Third Party & Independents Archives

January 08, 2006

Be Good, or Be Diminished

America is great because she is good. If America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.
Alexis de Tocqueville

Katherine Shrader, Associated Press, writes, that a new poll shows 56% of Americans believe Bush must work through courts in order to spy on Americans regardless of circumstances, including suspicion of links to terrorists. 42% say Bush is free to ignore the laws in his efforts to fight terrorism. Is fighting terrorists the number one priority in our Constitution? Or are civil liberties in the Bill of Rights the first priority? Which position is more Good?

Is fear a rational justification for abandoning the Constitution and rule of law? More people will die because of crime and transportation accidents this year than any single terrorist attack including 9/11. Yet, we don't abandon our Constitution or rule of law in order to halt crime and deaths on our highways. So why should we abandon what makes our nation Good in order to fight terrorism?

Can America disregard the rule of law in order to defend against its fears and remain a Good nation?
Can American torture others and continue to be called a Good Nation?
Can America preemptively attack other nations, occupy them, and remain a Good nation in the eyes of the world?
Can an American government which legalizes bribery from the wealthy, both foreign and domestic, for legislative influence, continue to call itself a Good democracy?

America is great because she is good. If America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.
-- Alexis de Tocqueville Posted by David R. Remer at January 8, 2006 10:04 AM
Comment #111159

When 42% give a wink and a nod to breaking the
law. We as a nation are in some serious doo doo.
The party now in power have somehow brainwashed
there tried and true followers in to giveing
them free reign to turn our great country into
cold war russia. Next we will be standing in line
to recieve out toilet paper rashion. We all know
it provides good padding so we will send it to the
troops. That way Bush can keep his tax cut for
the rich by not being required to send that expensive
body armer the troops are short of.
The Country has gone just that nuts. Despite
the growing list of pathetic leadership flaws.
Nut balls still tune in to Rush and Oreally
and Fox to get there daily shot of there
doing a good job fighting those liberals
and Terrorist. A well rounded point of view
to these freaks is being told what to think
by a conservative blog. WHY THEY DON’T SEE
DUMBFOUNDING. I am of the opinion that
they will not miss the rights they so easely
gave away until a Democrate is in the
White House. That is when they will worry
about wiretaps and fraud. Then it will be
the dirty Dems fault. The slippery slop
only slides one way. Down.

where is the money we spent on Ken Star?
where is Ken Star now that we have something
to investagate?

Posted by: Honey P at January 8, 2006 11:22 AM
Comment #111162

I really don’t see why BushCo can’t spy on people at will. They had such success on WMD, North Korea, Iran and everything else.

Posted by: Aldous at January 8, 2006 11:30 AM
Comment #111167

The problem we have is that so many Americans have a warped sense of what is ‘good’. May I recommend a sensible book by someone who I would consider a conservative, but a rational one. Six Great Ideas by Mortimer Adler

What is goodness? Alex de Tocqueville was an educated man and was well versed in history, philosophy, and politics. So few Americans today are so educated.

I would put forth that preemptive war, torture, policies intended to enrich the rich (yes, the Neocons are staunch Ayn Rand accolytes), policies to deprive the opposition of a political voice, promulgating propoganda and intelligence which is purposely skewed and misleading… yes, there is the polar opposite of the definition of goodness.

We are indeed at an important fork in the road for our nation. Seems we are pointed in the direction of the wrong path. We had better take stock in who we are and what we truly stand for. Could the opposition bear to live under the rules they are seeking and the politial methods they endorse if they were not the party in power?

Posted by: LibRick at January 8, 2006 11:43 AM
Comment #111169

Americans are by and large a good people. We have consistently proven this with our response to disasters such as Katrina and the tsunami last year in Indonesia.

What brings out the worst in us is fear. The reaction, which is human nature is to protect ourselves and those close to us. Sometimes we get overzealous in our actions to do so.

We get better though. Once the threat has diminished or eliminated we are good as a nation at self reflection. We improve. I have great faith in the people of this nation. We need to be more consistent in our actions and our messages, but overall we are a good people. I believe the recent actions in Washington will be responded to in the upcoming elections. We WILL respond to this in a forceful manner. I would expect several incumbents to lose their jobs.

We’re a good people. Sometimes we take our eye off the ball. We’ll get our swing back soon enough, I’m convinced.

Posted by: Dennis at January 8, 2006 11:52 AM
Comment #111178

Dennis, I share in your appraisal of the American people, and find your optimism very encouraging. There is no future without hope. One must hope, and act on those hopes to make them a reality.

I truly hope a good number of incumbents lose their bid in November. The more concerned they get about keeping their political careers, the better representation we American citizens will get from them.

Posted by: David R. Remer at January 8, 2006 12:12 PM
Comment #111226


I too think most Americans are good people.
But, I also think all people fail to account for one of our most basic human failings: Laziness .
It’s just human nature to take the path of least resistance (just like electricity). We all seek security and prosperity with the least effort and pain. Thus, some of us become too complacent, which leads to a cycle, and some in government become corrupt. Hence, government is always (without sufficient transparency) growing increasingly corrupt, and the people allow it for various reasons. All of it is rooted in laziness. When does it change? Usually, only when the status quo is more painful than reform. So, finally, voters get fed up, and do the only thing they can think of, which is to vote out incumbents (as in the early 1950’s, late 1970’s, and 1992-to-1994), or revolt, or worse.

Hence, I hope we can eventually, some day, learn to do something slightly different this time around, and not simply vote anti-incumbent once or twice only to oust irresponsible government, and do nothing else. Because that is only a temporary fix. It won’t give us the transparency and law enforcement required to make long term reforms.

I hope that some day, voters will follow through, create a To-Do-List, and focus longer than one election season, and continue to vote out irresponsible incumbents until governemtn passes a few simple tests from the To-Do-List. Government should have to accomplish a few no-brainer, common-sense, un-contentious tasks to prove to the people they are genuinely trying, and let the people see what is really happening (e.g. ONE PURPOSE PER BILL), and provide a way for the voters to know exactly who is or is not responsible. Many similar simple, common-sense, no-brainer simplifications are possible, but unfortunately, Congress will never do it voluntarily. Thus, the voters are left with the last and only method that has the peaceful force to peacefully balance the power (not simply shift it or strip government of power to accomplish anything) between government and the people: their vote .

Thus, I hope the voters will give Congress a very simple test.

Ask Congress to do these things now:
Who could argue against any of that ?
Incumbents perhaps ? Of course they will.

There’s no mystery why bought-and-paid-for incumbents so highly prize their cu$hy, coveted seats of power. If government is FOR SALE, it is rotten.

And, if Congress refuses to do these things, I would hope voters would continue to oust irresponsible incumbents.

If not, I fear the next repeat of history may not simply be another round of anti-incumbent voting. It’s not hard to fathom how the last 25 years of fiscal irresponsibility could lead to some very painful economic situations in the not too distant future. Especially if you consider the simultaneous effects of $8.1 trillion national debt, $32 trillion of personal debt, 77 million baby boomers that will earn less, pay less tax, spend less, and draw from Social Security and Medicare, looming shortfalls in Social Security and Medicare, $1.6 trillion in shortfalls in pensions, and the probable energy shortages that may be the catalyst that triggers an economic meltdown. Possibly, something as bad as the Great Depression ? It’s not too hard to see that happening. Now, China (2nd largest foreign investor in the National Debt) recently announced that it is going to start to gradually stop buying our debt, and start selling it too (slowly). It’s really a Catch-22. Either way, it will lead to a reduced value of their investment, inflation, and a further decline of the U.$ dollar. 25 years of fiscal irresponsibility (since 1980) will eventually have its consequences. How serious? No one really knows, but you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that this kind of irresponsible spending and borrowing for 25 years is not a good thing?

Posted by: d.a.n at January 8, 2006 04:00 PM
Comment #111259

The Tocqueville quotation is fake. See:

Posted by: John J. Pitney, Jr. at January 8, 2006 09:00 PM
Comment #111261

OK, maybe. But don’t call it fake unless you can prove it. And, don’t overlook the spirit of the message either.

Posted by: d.a.n at January 8, 2006 09:22 PM
Comment #111301

Pitney, your link does NOT establish the quote as phony. It simply states, the actual quote cannot be found in an original Toqueville writing. That in no way proves that at one time, such a script did exist from whence the attribution was derived. It certainly appears to be a commonly held attribution by your link, and therefore, I will leave the attribution standing. To disprove de Toqueville’s attribution, one would have to provide proof of someone else’s authorship of the quote, or display the entire and complete work of all of de Toqueville’s writings to demonstrate the absence. Since, it is not possible to do the latter, and no one has proferred proof of the former, it appears to still be safe to continue make this attribution..

That aside, Dan is quite correct, the message the quote imparts is just as valid regardless of whom it is attributed to.

Posted by: David R. Remer at January 9, 2006 07:33 AM
Comment #111308

Look at that. Thanks to some guy from that right-wing rag, The Weekly Standard, the thread is derailed. Typical right-wing debate tactic to find one small typo to distract from the issue. :(

LibRick, you mean “preventative war”, not “preemptive war”. A preemptive attack against an imminent threat is a legal and necessary defense. A preventative attack against a nation that may (or may not) become a threat someday is unnecessary and illegal. Just a nit-pick, but an important one. :)

David, the terrorists must be giddy with joy to see America turning into a theocratic authoritarian state. 9/11 worked. :/

Posted by: American Pundit at January 9, 2006 07:57 AM
Comment #111403

AP, we do seem to be moving in that direction. If I were al-Queda, however, I would see it as a short term advantage in recruitments, but, a long term growing threat to Islam. Does indeed seem to strengthen their persuasiveness amongst potential recruits.

Posted by: David R. Remer at January 9, 2006 01:51 PM
Comment #111481

Spying on American citizens without a warrant is WRONG. Regaurdless of why.
However, I haven’t heard of any American citizens being spyed on.

Posted by: Ron Brown at January 9, 2006 04:13 PM
Comment #111514
Spying on American citizens without a warrant is WRONG. Regaurdless of why. However, I haven’t heard of any American citizens being spyed on.

The warrantless monitoring involved international calls coming both into and out of the United States.

Of course American citizens were involved. To be sure, the FISA law (which the administration sidestepped) prohibits the warrantless monitoring of “United States persons,” which extends slightly beyond those who are simply “citizens.” This is to comport with past Supreme Court decisions regarding the 4th amendment.

Posted by: mattLaw at January 9, 2006 04:49 PM
Comment #111527

The most important change in congress isn’t to treat little simptoms like campaign finance, bills, the budget or anything else. Those are bandaids that won’t change anything.

The real change that needs to take place is for Congress to reverse the 1911 rule they passed to make the House of Representatives no longer representative of the people. The limited the size of the house to make sure the influx of immigrants would not have a say in congress. It worked like a charm - now each “representative” has 650,000 people they are representing - no wonder they pay attention to companies more than people - to get your message to 650,000 people takes a lot of money and once you get elected, its pretty hard to get 325,001 people to decide to change. The House has become a “corporate senate”.

Congress used to grow as the population did, the ratio for many years was a respresentative for every 62,000 peopele (the consititution sets the minimum number of people for the representative - but did not set a max which is why congress was able to unwisely make this change in 1911). Back in those days a person could actually talk to their reprsentative and if they didn’t like what they heard, they had a much easier task to unseat the representative.

Imagine that, the House of Representives having to do what ordinary americans want them to do instead of worrying about how they are going to raise enough money to reach those 650,000 people next election.

The unfortunate thing is that congress passed this limit themseleves and its a conflict of interest for them to change it since it will weaken every representative that would have to vote for change.

This article has some good info on the subject:

Posted by: JT at January 9, 2006 05:06 PM
Comment #111600

The cubed root theory of how many representatives we should have is another idea.

Posted by: JT at January 9, 2006 06:49 PM
Comment #111654

Ron, the Times investigative reporter who wrote the story, indicates 500 Americans per year, and it has been going on for several years, according to his sources. He was on C-Span today talking about it. Make that MSNBC, Hardball.

Posted by: David R. Remer at January 9, 2006 09:08 PM
Comment #111944

I heard on NPR they were spying on Quakers, because they merely protested the war?

Ask someone who once lived or came from a country what the first signs of tyranny are. The government is not only growing in size to nightmare proportions, but it is stepping over the line in many other areas. We have a dysfunctional and corrupt legal system and perversion of the laws to do the very things they are supposed prevent, insufficient or selective law enforcement, legal plunder (e.g. abuse of eminent domain laws and recent, alarming supreme court rulings), wealth re-distribution, plundered entitlement systems, Gerrymandering to manipulate votes based on geographical boundaries, too many greedy, corrupt, and parasitic ambulance chasers, and idiotic juries allowing astronomical judgments for personal injury litigation with million$ and billion$ going to lawyers, etc.), identity theft (the fastest growing crime in the U.S.); no reliable form of identification (e.g. iris and/or finger-print and/or voice-print, and/or hand-print, etc.), releasing repeat offenders to repeat crimes of rape, child molestation, murder, etc.), pardons by presidents to release convicted criminals, violation or insufficient protection of basic rights (e.g. discrimination, and crimes based on religion, race, gender, age, wealth, sexual preference, etc.), and execution and incarceration of innocent people.
We have a dysfunctional election system and election fraud, unfair and illegal barriers preventing third party candidates from getting on election ballots, limited voting choices and candidates (which could be improved by an Approval Voting system), corrupt campaign finance; negative campaigning; pandering, influence by wealthy and/or powerful special interest groups, government for sale; buying elections, 90% of elections are won by the candidate with the most money, giving rise to an elitist and arrogant government, and, 5% of the wealthiest have 59% of all wealth in the nation, thus, the middle-to-lower-class-income groups do not have an equal voice in government.

It’s not wise to ever ignore or underestimate the corruption that power can bring with it. Without sufficient transparency and law enforcement, power corrupts. Not everyone, but most, as evidenced by the federal government and many other governments throughout history.
Can anyone say more than half of Congress are responsible and accountable? No? Can anyone name 10, 20, 50, 100, much less 268 (half) in Congress that has not voted for pork-barrel, haven’t accepted big-money, fought for campaign finance reform, didn’t vote themselves a rai$e or cu$hy benefits, or didn’t look the other way? Even the most responsible among them admit to looking the other way. Even the most responsible among them spend a lot of time raising big money for their campaign war chests. And, they all try to reduce transparency. Ten thousand page BILLs is a great place to reduce transparency and hide bribes, graft, and corporate welfare.

That’s why no incumbents deserve to stay,
and that’s the price that incumbents should pay,
for looking the other way.

Posted by: d.a.n at January 10, 2006 04:10 PM
Comment #112144

According to polls, Dan, half the country believes the only time we need to live by our civil liberty laws is when we don’t need them. In other words, they believe that as long as America is at peace, prosperous, and doing OK, then civil liberties are important. But, when we are at war, or experiencing difficulties, then civil liberties have to take a back seat to more important issues.

They don’t realize that crises are exactly the situations every authoritarian and dictatorship uses to usurp the protections of the people from their government. Liberty freely given away, requires civil war or revolution to get back, history seems to show.

The time civil liberty protections are needed most is those times when the government can argue they are needed least.

Posted by: David R. Remer at January 11, 2006 08:08 AM
Comment #112265

Yes. I agree completely.

We have to protect liberties at ALL times.
Besides, history has shown us that government always abuses the power.

Interestingly, Scalito almost said the very same thing yesterday in the S.C. hearing (Tuesday).

Posted by: d.a.n at January 11, 2006 05:02 PM
Comment #112272
The cubed root theory of how many representatives we should have is another idea.

More and bigger government?
I cringe.

Not until it is at least more responsible and accountable.
Currently, it is not responsible and accountable.
There is too much corruption, graft, bribery, and corporate warfare.
Our Congress does this sort of disgraceful crap, while we have troops risking life and limb.

Is this not the epitome of irresponsible government?

Now government is abusing eminent domain to legally plunder people’s land, hold people with out charging them with a crime, and spying on them without a warrant.

And then there’s Sean Baker.
That poor guy was beat severely by guards when they thought he was a detainee at Gitmo. And, still no one has been held accountable.

Is this the kind of government we want?

And if that is not enough, consider the fiscal irresponsibility that is heaping hundreds of years of trillion$ in debt onto future generaitons. Is that moral?

The signs are there, and some foreigners that have first hand experience recognize the signs.

Now is the time for voters to test their vote to see if it can still reform corrupt government.
Because, with all the election fraud in 2000 and 2004, there’s also a growing likelihood that your vote won’t be counted.

Does it sound like the sky is falling?
Of course not.
But, there is a definite decline.
We are not moving forward fiscally or morally.
Government is simply too irresponsible and unaccountable.
Only the voters can remedy that.
Just vote out incumbents, and keep doing it, until they pass some no-brainer and common-sense laws and admendments to make government responsible and accountable too. But, don’t ‘wait too long, because the longer we wait, there harder and more painful reform will be.

Posted by: d.a.n at January 11, 2006 05:22 PM
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