Posted by: nhfalcon | May 25, 2009

Now If I Were President…

Hey, just because we’re closer to Father’s Day than Halloween doesn’t mean I can’t scare the shit out of people, does it? 🙂

Here’s how I’d run for President:

Philosophy and Party Affiliation – my basic philosophy of running the country would be probably be described by James MacGregor Burns as more Hamiltonian than Jeffersonian or Madisonian. I say this because of the Hamiltonian model’s aspiring to be above partisanship and to rely on the Constitution and public opinion for support. After all, is this not supposed to be a “government… of the people, by the people (and) for the people“?

I would not, however, want to blindly ignore Congress, nor would I consider myself to be above the law. 

As far as party affiliation goes, I would run as an independent.

Why?

First, as I researched many of the various issues and discovered where I stood on them, I found myself not nearly so right-of-center as I once believed myself to be. Yes, I still consider myself to be more Republican than Democrat, more conservative than liberal, but I’m definitely closer to the left than I once considered myself to be, particularly in regards to some social issues.

Second, because I have often stated in the past that I believe party politics is a large part of what screws up this country in the first place, and I still deeply believe that. There are far too many people who are far too worried about doing what’s right for Republicans or doing what’s right for Democrats and nowhere near enough people worried about doing what’s right for America regardless of what end of the political spectrum the good ideas are coming from. Why can’t we get past this partisan politics b.s.? Allow me to quote some prominent American political figures to back me up on this one:

“Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future.” – John F. Kennedy

“There is nothing I dread so much as a division of the Republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader and converting measures in opposition to each other.” – John Adams

“The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of public liberty.

Without looking forward to an extremity of this kind (which nevertheless ought not to be entirely out of sight), the common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest  and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.” – George Washington

I rest my case.  

General Platform – first of all, I will not engage in any type of negative campaigning. No mudslinging, no character smearing, no attack ads, nothing. I, for one (and I’m willing to bet I’m in the majority here), am sick and tired of listening to candidates try to swing my vote by making their opponents look bad rather than by trying to make themselves look good. Don’t tell me what your opponent has done wrong – tell me what you’re going to do right! Don’t tell me how he or she caused the problem – tell me how you’re going to fix it!

I’d like to give the American voter the benefit of the doubt and consider him or her to be educated about the candidates, their history, voting record, and stances on the issues, and therefore already know what my opponent(s) has done in the past. Given that, I believe what the American voter wants to know from me is what am I going to do in the future.

I’d also like to try to bring some respect back to the office. Think about it for minute. The office of President of the United States of America is obviously the most powerful office in this country, but it is also arguably the most powerful office in the world. Yet when candidates for that office hit the campaign trail, they act like third-graders fighting on the playground at recess: “Hey, you did this!” “Oh, yeah? Well, you did that!” “She said this…” Disgusting, and I won’t be a part of it. Let’s bring some dignity back to the proceedings, ok?

Second, and far more importantly, my responsibility as President of the United States of America is to make life better for Americans! No, we cannot be an isolationist state. It didn’t work in the 1930’s, and it won’t work today. With 21st-century technology, everything is global now – communications, the economy, everything. That being said, my priority is to make life better for Americans before I worry about the citizens of the rest of the world. With all due respect to the tragedies and injustices occurring in places like Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, and south of our border, as long as there is starvation, homelessness, joblessness, and crime in America, those other nations are going to have to wait for American aid.

I would look for a smaller government, a far less expensive government, an emphasis on a leaner, meaner, even more highly trained military to be used for our national defense, and more resources allocated for internal law enforcement. We need to find a way to make American products competitive with their international counterparts in terms of both quality and affordability. We need to find a way to make American workers more attractive than foreign ones to American companies. We need to find a way to keep more American children in school, to perform better while they’re there, and to make a post-high school education more affordable. We need to find a way to make sure every American has a roof over his head, food in his belly, clothes on his back, a job to go to, and an affordable place to go to if he gets sick or injured.

America First – two things fall under this heading:

 1) I would advocate for making English the official language of the United States of America. Surprisingly, it is not. In fact, the U.S. does not have an official language. However, as of 2005 81% of Americans five or older spoke only English at home. At the same time, Spanish was spoken in only 12% of American homes. The demand for Spanish (among many other languages) to be available everywhere is a case of a small group making noise far out of proportion to its true numbers. Bottom line: if you want to live in America, learn how to speak English. If I were to move to France, I wouldn’t expect all the French to learn English – I would expect myself to learn French.

2) Illegal immigration needs to be massively curtailed – NOW! Understand that my problem is with illegal immigration. I am not a xenophobe or a racist. If you want to become an American, then please, come on over. All I ask is that you do so legally. A specific plan to deal with illegal immigration that I like was proposed a few years back by Senators John McCain and Ted Kennedy. The actual plan can be seen here. A basic summary can be seen here.

I don’t care where you came from. I don’t care what you look like. I don’t care what your native tongue is. I don’t care what religion you practice. If you want to become an American, then welcome. Just do it legally, and learn to speak the language.

National Defense – understand that I am not anti-military, anti-violence, or anti-war. In a perfect world violence would never be necessary to resolve any type of conflict. Unfortunately we live in a far from perfect world, and sometimes the application of violence through military might is the only option. However, this country’s military spending is out of control. The amount of money we allocate to our national defense is far out of proportion to the money we allocate towards anything else, far out of proportion to what any of our likely enemies spend on their national defense, and far out of proportion to the need.

The Cold War is over. The Soviet Union is dead. The majority of the countries that were in the Warsaw Pact are now members of NATO. The Berlin Wall is down. We no longer need any more anti-missile defense systems or ballistic missile submarines, any more aircraft carrier battle groups or fleets of strategic bombers. To give a more specific example, the F-22 Raptor (which costs $350 millioneach!)and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (aka the Lightning II) are luxuries, not neccessities. The F-14, F-15, F-16F-18 and A-10 are at least the equal of anything anybody else can put into the sky (such as the MiG-29, MiG-31, Su-37, and Su-25 & the Chengdu J-10, PAC JF-17, and Xian JH-7) and they are flown by better pilots.

According to GlobalIssues.org, the United States allocated $711 billion dollars to military spending in 2008 – 48% of the world’s $1.473 trillion worth of military spending. To put that into perspective (according to GlobalIssue’s numbers), the U.S. spent more than the next 46 highest spending countries combined. We spent 5.8 times more than China ($122 billion), 10.2 times more than Russia ($70 billion), 98.6 times more than Iran, and 55 times more than Iran, Cuba, Libya, North Korea, Sudan, and Syria combined. The eight aforementioned countries spent a combined total of roughly $209 billion – 29% of what the U.S. spent.

Military spending is an enormous chunk of the federal budget. According to the Friends Committee on National Legislation, President George W. Bush’s proposed Fiscal Year 2009 budget allocated 44.4% of its spending to military-related matters. By comparison, 19.7% went to health care, 11.8% went to “responses to poverty,” 2.5% went to science, energy, and the environment, and 2.2% went to education and jobs.

This is unnecessary and it is unacceptable. We can obviously pare down the military budget significantly and still field a fighting force second only to China in terms of size and second to none in terms of effectiveness. I would propose a military that would be smaller, but it would be more highly-trained than any other and still armed and equipped with cutting-edge technology. I would also propose a military that would be used for national defense. No more invading foreign countries. No more toppling foreign regimes. No more nation building. We will use our military in response to perceived threats to our citizens, our properties, and our interests. We will reserve the right to exercise pre-emptive strikes (via air, cruise missile, and special operations deliveries) as a method of self-defense.

I would continue the War on Terror. As I’ve mentioned here before, however, I would wage it in a different way. Yes, I would pull our troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan. However, I would have the country’s various special operations forces on war footing 24-7 and our various intelligence agencies constantly looking to identify and locate anti-American terrorists. When those terrorists are found, regardless of where they are in the world, our SpecOps teams would launch with orders to shoot to kill on sight.

I would also expand the War on Terror in this sense – narcotics traffickers would be considered terrorists. Whether it be cocaine from Latin America cartels or heroin from the Sicilian mafia, Mexico, Columbia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the Golden Triangle, the producers and smugglers of illegal narcotics would be as squarely in the sights of the U.S. military as al-Qaeda.

If you’re wondering where I stand on waterboarding and other “enhanced interrogation techniques” being used in the War on Terror, I’m all for them – if the situation warrants them.

Right now I’m sure you’re saying something along the lines of “If? What the hell do you mean, if?!

Here’s the deal: any intelligence agent worth his or her salt will tell you that nine times out of ten torture (let’s just call it what it is, ok? Even I have a hard time with the phrase “enhanced interrogation techniques”) is worthless. Far more often than not the person being tortured is not necessarily telling you what you want to know – s/he’s telling you what s/he thinks you want to know. Ploys like drugs, sensory deprivation, sleep deprivation, bribery, blackmail, “good cop / bad cop” scenarios and so forth are generally much more effective than torture.

However (you knew that was coming, didn’t you?), those methods take time, and there are occasions where you don’t have the time, or at least don’t believe you have the time, to wait for those techniques to take effect. That’s when torture kicks in. If you believe that you need the information NOW in order to save American lives and that no other form of interrogation is going to get your subject to break, then I have no problem with you using torture to get what you need.

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 Law Enforcement– being an 80’s child, I’ll always remember the following voiceover from the Queensryche song “Empire” – “In Fiscal Year 1986 to ’87, local, state, and federal governments spent a combined total of $16.6 billion on law enforcement. Federal law enforcement expenditures ranked last in absolute dollars and accounted for only 6% percent of all federal spending. By way of comparison, the federal government spent $25 million more on space exploration (emphasis mine), and 43 times more on national defense and international relations than on law enforcement.”

“But that was over twenty years ago”, you may be saying. Well, President Obama’s FY 2010 federal budget proposal allocates $23.9 billion out of $3.55 trillion to the Department of Justice, just over 6.73% of the total budget. $20.3 billion was budgeted for the DoJ by G. W. Bush’s last budget for FY ’09 out of $3.1 trillion, a percentage of just about 6.55%.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Simply throwing money at the problem isn’t going to fix it. The money needs to be spent wisely. Nevertheless, I don’t think it’s a bad idea to pay our law enforcement officials more, to hire more of them, to give them better training, and to give them the best possible equipment. I think it makes more sense to reason that the average American citizen is more worried about his or her neighborhood or home being safe from a burglar, rapist, or murderer than he is worried about an attack from China, Russia, Iran, or North Korea, or even from al-Qaeda.

Gun Control – I don’t have a problem with people owning guns, even if they’re handguns or semi-automatic versions of military firearms. I don’t have a problem with people carrying said weapons concealed on their persons. However, I also don’t have a problem with making people wait until law enforcement has done a thorough investigation on somebody before they are allowed to have a firearm.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – a gun is an unthinking, uncaring, unfeeling tool, nothing more. It in and of itself does not kill. It takes a human being to do that. Putting a moratorium on guns in general is not going to prevent somebody who really wants one from getting one, so why bother? Vet the human wanting the gun, not the gun itself. I think the previously proposed 30-day waiting period is perfectly acceptable, as it allows law enforcement to do a thorough investigation into an individual’s criminal and mental health record to determine if he or she should be allowed to own a gun.

Prostitution & Marijuana – “Whoa,” I’m sure you’re saying right about now. “How did these two things get on the list, and why are they lumped together?”

Simple – they are both currently activities that are illegal in the United States that I think should be legalized.

Yes, that’s right, I said legalized. Legalized, regulated, and then taxed the living daylights out of (there, how liberal is that?! 🙂 ).

Yes, I’ve smoked pot (a couple of times, long ago), and, unlike former president Bill Clinton ( 😉 ), I even inhaled it. I have a couple of close friends who smoke pot on a regular basis, and guess what? They’re gainfully employed! Intelligent! Articulate! Thin! They’re not extras from a Cheech & Chong film! Look, if alchohol and tobacco are going to be legal in this country, then pot should be, too. It causes far fewer deaths than either of the other two vices, and if they’re legal, then pot should be legal.

“What about the other drugs?” you may be asking. “You’re advocating assassinating cocaine and heroin smugglers, but want to legalize marijuana? Isn’t that hypocritical?”

No, it’s not. Maybe I’m just out of touch, but when was the last time you heard of somebody so desperate for another joint that they were willing to do anything – anything! – just to get another toke?

According to one Harvard visiting professor in 2006, legalizing pot could save the United States $7.7 billion in law enforcement costs and generate $6.2 billion in tax revenue if it were taxed at the same level as tobacco and alchohol.

As far as prostitution goes, it is legal in Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, France, Finland, Denmark, Italy, Bulgaria, Rhode Island, and most of Latin America. It is legal and regulated in Germany, Austria, Hungary, parts of Australia, and parts of Nevada.

I believe that if you legalize and regulate it, you’ll eliminate a lot of the problems that are typically associated with it. For example, you’ll eliminate the pimp from the equation, which will significantly lower, if not completely eliminate, the violence committed against prostitutes. You’ll pretty much ensure that the only women who are prostitues are the ones who choose to be prostitutes. You’ll significantly reduce, if not completely eliminate, the transfer of STDs via prostitution.

Finally, I’m willing to bet you’d generate an enormous amount of money in tax revenue.

Economy – this is where I likely come down the furthest on the right-wing side of the political spectrum. I believe in a free-market, capitalist economy. I believe in the theory that if you work hard and play by the rules you will be rewarded, and that if you don’t you will be punished. That is the economic priciple this country was founded upon and is the basis for that ideal known as “The American Dream.”

Does that theory always work the way it’s supposed to 100% of the time? Of course it doesn’t – because it’s a theory. Once you involve the human element into the equation, all bets are off. Of course the system can fail on occasion. Of course it can be manipulated sometimes. Look at the economic situation we’re in now. Look at where we were back during the G.H.W. Bush-Clinton crossover years. Look at the Great Depression. The Long Depression. The depression that followed the Panic of 1837.

Nevertheless, despite the comparitively rare occasions when capitalism fails, isn’t it curious that more and more countries use it as their economic policy? Take a look at socialism for a moment. Socialism is almost always the economic policy used by communist governments. At the moment, there are only five truly communist* countries in the world – China, North Korea, Cuba, Laos, and Vietnam – and of them only one (North Korea) uses a truly socialist form of economy. The other four have converted to one degree or another to some form of capitalism.

I wonder why that is?

(* – three other countries – Moldova, Cyprus, and Nepal – democratically elected a communist party that is currently in power)

What would my economic policies be? Here’s a few ideas:

Taxes – I don’t believe in raising taxes on anyone, period, but I most certainly do not believe in raising taxes only on a select group. This notion that raising taxes on the rich is somehow “fair” to everyone is a crock, in my opinion. Remeber that ideal I just mentioned? You know, the American Dream? You know what raising taxes on just the rich is? It’s punishment for people who have actually realized that dream.

Look, I’m not blind or naive. I’m well aware of the fact that not everyone in America who’s rich deserves to be so, that not everybody swimming in cash is doing so because they earned it, and earned it honestly. Some inherited it. Some won the lottery or a game show or something. Some lied and/or cheated and/or killed and/or otherwise broke the law to get where they are today.

But I’m willing to bet the majority of wealthy people in America became wealthy because they were honest, hard-working, enterprising people. They showed guts. They showed ingenuity. They epitomized what it is supposed to take to catch the American Dream, and now that they’ve done so, there are some who want to say, “Congratulations – now we’re going to force you to give it somebody else.”

Sorry, but I don’t buy that. The Eyrie’s not in the greatest financial shape right now, and in no small part that’s my fault, and guess what? The only person I expect to help me out of that hole is myself. Not Bill Gates. Not Alex Rodriguez. And most certainly not Barack Obama and any handouts from the federal government. MYSELF!

If you want to talk about a tax system that’s “fair,” where everybody pays their fair share (as in fair proportion, as in fair percentage), then I propose a flat federal income tax. Everybody pays the same percentage of their paycheck to the federal government in terms of taxes. No exceptions, no exemptions, no deductions, no income brackets, no loopholes – nada.

I find it hard to believe that people don’t think low taxes are a good idea. Doesn’t an economy flourish when people buy things? When they spend money? Aren’t people more willing to spend money when they have it, and less likely to spend it if they don’t? Well, people have less money when taxes are higher, folks. Is that logic too simple? Am I missing something?

Like some evidence of lower taxes = economic growth? How about this? Or this?

I toyed with the idea, btw, of the federal government taking over taxation from the individual states, with all tax revenue going to the fed and then being redistributed to each state as the fed saw fit, but I very rapidly tossed that thought out the window! Talk about being against the ideals of our Constitution! Not to mention which, as one of the sites I just linked to shows, the states with higher taxes are already paying the price for having those taxes, so let them learn their own lesson the hard way if they must. 

Government spending – now, of course, a government cannot afford to do the things it’s supposed to do without revenue, and that revenue comes from taxes, so it only makes sense that if I’m cutting taxes that I’d also trim the federal budget – and I would do so big time! $3.55 trillion just ain’t in the plan, ok, folks? How about half that, if not even less?

I’ve already talked about trimming the budget through lower military spending, but where else could we cut some fat? How about all the b.s. pork that’s out there? I wonder how much money we could save if we trimmed all the useless, senseless, special-interest-group-backscratching projects out of the federal budget? Remember the movie Dave with Kevin Kline and Sigourney Weaver? Remember the scene where Kline, as the true President’s stand-in double, invites his accountant buddy (played by Charles Grodin) over to take a look at the budget because Kline wants to find a way to free up $200 million to save some homeless shelters? At one point, while he’s looking over the numbers, Grodin’s character quips, “If I ran my business like this, I’d be out of business!” I’ve tried to find the whole scene out there on the internet and have come up empty so far, but this clip sums up what I’m talking about pretty well:

I know that Dave is Hollywood and that trimming the budget wouldn’t be anywhere near that easy, but wouldn’t it be nice if it was? How about taking a page from Obama’s book and throwing the federal budget up on the internet somewhere, translated line-item by line-item into easily understood English and letting the American people have a say in what their government spends money on and what it doesn’t?

Unions – I’m starting to wonder if unions are really necessary. I mean, on the one hand, I have a friend who’s a teacher who nearly got screwed by the school he teaches at. What saved him? His union. On the other hand, my boss (a man I’ve known for twenty years and whom I regard as intelligent, trustworthy, and not prone to just spouting off without knowing what he’s talking about) told me a while back that American cars would probably cost on average about $2,300 less per car if the manufacturers didn’t have to cover what dealing with the UAW costs them (before you ask, yes, I’m well aware of the fact that American car manufacturers could very likely find other ways to cut costs, too). What to do?

What are unions really for? Protecting the average worker from unfair labor practices by his or her employer, right? Well, correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t that what the Department of Labor does? Now, I realize that I might be sounding a tad hypocritical here. After all, I’m spouting off about smaller government and whatnot and now I’m saying let the government protect you from unfair business practices – “Well, Falcon, which is it,” right? In this case, however, it seems to me that the average American consumer is getting his wallet double-dipped. First from the government through the taxes s/he’s already paid out of his or her paycheck, and then again when s/he goes to buy a car or whatever product s/he is looking to buy that was made by union labor.

Remember waaaay back at the beginning of this post under the heading of General Platform when I said “(w)e need to find a way to make American products competitive with their international counterparts in terms of both quality and affordability”? In my opinion, doing something about unions falls under the heading of making American products competitive with their international counterparts.

Bailouts – there won’t be any on my watch. The upside to the theory of a free market, capitalist economy is that if you run your company intelligently, responsibly, and honestly, then you will succeed. The downside to the theory of a free market, capitalist economy is that if you run your company foolishly, irresponsibly, and dishonestly, then you will fail. I don’t care what industry winds up in trouble – the auto industry, the credit card industry, the housing industry, Wall Street, whatever – if they deserve to fail, then they will, and I won’t help them out. That might make for some very nasty times in the short term, but in the long run it will be what is best for the country.

Before I move on to the next topic, I’m going to ask for some help. What about ensuring that American products compare favorably to their foriegn counterparts in terms of quality? Short of what I would consider to be invasive federal government regulation, I can’t think of an answer to that one. Can you? What about making American workers as attractive, if not even more so, as foreign ones to American companies? Short of giving American corporations some sort of incentive like tax breaks to hire American workers over foreign ones – which would then be hypocritical in light of my flat tax idea – I can’t think of an answer to that one, either. Can you?

Energy/Environment – I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, a tree-hugger. In fact, I find the whole “Save the Planet!” bit just a tad ridiculous. The earth is over 4.5 billion years old. It has survived catastrophies and cataclysms the likes of which we cannot even begin to imagine, and we think we’re going to destroy it with some styrofoam and plastic?

Please. 

Let’s just be honest about it, ok? We’re not trying to save the earth – we’re trying to save ourselves. And there’s nothing wrong with that. I’m all for it. I’m just saying be honest about it. It doesn’t make us bad people to want to save ourselves. We don’t need to try to make ourselves sound all noble and self-sacrificing by saying “Save the planet!” instead, all right?

All that said, I found it curious – and rather disconcerting, quite frankly – that during the 2008 election both John McCain and Barack Obama continuously spoke about America’s need to eliminate it’s dependence on foreign oil. 

Foreign oil.

To which I thought, ‘Um, why not all oil?’

Now, both McCain and Obama had a valid point when they explained that if this country eliminated its dependence on foreign oil it would reduce or eliminate a lot of threats to its national security. Think of how many sticky situations we could remove ourselves from if we didn’t need any oil from the Middle East. How many slimy foreign despots could we toss aside if we didn’t need the oil their country produced? Perhaps most importantly of all, if we removed ourselves from those regions, how many terrorists from those regions would no longer deem us such a high-priority target?

However, all those reasons only address the geopolitical aspects of oil. What about the environmental problems? The economic problems? As much as I may not be all nutty and twiggy and granola-ish, if we can run our country on energy sources that are renewable (which oil is not) and clean (which oil most certainly is not) and less expensive to the consumer, then why shouldn’t we? Why shouldn’t we eliminate our dependence on oil as a fuel if there are alternative power sources that are cheaper, more environmentally sound, and create jobs?

The technology is there, folks. If it’s not there already, it’s damn close. For example:

1) according to the February 2009 issue of Popular Science (page 63) “(in 2008) Virgin Atlantic flew a jumbo jet from London to Amsterdam… using a fuel partially derived from Brazilian babassu nuts and coconuts.”

2) according to the May 2009 issue of PopSci (page 37) this past January Continental flew an unmodified 737 for 90 minutes on a 50-50 mix of regular jet fuel and a fuel derived from algae (the problem? At the moment the algae-based fuel costs $100 per gallon).

3) the May issue of PopSci also reports (again, on page 37) that the Montana-based company Sustainable Oils has discovered the  benefits of camelina oil – a derivative of canola that can be easily refined into jet fuel and can be planted in fallow wheat fields.

3) check out this take on the future of green cars.

4) did you know that with about $900 and a little ingenuity you can convert a diesel engine – even in an RV – to run on vegetable oil?

5) a 37-year-old substitute teacher has built a solar-powered car that can go 400 kilometers (almost 250 miles) on a charge, takes 30 minutes to recharge to 50% capacity (6 to 8 hours to charge to full capacity), and can top out at 90kmh (a tad over 55mph).

Even before all the technology becomes available and affordable and performs at top efficiency, there are things we can do to reduce our dependency on oil. Did you know:

1) “…if each American driver cycled to work one day a week, we could cut our Persian Gulf oil imports by half (emphasis mine).” – Popular Science, March 2009, page 61

2) “Roughly 1 million tons of plastic bottles were recycled in 2006 – only 24% of the amount Americans dispose of annually. Every ton of plastic bottles recycled  saves about 3.8 barrels of oil.” – Popular Mechanics, December 2008, page 71

3) “If every U. S. citizen ate just one meal a week composed of locally and organically raised food, we would reduce our country’s oil consumption by over 1.1 million barrels of oil every week.” (go to image 6 after you click on the link)

4) we need to get over our disdain of public transportation, too. Think of what could be accomplished if we had a better railway (a CSX train can move a ton of freight 436 miles on one gallon of gas) and bus system and if we had a better attitude towards them.

It’s not just about oil, either, everybody. Remember, there’s more to the equation than just solving geopolitical problems and reducing carbon footprints. These new technologies promise to save money in electricity costs, save water, and create jobs. For example:

1) according to the December 2008 Popular Mechanics (page 76) “… a recent study… found that about 90% of the material going to landfills has a market value. Given today’s economy, we won’t keep burying that value for long.”

2) a University of Texas at Austin study “calculated that the 1 billion tons of manure produced in the United States annually could generate about 88 billion kwh of electricity – 2.4% of annual consumption – and eliminate 99 million metric tons of greenhouse gasses.” – Popular Mechanics, February 2009, page 49

3) the Solar Cube by Spectra Watermakers produces 1,500 gallons of drinking water by desalination on just 22 kw of solar- and wind-generated electricity.

4) the Wave Dragon, currently being tested off the coast of Wales, could generate electricity from ocean waves.

5) plans look to be close to a “go” for a solar farm in the Mojave Desert.

6) let’s take a lesson from Hull, MA.

7) and from Atlanta.

8 ) what about cisterns?

9) RSi Energy Group has created transparent photovoltaic (ie: solar) windows that can be as large as 9′ x 9′ that generate anywhere from 80 to 250 watts and could reduce air conditioning bills by as much as 60%.

10) How about converting the trash in your landfill into electricity?

11) “But wind and solar are fickle, unreliable sources of power,” you may say. True enough, but what if we had ways of storing them? According to the June 2009 issue of Discover magazine (“Sunshine in a Bottle,” pages 50 – 52) options such as Compressed-Air Energy Storage, Molten Salt Heat Exchangers, Sodium-Sulfur Batteries, and further developing hydrogen-based energy storage are being R&Ded as methods of wind and solar energy storage as we speak.

Despite my assertion at the beginning of this section that I am not a dyed-in-the-wool environmentalist, it probably now sounds like I am. Allow me to reiterate my point behind bringing all these alternative energy issues to your attention: if we can lower energy costs to the average American citizen, create new jobs, and reduce or eliminate threats to our national security by getting off of fossil fuels, then why shouldn’t we? The positive effect on the environment would just be a bonus. It would just be gravy. I’ve mentioned before where I stand on the human impact on global warming (for those who may have missed it, I think Al Gore and all of his cry-wolf followers are full of you-know-what). It simply comes down to more tangible realities. If all these various alternatives can allow us to distance ourselves from Venezuela, the oil-producing former Soviet republics, and the Middle East, allow us to only produce as much domestic oil as necessary to create our own oil-based byproducts (plastics, lubricants, etc…), save us money, and open up a new job market, then the environmental impact is simply the icing on the cake. 

Education – I will admit that I do not have a specific proposal as to how to fix this problem. I do know that No Child Left Behind, in its current form, is NOT the answer, even if it was well-intended.

Look, folks, high test scores are nice and all, and they give an easily understood, tangible piece of evidence to show off and say “Look, we’re getting better!” but they are not proof of an improving educational system. You know what the tests that NCLB administers are a barometer of? How well somebody can memorize something. I’m not saying a good memory isn’t important, but it’s not intelligence, not education. I can teach a pigeon how to memorize something. Education should be about getting people to think. Thinking isn’t memorizing – it’s analyzing, comparing and contrasting, forming opinions on based on research and evidence as opposed to just gut reaction, and being constructively critical.

We need to be teaching our children to think, not memorize.

Exactly how we do that, I’ll admit I’m not sure, but let’s start with having educators form our national education policy instead of bureaucrats, huh? Let’s also put some money where our mouths are. Did you catch how much we spent on education and jobs when I talked about national defense above? 2.2% of G.W. Bush’s proposed FY 2009 budget was allocated to education and jobs. Education didn’t even get the full 2.2% – it had to share it with jobs! That number obviously needs to go up, but, as I said with law enforcement above, just throwing money at the problem isn’t going to fix it – the money needs to be spent wisely. Let’s start with paying our K-12 educators more, hiring more of them, and creating more scholarships for academically-deserving high school students so they can realistically afford a post-high school education at the institution of their choice.

Oh, and by the way –

Evolution is science; it belongs in the classroom.

Creationism is religion; it belongs in church.

Intelligent design is half-assed creationism and doesn’t belong anywhere.

Health Care – this is a tough one. On the one hand, I want a small, inexpensive federal government. On the other hand, I just can’t come to grips with the concept that in the United States of America, the greatest country on earth, there are people suffering because they cannot afford basic health care or are afraid to go to the hospital to treat a disease or an injury because they are afraid that they either will not be able to afford the treatment or will be denied the treatment because of a lack of insurance. The idea that private insurance companies, pharmaceutical corporations, and hospitals will keep their prices in check through competition with one another certainly doesn’t seem to be working, so involving the federal government in some way seems to be the only option, doesn’t it?

I guess the first question to be answered is whether or not one believes that the citizens of a nation have a basic right to health care. Do the citizens of the United States have that basic right? When the preamble of our Constitution says it wants to “… promote the general Welfare…” should that “Welfare” be interpreted in the 21st Century to include health care? Dictionary.com defines welfare as “the good fortune, health (emphasis mine), happiness, prosperity, etc., of a person, group, or organization…” or “(h)ealth, happiness, and good fortune; well-being” or “… the enjoyment of health and the common blessings of life…”

Now, obviously, the framers of our Constitution did not have Dictionary.com around at the time, so it’s hard to use that (or any dictionary definition, really) to try to interpret what they meant by “Welfare.” In addition, there’s really nothing else in the Constitution or any of its ammendments that further clarifies their intentions in this regard. So where does that leave us?

I know I don’t favor trying to replace the private insurance industry completely with some form of government health care. That just goes completely against my principles economically. I’ve also heard enough horror stories from people I know and trust who have been subjected to the European health care system to want to completely eliminate any freedom of choice in where people can go to receive their health care. The flip side is, of course, what do people who are uninsured or otherwise cannot afford health care to do? The Massachusetts system of requiring people to purchase health insurance seems a counterintuitive answer – if they can’t afford health care, how are they supposed to buy their own insurance?

How about this: One hospital in each state run and staffed by the federal government, falling under the auspices of the Department of Health & Human Services. In order to be cared for by one of these hospitals, a person would first have to prove that s/he was a citizen of the United States or a legal immigrant. S/he would then have to prove that s/he had no insurance because s/he was unemployed or only employed part-time and could not be claimed as a dependent by somebody who has insurance. S/he would then have to prove that s/he could not afford to buy his/her own insurance. The intention here is to have a system in place so that even the unemployed and the lowest rung of wage earners could still go somewhere to be treated for an illness or injury and that said system would be as close to incorruptible as possible.

Would it cost money? Yes. Would that money come from your taxes? Yes. BUT – given what I outlined in my discussion of the economy above, the net result would still be a smaller government with a smaller overall budget, it’s just that the health care portion of that budget would be proportionally larger than before.

Abortion – I’ve made my opinion on this issue clear in the past, but for any newbies here, I’ll reiterate it. I think abortion should be legal only under the following circumstances: if the pregnancy is the result of rape, if the pregnancy is the result of incest, and/or if carrying the pregnancy to term is physically, mentally, and/or emotionally threatening to the mother and/or the baby.

That being said, Roe v. Wade is the law of the land, and I would not use my office in any attempt to overturn that law. Nor would I nominate Supreme Court justices based solely on their stance on this issue.

Welfare – much like education and some other issues I’m addressing here, I don’t have any specifics on how to fix this problem, but I do think it is a problem, and it does need fixing.

Notice I said fixing, not eliminating. I think when FDR conceived of the welfare system he had a good idea, and that it continues to be a good idea today. I don’t think every welfare recipient is some combination of lazy, drug-addicted, disability-faking, or otherwise trying to take advantage of the system. I don’t even think that describes most of the welfare recipients out there. I’m willing to bet most of the people out there on welfare are simply victims of bad luck and hard times. They’re basically decent people who do want to work who simply got caught in the proverbial wrong place at the wrong time and just need some help until they can pick themselves up and get by on their own.

However, there are people out there who do take advantage of the system, and there are too many of them and the system as it currently is makes it too easy for them to take advantage of it.

Look, the system will never be perfect, I know that, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be reformed and improved. It needs to be harder to swindle and needs to do a better job of motivating people to go back to work rather than just capitalizing on the opportunity to take a free ride for the rest of their lives at honest people’s expense.

Equal Rights & Affirmative Action – I look at Affirmative Action in a way similar to how I look at Welfare – a good idea with its heart in the right place that’s been executed poorly and now needs to be revised somehow because to many people see it as a system to take advantage of for their own personal gain rather than as a means of defense against an unfortunate incident.

Yes, there is still bigotry in this country. Sadly, I don’t think that will ever change. For whatever reason, there are still people on this planet who think other people are lesser beings than themselves because they’re not male, not white, not Christian, not heterosexual, not – oh, hell, I could go on and on listing the various idiocies. Affirmative Action was created to combat those idiocies, and I think it’s been pretty effective in doing so.

However, for quite some time now it’s been used in some cases to basically ensure reverse bigotry:

“You have to hire me because I’m black (or gay or female or Muslim or insert minority here).”

“But you’re not qualified for the job.” (or “But your not as qualified as other candidates for the job.”)

“That doesn’t matter, I’m black, you don’t have any blacks working here, I need a job, and if you don’t hire me, I’ll sue.” And if the boss thinks he’s kidding, all the boss has to do is look outside his window, because Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and the ACLU will be perched in the parking lot like vultures waiting for an injured wildebeest to finally kick off so they can begin feasting on its still-fresh carcass.

It boggles my mind that National Football League owners are required to interview at least one African-American applicant whenever they decide to get a new head coach for their team (and now they’re considering expanding the rule to include applicants for General Manager positions). Whether or not that African-American is hired is apparently irrelevant, so long as he gets an interview. So, really, is it about equality, or is it just about putting on a dog-and-pony show to make it look like you care about equality? It’s really just about filling a quota, checking off a box, isn’t it? Do these people have any idea how much an NFL franchise costs? Stephen M. Ross, the current owner of the Miami Dolphins, bought 95% ownership of the team in February of 2009 for a grand total of $1.55 billion! Do these people know how NFL franchises make money? By winning. It’s the only proven way to be financially successful in the National Football League. Ask the New England Patriots. Given that, do these people think for one second, even if an NFL owner was a racist, that he would allow those feelings to get in the way of hiring the best coach available (and thereby improving his chances of owning a winning franchise) if that coach happened to be black?

How about the recent decision to invalidate a test given to Connecticut firefighters because no blacks and only one Hispanic passed the test to a high enough degree to earn a promotion (it should be noted that some blacks did pass the test, just not well enough to earn the promotion)? Isn’t it possible that the people who passed the test did so because they deserved to, not because they were white? Isn’t that at least as possible a conclusion as the “It must have been a racist test” conclusion?

What about the current to-do about who to nominate to replace soon-to-retire Supreme Court Justice David Souter? Apparently a likely candidate to be nominated by President Obama is Sonia Sotomayor. Now, if she is in fact the most qualified person for the job (and, based on a quick perusal of her Wikipedia entry, her resume does look impressive) then give her the job. If she’s not the most qualified person for the job, though, don’t give it to her just because she’s female, Puerto Rican, and grew up in a housing project.

Now, despite the apparent bashing I’m giving Affirmative Action here, remember that I like the idea, that I believe the cause to be just, it’s simply that I think the plan has been executed poorly. It actually blows my mind that the Equal Rights Amendment was defeated back in 1982. How could a supposedly modern country predicated on the idea of freedom and equality for all not pass a law designed to make sure women would not be discriminated against? Hell, when I read it I thought it didn’t go far enough, because it was only focusing on women. The version that the National Organization for Women has since been trying to push as a constitutional amendment makes more sense to me, because it also includes “race, sexual orientation, marital status, ethnicity, national origin, color, or indigence” under it’s umbrella.

I applaud President Obama for his passage of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009.

Yes, I do believe we need a system to ensure that qualified people are not denied jobs because of their gender, gender preference, religious beliefs, country of origin, skin color, native language, or a disability they might have, and that they are paid equally to their peers when they get those jobs. However, that same system needs to make sure unqualified people are not handed jobs for the same reason(s).

Gay Marriage – I have no problem with gay marriage, nor do I understand why anybody else does. As long as two people love each other and are not hurting anybody else with their relationship, who cares if they happen to be the same gender?

Well, there you go. Keep in mind, folks, that I am not a politician. Nor am I an economist, historian, military expert, intelligence specialist, or a sociologist. I’m just an average schmo trying to articulate my positions. Feel free to disagree, debate, point out mistakes or inconsistencies, ask questions, etc. All I ask is that you do so respectfully. Let’s all play nice, ok? 🙂

Oh, by the way, before you get too impressed with any of this, I most certainly did not slap all this down in one sitting. I’ve been working on this for weeks, perhaps even more than a month. This post has taken me even longer to write than my “War” one.

So, what do you say? “Falcon for President!” Who’s with me?!

(I will now brace myself for a thunderous silence akin to the one that greets Daffy Duck whenever he tries to be entertaining… 🙂 ) 

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Responses

  1. Damn, Boy!

    Okay, first of all? I’m glad you’ve come to the realization that you’re far more left than you originally thought.

    There’s a lot of this that works for me and, aside from a few details (abortion being chief among them), I’m with you.

    This?

    We need to be teaching our children to think, not memorize.

    This thrills me. YES.

    • Hey there Falcon! I love what you wrote. In fact, I would vote for you for President because you do think about what you feel and why you feel it, vs. just wanting to pander. Hugs! Plumcastle in Maine

  2. Don’t get too excited, Mrs. C. – I still consider myself more Republican than Democrat, remember?

    Hell, the next book I’m going to read is “Slander” by Ann Coulter, ok? 🙂

    So, besides abortion (which I already knew you’d disagree with me on), what were the other details you’re not with me on?

  3. Nice work, kid. Gonna have Donna read this; she’ll be impressed (though she will be happy to disagree with you on a few points — emphasis on few). A future in politics for you?

    Seems as though we’re both looking through the same glass.

  4. I am only about a third of the way through your article Erik and wanted to let you know I would vote for you if you ran for president. Wanting a smaller government with limited spending/taxing of the people, and freedom of the individual to pursue life, happiness and liberty, is called libertarianism now and what was closest to what Americans lived under before International bankers took control 150 years ago.

    Ever read Carroll Quigley’s, Tragedy and Hope? He promoted using the two party system against the people to obtain world government. He had met with the globalists and was allowed to look at their secret files, and that is what his book is about. The two parties at the top have the same agenda-bigger government, regionalism–communism. Their only difference is their rhetoric. When the people get tired of one party they will vote in favor of the other, believing somehow that their vote will produce change, but the same agenda continues to be followed–and THAT is why nothing important to the people ever gets resolved. We just end up having more troubles. Unfortunately with our connection and subservience to the United Nations and it’s communist policies, the bankers control of our major medias, state departments and congress, we do not have a government of the people, by the people or for the people and won’t until enough voters wake up to this political game and vote third party or choose a candidate that is not controlled (funded) by the special interest groups who control our economy.
    When we hear the word “global”we tend to think of it as meaning innovation, but in actuality we are being programmed through hearing that word over and over again to want a global or one world government controlled economically by international bankers under the World bank and UN. Our expanding government is taking us to a place where un-elected bureaucrats create the rules based on what the majority wants, or what they perceive is the best for all rather than what is best for the individual. That is what communism is. The only thing between what we have now and what the elites want to create is our constitution. You see our constitution is the only one like it in existence (ever) because it declares our freedoms as created by God or Creator granted to us. This means that government has no business touching our rights and freedoms briefly described in our founding documents, but certainly not limited to what is written there. All other countries civil or human rights, including the rights written within the UN Charter are government granted rights (privileges) and can be taken away as easily as given by government. That is communism. If we allow our constitution to be taken from us, then we will cease to have the freedoms so many have fought and died for these last 230 years. The only way to protect our rights is to not let government try to take them from us with rules and laws that prevent certain individuals from doing things. Personal responsibility and holding individuals accountable for personal injury or property damage is the only law that is needed. Government can not fix things not related to government. When government gets involved, prices go up. Blame regulations of businesses, money, healthcare, whatever–it is because government is involved in restricting free markets and that is why we have problems in those areas.

    I’ll have more to add when I finish reading your post Erik.

  5. now tat i have read through the entire post, mr. future president,..i would respectfully submit my request to become your sec. of defense??

  6. That that is…..still one bad eye…

  7. I’ve read your post several times.

    We have differences here and there, but mostly we’re coming from the same area–somewhere between conservative and libertarian. You know that already.

    Two general thoughts:

    1. The independent vs. party affiliation question is way stickier than it seems. I understand your frustration and what you’re saying in theory, but the bottom line is that we’re likely to have the two-party system we have for the rest of our lives.

    Unfortunately, a lot of the time there’s no apparent difference (ca. 2002) or the differences are minimized by absent or ineffective leadership (ca. 2009). But what about when there is a difference? What about the Republicans ca. 1994? ca. 1980? If the reality on the ground is that the Republicans really are killing us 10% more slowly than the Democrats, how much attention and support should they receive, given that big Ds or big Rs are extremely likely to have the White House and congressional majorities for the foreseeable future? Is it reasonable to sacrifice moving in the correct direction, however minimally, for better principles that will never be implemented to any significant degree?

    I’m a Libertarian this year. I may be a Republican next year. I struggle with feeling that way, but it’s the best I can do.

    2. Beware rhetoric. Our current president is a hard-left ideologue, but gee, he sounds so goshdarn reasonable giving a speech, so he can’t be so bad, right?

    Want a local example? The illustrious Mrs. Chili claims here that “there’s a lot of this that works for me” about an agenda that is unambiguously somewhere between conservative and libertarian. On her blog, she’s “come to terms with the fact that a lot of the ideals that I hold are, at least by definition, socialist.”

    Those claims cannot be resolved with one another. Or does “a lot” go both hard left and hard right?

    “When fascism comes to America, it will not be in brown and black shirts. It will not be with jackboots. It will be Nike sneakers and smiley shirts. Smiley smiley.” – George Carlin

  8. Dr Bill – you can absolutely be my SecDef! 🙂

    Bo – I know you and Mrs. C. don’t exactly see eye-to-eye, but if I may speak for her for a moment…

    I think where she and I mostly align are on social issues. I think we’re on the same page with education and gay marriage. We’re probably not too far off on welfare and affirmative action. She might be liking my health care idea and my energy/environment ideas, although she probably places more emphasis on the environmental benefits than I do.

    I bet she even likes my law enforcement and national defense ideas.

    I know she doesn’t agree with me on abortion. We’ve talked before about marijuana and prostitution, and I feel safe in saying she’s not with me there. We probably differ quite a bit on the economy part. I bet she’s not too keen on making English the official language in America or my acceptance of torture. I’m not sure about gun control, but I wouldn’t be surprised if she wanted stricter measures.

    If I’m wrong at any point here, Mrs. C., my apologies, and, of course, feel free to chime in yourself.

  9. […] been all up in arms about for the past week or so turns out to be something I’ve advocated for quite some time – deliberately hunting down and assassinating terrorists. Oh, the […]


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