Friday, September 24, 2010

The Intolerance of the Tolerant

Or should that be the tolerance of the intolerant? I can't tell anymore.
Let me be perfectly clear right up front. I don't believe in tolerance, at least not in the way it is defined by the modern Oh So Tolerant crowd. The idea that we should tolerate everything and everyone is laughable. Rational judgment is part of what it means to be human, and that includes judging between what is and is not tolerable.
Should I tolerate the man who is trying to kill me? Of course not. Should I tolerate the man who tries to steal the food from my children? Absolutely not. Should I tolerate something that is abhorrent to my core beliefs? How is that even possible?
It is not and cannot be tolerance or the absence of tolerance that defines proper behavior. It is, rather, the reason for that tolerance or absence of tolerance and it is the action (or actions) taken in response. Only this standard can produce proper behavior. Don't believe me? Take a look at the behavior of the crowd whose claim is that tolerance, itself, is the standard.
These people preach tolerance in all things and constantly use that standard to attack anyone they deem as intolerant. Of course, in most cases, simply disagreeing with them is grounds for being deemed intolerant (good thing I admit to being intolerant - rather takes the sting out of their attacks). If you cross one of their lines, they feel fully justified in falling upon you with all of the wrath of their so-called tolerance.
It was those preaching tolerance who felt justified in stealing every issue of a college newspaper because it contained an editorial they deemed to be intolerant.
It was those preaching tolerance who felt justified in invading and disrupting a college speaking engagement because they deemed the speaker (who had been invited by the people who were there to hear him) to be intolerant.
It has been those preaching tolerance who have suggested that insulting the president should be an arresting offense (never mind the fact that they hurled insults and more at the previous president).
It has been those preaching tolerance who have claimed in one breath that there should be no debate about the Ground Zero Mosque (because "we were not attacked by Islam") and, in the very next breath, declare that all religion should be banned (I guess we were attacked by "all religion" when I wasn't looking).
This has been an ongoing problem, as should be suggested by the list of examples (that first listed instance happened about five years ago, if I remember correctly), but that last example was the reason I decided to write this article. I participated in that "debate" and was almost stopped dead in my tracks by the direction it went. One group of people do not want a particular building erected in a particular location and they are intolerant, yet some of the very people screaming at them about intolerance declare that all religion should be banned. That is supposed to be an example of tolerance?
Of course that is not an example of tolerance. What that is an example of is the fact that most people actually think the way I do on this subject, they just don't state it as such because they believe that would make them look bad. Human beings are not tolerant creatures. We tolerate what we believe is right to tolerate and we do not tolerate what we believe is not right to tolerate. The only thing preaching tolerance accomplishes is convincing people to lie about their motives and claim to be tolerant when they obviously are not.
Being intolerant is no sin. Being intolerant for stupid reasons is. Acting stupidly because of your intolerance is. I don't tolerate stupid people, but I don't run around slapping every stupid person I see (that would be quite an exercise program). Why would I? That would be a gross overreaction and it would not accomplish one single useful thing.
Be honest about your life. Don't lie about what you will or will not tolerate and certainly don't lie about the fact that there are things you will not tolerate. Check your reasons for those, though, and make sure they make sense. Check your actions in regard to what you will not tolerate and make sure those actions are in proportion. Make sure you are not making things worse. Make sure you are not acting the same way you claim to not tolerate.
Most of us won't tolerate a fly in the kitchen, but we don't swat the fly with a bomb. Think about it.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Harry Reid and Mixed Messages

I probably should not accuse Senator Reid of "mixed messages". His "I will do anything to get re-elected" message is pretty clear and undiluted - though, somehow, that is not the message he wants us to notice - but his actions create mixed messages in ways that are detrimental to our country, to freedom, and to good sense. They also create mixed messages in a way I have always opposed, so my opposition to this one is not necessarily specific to the bills in question.
The specific action this time is Reid's declared decision to tack the DREAM (Development, Relief and Education of Alien Minors) Act as an amendment onto the upcoming defense appropriations bill. A defense bill that almost always passes easily with bilateral support. A defense bill that pays for our military. A defense bill that should never be twisted for the purpose of supporting the campaigns of our professional criminal class in Congress.
The short description of the DREAM Act is that it is an illegal immigration amnesty act. Period. The longer description is that it gives a path to amnesty to "undocumented aliens" who entered this country before the age of 16, have been here at least 5 years, and have received a High School Diploma or GED or are attending college. It also gives a route to extra scholarships and grants for said "undocumented alien" to continue his or her education. The DREAM act has been floating around since 2001 and has had so little support that it has rarely even come up for vote, and has never seen even the possibility of success on those rare occasions when it has made it out of committee.
To say that the DREAM Act is controversial is to say that stepping on a land mine hurts.
This story gets worse when you add in the fact that this simple defense appropriations bill has already been weighed down by the addition of an amendment to repeal the military's Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy, hardly a noncontroversial amendment itself.
Of all the low down, dirty, rotten tricks! In essence, the Democrats (and Reid specifically) are attempting to hold the defense bill hostage by loading it up with Easter Eggs which are great for their party but unpalatable to the other side. They are taking a bill that would normally have bilateral support and turning it into just another ideological battleground. In this manner, the Republicans either have to vote for something they strongly oppose or vote against something they strongly support. Then, of course, the Democrats get to lie about the results either way. If the law passes it's, "See, even the Republicans are for this," when everyone knows the Republicans were only voting for the military, and if the law fails it's, "See, the Republicans really hate the military," when everyone knows the Republicans were really voting against the DREAM. It is a lose-lose for everyone except far left career criminals.
This should be impossible. This should be illegal! A single bill should not require people to vote in two different directions. A bill that has no chance on its own should not be forced down people's throats by tacking it onto an easy win. The entire bill amendment/rider process is flush with corruption and abuse and needs to go away yesterday!
Some states include in their constitution a prohibition against just this behavior. By their state constitutions, a state bill must be about one subject and only one subject and cannot be used to sneak additional laws into play. I have said for decades that we need an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that does the same. Everyone talks about corruption in Congress, but no one does anything about it. This would do something about it. This would remove one of their most blatant tools of corruption. Of course, if we trimmed them back to Constitutional authority and took away their assumed power to pass laws on anything and everything that enters their crooked little minds, that would go a long way toward stamping out their corruption. It is a bit more difficult to be corrupt when you have nothing to sell.
This is not about Right or Left, Democrat or Republican. This same practice occurred under Republicans and will occur again regardless of which party holds office. This is not even about whether or not you like the laws in question. If you like them so much, get up off your lazy butts and campaign for them to have a chance on their own! This is about the inherently corrupt process of making a Frankenstein's monster out of disparate, unrelated bills and forcing people to vote against their conscience or true desires.
Everyone wants a better America, but you cannot have a better anything through corruption. The corruption will always eat through and destroy what you were trying to build. If you truly want a better country then fight against corruption, even when that corruption appears to be on your side.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

In Memory 9-11

On this day, nine years ago, 2,974 people were killed because some people still believe that violence in the name of religion is acceptable human behavior.
This statement is not exclusive to the creatures (and no, I will never refer to indiscriminate murderers as human beings) who attacked us on September 11, 2001, but it certainly applies. That attack was barbaric, plain and simple. Regardless of one's opinion on war or anything of that nature, the people on those planes, the people in those buildings, the people who were only going about their daily lives cannot be defined as combatants in any meaningful way. Nearly 3,000 innocent bystanders dead, not as collateral damage, but as intentional targets. The distinction matters, though there are many who try to cover it up.
If you disagree with war at all times and for all reasons then no amount of discussion will persuade you. We don't speak the same language, so it is a waste of time for us to speak. It amazes me, though, how often it is these very people who make excuses for the other side yet refuse to even hear a defense for ours.
If, however, you and I do speak a common tongue, if you can find meaning in the words I write - whether or not you agree with them - then I hope that you will at least consider what I have to say.
I believe in force as an answer to force, but never as an initiating factor. Translation: It is never justified to initiate violence but it may be justified to retaliate. For defense, to stop violence, to prevent further violence. I believe these may all be justifiable uses of force. There really are times when nothing else will work but to fight fire with fire.
If you have to fight then people are going to get hurt. If you have to fight a war then people are going to die. Going in with your eyes closed will not change reality. To make matters worse, when you fight a war, some people who die will be those who were only caught in the crossfire. This can be minimized, but I know of no way to prevent it completely. Accidents happen under the best of circumstances.
Those who love to bash America and America's military love to talk about collateral damage while ignoring how much effort America's military puts into trying to avoid or minimize such damage. I am something of a history buff and I know of no major military force in history that has put so much effort into trying to avoid or minimize collateral damage as the modern American military. To dismiss this fact is to argue through dishonesty.
Collateral damage cannot be compared with what happened on September 11, 2001. That was not collateral damage! Those were not unintended targets! Nearly 3,000 civilians died because they were targeted for death!
Has America ever attacked civilians in such a manner? Yes, we have, in a declared war - which this was not! - as a last ditch effort, and nearly 70 years ago. Since Hiroshima and Nagasaki, even America's bombing targets have been carefully selected as military targets and to minimize civilian casualties. Think about it. With America's overwhelming bombing capabilities, how long could any war last if we were not intentionally holding back to minimize collateral damage? There are few nations in the world who could stand against us if we played by the same rules as the creatures who attacked us on 9-11.
But we don't play by those rules, and it is past time that the America bashers acknowledged and admitted that fact.
On this day, nine years ago, 2,974 people were killed because some people still believe that violence in the name of religion is acceptable human behavior. Those people were monsters and those who support them are monsters. 2,974 people died - and countless more continue to die - because monsters have been allowed to roam this world unopposed. Other people make excuses and stroke their own egos, but the monsters are still roaming this world. Have you forgotten what those monsters are willing to do? We have not!

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Ground Zero Mosque

You might have noticed that I have, so far, not weighed in on the debate about the so-called "Ground Zero Mosque". Those who follow this blog certainly know that I am not afraid of controversy, nor have I been shy about speaking out on the various issues which surround this topic. I have not spoken on this specific subject because I'm afraid I don't have anything helpful to say. I believe that both sides are wrong, but I am certain that this is a case where no one is going to have even the slightest interest in listening to sense.
I sincerely hope that I am not alone in believing both sides to be wrong, but watching the news coverage on this topic is discouraging, to say the least. Does no one else notice that there are two distinct levels to this argument or that the two levels are not inherently tied together?
It boils down to this: There are those who say that building a mosque at the site of the 9-11 attacks is the epitome of offensive and disrespectful and there are those who say that America's ideal of religious freedom does not allow for prohibiting this building. Does no one else notice that these two statements do not answer each other?
To make matters worse, there are those on one side saying that this building should be legally blocked and there are those on the other side saying it isn't disrespectful because "it isn't a mosque and it isn't at Ground Zero."
In other words, the whole thing is muddled almost beyond repair because no one can even agree on what it is that is being argued.
Let's be absolutely clear here.
There is no legal recourse for blocking this building, nor should there be. Creating such a recourse would be diminishing our ideals of freedom and thus giving in to the very creatures who attacked us in the first place. That is unacceptable. Don't give me the "we're at war" answer either. Go back through my blog and see that I am well aware of that fact. Religious freedom is religious freedom and we, as the first nation to enshrine that freedom, cannot go against it without betraying our very existence. Unless and until that building is used to actively promote or engage in treason, the building cannot be legally blocked simply because it is of a certain religion. The location does not magically make the religion illegal!
Now that I have angered the very people who are usually on my side, I hope you will continue reading.
Erecting that building on that location is a slap in the face of every American who died on 9-11, every American who lost loved ones on 9-11, and every American who felt the pain of 9-11. Claiming to use that building to bridge the gap or create peace is a lie, whether intentional or not. That building will not bridge the gap nor create peace and it is utterly impossible to honestly argue otherwise.
It does not matter that the building will not actually be a mosque. It will contain a mosque, it will be built with Muslim funds, and it will be named for a Muslim holy site. No matter how many multi-faith uses it also contains, you cannot connect those dots in any way that doesn't say it will be a primarily Muslim-use building.
It doesn't matter that the building is not at absolute Ground Zero. The location was specifically chosen for its proximity to Ground Zero. Even those who are trying to erect this building refer to the location as a part of Ground Zero. Claiming that two blocks away makes it not Ground Zero is splitting hairs in the worst and most useless way.
We are not at war with Islam. That argument is accurate and valid. Muslims died in the 9-11 attack. Even dismissing the creatures who performed the attack, that argument is also accurate and valid. These arguments, however, do not change the fact that the creatures who performed the attack did so in the name of Islam. It is not the fact that they were Muslim that makes this disrespectful. It is the fact that they attacked because they were Muslim and believed that the attack was upholding and honoring their religion.
A Muslim cannot erect a Muslim-use building without using that building to glorify Islam. There is nothing wrong with that. A Christian cannot erect a Christian-use building without using that building to glorify Christianity, a Hindu cannot erect a Hindu-use building without using that building to glorify Hinduism, etc etc, round and round we go. A person who truly believes in a certain faith is going to at least attempt to glorify that faith in everything he or she does. That is a no-brainer. You cannot, however, attempt to bridge the gap or create peace between a religion and people who - whether right or wrong - believe they were attacked by that religion by erecting a building which glorifies that religion on the site of the attack. That, too, is a no-brainer.
I have a difficult time believing in Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf's sincerity. He does not strike me as a stupid individual and yet he is bent on performing what appears to be a stupid action. He claims that he wants to erect this building to foster peace when it is plainly obvious that it is doing anything but fostering peace. There is a contradiction here, and I do not believe in contradictions. Either the man is an idiot or he is lying. Neither answer is exactly flattering.
If Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf chooses to go forward with this disrespectful act then he must be allowed to do so. No other action is fitting to the American ideal. That does not, however, mean that anyone has to like it or quietly accept it. It is also within the American ideal that we speak out against what we believe to be wrong. No one else should help him pretend that this is a respectful act. We cannot legally stop him from being offensive, but we can let him know that we are offended. If your neighbor is offensive, you do not seek to legally stop him from being so (assuming, of course, that his behavior is merely boorish and not actually illegal), but you don't reward him for his behavior either. You do not attend his gatherings, you do not associate with him, and you do not claim that he is a good person. If Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf insists on being a boorish neighbor then he should be shunned as any other boorish neighbor would. Let him have his building, then let him try to claim his high ideals when no one uses his building except for those who are as offensive as he is.

Friday, September 3, 2010

To Spend Or Not To Spend

Right now, that really is the question. The question. If you read the polls, read the articles, and read the comments, it is obvious that the American economy is the single leading question mark in the current political debate. The two sides can be nicely summed up with comments I saw today: "Any businessman knows you have to spend money to make money," and, "If I cut the budget at home, it works."
Neither side seems to understand that those are both oversimplified. You have to spend money to make money, but you also have to be careful where you spend your money and I've never worked for a company that didn't spend as much time cutting spending as it did spending. Cutting the budget is great and often necessary, but you do have to eat and pay the bills. You are liable to dislike the results if you decide the utilities bill is something you can cut from your budget.
That nicely sums up the problem with the ongoing debate. We'll ignore, for the moment, the fact that America is not a business (we'll come back to it though) and simply take the two sides for what they are. The first statement does still apply. While we do not often think of it the same way, you do still have to spend money at home in order to make money. You have to spend money on the gas to get to and from work (even if you work from home, there is still an effective travel expense in higher utilities or internet bills). You probably have to spend money on eating away from home. In most careers, you have to spend money on having the proper clothes and grooming. You may have to spend money on child care. Yes, even at home you have to spend money to make money.
However, you do not spend money on that fancy three-piece suit and claim that it is an expense to make money if you work at the local grocery store (maybe, if you hold a few specific positions at that store, but that is unlikely). You don't spend money on that shiny new game console and claim that is spending money to make money. You don't spend money on a brand new F150 and claim that is spending to make money when you work a minimum wage job six blocks down the street.
You have to spend money to make money, but you have to spend money the right way. In your home budget, when your spouse questions your extravagant spending, you don't get to dismiss those concerns by simply saying, "I'm spending money to make money." If you can't show how you're spending money to make money, the next bit of money you spend might be on a divorce lawyer.
Likewise, you can't just cut spending anywhere you want in order to save money. You have to eat. Even if you grow your own food, you will probably still have to spend money on basic supplies and tools. Unless you prefer the Stone Age (and can somehow get your family to play along), you probably do not have the choice of cutting the electric bill from the budget and, if you live in town, you won't be cutting the water bill either. There is a certain amount of spending that cannot be cut, though most of it can possibly be reduced (use less electricity, eat cheaper foods, etc.). You cannot, however, reduce expenses to zero and still be a household. Reducing expenses to zero results in homelessness, quite the opposite of a household.
A nation is not a business (told you we would get back to that). That is, a nation is not in the business of making a profit. A nation does not do things for the purpose of making money. A nation makes money for the purpose of paying required bills and providing required amenities, like a household. A nation is a very large household. Aside from removing the profit motive, however, we have seen that the rules don't change very much. They do change in one significant way, though. A nation does not get to say that it requires a certain tax because that tax would generate a certain revenue. That is the province of business. A nation must say that it needs this revenue to cover this expense. That is the province of a household. I have no sympathy when I see those budget reports that say the government is losing X amount of dollars by not charging X tax or fees. Too bad! It's my money, not yours. You are the employee, not the employer. Show me why you deserve that extra pay and then we can discuss it.
As long as our nation is spending extra money on unnecessary Playstations, F150's, and three-piece suits before paying the basic, required bills, though, I don't want to hear any crying about how it can't afford to pay the basics. There is a certain kind of person who answers every budget discussion with, "You want this but you don't want to pay for it," and then believes the discussion is over. No, I want this and don't want to pay for a Playstation and this. If this basic, necessary expense can be covered by eliminating the cost of the Playstation then why should I pay more before the cost of the Playstation is eliminated? Don't tell me you need more money while you're still spending to play before you've paid the bills. I have to pay the bills first and the government should be no different.
You have to spend money to make money, but you have to spend the right money in the right way. Right now our government spends so much money on extra bells and whistles that there is absolutely no point in even discussing raising taxes on anything until those bells and whistles have been addressed. We on different sides of the debate will no doubt disagree on what constitutes an extra bell and whistle, and we should be discussing that, but most of us agree that there are extra bells and whistles, which are costing us a fortune. Yes, we need to spend and cut but, like any household, we need to look at where we can cut before we start looking at where else we can spend.