Things and Stuff

15 04 2012

No apologies or excuses. I’ve been busy, and had to put my ranting and raving on hold for a bit. Assuming there’s still anyone out there interested in what I have to say, I’ll get right into it.

POLITICAL SHIFT

It’s weird. I used to be considered fairly conservative as recently as six years ago. As far as I can tell, my political views haven’t changed a jot, but I find myself increasingly accused of being a democrat. Maybe the fact that I’m fiscally conservative but socially liberal has something to do with it. Once upon a time, I identified more with republicans than democrats- especially in matters of the size and power of government vs the individual and fiscal policy. Oddly enough, my personal politics is still the same as it used to be, but republicans have drifted far from these original points of agreement. The past decade or so has shown that conservatives are no better at fiscal matters than liberals- and may even be worse, depending on your standard of measurement. Having lost this advantage over their foes, the republicans have been forced to stress the only things which really distinguish them from democrats- social policy.

This is not a winning strategy for republicans. In their zeal to demonstrate their socially conservative chops by espousing ever-more extremist positions, republicans are driving ordinary conservatives out of the fold, creating a huge number of conservative voters who are horrified at what has happened to their party. Contrary to the current republican positions (based upon the staggering number of pig-ignorant legislation coming from republican-dominated state legislatures and various extremist groups extracting pledges of ideological purity from national candidates), most people in the US really don’t give a rat’s ass what two consenting adults do in the privacy of their homes and think the government should stay out of everyone’s business- including the lady parts republicans suddenly seem to find so icky. I’m kind of in the same boat. Like the comedian said, “I can’t be a democrat because I like to keep and spend the money I make, but I can’t be a republican because I like to spend it on drugs and whores.”

The end result of this shift to the extreme right by the nominally conservative republicans is likely to be an electoral bloodbath this coming November. I really dislike single-party rule. History shows that such states tend to become very nasty, very quickly. I rather like it when neither side has a massive majority, for the same reason. Our government functions (to the extent it does function) by compromise, and compromise is hard to come by when one party or the other has an overwhelming vote advantage. So, republicans, if you want to avoid going the way the Whig party did, please come back from your extended sojourn into whackjob-land. The vast majority of the voting public will be waiting for you near the center, and I’ll be with them.

RESPONSIBILITY

I own several firearms. I’m licensed by the state where I reside to carry a firearm, and I often do. Carrying a firearm is a serious responsibility. By carrying a firearm, you are taking upon yourself the power to take a life. If you carry a firearm and are not willing to kill should it become necessary, you are essentially delivering a weapon to whomever is willing to take it from you. This is not acting responsibly. Likewise, the person who carries a firearm who goes out of his or her way to find an excuse to use it is not behaving responsibly. Your primary policy of self-defense should be a lifelong commitment to avoidance, deterrence, and de-escalation.

As a (hopefully) responsible gun owner, I am disgusted by the shooting of an unarmed young man by a self-appointed neighborhood watch volunteer in Florida a few weeks ago. The shooter’s actions did not involve avoidance, deterrence, or de-escalation, and a young man is unjustly dead. My personal opinion is that the shooter is guilty of murder, but I’m not sure it will be possible to convict him due to the poorly written laws in Florida regarding the use of lethal force. There are no winners in this incident, but there are lots of losers. Every single person or organization trying to make political hay out of the death of an unarmed young man has lost whatever vestiges of humanity they may have once had.

SYRIA

Bashar al Assad is proving to be less ruthless than his father in dealing with internal dissent. That said, his government’s actions have been overwhelmingly vicious over the past year since the so-called “Arab Spring” uprisings came to Syria. Where Hafez al Assad obliterated the city of Hama, sonny boy has only managed to butcher a few thousand people in the city. Bashar al Assad’s military is beginning to fracture as well, with entire units deserting or joining the uprising.

Syria’s government is not in a particularly good position. The whole world is watching, and Syria has several powerful neighbors who are distinctly unhappy with the slaughter in Syrian cities. Turkey is the big player in the immediate area, and the Turks are easily capable of crushing Syria militarily if provoked. The only thing preventing Syria from being completely isolated is the increasingly tepid support from Russia and China. I suspect Russia is supporting Syria out of a vague paternal feeling for a former client state, but even Russian and Chinese tolerance is growing strained by the continuing bloodshed. I hope Russia and China decide to exert some real pressure on Syria to find a less apocalyptic solution to their internal problem than the current policy of killing everyone in the general vicinity of anyone expressing mild disapproval of the Syrian government. Otherwise, Syria would likely end up a bloodier version of Libya.

Current status: Tired

Current music: Tango to Evora by Loreena McKennitt

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