Mr. Dickens so aptly put it, "it is the best of times and it is the worst of times."

The Evil of Government

(Read post from Mon., Oct. 13 before continuing)
Government has always been the most feared institution in the world, for good reason. The founders of our country, the most benevolent nation the world has ever known, in creating the government considered it, at best, a necessary evil. They strapped it with limitations, divided its powers, set its parts against the whole purposefully making it unwieldy, slow and as safe as they possibly could without condemning it to failure (which they did once: it was called the Articles of Confederation).

The unprecedented prosperity of the American experiment and its influence on the world is evidence of the genius of the founders. Life has become so comfortable in our generation that we have forgotten the tyranny government can exercise over its citizens. To compound the danger, we have become so apathetic to history and arrogant of our prospered position that we think somehow things have changed; that rules which have applied to all human history no longer apply to us in our post-modern, enlightened, “progressive” time. And we have begun to entrust government with more and more power (those responsibilities and powers which rightly rest on the people). Those who would enlarge its powers and extend the scope of its influence do so either with cloaked agendas or out of gross naiveté. In either case, if they succeed it is at the peril of all.

The simple truth expressed in theory and in practice, for which we are not without ominous precedence, is that as government assumes more and more of those responsibilities which are, by nature, the domain of individuals, the individual possesses less and less autonomy, choice and authority over their own lives. As government grows individual freedom decreases. Governments soon control citizens instead of citizens controlling government. This is a law as certain as those controlling the natural world. While political philosophers have composed volumes establishing and explaining this condition in theory we only need to examine our own present circumstance to see the validity of the claim in practice.

Consider any domain in which the government currently administers certain products or services: the post office, Department of Motor Vehicles, public schools, response to Hurricane Katrina. None of these bring to mind a model of efficiency and effectiveness. For all those who feel inclined to entrust health care to the government I would ask them to consider the last time they visited the post office during the week preceding Christmas, Mother’s Day or April 15… do you not recall the absurdity of waiting for 30 minutes or an hour while one or two cash registers remained closed even though, clearly, there were employees in the back room. If you want your gall stones to be handled with the same level of efficiency and public service, please allow the government to manage your health care (i.e. please vote for Obama). Likewise, think about the last time you needed a simple question answered by your county, state or federal government agency. Do these entities have phones that are ever answered by people? Is there some law requiring you to sit for an hour at the Department of Motor Vehicles before talking to an agent and finding out that you do not have the correct paperwork and must return only to enjoy the exercise in patience on another day? We have got to be out of our minds to even consider letting the government take charge of our health care, our financial institutions, our oil production or our retirement plan. Is anyone not aware that the government’s plan for our social (i.e. financial) security is broke? In the meantime private financial planning companies are prospering and paying seven figured salaries to the geniuses in charge.

Make no mistake, the power of the government is the power to coerce obedience to whatever law it enacts. The agents of government can levy fines and even imprison its citizens if they fail to comply with established statutes. In modern America there is no entity with even a tenth of this power. Business cannot imprison defectors, religion cannot seize property or deny freedom. And yet there is a great foment of attitude against “big” business and “fanatic” religion. Perhaps there was a time and a few places in our history when business and religion gained the reigns of government and exercised dominion over some citizens but we have happily weathered and righted those situations. The danger now, by far, is the enlarged and incessant expansion of government into the lives of the people. Government now controls, to name a few, social welfare programs, primary education, corporate environmental behavior and transportation. There are some who would have it assume responsibility (i.e. power) for health care, personal environmental behavior, financial planning, energy production, wage limits, etc.

Government was never meant to be in charge of health care, education, financial investment (the current debacle caused by the government created institutions of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac should provide all the evidence we need), oil production or the transport of billions of pieces of correspondence (consider the government run system of sending messages with the system that the business sector has developed: first class mail costs at least $.42 each transmission and takes at least 3 days. Email costs nothing and takes about 3 seconds... come on, do we need any more evidence of government's inability to be innovative, efficient and cost effective?). Government does not generate revenue, it is not concerned with turning a profit, and there is no motive to provide the best customer service possible. When our founding father’s created this monster they crippled it and left the bulk of power, and responsibility for our lives in our own hands. They meant for the populace to be self-sufficient, capable and innovative. They trusted the citizenry to make good decisions, to do whatever it took to get an education, to save for our future, to take care of our health. They established democracy… what we are now flirting with (handing personal decisions over to the government) is nothing short of soft-socialism. Government with power is the most dangerous frightening thing in the world (stay tuned, more to come).

Monday, October 13, 2008

It’s not about McCain or Obama… its much more important

WARNING: the next several posts will be about politics. Read at your own risk. If we do not agree on these points, my hope is that we can at least “agree to disagree”.

While personal traits of candidates are germane to an informed decision about who deserves your vote as president, I expressly want to set the personal criteria aside (yes for this conversation at least, ignore Obama’s skin color and highly controversial personal associations; likewise, set aside McCain’s POW status and his maverick tendencies against core conservative positions). Setting the ad hominem rhetoric aside will accomplish two things: it should lower the emotional investment we have in our particular candidate and permit a rational analysis. This will, hopefully, facilitate a more reasoned and civil discussion of core issues instead of focusing on the titillating peripheral elements. Sober minds must prevail in this decision since, I suggest, the future path of our republican democracy will be laid largely as a result of the current decision.

Hence the current election is not about Obama or McCain at all. The central question of this election is the role of government. A close secondary question is the role of the United States in the world. Make no mistake about it, McCain and the conservative movement has a drastically different answer to these two questions than Obama and the liberal movement. The differential perspectives will have tremendous impact on the remaining decades of the current century.

Before I outline the differences, let us agree on the common ground between the two prevailing ideological perspectives (conservative and liberal). We actually have much that is coincident in our goals. When we honestly recognize this we will cause our political representatives to cease their infantilization and patronage. Conservatives and liberals have tremendous similarity in the ends, or objectives, they pursue:
-both want quality education for all children
-both desire economic health and prosperity
-both wish to minimize the maladies of poverty
-both want a system where citizens can improve their standard of living
-both want crime to decrease
-both want a safer, kinder world
-both want a cleaner, more sustainable environment
-both have tremendous national pride and patriotism in America

Neither is the nefarious monster the other likes to portray. The great gulf between the two perspectives is the means by which these goals should be accomplished. Intelligent, honorable and defensible arguments can be made by both sides. Likewise, intelligent and honorable people also exist on each side. These facts should cause us to tone down the rhetoric and cease from deamonizing, name calling and accusing the other of somehow being the “worst person in the world” or of being “the anti-Christ”. The most educated generation in the world should be more civil than we are acting.

While the ends or objectives may be similar, the two political positions employ vastly different means to achieving their goals. At the core is the question: What is government and what is it’s legitimate role? This is, perhaps, the most important political question each citizen must come to answer. It is the central question that, in 1776, led to the creation of the American Experiment and a politically independent country. It was readdressed in 1861 with such vehemence that 620,000 American soldiers and an undetermined number of civilians died as a result of the debate. To a lesser degree every generation of Americans has wrestled with this question and the American republic (both as a political entity as well as a set of socio-cultural values) of today is largely the result of our aggregate answer. The debate wages on today and it is our generation’s time to provide an answer.

In summary, one side wishes for an enlarged role of government and the other desires a smaller role. For one side, government is the solution to pressing contemporary challenges. For the other side, government is too often the problem. One side wants the government involved more personally in health care, in education, in business, in environmental decisions, in human reproduction, in what we can eat, who business can hire and fire, what kind of cars we buy, etc. The other side wishes to leave these questions and matters, so much as possible, in the hands of the individual citizen. It wants less government involvement and recognizes that there are other social entities which can more effectively accomplish the objectives of business, education, family life, caring for the poor, administration of medical care, etc. In short, do you trust the government with these matters or are they better left to the individual citizen -do we trust the average American to make the proper decisions that government would otherwise make for them. Where will the locus of power reside: with the individual or with the government? This is no small or trivial distinction. There is tremendous difference between a “government of the people” and a people of government. A true democracy requires that power, rights and responsibility resides with the individual. When power, rights and responsibility shifts to the government, democracy no longer exists.

Long after John McCain or Barak OBama is out of the White House, America will face the consequences of the type of government these men fostered and we permitted. It is, therefore, vitally important that each of us comes to peace with the role, purpose and legitimacy of government in our lives. (stay tuned... more to come).

Saturday, October 11, 2008

More on Words... some great references

This is an unplanned post but your comments (thank you Shana and Ethan)on my aversion to the word "change" led me to offer a few recommendations for your reading pleasure. There is an entire branch of Sociology devoted to the study of language: ethnomethodology (although to be accurate, it is not so narrow as just to consider language). There are three books that I would refer to anyone interested in casually enlarging their horizon in the realm of language and the power it has to shape our reality. These are interesting books that can be read in short segments (perfect for the necessary periodic trips to the bathroom). The first is by a sad and cynical man who lived over a hundred years ago, Ambrose Bierce. The Devil's Dictionary is literally a volume of words that Mr. Bierce wrote cynical but frequently spot-on definitions for. Another is titled Dictionary of Word Origins (by John Ayto). He traces the etymology (origin, history and development) of more than 8,000 words. It is fascinating to see how their meaning morphs and sometimes even becomes the opposite of what it originally meant. A third suggested book is C.S. Lewis' classic, The Screwtape Letters. While the change in definition of words is not necessarily even a sub-plot, Mr. Lewis reveals how slight changes have profound results -the very thing currently taking place in our society. Tampering with language is the primary tool to accomplishing these changes. As has been mentioned, consider the proposed change to the definition of "family". In fact, ground zero for the cultural-moral battle now taking place in society is language. Those pushing for the change absolutely know this. It was best illustrated several years back when Mr. Clinton confessed, "it depends on what the definition of "is" is..." The fight for tomorrow's reality is taking place today on the battle ground of language. How else is this world going to come to a situation where "good is called bad and bad is called good."

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Here's a change: stop talking to me like I'm an idiot

I love language. I am fascinated by the idea of a symbolic representation and organization of reality. The concept is intriguing if you stop and think about it: the arbitrariness of meaning, the evolution of words, the debasement of language by vulgarity (think of the prevalence of “four letter” words), the extinction of certain languages and the corresponding loss of cultures or ethnic identity. The experience at the Tower of Babel is extraordinarily profound and has much to teach us –culturally and spiritually- about the impact of language. The use of language is one of the primary features that separate humans from all other life. The depths of our relationships and the way in which we relate to one another rests on language. The proficiency with which a person or a group of people uses a language, the more advanced, civil and accomplished they will be. Language is a social process and our social reality is dictated by language.

Language can be corrupted and diseased. A diseased language soon reveals a diseased society. I’m not sure which comes first, likely it is a two-way relationship. Either way, we should take great care not to abuse, exploit or employ language for nefarious purposes. Language must also be granted tremendous respect -the power of language is incalculable. My love of language is equaled by my disdain for the misuse or waste of language (Mrs. Wicke will be the first to tell you that I tend too much on the side of language conservation… a charge to which I plead guilty). Perhaps I am too stingy with regard to language but I detest when language is wasted and words are treated lightly. Which brings me to the topic of my blog today.

The purpose of language is to communicate but it is now being used, in a very public manner, to say nothing. Let me explain by introducing you to my new most hated word: “change”. The frequency with which politicians are throwing this word around is restrained only by the fact that they have to breath. It has somehow assumed a magical quality. It is as if we can simply say the word “change” and all will be made right in these challenging times. Here me now: the only change I want is for candidates to stop using the word "change".

In the first place, it means nothing. It has been said that the only certain thing about life is change. Change is the only constant, it will happen irregardless. To promise “change” then is to promise nothing. Change is going to happen anyway. Don’t insult my intelligence with a meaningless word. Even the slogan “Change we can believe in” is ultimately meaningless. I would be slightly interested if the claim was “Change we can’t believe”. At least this statement could create a situation in the hearer where two brain cells would have to rub together and cause intelligent thought.

In the second place, change is not necessarily a good thing. There are far more things about America that I want left alone than to be changed. As a nation we have made tremendous progress: we are the most affluent, the most free, the most blessed, the most racially integrated, the most religiously inclined, the most innovative, the hardest working, and the most generous nation in the world (and, arguably, in the entire history of humankind). But perhaps this is what the politicians want to change.

The only thing more disappointing than candidates running around parroting the word “change” is the lemmings who soak it up like a sponge. My guess is that precious few really know what changes will be made and what effect those changes will have on them. But this is an element of human nature: people are always looking for something different than they now have. We want something better. But we too often fail to consider that the potential of our condition after the change is actually that we could be worse off than we were before. No, I prefer a more measured approach. Everything we know about nature, about science, about the universe is that change comes about very slowly. Some of the wisest people applied this principle to the political realm, suggesting “Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes”. These eventually did pursue a path of change but that path was well defined, soberly considered and solicited widespread agreement. We are not a perfect nation, we have shortcomings to be sure but I am not ready to abandon a course which has led the world to the height of human advancement in exchange for some ephemeral, uncertain, unproven and undefined concept termed “change”.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Wacky Wednesday

In an effort to lighten things up, I plan to have a weekly installment self described as "Wacky Wednesday". It will be an attempt to step into the bizzare, the ridiculous and the levity in life. Here is my first issue:

Wacky Wednesday, Vol. 1
If a picture is worth a thousand words then this video is priceless. If it did not so perfectly symbolize the moral confusion of our "enlightened" era it would be funny. Well, OK, it is tragic and funny at the same time. We truely are a society has gone where no man has gone before... without even leaving our back yard.

Monday, October 6, 2008

What is your greatest challenge?

Every generation is confronted with forces which threaten their happiness, their freedoms and, at times, their very existence. That we should also experience this common condition of humanity should not surprise us. Consider the short span of only the last hundred years. These generations have faced the great depression, diseases and plagues, totalitarianism in multiple forms (Nazism and communism), racism and bigotry. Less ubiquitous but equally challenging are the individual level demons which plague men, women and families. Interpersonal cruelty, economic solvency, injustice, divorce, psychological maladies and untimely death are rip-tides within the larger ocean of society-level challenges. Mankind has always lived uncomfortably on a precipice. With all the talk of change and progress, this is one condition that has not changed. It is as true for us as it was for a citizen of Athens in the first century BCE.

Recognizing this common human condition, several questions come to mind: What are the great challenges of our day? What issues and circumstances pose the greatest threat to our peace and prosperity? Let us be clear that our ability to answer these questions and then to act courageously is the very key to our future. Failure to recognize these threats out of ignorance, apathy or rouse has been the root of suffering and collapse for every society.

There is no dearth of potential challenges and many are new to our particular day and circumstance. It is not difficult to establish a list of possible contenders: family disintegration, globalization, redefinition of marriage, fraying social ties (i.e. disregard for authority) , cultural relativism, the demise of religion and ascendancy of secularism, global financial insecurity, environmental catastrophe, narcissistic orientation… How would you answer? I know it is not the happiest of subjects, but what do you see as the greatest challenges of our day?

For those who think this entry is somewhat discouraging, let me offer the following by William Jennings Bryan, former US Secretary of State:

I am a believer in the progress of the (human) race. Talk not to me about crises through which we cannot pass; tell me not of dangers that will overthrow us, or of obstacles too great to overcome; we know none such. A brave, a heroic, a patriotic people will be prepared to meet every emergency as it arises. Each generation is capable of self-government, and I believe that under our institutions each generation will be more capable than the generation which went before. Abraham Lincoln, in the greatest of his speeches, said that we had an unfinished work to perform. Every generation receives from the preceding generation an unfinished work. The works of man are imperfect. Mankind labors on from age to age but does not reach perfection. Every generation enjoys the blessings bequeathed from the generations past, and we should strive to leave the world better than it was when we entered it. To such as are gathered here and throughout the land a nation can look with absolute confidence for the wisdom, intelligence, patriotism and courage which are necessary in every hour of danger. If there is one lesson taught by six thousand years of history it is that truth is omnipotent and will at last prevail. You may impede its progress, you may delay its triumph; but after awhile it will show its irresistible power, and those who stand in its way will be crushed beneath it. You ask me if these reforms which we advocate will be accomplished. I say that if they are right they will be accomplished. We who believe that they are right can only do our best and give such impetus to them as we are able to give, and then trust to the righteousness of our cause to prevail over those who oppose us.
-William J. Bryan, The First Battle, pg. 235

Friday, October 3, 2008

The Happy Warrior

I can't build a blog around a theme (which happens to be a poem) without including it for your reference. I hope to attach the poem as a PDF for easy download... since I know you will all want to print it out and committ it to memory. Until I figure out how to link a PDF, here it is:

The Happy Warrior
by William Wordsworth

Who is the happy Warrior? Who is he
that every man in arms should wish to be?
--It is the generous Sprit, who, when brought
Among the tasks of real life, hath wrought
Upon the plan that pleased his boy is thought:
Whose high endeavors are an inward light
that makes the path before him always bright:
Who, with a natural instinct to discern
What knowledge can perform, is diligent to learn;
Abides by this resolve, and stops not there,
But makes his moral being his prime care;
Who, doomed to go in company with Pain,
And Fear, and Bloodshed, miserable train!
Turns his necessity to glorious gain;
In face of these doth exercise a power
Which is our human nature's highest dower;
Controls them and subdues, transmutes, bereaves
Of their bad influence, and their good receives:
By objects, which might force the soul to abate
Her feeling, rendered more compassionate;
Is placable--because occasions rise
So often that demand such sacrifice;
More skillful in self-knowledge, even more pure,
As tempted more; more able to endure,
As more exposed to suffering and distress;
Thence also, more alive to tenderness.
--'Tis he whose law is reason; who depends
Upon that law as on the best of friends;
Whence, in a state where men are tempted still
To evil for a guard against worse ill,
And what in quality or acts is best
Doth seldom on a right foundation rest,
He labors good on good to fix, and owes
To virtue every triumph that he knows:
--Who, if he rise to station of command,
rises by open means; and there will stand
On honorable terms, or else retire,
And in himself possess his own desire;
Who comprehends his trust, and to the same
Keeps faithful with a singleness of air;
And therefore does not stoop, nor lie in wait
For wealth, or honors, or for worldly state;
Whom they must follow; on whose heat must fall,
Like showers of manna, if they come at all.

Whose powers shed round him in the common strife,
Or mild concerns of ordinary life,
A constant influence, a peculiar grace;
but who, if he be called upon to face
Some awful moment to which Heaven has joined
Great issues, good or bad for human kind,
Is happy as a Lover; and attired
With sudden brightness, like a Man Inspired;
And, through the heat of conflict, keeps the law
in calmness made, and sees what he foresaw;
or if an unexpected call succeed,
Come when it will, is equal to the need:
--He who, though thus ended as with a sense
And faculty for storm and turbulence,
Is yet a Soul whose master-bias leans
to homefelt pleasures and to gentle scenes;
Sweet images! which, whersoe'er he be,
Are at his heart; and such fidelity
It is his darling passion to approve;
More brave for this, that he hath much to love:--
'Tis , finally, the Man who lifted high,
Conspicuous object in a Nation's eye,
Or left unthought-of in obscurity,--
Who, with a toward or untoward lot,
Prosperous or adverse, to his wish or not--
Plays, in the many games of life, that one
where what he most doth value must be won:
Whom neither shape of danger can dismay,
Nor thought of tender happiness betray;
Who, not content that former worth stands fast,
Looks forward, persevering to the last,
From well to better, daily self-surpast;
Who, whether praise of him must walk the earth
Forever, and to noble deeds give birth,
Or he must fall, to sleep without his fame,
And leave a dead unprofitable name--
finds comfort in himself and in his cause;
And, while the mortal mist is gathering, draws
His breath in confidence of Heaven's applause:
This is the happy Warrior; this is He
That every Man in arms should wish to be.