Advancing democracy

Advancing democracy

: Thanks to PubliusPundit, I took a read of the Advance Democracy bill introduced in the Senate and House about a week ago. It would make it U.S. policy to advance democracy in the world. I hope no one can argue with that notion. Or to put it another way: If North Korea doesn’t like it, it must be good.

There is some good and stirring language worth flying on the flagpole in the bill (which you can find by going to and searching on “advance demoracy”; sadly, I can’t figure out how to get permalinks out of Thomas). A few excerpts:

It shall be the policy of the United States —

(1) to promote freedom and democracy in foreign countries as a fundamental component of United States foreign policy;

(2) to affirm fundamental freedoms and human rights in foreign countries and to condemn offenses against those freedoms and rights as a fundamental component of United States foreign policy;

(3) to use all instruments of United States influence to support, promote, and strengthen democratic principles, practices, and values in foreign countries, including the right to free, fair, and open elections, secret balloting, and universal suffrage;

(4) to protect and promote fundamental political, social, and economic freedoms and rights, including the freedom of association, of expression, of the press, and of religion, and the right to own private property;

(5) to protect and promote respect for and adherence to the rule of law in foreign countries;

(6) to provide appropriate support to organizations, individuals, and movements located in nondemocratic countries that aspire to live in freedom and establish full democracy in such countries;

(7) to provide, political, economic, and other support to foreign countries that are willingly undertaking a transition to democracy ;

(8) to commit United States foreign policy to the long-term challenge of promoting universal democracy ; and

(9) to strengthen alliances and relationships with other democratic countries in order to better promote and defend shared values and ideals.

One could argue that that has been our policy for a long time and that we don’t need an act of Congress to make it so. But perhaps we do.

And the bill does take some action that I hope is more than adding to bureacracy. It calls for the creation of an Undersecretary of State for Global Affairs to monitor and nudge (my legislative term) democracy and also for a special assistant to the President who’ll watch over this. It calls for annual reports on the state of democracy in the world. It creates an internet site devoted to spreading the word. And there’s this golden nugget:

It is the sense of Congress that establishing a more formal structure for the Community of Democracies may eventually be necessary in the future, at which time the United States should guide and strongly support such a development. It is the sense of Congress that, if properly funded and supported, the Community of Democracies can achieve great success toward the global promotion of democratic principles, practices, and values.


Also of interest is the definition of undemocratic:

The Secretary shall categorize a country as nondemocratic if such country fails to satisfy any of the following requirements:

(aa) All citizens of such country have the right to, and are not restricted in practice from, fully and freely participating in the political life of such country regardless of gender, race, language, religion, or beliefs.

(bb) The national legislative body of such country and, if directly elected, the head of government of such country, are chosen by free, fair, open, and periodic elections, by universal and equal suffrage, and by secret ballot.

(cc) More than one political party in such country has candidates who seek elected office at the national level and such parties are not restricted in their political activities or their process for selecting such candidates except for reasonable administrative requirements commonly applied in countries categorized as fully democratic.

(dd) All citizens in such country have a right to, and are not restricted in practice from, fully exercising the freedoms of thought, conscience, belief, peaceful assembly and association, speech, opinion, and expression, and such country has a free, independent, and pluralistic media.

(ee) The current government of such country did not come to power in a manner contrary to the rule of law.

(ff) Such country possesses an independent judiciary and the government of such country generally respects the rule of law.

Of course, it will be troubling to see which of our current allies do not meet these criteria.

I leave you with the first two of many points made at the start of the bill:

(1) All human beings are created equal and possess certain rights and freedoms, including the fundamental right to participate in the political life and government of their respective countries. These inalienable rights are recognized in the Declaration of Independence of the United States and in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations.

(2) Political legitimacy derives from the consent of the governed, whether expressed directly or through representatives chosen by free, fair, and open elections.

Yes, sure, this comes out of Bush’s recent speeches. But I hope that in this democracy, we can all agree at least that democracy and self-government are the right of every human being on earth.

: UPDATE: Thanks to a commenter, here’s a permalink to the legislation.

  • Very interesting development. Yet, I’ve always questioned the inclusion of “the right to own private property” as a fundamental human right. This seems more of a particular social/cultural/economic development than a right fundamental to “being human.” Many societies have, and continue to thrive where property is owned communally, with no individual right to claim exclusive ownership.

  • Oh, and your quoting of “All human beings are created equal and possess certain rights and freedoms” seems incompatible with your call for prioritizing the safety (rights?) of the “sane” over the “insane.”

  • Michael: I was I”m not saying that the rights of the sane should overtake the rights of the insane … I’m saying that the way things are going, the rights of the insane are overtaking the rights of the sane and that’s screwed up.

  • Faramin

    Or to put it another way: If North Korea doesn’t like it, it must be good
    Pure indication of your inability to think properly.

  • I now understand your distinction better, Jeff, but there’s a strong argument to be made that the insane should be protected “better” (such a sloppy term, I’m sorry) than the sane, due to the very nature of their limited abilities to protect themselves. (Similar to the arguments for children as a “protected class”).

  • sbw

    Jeff, what is missing is why:
    Democracy codifies humility — understanding that there may be a better way to do things and anyone may suggest how and have the opportunity to convince others why.

  • Michael: Perfect fair point. But I think we’re failing both: The insane are allowed to stay insane because they’re too insane to decide that they’d rather be sane (and yes, that was a terrible expression of it). And law-abiding everyday people should expect that the security apparatus of policing should be able to keep them safe.

  • it will be troubling to see which of our current allies do not meet these criteria
    Or us.

  • Oliver, you are the Automated Kneejerk Machine.
    OK, let’s hear your indictment of America: On exactly what clauses to you find us guilty of being an undemocratic nation? I can’t wait to hear this. And I’m sure others agree….

  • Well, not to speak for Oliver, but there is much work to be done domestically to “protect and promote fundamental political, social, and economic freedoms and rights” of our own citizens. This project shouldn’t be solely a foreign policy initiative.

  • richard mcenroe


  • Details via Govtrack including sponsorship.

  • Kneejerk, Jeff? Because I want America to be Better? C’mon, stop drinking the right’s kool-aid for five minutes. Do elements of the Patriot Act, or Brent Bozell’s jihad against boobies and the resulting FCC capitulation strike you as democratic? If we are to truly spread freedom and democracy (a policy I support and one the president has not), we would do well to simultaneously do as we say.

  • Gah! Oliver Willis is making my brain hurt!
    “Brent Bozell’s jihad against boobies” is undemocratic? Jeff Jarvis and Howard Stern have every right to oppose Brent Bozell, but Brent Bozell has just as much right to his crusade against smut because this *is* a free and democratic society!
    The alternative would be to do what? Throw him in jail for not agreeing with Democrats? Fine *him* a million dollars for not being OK with boobies on TV? Charge him with a hate crime against pornography? Tell us, Mr Democracy, how do you force someone you disagree with to shut up against their will and call it freedom?
    We have come to a pass where many fringe Democrats believe that, while their only impediment to free speech is losing elections and not being in charge of everything, true freedom of speech for themselves can only be attained by making over half the country shut up, and yet they accuse everybody else of being fascist and antidemocratic.
    You’re not just part of a losing political party, OW. You’re *nuts*.

  • Way to ignore what I wrote. When the FCC decides to start censoring that which you find important, I’ll remember.

  • The issue regarding the FCC is a political issue, and your side has been losing that and many other arguments, recently.
    Categorizing flashing boobies as speech is a political opinion; you are not the God of America, and you are not in a position to define pornography for the rest of us.
    The fact that you’ve been on the losing side of these arguments is what you restate as repression and fascism.
    It will be the same with Social Security. If Democrats win, you will celebrate a victory for democracy. If the right wins, we’ll be subject to another round of complaints about the Nazis taking over.
    So I apologize for having to put it this strongly, for I’m really not in the habit of hurling epithets: you, sir, are nuts.

  • Oh, and btw, Mr Democracy, you did indeed suggest that Bozell’s “jihad” against boobies was in itself not democratic. I’m still interested in hearing what particular method you would choose to quell this dissident.

  • I agree with Jeff. Oliver, exactly what is your argument? Would you agree with me that taxes need to be slashed, along with the detrimental social programs they support?
    Because if you don’t, then you obviously don’t support a better America. And I can give you the numbers to prove it.
    You’re the exact reason I couldn’t be a liberal. You let your politics influence your economics, instead of the other way around.

  • Actually, the US economy has historically done better under Democratic presidents.
    carsonfire: Bozell can shoot off his mouth all he wants, but as I said – when the FCC comes after speech you agree with, I’ll remember your statements here. The constitution is pretty clear on all this, much to the right’s chagrin.

  • Here’s just two elements where the US system needs improving:
    One, the criminal justice system. Cannot be fair when the level of African American in prisons is far above their composition in society as a whole, unless someone wants to argue a propensity…
    Two, freedom of the press in the White House press corps. Ask a difficult question and that’s the last time you are called. Can’t be considered democratic.
    As we are all just a bag of genes, the result of natural selection, nothing is inalienable except the genes. The rest is about choice. What type of society we want for ourselves or we want to impose on others. Nothing more nothing less!

  • Oliver — So do you agree with me or don’t you? I take your comments about Democratic Presidents as bad spin that overall shows your support for higher taxes and an array of social programs.
    But I can’t begin to statistically slash your throat until you confirm this. Thank you.

  • carsonfire:
    ::The issue regarding the FCC is a political issue, and your side has been losing that and many other arguments, recently.
    Categorizing flashing boobies as speech is a political opinion; you are not the God of America, and you are not in a position to define pornography for the rest of us.::
    But you are in such a position? Is that what you’re saying? The fact that you’ve been on the “winning” side means you’re right? If it’s a political opinion, that implies that there isn’t a definitive correct answer. Are you saying that you have the answer? I’m just curious for some clarity. Thanks.

  • Kat

    Kadoom–was it not Bill Cosby who said that there are more African Americans in prisons not because of their color but because of their crimes.

  • Kat’s right. There may be are injustices in our criminal courts system, but that doesn’t mean it’s automatically biased against all members of the African-American community. Sometimes, the people in prison are there because they’ve been convicted for crimes they’ve committed. Where there are injustices, we need to find and eliminate them. Where crime is the (presumed) only option in life, we need to correct that misperception.
    All men are created equal, but choice still matters, even if that choice is in a disadvantaged situation (the typical argument). Not all poor people make bad choices and not all rich people make good choices. And I don’t think acknowledging the large population of African-Americans in prison implies that they have a propensity for anything. It reasonably implies that there is a problem, but doesn’t implicitly suggest one interpretation. You’re correct in stating that there is a problem, but I think it’s more accurate to say that crime is the problem, not skin color.
    Perhaps a metaphor:
    (Driving through San Jose, Costa Rica)
    Eric Cartman: Oh my God, it smells like ass out here.
    Miss Stevens: Alright, that does it. Eric Cartman, you respect other cultures this instant.
    Eric Cartman: I wasn’t saying anything about their culture, I was just saying their city smells like ass.
    Miss Stevens: You may think that making fun of third-world countries is funny but let me…
    Eric Cartman: I don’t think it’s funny. This place is overcrowded, smelly and poor. That’s not funny, that sucks.

  • Tony: But you are in such a position? Is that what you’re saying? The fact that you’ve been on the “winning” side means you’re right? If it’s a political opinion, that implies that there isn’t a definitive correct answer. Are you saying that you have the answer? I’m just curious for some clarity. Thanks.
    Conversely, does the fact that you’re on the “losing” side mean that you’re right? The way this question keeps getting framed, that’s the implication.
    Could it possibly be that the people winning an argument are right because… they are right? Or at least, could they be winning because they are doing more to win, i.e. making a case and winning?
    Oliver Willis has just soft-pedalled his condemnation of Brent Bozell, because it was clearly indefensible. He lost that argument not because he was right, but because he was wrong and couldn’t possibly come up with a reasonable defense for jailing dissident Bozell in a free society.
    Obviously most of these issues are not a matter of black and white, wrong or right, anyway. But the most egregious debating tactic is to claim your opponent’s reasonable positions are nazi-like, anti-free speech, etc. You do not seek a debate when you do this; you seek to shut the debate down so you can declare yourself winner by default sans reasonable argument.
    Now as for Oliver Willis’s childlike taunts about the FCC coming after me: I publish content on the web, and sometimes some of it borders on mature material. I have in fact been similarly “censored” already, by PayPal, which is a service I depend on for a great deal of cartooning income (readers are nice enough to support me with donations); when I posted previews of a wilder series, PayPal threatened to close my account, because I had violated the ToS. I had in fact forgotten about some of the provisions.
    Proportionately, losing PayPal would damage me far more than a multi-$$$ fine to a huge media congolmerate. So my only option was to allow myself to be “censored”, and remove the content that was in violation.
    Am I mad because I was “censored”? Heck, no. You’ll note that I put “censored” in quotes. I was not actually censored because PayPal cannot keep me from publishing this work elsewhere, which is still a possibility for the future.
    Delivery of communication always relies on playing by some rules and being a good neighbor when necessary; being deprived of the ability to shove whatever crap I want to anywhere and at everybody is not censorship.
    Many many many citizens still rely on the FCC to police the public airwaves; they believe that the “turn the channel” argument is simplistic and even useless. That doesn’t mean that these people are necessarily right; but screaming free speech is not a particularly good counter-argument.
    You need better arguments, not louder voices.

  • carsonfire:
    I didn’t say I was right. I asked if you thought you were right, even though you explicitly stated that the free speech argument is a political opinion. Opinion to me implies “not fact”.
    As for my opinion of seeing objectionable material on television, which is the core issue here, I do think that broadcasters have the right to “flash boobies” if they want. That’s free speech in the context of how I think we should interpret it. However, that doesn’t mean that I expect or demand nudity/coarse language/whatever on tv. If I were an executive at a network, I wouldn’t put a show on with nudity.
    Does that mean I would be ignoring my preferences for a buck? Absolutely. The pure economics dictate that enough Americans don’t want to see that on free television, so it’s not wise to make the major networks the free version of the Playboy channel just because I’m not offended. That doesn’t mean the Americans who don’t want it are wrong for not wanting it; I can accept that. It means that in our society, we’ve quasi-established that there is free television and pay television. If I need nudity, I could buy Cinemax or a pay-per-view movie. That’s a perfectly intelligent system. But regulation to achieve that, as opposed to the tradition of self-correcting free-market capitalism? I don’t accept that.
    My point is that Bozell and anyone else who complains about objectionable material on television are focusing on the wrong tactic. Networks have sponors and sponors have customers. As viewers, we are the customers. Complain to the sponors instead of the FCC. Coke wants to sell soda, not breasts. Procter & Gamble wants to sell toothpaste, not the f-word. Complaining to the FCC just shows a desire for the government to regulate a specific personal preference to the detriment of other people. Not having restrictions on speech is closer to my opinion than I presume it is to yours, but having the option to be crude and actually doing it are not the same thing.

  • No, I’m not making the case that “my side” is right all the time. It’s perfectly fair to say that Bozell is wrong, and suggesting that focus be given to addressing the problems in other ways is valid. I’m all for that. It should be done more often.
    I was of course addressing OW’s position that Bozell and the FCC are anti-democratic. It’s *not* fair to say that because you disagree with someone that their efforts to win their side of the argument is fascist and anti-democratic. When Republican stormtroopers march into OW’s house and cart him off to jail for his politics, then I’ll be more open to cries of fascism. Until then, it’s just a trusty all-purpose tool employed often by someone who can’t debate very well.
    Actually engaging in an argument about the FCC issue in detail seems a bit more off-topic, here (there are no shortage of more relevant FCC posts on JJ’s blog), but I would say that going after advertisers, while a good argument, is still not an effective or persuasive one for some families. Poorer families don’t have time to monitor kids watching TV every moment, and demand some relatively safe time. These same parents are not in the position to spend lots of time engaging in protests and letter-writing campaigns. They are therefore seduced/convinced by the argument that the government can monitor the public airwaves for them.
    Let me pretend to be a Democrat again, and put forth another argument that might be more effective coming from the left: how about an alternative to the FCC, ala Hollywood and its own rating system? You could make a *great* case for that: parents could still keep their televisions in the house, while agreeing that it would be better for an unbiased, TV-expert panel to regulate the airwaves than than an intrusive nanny-government. You could even cut a great swath of Republican support in on something like that, since most Republicans really are more in favor of private-sector solutions, when possible. In fact, the more I think about it, the more I like it. Fines would be eliminated; TV stations would know exactly what they could do and when; these standards could be communicated to viewers so there are no more SuperBowlBoobie surprises; and in return, network TV could probably become even more freewheeling during non-family hours.
    Why most people wind up mistrusting the left on this is their current whole-hog positioning (brought about by the unsupported theory that they’ll start winning by becoming less like the people winning). Too often in these debates it becomes clear that many on the left want to abolish controls and standards altogether. That is eminently unpersuasive, save for people who like to spend a lot of their extra time writing letters, forming boycotts, and marching in the street.

  • carsonfire:
    Before I add anything else, I wasn’t specifically endorsing Oliver’s approach about democratic vs. undemocratic means. Agreeing with his basic principles of free speech doesn’t mean I agree with his tactics. It’s wrong and counter-productive to throw around a claim of fascism or whatever when it’s not warranted, so please don’t mistake my displeasure with the facts and opinion surrounding the FCC issue as an endorsement of the hardline, ideological attack method.
    Also, I think this is on-topic because Jeff highlighted the definition of undemocratic used in this bill, which includes free “speech, opinion, and expression”. While we’ve admittedly descending into navel-gazing on one small factor of the topic, I think the minute can represent the larger perspective.
    That being said, I don’t agree with this statement:
    Poorer families don’t have time to monitor kids watching TV every moment, and demand some relatively safe time. These same parents are not in the position to spend lots of time engaging in protests and letter-writing campaigns. They are therefore seduced/convinced by the argument that the government can monitor the public airwaves for them.
    I won’t argue the point about poorer families making this argument vs. rich families because I understand the larger point you were actually making. However, not having lots of time to engage in letter-writing and protests does not absolve parents of responsibility. Migrating that responsibility to the government is not the answer, even if they’re convinced that it’s the easiest alternative.
    If a couple chooses to have kids, they have the responsibility to raise those kids and instill values. If they can’t monitor what their kids watch, they shouldn’t have a tv. If they want a tv but don’t want to make the effort to be informed, then that’s too bad. They don’t have the right to limit my choices and freedom simply because they’re over-worked, stressed, lazy, or whatever. Parenting is hard. They need to accept that.
    As for abolishing controls and standards, you’re right, that’s what I want to do. But only from the government. I indicated that in my last response, which you’ve followed up with an idea that I agree with. I have no problem with ratings. We have them today for tv, but if we can expand them, wonderful. As a side point, I’d do the independent board differently than the MPAA model, given that the MPAA thinks sex is taboo but violence and killing is acceptable. However, we agree on the basic point.
    Your last point is where we disagree, though, about the validity of eliminating controls.
    That is eminently unpersuasive, save for people who like to spend a lot of their extra time writing letters, forming boycotts, and marching in the street.
    Nobody said freedom is easy. Sometimes we have to spend our time in efforts that we’d rather not. That’s life. If someone doesn’t want to fight in the marketplace, through letters and boycotts, then throw out the tv. Otherwise, do something about it that fits the framework of freedom. Rather than write letters to sponors, donate money or sign petitions for a group like Bozell’s, but one that targets the sponors instead of the FCC. The effort for the individual is the same, but it’s directed in a smarter way that promotes freedom.
    Pollyanna-ish on my part? Probably, but again, tv isn’t a right. Free speech is. One person’s laziness is not a valid reason to deny someone else’s rights.

  • You sound reasonable for you Tony, but therein lies part of the problem: you are still crafting persuasive arguments for yourself. It’s very well and good to tell yourself and friends that families, even poor families, must work harder at their end of the equation; but that in no way is a convincing argument for those families in question.
    In other words, no matter how nicely you frame it, it still sounds like “sh*t on you” to tired, working couples with frayed resources and heavy bills. Stressed families like having watchdogs, and don’t have any reason to come aaaaaalll the way over to the left to give you what you want, when it’s nothing but a crappy, unreasonable deal for them. They have no reason to fold simply out of respect for you high ideals.
    This is just my opinion, of course: but I do believe that more working families support the FCC than support the ideas put forth by you, Oliver Willis, and Jeff Jarvis. It is also my opinion that your hard line on the issue isn’t going to win many converts, and that a more bipartisan approach — one respecting the views of others instead of abhoring them — would get you farther in the debate.
    Your response could be that, well, wait a minute, aren’t you saying that people are abhoring *my* view? Well, yeah. It may not be fair, but that’s the way a (ahem)democracy works. When Democrats are in power, Republicans have to be political and choose their fights, and work for what they can get, even though the left abhors them, and will have to again when they start losing elections again; and so you are indeed being Pollyanish in suggesting that the Democrats be given some kind of special “I’m still in charge!” dispensation.
    There is no reason to believe that Democrats would be so generous to Republicans in the future; they haven’t been in the past. Things like welfare reform were political victories, not giveaways to the rivals. The Republicans engineered a political success with welfare reform, which in turn became a political success for Bill Clinton in the signing. That kind of win-win situation makes for good politics; what the left seems to want now is a you-lose-lose-lose-lose policy where they get everything they want without the mechanics of getting it, and without working for it like Republicans have always had to do when they were on the outs.
    I’m only being kind, here. It is also merely my opinion that being strident on just these sorts of issues will only diminish Democrat’s chances in further elections. Since a world of Republicans becoming comfortable, lazy, and stupid is a horrible prospect, it is in our best interest that the madness passes and Democrats once again become reasonable and viable.

  • “you, Oliver Willis, and Jeff Jarvis” — I should clarify that I don’t mean to lump the three of you together, apart from your mutual dislike of the FCC. I disagree with JJ on the issue, of course, but he is mostly reasonable, and not bad at coming up with persuasive arguments. I think you’re doing good, too, Tony, and I have been as likely as not caught being a blowhard on things I’m wrong about.
    It’s OW’s sniping in particular that’s disappointing… he and JJ are basically on the same team, but he still comes in here and tries to smack him? Nuts!
    But maybe he saves his better arguments for his own blog, which I never read.

  • Bozell is undemocratic because he’s pro-censorship. The FCC shouldn’t be around simply to censor folks at Bozell’s whims.
    Democratic presidents cut taxes for the middle class, that government spending you hate – like the federal highway system – tends to increase America’s GDP. All those corps who support the GOP? Many of them would be nothing without corporate welfare.

  • Oliver: You see the world in such cut-and-dry terms. As you well know, I abhor the way the FCC has sucked Brent Bozell’s… well, you know what I was going to say. (Self-censorship, how undemocratic of me!) I have screamed and shouted about the FCC kneecapping the Constitution.
    That does not mean I live in an undemocratic nation.
    It means, quite to the contrary, that I live in a democratic nation where there is a free and open debate and where we have a bedrock of democracy, our Constitution, which trumps — or, actually elevates — mere popular opinion.
    Just because everyone in a democracy doesn’t agree with you doesn’t mean we’re undemocratic. Quite to the contrary — without disagreement, we would most certainly not be a democracy.
    And just because there are inequities does not mean we are not a democracy; we are a free market and that brings inequities that almost must be fixed by one means or another.
    This is pretty simple, actually:
    United States: Democracy.
    Saudi Arabia: Not.
    Great Britain: Democracy.
    Iran: Not.
    South Korea: Democracy.
    North Korea: Not.
    Even France: Democracy.
    Syria: Not.
    Germany: Democracy (finally).
    Libya: Not.
    And on and on. It’s not a hard analysis, really.
    And, you know, this isn’t about our whining about something in government that we both dislike.
    This is about trying to free people from tyrannies that give them no free speech, that sometimes starve and murder them, that imprison them inside jails and inside borders. This is about people who truly do not have freedom.
    Priorities, friend, priorities.
    There can be no more truly liberal cause than this.

  • carsonfire:
    I want to answer your last response, but I don’t want this to be seen as an attack. I appreciate the comment you left after that explaining that you weren’t lumping me in with everyone. That’s all I’m looking for. So I’m responding only to clarify my stance in accordance with the points you made. I’m certainly not immune to the idea that I’m preaching to myself, but I am trying to persuade based on my point of view. I don’t need anyone to accept my idea of humor or entertainment or good taste. I just want to show that I have that choice. As Jeff mentioned, this debate and disagreement is what I love about our country.
    So, with that said…
    We can make the FCC argument about poor, working families because that’s a safe way to then challenge my beliefs as politicians do all the time: you’re for the poor, working class needs and values and I’m the elitist, out-of-touch with real values snob who doesn’t get it. I don’t accept that. I didn’t expect the debate to go there, but I’ll work with it for the moment.
    Am I telling poor, working class people “sh*t on you” if they don’t want to invest the effort to parent their children? Yep. And my reason is simple. I grew up in one of those poor, working families. My mother was a single parent raising twins. She had my brother and me at 18, got her GED after that, occasionally worked two jobs to support us, and made the effort to raise us as well as she could.
    Poor, poor me? No, not even close. I mention this because even with frayed resources and heavy bills, we knew the boundaries. No R-rated movies, no using foul language, no drinking, no smoking, and no drugs. She didn’t say that her life was too hard, so what’s the point.
    What she also didn’t do was write letters to the FCC or Coca-Cola or Procter & Gamble. She didn’t need to. She paid attention to what we were watching and reading. She met our friends. She discussed topics with us if we were presented with challenging topics. She accepted her responsibility. It’s not sufficient to say that poor, working families can’t do it. I know it can be done.
    I don’t believe what I believe just because it’s supposedly a Democratic vs. Republican issue. I’ve voted as a Democrat in the past to represent my ideal of freedom. The Democratic party isn’t perfect and I’d actually vote Republican if the party would nominate a centrist. But it’s not doing that. So my choice is a party that gives a little lip service to my idea of freedom vs. a party that gives it none. As limited as it is, that’s my choice.
    For example, I believe we should balance the budget, but with spending cuts instead of tax increases. I think we should fix Social Security by starting over rather than tweaking it. I think the war in Iraq is necessary and appropriate. Does that make me a Democrat in today’s Democratic party?
    But I also believe that we can’t expand freedom overseas, which is how this debate got started, without endorsing it at home. Censorship is only one example in today’s political climate where we’re bowing down to the power of government over the power of individuals. It’s a nanny-state mentality and it’s not wise, whether it’s censorship or welfare or education or whatever. That some parents might need the help to protect their children from objectionable material on tv does not mean they should get it from the government.
    I do, however, realize that we’re in a democracy and my prefered (again, bad vs. worse) representatives are not in power. I’m not going to get everything I want, but I have to fight for it. Not on an ideological standpoint, because I’m genuinely interested to hear what Republicans have to say. They’re in power now. Working against them just to be against them is stupid. I’m not stupid enough to root for failure just so my side can “win”. I do need to fight for this, though, because even though I may be in the minority, democracy can’t vote away the rights of the minority just because they disagree.
    My summary is simple: yes, I want to win this battle over censorship against Republicans, but only because I’ve read the Constitution, something I fear many in power choosing censorship over freedom haven’t done.

  • Faramin

    United States: Democracy.
    South Korea: Democracy.
    Even France: Democracy.
    Germany: Democracy (finally).
    US and South Korea, Democracies and France and Germany doubthfully democracies?
    Which planet do you live in?
    You are unbelievable Jeff. Don’t you just laugh at your own comments?

    Oh, that’s right, I forgot, you had a humorectomy years ago.

  • Seems reasonable
    Thanks for pointing this out… Of course there is a lot of Apple pie, and perhaps some differences of opinion, Private Property (or not), but it seems to me that it would be beneficial to have a re-statement that we are committed to support freedom and that there are people in the government who are tasked to report on freedom and our proposals for this support.
    What I’d like to see is a discussion of:

    • What could be left out — The shorter the better as long as anything left out is relatively un-important of covered by other sections.
    • What is not in — Are there very important rights… that are not included (Again only ESSENTUAL things)
    • What are the dangers — Is there a possibility that the bill has some trap doors, e.g. does it authorize us to invade Pango Pango, or whatever, or is it OK to declare our intentions, definitions, and a few government officials?

    The one thing that I think might be interesting to add is to task the officials with developing a “measure” of democratic. I realize that this is difficult, but it would be interesting to have a country rated rather than Yes/No’ed

  • Faramin

    Oh, that’s right, I forgot, you had a humorectomy years ago.

    Most of what you write are jokes anyway. That’s why I asked whether you laugh at them yourself.
    BTW, if I call you names, the same way you call me, are you going to delete my comments AGAIN? Your insults stay, my responses deleted? Is this the freedom of speech you have been so much claiming to be a fan of? You are basically acting like your president. Oh yeah, you have the power and you can abuse it as you wish. Just like your hero mass murderer president.

  • Kat

    Freaking Faramin is on the blame everyone but his terrorist brothers kick. Guess it’s engrained in you once you grow up hating everyone and blaming everyone but yourself for the sorry assed state your country is in. He sounds just like Osama. Silly little twit.

  • Thanks for helping to keep this civil, Tony. ;)
    Tony: What she also didn’t do was write letters to the FCC or Coca-Cola or Procter & Gamble. She didn’t need to. She paid attention to what we were watching and reading.
    I don’t know how old you are, Tony, but you are likely old enough for that to have been possible for your mother for the very reason that network television stations at that time had the more stringent standards that Bozell seeks now.
    This may be one more thing that’s missing from this discussion: the cap has blown off of network TV because of the rise of competition from cable and the internet.
    “Monitoring” for my mom mostly meant preventing me from watching late-night TV. There simply wasn’t that much on during the day to have to monitor, and therefore it wasn’t a 24/7 job like it is now.
    You also don’t have to go that far back in time when even certain kinds of commercials would have been taboo.
    Therefore, that part of the argument is really apples vs oranges.
    Now, my extended family has always been poor — I don’t think I have one relative who’s living much above the poverty line, and I know of none who have made it to college, so I apologize if it sounds like I’m citing “the poor” in a manipulative way. That’s just the world I come from. I would never even be on the internet in the first place if it were not for the use of a friend’s computer, and being on the internet has allowed me to do a little with an odd skill that I’ve never been able to use to my advantage before. And so I also get a little defensive when I constantly hear the left laying claim to the poor, as if we’re just serfs to provide human fodder for the advancement of purely political ideology; and so I understand it if I strike a similar chord with you.
    All arguments aside, I think JJ really does have it right, when he says of his opposition to Bozell: That does not mean I live in an undemocratic nation.
    It means, quite to the contrary, that I live in a democratic nation where there is a free and open debate and where we have a bedrock of democracy, our Constitution, which trumps — or, actually elevates — mere popular opinion.
    Can’t argue with that. In fact, I applaud it.

  • I need to be a little more careful about how I put this, so allow me to revise a little: my use of the term “poverty line” is a little too casual, especially since I don’t know where “the line” exists, precisely. Some relatives I’ve known have been almost homeless save for moving from relative to relative’s house, some have dropped out of sight, but some are doing fair (the ones who have done the best have done so through military service, but there has been some tragedy, as well). None suffer grinding poverty, as far as I know, so my use of that phrase is probably (and I hope) imprecise.

  • I’m a little embarrassed at having to go into all that, so let me quickly change the subject by pointing to an article related to JJ’s initial post:
    Will George Bush’s Legacy Be a Democratic Majority?
    This is an examination of a claim by The New Republic that Bush’s push for democracy will backfire on him because Republicans are mean little trolls who don’t really believe in democracy… and that those who do support freedom will eventually come to their senses and flood back where they belong into the Democratic party, who *really* believe in democracy with “every fiber of their being”, causing a new majority.
    Where’s the “fiber”? There’s a stevek who posts here — I hope I have his name right — who constantly posts opinions like “Democracy is a terrible idea”. If the Democratic party believes in Democracy, it needs more JJs representing… and far less fringe action.

  • carsonfire:
    I agree that there is more to monitor on television now than when I was a kid (I’m 31.), but my overall point is still that parents can’t shirk their responsibility simply because one aspect of their job is harder now than it was in decades past. For this specific debate about television, it’s not a right. Yes, society has a different standard for what’s acceptable and competition has much to do with that, but the debate is the role of government.
    The problem with television and cable is that with competition, we don’t have choice. Cable should be sold channel-by-channel, not bundled as a take-it-or-leave-it choice. If parents don’t want MTV, they shouldn’t have to have it. But the cable networks and providers know that some marginal channels will go away because they don’t have an audience. They’re afraid of competition. Understandable, but too bad. Competition is good.
    Granted, there are still options. Technology is much better now, so televisions have parental controls (channel lock, V-chip, etc.), but using the economic/poverty argument where it’s appropriate, not all families can afford newer televisions. When I was a kid, our remote was the typical cliche; it involved my legs and using them to walk to the tv and turn the knob (not even the channel up and channel down buttons, the knob). For people who get cable, being able to decide which channels to buy and which to ignore would be great. And it puts government on the sideline, where it should reside. Yes, some families who don’t get cable would be subject to “objectionable” material on the major, free networks, but again, that’s where the argument is “tv isn’t a right” and monitor what children watch, not pass more regulation.
    However, we agree on one fundamental point. What Bozell is doing is NOT undemocratic. He has as much right to express and act on his beliefs as I do. Disagreement isn’t heresy and treasonous, as some foolishly believe. It’s hopefully the beginning a better solution, with the best parts from each argument forming a new solution. I wouldn’t keep much, if anything, from Bozell’s viewpoint, but it helps me clarify better solutions than “because it’s the right thing to do.”
    My overriding principle is simple. I wish Bozell would shut up, but he shouldn’t be silenced. It’s more effective to let the foolishness of his words marginalize him.
    Whether I’ve persuaded you in any way or not, thanks for the debate. I enjoyed it immensely.

  • And to probably start another exchange… ;)
    I do agree that Bush will help restore a Democratic majority, but only because American politics is a “grass is greener on the other side” pendulum. Then the Democrats will get power drunk and give it away. And so on.
    It’s not because Republicans are mean little trolls who hate democracy and freedom. There are elements of that in the Republican party, but they’re also in the Democratic party. The major Bush mistakes are fiscal and those are the ones that will haunt Republicans if the Democrats can figure out how to remodel themselves as fiscally responsible. A big if, because the Dems will probably propose higher taxes instead of spending cuts, a big mistake.
    There has to be someone smart enough in the Democratic party… Right? (Yes, I’m trying to convince myself more than you on that last point.)