June 17, 2024

Talkin’ Politics at NAPCon

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I don’t usually like to talk about politics because it is largely a matter of opinion, and I prefer to deal in matters of fact.  As an activist in the atheist community, I have noticed that people are usually happy to hear me talk about science, even though scientists are, well they have low tolerance for fools, and can be brutal judges.  So you’d better not get anything wrong!  Folks are generally happy to hear me talk about religion too.  Even the religious people, because they like to get offended –especially by someone who looks like me.  And most of my audience likes to talk about philosophy –even if I myself do not.  But whenever I talk about politics, that’s when things get ugly, and it doesn’t seem to matter who I’m talking to.  I am sometimes amazed at the differences between what someone thinks I said versus, -whatever somebody thinks I meant vs whatever I actually said, and how any perceived endorsement of a limited provision will be exaggerated in hyperbole to the most ludicrous extreme possible.  If for example, I think that the government has a role to do anything at all, whether by imposing environmental regulations on hazardous or destructive industries, or by preserving equal rights in employment or housing, then the anarchists accuse me of being a statheist, of believing in statism –as if that’s a bad thing.  As if anything the government does is automatically wrong, or as if anarchy ever got anything right.  If I say the government should do X, my critics will imagine that I said the government should everything A to Z.  This happens every time I’ve revealed any aspect of my own personal political opinions.  So while I have criticized the more outrageous proposals and policies of other people’s politics, I really haven’t much discussed my own.  However today I find myself in the unique position of addressing a new political party.  I feel compelled to share my hopes for how that evolving platform will best represent me –if I am to support it.

As a young man, I wasn’t much interested in politics.  I wasn’t immersed in it, I wasn’t involved, I wasn’t motivated.  I was largely unaware of most of it.  Through a series of accidents, I happened to be at the 1988 Iowa Caucuses when one of our presidential candidates was Pat Robertson, head of the Trinity Broadcasting Network, leader of the Christian Coalition, and host of the 700 Club.  Then as today, he was always quoted by the press saying something simultaneously hateful and insane.  It seems those are the only comments he seems capable of making.  I didn’t care who else was running at that time.  I just couldn’t imagine a worse president than somebody like Pat Robertson.

I had never even registered to vote before then.  That was my first time.  When I went to the registration table they asked me if I was Republican or Democrat.  I honestly didn’t know what it meant to be either one, and the girl who was filling out the forms wasn’t about to explain it.  She just looked at me through narrow eyes and said, “You’re a Democrat”, and started filling out my form.  I asked how she knew that, and she looked at me again with narrow eyes and said “Trust me”.  Looking back, I think she was Republican.

I never identified as a Democrat, although given only two choices, I have no choice but to vote as one.  If you ever saw Monty Python’s, ‘The Meaning of Life’, the way the grim reaper described Englishmen is pretty much the way I describe Democrats:  “You’re all so pompous; none of you have got any…” –well you’ve seen the movie.

For example, in 2008, I voted for a change I could believe in, and five years later, I still don’t think I’ve seen any change.

Last September, the Democratic party removed from their platform any reference to God –where the Republican platform mentions God twelve times.  But they immediately reversed that position at their national convention –against the vote of their natural majority.  They needed a two thirds majority, and that was not what they got.  They called the vote three times, because the first two times it sounded like a tie.  The third time, the nays seemed louder than the ayes, but that wasn’t part of the script, and they weren’t going to change course just because that’s how the people voted –and that is part of the problem.  How could you even call that Democratic anymore?

So I still don’t consider myself a Democrat, although I did share in their delight in this last election.  That was a fun one, wasn’t it?  My wife and I sat glued to the computer as we watched this map of gray states lighting up red or blue, and it was hilarious.  Every time one lit up red, my wife would ball up her fists and –in her Minnie Mouse voice- start cursing Romney supporters.  She was adorable, even though we are not Obama supporters ourselves.  We voted for him, but we vote for the lesser evil.  And every time the greater evil got an advantage in the vote, my wife felt outraged.  Every time a state lit up blue or the tide shifted the other way, we felt releaved.  We were afraid to go to bed because we were terrified we would wake up in a world ruled by a hand-puppet of the Religious Right.

We were primarily concerned that Romney would carry out his threat to select right-wing conservative judges like Scalia and Thomas on the Supreme court.  Tipping the balance that way would effectively end –or could effectively end our democratic constitutional republic, and bring about an American theocracy.

Honey, bring me my power cord.

This would be disasterous wouldn’t it.

Honey, bring me my power cord.

It said I had three hours, then it said I had none.

We need an adapter.

Sorry for that momentary interruption.

And I have to have a lot of notes because there’s a heckuva lot to go over. I’m sorry.

Regarding the Supreme Court, and the way those judges rule, because every bad decision at that level is irreparable, and sets a disastrous precedent, and opportunistic ideologues will seize every advantage to do even greater harm.  It bothers me that so many people in this country are so short-sighted, that they can’t see the obvious eventual consequences of their actions.  It’s as if they can’t see beyond their own personal needs of the next fiscal quarter.

For example, in the last interview that George W Bush ever gave as president –it was on Nightline .  He was asked Bush if the Bible was literally true.  He laughed and said ‘probably not’.  One of the reasons he gave for that was when he said there was proof of evolution.  So all that stuff he said about teaching intelligent design prior to that was just pandering to the votes of the Religious Right.

Back at the turn of the century, when our beloved ‘Dubya’ ran against Al Gore, inventor of the internet, I read both the Democratic and Republican party platforms, and at that time, they weren’t very different.  They were both religious, and one party was just a bit more overtly religious than the other.  Over the next couple terms, that rift has widened.  They’re still both religious, but now one is supposedly democratic and the other is theocratic.

In a video titled ‘Republican Theocracy’, I reviewed the new Republican Party platform that was specifically tailored for Texas.  That one is worse than that national one in that it is less discreet, because southern conservatives are so comfortable in their secure dominance of my state.  They’re so immersed in the safety of reassuring numbers that they feel above reproach, and will more openly speak their minds as if they won’t be held accountable for any damage they do.  I won’t give that speech again today.  If you’re watching this on video, I’ll include links to my earlier video and also where I talk about this on my blog, and provide a list of notable citations.

Today, I will move on to highlight the most extreme offshoot of right-wing Republicans, the Tea party.  They claim to be for lower taxes and better economy, but appear to be all about religious extremism.  The Tea Party platform is made up mostly of misleading quotes from historic Americans who would not have aligned themselves with what the Tea Party now represents.  They quoted Abraham Lincoln ten times!  Though they obviously didn’t quote anything he said about God, the Bible, or Christianity.  They quoted several people who either never said anything positive for Christianity, or who actually said very negative things against it, men like Thomas Paine, who ever shared anything in common with Glenn Beck.  I read an article on, How Glenn Beck Warped Extreme Liberal Thomas Paine into a Teabagger –which was an interesting read.  But Paine’s position was opposite Beck’s on nearly every issue, and if he were alive today, Thomas Paine would more likely be one of us.

While I’m at it, I should cite another article listing an Avalanche of Anti-American Tea Party Legislation Since 2010.  It cites the Tea Party’s war on anything progressive, inclusive, tolerant, or otherwise liberal, and lists all the specific legislation toward those ends.  I’ll only highlight the main categories here.

·    According to the article, they have a war on women’s reproductive rights that is so extensive in so many states across the nation, that I hesitate to list specifics here.  There are too many, but a lot of them outrageous and should be read.  So I’ll be sure to provide a link when I upload this video.

·    Part of that offensive includes their war on the Special Supplemental Nutritional Program for Women, Infants and Children, also known as WIC: On this matter, I should point out that today –and for the last dozen years or so- I have supported my family working for a corporate multinational –and my daughter just joined the Navy to serve as a rescue diver.  I have been continuously employed for decades.  But there was a time a quarter century ago, when I was a single dad with no job and I was the only man sitting in the waiting room of a welfare program dedicated to Women and Infant Children.  I didn’t need this sort of safety net very long, but I am sure glad it was there back then.  I wouldn’t want to deny that to anyone in that situation.

·    As their name suggests, the Tea Party are in an ideological war with the Federal Government too:  In some instances, they want local law enforcement to have presiding priority over federal agents.  In other cases, they want their own state currency, or they want to secede from the union altogether –either literally or effectively.  They don’t want any central government telling them what they can or can’t do, and they aren’t morally accountable enough to do the right thing on their own either.

·    So of course they have a war on gun control, and raving lunatics like Alex Jones make it hard for any sane person to defend the second amendment the way we used to.

·    They also have a war on Islam, specifically against the encroachment of Sharia law.  I wouldn’t have any problem with that myself, except that they’re arguing for the Judeo-Christian counterpart, Mosaic Law –which is just as bad, just as dominionist, and just as insane.  The further you integrate church and state, the more you pave the way for someone else’s religion to take over everything.  Islam is the fastest-growing religion on earth while Christianity is in a state of general decline.  The math isn’t really so difficult that you can’t see the inevitable eventually there.  History has repeatedly and consistently shown that you can’t fight religion with religion.  You can only fight religion with reason, and if you’re going to do that on a cultural level, you’ll need nationally standardized secular education provided in the safety of a securely secular government.

·    The Tea Party has a war on National Public Radio –as a voice for liberalism.  They want to censor that, and not just that.

·    They also have a War on Net Neutrality: The article says that a free press has always been fascism’s greatest enemy, and that’s why Republicans want to strangle it.  They want to oppose the safeguards of the Federal Communications Commission to allow corporate control of all internet content.  This is one of many examples of why federal regulations are necessary and why corporations should not be unleashed without restraint.

·    They have a War on Desegregation.  That’s right; they want schools and business racially segregated again.  What is wrong with these people?  Why does anyone even think like this anymore?

·    Of course they have a War on Obama: Because if they don’t want colored kids in their schools, they damned sure don’t want one for president, right?

·    That’s another reason why they have a war on the right to vote.  There are twenty-two states that are preparing, or have already passed legislation intended to disenfranchise voters in any circumstances where statistics favor Democratic candidates.

·    The war on marriage equality and the anti-gay agenda – Big surprise, they’re not just bigoted against other races, religions, nationalities, and political alignments, they’re homophobes too.  They don’t just want to ban marriage either.  They also want to prohibit domestic partnerships and civil unions for same-sex couples, and they’ve also lobbied for the right to discriminate against homosexuals with regard to housing and employment.  They’ve even argued that violence against homosexuals should not be considered a hate crime –precisely for all the reasons that define it as hate crime.  They’ve even come out and said that they have a religious right to treat homosexuals as an abomination.  In Tennessee, they’re trying to make it illegal for teachers to even utter the word, ‘homosexual’ in a classroom.

·    The War on Unions and Collective Bargaining is the War on Middle Class: It’s no secret the GOP wants to eliminate the middle class, and one of the ways they want to do this requires that they deregulate Wall Street to quickly divide everyone into the haves and the have nots.  Another reason why federal regulations are necessary.

·    The War on Immigration: In my state, some have suggested that the border be patrolled by armed vigilantes, and that we should jail anyone who hires undocumented workers, unless they’re only hiring “the help” at their own homes, which would effectively legalize slavery.

·    They have a war on technological advances like High-Speed Rail –because they want us to remain addicted to fossil fuels.

·    And this relates to their War on Science, the Environment, and Health, especially as those relate to their separate war on Education, with their Historical Revisionism: Hopefully you’ve all seen the documentary, the Revisionaries, or you are otherwise already aware of how the Religious Right fears education.  I could talk about this indefinitely, as you probably already know.  They don’t want the secular government to provide a fact-based education; they want to lie to their own children.  They want their kids deceived to believe the same twisted bigotry their parents bought into.  They don’t want anyone’s kids to know the truth of American history, or evolution, or sex education, and they don’t want their kids to have to compete with kids they see as lower class either.  So they want to eliminate free and compulsory education, so that the kids who can’t afford to pay for charter schools will be kicked out on the street to go to jail or go to work.

·    Because they also have a War on Child Labor Laws, calling them unconstitutional.  So in their ideal world, the rich kids would grow up to be misinformed minions, and their estates can be maintained by slaves, and their factories can be operated by under-aged children with no place to go –and no future worth living for.

Can the Tea Party be any worse?  They want to take us back to the good old days of the work camps in the industrial revolution.  The Tea Party is the very reason this convention is taking place.  They –more than anyone else- created a need for a progressive secular political party.

Now everyone regards American politics as a two-party system, which it effectively is, but technically isn’t.  There are other parties active in this country.  They’re just usually like us in that they so small that they can’t field serious candidates.  They may be like us, where they’re not very big yet, or they may not be as big as they used to be.  For example, there’s still a prohibition party.  Can you believe it?  Those are the very people responsible for the prohibition of alcohol in the 1930s.  They’re still out there, hundreds of them.  So there’s the prohibition party, which sounds like an oxymoron.  And there’s the Marijuana party –which goes without saying.  I mean putting those two words together sounds a bit redundant to me.  The marijuana party is an actual political party.  If you’ve never heard of them, it’s because they don’t ever do anything.  I suspect they have no ambition, that they just sit around talking about who is sexier, Betty or Wilma.

You also have the Green party, which I don’t think I have any particular issue with.  I couldn’t understand why the environment wasn’t a pivotal issue in the presidential race of 1992.  But the green party aren’t just environmentalists.  They describe themselves as being what the Democratic party was –before the Dems started their recent shift to the right.  They’re socially conscious and progressive, and if I am to ally with any political party, they must be progressive.  We’ve got to embrace the future.  At least admit that there is going to be one, and that requires responsible preparation.  It amazes me that there are people out there –and I have known several growing up- who deny that there is even be any future to worry about.  They’re not progressive, they’re against progress.  They’re actually regressive, wanting to reject all the advantageous advances of the modern age, and retreat into some mythical ‘good ol’ days’ of hard work, discomfort and early demise due to incurable diseases.  It’s just like at the Reason Rally; where you saw people protesting against reason.  And in Europe, we’ve seen Islamists protesting against freedom.  How could anyone actually protest freedom, reason, and progress?  Only the religious.

The Constitution Party is typically considered the 3rd party, but they are not progressive.  They are not reasonable, and they are not free.  They are bound to a belief system imposing required beliefs and prohibited beliefs, both of which apparently wrong.  They are yet another collection of right-wing religious ideologues who I find indistinguishable from modern Republicans, which is of course how they vote.  The preamble of the Constitution Party platform “gratefully acknowledges the blessing of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ as Creator, Preserver and Ruler of the Universe and of these United States,”.  So of course what they say about education comes as no surprise, and I will quote some of that now:

“All teaching is related to basic assumptions about God and man. Education as a whole, therefore, cannot be separated from religious faith. The law of our Creator assigns the authority and responsibility of educating children to their parents.”

…Compulsory attendance laws should be repealed. Parents need not defy the law by refusing to send their children to schools of which they disapprove.

…We call for the elimination of the Federal Department of Education.  …We oppose any federal control over the education of children.

…Under no circumstances should the federal government be involved in national teacher certification, educational curricula, textbook selection, learning standards, comprehensive sex education, psychological and psychiatric research testing programs, and personnel.”

[End quote.]

Note that all fundamentalist religious organizations are openly opposed to psychiatric analysis across the board. Why is that?  Perhaps it is because psychiatric drugs can both conjure and cure some forms of spiritual revelation.

Regarding their objection to secular education, I could not disagree more.  Just last week I spoke to a teacher in a charter school.  She told me she had just quit her job because she recognized –even in the blue states of New England- a systematic effort to de-fund and disable public education in favor of backward-thinking religious regression.  She said that charter schools are not the answer, and that Americans need to build up and improve our state-funded public education system.  I believe this is one of the few things our government should provide, and it should be standardized nation-wide.

The purpose of educating children is not so that they can be mislead, indoctrinated, demoralized or deceived.  It’s not so that parents can die secure in their own reaffirmed delusions; it’s so that children will understand reality, so that they’ll be able to do something about it.  Only accurate information has practical application, and our next generation needs that.  That’s one of the things I envy about some Asian schools, where academics actually matter to the students.  Their culture encourages that.  That’s why they have more honors students than we have students.

One of the problems we face with a population that has already pushed beyond the limits of natural support and is still growing exponentially is that we need to be a lot more efficient than we have been.  Remember that when I was born, the global population had just gotten to three billion, and that was an all time high.  It rose to four billion, five billion, six billion, and now seven just in my lifetime.  We have to rely on genetically modified foods and other advances in agriculture just to feed the people we already have.  Because even though we can send more fishing boats into Alaskan waters, they collectively take in fewer fish.  Now what does that tell you?

In little more than a single century, we’ve already consumed and exhausted most of the world’s supply of fossil fuels without regard for the future.  We can run cars on electricity, and should, because airlines don’t have that option, and there is no other technology that can compete with the efficiency of jet travel.  So we’re wasting limited resources foolishly, and it seems that no one is thinking ahead; they’re thinking behind.  Our leaders are marching us backward –in the name of religion.  And that is why we need a secular party.

I know that not all atheists are or were Democrats.  We have at least a couple Republicans –strange as that may seem.  We’re not all liberals either, and we’re not all fans of Ayn Rand.  None of us can speak for all of us.  Politically we’re all over the place.  But you almost have to be one of us to realize that.

Most religious people in this country seem to think that atheists are all socialists or communists, and they don’t know the difference between those either.  I was raised to execrate both of those words and anything associated with them.  I noticed that whenever you say either word, you had to make it look as though saying it left a bad taste in your mouth.  You could insult someone simply by calling them a COMMunist or SOCialist.  You have cough up one word and spit out the other.  And if you didn’t say these words with a distasteful scowl, you’re considered suspect.  I outraged both family members and baby sitters simply by asking what socialism is.  I had some idea what communism was, an economic system contrasted with capitolism.  But the context always implied that Communism is something different than socialism.  Before I can form an opinion, I need to know the facts.  I once thought that was true of everyone.  Unfortunately the people I asked were those who believed what they were told without even trying to understand it.  So as a young child, when I asked “what’s the difference between communism and socialism”, the answer I got was always, “they’re both just as bad!”

Well, no they’re not.  Canada, the UK, and Scandinavia are all largely socialist, particularly regarding health care, and the people there seem pretty happy with that.  In fact, my co-host DPR Jones is British, and he often says that when his country adopted their national health care system after World War II, the people who protested it then in his country were the same people protesting now in this country.  Insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies in particular.  And if these national health care systems didn’t work, the people would know it and the people would share that readily.  But they don’t.  To my experience, the Brits are all perfectly happy with the their health, and according to my friend, DPR Jones, “Any candidate or political party going into an election would be committing political suicide if it suggested cutting the budget of the NHS”.

Socialism is a measurement of degree, how much of whatever program the central government is directly responsible for.  The US is slightly socialist, but only by providing a few plainly beneficial programs for the public welfare.  If we had a national health care system like Europe and Scandinavia do, that would be better.  It would also be more socialist.  While this much is apparently true, or true up to this point, that does not mean that trend would continue if other programs were compiled onto this one to be entrusted to the central body.  Communism is an extreme derivative of socialism.  There are actually several Socialist parties here in the US, but only one Communist party, and there are good reasons why.

My wife’s maternal ancestors are Vietnamese.  She says that for Americans, a communist is just a word lobbed about by paranoid reactionaries.  Tea partiers like to call me Communist –without having any idea what that means.  Whereas my mother-in-law regards Communists as the people who killed a lot of her family and took away their estate.  So we’re talking about very different things here.  I believe that the government should provide a few specific benefits to its citizens.  Why else would we want to serve our country.  There should be some advantage to being American.  But I do not consider myself socialist, and I’m certainly no communist.  But neither am I an anarchist like Libertarians.

Libertarians are opposed to any national health care system of socialized medicine.  They’re also opposed to public welfare systems like Social Security and other old age or low-income protections.  They think that any degree of shared wealth at that level equals stealing.  They’re also opposed to any nationally-standardized education system.  Just like Tea party Republicans, Libertarians want inconsistent variables with no reliable or predictable standard, and they expect these to emerge naturally on their own as guided by a mysterious invisible will according to their faith in the free market.

At the Amazing Meeting in Las Vegas, I was invited onto a Podcast with the Ardent Atheist.  Do you know the Ardent Atheist?  With Emery Emery and Heather Henderson?  Penn Gillette was there with my friend, ZOMGitsCriss.  Y’all know Zoh-My-God-It’s-Criss, right?  Cristina Rad?  Anyway Penn is a brilliant orator and very passionate.  He’s very impressive when he’s on a roll –especially when you’re in the room with him.  There is so much he says that I can really get behind.  I’d like to think there is more that we agree on than not.  But there a couple things, one being the Libertarian ideal.

Penn said something that didn’t sit well with Zomgits, and she just walked off the set leaving an open mic.  I arrived a bit late and didn’t know the rules of their game.  I didn’t know that I could have sat down at her mic and had a live broadcast argument with Penn Gillette over the topic of Libertarian politics.  How cool would that be?

I admire Penn & Teller very much.  Their Bullshit TV show is one of the great gifts to skepticism, it really is, and I mean that sincerely.  They’re pretty accurate most of the time.  But it is ironic that they say their most popular episode is the one with the segment on bottled water.  It is ironic because that episode undermines everything the Libertarian party is about.

That episode showed that –despite the promises made by all these advertisers, water bottling companies often failed to meet industry standards enforced by the federal government.  Penn & Teller praised government regulatory commissions for insuring what the free market has always consistently failed to accomplish in real-world application.

Strict Libertarianism allows no role of government beyond a very limited degree of law enforcement.  They want to absolve government of all but the most minimal abilities and all of its influence.  Under the Libertarian construct, the government would have no ability or authority to preserve national parks nor federal reservations either.  Both would become the real estate of private parties and either could be sold out in whole or in part.  A Chinese power company could buy the Grand Canyon from whomever happened to take it over, and they could put up a hydro-electric dam flooding the whole place.  The Libertarian Pary Platform offers no provision to prevent this, and there is nothing any collective could legally do about it.  The owners of property have the full right to control, use, dispose of, or in any manner enjoy, [or destroy] their property without interference, until and unless the exercise of their control infringes the valid rights of others. Imagine contesting the validity of the rights of others who simply want to enjoy natural wonders that they don’t own and didn’t pay for.

Under the Libertarian system, our government would be prohibited from limiting or denying any individual’s human rights based upon sex, wealth, ethnicity, creed, age, national origin, personal habits, political preference or sexual orientation.  But potential employers, suppliers, or service providers would have no such prohibition, because they are not so governed.  Being private businesses, they would be permitted to discriminate against whomever they want for whatever reason.  The only recourse Libertarians offer is that someone so neglected could just move somewhere else, as if that is an option for everyone –without regard for their roots or other connections, as if moving somewhere else means they wouldn’t face the same thing somewhere else.  That is not the answer.

Libertarians don’t want to have their industries restricted by government regulations either.  Specifically the Libertarian Party Platform says that we should trust individual property owners and businesses to insure that our products and our environment remain clean and safe.  They expect the free market to exert some mystic control over independent agencies inspiring them to act responsibility –without any motivation or penalty- just cause it’s the right thing to do.  Despite the fact that past experience has shown that –without imposed regulations, uncontrolled corporations will be just as amoral as any dispassionate despot.

Even if the free market really had this imagined ability to enforce compliance through emergent properties, Libertarians have inserted a giant loophole –like a bullet through their own foot- in that Libertarians support unrestricted monopolies.  The free market could only exist if smaller companies were allowed to compete independently.  But allowing unrestricted monopolies would put an end to that, because as some companies become larger and acquire more, you’ll end up with corporate networks where one company ends up owning or otherwise controlling everything.  It’s like a game of Risk: Eventually every piece on the board is the same color, and we already know that some laws know no boundaries of legal jurisdiction.  Without independent companies or competitors, there is no free market.  Their system would inevitably lead to corporate oligarchy, wherein nation states would be governed by OmniCorp.  In other words, the one world government and inarguable law of every land would soon be a corporatocracy wherein all the nations on earth could literally fall under the dominion of Walmart and its subordinate branches governing all avenues of every market and every facet of life –until you find yourself on your feet 20 hours a day, manufacturing cel phones at rapid pace in exchange for rations sufficient to maintain survival.  Because no one stopped it when they had the chance, and no one can stop it now.  We know already that is how companies will behave if unrestricted and permitted to do so –regardless of the free market.  It doesn’t matter how criminal Apple was to their industrial employees, iPhones still outsell androids.  The free does not induce ethics like regulation and litigation do.

Sadly I know that a lot of Libertarians are married to that party –like it’s some inexorable part of their identity.  I hope they find some resolution for that, because Libertarianism is an idea who’s time must never come.

I have noticed that a selfish and irresponsible attitude of “just let me do whatever I want” seems to permeate all of the right-wing factions.  They don’t want to share anything either –despite everything that Jesus supposedly said.  They don’t want to be governed and they don’t want to be taxed, and I understand that.  I’d like to keep both at a minimum too.  But you have to have respectable laws, and you have to contribute something collectively if the country is to work at all.

I think our nation should be run like a company. If you pay something into it, you get something out of it –just like your insurance benefits, 401K, and so on.  And our country should provide training for the same reason that a company would, to stay competitive and productive.

So the first thing I checked on every platform I’ve seen so far was their position on education.  What is taught and how it’s taught is a topic for another time.  What I wanted to see was whether they promote a fact-based state-funded cumpulsory national standard with the same expectations applied for every school.  That’s what it should be, and it should be designed to encourage advancement, –because the next generation has to be more informed and better-prepared than the last one was.  This is necessary not only nationally but globally.  We’re going to need innovative idealists capable of ingenious solutions to real world problems, because they’re going to face significant challenges which they’re not being prepared for now.

I don’t think we should raise the minimum wage, because inflation will follow suit.  I don’t think we should raise taxes either, but we should be much more efficient in our spending -and I mean from the top down.  I think government is bloated and could be a lot more lean and a lot more effective at the same time.  I think our technology has to be upgraded or refined because what we’re doing right now can’t work in the long term.  I think unprecedented innovations could be considered regardless of tradition, and shouldn’t pose any threat to individual happiness otherwise.  In fact that’s how our country began.  That’s why it was founded as a secular nation with a wall of separation.  Our founding fathers looked to the future, and expected corruption to come, and tried to counter it in advance.  That is an ongoing struggle.  How many times have we already breeched the 1st amendment, the 4th, the 5th and so on.  How much more will we allow?

Remember that the first symbol the founding fathers chose for this country was a rattlesnake declaring “don’t tread on me”. Benjamin Franklin, who despite his failings in many ways embodied Enlightenment ideals, said this in defense of the rattlesnake as our country’s symbol.

“I recollected that her eye excelled in brightness, that of any other animal, and that she has no eyelids. -She  may therefore be esteemed as an emblem of vigilance.-She never begins an attack, nor,when once engaged, ever surrenders. She is therefore an emblem of magnanimity and true courage.”

This is why I suggested a new name for our party The American Secular Party or ASP, and that our symbol to be the snake.  The ASP concerns should be vigilance and courage in the face of Americans’ rights and freedoms being trod upon by religious extremists in other parties who thump the Bible and the Constitution and it don’t understand either one.  Coincidentally, this year happens to be the Year of the Snake in Chinese Zodiac calendar. How’s that for incidental symbolism?

Almost every other party I’ve mentioned so far want to go in a whole other direction than I do; I want to go forward.

The primary reason that we need a party that isn’t just democratic, and isn’t just green, but which is also assuredly secular is that religiously-minded factions in this country are of the general impression that these are the last days.  That is their excuse for being so economically and ecologically incompetent; they literally believe there’s no tomorrow.  It’s a self-fulfilling prophesy, because what kind of future will we leave our heirs if we continue to dominate and subdue the earth, while retarding our students capacity to correct that course?  I must accept that there will be a future –despite what these religious nuts want to believe.  They’ve always been wrong about everything anyway.  So I say we prepare for that future, and do our best to make it futuristic, so that when it comes, and we hand it over to the next generation, we won’t have to apologize for its condition.

29 thoughts on “Talkin’ Politics at NAPCon

  1. Good stuff. I know you the only thing you were waiting on was a random comment from an internet nobody to make you feel justified.

    Makes me wish I was in this party, but the way it was presented to me was that you joined up via Facebook and I don’t really go on there. If you Cross The Line Twice, or attempt to, then the voluntary Big Brother called Facebook is probably not your friend.

    I especially enjoyed what you had to say regarding the Libertarians, as I am a student of history. For some reason people tend to have little use for history majors when it helps to provide the closest thing to geopolitical experimental data, if I can be pompous and self-important for a minute. Ha, only a minute, right.

    Free markets? We did that. We had literal snake-oil salesmen, monstrous pay and working conditions, and huge monopolies. The food was so dangerous that even Teddy Roosevelt, a man who shot one of almost everything that ever lived, stopped eating the meat. Every time I hear Ron Paul talk I want to slap him across the face with a copy of The Jungle. There wasn’t anything enforcing basic fire regulations like “have a fire escape” and “don’t lock the employees in the workshop” until a massive fire broke out and the public got outraged over young women either staying up there to die, or jumping out of the building to their deaths.

    By the way, don’t understand how a Libertarian could also be a Christian if their official policy is “You have the freedom to choose one of these two forms of suicide,” but I guess that’s the lack of thought over consequences.

    Also, certain aspects of their “Government better not tell us what to do” message reminds me far too much of the Southern Strategy, where that was code for “Yeah, why should government tell you to integrate?”.

    As for the Democrats, I’m with you on the ball-less part. Bill Maher isn’t always thought very highly of, but I do agree with his suggestion that Democrats try a pill called Growacet. Too busy trying to get the conservatives to like them to realize the majority want them to go ahead and do the right thing anyway.

    Still some areas where I would see us differing as far as taxes, wages, guns, favored weapon, favorite type of hat, preferred brand of shampoo (how much of that stuff do you go through, man?), but people like you and I could work together and compromise on things at the very least because we wouldn’t be all caught up in the fire and dogma of the right wing.

    Not like I’m ever going to be in politics, the stuff I write, but I’m sure you get the picture.

  2. I like the post as it covers most of my concerns as well.

    I also was a libertarian for a few years before seeing it serious limitations and flaws.

    I also really like the ASP and also agree with Ben, I like snakes as well.

    Keep up the good struggle.

    I also realize, in this country, Bigfoot would not only not get elected but is probably smart enough not to run, which is too bad as I would vote for him. ;-}

  3. I have yet to finish reading the post but there’s one error: Al Gore was never the inventor of the Internet. That is an urban legend.

    The inventor of the WWW was in fact Tim Berners-Lee.

  4. Slight nitpicks:

    “Canada, the UK, and Scandinavia are all largely socialist”

    Scandinavia far more so than the UK, not sure about Canada – in Denmark, for an example, the government actually pays money to people who fill three basic criteria:

    1. 18+ years old.

    2. Under education.

    3. Income less than x per year.

    The system is called ‘Statens Uddannelsesstøtte’ – ‘The State’s Education Support’

    “If we had a national health care system like Europe and Scandinavia do”

    Scandinavia is part of Europe to just as much a degree as New England is part of the US, so that statement is a bit odd.

    1. It depends on the definition of “socialist”. The Scandinavian nations have high taxes and levels of government spending, but little corruption, judiciary systems that protects property rights well, transparent investment frameworks, low tariffs, okay monetary stability, and few burdensome restrictions on starting businesses.

      1. I don’t see how “little corruption, judiciary systems that protects property rights well, transparent investment frameworks, low tariffs, okay monetary stability, and few burdensome restrictions on starting businesses” are supposed to be things that might mean it isn’t socialist.

        1. Well I’d say because corruption, lack of personal property rights, economic protectionism, and lack of entrepreneurialism are kinda the hallmarks we all think of for socialism. What would you think of as socialist? And I hope it’s more than high taxes.

  5. Really good post. What I found particularly interesting were these platforms of the Tea Party.

    · According to the article, they have a war on women’s reproductive rights that is so extensive in so many states across the nation, that I hesitate to list specifics here. There are too many, but a lot of them outrageous and should be read.

    · The Tea Party has a war on National Public Radio –as a voice for liberalism. They want to censor that, and not just that.

    · They also have a War on Net Neutrality: The article says that a free press has always been fascism’s greatest enemy, and that’s why Republicans want to strangle it. They want to oppose the safeguards of the Federal Communications Commission to allow corporate control of all internet content. This is one of many examples of why federal regulations are necessary and why corporations should not be unleashed without restraint.

    · They have a War on Desegregation. That’s right; they want schools and business racially segregated again. What is wrong with these people? Why does anyone even think like this anymore?

    That’s another reason why they have a war on the right to vote. There are twenty-two states that are preparing, or have already passed legislation intended to disenfranchise voters in any circumstances where statistics favor Democratic candidates.

    · The war on marriage equality and the anti-gay agenda – Big surprise, they’re not just bigoted against other races, religions, nationalities, and political alignments, they’re homophobes too. They don’t just want to ban marriage either. They also want to prohibit domestic partnerships and civil unions for same-sex couples, and they’ve also lobbied for the right to discriminate against homosexuals with regard to housing and employment. They’ve even argued that violence against homosexuals should not be considered a hate crime –precisely for all the reasons that define it as hate crime. They’ve even come out and said that they have a religious right to treat homosexuals as an abomination. In Tennessee, they’re trying to make it illegal for teachers to even utter the word, ‘homosexual’ in a classroom.

    · The War on Unions and Collective Bargaining is the War on Middle Class: It’s no secret the GOP wants to eliminate the middle class, and one of the ways they want to do this requires that they deregulate Wall Street to quickly divide everyone into the haves and the have nots. Another reason why federal regulations are necessary.

    · The War on Immigration: In my state, some have suggested that the border be patrolled by armed vigilantes, and that we should jail anyone who hires undocumented workers, unless they’re only hiring “the help” at their own homes, which would effectively legalize slavery.

    · Because they also have a War on Child Labor Laws, calling them unconstitutional. So in their ideal world, the rich kids would grow up to be misinformed minions, and their estates can be maintained by slaves, and their factories can be operated by under-aged children with no place to go –and no future worth living for.

    Why I find these interesting is that it shows one of the largest hypocrisies in American politics. Those that shout the loudest about freedom and liberty and claim they hate tyranny seem to be the most vicious authoritarian assholes of them all. The words freedom and liberty have been misused so much that there is no longer any true meaning to them. Using Orwellian word play, the American right have squeezed the original intent of those words out and replaced it with unrestricted greed and selfishness. Oh they love freedom alright, the freedom to oppress and discriminate against those who don’t think and look like them, the freedom to propagandise instead of educate and of curse the freedom for corporations to exploit unburdened their work force and the environment. On the last one in particular, the libertarians are gleefully marching in lockstep with the GOP/Tea Party and it is great to hear you denounce libertarianism as being just as oppressive as communism or theocracy. Whenever I hear the words liberty or freedom I now just roll my eyes because nowadays it seems to be used solely to justify evil. And that’s a damn shame. America desperately needs a true progressive party instead of the spineless schmucks that is the modern Democrat party. Maybe it will restore some sanity to the circus that is American politics.

  6. I suspect that much of the resistance to British-style socialized medicine in the United States stems from the fear that it would be The HMO From Hell. Single Payer? Don’t make me laugh. The insurance bandits aren’t about to let Congress smash their rice bowl, so we would probably end up with a Byzantine code of regulations written by the entities it’s supposed to regulate. Nobody would face a Death Panel, just a form letter, probably computer-generated, stating that the drug/procedure/device he needs to continue breathing is Not Covered. Any protest would be met with the updated version of the Nürburg Defense: “It’s Policy.”

  7. So Aronra, I know you hold tightly to the 1st amendment and use it to justify some of your claims (which is fine). Though I’m curious if you commit to any acts of ‘cherrypicking’ regarding the rest of the constitution, hence my question to you now is:

    What are your views regarding the 2nd Amendment?

  8. The audio is too bad to listen to this talk on my earphones. Do you have any better versions of the audio to listen to? I’ll try to watch at a later date on proper speakers.

  9. I was in Vegas during Spring Break, and had an interesting conversation with a fellow magician that gave me a chance to educate him on Canada a little.

    – He was under the impression that our health care was Socialist, and therefore free. It isn’t. I have a couple of deductions off my paycheck to cover my basic health care, dental, and extended health care benefits. If my employer didn’t deduct for health care, then it is up to me to pay for a health care plan eg. Blue Cross

    – His reply was that he could get Blue Cross coverage, but it was expensive. He would have to pay around $1500/month for coverage. In Canada, when my job didn’t cover medical, my Blue Cross coverage cost between $25-$50/month. Usually there are no additional charges, with a few exceptions (eg. rental of crutches, deductible for dental, private room, etc.)

    – He was also under the impression that it takes forever to get medical care. The answer is that it depends. If it is an emergency, you go to the Emergency section of the closest hospital. You get treated ‘immediately’, which means it depends on how serious your problem is, and how many other people are there at the time. Life threatening means immediately, but could be a couple of hours if it isn’t, and they are very busy. Similarly, you could also go to a local medical clinic for minor issues (eg. sick kids, prescriptions), with usually less than an hours wait. For other things, like elective surgeries or consults, you might have to wait a few weeks or months.

    Our prescription drugs, which are identical to the ones available in the U.S., are also subsidized and therefore cheaper, particularly if you are on a medical plan that covers them. I gather that Sarah Palin, who is against socialized medicine like Canada’s, goes to Canada to take advantage of medical services.

  10. I like your ASP idea. But after all the debate that went on before the NAP settled on this name, I don’t know if there’s much chance of them getting into that again. It is nice in a way (and of course problematic in a way) to have ‘Atheist’ in the name, but NAP isn’t a very auspicious acronym.

  11. America will never have a third party until it gets rid of its ridiculous electoral college system where the winner of each state gets all electoral votes. Eliminating first past the post would be another step in the right direction.

  12. Aron, that’s the most sense I’ve read in a while. I loved the bit about the snake. Big corporations will screw everyone and try to carve out a monopoly (google, amazon, apple, microsoft) if not regulated by governments. Here in the UK Google pay tax of £6 million on turnover £395m. They use immoral accounting practises to ‘offshore’ most of the profit to countries where tax is lower. All the multinationals are doing the same. They’re getting beyond government regulation. Governments have to load taxes on to individuals to make up the shortfall.

  13. Please please PLEASE… for the love of dog, debate Penn. That would make my life. You’re both incredible speakers, and intimidating to be in opposition with. I’d sooooo love to hear you two square-off.

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  25. A practical matter: why do none of the political parties advocate repealing the truancy laws? The US started out with legalized slavery and denial of the franchise to women; now it’s time to free the children from the prison called compulsory state schooling. It’s clear to me that you do not want religion forced on kids through the schools. Then why force them into schools at all? Another way to look at it: if kids were fully enabled as consumers of schooling (had completely free choice), then schools would improve right away, just like consumer electronics do.

    My credentials: both my kids are unschooled, which means they learned without schooling. They’re doing fine.

    If you like reading, I recommend to you the works of John Holt (especially Escape from Childhood (1974) and Instead of Education (1976)) and those of John Taylor Gatto, particularly Weapons of Mass Instruction: A Schoolteacher’s Journey through the Dark World of Compulsory Schooling (2008). Interestingly, even Carl R. Rodgers’ approach advocates a liberated learner (see On Becoming a Person (1961), Chapter 11 “Personal Thoughts on Teaching and Learning” and Freedom to Learn (1969)).

    I am aware that my position is perhaps far from yours and that I have not argued it well. Sorry, space and time are limited. Still, my fond hope is that you will find some value in these comments.

    Best regards, and thanks for all the hard (and intelligent) work.

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