Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Property? Only if I can take it with me.

In a discussion about the difference between progressive and libertarians, I came up with the following paragraphs. I would be interested in your thoughts.

What progressives understand that conservatives and libertarians refuse to acknowledge is that we are all in this together, and that we have a responsibility to secure our mutual foundation as well as our personal foundation. The main difference is that libertarians seem to believe that anything that takes "private property" away from one person to give to another, whether we're talking about land or capital or physical property like cars, is theft. They consider property rights to be more important than anything else, because that's where everything flows from in their world-view.

I pay for the food that I eat, the water that I drink, the home that I live in and the methods of transportation that I use because those payments are my share of the burden to keep these things available to everyone. My priority is life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, not the pursuit of property. Because property is fluid. As far as I'm concerned, anything that I can take with me when I die is my property and nobody has any right to any of it. Throw all your money into the air, and anything that God wants, he keeps. Anything that will still be here when that happens is not "my" private property, but is something that should be managed by our social norms and laws to enable me to live my life in comfort and to encourage me to reach for my potential. It's my responsibility to pay my share to provide those opportunities to everyone else as well.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Ron Paul's "Honest Look"

Representative Paul has put out a press release that proclaims him the champion of the working class, with plans to reduce the tax burden that we carry on our shoulders. What he does not describe is the effect that lifting that burden will do to the road at our feet. It's time to take an honest look at where his ideology is coming from and where legislative proposals based on that ideology will lead us. It's not a pretty picture.

In 1981, Ronald Reagan declared that government is the problem. He also talked about tax burdens, and stated his belief that not singling out any particular group to pay a higher price is somehow equitable, regardless of the differences in the ability of various economic classes of people to pay those prices in the first place. Government was set aside as a group outside of the people, and was set up as a straw man to be knocked down in speeches whenever necessary for political gain. This completely eliminated the notion that government is supposed to be of, by and for the people. We are the government, whether we want that responsibility or not, whether we are participating in it or not, and whether it seems to respond to our desires or not.

Paul's statement that "taxation is the most direct way government increases Americans' cost at the pump" is yet another way of separating the people from our government. Remember that our elected representatives in Congress debate and set those tax rates, and that they are approved by an elected President and enforced by locally elected or appointed officials. Fundamentally we the people tax ourselves in order to provide funds for highway maintenance, roads, transit and other costs associated with our transportation system. And this is not a sales tax that you calculate based on the purchase, it's figured into the cost of the gas before purchase.

Paul seems to want to give people the impression that we can just do without taxes once prices get too high. So we have to ask where the money goes that would get cut off if HR 2415 gets passed. The Government Accountability Office has a report that it gave to Congress in April of 2006 that shows this graph:

What you are seeing in this graph is the end of highway projects, the end of bridge maintenance, the end of safety improvements and the end of increased transit options to reduce the pollutants that go into the atmosphere. It means more potholes, more vehicle damage and more cost to consumers. But because that cost is not being paid by the government, it's not considered important.

Our refinery capacity is certainly an issue, but the solution presented of reducing or removing the environmental regulations that prevent new refineries from being built ignores the reason that those regulations were created in the first place. Does anyone remember how much attention the lack of refineries got after Katrina? It doesn't seem to have stopped, although I'm not surprised that it is the Washington Times opinion writers like H. Sterling Burnett who disdains clean air regulations. Who wouldn't want to breathe pollution when they can save a few dollars at the pump? I mean really, don't you just love the smell of hydrocarbons in the morning? Smells like progress, doesn't it. And cancer, but let's not talk about that. Let's also not talk about the 100 or so refineries that have been shut down by the industry due to consolidations or the cost of keeping our kids healthy was just too much for their profit margin.

Lowering the price at the pump is a solution, but it's a solution to the wrong problem. Rep. Paul makes a very important assumption in his press release, that oil and gas are, and indeed should be, the only way that we can keep our cars and trucks moving, the only way that we can transport ourselves, our products or anything. Like Al Gore has said, do we really need to carry 6,000 lbs of metal with us back and forth to the store? And if so, do we really need to move it by burning ancient sunlight? The pain that we feel at the pump is our own doing, and we can do something different if we choose to.

Unfortunately, Representative Ron Paul doesn't seem to be interested. He doesn't care about air pollution, doesn't care about climate change, has no interest at all in rail transportation, and wants nothing to do with renewable energy. In fact, it's hard to pinpoint exactly what he cares about, except the Iraq War because it's a waste of taxpayer dollars. Saving us money is nice, and it goes well with the meme that we are all on our own. However, the United States was founded on different principles. Progressive principles. Some even call them Christian principles. They can be summed up in a simple phrase: I am my brothers keeper.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

quote worth sharing

Greed and integrity are very close to being the same thing in Republican Politics.

Medical update.

So, I've been feeling really tired recently, needing much more sleep than usual, and have little to no energy. I had a lot of trouble recovering from the last virus that went around in mid-October, so I went to the doctor on October 30th for a blood test. Liver count was way up, like 4 times normal. TSH was also way up. So, no alcohol until the liver count goes back down to normal.

But what about the TSH?

TSH is Thyroid-stimulating hormone. It is the chemical produced by the pituitary gland to tell the Thyroid to produce T3 and T4, the main chemicals that help regulate energy in the body's cells. When TSH is high, it means that the Thyroid is not doing its job. The condition is called Hypothyroidism. It's not that umcommon. My doctor said that the Chemo and Radiation therapy from the cancer in 2003 likely did some damage. Gee, surprise.

So, what he prescribed is Levothyroxine. This is an synthetic T4. It's been around since 1926, and there are evidently 12 different doses available. I've started with 50 micrograms per day, going to 100 mcg per day after a week. I have another appointment in a month. We'll find a dosage that gets me the numbers on the tests that he wants to see, and then I'll be on that dosage forever.

I really like my doctor. He's a straight shooter. He literally told me that if they did nothing, the condition is fatal within a year or so. Treated, I can look forward to lots of energy and a long life.

I'll choose life.


Tuesday, November 13, 2007


Dear Senator Leahy,

I'm writing to you from Washington State as a constituent concerned about the FISA bill currently before the Judiciary Committee. I believe that laws have been broken, and that the Bush Administration has the intention to continue to break those laws. I do not believe for a minute that what they have done is the result of incompetence or a mistake. I believe it has been their intention since the very beginning to take America down the path that Germany took in the 1930's, and I strongly believe that it is the responsibility of Congress to stop them.

Please do your utmost to prevent any changes to the law that excuse violations of that law. If the telecommunications companies or this administration succeed in getting away with those violations, the United States Constitution will cease to exist as the founding document of this country, and will instead become a legacy that we will never again be able to live up to.

This administration has shown us that our liberties and rights are in the hands of men, not based in a foundation of law. Please save that foundation for future generations.


Chad Lupkes

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Eliminating Conservatives?

A question came up about what I mean by "wanting to eliminate conservatives". My email response follows, along with some additional comments I would like to throw out in the context of the yet ongoing abortion debate:

"Conservative thought" is not centered on a pro-life stand. It's the attitude that one person, any person, is more worthy than another person. It's a way of thinking that "those people over there" are not worth as much as "we are over here". That's the kind of thinking that I want to eliminate. The conservative movement has been fighting for 7,000 years for total domination of the planet's resources. I don't want power, I want peace. I don't want to control, I want to cooperate. That's where I'm coming from. Differences should be explored and celebrated, but I will always stand against one group gaining control over another, regardless of who it is.

I'm against the ideology, not the people who hold that ideology. The meme that one person has the right to control the lives of other people may have the right to exist, but I would say that it should only exist in history books that tell the story about what the Human Race has done wrong in the past and why we should not follow that same ideology moving forward into the future.

I have never said that final term terminations were ok. Except in cases where the life of the mother is in extreme risk, or severe deformities where the child has little chance, I think every effort should be made to give the body as much nourishment as possible. I think the picture changes during the first and second trimesters, although I fully agree with the people who say that the US Supreme Court should not have taken it upon themselves to draft law based on that idea. It should have been the US Congress after a healthy debate.

I'm reading the book "Capitalism at the Crossroads" by Stuart Hart. Part of the business ideal that he describes is the concept of Stewardship, taking responsibility for a product throughout the entire life cycle of that product from the development process through the initial raw materials being drawn from the environment, the conversion of those raw materials into a saleable product, the use of that product by the customer, and the disposal of that product to ensure that it does not pollute the environment.

The metaphor can be translated to human life in the following way. As a society, we need to take responsibility for the lives of our people from conception through death. Women who wish to have children should be supported physically, mentally and spiritually to ensure her children have an advantage from the very start. Parents should have all the resources they need to help the child reach their potential. Children should be nurtured and supported while they learn about our world and their place in it. Adults should be supported as they reach for their potential. Seniors should be celebrated and respected, while their needs are provided for. Our family members and friends who pass beyond the veil should be celebrated. All of this is the responsibility of that individual, their family and friends and society at large. Each of those is part of the foundation that we create and nurture for ourselves and everyone else. And that is a detailed description of one of the core principles that I hold dear.

Those of us who follow the true teachings of Jesus understand that life does not begin at conception, nor does it end at death. Life is a cycle that never ends. I am focused on building the foundation for the entire cycle, not just a 9 month portion of it. When we can say that every child has a loving home to go to, a great school to attend, a competent and caring doctor to see when needed, and an exciting future in a healthy society on a healthy planet, then we will have succeeded. Until then, we still have work to do.

That work is what I do every day as a progressive activist working within the Democratic Party infrastructure.