Thursday, August 24, 2006

Charles - "Activist" Judges

Here is the problem I have with the term "Activist Judges": there are no such people. It could also be argued that every judge is an "activist judge" but there is no good argument for something in between. Why is this? First, let us look at some definitions from around the web:

From, the two types of judges are:
... a restrained judge who is a servant of the law, or an activist judge who is the master of the law. goes on to contend that the judge's role is to interpret the law, not write it. Hold on to that thought.

From a Seattle News opinion:
They ignore the plain meaning of texts to invent new rights. Superimposing their moral views onto their legal reasoning, they brazenly advance the cause of the fringe liberal elites in the culture wars. says that the term "Activist Judge" is being used as a code-word for liberal judges. I would agree that is how the Bush administration intended for it to be used and the strategy has worked wonderfully. So well that many people don't realize that it is a meaningless word.

Ok, so I've said it twice now, there is no such thing as an activist judge. The overriding idea behind a so-called activist judge is that they in some way actively go out and alter the legal landscape in their rulings. If this is what it means to be "activist" then every judge is an activist judge each and every time he/she hands down a ruling. It does not matter whether or not the judge upheld or overturned a particular case. It does not even matter if all the judge did was pass it on to a different court for jurisdictional reasons. Every action a judge makes, in any court, sets "Legal Precedent." What this boils down to is that no matter what decision is made, a judge's actions will affect future decisions with equal weight. No judge can be more active than another.

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Charles - Not without an Opinion

I have mostly been glossing over or past political issues other than those I feel relate to the goal of abolishing partisan politics. This has been by design as I felt that was more important than my personal political views on various other subjects. I am, however, not without such opinions and will periodically put those ideas out, as well, prefaced in the title with my name so it can easily be distinguished from the main goal of this blog.

To give you an idea of my political opinions and their history, I grew up in a town (city?) that was and still is rather conservative. The town is also a bit on the strange side as it has one of the highest number of graduate degrees (mainly Ph.D.) per capita. As a result, our schools were well funded and I grew up thinking it was normal to go to college and eventually end up getting either a Master's or Ph.D. My childhood exposure can be summed up as: well-educated, republican, Christian, sheltered. (Every one of my friends referred to our town as "The Bubble.")

Here is concise way of looking at my political views: The federal government should stay out of everything for which I can provide myself or can be provided by the Free Market. I want as small of a government as possible (that goes for State, as well). Things the federal government should provide: defense, foreign policy/trade administration, interstate trade monitoring, and various other trade monitors (i.e. FDA, FTC, etc.). Things the state/local governments should provide: education (but not to the exclusion of businesses that which to donate large sums of money), emergency services, various infrastructure requirements.

Guess what? This doesn't mean that all of my views end up conservative. Watch:

Here are a smattering of some of my more conservative viewpoints (what I view as "traditionally Republican"):
  • Minimum Wage - There is no point in increasing the minimum wage. Sorry, but it just isn't going to solve any long-term problem. Minimum wage is paid at places that serve the most basic services to us consumers (i.e. grocery stores, restaurants, etc.). If those companies are forced to pay higher wages, do you think they'll just let it eat into their profits? No - they will pass the loss on to the consumer, driving up the price of all of those basic commodities. So, those people trying to live on minimum wage will still have trouble making ends meet because the basic cost of living will have risen more or less in pace with their "raise." Economists have a term for this: Inflation.
  • Health Care - I do not want this country to ever provide "universal health care." Socialized medicine doesn't work in other countries (ask Canada - the rich there are trying to purchase more health care and being thwarted by the government), so why would it work here? I also don't feel like becoming a socialist country like most of central Europe. Medicare and Medicaid are disasters - creating an even larger program would be worse. What will work is to make some real reforms on medical malpractice and other tort reform. How does this work? Malpractice insurance and the cost of "covering one's behind" with extra tests are the major reasons that medical costs continue to soar. Fix those and it may actually be affordable.
  • Social Security - I don't trust it, don't expect it to be there when I retire, and I really would prefer to do away with this altogether (or allow me to opt out) so that I can take that money and invest it myself. Short of that, I would like to manage my own SS account much like I manage my (as yet non-existent) IRA.
Some of my more liberal/progressive viewpoints:
  • Morality - Here I'll lump abortion, gay marriage, right-to-die, etc. Just as I didn't want the government messing with my finances, I don't want them telling me what to do. It simply isn't their business. So long as an action does not infringe on the rights of another, the government has no reason to step in and legislate.
  • Privacy - Guess my answer here... Government keep out. I have a strict interpretation of the 4th amendment - no search and seizure without a warrant, period. This includes looking at my private conversations, monitoring my activities, and tapping my phone. Sure, I don't feel I have anything to hide but that really isn't the point. If the government feels they have a reason to put me (or anyone else) under such scrutiny, I insist they follow the constitution of our United States and get a warrant. Ironically, just a few years ago (pre-2001), Big Brother tactics like the Bush administration have been advocating would have been considered a conservative viewpoint.
Of course, those aren't the extent of my views but it gives you an idea of who I am. Now... talk amongst yourselves.


Sunday, August 20, 2006

Artificial Voters reports on new ideas to generate voter turnout in Arizona and Michigan:
Arizona will decide whether to make people who show up at the polls eligible for a $1 million jackpot. In Michigan, 80,000 people who’ve voted only sporadically were put on notice by a political consultant that, if they didn’t vote this year, they’d be outed as slackers to their friends and neighbors.
The best ideas that Michigan and Arizona could come up with for increasing voter turnout is a guilt trip or a lottery? Neither of these sound like a good idea. (They also sound rather ridiculous, but that is beside the point.)

A guilt trip probably won't work in the first place. Do you honestly think people will care if they are "outed as slackers?" Slate News describes the process (or something similar) as fliers being sent to many people telling them whether or not their neighbors have voted. The political consultant claims a "2% increase" in voter turnout, but I question if that is even statistically significant (probably isn't). Regardless, bullying or guilting voters to get them to the polls will only result in irate, resentful voters who didn't care enough on their own to go and vote.

Even worse is the idea of dangling $1 million in front of potential voters in an effort to get them to the polls. In this case, we wouldn't even end up with resentful voters but completely apathetic voters who just came in an effort to get in on the million dollar drawing. Their votes would probably lack any sort of thought behind them. In close elections, these random votes could tip the scale without any sort of intent to do so, putting an unintended official in office.

What angers me here is the promotion of uneducated voters. (I mean, of course, educated/informed about the issues on which they are voting and I am not commenting on their level of formal education.) Would I like to increase the voter turnout each year? Without a doubt, yes! However, I also want those votes to be thought about and to mean something to the individual casting the vote. (I'm sure there is some appropriate quote I could insert here.) Pushing uninformed voters to vote will only serve, in the long run, to distance and alienate more voters. Increasing voter turnout should come from promoting candidates that actually reflect their constituency’s views and from eliminating partisan bickering.

(Thanks to for the original link.)


Friday, August 18, 2006

Annoying the International Community

The following is an interesting look at the international community and the reasons America's Foreign Policy is resented:

From Moderate Why They Hate Us.

First, I would add this reason to the list of reasons for American Antipathy (which I left as a comment on their post): As long as the majority of eligible voters refuse to vote, we will probably never see an end to the global antipathy towards America. (Even the record 64% turnout in 2004 isn't inspiring and is hardly the norm...) When a large percentage of the population decides not to partake in democracy, not only does their collective voice go unheard, but to outsiders it seems as if we would rather allow our country to be run for us rather than by us.

If we don't care about America, why should anyone else? Hypocrisy is never looked on in favor. Additionally, continued voter apathy also allows extremists on the right and left to do as they please (further explained), which only maddens the world at large more.

The other source of antipathy, as I see it is this: wildly vacillating foreign policy. Many countries are still used to one sovereign ruler (dictator, etc.) ruling for many years, especially those in the Middle East. I am not saying that I dislike changing presidents every 4 or 8 years, but this does cause a problem when going between liberal and conservative parties (or even between two presidents of the same party). As I have pointed out, each has made themselves increasingly extremist and so our foreign policy gets whipped between two extremes. With the abolishment of partisan politics and the two-party system, any and all foreign policy would, by necessity, be a more tempered moderate view with smaller changes between presidents. I imagine that a more long-term foreign policy would have other benefits, too.

Ultimately, the United States of America must be a model for democracy from its citizenry to its leaders, showing a true belief in the power of common rule. As said by Edward R. Murrow, "We cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home."

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Tuesday, August 15, 2006

The Silent Majority

So far, my posts may seem to be slightly at odds with what I put in the header of this blog. If you read above, I mention what I call "the silent majority" in reference to the vast majority of Americans that I feel are being ignored due to their middle-of-the-road political views. My most recent post (before this one) specifically stated that a successful demolition of two-party system and its partisan politics would require all types of views, not just those of moderates. I argue that neither statement is wrong or at odds with the other. Indulge me:

The idea of the "silent majority" is that, over the years, the win/lose mentality of Americans has permeated politics. Even now, those fed up with President Bush's presidency are pushing for the Democrats to "win" the November elections. So what? That's been the story for years, right? The problem is that to consistently "win" an election, each party must try to make themselves different from the other. The result has been the Republicans pushing their policies ever more to the right to pander to the ultra-conservatives and the Democrats pushing their policies to the left, pandering to the ultra-liberals. Each claims they are reaching out to their "core demographic" and perhaps they are right. The problem is, though, that no one is reaching out to the core demographic in America - the Moderates (centrists, middle-of-the-roaders, call us what you will...). That the Moderates are never truly represented is part of the reason I refer to them (us) as "the silent majority."

The other reason for calling Moderates "The Silent Majority" is that that is generally what we are - silent. Not only are our views ignored but most of the time, Moderates don't bother to push their views. We either don't feel strongly about them or more likely, don't feel it's worth our time because we "know" we'll be ignored. The irony is, of course, if moderates voiced their opinion regularly, as a majority, we could not be ignored. I can't say for certain that moderates are the majority of Americans, but based on normal statistical distributions and a sampling of the views of my colleagues and friends, I think I can be safe in that assumption. There is also the consideration of the vast majority of Americans who do not vote. While some of that may be due to laziness, I can be relatively sure that the disaffected voters don't vote because they do not feel their voice is being represented by either major party candidate.

So why must the America Part include all Americans? To abolish partisan politics for good. Without the support of everyone, this cannot happen. Besides, if I what I said above is right, moderates and our varied views would rule the political landscape.

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Sunday, August 13, 2006

America Party Constituents

The composition of the America Party is an important thing to understand. Without careful definition of what it is and what it is not, the America Party would be nothing more than another of the myriad political parties in existence across America and would lack the power to break the stranglehold of partisan politics. The following distinctions are necessary to create a "party" capable of destroying partisan politics:
  1. The America Party is not a party of moderates. Were this true then it would be no different from the Democrats or Republicans, except that our membership would tend towards the nebulous "middle-ground." No, the party must allow (and encourage) people any and all viewpoints to run under the America Party banner. That way, our representatives would best reflect the districts (or states, etc.) that elected them. Just as American view span the political spectrum from left to right, so must the America Party candidates. Then, once they are on the ballot, it is up to the voters to decide.
  2. Those who purport themselves to be of the America Party must not simply desire to tow the party line and not think for themselves. In one way, this won't be hard: There will never be a "Party Line" on any issues with the exception of encouraging the demolition of partisan politics and creating free and open debate. Each candidate must be prepared to think for him/her self and, preferably, listen to their constituency.
Finally, for this concept to work, the concept of "winning" in politics must be abandoned. Ideologically, there are no victories or defeats in politics and there never have been, only compromises. Just because the media and other portray it differently does not make it true. Also, practically speaking, if the candidate chosen during the primary election does not exactly match someone's personal views, the America Party would never succeed if people felt they had "lost" the election and fled to vote for a more traditional party touting whatever it is they wanted to hear. The same goes for the candidates - they, too, cannot flee simply because they failed to get elected. Commitment is required for this concept to work.


Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Some Confirmation of Theory

Today a survey was released that confirmed, at least in part, my theory about the disaffected "moderate voters." As reported by, most Americans perceive the Republican controlled congress as a failure and the polls show that Democrats will likely take control in November. This part of the poll was not truly vindicated my views. It later reports that neither party, Democrat or Republican have the trust of a majority of those polled. When asked which party would "move the country in the right direction," 43% said Republicans and 41% said Democrats, a statistical tie (sampling error was 4.5%).

While didn't link to the original poll (and I am too lazy tonight to find it), I think it is safe to say that this supports my theory about neither party representing the majority of the country. A whole 15-20% (almost 10-30% if you include sampling error) of those polled didn't think either party would lead the U.S. in the right direction! Add to that that the question asked was asking between the two parties in power and I think this speaks for itself. What would have happened if offered a third, non-partisan choice? I'm not sure but I think we would have found a clear majority. Americans want a new choice and it is time to create that choice!

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Sunday, August 06, 2006

Civics Lessons from Video Games

While playing Civilization IV, I came across a quote from one of the founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin (for those interested, for each new technology researched an appropriately matched quote is read by Leonard Nimoy) :

Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.

I do not think that this quote needs much explanation as to why I chose it. It is as wise now as it was then and eerily apropos to current events in our country. All I will add is this: Living in fear is no way to live. (I'm sure someone has already said that, too.)

Interestingly enough, this was misquoted in Civ IV and I only found that out today (8/9/06). For more quotes from the wise statesman, founding father, patriot, and womanizer, take a look here:

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Saturday, August 05, 2006

Creating a New Party

Continuing from before:
So how could [getting rid of political parties] be done? By the creation of a new kind of party, one that does not align itself based on political leanings, but rather one that welcomes anyone who honestly wants to see positive change in our government. Left, right, center - as long as one is willing to listen to others, debate, and compromise, then he or she would be welcome in this new party.
What would you call such a party that is of the people, by the people, and for the people? What else?

The America Party.

Who could argue with that?

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Friday, August 04, 2006

Let's Start from the Very Beginning

To begin with, I think I should say what it is that brought me here in the first place:

A little over a year ago, a friend and I were having a long political discussion about the true state of the union. The first thing we agreed on was that America, politically speaking, stands at a cross-roads. What choices lay ahead for America? Either something happens to take America into a new wave of true democracy or we simply let the country slowly slip into a totalitarian state. In short, we will soon see whether the "Great Experiment" lives or dies.

I cannot nor will not lay the blame entirely on President Bush. The problem has existed far before his presidency; he is merely the latest and perhaps the most skilled thus far at manipulating the failings of the system. The problem I speak of is commented on at the top of this blog: partisan politics. Why do I choose to view this as the worst problem facing America? Because such a system does NOT represent the American public.

The root cause of partisan politics is the desire and the need to "win" the election. If you don't "win" the election (as if it were some sort of prize rather than a public trust), you are obviously a loser and, under our system, losers get nothing. As a rather logical response, people wishing to run for office have banded together to assist getting each other elected. The black and white win/loss system has fairly well guaranteed that only two parties can truly be in power at any time in history. (History reminder: parties that have been in power have included Federalists, Whigs, Republicans, and Democrats.) By itself this would probably not have caused major problems for our country. However, each party has decided that it will only support members who agree with the ideals put forth by the party leaders. This has, of course, caused the traditional "party lines" to form with the Democrats on the left and the Republicans on the right.

Warning, statistical reasoning ahead.

Even without any party leaders pushing the party further left or further right, a party generated in a two party system that aligns itself based on political dogma cannot accurately represent the general populous. The reasoning is that of simple statistical distributions: if one were to survey the general population to gauge their views as left or right, it could be reasonably expected that the results would be a bell curve centered on the center of the political spectrum (i.e. the majority of the population hold moderate viewpoints, just a little left or right of center). Were a second survey conducted asking respondents whether they identified more with the republicans or democrats, the results would logically show distributions with the average no longer in the center but skewed towards either the left or the right.

So what? How is that a problem? Well, the leaders of the party (left or right) are elected by the majority of that party alone, resulting in leftward leaning and rightward leaning leaders, neither of which support the majority viewpoint of the American Public. This problem has been compounded by the fact that voters tend to be galvanized into action (i.e. voting) by a leader seen as truly radical and thus, even further from the center. Both parties have learned that people towards the center of the political spectrum have become disenfranchised by a system that never produces a candidate with centrist views and, as such, has resulted in a very low voter turnout indeed.

The solution, then, is a simple one: Get rid of political parties forever. Practically speaking, however, this is nearly impossible since neither party in power right now has any incentive to see such a thing happen. So how could this be done? By the creation of a new kind of party, one that does not align itself based on political leanings, but rather one that welcomes anyone who honestly wants to see positive change in our government. Left, right, center - as long as one is willing to listen to others, debate, and compromise, then he or she would be welcome in this new party.

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