Futures and Options

Just another town along the road.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Actually Taking a Stand: or More Ego Boosting

It occurred to me yesterday as I was responding to a comment from the lovely Suzanna Logan that, while I have been critical of what she calls the “conservative core”, I have not, to date, provided a summary of my own positions.  While this is a very effective rhetorical tactic as it allows one to avoid the nasty work associated with actually defending a position of one’s own, I am forced to admit that it is rather disingenuous.  If I am going to criticize others, I, at the very least, owe them the courtesy of defining my own positions so that they can respond in kind.

So, Suzanna, I’ll let you decide if I was correct in defining myself as a RINO or not.  To the rest of you, this one is going to be long.  If you get bored easily, this might be a good time to go back to browsing FailBlog or LolCats.  In no particular order, here are the issues and a summary of my positions (list shamelessly borrowed from OnTheIssues.org, modified to suit):

  • Abortion:  Personally opposed, but I agree with Roe v. Wade.  I support bans on late-term and partial-birth abortions (i.e. cases in which the fetus would be viable outside the mother’s body).  While I would never counsel anyone to choose an abortion, I have yet to be convinced that there is a valid secular argument for outlawing early-term abortions.  I recognize that this leaves me open to accusations that I am trying to be on both sides at the same time.  I am also admittedly not fully comfortable with the fact that, by holding this position, I am effectively endorsing something that I believe to be murder.  However, at the same time, while murder after birth is clearly destructive to a cohesive society in ways that have nothing to do with morality, abortion lacks the same clearly-demonstrable socially-destructive nature when viewed in a purely secular light.  Additionally, I cannot shake the thought that it might (note, might) be more merciful to prevent an unwanted child from being born in the first place than to bring the child up with the knowledge that he or she was never wanted.  On this last, however, I remain unconvinced either way.
  • Budget and Economy:  A balanced budget is always preferable to deficit spending.  However, just as emergencies come up in personal life, so to do emergencies come up at a national level.  There will be times (e.g. during large-scale wars such as WWI or WWII, or during severe national emergencies such as Hurricane Katrina) when deficit spending cannot be avoided, but this should never be the normal condition of our national budget.  In cases where budget overruns are threatened, preference should always be given to reducing services over increasing taxes.  Borrowing money to cover budget shortfalls should be an absolute last resort, reserved for times when there are literally no other options available without catastrophic consequences.
    The economy functions best with the fewest regulations, but reality dictates that there be common-sense regulations for businesses.  For example, reserve requirements for banks are necessary to prevent banks from excessive lending, and usury laws are valuable to prevent predatory lending practices.  At the same time, any attempt to protect people from themselves will ultimately fail and regulations such as those that “encourage” banks to make risky loans or that restrict a bank’s ability to deny credit for financial reasons are ultimately more harmful than helpful.
  • Unions:  While I support the right of workers to organize for the purposes of collective bargaining, I also support an employer’s right to fire and replace striking workers.  I strongly oppose the “union shop” laws in many states that allow a union to mandate membership as a condition to being hired into certain jobs.  Whether or not to join a union should always be an employee’s free choice and should never be a condition of employment.
  • Civil Rights:  I have always believed that the only important thing about a person is his or her mind and I share Dr. King’s dream of a world where all people are judged by the content of their character and not by their race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, or any other irrelevant superficiality.  In light of this, I oppose any quota- or points-based affirmative action system.  I strongly support the right of legal restitution in cases where discrimination has occurred and I have nothing but contempt for those who would judge others by outward appearance.
  • Crime:  I support the death penalty.  While I do not believe that the taking of a life should ever be considered lightly, I firmly believe that there are situations in which a person’s actions have been so extreme that there is legitimately no hope of rehabilitation.  I agree with the current system of automatic appeals and the difficulty involved with sentencing a criminal to death because of my belief that it should not be considered lightly.  I fervently believe in the principle that all people are innocent until proven guilty and, as a consequence, I do not support the issuance of “no-knock” warrants.  I believe that no-knock warrants endanger both suspects and police by increasing the chances of a law-abiding suspect being surprised and attempting to defend himself or herself from the invaders without knowing those invaders to be law enforcement agents.
  • Drugs:  I neither use, nor endorse drugs.  However, neither do I support the current “war on drugs”.  I feel that the current “war on drugs” has consumed vast amounts of law enforcement resources that could be better used in other areas and that it creates criminals out of people who are, in all other aspects, law-abiding citizens.  While I understand, and agree with, the moral argument against recreational drug use, I do not feel that the enforcement of moral directives is the proper use of governmental and law enforcement resources.  I believe that the majority of so-called “recreational” drugs should be treated like alcohol; the substances themselves should not be absolutely proscribed, but there should be severe penalties for crimes committed while under the influence.
  • Education:  I support school voucher systems and homeschooling options.  I believe that public schools have been severely over-extended by requirements like the “no child left behind” act which make it increasingly difficult for schools to hold back children who legitimately need to repeat a grade.  I believe that the “zero-tolerance” policies in place at many schools represent cowardice and an unwillingness to stand up for common-sense rules that don’t result in expelling children for carrying cough drops.
  • Environment:  I believe that we need to continue the vast progress that we have made in reducing the environmental damage created by humanity, but I do not believe that the government is always the best option for enforcing this progress.  In some cases, such as the regulation of automotive emissions or quality standards for drinking water, I acknowledge the necessity for overarching governmental intervention.  However, I believe that plans that restrict consumer choice like CAFE or the recent mandate for compact fluorescent light bulbs are not proper uses of governmental intervention.  If there is truly a great need to reduce the consumption of a particular resource, the more efficient means of achieving a reduction in consumption is to increase the taxation of that resource rather than taking legislative action to mandate that consumer products meet certain efficiency requirements.
  • Foreign Policy:  It is irrational to expect that any country or entity other than the United States will have the best interests of the United States at heart.  To this end, while we absolutely need to value and carefully consider the positions of other countries in international affairs, the United States must ultimately be its own arbiter regarding foreign policy.  I do not condone extended unilateral actions, but I fully support immediate and decisive action when there are real threats to the safety of the United States and its citizens.  Teddy Roosevelt was absolutely right when he said that the United States should, “speak softly and carry a big stick.”
  • Trade:  I dislike protectionist trade policies because I believe that they reduce or eliminate the incentive for domestic companies to innovate.  However, I also realize that many countries lack the worker protection laws and living standards that increase the costs of American labor and I would support import tariffs based upon the worker conditions of the countries of origin in order to level the playing field for American labor and encourage companies to keep their manufacturing facilities in the United States.
  • Gun Control:  I support the repeal of the Hughes Amendment to the Firearm Owners Protection Act which, if repealed, would once again allow the civilian purchase and transfer of newly-manufactured fully automatic firearms as long as all National Firearms Act provisions are met.  Obviously, I therefore also strongly oppose any attempt to reinstate the entirely ineffective “Assault Weapons” ban.  There is no support for the theory that law-abiding firearms owners are the problem and such restrictions only serve to infringe upon the rights of people who present no risk to themselves or others.  I support a national concealed carry permit system and I agree that firearms manufacturers should not be held liable for injuries or deaths unless those injuries or deaths are the result of a defect in the firearm’s manufacture.  Aside from favoring the repeal of the Hughes Amendment, I support the enforcement of current Federal gun control laws and believe that proper enforcing these laws is the best means of preventing criminals from using firearms.
  • Health Care:  I strongly oppose nationalized health care because it will reduce the ability of American companies to produce innovative new treatments for disease through price controls and over-regulation.  Nationalized health care also restricts the available options for people who suffer from chronic disorders such as Rheumatoid Arthritis and, in other countries, has resulted in people with such disorders being forced to accept substandard treatments because of governmental decisions that more effective options are too costly for the limited number of people who would benefit from their use.
  • Homeland Security:  I do not support warrant-less wiretapping of any kind.  I also do not support torture, though I recognize that the line between what is and what is not “torture” is difficult to define, especially given the psychological methods that are employed today.  Methods that cause “severe” distress in one subject may not produce much distress at all in another.  I do not take issue with stress positions, isolation, or sleep deprivation but I am uncertain about waterboarding and I understand why many people disagree with the latter practice.  Overall, I am inclined to believe that the entire issue would have been much simplified had we simply chosen a “take no prisoners” approach to combatants.  I also believe that such a decision would have had an even stronger deterrent effect than our actual actions.
  • Immigration:  I support the enforcement of current immigration laws.  When my great-grandparents came to the United States in the early 20th century, they came here legally.  They followed the applicable laws and worked hard to build a better life for themselves and their offspring.  I like to think they were successful.  I also think that it is disrespectful to all legal immigrants when those who enter this country illegally are rewarded by being given a path to citizenship.  I believe that we should not grant automatic citizenship to children born in the US unless the parent(s) are in this country legally.
  • Military:  I believe that a strong military is a necessity for any country.  I also believe that a volunteer military is superior to a military made up of conscripts.  It is an uncomfortable truth that we live in a dangerous world and because of this it is irresponsible for a country to unilaterally disarm.  I believe that our soldiers deserve the very best that we can provide for them and I strongly support programs such as the GI bill to help ensure that our men and women in uniform have access to as much opportunity as possible.
  • Social Issues:  I believe that homosexual couples should have access to all the same secular rights and privileges that are available to married heterosexual couples.  There is a difference between secular marriage and the religious institution of the same name.  As long as churches are protected from discrimination lawsuits for refusing to sanctify homosexual marriages, I see no problems whatsoever with allowing the government to issue marriage certificates to homosexual couples.  I also support allowing homosexual couples to adopt children.  There is no evidence whatsoever to suggest that a loving homosexual couple cannot provide a positive and nurturing environment for a child.
  • Science:  I believe that young-earth creationism is nothing more than a willful denial of mountains of scientific evidence.  Creationism and Intelligent Design have no place at all in Science textbooks or classrooms.  At most, such ideas belong in the World Religions chapter of a Social Studies textbook.  Presenting these ideas as legitimate scientific theories serves only to disadvantage students and to weaken an already eroded understanding of logic and the scientific method.
    Additionally, I support stem cell research and I believe firmly that it has the potential to yield significant medical advances within my lifetime.
  • Religion:  I worship at a liturgical church every Sunday that does not find me on an airplane for my job.  When I am on the road I worship at many different churches, but I officially belong to a small Anglican congregation in the Pacific Northwest.  While I appreciate the Anglican liturgy, I do not always agree with the church’s positions and my own theological bent can best be described as the the sort of “de-mythologized” Christianity that is, I feel, best described by writers like Rudolf Bultmann and John Dominic Crossan.  I realize that this puts me on thin ice with many conservative Christians, but the bare fact is that I do believe, fervently, that Christ is God’s son and that he is indeed the propitiation for our sins.

Over 2,000 words later, you have it.  Me, in a nutshell.  If you believe that this makes me a RINO, so be it.  If you believe that this makes me a far right extremist, so be it.  It is, after all, only fair that I put a target on my own back after taking so many shots at others.

posted by Zenmervolt at 12:27  

3 Comments »

  1. I’m curious: do you really agree with Roe v. Wade as a judicial decision, or do you just agree with the outcome?

    Comment by Strix nebulosa — Saturday, 02 May, 2009 @ 15:17

  2. I don’t know enough about the specific legal or judicial aspects to come down on either side of Roe v. Wade from a purely judicial perspective. So I agree with the outcome but I don’t know enough to take a stand either way on it as a judicial decision.

    Comment by zenmervolt — Saturday, 02 May, 2009 @ 19:56

  3. Well, let me just clear things up then: it’s an abominable decision, assuming you have some regard for things like logic and proper use of the English language.

    Comment by Strix nebulosa — Sunday, 03 May, 2009 @ 12:31

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