Monthly Archives: January 2014

When in the Course of Human Events…


I make no secret of the fact that one day I would like to run for public office.  It’s been on my mind for a few years.  Last year I wrote down some of my positions to create a chart by which to navigate the inevitably dangerous waters of conflict, should that day ever come.  These are not specific policies on issues, but broadstrokes to serve as an ideological guide.

Economics
The collapse of 2008 was the result of legislation from neoliberal economic theory (not to be confused with social liberalism) and those policies have controlled the argument for over 30 years.  It favors the well-to-do by creating tax loopholes along with too much de-regulation, and that allowed for toxic assets in a volatile subprime market.

I support regulations to monitor ( and make transparent) the massive, risky bets with borrowed money (an unscrupulous practice of AIG, for example) that brought down the financial system. I also support “No more tax payer funded bailouts” of financial institutions.

I recognize that Small Business needs to be incentivized and supported (tax breaks). I’ve been an employer myself and too often the regulations designed to reign in corporate malfeasance have choked Main Street and we need to separate the two.

The Middle Class has been squeezed to near non-existence and yet they are the fuel of our Capitalist/Mixed Market system.  I will always lend my voice to their needs first.  While I support and contribute to Corporate America because it is the engine of that system, my active concerns are not about those who are already well off.  Rather, I am concerned about the Working Class and ensuring them the best wages and working environments possible, as well as the necessary support they require if they’ve fallen on hard times.

Education
Education is part of the critical infrastructure for which government is responsible, and should be, in fact, the brightest patch on the American quilt if our future is to be strong and prosperous.

I support the Public School System and while school vouchers might seem a like a solution to rescue poor students from failing schools, vouchers threaten our free educational system as well as the constitutional principle of separation of church and state as taxes would be funneled to parochial schools.

We must prioritize higher teacher salaries, better facilities and educational funding programs.  Everyone, regardless of party, says they support education, but when push comes to shove, educational initiatives move down the priority ladder.  We need to consistently move it into the highest priority when we create our budgets.

We can hold schools and teachers accountable for results, but only if we have given them the best tools and viable incentives by which to teach.

Civil Rights

images We cannot rightfully claim to be the “land of the free” if we do not look critically at our justice system and assess when there is racism in its application.  Eric Garner and Michael Brown are only the most recently debated examples concerning systemic racism that has existed from our inception and continues to the present day.  While we can see progress toward racial equality, we cannot fully experience the celebration of our constitutional promise of freedom until the complete excision of racism from the body politic.

The oppressive specter of discrimination weighs so heavily on those who are outside circles drawn by prejudice, that policy must be considered, along with vigilant examination of justice, to counter where oppression does still exist; until such a time when the evolution of inclusion transcends intolerance.

Gay Rights

 I believe that to recognize the civil rights of all citizens regardless of race, creed, gender, color or sexual orientation is the advancement of civilization and not a symptom of moral decay. I support Human Rights to the fullest degree and that extends to the rights of Gay Americans to fully participate in the civil rights we are all guaranteed.

I support the decision of the Iowa Supreme Court to allow gay marriage. They ruled that the Constitution cannot alienate any group of its citizens from that right and that includes those who are gay.  That was a correct constitutional decision regardless of anyone’s personal or religious view of homosexuality.

We may all believe and live as we choose, but we cannot allow a personal belief system to become the doctrine of constitutional justice. You can preach and live by your moral doctrines, but that is a compass of your own choosing and not a place for government to dictate, except to guarantee the protection of that freedom.

Religious Freedom
The Constitution is not a moralizing document and government is not the administrator of religious moral doctrine. The rights of non-believers to appreciate the freedom protected by our Constitution are as great as those who believe that our morality is founded on Christian principles. The freedom protected by the 1st Amendment is not the private domain of only those who believe a certain way.

With this realization of freedom in mind, I support a Woman’s Right to Choose.  While abortion is a terrible thing, it can be necessary, such as in the case of rape or when a mother’s life is at risk.  A woman, not government, must have control of reproductive rights.  No one is “pro-abortion,” and no one, thinking rationally, supports the idea of abortion as birth control, but the decision of reproduction must be left to a woman with the counsel of her doctors and others she trusts (family, clergy).

Immigration
The Arizona immigration law of 2010 was a dangerous precedent that can lead to unlawful enforcement, civil rights infringement, illegal profiling and reinforce trends toward racism.  Illegal immigration is illegal, but our focus should be on strengthening our borders and re-evaluating immigration as a whole.

Having been a small businessman in California I know firsthand that most illegal immigrants are not here to break the law but are here to work so that they can provide for their families. The action they have taken has broken the law but before we judge them as criminals we should consider that they are also courageously trying to create a better life at great risk.  There is a difference between a criminal and someone who has broken the law and our immigration policies and enforcement must reflect that distinction.

Immigrants must follow, and we must enforce, legal standards to become Americans but we have created a system by which illegal immigration is often more viable; we have created jobs that many businesses have knowingly hired illegal immigrants to occupy and so culpability for the problem is shared.

Except for Native Americans we are all descendants of immigrants and we need to include wisdom and compassion in our application of justice.

Health Care

doctor-and-patient-cartoon  I support the Affordable Care Act insofar as being a good start.   I believe that with more cooperative leadership, willing to admit that similar concepts have been proposed for decades by both sides of the political fence, that it can improve.  I would like to discuss tax credits for families that don’t qualify for subsidies, and allowing plans to compete over state lines.

Along with education, I believe that the health of Americans falls under our infrastructure; it is the evolved realization of “General Welfare” as set forth by our Founding Fathers.  How can we be anything but proud as a nation if we are able to give all Americans access to medicine?

Unions (Collective Bargaining)
In the words of Dwight D. Eisenhower, “Only a fool would try to deprive working men and working women of their right to join the union of their choice . . . Workers have a right to organize into unions and to bargain collectively with their employers, and . . . a strong, free labor movement is an invigorating and necessary part of our industrial society.”

I am a card carrying union man and I vigorously support Unions and Collective Bargaining to protect the best interests and prosperity of the American worker.  Unions need to be held as accountable as we demand of management, but they continue to serve a necessary purpose in a free society and help to maintain economic stability.

Climate Change
I believe that we have reached a critical juncture that will compromise, even destroy, the quality of life for future generations and we must embrace Green Initiatives, Renewable Energy and Bio-fuels with urgency. Climate Change is real and environmental protection is necessary in more stringent ways.

If future science proves me (and over 80% of all Climatologists) wrong, I will gladly submit to a reprimand, but a clean energy future, non-dependence on foreign resources, is the correct direction for America, no matter where a person stands on the issue of greenhouse gasses today.

Gun Control
This is not really a 2nd Amendment issue; rather it is an argument of common sense.  We can debate the intention of the Framer’s with regard to a citizen’s right to bear arms, but I posit that it has to be considered in the context of its time.  I do not take a position that civilians should not realize their 2nd Amendment rights today, but with the advancement of weaponry and the evolution of how our sovereignty is protected, guidelines are necessary, as they are with any exercise of freedom.

Anyone who is not proficient in the use of firearms or who has a criminal history must be denied access to deadly force as realistically as society can enforce such control.

The Role of Government and Welfare
I believe in good governance; organized and effective. When in the hands of informed and responsible legislators, chosen by an electorate that shares the same responsibility, it becomes the impartial equalizer to ensure that all Americans have access to our resources and benefits.

While everyone will experience success, affluence or struggle in different ways and to different degrees, the goal of our constitutional Republic should be to create an America where every citizen can participate and pursue Life, Liberty and Happiness to the best of their ability.

We should be judged, and judge ourselves, not by the affluence we produce and enjoy, but by the actions of our nation, and our willingness as individuals, to help those in need.

Ethics, Morality, Ducks and Doves

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Because I am fairly vocal, people often ask me to participate in debates at the drop of a hat.  Sometimes, I find myself in an area where I am woefully unqualified or not really prepared, but I often have a gut feeling that provides some indication to feel a certain way, and I’ll weigh in.  Such was the case when the opening of a dove hunting season in Iowa was being debated in a local bar.

I was asked how I felt and my position was, “If you allow for pheasant, duck or quail, why wouldn’t you allow for doves?”

There was a cheer from those who were hunters, but the person who asked the question assumed I would be against it since I am a known “liberal.”  Why wouldn’t my bleeding heart extend to the symbol of love and peace?  They are, after all, awfully cute for rats with wings.

Personally, I am not a hunter, but I don’t chastise those who are and I left the conversation with “I’m fine with it, my arguments center around gun controls and restrictions but not to outlaw game hunting.”

But something kept nagging me.  There are reasons I’m not a hunter, and they are more profound than not wanting to get dirty, or the fact that I look like Barney Fife in waders and camouflage; it is a different kind of person from me who hunts.

My rejection of hunting can be traced back to cartoons from my childhood when I first realized that if Bambi had a mother why wouldn’t Phil the Pheasant or Daffy the Duck?  But…if that is truly my aversion, why do I enjoy Daffy l’orange or Phil under glass?  Am I a hypocrite, and is anyone who rebukes hunting, yet enjoys game, one as well?

Several of my friends and relatives are hunters and, as I said, I don’t reject them for it.  My own grandfather, whom I adored, was an avid hunter and he was as jovial and gentle as they come.  They consume what they kill and so what is my objection?

The differences between ethics and morality are in play here.  Ethics are the codes by which we have, as a society, organized concepts of acceptable behavior; morals define personal character.  Hunting purely to kill for the thrill of the hunt, without consumption, is neither ethical nor moral, in my opinion, and even though there are hunters who would disagree, I am talking about the hunters I respect.  They are on solid ethical ground, but, not necessarily…moral ground.

I’m not, for the record, traipsing into an argument with regard to carnivorous versus vegetarian consumption because I am “morally” fine with eating meat; I believe in the concept of the food chain (I even have an older brother who is a strict vegetarian and shames me every time I eat a hamburger in front of him, and while I respect his point of view, I am considering a steak dinner at Montage tonight).

The argument from the NRA is that hunting has existed since the dawn of humans as a necessity and it is within the Constitutional rights of our free nation to defend ourselves.  Certainly, in Colonial America hunting was necessary to survive, and militias were necessary for defense, but it is also from this historical context that I find my position.

In the early 19th century came the commoditization of food and a transformation of hunting from primary means of survival to primarily recreation.  With refrigeration and rail transportation, food, as an industry, expanded quickly and as grocery stores sprang up in every corner of America, it became more convenient to buy the products of corporate slaughterhouses than it was to hunt for the family dinner.

Hunters have pointed out that the slaughterhouse is still “killing” and a very reasonable argument can be made that a hunter is more humane, but the slaughterhouse, while killing animals, is not killing for the thrill of the hunt, whereas, I contend that is a primary objective of most modern hunters.

My assessment is that the modern hunter primarily hunts for the camaraderie, the seductive grasp of nature, the thrill of marksmanship and an attraction to the focused power of a lethal weapon.  The consumption of their prey, while being another primary objective (and making it ethical), is somewhat of a moral deceit.

Here I may leave some people confused, yet I am crystal clear in my own mind– I don’t judge the hunter as bad or corrupt at all.  What I am saying is that it is a distinction of character that allows a moral ambiguity; different but not better or worse.

My personal code will not allow me to kill a living creature for any degree of sport, plain and simple.

If you can, then I accept that you are different, but it will remain a different person from me who can choose what animal will die in a single moment and to squeeze the trigger, be it a duck, a deer…or a dove…