Saturday, August 27, 2011

Sim City: Election Time

Surprise, surprise, next year is election year so city council (my city--but it could be your city; for the purpose of this blogpost, it doesn't entirely matter) is undertaking a review of its operational expenses.  The population is growing (a good thing if your Sim Mayor) but unhappy due to high taxes and poor road conditions.  You've tried to quell the growing unrest by building a better Police Station and buying a new Art Gallery but discussions around getting the budget under control by moving to 2-week intervals for garbage collection and terminating the Christmas Lights expenditures have gone poorly.

Everything is on the table.

How do you cut out $7M from your Operating Budget so the citizenry doesn't face yet another increase in their property taxes?  For a detailed analysis go here.

After some healthy discussion, I'll give you my approach.

This post is now up for discussion.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Love Revolution

Ever since I started this blog, I knew eventually I would have to talk about "religion" at some point.  You can't start a blog that purports to put forward ideas and opinions for discussion and then not talk about "religion."  I've talked about politics, abortion, drugs...and now "religion."

Only how to talk about "religion" without fighting?  You see, "religion" is supposed to be about finding God. Which is why I guess I don't care too much for "religion."  I mean, if there is a God so amazing, so unfathomable, so on earth are we little humans supposed to think we could ever conceive of such a being...yet alone devise a way to find this Being.

But, I do believe in God.  And, I do believe in the possibility of knowing God.  And, at the same time, I reject "religion."  I think, religion over the centuries has done a great disservice to God.  The god of "religion" is not the God I know.

Now, it shouldn't come as much of a surprise to anyone that I am what you would call a "Christian".  As a Caucasian Canadian interested in "religion" there was a pretty good chance that I would fall in that camp.  But, let me tell you what it means to me when I say, "Christian."  In fact, I hesitate to say I am a "Christian" because of the cultural perceptions, and preconceived notions that puts into most people's minds.  So, let me redefine that term and then throw it out completely in favour of a better term.

A few years ago, I had the privilege of playing the role of Jesus for a Good Friday sketch at church.  We were able to use a scene from The Badlands Passion Play (which, if you ever have the chance to see--TAKE IT).  The scene starts just before Christ's crucifixion and, because of "The Passion of The Christ,"  has a renewed sense of familiarity.  In the scene Jesus addresses his disciples for the last time.  His words are recorded in John 13:34-35, "A new command I give you: Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."

The importance of these lines is paramount to Jesus' mission.  Jesus is not unaware of the events that are unfolding.  These are His marching orders--His last commands--His last will and testament.  "Guys," He is saying, "if you forget everything else, remember this, LOVE ONE ANOTHER."  He doesn't say, "Gays are going to hell."  He doesn't say, "shun the teenage single mom."  He doesnt' say, "Win the war on drugs at all cost."  He doesn't say, "God helps those who help themselves."  He says something altogether more difficult and more messy.  He says, "Love one another."

So, what is a "Christian"?  According to Jesus Christ (after whom we get the term Christian supposedly), it is a disciple who loves other disciples.  How do you know a disciple?  One who loves like Jesus loved.

I find it interesting that Jesus was despised by the religious people of his day.  With a message of love, why would the religious elite hate Jesus so much they wanted to see Him dead?  I think it is because loving like Jesus loved is revolutionary.  Jesus came to show us that God loves us and ANYONE can know God and you don't need a pastor or a priest to do it.  You just need to believe Jesus.  Jesus said that we could know God only through Himself, because He came from God--Jesus claimed to be God.

Well, if you're a religious leader your whole livelihood is now in question.  Anyone can come to God?  Simply by believing Jesus?  "Absurd."  "Nonsense."  Maybe Jesus still bugs religious leaders today. Could that be why there are so many "brands" denominations each with a different take that makes them better than the next "brand" (I think the development of denominations is slightly more historically complex, but I don't think the average non-churched person cares much for the mostly irrelevant nuances).  AND, I think Jesus would say, "Hogwash."  You are MY each other.

Loving like Jesus means being prepared to lay everything we think matters--everything that in fact we hold precious (denomination, ethnicity, culture, sexuality, comfort),--aside for the greater good of making sure that every person knows that God loves them.  In Jesus' economy what you were before meeting Jesus becomes irrelevant.  Because once you encounter Jesus you become His disciple.

And because love like that is so hard to master, most don't.  It is much easier to make a mold of what we think a "Christian" should look like and then fit everyone in it.  And, if you don't fit...well then, you musn't be a very good "Christian."  In fact, maybe you aren't a "Christian."  Just like that we go from love to judgement.  Just like that we water down Jesus to make him more palatable.  Just like that, we find "religion."

Religion judges and sets the limits of "who's in" and "who's out."  It's not the revolution that Jesus intended, but it is easier than unconditional love.  Revolutions are messy.  Much easier to give you a rule-book and let you carry on with your life.

Jesus never told any of His disciples to carry on with their lives.  He said, "follow me." Most of his original twelve disciples were martyred.  But, they were amazed along the way.  They knew God.  That's why Jesus came.  He showed His disciples how to know God through Him.  He told his disciples to love others because God is love.  Somehow, we've lost that love.

Know God, Know Love.  Maybe that's why I don't talk about religion...I know how far from the mark I really am.

God, I want a revolution.

This post is now up for discussion.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Living Large--A Review

For the past couple of weeks, I've had the opportunity to test drive a Ford F-150 EcoBoost.  Basically it's your regular standard 1/2 ton but instead of an 8 cylinder engine it's got a turbo-boosted 6 cylinder engine.  I honestly couldn't tell you if there's much of a difference between that and the 8 cylinder engine as my Kia Magentis is a 4-cylinder sedan.  For an informed review go here

It had been a while since I'd driven a big truck.  The last time I'd been in a Ford truck was in my tree planting days.  We had the V-10 Triton F-350's back then because we needed that power for all the off-roading with full loads required in the bush.  The EcoBoost I've been driving for the past week or so is a far cry from the utility vehicle we drove tree planting.  Fully leather heated/cooled seats with dual passenger air-conditioning; satellite radio, GPS, 6-directions to adjust your seat, adjustable steering wheel.  My biggest complaint is that in the truck I have, it doesn't look like the volume control/tuning device works from the steering wheel, so I actually have to adjust manually.  Woe is me.

The main difference I noticed between the F-150 EcoBoost and my Kia is the gas mileage.  Although the gas mileage is probably better than other similar 1/2 tons, it's still lower than what you would get out of a sedan.  But, if you need a bigger vehicle, then a sedan isn't going to cut it.

Later this week, I'll be taking my daughter on a roadtrip to the dump in the truck...she's been dying to go for a ride.  I'll let you know how easy it is to put in the child seats in the back...although, with the thought that appears to have gone into this vehicle, I don't expect too many issues with that.

All in all, the past couple of weeks have been fun.

I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts on a couple of issues: 
  1. Do you drive a truck? 
  2. Would you ever drive a truck?  Why or why not?
Lastly, I got the opportunity to drive this vehicle in exchange for a review here.  What are your thoughts on social media (blogs) being used as a marketing tool?  Although, I have free reign to write what I want--in the end, I do use my platform to talk about a vehicle I otherwise would not have had the opportunity to drive.  Is there an opportunity to do this (review vehicles) and still maintain the integrity of the blog--discussing/debating the larger questions?

This blog is now up for discussion

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Ethical Oil--Up in Smoke

The argument of "ethical oil" goes something like this:  Canada has a better human-rights record than nations such as Saudi Arabia or Iran; we have women's rights.  We have freedom and liberty.  So, Canadian oil is "better" than oil produced in these other countries.  The suspicion is that the only reason this argument exists is to make folks forget about the fact that tarsands oil production is very harmful to the environment.

This argument has been getting traction, but today, on Twitter, the creator of the notion of ethical oil, tweeted something that completely obliterates the entire ethical oil argument.  Ezra Levant, author of "Ethical Oil: The Case for Canada's Oil Sands", in response to the question of whether he advocated boycotting Saudi oil--it is after all unethical oil--answered, "Impossible to do: they have too big a % of world supply & reserves. plus price would double."

So, ethical oil is a false dichotomy.  The only way oil could possibly be ethical would be if it were possible to eliminate unethical oil.  Simply naming Canadian oil "ethical" does nothing to suggest that Iran, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Sudan, Iraq, Nigeria, Libya or Russia will anytime soon become human-rights honouring, democratic bastions of liberty.  Unless and until Canada completely eliminates imports of oil from the aforementioned "dirty" countries, we have absolutely no moral superiority on which to stand.

If we think for a moment, that we have something better to offer, the best way to do it is not to label another country "unethical" but to acknowledge our own weaknesses and work to improve them.  Canada has much greatness to offer.  That we have stooped to make ourselves look good by making someone else look bad is childish.  It's the worst form of bullying.  Every parent tells their kids that when you make someone look bad to make yourself look good you just end up looking bad yourself.

This is what Canada has done with ethical oil.  We have a problem.  It's pollution.  And, in order to make ourselves feel better (and to make ourselves more appealing to our largest trading partner--the United States) we decided that rather than address our problem, we would look for someone worse than us and point out how bad they are; thereby making us look good.

Shame on us.  When did we become a bully?  Is this how we want to contribute to healing our world?

Without the oil from all of the "evil" countries, our industrial complex would completely shut down.  So, we need their oil; ours is no more ethical.  It's just oil.  One day every government will have to find alternatives to oil.  If Canada were to provide an alternative to oil right now, then THAT would be ethical.  Until that time, wouldn't Canada be better served to foster good relationships with all our global partners.

One day, we may not be the top kid on the block.  When that day comes, how will the unethical Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Venezuela remember us?  Will they remember us as the bully who pushed their face in the mud?  Or will we be the ones who always sought to foster open lines of communication?  Will we be the ones who address our own issues--until we do that, we have no moral superiority.

Scandalous Saturday--Joey Barton and Breasts

Recently, I asked my Facebook friends if there were any topics that they would like to see "Up For Discussion."  Two topics were given that, at first glance, seem unrelated.  However, upon further investigation, a linkage has been found.

Joey Barton is seldom confused with his namesake Joe Barton. Until now.  If you examine the dates closely, you will notice that only two years prior to Joe Barton being elected to the United States Congress, Joey Barton was born.  Where was Joe at that time?  Well, Wikipedia doesn't say, but if you examine the WikiLeaks papers you will see that Joe spent a significant period of time in England during this time.

What else could possible account for the violent behaviour of Joey Barton except the knowledge that your birth-father abandoned you to a life of fame and fortune as a footballer only to become a card-carrying Tea Party member.  What else you ask?  One other little known fact.

Joey Barton has, by all accounts, an aversion to breasts.  Specifically breasts being used to give life to infants. A little known fact about every altercation he's been in is that in the stands, at the very time he lashes out at fans and players alike, there has been a mother innocently breastfeeding her newborn.  What a mother is doing with a newborn at a rowdy football match is a subject for another day--but, this outrage, combined with the unfortunate fact that Joey's never gotten over being abandoned by Joe, has led to countless violent outbursts.

If time permits, we'll go into further detail about the correlation between these events--as well as the growing suspicion that breastfeeding in general is a causal agent of road-rage.  Evidence of this is the numerous accidents caused by male drivers gawking at women breastfeeding their babies on sidewalk benches.  If only these mothers would cover up so that the only accidents occuring would be those caused by the mini-mini or the disappearing top.

So, thank you loyal readers for enlightening me to the hitherto unknown relation of Joe, Joey and breastfeeding in public and allowing this hidden taboo to be brought "Up For Discussion."

Thursday, August 11, 2011

I'll See Your Sham-Wow and Raise You an Ionic Foot Bath

The Ex is on in Saskatoon this week.  We only call it the Ex because we don't actually know how to spell "exhibition" anymore.  I digress, and I haven't even started yet.

As you go to the Ex this week, you will inevitably walk through the halls of various folks selling everything from full on spa's, motorhomes to tasty treats.  Until last year, I primarily viewed the voyage from entrance to rides that passes through this area as nothing more than a nuisance.  Don't veer to the left or the right, head straight to the rides.  Not so this year.

This past January, I lost my comfortable salary when I was laid off from a management role with a national company.  For me, going on EI was not an option, as living off 55% of my salary would not pay any bills, so I took a job as a "pitchman."  In truth, it wasn't completely foreign to me.  One of my first jobs was selling 2 for 1 coupons door to door for Moon Lake Golf Course.  That job eventually led to me selling coupons door-to-door for Firestone in Miami, Florida.  So, in some ways this was a return to my roots.

What I didn't know was the tour world of the pitchmen.  Pitchmen are paid to sell whatever product is the "hot commodity" at the time.  Correction.  Pitchmen are paid "if" they sell whatever product is hot at the time. Every pitchman/woman works for 100% commission.  Most of the time they are making between 20-30% of whatever it is that they are selling.  This is either highly lucrative or incredibly frustrating.

Imagine you are the fellow selling the Ionic Foot Bath for $1600.  Sure, you only need to sell a couple a day...but there's a few things against you from the start.  The questionable science behind the product or the fact that, in this case, apparently if you look hard enough you can apparently buy the product direct from the US for a fraction of the cost of buying it at a Home Show (that's what Frank told me a few folks had informed him at the Home Show in Edmonton).

As a pitchman though, you don't have a say as to what product you are selling.  You get put on a product and you sell it until the company decides to put you on another product...or you quit and move to another company.  Last I saw Frank, he wasn't selling the Ionic Foot Bath anymore, he was selling kids toys and lighters at the St. Albert Rainmaker Rodeo.  Next stop for Frank--Okanagan Fresh Fruit sales.

Some pitchmen though, do very well for themselves.  The Sham-wow guy went from the "circuit" to infomercial (the Promised Land of the pitchman).  A friend of mine from my coupon selling days, now has his own it can be done.  Although, not every super successful pitchman needs an infomercial.

But, the reality is that for every one success story there are literally hundreds, if not thousands that leave penniless.  It's not an easy living.  From Ex to Ex in the summer...Home Show to Home Show in the winter.  Weeks on the road at a time living in cheap hotels working 10-12 hour days...when the money is good, it's really good...and when it's bad...well, hope you saved.

So, this week, as you walk through Hall E on your way to the rides; look around, if you find something you like...spend some extra money and help keep someone's dream alive.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Canada Has No Abortion Laws...what?

As I was thinking about how to write my follow up to the previous post, I figured it might be best to include some stats and some history.  I assumed that our history must have mirrored the US in some capacity.  There must have been some great legal battle in which the right to abortion was forever enshrined in the constitution or something.  So, it came as a great shock to me to learn that we have no laws about abortion whatsoever.  It is as legal in Canada to have an abortion in the first month as it is in the 9th month.  There appear to be no age restrictions; no need for parental consent for anyone under is a wasteland of no law whatsoever.  For a very good discussion of how this came to be I recommend Andrew Coyne's article "It's time to talk about abortion".

I am not interested in rehashing the arguments about the legalization of abortion.  I believe that many of the claims of the pro-abortion (they prefer pro-choice...and you've just gained a glimpse into my leanings) side are probably true.  For that side of the argument please read this article: "Canada Does Not Need an Abortion Law".  What I am interested in is examining the difference between legality and morality.

The abortion argument has so far centered around its legality.  Andrew Coyne argues persuasively that the lack of a law--or better yet, the reluctance to debate the issue detracts from our democratic society.  The author of the pro-abortion article argues that we do not need a law because our history is different than the rest of the western world and that the statistics of the numbers of abortions performed is similar or better than those countries.

What are those statistics? 14.1 women out of 1,000 have abortions every year.  How many abortions is that? Well, the last year I could find numbers for was 2005 in which 96,815 abortions were performed, which was down from the all time high of 111,526 in 1997.  Statistically this is better than the US and only slightly worse that Western Europe AND, apparently the majority of abortions occur prior to 20 weeks.  In fact, only .3% of abortions occur after 20 weeks.

What is the significance of 20 weeks?  That is when the baby (fetus as some would like to say) would be able to live outside the womb; in medical speak "it is when the fetus becomes viable.  So, almost 99% of abortions happen prior to then.  In Canada, prior to 1988, it used to be that if you wanted an abortion a panel of three doctors had to agree that carrying to term would endanger the mother's life and health.  That law was struck down because not every hospital had a panel.  No law replaced it and so the fact is that in Canada, if you want an abortion at 15 weeks you can have it.  24 weeks?  No problem.  36 weeks?  Just ask.  Ah, but only .3% have them after 20 weeks.  In real numbers, of the estimated 3 million babies that have been aborted since 1969 that equates to 900 babies.

Now, without inflating the rhetoric any further, I would like to move the discussion from the realm of the legal into the moral for just a moment.  I do this because if I begin to ruminate on how we as a society can allow for the deaths of 900 (let alone the 2.99 million that had not yet reached 20 weeks) of our would-be citizens, I will lose those readers who as of yet do not view these fetuses as lives but rather as solely fecal matter.  And so it is expedient to move into the realm of morality.  Even if Canada at some point in the future decides to join the rest of the modern world and give guidelines on how to administer abortions, there will no doubt be no consensus.  Even if we decide, like all the rest of the modern world, to make abortions illegal in the 3rd trimester, there will still surely be some who disagree.  For this reason, I agree to some extent with the pro-abortion camp.  Regardless of the law, people will do what people will do.  If there is enough perceived gain in having an abortion then an abortion will be had.

So, what is the gain in Canada of having an abortion?  Let's eliminate for a moment the cases where the mother's life is in danger (approximately 2.8%).  In those cases, there is almost unanimous agreement that an abortion is acceptable. Let's also eliminate the cases where the pregnancy is a result of rape (approximately 4.7%).  That leaves us with approximately 92.5% of abortions that are performed for a variety of other reasons.  Of the 96,815 abortions performed in Canada in 2005 that is 89,554 abortions that were chosen out of convenience.  So, from a moral perspective it does come down to choice.  Do you live by the Golden Rule, "Do unto others as you would have them do to you"? Or, do you live by the "me first" axiom of our modern generation.  That's your choice.

So what is the point of all this?  My goal here is two-fold.  It is not to force anyone to keep a baby that they don't want to keep.  Although I personally believe a baby is alive from the point of conception, I realize that many highly intelligent, well-meaning folks reading this will disagree.  And, our government doesn't legislate morality.  When was the last time we had a law about adultery?  So, should we legislate abortion?  Maybe.  But, as the pro-abortionists point out, a law against abortion is no guarantee that abortion rates will decline and, although I could point out numerous differences between Canada and Africa (the place with the highest number of abortions) that's a rabbit-hole for another day.

My contention is the following: in the absence of a law regarding abortion, (excepting the cases where the mothers life is in danger and even those cases where rape is involved), why are these voluntary procedures covered by Medicare?  No government has ever released the actual costs of performing abortions but the estimates are that each abortion costs roughly $800.  Why are the folks receiving the elective procedures not footing the bills themselves?  The total amount the taxpayer spends on abortion is roughly $80M/year.  $80,000,000 every year on abortion.What is the difference between this electoral procedure and plastic surgery for example?  If folks must have abortions--why do I have to pay for them?

And again, lest you think I am heartless and would force these women to become mothers.  Adoption is and always has been an option.  Many of the pro-life camp have done life a disservice by attempting to threaten and intimidate women into not having abortions rather than empathizing with them and providing them with viable alternatives...I do NOT condone firebombing or any form of violence.  If governments won't fund adoption, pro-life groups MUST come up with ways of caring for the lives of not just the unborn, but also the traumatized pregnant mothers who see no options.  Both lives are important.

Legally, it would be nice if we could democratically decide what we want to do in terms of reproductive issues.  Morally, we'll never all agree and it isn't my intent to force my beliefs on anyone.  But, pragmatically, I ask, why is the taxpayer footing the bill to provide elective surgeries that provide no overarching societal benefit?  I can't walk into any drugstore in this country and get any type of contraceptive that I want--and yet, we still allow publicly-funded abortions to be used as a form of contraception.  Why is that?

This topic is "Up For Discussion."

Friday, August 5, 2011

Pro-Life vs Pro-Choice--ever notice they don't talk much?

After I wrote my last blog/rant on legalization (actually, the larger point I was making was personal liberty/responsibility) I was pleased to have an old friend comment that it was refreshing to have a blog that encouraged debate as that sort of thing doesn't happen too often anymore--especially in our demographic.  My friend was of course kindly including me in her demographic so let's just say we're talking about 30ish-40ish.

The Pro-Life/Pro-Choice debate is so intense, it really is an addition to the list of things you just don't talk about: politics, religion and abortion.  Tell me your stand on abortion and I'll tell you your politics.  Tell me your religious views and I'll tell you your stand on abortion (or maybe not) maybe they're all wrapped up together.

However, what gets me about all hot-topic items is how quickly a "discussion" devolves into labeling.  And, this applies equally to both camps.  Didn't anyone ever tell these people that whenever you back someone into a wall, they are less and less likely to listen to your point of view--let alone consider it?  

So, if you've been reading my previous few entries, you'll see that I am big on small government; fan of personal freedom and liberty and a believer in helping those who need our help.  Based on what you know so far, where do you think I stand on the pro-life/pro-choice spectrum?  I am curious to get your input...and then  once I "reveal" my position, I would welcome a respectful discussion with folks of both sides.  All of this in the belief that it is important to learn from each other and challenge the status quo.  Thank you to my friends for encouraging the discussion.

This post is up for discussion.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Free Crack Pipes?

I heard today about a decision that Vancouver is making to expand its free injection zone sites and begin handing out free crack pipes.  I disagree with this move.  But not for the reasons that most do.  Although, I did hear an interesting take on the radio from David Berner.  From what I heard, his take is that this move to hand out crack pipes is a misguided aim at harm-reduction; a "silver-bullet" if you will, and that the larger unspoken goal is to move towards legalization of marijuana and perhaps other drugs.

Whether that is true or not, I can't say--it is after all an unspoken goal and I am far from the inner circles of drug legislation.  Now, this next bit that I am about to write will polarize people into one camp or another and so before I write that, I need to explain a few things first.

I believe in personal liberty.  I believe in personal responsibility.  I believe that we have given up too much of our personal liberty to the government and now we expect our government to do things that really are none of their business in the first place.  I believe it is our individual responsibility to help make this world a better place.  I think we too often expect the government to step in and solve issues that really can only be solved by individuals taking back control of their own communities.

How much do I value private liberty?  I believe that if a person doesn't want to wear a motorcycle helmet, they should be allowed to not do so.  I think that to not wear a helmet would be idiotic, moronic and sheer lunacy--but if you want to endanger your life--so be it.  Now, on the flip side, if while riding your motorcycle without a helmet you sustain a head injury then I don't think it is the governments responsibility to pay for your recovery.

Same thing for smoking.  You want to smoke?  Go ahead.  But don't expect the government to pay for your lung cancer treatment...or, if they do, then ensure that your premiums are jacked high enough to cover the cost--just like your life insurance policy.

We have given our freedom away by allowing the government to pass laws that protect us.  But really, why should we need those laws?  Oh, because we insist on paying for the morons who want to do things that will inevitably harm them.  We won't actually deny a person coverage for stupidity...nor would we then ask them to foot the, we spend money hiring people to pass laws; we spend money hiring people to enforce laws; we spend money to hire people to defend the laws in court.

Now, if you haven't figured out where I'm going with this, then you haven't been paying attention.  We were talking about drugs.  Drugs are illegal.  Why are they illegal?  Because they harm people.  But, every person that ever puts a joint to their lips--just like a cigarette or a bottle--has chosen to do that.  Why is it the governments responsibility to say what we as individuals should or should not do?

And, for the record, I do not use drugs of any sort.  I don't smoke.  I do drink from time to time.  We've spent countless millions putting drug addicts in jail.  All the while the cost of drugs has sky-rocketed so that the criminals are the ones getting rich...and all because we have abdicated the responsibility of looking after ourselves to the government.  So much so that now we are actually using tax-payer money to give free needles and crack-pipes to the addicts.

When are individuals going to start taking responsibility for their own actions?  If an addict wants to quit, an addict will quit.  Will it be easy? No.  Will he/she require support?  Absolutely.  Is the government in the best position to provide that support?  I doubt it.

Changing the drug culture in Canada is not going to happen overnight, but I believe it has to start with a realization that the criminals are NOT the drug users.  Legalize drugs and legislate them.  Divert the money we are currently spending fighting a losing battle into prevention, education and treatment.  And, prosecute the real criminals, dealers and importers, just like we do bootleggers.  Make drugs just like alcohol or tobacco.

Now, having written this blog/rant, I realize that some might read this and think that I advocate irresponsible behavior.  Where does the liberty end?  Your personal liberty ends the moment it infringes on another person.   As such, laws regarding speeding, driving while using a cellphone or driving while under the influence are absolutely within the governments prerogative because doing either of those things puts others at risk.

Any action that will not cause harm to another person need not be legislated by the government.  I am all for good government; however I believe our government has been given too much responsibility in too many areas that should not be governmental responsibility.  What should the role of government be in terms of addiction, substance-abuse and harm reduction?  Perhaps the best way a government can help is by finding ways of empowering individuals to make a difference in the lives of individuals.  There are folks who care--let's give them the tools and the power to help others.

I think I'll stop there.  This is up for discussion.

Monday, August 1, 2011

US Government: Of the people? By the people? For the people?

Yesterday, the US government avoided defaulting on its debt and agreed to raise the debt ceiling. Most folks are calling this a victory for the Republicans and/or Tea Party and the consensus seems to be that Obama gave up far too much.  In fact, most are saying that this victory is in fact no victory at all.

In 1863, Abraham Lincoln gave the greatest American speech to date.  In that speech, he was able to transcend sides and bring all Americans back to the reason their country was founded in the first place:
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

I'm not suggesting that the Debt Crisis is Gettysburg-like in its significance.  However, there are two sides that are deeply entrenched in their positions and, if recent commentators on the debt deal are correct, those positions are as polarized now as before.  What would economic collapse mean to America?  It is a crisis.  It is a crisis that will require all sides working together.

Is there a focal point that the American people can look back to and be reminded that, at one time, they had a shared vision, a shared dream?  As the great melting pot--does such a place in history exist?  What is the "four score and seven years ago" of current day USA?

If such a place exists, is there anyone in politics today that can call that time into focus.  Who will bring the people back to their shared mission?  Is there a desire among people to serve a good greater than themselves?  Is the government still actually of the people, by the people and for the people?  Or is it now solely of the special interests groups who pay lobby the politicians most successfully?

Would Lincoln look on America today and declare that the dead at Gettysburg had died in vain?  Would he suggest that 150 years was "good enough?"