Posted by: Jim | October 12, 2006

This We Believe

Pardon me for scamming the title of this page from a Christian Tract I remembered from when I was a boy.  I’m going to post this as a “page” as well, so I can refer to it later.But I’d like to lay out a few principles that I’d like to hope is the “Baseline” of assumptions for all participants in this blog’s dialog. These are written in the interest of keeping the dialog sane and fruitful (if that’s possible), and they are written so that both the conservative and the progressive can agree to them.  If you don’t agree, and you can convince me, I may modify them. But you better have a good case.


 1. Every American loves America. Republicans love America. So do Democrats. Don’t accuse either group of hating America, or anything that sounds like it. On the other hand, people’s choice of policy might hurt America or be un-American. Attack the policy, not the person. (Yes, I know there are a scant few Americans who don’t love America. Now stop bothering me.)

2. America is a Principles-Based Nation
We were born out of a desire for Liberty, and Equality. However, in order to achieve control in a sovereign nation, a balance between freedom and control needs to be achieved. But the driving principles are Liberty and Equality–not control. It is better to err on the side of Liberty and Equality than the side of control.

3. American Principles apply everywhere, not just America
Thomas Jefferson wrote “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” There is no qualifier here (and I’ll liberally say that “men” is a generic pronoun.) This means that the principles that America holds dear are true of all people, everywhere. Not just Americans. Not just English-Speaking People. Not just Christians. It applies to a Muslim child in Ethiopia, whether that child knows it or chooses to believe it or not. Likewise, opinions from any nation should have just as much weight in the debate, as American policies impact the entire globe.

4. Americans are Mostly too Busy and/or Amused to be Well-Informed.
It’s sad, but we have to face this fact. We do not read much anymore. We tend to get our information in small, bite-sized chunks. Men in power know this, and use it to their advantage. As we become less informed, the potential that we will be deceived increases. It’s possible that people who post to this blog are operating under false assumptions. This does not mean that people are stupid. It means that they are ill-informed. Don’t attack the person, attack the bad information.

5. The Media is Biased.
Sometimes it has a leftward bias; sometimes it has a rightward bias. But while the Media can be a reliable source sometimes, it can also be grossly manipulative. It presents truth in sound-bites (see point #4), but the truth is invariably much more complex and has two sides. Bloggers who spout soundbites are merely perpetuating the problem.

6. The “Left” and “Right” are Becoming Disparate Networks of Information.
The Left has their sources of news propoganda (AirAmerica, The Daily Show, XMPR are mine). The Right has their sources of news propoganda (Rush, Bill O’Reilly, etc.) As this country is becoming more divided, and each side watches only their own source of propoganda to validate their current opinion, the ability to dialog between the two has become practically impossible. It’s as if the two sides speak different languages.

7. Neither the Left nor the Right is 100% Correct.
Anything short of this is just foolish arrogance. If I want to strive for 100% correctness, I will never achieve it if I am unwilling to listen to opposing viewpoints. Anyone who never learns from their opponents, doesn’t want to.

8. Dialog is Good.
Hegel might have been onto something. While a dialectic approach might not always accomplish a thing, it sometimes does. Keep your mind open and be willing to learn.

9. Opinions Can be Valid, But Facts Rule.
While one blogger may have a passionate opinion, if his opponent can state facts to the contrary, the opposing side has a more credible argument. This often means that the more doggedly determined faction in an argument–those who care enough to dig up related facts and assert them–will often “win” a debate. Ignoring a fact does not make it go away. Spouting unrelated facts won’t win the argument either–only hijack it.



  1. I like where this is going…

  2. Jim. Glad to see you have moved over to WordPress, welcome to a better platform 😉

    I have a comment with regard to 9, “Opinions Can be Valid, But Facts Rule.” – In too many debates with conservatives, I see a tendency to think a completely unrelated fact crushes your POV. For instance, just today on DailyKos, there was reference to a story on FreeRepublic where Chris Shay said that the Foley scandal meant nothing because “Teddy Kennedy let a girl drown”. That is an example of a completely unrelated fact or reference being used to repel debate, and it happens all the damn time. So, I think 9 should have a caveat, that facts should be relevant to the debate, and that conservatives can’t simply shout “Clinton!” or “Lewinsky!” or “Chappaquidick!” every time they are in a tight spot.

    Equally, I think you should emphasise that people from nations other than the US have a right to contribute, and to criticise US policies. Again, conservatives often deride me in debates, simply because I am not American, as if America’s policies do not effect my life or my own country. Americans can’t have it both ways and enjoy being the world power, while simultaneously denying anyone not American the right of reply or to participate freely in debate, as equals. Personally, I would advocate that all citizens of Earth be allowed to vote in US elections, as America’s policies are so far-reaching that we all have a stake in their formulation (but that’s a whole other argument).

    Keep up the good work.

  3. Agreed and amended! Thanks for the input.

  4. I would like to add to Felix’s point – in the same manner in which two completely unrelated events (Foley/Kennedy), however much they may have in common, share nothing in context, the same can be applied to quotes from famous people throughout history when applying them to an unrelated event. Quoting Jefferson and Franklin is easy to do, and like a horoscope, one can draw similarities to their life. It doesn’t make it more valid , but it sometimes does make for an eerie coincidence…

  5. If someone applies a quote that doesn’t apply, then say it doesn’t apply. However, people might be quoting our forefathers because of Assumption #2. In fact, I would count on it happening frequently, because many of today’s debates have implications that our core values are changing.

  6. “in which two completely unrelated events (Foley/Kennedy), however much they may have in common, share nothing in context”

    Am I going mad, or is that exactly what I was talking about! Or is Todd not saying that Foley and Kennedy share things in common?

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