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Freedom of Speech

A Philadelphia newspaper archive.

A Philadelphia newspaper archive.

Where did I put that soapbox? Ah yes, here it is…

I hope it is not just me but I am finding the recent series of incidents at town hall meetings regarding health care rather dumb.

Don’t get me wrong, I have no qualm with people voicing their opposition to a current political issue directly to their politicians, I actually find that admirable. However I do find that drowning out what the politician or others are trying to say with meaningless chants and blather just dumb.

Part of freedom of speech is in allowing others to voice their opinions  even, especially, if you disagree with them.

I do appreciate the small irony in drowning out these town hall meetings with recitations of the pledge of allegiance. I wonder what they are actually pledging themselves too?

If we don’t believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don’t believe in it at all

— Noam Chomsky

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Flower debates are tough to watch.

Flower debates are tough to watch.

First I would like to say that I could not find a good source online to watch the vice presidential debates. The best and only one I found was through C-SPAN and it was a small, low quality Real Player streaming video. I was not so worried about the video quality but the audio was inaudible at times.

What I find frustrating about debates, I suppose it applies to politicians in general, is the lack of ability to directly answer the questions asked. With the vice presidential candidates it seemed to me that for the most part Joe Biden answered the question asked, while for several questions such as gay civil rights and McCain’s stock market regulation policies Sarah Palin avoided and diverted the question. To some extent every politicians alters the question asked slightly, but for these two particular ones I felt disappointed that they were not answered.

Then there is the one question that is never really answered: What is your weakest trait? The weakness is always a, well, stupid one. They might as well say, “My weakness is that I am was too awesome”. Of course they do not answer it, if I was in that situation I probably would not answer it. It would just be refreshing to have a candidate for once to give a real answer to this question.

Maybe they could do it quietly at the end so only a few people hear.

There is always the question after a debate of who “won”. This is always a hard question for me since I watch the debates already knowing who I will vote for, I watch just find out more about the other side. I know about the candidates I agree with, I want to know about the ones I do not so if they win I know what to expect. 

At least this debate did not have the running graph of audience reactions. That was just silly.

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Marijuana

 

Good Sage Advice

Good Sage Advice

I never understood why marijuana is illegal. Alcohol alters behavior and causes us to do stupid things, yet it is legal. Tobacco causes long term health effects including death, yet it is still legal. Coffee alters our state of mind and it addictive, yet it is legal. But marijuana? No can’t have that!

We should legalize marijuana in the same capacity that tobacco, alcohol, caffeine and all of our other non-drug drugs are legal. If we legalize it then we can, surprise, tax it. This tax money could then be used for the cost of enforcing whatever agency would then supervise the growing or selling of marijuana. Sort of the like the Department of Alcohol and Beverage Control or the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. Except with Marijuana somewhere in the name.

Most of the anti-marijuana ads that I have seen really highlight one or two things. The first is that smoking marijuana will cause you to forget about life and fall into a spiral of neglect and forgetfulness. This could also be TV, video games, bad relationships or any addiction. 

The second argument is the one where a stoned driver crashes into a tree, and dude, seriously, that tree totally jumped in front of him. Or if not a tree then a small innocent child whistling happily to themselves as they ride in front of the beat up, often brown, car filled with smoke.

Well, if we legalize it then we just make driving under the influence a crime. Maybe we could abbreviate that to something like DUI? 

Legalization of marijuana in all cases would also allow for a better development and acceptance of medical marijuana treatment.

I should also mention to prevent any ad hominem reactions I should say that while I do live in and near areas where medical marijuana is legal and that I also go to school in one of the top twenty pot schools in the country, that I personally do not smoke marijuana.

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Cannon Control to Protect Our Monuments!

Cannon Control to Protect Our Monuments!

Politically I tend to lean heavily in the direction of liberal, I also tend to lean towards libertarian as well. While I was in Scotland one of my friends, a member of the Officers Training Corps, tended to bring up gun control in the United States. From his perspective it seemed so strange that it was so easy to buy a functional gun (in the UK you can buy disabled guns). Growing up I did not have any exposure to guns or any real weapons, eventually though my brother became interested in hunting and now there are several guns of various types around the house.

About a year and half ago I asked my brother to take me out shooting with him, the basics of shooting a gun seemed like a good skill to have. We shot clay pigeons on a dairy ranch with some shotguns, I also tried out a handgun and a rifle though not to shoot clay pigeons. It was pretty fun except the part where I forgot to fully brace the shotgun before I fired. That hurt.

In the midst of the presidential campaign I asked myself where I really stand on many of the single issues in case I am involved in a discussion when I get back to school. I surprisingly found myself against most gun control. It is not because I want to have a gun to protect myself and my family from criminals or other people. It is not because I want to become a hunter. Rather I feel that we the people should be armed to protect ourselves from our government. 

One of the ideals that seems to have become lost over the course of American history is that the people should not be afraid of the government, the government should be afraid of the people. 

I still think that we should have strict government control over cannons, I have seen way to many pointed directly at historic and cultural monuments.

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a political pole.

On left: a political pole.

It seems that every day in the news is an article or report on how McCain and Obama are faring in the most recent poll. The news is about how a recent event effected some subgroup of voters and changed their opinion of a candidate by 2.5%, with a margin of error of 3%. Polls are all good and fine if one has to fill a full day of news reporting when there is only, say, a quarter of a day of news available.

Part of me feels that political polling is flawed in its current form. Namely that it is done (maybe not all polling) by calling home phone numbers from either voter registry or picked out of a phone book and asking the important questions (like how do flag pins make you feel?). Alright so they call home phones, thats fine, it is probably around dinner or during The Daily Show. Except recently there has been a surge of political activism in my generation, okay maybe it is more of a removal of apathy instead of activism, and I feel that we are not represented in the polling system.

Why are we not being represented? Well it is because active voters under, say, 25, do not have their own land line phone numbers. If we are in college then all we have is our cell phone (or mobile for international readers) either under our own plans or as part of our parents. After we finish college and move out to apartments, or back home, likely we would use our mobile phones more and might not have a land line installed or activated. So when pollsters call around asking us about our views we get missed since they do not call cell phones.

For this election season I won’t be looking at any of the polls. Except for the last one.

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