Until Midterm Elections...

Scott versus Scott

Welcome to our blog. Here we will debate the days most serious topics and allow users the chance to discuss the topics as well. The range of topics will vary, but one thing will remain certain, the debate will rage on. Scott Lesinski is a proud conservative and Scott Jones is a proud liberal. However, the roles will switch on some topics. Stay tuned.

Scott Lesinski is currently an actuarial associate for a large human resources and insurance consulting firm in Saint Louis. He is also an avid student of US history and enjoys following current events, with an eye to their contextual relationship to the past. He is also, in fact, a former student of Mr. Scott Jones. Scott is working toward his FSA credentials, which is akin to earning a PHD in Actuarial Science.

Scott Jones is currently a high school social studies teacher at a high school in suburban St. Louis, MO. He teaches World History, AP American Government and Senior American Foreign Policy. He has a BS. Ed. (Secondary Social Studies) from the University of Missouri - Columbia and a M.A. (History) from Southeast Missouri State University. He is currently working on a dissertation in character education to earn a Ph.D. in Educational Psychology.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Global Warming, Cap and Trade, and the Eco-Fascists true intentions

Anyone who pays the slightest attention to environmental politics has seen the picture of the innocent polar bear on his floating ice berg and heard the threats from “economic gurus” like Al Gore that if we don’t act swiftly to control our carbon emissions, this magnificent species could soon become extinct.

I’m sure you are aware of the “threats of inaction”: rising global temperatures, melting polar icecaps, rising sea levels, destruction of coastal lands and islands, mass extinctions, essentially, complete and utter catastrophe for all of mankind and other creatures that we are supposed to be protecting as stewards of the Earth.

Sounds pretty frightening right? I remember something Joe Biden said during the 2008 campaign. He was ranking different threats that America faces in today’s political environment. He ranked Global Warming and Twinkies above terrorism. Now if Joe Biden says it, it must be truly terrifying right? Hahaha!

Dear readers, what I am about to say might stun you.

Global Warming – as a man-made phenomenon – is a complete media hoax designed to frighten us, the public, into surrendering ever-increasing amounts of our freedom and liberty to the Eco-Fascists.

Who are these Eco-Fascists? I implore you to read on, and then, follow the money. The biggest culprit of all of this is none other than Al Gore. He has been parading around the world since the early 1990s warning that we only have ten years to act before we see catastrophic climate change resulting in the afore-mentioned disasters.

It’s been close to 20 years, and none of these disasters have happened. Al Gore has one of the largest “carbon footprints” of any human on the planet. He jets all around the globe in his private jet while condemning others doing the same. His seminal “Live Earth” concert series did more to pump out CO2 in a span of a few days than average Americans expel in a year. Why is Al Gore on this bandwagon?

Al Gore helped fund Generation Investment Management, an investment fund that, among other things, sells “Carbon Credits”. Al Gore justifies his titanic sized carbon footprint by claiming he buys equivalent carbon offset credits, which I guess this firm goes out and plants trees or whatever to be able to sell the credits. Al Gore buys the credits from the firm that HE FOUNDED in 2004 with partner David Blood. He stands to become a billionaire if this Cap and Trade tax scheme is passed.

What is Cap and Trade? In a nutshell, the idea of this tax is for the government to set artificial limits on the amount of “greenhouse gases” than anything (machine, business, individual) may emit in a given time period. If you emit less than your cap, you may sell credits to others so that they may emit more than their cap. The whole point, on the surface at least, is to reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. Beneath the surface, this is the largest power grab and reduction of personal freedom and tax increase that we have seen in modern American history. Cap and Trade will be one of two major pieces of legislation that, if passed, will have the largest negative impact on the economy and our freedom, the other being Nationalized Healthcare.

The named bill is the Waxman-Markey Act. It is being advertised on television as if we are in the middle of a political campaign. It is dangerous. Here are some facts about this legislation, from the Heritage Foundation:

Cap and Trade is a massive energy tax
It will not make a substantive impact on the environment
It will kill jobs
It will cause electricity bills and gas prices to sharply increase
It will outsource manufacturing jobs and hurt free trade
It will force a choice between energy, groceries, clothing, and prescription drugs, etc.
It will be highly susceptible to fraud and corruption
It will hurt senior citizens, the poor, and the unemployed the most.
It will cost American families over $3,000 a year
President Obama admitted that electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket under a cap and trade program during the presidential primaries in January 2008.

This bill will cause real GDP losses of $9.6 trillion due to the stifling of economic growth and freedom. We will see an average loss of a million jobs even accounting for newly minted “green jobs”. Electricity rates will raise by 90%, gas prices by 74%, natural gas prices by 55%, and the average family’s annual energy bill will raise by at least $1,500.

But Scott, but Scott! There must be some environmental benefit to all of this, right? Wrong. Under the most optimistic forecasts, at BEST, we could see a reduction in global temperatures by 0.2 degrees Celsius by 2050.

This bill is so insidious because the writers of the bill ACKNOWLEDGE within the language of the bill that it WILL cause the loss of jobs. There is a provision in the bill to provide a stipend of up to $1,500 annually for up to 3 years to help cover “re-education and relocation” costs during the job transition for anyone who loses their job “AS A RESULT OF THIS MEASURE”. (the quoted bit there is actual language in the bill!).

The costs to America will not end with what I’ve listed above. The loss of personal freedom will be profound. For example, Obama has already begun the process of developing and speaking on these so-called “smart meters” that will be put into our residences so that the government can offer us “friendly reminders” of peak energy use times so that we can turn off our lights and use less energy. This will lead to Obama dictating when we can have our lights on, what temperature our houses can be in the summer or winter, etc etc. Freedom lost.

We’ve seen the eco-fascists attempts to force us into these “cleaner” hybrid vehicles as a way of reducing our carbon emissions. One problem: the vast majority of Americans don’t want anything to do with these little lawnmowers with two seats on them! Through the end of April, based on data from Autodata Corporation, the number of SUVs sold was 226,057, whereas a mere 52,895 hybrids had been sold in the same time period. And that’s just SUVs! How many brand-new Ford, Chevy, Toyota, et al. trucks have you seen on the road these days? My point exactly. Americans WANT big cars, trucks, and SUVs. I’m not saying some don’t want the smaller cars, but the government should not be forcing us into them. They are MUCH more dangerous on the road, and can be very impractical. It just depends on what one’s wants/needs for an auto are, but Obama should not be telling us what we can and cannot drive.

However, the groundwork is being laid for taxing individual car emissions. If we do not stand up and tell Congress and Obama enough with the usurpation of personal liberty in the name of junk science, we deserve to have our liberties usurped.

The dirtiest little secret of all, dear readers, is the overt demonization of Carbon Dioxide. The EPA recently declared CO2 a greenhouse gas. One problem, ITS NOT! Historical increases in the levels of CO2 do not precipitate increasing global temperatures, rather it’s the other way around. But more to the point, CO2 is not bad for the environment; its necessary for life! I’m sure you know this but it bears repeating: We exhale CO2, plants “inhale” it, then expel O2, which we inhale. In greenhouses, they actually pump in higher amounts of CO2 to obtain optimal plant growth.

According to former NASA climatologist Roy Spencer at the University of Huntsville, Alabama, the biggest contributing factor (on Earth, at least) to global climate is precipitation systems and water vapor. However, these systems do not act to warm the surface of Earth, rather, they act to cool it. Without the CO2 and water vapor, the clouds and precipitation systems driving climate throughout the world, our Earth would be MUCH hotter, up to 140 degrees Fahrenheit in most areas. The number one driver of global climate is the Sun. 90% of the change in our climate is directly correlated with solar activity.

The point in all of this is simple. Obama wants to control our lives. Congress wants to control our lives. Al Gore wants to earn billions from his “carbon credit” scheme. And scientists want to keep getting their federal research grants. So we will continue to see some percentage of the scientific community claim “the debate is over” on man-made global warming. Follow the money.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Torture and Jesus - Does It Mix?

"The Religious Dimensions of the Torture Debate," a web graphic published April 29 by the Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life, has generated a great deal of attention and interest. It shows that currently, more than six-in-ten white evangelical Protestants (62%) say that the use of torture against suspected terrorists in order to gain important information can be often or sometimes justified. This is significantly higher than the number of white mainline Protestants (46%) and religiously unaffiliated (40%) who say torture can be often or sometimes justified. Additionally, those who attend religious services at least once a week are much more likely than those who seldom or never attend religious services to take this view (54% vs. 42%). But there are only small differences across religious groups in the number saying that torture can often be justified, and among every group there are relatively few people who say that torture can never be justified. (Quoted from http://pewforum.org/docs/?DocID=417.)

These results bring up a surprising point. Many people argue that we need religion in this country to bring about more moral actions and behaviors. This also happens to be the view of our Founding Fathers. Unfortunately, it seems as if religious behavior makes one less moral, at least on the issue of torturing fellow humans.

Before I get to the justification of my stance in the previous paragraph, I would like to point out the irony of this finding. According to words of Jesus of Nazareth (I believe him to be an important person in the Christian faith); true believers in him should treat others as they wish to be treated. Also, he commanded people to love thy neighbor as thyself and to turn the other cheek when one is violent towards you. On the issue of forgiveness, he stated one should forgive another person who wrongs them as many times as seventy times seven. He also stated that what you do to the least of the people among you, you do unto him. Hmmmm….

The philosophical tradition of morality has been consistent on this topic since the times of Aristotle. The highest form of moral thought and action is complete concern for fellow humans no matter their plight in life. In the late 1960s, Lawrence Kohlberg at Harvard developed how humans develop moral thought. Using the developmental state model of Jean Piaget, Kohlberg studied and showed humans develop morality in a series of sequential stages.

In his research, Kohlberg and his team of researchers identified six stages of moral development. These stages are as follows.

Level 1 (Pre-Conventional)
1. Obedience and punishment orientation
(How can I avoid punishment?)
2. Self-interest orientation
(What's in it for me?)

Level 2 (Conventional)
3. Interpersonal accord and conformity
(Social norms)
(The good boy/good girl attitude)
4. Authority and social-order maintaining orientation
(Law and order morality)

Level 3 (Post-Conventional)
5. Social contract orientation
6. Universal ethical principles
(Principled conscience in line with the tradition of moral philosophy)

From what I’ve heard from people who support torture, they believe that the use of it is okay because it has saved American lives (i.e. their own).

According to Kohlberg, stage 2 (self-interest driven) espouses the "what's in it for me" position, in which "right behavior is defined by whatever is in the individual's best interest. Stage two reasoning shows a limited interest in the needs of others, but only to a point where it might further the individual's own interests. The lack of a societal perspective in the pre-conventional level is quite different from the social contract (stage five), as all actions have the purpose of serving the individual's own needs or interests. For the stage two theorists, the world's perspective is often seen as morally relative" (Kohlberg, 1972)

The use of torture for your own (or nation’s) benefit is definitely part of a rationalization that because you are doing it for your own good, therefore it is okay. This line of thought is eerily similar to the liberal moral relativism of the late 1960s and 1970s. Of course, is it actually possible that many conservative Christians espouse a liberal viewpoint without knowing it?

The arguing against torture because it fails to adhere to a universal standard towards a historically accepted philosophical proper treatment of humans moves further up the scale to the sixth stage. Torture of another human is always wrong no matter what possible positive outcome might come from it. If we use Christian philosophy (the teachings of Jesus would qualify him as a stage 6 moral thinker), then we cannot torture if we are not willing to be tortured ourselves (or a loved one). We must forgive those who have wronged us and work to make sure past misunderstandings are resolved so that we may go forward and love our neighbors as much as we love ourselves. This might mean to forgive them seventy times seven times. It should follow, however, that if someone continues to act in an improper manner towards you 490 times, maybe it is you that are acting improperly.

The teachings of Jesus espouse peace and love of our fellow humans on the Earth. He does not make exceptions to these moral principles, which is why his teachings can be rated as stage 6. I find it hypocritical for Christians to abandon the teachings of their revered founder when it suits their own personal interests.

Of course, these Christians’ domination of the public discourse as it relates to Christian thought makes it difficult for a non-Protestant and non-Evangelical Christian like me to be able convince others that not all Christians use stage 2 reasoning to make our political philosophies consistent with the history of philosophy.

To use torture to promote the national security of the United States is at the very least hypocritical. I love this nation as much as the next person, but sometimes we do the wrong thing. The blind faith that people who support the policies of former President George W. Bush is appalling. Remember that believing your national policies are always just and best for the future of mankind isn’t just one step away from fascism. It is fascism.

It should be kept in mind that most conservatives and those conservative Christians mentioned above won’t agree with this analysis because of their mutual aversion to science. At least science that uses an actual methodology.

Please don't forget to join the discussion below on the health care crisis and our solutions.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

What's wrong with Healthcare in America? A lack of Capitalism.

I recently promised a discussion on the merits of universal healthcare to my Facebook readers. I intend to make good on that promise. But let me lead into that discussion with this idea.

What, specifically, do I feel that we, as Americans, have a right to? This is essentially the question that was put to me by one of my friends and it kind of shocked me. Why is this even really a question? But I have heard Sean Hannity do “man on the street” interviews and there are quite a few folks out there who seem to think they have all kinds of rights that frankly, just do not exist.

The right to healthcare is one of these.

But I digress. I believe that every human being has the God-given rights to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. (You know that third one was originally “Property”, but it was changed to slight the slave-owning southern states?)

Perhaps a prudent question to ask is “What IS a ‘right’?” I pose to you that you do not have the “right” to food, shelter, clothing, big screen TVs, healthcare, education or any of these other “things”. The reason we don’t have rights to goods or services is because these products are the result of somebody else exercising one of their true rights, that of the right to pursue one’s own happiness.

Think of it like this. If I work hard all though school and go to medical school, then spend 6-8 years of my life and rack up $300,000 in debt to learn to be a doctor, I am pursuing my happiness to a) help serve my fellow man and b) provide for a comfortable lifestyle for my family. You do not have a right to my services. I worked long and hard to gain these necessary skill sets. Healthcare is a commodity, just as food or shelter are commodities.

You DO have the freedom to choose to spend YOUR money on my services if you need them, or you could also spend your money on insurance programs that have the effect of exchanging a pre-defined, known loss with an unforeseeable, possibly large loss due to high healthcare costs.

I don’t want to get in a long list of each right we all have, but essentially, we have the right to our property, both intellectual and tangible. We can say what we want, so long as it’s not clearly a present danger (yelling fire in a crowded theater is the example most often given). We can even burn the American Flag as protest (something I find repugnant and horribly offensive, but never-the-less, protected). We have all the rights set forth in the Bill of Rights, but not limited to ONLY those.

Now for some touchier issues. I do not believe we have a right to an education. I believe that everyone should get an education, especially regarding the founding of the country, federalism, republicanism, and US history. Clearly, a literate and financially adept public is a large benefit to our society. But we don’t have a right to these things. We can choose to provide them for our citizens by several different methods if we want. We have chosen a publicly funded method for the vast majority of our people at this point. I think as a whole, public education stinks, but it is what it is and we need to try to fix it.

Now then, the point of this discussion was to address healthcare. I want to talk about a couple of things. First, I am going to address why are current healthcare system made up of both private insurance, private providers, and public welfare payments is not working. Next, I want to point out the very obvious problems with socializing healthcare (going to a single-payer system where the government is in charge or providing insurance payments to providers on behalf of consumers). Finally, I will propose a solution to healthcare that I believe will drastically lower costs, increase availability, and improve our healthcare system.

Our current healthcare system is not working. Medical costs increase at rates double the rate of inflation on an annual basis. Insurance rates are ever increasing, both for providers of care and consumers of care. There are quite a few uninsured people, for various reasons. Some truly cannot afford to purchase insurance. Others could but they are young and healthy and choose not to do so. Whether that is an intelligent decision remains to be seen, but those who make it have every right to do so.

Why does our current system have so many problems? The main reason for the increasing costs both in care, drugs, and insurance is the fact that the market-based relationship between the consumer of the care (the patient) and the provider of the care (the doctor/nurse/hospital/pharmacist) has been eliminated. Our current health insurance system, that of HMOs, PPOs, etc, generally do not function as insurance; rather they have become prepaid medical care. The policy holder pays a premium for their insurance and then the insurance picks up (most) of the tab for services rendered. The problem that this causes is abuse of the insurance. Instead of seeking an out-patient facility, people may spend a day or two in the hospital. Instead of buying generic drugs, people may just have the insurance pick up the bill for the name-brand. Basically, since the consumer of care no longer has any vested interest in lowering their health-related expenses, they spend recklessly.

This causes insurance to raise premiums to cover the expanding costs of coverage. You see this abuse from providers as well. How many of you have heard a doctor exclaim, “Oh don’t worry, we’ll just bill your insurance.”? I have, quite often. The main thing we need to do is reconnect the healthcare industry with capitalist principles of freedom of information and competition.

Another problem is skyrocketing medical malpractice insurance costs for doctors and providers of care. While it is the case that malpractice exists, the recent slew of “ambulance chasers” (see John Edwards) has created an environment in which doctors are fearful of giving a diagnosis that may be ever so slightly incomplete. This can result is extraneous and expensive tests being performed when they are truly not needed. Also, just the costs of litigation, whether a legitimate claim is filed or not, causes the insurance costs to go up. A “loser pays” system of tort reform would go a LONG way to reducing the overall cost of healthcare. In this system, only legitimate suits would be filed, because frivolous suits would not payout.

Now then, why is a government fix of healthcare NOT the answer to our woes? Let me begin by asking a question. What task currently under the execution of our federal friends, besides running the military, would you hire them to perform on your behalf? People constantly complain about the services they already perform. Ever been to the DMV? So, there’s the consideration for efficiency and the extreme likelihood of fraud.

But even more than that, it goes back to the first law of economics and the fact that resources are scarce but wants, needs and desires are unlimited. If government is the “single payer” for healthcare needs of this country, they will necessarily be forced to ration that care.

Pay attention to this, I’m going to repeat it. Bureaucrats in Washington will be the decision makers regarding who gets what healthcare. There has already been discussion of “means testing” regarding the cost/benefit analysis of providing care. What this boils down to is this: If you are young and have a long expected remaining lifetime during which you will be earning taxable income, you will be much more likely to receive that organ transplant or cancer treatment. However, if you are older and are nearing the end of your productive years, you are going to be increasingly likely to have treatment withheld, on the basis that it would be a poor investment.

Government healthcare represents the largest loss of individual freedom that we could ever impose on this country, short of going back to a monarchy. Healthcare rationing flies in the face of our rights life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Obama’s proposals include mandating that everyone pay for government coverage (explicitly or through taxes). However, under this system, you pay in your whole life and take very little during your productive years, then when it comes time to retire and you get on in your age, when you are most likely to need that insurance, the government will “means test” you to decide whether they should pay for the care or not. The system being proposed is very like the Canadian system. Under that system, if you, as a private consumer, pay cash to a doctor to provide care outside the government’s control, you are guilty of committing a crime.

Government healthcare stifles the creation of new and more advanced drugs and treatments. Just compare any socialized system with the US. We are the ones coming up with the newest technologies. Yes, they are expensive, but they are AVAILABLE. In the UK, women are resorting to home-births due to overcrowding, people are pulling their own teeth because the government won’t pay for dental care, and the quality of care is overall, poor. The main point of this discussion is that if we move to socialized medicine, the quality of available healthcare in this country will quickly deteriorate and your healthcare decisions will be left up to one of Obama’s czars in DC.

Now then, if things are so dire, how can we hope to fix them? In the book “Patient Power”, the authors discuss what is known as a high-deductible health plan (HDHP). This is the very type of insurance that I have with my current employer. Let me explain how it works.

With a HDHP, your insurance premiums are VERY low. Mine are $5 per paycheck, coming out to $120 annually. The catch is that you have a very high deductible that you must hit each year before the insurance will cover your expenses. This year, the deductible is $3,000. However, once you hit that limit, you are 100% covered. This way, you are covered in the event of a true emergency, but this restores market economics to healthcare.

Let me give an anecdote to illustrate what I mean. I suffered this past winter from a mild form of eczema on my hands. I went to a dermatologist for treatment. He immediately just prescribed three different drugs to use for my dry skin. The monthly cost of these drugs was well over $500. I balked. He said, “Don’t you have insurance?” Well, yes, I do, but I was required to pay for the first $3,000 of care. This forced me to really consider whether I really needed the expensive drugs or just try other, cheaper alternative forms of treatment. It turns out that a home humidifier and Aveeno lotion worked just fine. But if I would have had the insurance with only a $20 copay, I probably would have just billed the insurance company.

This is the kind free-market capitalism to which I am referring. We need to reduce insurance costs for providers of care; we can do that with tort reform and instituting and “loser pays” system. We need to bring back a free flow of information regarding the quality of care and the true cost of care. We need to eliminate abuse of insurance programs.

Another component of the HDHP is a tax-exempt Health Savings Account (HSA). This is an account that you can fund with pretax dollars and may be used only for healthcare related purchases. This way, instead of “prefunding” your healthcare with expensive insurance premiums, you get to “prefund” your healthcare with tax-exempt dollars that belong to you and will not go away if you don’t use them. If you start funding an HSA out of college, during your healthy years when expenses are typically lower, your account can accrue plenty of funds to cover your deductible should you ever need to. A proposal I could get behind would be to have the government administer HSAs for people in lieu of the medicare and Medicaid spending it currently engages in.

This discussion is meant to point out the flaws with our current system and discuss ways to fix our healthcare problems. I also want to reiterate that government controlled healthcare is an abomination that we cannot afford due to the unsustainable financial costs and the overarching loss of freedom that would ensue. We must return the principles of free-markets and competition to healthcare. To do anything else would be to take a failing system and throw it over the cliff.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Scott J. on Conservative Hypocrisy and the Supreme Court

One thing that liberals and conservatives disagree on is the idea of how much regulation is needed to protect us from ourselves. Conservatives like to argue that they oppose excessive government regulation. However, the facts seem to betray their stance.

Recently, the conservative wing, this time including Justice Kennedy, of the Supreme Court of the United States (see SCOTUSblg.com for a great blog on the Court) recently ruled that excessive government regulation is not only okay, it can be made up on the spot. All that matters is the issue at hand. The case I am referring to is FCC v. Fox Television Stations, et al. (07-582).

The Radio Act of 1927 states that “No person within the jurisdiction of the United States shall utter any obscene, indecent, or profane language by means of radio communication” – a provision since extended to television. The Court defined obscene in 1975, but the FCC decided to investigate complaints on a case-by-case basis taking into account variables such as time of broadcast, live or taped, context of usage, etc. Over time, it became apparent that the broadcast of live events that included non-company individuals (i.e. athletes during a live sports broadcast) would have the most leniency from the broadcast regulatory agency. The agency rule allowed that any “isolated or fleeting” use of expletives during such broadcasts would be acceptable.

However, in 2004 and without the input of those affected by the decision, the Federal Communications Commission changed their minds on the topic. In March of that year, the FCC unilaterally ruled that any use of the “F-word” after Cher, Nicole Richie and Bono had used the word on live broadcasts.Fox TV, where Cher and Richie had used the expletive, sued the FCC claiming that the agency did not have the power to ban all uses of any language as arbitrary and capricious. The case made its way through the Courts. The Second District upheld the new FCC regulation while the Second Circuit overturned the regulation. The Supreme Court heard the case and issued its ruling on April 28, 2009.

Justice Scalia’s opinion in this case is appalling, especially considering his dissent in Massachusetts v. Environmental Protection Agency (05-1120) as well as a few other decisions.

In Massachusetts, Justice Scalia dissented in the majority’s ruling that the EPA’s unilateral decision to include carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas responsible for human effects on climate change was within the bounds of the EPA’s mandate. Justice Scalia, however, in a separate dissent, claimed that the Clean Air Act was intended to combat only surface level pollution and not to combat climate change. He further argued that the new EPA standards were capricious did not take into account the opinions of those effected by the EPA's new standard on greenhouse gases. Even though I disagreed with his views in this manner, I respected his opinion in this case. The past tense is used there because in light of his FCC majority opinion, I can no longer.

In FCC, Justice Scalia actually stated that he believed the FCC’s decision was within the boundaries of the Radio Act and the FCC sufficiently justified their change in position. I guess climate change is just a myth. Come on, climate change threatens the entire human population and the use of the “f-word” during a live television broadcast threatens only the sanctity of the dead.

Let me get this straight, however, I am not endorsing the universal use of the “f-word” on over-the-airwaves television, but I don’t think the government moral police should keep me from being able to make choices in my television viewing. When Tiger Woods hits a bad shot, I want to hear him curse. It makes me feel better about my own reactions to a bad golf shot.

Why just the “f-word.?” Let’s censor all speech that people could find offensive. What if Tiger Woods hits a bad shot and says “What a fricking bad shot!!”? Isn’t the word fricking just a euphemism for the actual “f-word?” Bono gets on stage after winning a Grammy and says “Shoot, this is awesome!!” In this case, isn’t the word shoot just a euphemism for the actual “s-word?” I think the use of fricking and shoot should fall in the same category because, after all, the meaning is the same. Isn’t that at the core of why actual curse words are banned?

This regulation, however, seems to not have the conservatives upset.They argue that government over-regulation hinders the free market in a way that destroys competition. According to this argument, the FCC, and its regulation against the "f-word," is a waste of taxpayer money.

If this isn't over-regulation, then what is? Since the market should be allowed to regulate itself, shouldn’t television stations be able to broadcast whatever they want? If you find the broadcast offensive, turn it off. If enough people turn off the broadcast, then the station must decide to either not broadcast such things or go out of business. Problem solved and no government intervention necessary.

Furthermore, I understand that, on the surface, I may seem to have hypocritical stance on this issue. My intent is to point the hypocricy of the conservatives as it relates to regulation. I don't completely disagree here with the Court's ruling overall. While the accidental broadcast of a curse word during competition might be okay, I don't want Bono gratuitiously cursing just because he can. What is okay and what is not okay, especially on touchy subjects as this one, is probably best left to the people who will vote with their remotes.

Another problem with the decision in FCC is the Court's conservative majority opinion in Federal Election Commission v. Wisconsin Right to Life (06-969). Here the majority, in an opinion authored by Chief Justice Roberts, the FEC's regulation on special interest ads, which was passed by Congress, was an unconstitutional violation of free speech. Apparently, only speech that the justices like is protected. I wonder if it had been Planned Parenthood would the conservatives on the Court had been so quick to strike down McCain-Feingold.

This is just another example of the conservative wing on the Court, when they can get Justice Kennedy on their side, making up doctrine as they wish. For instance, in District of Columbia v. Heller (07-290), the conservatives reasoned that it was okay to throw away "original intent" when the issue suited them.

According to the idea of originalism, we must go back to the intention of the Founding Fathers to rule on current constitutional issues. However, when the original documents give us contradicting viewpoints, as they do in Heller, concerning the intent of the Second Amendment and gun regulations in the eighteenth century, orginalism dictates that the decision is best left up to the popularly elected legislative bodies. In his majority opinion in Heller, Justice Scalia threw out the founders' contradictions concerning gun regulation and the Second Amendment and overturned the popularly elected city council's handgun regulation despite its obvious betrayal of "original intent." Apparently, legislating from the bench is also a conservative thing to do as well.I guess

Justice Scalia thinks somehow the fleeting use of the “f-word” during a live television broadcast presents a “clear and present danger” (see Gitlow v. New York and Schenck v. United States for more on speech that endangers others) to society and needs to be regulated. However, political speech he agrees with or gun rights he legislates are okay. Therefore it is okay for me to say "go get your illegal handgun because we're going watch pro-life ad." However, don't put the "f-word" in there. Hmm….oh well, “f-word” it!! Sorry if I offend. Turn off the post.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Scott J.'s Public Service Announcement - Organ Donation

From time to time, I will repost this message as we get new readers, but this is an issue that I hope we can all agree on, liberals and conservatives. This topic is near and dear to my heart.

In October 2007, my father passed away from complication with pneumonia. The pneumonia was caused by a genetic deficiency in his liver, which was beyond repair. If he had survived the pneumonia, he would have needed a liver transplant. However, he died.

After he died, the nurse asked us if we would be willing to have my dad's tissues donated for transplantation. Without hesitation I said (and my mom and brother) yes, because not only was it my dad's wishes, but also we would have been waiting for a transplant and it would only be fair for us to donate. I will never forget what the nurse said next. She said, "That is awesome, so many people in your situation figure that it didn't work out for them so they say forget about donating."

I was floored. How could anyone do that?

My dad passed away, but someone received his heart valve and is still alive today.

In September 2008, my brother had a second major heart attack and needed a heart transplant. One year to the day after my dad passed away, my brother received a new heart. This was possible because another family cared enough about humanity to save my brother's life.

I don't care if you are a Republican or a Democrat, please sign up on the organ donor registry (organdonor.gov). Also, tell your loved ones to do so also and insist to family that anything other than organ donation will be against your wishes. Someone's life will depend on your decision

Thursday, May 7, 2009

My Guiding Philosophy - Scott L.

My guiding philosophy is, in a word, Conservatism. Or to be a bit more traditional, Classical Liberalism. I suggested having our opening posts be about our principles so that readers would understand the screen through which each of us views the world. Also, I want to reemphasize what I believe it means to be a conservative in 2009. I have a feeling that many readers may have been slightly ill-informed about the conservative movement (not that it is their fault, conservatives are unfairly maligned each and every day in the mainstream media (MMS)). So here goes:

I am a conservative. To me, this means that I believe in preserving traditional morals and values. I believe in Freedom and Liberty over governmental control. I believe in the 28 principles upon which this great country was founded; that among them are the rights to life, liberty, and property.

As far as economics goes, I favor capitalism over all the other "-isms" out there. I will acknowledge the need for a certain degree of oversight and regulation, but I feel that our government has trampled all over the line of "too much government". I believe that private citizens, whether it be as individuals, companies, or charities, do a far better job at employing our workforce, caring for our needy, and innovating new technologies than the government ever has done or ever will do. I see government as a necessary evil, something to be checked and balanced. I have read our Constitution several times and I am in awe of the brilliant foresight our Founders showed. I am also quite fearful of what I see as the unConstitutional liberties our government has taken in recent months.

I believe in good, but I also believe in Evil. I see the terrorist threat against our nation as something to be dealt with as exactly that, Evil. I know that since 9/11/2001, we have had no further attacks on American soil and I pray that trend continues. I believe that the way to deal with enemies is from a position of strength, not weakness nor appeasement. I believe that this country, in her short but lively history, has been a good nation. In fact, we've been a downright GREAT nation. We, as Americans, have done more in our young life to promote the cause of freedom in a hostile world than any other. We are, as the late Ronaldus Magnus once said, "A Shining City on a Hill". Why else would we continue to have such a problem with illegal immigration?

Speaking of which, I love immigration. Legal immigration. I think we have every right to demand to know who is in our country. At the same time, I understand that many of America's greatest citizens have been immigrants, indeed, all were immigrants at some point in their ancestry.

I believe that abortion is wrong and should only ever be considered as an option when the immediate life of the mother is in peril. I do not have a problem with using birth control. It goes back to personal responsibility.

I believe that the strongest building block upon which we can advance our great population is the intact, nuclear family.

I believe that the federal government has only the powers that are explicitly delegated to it by the Constitution and that many iterations of our government have done things which should have been challenged as unconstitutional.

I believe the best way to grow an economy is by cutting taxes, removing onerous regulation, and freeing the great entrepreneurs of this country to get to work. If Obama truly wanted to get us out of our recession and grow our economy, what he should have done is cut spending by 25%, cut the top marginal income tax rate down to 25%, cut the corporate tax rate in half to 17.5%, and eliminated the capital gains tax for two years, to bring it back at 10% later.

I believe in global climate change. I DO NOT believe that man is causing it. In fact, I believe that for those of you out there who think we are, that you are very arrogant. We have been on this earth for a blink of an eye in Earth Time. We have been measuring climate for 5 millionths of 1% of Earth's lifetime. There is no way for us to know that what we are experiencing right at this moment is "normal". And we could not manipulate the climate of the Earth if we all stopped all actions that produced carbon. I believe that global warming became the next big CRISIS to keep our population living in fear after the Cold War ended.

But allow me to wrap this post up this way. I want the best for every person. I want every person to succeed at whatever he or she loves doing. I want unlimited prosperity for all in this great nation. And I know that the best way to achieve that goal is to teach our citizens how to help themselves. The greatest force for good in the world is a wildly free and prosperous America and I will stand for that cause forever.

Welcome to our blog.

Scott

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

My guiding philosophy - Scott J.

For our first posts, we decided it would be a good idea to lay out a general political philosophy that we have used to make our decisions about what occurs in our nation and the world as well. To be up front, I consider myself to be a liberal democrat. While you will often see some libertarian ideas in my posts, more often than not, I will tend to fall on the side of liberalism as it comes to solutions.

Many conservatives will point out that liberals believe that it is the job of the government to solve social problems. I will respond to that in a second, but I would like to remind readers that in the Preamble of the United States Constitution, the government is given several jobs including providing for the common defense and promoting the general welfare.

All other role of the American government fall into one of those two camps.

First, I want to make it perfectly clear that I do favor the individual for the solution to most problems. John Locke referred to our births as the tabula rosa, the blank slate. However, I tend to fall into the humanist camp as I believe that all humans naturally seek a desire to improve and make every decision through reason to achieve that goal.

However, as we seek to improve, we will sometimes step on the rights of others. Game theory refers to this as the Tragedy of the Commons. In this dilemma, there are five sheep herders sharing a common ground. Each herder has ten sheep on the common ground, which can supply nutrients to 53 sheep.

One herder decides that he can own one more sheep and make more money. He adds his sheep to the common ground and nothing bad happens. Upon seeing this new idea for more profits, each herder add one more sheep to their flock. The result is that all the sheep die because there were now 55 sheep on common ground that could sustain only 53.

In each case, none of the sheep herders did anything basically wrong. However, each broke a social contract. In my view, this is the role of the government.

The government must regulate the common ground and pass laws to regulate the number of sheep so that each herder doesn’t harm the whole from decisions that are basically moral on the surface.

The breakdown of our education system, health care system, crime, etc all come down to our individual decisions that on the surface might not seem wrong, but at its core, cause harm to others. Why recycle? If I don’t what impact can my individual actions have? That person is right, but when everyone makes the same decision, the consequences become readily apparent.

As the government must “establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity,” we must have the government taking care to insure that no person acts in a way that harms another, even if the person doesn’t realize their actions cause such harm.

Obviously, the best way is to pass laws and regulations to prevent such actions.

However, let me be perfectly clear here. If the actions cause no harm to society, or the only harm is to the individual, government must stay out of those areas.

For instance, if two females or two males wish to marry, what harm to others occur?

Other than being offended (which is not enough of a criteria to legislate) or the contrariness to religious beliefs (which should not be a part of any government action), there is no actual harm to others.

As to the idea that it is the role of the government to solve social problems, I agree with Adam Smith. Smith argued that capitalism is essentially moral because the market will eventually kick out the wrongdoers (see Bernie Madoff), but what happens to those hurt by the action before the market principles work themselves out?

The only answer is to have a government with the ability to root out such problems. Granted, 95 percent of us will never do anything that will catch the attention of government, because our actions are either moral or have too small of an effect to cause harm.

In order to check the desires of the 5% (which is another whole post for the future on how to solve that problem) we MUST have government. It is also the role of the government to help us overcome the problems caused by this 5% (see AIG, Lehman Brothers, B of A, Citigroup etc).

As issues develop and Scott and I decide to engage certain topics, these guiding principles will tend to be present in my arguments and comments.