Now, I'm probably too stubborn for my own good, still shouting out from time to time that I am, indeed a Conservative. An anti-authoritarian, to be sure. A minarchist to a degree. Occasionally I add that I'm a "Progressive Conservative," just to add a Canadian tinge of irony to my quixotic insistence on upholding the values of Burke, moderated by a good span of practice that has given us many ideas that seem well worth preserving. On occasion, this has been in the face of our dearest instincts and assumptions about economics and human nature.
But to a genuine Conservative, facts are facts and the truth is the truth. When something works, it works, and if it works despite your philosophy, it's your philosophy that must adapt.
Now, let's read that last paragraph again. We have left the realm of politics. There is no "left or right" here. There is no possible way to intelligently discuss the merits of a free market solution to Health Care Reform, as opposed to, say, a Social-Welfare or a Mixed-Economic approach with people who lie and gibber. Indeed, we cannot even seem to have a sensible discussion as to what a good outcome would look like, when the most influential Conservatives seem incapable of comparing their delusional assumptions to actual, real, publicly available numbers.
Support for the food stamp program reached a nadir in the mid-1990s when critics, likening the benefit to cash welfare, won significant restrictions and sought even more. But after use plunged for several years, President Bill Clinton began promoting the program, in part as a way to help the working poor. President George W. Bush expanded that effort, a strategy Mr. Obama has embraced.
The revival was crowned last year with an upbeat change of name. What most people still call food stamps is technically the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.
By the time the recession began, in December 2007, “the whole message around this program had changed,” said Stacy Dean of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a Washington group that has supported food stamp expansions. “The general pitch was, ‘This program is here to help you.’ ”
Now nearly 12 percent of Americans receive aid — 28 percent of blacks, 15 percent of Latinos and 8 percent of whites. Benefits average about $130 a month for each person in the household, but vary with shelter and child care costs.
In the promotion of the program, critics see a sleight of hand.
“Some people like to camouflage this by calling it a nutrition program, but it’s really not different from cash welfare,” said Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation, whose views have a following among conservatives on Capitol Hill. “Food stamps is quasi money.”
Now, to call the restrictions on US welfare "mean spirited" would be a conservative understatement indeed. But aside from that, any time you have 12 percent of your population in need of extra food, it's not due to a sudden epidemic of laziness. It's because there's insufficient work. That is rather obviously true from other indicators.Arguing that aid discourages work and marriage, Mr. Rector said food stamps should contain work requirements as strict as those placed on cash assistance. “The food stamp program is a fossil that repeats all the errors of the war on poverty,” he said.
And yet, Mr. Rector is one of many delusional sorts that are of the opinion that if you or your children become hungry enough, somehow a Job will Appear from On High - despite, of course, the obdurate opposition of folks who fund the Heritage Foundation to actually doing anything that might actually create those jobs.
The idea that if a person is Virtuous, a Job will Appear, and if they are Not Virtuous, they deserve nothing at all (and they are proven Not Virtuous by the fact that they are jobless and starving) is a peculiar and vicious artifact of the Calvinist poison that has infected our body politic. Recall, it IS an article of faith. It has no foundation in fact at all.
Oh, and of course, let us not forget that in the hindbrains of these xenophobic approximations of humanity, the term "poor" and "black" is interchangeable. Indeed, the very idea that a black man could be successful, deserving of any outcome other than a life of miserable toil and obscurity is an affront to them.
When exceptions happen - well, see for yourself:
...clearly, some remarkable exceptions to "nice" exist.Via the BBC: The US Secret Service says it is investigating after an effigy of Barack Obama was found hanging in the home town of former President Jimmy Carter.
TV footage showed the doll hanging by a noose in front of a red, white and blue sign that reads "Plains, Georgia. Home of Jimmy Carter, our 39th President".
Witnesses said the effigy had President Obama's name on it.
Plains Mayor LE Godwin III said the fire department had been called to take it down.
In Washington, US Secret Service spokesman Ed Donovan confirmed that the agency was investigating the case.
Footage on local television station, WALB, showed a large black doll hanging over the sign, which is located above a shop on the main street in the rural town.
Residents who saw it thought the effigy must have put in place during the night, WALB reports.
One Plains resident said the Secret Service had already interviewed local people.
"We wish it hadn't happened. It's not the kind of publicity the town of Plains likes," Jan Williams, who runs a hotel, was quoted as saying by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
She described Plains, which has a population of fewer than 700 people, as a "nice, quiet town".
But, back to the dangerously "liberal" presumption that feeding hungry people is an inherent good.
It takes a remarkable lack of common sense and compassion to think that the average person would abandon all hope and ambition in exchange for a hundred thirty bucks worth of groceries. Aside from being delusional, it is vile. And facing attitudes such as that, it's really no wonder at all to me that a significant fraction of the American people prefer the risk of jail to the prospect of starvation. But then, all black/poor people are criminals, aren't they? Might as well just get ahead of the curve!
Would I grow pot, smuggle meth, steal cars or participate in a gang, if the alternative to starving alone in an alleyway in a cardboard box? If course. So would you. And hell, we are speaking of the foundations of civilization. People "ganged together" to ensure their mutual survival. If you exclude people from belonging to the "Ahumurikin" gang - because "poor people" don't deserve to belong - they won't just starve politely. They will band together to mess you up, take your stuff and, ultimately, do unto y'all what the Vandals and Visigoths did to Rome. And you will deserve it.
If you want to keep people from taking "illegitimate" jobs, you have a damn obvious responsibility to make sure that legitimate ones are plentiful. Domestically. Indonesia and China can take care of their OWN damn poor people.
I do hope (and rather expect) that some fraction of the karma these people have earned by mindlessly forestalling sane public policy and any humane approach to poverty, health care, the economy and a thriving, job-creating middle class will come directly home to roost in a way where the casual relationship is personally, directly and unavoidably instructive.
Let's start with the obvious sociopaths.
When such people are underfoot, it makes developing a sane or sensible public policy position about anything impossible. So the first step is to stop wasting any time upon them. They are some combination of evil and stupid, and it's up to them to figure out how to behave in public among civilized people. We certainly need not treat their spew as if it made sense.
Take John Shelby Spong on that point. In his manifesto, he was quite blunt about where he sees his duties, and they don't include any necessity to entertain the missaprention of vicious, mean-spirited fools.
The battle in both our culture and our church to rid our souls of this dying prejudice is finished. A new consciousness has arisen. A decision has quite clearly been made. Inequality for gay and lesbian people is no longer a debatable issue in either church or state. Therefore, I will from this moment on refuse to dignify the continued public expression of ignorant prejudice by engaging it. I do not tolerate racism or sexism any longer. From this moment on, I will no longer tolerate our culture’s various forms of homophobia. I do not care who it is who articulates these attitudes or who tries to make them sound holy with religious jargon.He's speaking toward the fight over the exclusion of homosexuals from the body of the Church, but to me it's all of a piece.
I have been part of this debate for years, but things do get settled and this issue is now settled for me. I do not debate any longer with members of the “Flat Earth Society” either. I do not debate with people who think we should treat epilepsy by casting demons out of the epileptic person; I do not waste time engaging those medical opinions that suggest that bleeding the patient might release the infection. I do not converse with people who think that Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans as punishment for the sin of being the birthplace of Ellen DeGeneres or that the terrorists hit the United Sates on 9/11 because we tolerated homosexual people, abortions, feminism or the American Civil Liberties Union. I am tired of being embarrassed by so much of my church’s participation in causes that are quite unworthy of the Christ I serve or the God whose mystery and wonder I appreciate more each day. Indeed I feel the Christian Church should not only apologize, but do public penance for the way we have treated people of color, women, adherents of other religions and those we designated heretics, as well as gay and lesbian people.
Life moves on. As the poet James Russell Lowell once put it more than a century ago: “New occasions teach new duties, Time makes ancient good uncouth.” I am ready now to claim the victory. I will from now on assume it and live into it. I am unwilling to argue about it or to discuss it as if there are two equally valid, competing positions any longer. The day for that mentality has simply gone forever.
It's the same people, with the same little minds and the same fear-ridden dispositions who demand that middle-eastern males be strip-searched, that howl that the application of the Constitution and the Rule of law will result in the inevitable fall of Civilization, who insist that the genome be purged of such inferior stock as myself, for fear of... what? They don't know. But in every single case, they use "toleration" and "compassion" as if they were words even worse than "motherfucker" or even "liberal" while claiming a religious right to impose their will on those of us who think being kind to one another IS a fundamental "Principle."
"Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you." I believe that IS how it goes?
And in point of fact, in my experience, after fifty odd years of life, I've learned that that approach to life works very well indeed, particularly when coupled to a strong acquired allergy to lies and self-delusion. "As you have sown, so shall ye reap," so I'm careful about what seed I buy, from whom, and I'm very attached to facts. I've learned that operating on a basis of wishful thinking can have embarrassing, if not starkly dangerous outcomes. So I've come to love facts - whether I particularly LIKE the facts in hand or not.
Now, let's get back to my Canadian Progressive Conservatism. I'm a typical Canadian in many respects. I am attached to the middle of the road. I do not hark back to a glorious past - because I'm conversant with history, which includes many more lice and bedbugs and far fewer unalloyed glories than the magical thinkers would suggest. I value a stately progress of Civilization. I adore such things as railroads, the Enlightenment and indoor plumbing. I particularly revere the remarkably successful collision of fate that is Canada, a chimerical construct that is neither Conservative nor Liberal, but spots of each and each most treasured where those sorts of ideas and the minds that hold them do the most good.
We have very LIBERAL welfare and medical care. We have extraordinarily CONSERVATIVE banking laws. And the reason we have both - and will continue to have both - is in great part due to the horrible examples provided by our neighbors, who have achieved the exact opposite.
That is not because we are free of such fools. We just don't allow them to speak with the expectation that their ideas are "just as good as anybody's." If they have ideas "just as good" they could prove it. Indeed, our current government is arguably Conservative, though it's starting to try my patience.
Honest causes and honorable persons need neither lies nor bullshit - nor do they tolerate them on either side of the issue. That is part of the secret to maintaining a civil society - tolerance up to the point incivility makes civility an unsustainable prospect.
So don't listen to known and famous liars. It's a waste of time you could spend far better in almost any imaginable way.
Our society, our nation - in concert with many other civilized nations that value jusctice, human rights and compassion as being fundamental and unquestionable positive values - thrives. Canada IS her people, and her people are Canada. All of them. Even those such as I.
We are neither bankrupt nor are we enslaved. Indeed, the average Canadian enjoys a greater degree of practical freedom and an arguably better standard of living than the average American - and we certainly enjoy a far higher assurance of personal security and safety, at a far lower price in blood and treasure. That is due in part to the fact that those of us who do deal directly with issues of national security are expected to live in full contact with reality. Ordinary citizens may enjoy the luxury of wishful and uncritical thinking. People who's job it is to govern and defend our nation may not permit themselves more "preferential reality" than what is humanly unavoidable.
Perhaps due to that conservative preference for fact over fancy, we are rather more reluctant to blow people up more or less at random as one of our "principles" of foreign policy. This is - I assure you - quite unrelated to the concept of "liberal squeamishness." It's a very conservative reluctance to add a very large number of unaccountable random factors to a situation. This is the entire REASON for "due process."
Aside from that, we believe that even dangerous people with whom we disagree with on many levels nonetheless have both inherent human rights and some - albeit self-limited - inherent value to society, and that any limitation is best addressed with deliberation, and certainly with every consideration toward the feelings and concerns of those, who, due to family or other ties, may feel affection or obligation toward them.
Or to misquote the Mythbusters. "We are professionals. But you really might want to try this at home."