Saturday, May 30, 2009

On the Tea Parties in Particular and the Tea Party Movement in General:
(Musings of your humble servant at Rerum Novarum)

[Prefatory Note: This was originally written for another publishing medium on April 16, 2009 and published a day later. With a few revisions it is being presented in this medium at the present time. -ISM]

Honesty and the interest of disclosure compels me to admit at the outset that there are certain elements to this movement I do not agree with including but not limited to certain unsavoury elements which inexorably carry within them the seeds for potential destruction of the movement in general if they are not carefully monitored. (Of the latter I want no part whatsoever.) I will get to those factors in a moment. As a whole though, I was very pleased with the turnout at Westlake yesterday even though I ended up unable to get out of a lane directly going into the carpool lane onto the freeway in the opposite direction from whence I came and had to backtrack when looking initially for parking. (It was a rare navigating snafu and I will relegate it to a footnote{1} to continue with my previous train of thought.)

Anyway, I got my Independent self to Westlake late for reasons outlined in the first footnote and because I had to park west of Pike Place Market and trek up the hill about probably a half a mile. I did however wear my NRA hat which I have never worn downtown before but this seemed as good a day as any in lieu of the DHS "report" which I have posted a few bits on already{2} and will write more on at some point{3} but enough on that lest I tangent off onto another matter altogether. I arrived at the scene to a sea of signs and while some of them made my eyes roll{4}, there were others I agreed with and one in particular which made me laugh as it was from what appeared to be the token counter-protester there.{5}

The people who were there represented every strata of society from what I could discern -almost everyone was informally dressed. I unfortunately missed Bob Williams' speech due to the driving snafu and also got there shortly after Tim Eyman's speech. I did however in short order affix my name to one of his latest initiatives -another one dealing with tax rollbacks that is all I needed to hear. The speeches I imbibed via my eardrums were both interesting and inspiring. I found myself sensing that this was the start of something even bigger to come: the start of the counter-offensive as I told my amigo Tim by email this morning. As a quick aside, Tim attended the Phoenix rally with his wife Annette{6} and told me there was between 3000 and 5000 people there.

Though there are many positives there are also some negatives I should take note of. The first is a more benign sort in that I sense many angry over unconstitutional usurpations of power by the federal government are approaching this matter from a strict literalist reading of the Constitution. This is an approach which historically has not only not worked{7} and even the Founders in general who are being cited in its favour were not as restrictive on the application of the Constitution as many from the "Ron Paul school"{8} seem to want to be. But that is a more benign matter when it comes to proper political pragmatism. I believe before we can talk about the manner in which the Constitution is to be interpreted, we need to clear the field as much as possible of those who do not care about the Constitution except as a political tool to be manipulated when it suits them and ignored when it does not. We need a mutual frame of reference basically and until we are able to do that, those who differ on Constitutional application should stand united against those who do not care about the Constitution whatever pious lip service they pay to it notwithstanding.

The much more serious negative in my mind is the extreme conspiracy theorists. I wrote a post a while back for this weblog and also for another publishing medium which explains the logical and rational problems I have with this crowd{9} but beyond those arguments is the issue of credibility in general. The mainstream media would LOVE to paint these Tea Parties as being run by or primarily populated by those who advance really oddball conspiracy views because it is all the more easy to dismiss the credibility of the movement. And this is the part of the movement I want personally no part of but fortunately these sorts seem to be a minority at the tea parties so far and may it stay that way if this is going to be a worthwhile and effective endeavour for positive and long-lasting effect.

There is also is the downright annoying attitude of some of those whose methodologies approach what I call the "true believer" mentality. These are the people to whom politics is not the art of the possible but instead the art of demanding the perfect lest they refuse to participate at all. This could be in general but also on particular matters -be it their lack of participation a given agenda item, a given political movement, or whatever. I am one who believes that anything that can be reasonably foreseen to have potential positive effects and which has a reasonably feasible chance of working should be undertaken provided that it is not unethical. However, it never fails to surprise me how many will attempt to excommunicate from political communion those who do not share their views on issues to a near 100% degree if not darn close to it. And ironically enough, self-identified "conservatives" who do this often laud President Ronald Reagan as their model ignoring how often (i) Reagan balanced political philosophy with political pragmatism and (ii) how often Reagan said essentially that those who agree with him 80% of the time were not his political foe.

The truth is, you need both philosophy and pragmatism if you can expect to be successful in any endeavour in life. Too often however, you have those more inclined towards pure political philosophy trying to narrow the tent too much while on the other side of the equation you have those who are far more politically pragmatic trying to widen the tent too much. What is needed between these two extreme tendencies is a more balanced approach. The political philosophers who have a map far too often do not know how to get anywhere on it. Conversely, the political pragmatists often excel in getting things done but lack a map to know where they are even going. It is my hope that these tea parties will in how they are organized and in those who participate in them can strive to find that balance required to make this movement a genuine success instead of a populist flame out of the sort that litters the political landscape spanning the centuries of America's existence.

Anyway, having noted these things, I must say it pleases me to see these gatherings which represent a true grassroots movement and not some bankrolled group of paid "protesters" or "volunteers" the way so many liberal movements{10} are. I am wondering if my idea for significant legislative reform long pondered over{11} and recently written on{12} can perhaps find some traction in this movement but that is a subject for another time altogether.


{1} For those familiar with Seattle, I was stuck on the carpool lane up around Pine and forced onto the express lanes northbound. This resulted in me crossing Lake Union to the north, taking the first exit off, and getting quickly onto the University Bridge to Eastlake Avenue (along Lake Union) traveling under the I-5 Bridge from which I exited and coming back into Seattle that way. In short, it killed about thirty minutes of my day and made me an hour late to the tea party.

{2} Those bits were posted if memory serves in another publishing medium. I am probably not through berating that worthless pile of pig crap called a "report" yet. If I turned in a report in school with that much lack of source citation or complete lack of cogent argumentation for a given thesis, etc. I would have received an F grade. It must have been a Huffington Post staffer who ghostwrote it for Napolitano.

{3} I write things for various mediums and in a variety of contexts but usually what I write has some element of timeless principle to it which means it can serve a variety of purposes. But because the context of one posting may differ from another, sometimes a piece written for one medium needs to be reworked for posting in another medium, shortened, added to, etc.

{4} Mainly the ones that would seem to replace one Messiah (Obama) with another (Paul).

{5} I hesitate to post the slogans that protester used here because many may not understand what was being said and those who would understand would question either my prudence in posting them here or even why (perhaps) I know what they mean.

{6} Tim told me he did not get my voice mail when I contacted him because he was at the Phoenix gathering and he was talking with his mother and step father who were at a gathering in Monterrey.

{7} I went over this to some degree in a posting to this weblog earlier in the year:

Between Unconstitutionality and Unworkability (circa February 6, 2009)

{8} See my criticisms of this approach philosophically in the thread of footnote seven. With greater specificity on one issue (i.e. the constitutional requirement of declaring war), see this posting:

On the Constitutionality of Wars Undertaken Without a Formal Declaration (circa December 26, 2007)

{9} On the Problem With Conservatives Dabbling in So-Called "Conspiracy Theories" (circa March 18, 2009)

{10} I was informed by my very good friend Anna when we were talking about the tea parties that when she was campaigning for Senator John McCain she and some friends were approached by some of those "volunteering" for Senator Barack Obama asking them "how much was the McCain campaign paying you to volunteer???" or something along those lines. (This only confirmed my suspicions about the so-called "grassroots massive support for Obama and change" bandied about by that campaign and their willing and fawning sycophants in the mainstream media.)

{11} See footnote twelve. (This idea has been in my mind in some form or another for at least seven years.)

{12} Another Idea For Federal and State Legislative Reform (circa March 6, 2009)

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Points to Ponder:
(On the Popularity of Obama and That of His Policies)

[W]hat will it take to wake these people up? Look at the polls, very few people like anything that Obama has done, yet they still say he is doing a good job. It's like owning a Corvette, in which nothing works, but it has a great paint job. ["Bigone5555J" -comment on YouTube (circa mid May 2009)]

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Obama Vindicates Bush

Charles Krauthammer as he so often does hits the nail on the head in the above article. Hopefully this trend will continue and the Bush tax cuts will also be renewed and made permanent but that may be asking for too much. One thing is for sure though, if President Obama is an astute enough politician, he will want the economy to be doing well enough to assist him in running for re-election and letting those tax cuts expire will not aid him in that endeavour.

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Monday, May 25, 2009

Points to Ponder:
(For the Fallen Soldiers)

"Our young friends -- yes, young friends, for in our hearts you will always be young, full of the love that is youth, love of life, love of joy, love of country -- you fought for your country and for its safety and for the freedom of others with strength and courage. We love you for it. We honor you. And we have faith that, as He does all His sacred children, the Lord will bless you and keep you, the Lord will make His face to shine upon you and give you peace, now and forever more." [President Ronald Reagan: Note Inserted into the Vietnam Veterans Memorial (circa November 11, 1988)]

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I have little that I could add now or am inclined to anyway to what I wrote on the subject of Memorial Day last year. I will however at this point encapsulate the substance of everything in that note. This will be done by pointing out what I believe is an important (albeit secondary) principle that permeates my outlook on these matters; namely this:

If there is not something you are willing to fight and possibly die for, then you are not worthy to live.

That is my view in a nutshell{1} and though I see value in everything I said in the above posted material, at bottom the rest is mere commentary on that fundamental principle really.


{1} If you need a theological principle to anchor this to, consider Jesus' statement about how one cannot show greater love than by laying down their life for another.

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