Tuesday, July 31, 2012


I voted today! Have you voted yet?

Here's just a quick one-page cheat-sheet version of my voting guide, I printed this out and brought it to the ballot box this morning:

Public Service Commissioner 1: Chuck Eaton
Public Service Commissioner 2: Pam Davidson
House of Representatives: Kent Kingsley

Sheriff: Barry Babb
Tax Commissioner: George Wingo

County Commissioner 1: Charles W. Oddo
County Commissioner 2: David Barlow
County Commissioner 3: Randy C. Ognio

Board of Education 1: Barry Marchman
Board of Education 2: Mary Kay Bacallo

State Court: Carla McMillian
Magistrate Court: Jason B. Thompson

Gambling: No
Ending unlimited gifts: Yes
Gun licenses for young military: Yes
Closing primaries: No
Personhood: No

Package sales: Yes

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

My July 31st Voting Guide, Part 3 - Issues Questions

Last part of my voting guide. In this one, I tackle the issues questions. As a bonus, I've looked at both the Republican and Democratic party ballots. Then there are a couple of really important Special Election Referendum items that are going to be on both ballots.

My July 31st Voting Guide, Part 2: County and judicial races

The county and local races can get very contentious. Just a standard disclaimer here, I don't know any of the candidates personally, and I don't have any connection to any campaigns. All that I have to say is based on wading through news accounts, campaign web sites, and other easily available information. I'm judging the candidates based on what they have to say about themselves, and what others have to say about them.

My July 31st Voting Guide, Part 1

Consider this my little "civic duty" of the week. In the interest of trying to feel like I'm a "semi-informed voter", I've been doing some research into the various races for the upcoming July 31st ballot. I'm focusing on the Republican ballot, because that's the one I'll be using. I'll italicize my personal choices in the list below. For the first round, here are the Republican nominees for Public Service Commissioner and the House of Representatives.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Continuing the conversation on rights

In reply to my last post, I've been asked:
So where do these inalienable rights you mention come from? And at what point die they emerge? And do animals have them? Are there any circumstances when these rights could be denied?
We are getting into deep philosophical waters here. You asked, and I'll answer. I don't necessarily expect you to agree with me, but we can disagree respectfully.

As I said, the idea of a "right" is as I understand it is tied up with the idea of what it means to be human, to be capable of ethical and moral judgement, with a sense of right and wrong. It has to do with living in right relationships with each other as human beings. Who can have the authority to impose such hefty definitions on humanity? That is, I think, a truly God-like power.

I happen to believe in the existence of a Creator who exists ouside of time and the universe. As the Declaration of Independence says, I believe that all humans are "endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." No guarantee of happiness, only the ability to pursue it, and to enjoy it if you actually manage to find it. Also, I believe that the most important purpose of government is to protect these fundamental rights.

I happen to be a Christian, but this is not an exclusively Christian concept. Ben Franklin was never a Christian, but he did believe in a "Divine Providence". Also, I don't believe that my belief in God in any way gives me any special rights that all human beings don't already have. My beliefs have an impact on how I behave, but that's my burden, not yours.

For those who don't believe in the existance of a divine Creator, then I can imagine that the role of defining humanity may fall on whatever entity is next on the "powerful and eternal" scale. This may be a government, or a society. But governments and societies are still made up of individual people, all prone to their individual failings.

At what point did rights emerge? They have been with us for as long as we have been human, and capable of treating each other as such. We haven't always been good at recognizing them throughout history. As I said, we are capable of moral judgement; That means that we are also capable of moral failing, just as much now as at any other time in history.

Do animals have rights? Not human rights, because they aren't human. I think that we have a responsibility to treat animals in a humane manner, because otherwise we reduce ourselves as humans. But the relationship between a human and an animal is never going to be the same as the relationship between two humans. And, I have yet to meet an animal that is capable of philisophical and moral wrangling. When we humans choose to live like animals, we are at our worst. When an animal lives like a human, that's because humans have taught the animal a few cute tricks.

Are there any circumstances when rights could be denied? They have been, often, throughout history. That, I think, is the very definition of a "crime against humanity". The real question is whether there are any circumstances where a person's rights -should- be denied. There may be times when denying a person's rights may seem to be the most pragmatic or necessary thing do do, in the moment. But I think that it is very rarely the -right- thing to do. It comes down again to that moral and ethical thing. Sometimes the right thing to do is the thing we want to do the least. The only circumstance I can readily believe that taking a person's right to life or liberty may be acceptable may be if that person is already guilty of choosing to take the life or liberty of another by force or fraud. Even then, if at all possible, I want to have a due process of law to hold that power in check. 

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Health care "rights", voting "rights", and human rights

A Facebook poster made this comment on a discussion about "health care as a human right":
Rights are something that emerge over time, but only after a fight of one kind or another. Consider the right to vote, for example. We have expanded that right over time, at least in modern industrialized countries. With regard to healthcare, the argument is whether we as a society are ready to acknowledge (or grant if you prefer) that right for every person. We can certainly afford it. It is only a matter of priorities.
I was inspired to give this reply:
Judith: You and I have different concepts of what rights are and where they come from. I'm not saying this to pass judgement, just to point out that we are going to come to different conclusions from our different starting points. I understand that you believe rights are something created or granted by society, or government. From my perspective, rights are something transcendent, something intrinsic to what it means to be a human being. When I think of rights, I think of words like "fundamental" and "inalienable". I believe that government and society cannot add to or take away the rights I have as a human being, it can only protect the rights that every human has, or violate them. The government or society which can create or grant rights, can take those rights away... or, simply decide not to grant them in the first place.

With regard to voting, I know that we commonly talk of "voting rights", but I'm not sure it's the best terminology. You see, when I vote, I have power over the life and liberty of my neighbor. I consider that to be a privilege and a power, not to be exercised lightly. It is a power which my neighbor has given to me, in exchange for giving up the same power over my own life. I cannot claim an intrinsic, fundamental, inalienable right to power over my neighbor's life.

Bringing it back to healthcare, if what you want is to make people healthier and happier, even those who cannot afford it for themselves, I agree with that goal. I think it's a goal that elevates us as a society. But a coercive approach can spoil even the noblest of purposes. If I can persuade my neighbor to donate to healthcare for those who can't afford it, I lift up my neighbor, I lift up the sick, and I lift up myself. But if I force my neighbor to serve my cause, it doesn't matter whether my cause can be considered just or not. Every tyrant in history thought he had a just cause. And, no matter how you spin it, every government means is going to be a coercive means in the end.

I actively support healthcare supplied at minimal or no cost to the patient by charitable organizations with my voice and my wallet. I cannot support it with my neighbor's wallet, or my vote. I hope you understand what I mean.