Sometimes I’m Insufficiently Liberal

As readers of this blog may have guessed, I’m not in the “pure” category when it comes to being a liberal.  I call myself a “pragmatic liberal,” because while I’m generally liberal, I also have a strong pragmatic streak.   I said a year ago:

What that means is that I will always go with “what works” over an impractical solution, or take what is achievable for now versus doing without anything in the vague hope that “the perfect” will somehow happen.

Even aside from pragmatic, I sometimes have some other stances that aren’t really “liberal.”  What are they?

I really don’t have a problem with the existence of the death penalty.   Having said that, I do have a problem with the number of cases that it gets used as penalty, and how they’re tried.  The Troy Davis case is a good example of that.  There was serious doubt as to whether he actually committed the crime.  There were serious flaws that, in any objective sense, should have caused a commutation to a life sentence at the very least.  There have been a number of other cases like it, where the accused has received incompetent representation, police and prosecutorial misconduct, flawed evidence, and a host of other problems.   All of which throw a very poor light on the criminal justice system, and with those, a lot of questions about the appropriateness of the death penalty.    But there are certain crimes, a small number,  that I think it’s an appropriate penalty for.  No, I don’t think it prevents anyone from committing them, that the deterrence argument is bullshit. But I’m not going to be upset if someone who does commit them  gets put to death.  I’m fine with that, just because I think the world is a better place without that person in it.     My belief is that it should be used only as a penalty where  not only does the crime fall into one of those limited circumstances, there is absolutely no doubt that the person actually committed it.   Those cases aren’t very common, and even then, I believe the accused should have the best representation possible.

I think it’s a good idea to  review regulations and government programs on occasion.  But it always seems that someone on one side of the political spectrum or the other has heart attacks when something like that is announced.  It can be social programs, which will set the liberals afire, or defense programs which get the conservatives in a frenzy.    For whatever reason, it has become a sacred cow.   I’d rather look at any program with the idea of the original goal in mind to determine whether it’s working or not, and make a decision based on that.  If it doesn’t work, it’s no longer necessary, or it needs changes,  then it should be gotten rid of or changed.  If it’s working fine,  leave it alone.  The same for regulations.  Some are obsolete, some are unnecessary (really), some have the opposite effect from what was intended, and some aren’t accomplishing their purpose.    That means getting rid of some, changing others, or developing (gasp!) new ones .

I don’t have any problem with people being wealthy.  Bill Gates?  Heck, he started a company,  and is now worth billions.  Good for him.    I’m not even against corporations.  There’s a reason they exist, and some very useful things about them.  Same thing for banks.   Stomping around screaming about “corporatists” and so on doesn’t exactly move me.  That said, I do have some issues with behavior, as well as an inability to recognize that with that wealth and the useful things, there’s a set of societal responsibilities that go along with it.   I’m also not too fond of people who portray themselves as “self-made” when the reality is that they inherited a good percentage of what they have.  Let’s face it, if you were born on third base, not only did you not hit a triple, it’s a heck of a lot easier to get to home base than to start off in the on deck circle.

I fail to be terribly upset by the deaths of Osama bin Laden, Muammar Ghaddafi, and Anwar al-Awlaki.   While it might have been nice to bring them all to trial,  that they didn’t get one because they were killed instead doesn’t particularly bother me.   I’m rather glad they’re dead, and I’m not losing any sleep about the “how”.

Even though I work in the environmental field, and I have degrees in it, I’m not always particularly fond of some environmental activists.   Telling me that you want to preserve a pristine old growth forest is fine, but you might want to check first to see if it’s actually an old growth forest.  Because if you had, you’d have realized it’s second growth.    Advocate against cell phone towers?  Great, but stop complaining that your cell phone doesn’t work when you’re here.   When you’re waxing rhapsodical about the “untamed wilderness experience” of paddling on a lake, it might behoove you before saying that to realize the lake in question is artificial.  Yes, I agree snowmobiles are noisy and burn fossil fuels.  I also know that they pay for their trails – which you use in the summer – and put a lot of money into the local economy in the winter.   Unless you’re willing to replace that, it’s hard to get behind your efforts to ban them.

I sometimes think that a voter test isn’t a bad thing.   Seriously, everyone should know what the branches of government are, and what each one does, in order to vote.  I’m fine with remedial training for that, but there’s increasing evidence that a lot of people have no clue about it.  That’s particularly true if they’re citing the Constitution as justification for their stand, because most of the time they’re wrong.   If not that, then we should make every major media outlet pundit take – without preparation or warning – the same citizenship exam we give to immigrants wanting to become citizens.  They don’t have to pass, but their score would be posted every time they appear.

I consider Hugo Chavez a dictator, not a socialist hero.  Aside from being paranoid, he hasn’t done much to improve the economy , restricted free speech, and had to use troops to combat violent crime.   That’s besides the lack of a succession plan and suppression of dissent.  So mostly his “socialist paradise” looks just like a lot of other dictatorships.

I’ve been a scientist.  That’s why I have scant use for global warming deniers, creationists, and those who don’t acknowledge that we have limits when it comes to resources.  I also have scant use for those who are anti-vaccines, those who knee-jerk against genetically modified crops, and those who come up with “traditional medicine” woo and conspiracy theories about them.



Filed under Politics

26 responses to “Sometimes I’m Insufficiently Liberal

  1. You think a lot like I do. For example, I’m against the death penalty, but I also understand that there are a LOT of states (like Georgia) that will hang on to it until it’s pryed from their cold, dead hands. I also understand that there is just NO redeeming some people (Charles Manson comes to mind) and that putting them to death probably wouldn’t be a bad idea. I do think the criteria for the death penalty SHOULD be a lot more airtight, like you propose. Also, I’m not at all upset with Bin Laden or Gadaffi or Alwalarki dying, either. I just don’t understand these people crying over the death of people who want to kill THEM. If someone kills a rattlesnake trying to bite them, it’s not an occasion for mourning. It’s too bad for the snake, but human self-preservation is much more important. Same for Chavez. These idiots wearing Che Guevara T-shirts seem to think Chavez is cut from the same stripe as Castro. Well, they are BOTH murderering, dictatorial assholes, so maybe they’re right. I just don’t understand how these PL idiots don’t wake up, smell the coffee and realize that MOST of the time, the USA ARE the good guys. No, we’re not perfect and we do make mistakes (Vietnam and Iraq are prime examples of that) but we aren’t the ones trying to destroy people. THEY are.

    • In general, I’m against the death penalty, but as I said, there’s a small subset of cases (I linked to one) where the extremely heinous nature of the crime, along with a complete lack of doubt about who committed it – not “beyond reasonable doubt” but “beyond any doubt” – that put it into the category where I think it’s appropriate. Some states (Georgia and Texas spring to mind) seem to use it all the time, and there have been a lot of doubts in those cases.

      • Same here. I’d like to see the death penalty limited to a certain amount of cases, like you mentioned. Only someone who has committed the most heinous of crimes should get it, and that person should be convicted beyond ANY doubt. In other words, it should be obvious that they did it. The whole Troy Davis fiasco was a horrible thing to watch-especially since Troy Davis wasn’t the one who pulled the trigger-he was only in the vicinity when the crime happened.

  2. Norbrook, one of the things that I am certain many liberals would take away my liberal card about is this ‘civil liberties’ concern amongst many on the left these days. Every transaction you make with a debit/credit card is recorded an kept by various companies/financial institutions, including the sites on the internets that one visits, yet I don’t hear of anyone clamoring to do anything about that. It’s one of the trade-offs for having those tech advances. Furthermore since presidents take a solemn oath to defend this country ‘against all enemies foreign and domestic’, I don’t work up too much concern about the deaths of al-Alwaki or bin Laden. That oath means what it says.

    • Oh, and let’s talk about the smartphones everyone has that has tracking software on it, recording their every move. Same thing. I don’t see the PL bitching about THOSE.

    • I quibble with your position on the data gathered and used by tracking our debit/credit card activities, but I respect it. I won’t call for revocation of your liberal card. 🙂

      And I’m with you on al-Awlaki and bin Laden. We should always keep a wary eye on operations like these, yes — but these operations were NOT done in secret, and we all know WHY they were done. Collateral damage? It’s ALWAYS, ALWAYS tragic, and we should never turn a blind eye to it, nor should we become desensitized to it. But when it’s the result of having chosen the least awful option available, we have to be able to grieve the tragedy and press on. That’s life in meatspace.

      • Well, sure-when innocent people are killed, it IS tragic. That’s why the US military has GOT to be extremely careful to avoid collateral damage, like they were with the Bin Laden incident.

    • Oh heck, I notice that they’re all on Facebook and totally ignore the lack of privacy concerns there. Or consider just what Facebook is doing with that information. 🙄

    • ArrogantDemon

      If they were totally into civil liberties, they would reject all technology, leave all blogs along, and like like hermits or Amish

      I dont think they’re gonna even go as far as put the smartphone down or stop getting wifi from Starbucks, the effete latte sipping pricks they are

      • Amen, Demon. You’d think if they were so serious about being “non conformist” they would stay away from ALL technology. But no. Just goes to show just what hypocrites the PL really are.

  3. Norbrook, this is why I appreciate your take on the various topics of the day. Simply put, you avoid the knee jerk, and you’re willing to explain/analyze the thinking that underlies your positions. To me, this is the distinguishing feature of pragmatism, and it requires a large measure of patience and maturity.

    • Thank you. I regard with suspicion the idea that one’s positions shouldn’t ever change, or softened. The real world has a way of turning up shades of gray where you thought it was black and white.

  4. Yeah, I’m never concerned with anyone taking away my liberal card. I have stuff I want to see get done and when someone comes along who I believe can get stuff done, I’m going to support that person. I’m not into ‘issues’ and left my ideology back in the 70’s, so I’m with you. Grey is my favorite color.

    • Most of the people with “issues” are, in my opinion, keeping a close eye on a tree branch, while ignoring the tree and that the tree is in a forest. But my goodness, they can tell you everything about that branch and how important it is! 🙄

  5. Suzanne Holland

    Happy New Year and thank you for this blog!!!!!!!!!

  6. Heh! Nodding my head in agreement on some issues and shaking my head in disagreement on others. Still, a very reasoned overview of your stances.

    • I don’t expect everyone to agree with me on everything. 😉 Heck, when I posted this, I expected people to to disagree with me on most things. 😆

  7. I totally disagree with you over the death penalty because I feel it can and has been abused in too many ways when possibly innocent people like Gray Davis die. It really isn’t a deterent to crime, does not make any wrong right and costs more in the long run.

    I would have no problems with allowing the victim’s families a few minutes alone with criminals (no weapons allowed) to beat the caca out of them before they get locked in cages for the rest of their natural lives! But I have real issues with state sanctioned death as a punishment.

    That said I am in agreement about pragamatism and doing what you can do.

    • That’s why I said when there’s absolutely no doubt.

      • And that’s RARE when there is absolutely no doubt. I agree with Aquagranny that the death penalty is not a deterrent and does cost a lot of money in the long run-for example, I live in California. Our death row costs millions of dollars to run. I suspect that’s the tack Governor Jerry Brown is going to take when he leads the effort to abolish the death penalty in California again. And I won’t be upset if that happens.

        • Yes, and I also agreed it’s not a deterrent. The case I linked to and this one in Connecticut are among the few where, as I said, I don’t really have a problem with the penalty. For the rest, life in prison without parole is preferable.

          • Yes, you did say that. I also think life without parole is preferable in most cases. All you have to do is look at the Manson Family to see how life without parole-or even life WITH parole as in the case of the Manson girls-is not fun or comfortable for people who commit heinous crimes like they did. Every single time one of the Manson people are up for parole, the families of the victims (specifically the Tate family) show up at the hearing and raise hell. And I predict NONE of those women will ever get parole. They will die in prison-and the Tate family will make sure they do.
            Now THAT is more of a harsh punishment than even the death penalty.

  8. Fellow pragmatist

    While there are some ideological purists such as hold-out Trostskyites or anti-human luddites, let’s pull back from creating a composite, “pl” strawman. Indeed, the etymology of “professional left” is a worthwhile lesson to us all. Where was it first used? By a pr professional, if I am not mistaken.

    Believe it or not, you can find many pragmatists, well adjusted people who firmly believe, with good historical reason, that our government is up to nasty things from time to time. And not all of us are birthers, truthers, or whatever “er” label you can name. Many of us don’t believe it is a grand conspiracy so much as sleazy post facto a$$ covering, careerism, and profiteering.

    Considering American history from Woodrow Wilson on, the eugenics programs, through Johnson and Nixon, supporting Latin American dictators, Clinton and Bush’s machinations against civil liberties, do you think it safe to say that powerful people will do what it takes to achieve their goals or maintain political power? And that many of these people believe that the ends justify the means?

    My problem with the Center-Left is that they will ramble on through a litany of abuses, and I am not in disagreement with remembering these, by traditional powers like racism, dispossession of N. Americans, etc., but somehow the bad all stops around WW2 and from then on it’s noble intentions, but flawed methods, obviously excepting the Bull Connors of the world.

    • The reason we use the term “professional left” is that there is such a thing. That is, they represent themselves as leaders or spokespersons for “the left,” and are paid (very) well to do so. There is also a “professional Right.” It’s not a strawman, it’s an observable phenomenon. There’s a great deal of “group think” among both groups, as well as circular referencing within them.

      I don’t recall every seeing any of the pragmatic center-Left saying that it all stops with WW2. In fact, quite the opposite. If you read through here, you’ll find that there are abuses throughout history, and many of us are quite willing to point them out.

  9. I don’t agree on the tests before you can vote but I would certainly make Civics a requirement in schools. From grade school to college where the lowest grade you can get is a B

    • That’s why I said “sometimes think.” 😉 Yes, I know the history of voter tests, but after dealing with assorted birthers, far-right advocates, along with numerous people on the Left, I realize just how many people have zero clue about how government is structured and works. I wouldn’t go from grade school, since I think the time would be much better spent teaching the three R’s along with reasoning there. But definitely as part of the standard high school and college requirements.