Dear Loyal Subscribers,

The time has come at long last! This blog came but to prepare the way, and I’ll be darned if GIVE ME YOUR SHOES didn’t do just that. It was an excellent chance for me to stretch my fingers and get to know the wordpress software, and it provided me with an excellent outlet while I waited for the new blog to develop. This blog has baptized you with water, but the blog to come will baptize you with ghosts!! This blog is not even fit even fit to tie that other one’s shoes. Yes, it’s that promising. The url is here:

 

gristlehedgeunderground.wordpress.com

 

If you wish to continue receiving updates from China or read any other sort of article I’m likely to write, you’ll need to head over to the new site right away and subscribe there. I repeat, new articles will no longer be published on this blog. This blog is finished! Done! Kaput! Pushing daisies! Gone but not forgotten! Weep not, though, for with the death of one blog comes the birth of another. And this blog? Well, it’s got multiple authors. Yeah, so if you find yourself groaning every time I release another political piece, you can comfort yourself with the increased spectrum of content the new blog has to offer. I’ll tell you more, but you can explore the categories yourself when you go the new site right away to sign up!

Disclaimer: I’m jumping the gun a little bit here. The Gristlehedge Underground Press is functional, but still undergoing construction. I just didn’t like jumping back and forth between the two, (setting up the one, going to write for the other). Now I can get my work done all on the same blog. It’s good.

Thank you all for joining my blog, sorry to make you switch over already. We’ve put a lot more thought into this new one and incorporated more writers. I hope you appreciate the changes, and I’ll see you over there!

-Trevor Smith

P.S. One more time: gristlehedgeunderground.wordpress.com

Ron Paul has often been referred to as the ‘Grandfather of the Tea Party’, yet despite the demographic’s ostensible devotion to his ideals of free market and free trade, empowered local government, sustainable spending, etc, it is all too often these very same people who find fault with him, and on some of his most respectable positions. This was the case during the CNN Tea Party Debate when Ron Paul was booed by the audience over his comments regarding 9/11.

First off, I will grant that these debates are not Dr Paul’s strong point. It is unfortunate that the whole affair has been boiled down over the years into a glib exchange of rehearsed, 30-second-soundbite talking points, and especially so for him. With such unpopular and relatively complex ideas to put forth, he sometimes must resort to unintelligibly stringing together seemingly unrelated points as fast as he can in order to squeeze in the quickest possible version of what he’d like to say, abridged to the point of incoherence. In cases such as this, I can understand being baffled and more than a bit put off, and I encourage the curious to seek out his relevant statements online. More often than not he will intelligently and soundly defend positions which many unfairly write off as ‘extremist’ or ‘crazy’.

This, however, is no case of Dr Paul trying to say too much with too little. In this case he is saying something very simple and straightforward, that being that our foreign policy directly affects other people around the world and that these people may resent us based on this. Combined with religious fervor, with the belief in a higher power that gives its blessing to righteous retribution, could this resentment not be sufficient to drive one to sacrifice one’s life in an attempt revisit upon us some small part of the suffering we’ve visited on others? Our foreign policy involves American military bases spread throughout the middle east (and world). It has involved us propping up repressive and unpopular regimes to further our interests. It has involved us standing beside and providing advanced weaponry for a nation established by Westerners, in their infinite wisdom, atop the bulldozed ruins of Palestinian homes. Since 9/11 it has involved us invading two sovereign nations in the area and bombing various others. Even with our advanced technology, bombs are going to kill civillians. War, conflict, occupation, call it what you will, inevitably involves collateral damage. To be beneath the heel of a foreign power, even if that power is ostensibly present for one’s own benefit, is surely a most painful, suffocating and degrading thing! Certainly it is understandable to at least question whether or not our foreign policy, being carried out at least in part to protect us, is creating more enemies than it could ever defeat.

Yet Paul’s explanation of his 9/11 theory was in response to the claim of another candidate, Rick Santorum, that his ‘parroting Osama bin Laden’ was irresponsible. Santorum believes that we are hated because the muslim world is ideologically opposed to our message of freedom, but that notion isn’t even what I write to protest. For the sake of argument let’s assume that Paul is wrong, and that terrorists hate us because we are free and prosperous. Fair enough, but that’s not what Santorum was discussing. He didn’t attack Paul’s idea that our foreign policy resulted in terrorist threats to our nation, explaining why the theory was flawed and inaccurate, he attacked Paul’s very act of suggesting that idea, the act of introspection, just as Giuliani did in the last election. Unfortunately, this only makes his statement all the more sad and absurd. We Americans have long been possessed of a certain sense of exceptionalism, believing ourselves capable of policing the world, righting other people’s wrongs, and molding other nations in our image. This outright hostility to Paul’s message, however, takes the game to a new level. It’s not just that the likes of Santorum and Giuliani disagree with him, it’s that they attack Paul himself for daring to voice such an idea. It’s the idea that Paul is irresponsible or insensitive for wondering if blowback resulting from our intervention in foreign affairs may have caused resentment which at least contributed to the attacks of 9/11. It’s the idea that ‘we are good’ and ‘they are bad’ and to say anything different is to betray this country and the memory of those who perished in 9/11 and those who have died since, which I never believed anybody took seriously until I heard the audience reactions from these debates. Could our heads be any deeper in the sand?

It’s as simple as ‘actions have consequences’. The idea of foreign intervention involving varied and unintended consequences is sound, reasonable, and supported by empirical evidence, but sadly I here defend the very act of expressing the idea. Santorum, Giuliani, audience, whether or not you agree that it is so, it is not irresponsible to consider that one’s own actions may have been part of a problem. In fact, to look at oneself first when seeking fault has long been considered great wisdom. We are but men, after all, and for all of our advances we are frustratingly prone to making even basic mistakes. Just look at us! As a nation we have literally reached the moon, yet for all that we are hamstrung by financial irresponsibility. If one truly wishes to know the truth of a matter one must objectively seek that truth as the primary goal. It cannot be second to some belief which one holds sacred, especially such a belief as in the infallibility of oneself or one’s nation. Much greater historical tragedies than 9/11, such as China’s Cultural Revolution, have taken place through such refusal to challenge popular dogma and self-examine. (We are starving. Clearly it’s not because communism has failed and our great leader Mao has no clue what he’s doing, so it must be due to the continued presence of such bourgeoisie counter-revolutionaries as ‘doctors’ and ‘professors’ and ‘engineers’). If the War on Terror continues to create a political atmosphere in which it is frowned upon or even dangerous to question the wisdom of our own actions, then we will continue to make the same mistakes and create more enemies while chasing shadows. (Terrorists attacked us. Clearly it’s not because our foreign policy is aggressive and otherwise voiceless peoples resent our often violent meddling in their affairs, so it must be due to the muslim world’s hatred of freedom and our need for a stronger military presence abroad to quell such evil). It’s the same, sad pattern, and while it’s just the sort of thing one might have expected from Maoist China, it’s hardly becoming of the United States.

Surreal as it is that I must conclude thus, introspection and questioning of one’s own actions are in fact quite healthy and responsible. It is through such action that one may experience personal growth, or a nation reform counterproductive policy. Such introspection may also reveal that the problem is indeed external, that one’s personal conduct or a nation’s policy is sound, and people will surely disagree. The examination itself, however, is neither dangerous, irresponsible, nor insensitive, and to attack it as such is to promote an incredibly backwards and counterproductive mentality.

Oh, and you can stop assuming that terrorists hate us because we’re free and prosperous now.

Imam Anwar al-Awlaki

The systematic stripping of basic protections and constant, shameless circumventing of the US Constitution in the name of the intentionally-vague ‘War on Terror’ reached a new low with the assassination of Anwar al-Awlaki by US forces in Yemen. This headline doesn’t scream ‘destruction of basic safeguards granted by the Constitution’ except for one detail: Mr. Awlaki was a citizen of the United States who was not only denied a trial, but who had no charges filed against him. Had he been killed while violently resisting arrest this would be an entirely different beast. However, the US government never had any intention of taking our countryman alive, as evidenced by the nature of his execution, (airstrike), and the inclusion last year of his name on a list of men targeted for assassination by the US government.

There do exist slim criteria for the execution of a US citizen without due process. The government must demonstrate conclusively that targeting the citizen for assassination is the only possible means of deterring some attack or greater loss of life. It helps a lot if the case in question takes place in the context of warfare. When Awlaki’s father challenged the Obama administration in court seeking to have his American son’s name removed from a list of targets for assassination, however, the DOJ claimed its reasoning for targeting him was a matter of state secrecy and thus above judicial review. The court dutifully swallowed this and sent the plaintiff on his way. To say that this is worrisome is a gross understatement, as the system of checks and balances is absolutely crucial to the design of our system of government. Corruption is inherent to any human institution which has ever been or ever will be, so three branches were created which would each oversee one another’s actions in order to safeguard against abuses of power. Yet it is now commonplace for the Executive branch to declare itself immune to the review of the Judicial branch.

This sort of behavior isn’t particular to Obama, of course. This man is merely continuing a disturbing trend which exploded during the Bush administration (though it by no means began so late as that): the aggressive expansion of Executive power at the expense of the Legislative and Judicial, and in defiance of the US Constitution. The difference is that Bush wore his contempt for the Constitution on his sleeves. He never claimed to be anything more than a trigger-happy buffoon who played dress-up and offered comfort to frightened Americans through his willingness to kill lots and lots of brown people at any (and high) cost while wildly expanding his powers and those of security agencies. Obama, however, ran on a campaign of reform. Obama promised reform of our foreign policy, yet the War on Terror continues, our Middle East policy is largely unchanged, and we’re still giving Cuba the silent treatment like a nation of incensed children. He promised to bring our troops home, yet it is only now, on the precipice of the next election season, that he begins to discuss such action, and there is absolutely no mention of our expensive military network spread across the globe. He promised increased transparency in government, yet even here his track record is abominable. Both Laurence Tribe, a prominent legal scholar in his justice department, and PJ Crowley, the spokesman for the State Department, resigned in protest over the administration’s treatment of Bradley Manning, a soldier alleged to have leaked a video of a US helicopter firing on Iraqi civilians. (After months of incarceration, Manning has finally been charged with aiding the enemy, punishable by death). And now he has ordered the assassination of a US citizen with neither charges nor trial, and successfully brow-beat our docile Judicial branch to avoid oversight. The insidious detail is his ability to somehow remain the icon of reform, compassion, and reason. Those same liberals who cried out against republicans cheering Texan execution statistics now remain largely silent. True, that was one of the more unsettling moments of any debate I’ve seen, but at least those 234 were charged with crimes, tried, and found guilty before they were killed. What wasn’t executed in Texas was the 5th amendment of our Constitution.

Sadder yet, our leadership has also remained mostly silent on this issue. When good old Ron Paul, characteristically unconcerned with the political ramifications of his statements, came out and condemned this assassination as unconstitutional and frightening, he was attacked as ‘crazy’, ‘cowardly’, ‘weak’, and ‘traitorous’. Others, leaders and non, have received like treatment, and perhaps one reading this now may harbor similar feelings against me. Such reactionary outbursts are unfortunately commonplace when discussing issues related to US foreign policy or national security. Reading this article, one might easily cast me as a recalcitrant radical, desiring so strongly to resist and expose the government as to leap to the defense of terrorists at the expense of our national security, and in this way one might easily marginalize and ignore my message. I am, however, quite conservative in this concern, seeking only to defend the Constitution which is the cornerstone of our society. If  Mr. Awlaki indeed had a hand in terrorist plots against our nation, as an official claimed to the New York Times under condition of anonymity, then he should have been charged, captured, and tried before a jury of his peers. If found guilty, an appointed judge could have decided on the appropriate punishment. What a testament it would have been to our dedication to the rule of law! What happened instead was that a citizen of the United States was assassinated by his government based on vague, unverified and anonymous allegations which our courts agreed not to review, establishing a precedent by which any US citizen can be declared an enemy of the State and a target for assassination by the Executive branch, being neither charged with nor tried for a crime. Those willing to justify this as an acceptable cost of the War on Terror would do well to consider the saying that ‘a stick used to beat the black dog can just as easily be used to beat the white.’ This is a dangerous and frightening new precedent for the erosion of our basic, Constitutional safeguards.

If, as some would have us believe, the terrorists do indeed hate us for our freedom and prosperity, then it seems as though we as a nation have wasted no time in bumbling straight into their hands. We have sacrificed and continue to sacrifice our highest ideals in the name of striking at shadows and fighting an endless war. We are not only losing our most basic rights as American citizens, but we are cheering as we hand them away.

When I returned to Shanghai I had always been planning to spend my first small while living with my friend Du Jiachen in the small upstairs space of his apartment in the French Concession. It’s gorgeous, one of the few parts of town not either completely run down or covered in tawdry lights as if some leviathan, neon god from Joel Schumacher’s nightmares had bent down and sneezed all over the place. (Although I must admit I do find these lights appealing, even if gaudy. What can I say? I’m a sucker for pretty colors.)

I never originally intended to take him up on his offer to make that place my home, however. Even tempted by the idea of a cheap and ready apartment in the heart of my favorite neighborhood, I thought for certain I would find the lack of a (functional) kitchen and the need to leave the apartment in order to make my way to the public restroom too inconvenient to put up with. When I showed up at his front door a couple of nights after my arrival and he handed me the keys and left on a business trip into the North, however, the place began to grow on me immediately. Anybody thinking of joining me here in Shanghai should let me know ahead of time so I can get a guest-friendly place set up, but until such time I believe I’ve found my digs in the Pearl of the Orient. For a quick tour, follow the thumbnails from left to right. You can also just click the first one and follow along in a sort of slideshow format.

Well, there you have it, my lovely home for the time being. And the best part? I only have to pay 800CNY, (125USD), per month for the place. Now, for as small as it is and for the lack of kitchen/restroom I could actually find MUCH cheaper in Shanghai, but certainly not in this part of town. And quite frankly, if you’re not living in the French Concession then you might as well just die.

Well, okay, perhaps you could find justification to go on living. But there’s a good reason so many foreigners choose to live here. It is by far and away the most beautiful part of town. It’s also immediately adjacent to the primary clubbing district and several enormous commercial districts. Oh, and I live a few blocks away from JZClub, possibly the greatest jazz bar for the money in the entire world. How’s that for snoot factor?

Uh... I guess I've also been boning about in the park.

First allow me to apologize to my readers for taking a little bit longer than usual between posts. As I mentioned in the last entry I have recently moved shop back to Shanghai, and it’s taken me just a bit of time to get my act together enough to pay much attention to GMYS. Aside from the busy-work, errand-running, and mad, last-minute fundraising inherent in moving to the other side of the planet without having planned anything ahead of time, I should like to point out that China’s reputation as a strangler of the internet is not one that was simply given to the glorious nation. Nay, it is one earned with sweat and tears. Now, some of you may be saying to yourselves, “What’s this crook going on about? WordPress isn’t banned in China!” Well, you know what? When I’m Chancellor you’ll be the first to disappear. For now, I concede the point. However, my dependence on Google and Facebook are weaknesses here which have made my online escapades slow and frustrating ones. My internet time thus far has mostly been spent researching and selecting a VPN service, and waiting for gmail to load. SO, having taken care of these things as well as many of my various offline tasks, I return to service with a renewed vigor for blogging, an increased zest for life, a few stories up my sleeve, seven less pounds of bodyweight (FML), and my sincerest regrets at having failed to meet my goal of publishing a minimum one (1) post per week. I know I’m only two days over, but failure is failure, and failure is disappointing. And Jean-Baptiste Emmanuel Zorg does not like to be disappointed.

Second, my announcement for all subscribers. Oh yes, I have exciting news for you glorious handful, you chosen few, you. My friend Ezekiel and I are combining forces to create an outlet with more diverse content, greater swag, less respect for the Powers that Be, better formatting, and, dare I say it, a more charming layout than ever before: The Gristlehedge Underground Press! We’re keeping this rather close to the chest while the situation develops, but rest assured that I will inform all of you when the process is complete, and provide a link so that you can head on over and subscribe. I will also provide links, from that blog, to all of my entries here at GIVE ME YOUR SHOES so that you can easily access all of it’s fascinating content without having to keep tabs on what will soon be a dead blog. (Alas, it went before its time and will be remembered fondly, and its debts passed on to its estranged children).

I’m back in the saddle again

Posted: September 19, 2011 in Shanghai-ed!

What time is it? What day is it? I’m finally back in Shanghai and, having sorted out these sorts of things, I can figure out where I’m going to live and what I’m going to do for work. For those who need some catching up, I studied for a year at East China Normal University in Shanghai and I’ve just returned after a year spent concluding undergraduate studies in my hometown. A couple days ago I left home, early in the morning, and sat in a tube chasing the sun for 20 hours before arriving… home. Odd, but that was the feeling as I stepped out of the subway and into the Long Zhi Meng shopping center: one of returning at long last to a place that had been my home and the site of countless goings-on.

One of the first people I spoke to was a sales representative in large electronics store who told me that China Mobile no longer had any presence in Long Zhi Meng, (I needed to get my phone up and running first thing). Upon leaving the store, I looked to the right and found the China Mobile stand. I smiled, sighed, and got ripped off by a rather unscrupulous and apathetic SIM card pusher with claws. Home again, home again, jiggity-jig!

In the days since, I’ve bounced from one friend’s home to the next. I’ve found 3 students, one of whom I met on the plane over here. I’m looking to join my Scot friend, Nik, in his work as a Kindergarten teacher. It will ensure that I’m not allowed to use the Chinese for which I’ve worked so hard, and is also probably one of the more comical jobs I could land over here. Since I’ve already landed 3 students my goal is but part-time work. I just need someone to handle my visa for me. I feel like if I show up after three months and tell them I’ve had so much fun vacationing in China that I want to take another three months they may suspect foul play…

More updates in a bit, and for those of you waiting for emails… It seems that in my absence the relationship between China and Google has only continued to deteriorate. It’s pretty much useless over here. I’m going to set up a Hotmail account in a bit and see if that works any better. In the meanwhile remain on the edge of your seats, where I’m sure you’ve been all this while.

…The net result is that complex and high-powered economic analysis within the profession co-exists with utter ignorance and gross fallacies dominating the public, the media, and various branches of government. Even scholars with Ph.D.s in other fields are often ill-informed or misinformed about economics, though that seldom deters them from having and voicing opinons on economic issues.

The above passage is from the preface of Basic Economics: A Citizens’s Guide to the Economy by Thomas Sowell. It is interesting to me because it echoes and confirms that concern which prompted me to schlep down to my public library and check the book out in the first place. Economic issues are at the heart of political debates dividing our nation today, and yet the layman, myself included, is generally uneducated in this field of study. As a Ron Paul supporter in a liberal college town, I find myself constantly engaged with Obama-supporting friends on issues of economic theory. After so many discussions came to ‘yeah huh – nuh uh’ conclusions, it occurred to me that my knowledge of these issues was fairly superficial. It occurred to me that I supported the hands-off approach of Austrian Economics only because it seemed intuitive to me, though I have no real education in the subject, and I suspected, perhaps unfairly, that my friends arrived at their conclusions with similar dearths of understanding.

But economics isn’t the only field which must be understood when discussing politics. Political issues are broad and complex, requiring that one understand their own political philosophy and also be familiar with current and past events. To be an informed voter and citizen is a formidable task! Getting through a big paper such as the New York Times requires hours of reading and reflecting, with incredibly valuable and telling bits of information often being hidden away in back page columns, and even after that work is has been put in one is still required to accept a second or third hand account. With media power so concentrated as it is today, the major outlets all controlled by a handful of powerful magnates, who can accept with blind faith all that one reads and hears? In theory the journalist is impartial, but corruption is inevitable in any human enterprise. One can push an agenda without telling an outright lie. Simply by selecting what news to publish and what context to provide one can use the truth to mislead. And, of course, one can always lie outright.

Even assuming that one has access to secondhand eyes and ears throughout the world providing them with the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, it would still be an enormous task just to gather so staggering an amount of information as is necessary to arrive at a general standpoint on a certain policy even without having to sift through and evaluate it. Even in very local elections, I’ll often show up prepared to vote (passionately) on one or two issues only to find myself confronted with a GRE’s-worth of questions and choices to make. After voting (passionately) on those one or two issues which attracted me to the ballot-box, I’ll make the best decisions I can on those choices about which I’m at least a little informed before going to to sheepishly scribble in the rest of the sections. On a standardized test I guess ‘C’, on a ballot I vote against incumbents. The strategy doesn’t work too well on standardized tests, and I’m fortunate that ballots aren’t scored.

This is the case after I spend more time than I can afford already trying to research current issues and events. How many people actually spend any time on such activities at all? Even in my liberal college town, many of my friends have no interest in politics whatsoever, believing themselves powerless and at the mercy of a bi-partisan block of statesmen all pushing the same policy and agenda. I can certainly sympathize. After all, one’s vote is such a meager method of enforcing one’s will. Thoreau himself decried it as …only expressing to men feebly your desire that [the right] should prevail,’ and that when you have a real choice between ‘right’ and ‘wrong’. As so many of my friends point out, the only options are a republican or a democrat, and that’s hardly a choice at all. In 2008, convinced that Ron Paul had no chance of winning, I voted for Obama because I appreciated his running a clean campaign and because I thought the democrats would be more progressive on social issues. In terms of real, fundamental policy differences, though, he and McCain were nearly identical. Both candidates would have kept us at war. Both candidates would have bailed out the bankers and private interests. Both candidates would have blanched at touching a bloated military budget or (god forbid) acknowledging that we can no longer afford our entitlement programs. The list goes on. Now, this frustration has led to my increased resolve to support a third party candidate such as Ron Paul, despite resistance from the machine such as the virtual media blackout he’s received. But can this be fought? Is there any point? I have no money, I have no power. I have a desire to learn and think and change a failing system, but I haven’t the means to do so. Can I blame my friends for their apathy?

When I studied in China, I asked many Chinese about their views on the fascism and social control exhibited by their government. Some Chinese, especially the well educated and/or scholars, were suffocated by it. I heard more than one Chinese say that Dr Sun Yat-Sen’s revolution was incomplete, that real political liberalization would come with bloodshed. Many Chinese, though, pointed out that China had been led with such a system for thousands of years. A farmer told me that he was not a statesman, didn’t understand politics or economics, and so had no right to exert his influence on the leadership. Let the politicians handle the politics, he told me, and I’ll farm. It makes sense, but the lesson to be taken from it is not democracy’s inferiority. Democracy is dangerous, in a way, but only when the people living in that democracy allow it to become dangerous by becoming dangerous themselves. After all, it is mob rule, and elections popularity contests. The obvious appeal is that in a democracy one enjoys the freedom to hold power over their representatives, holding them accountable for their actions and theoretically ensuring that the authority to govern is derived directly from the consent of the governed. The drawback is that this freedom, as with all freedom, comes with responsibility. A Chinese citizen needn’t concern him/herself with such matters as politics and current events. They are free to live their lives blissfully unaware of those things. An American citizen, on the other hand, has by virtue of citizenship an influence on the policies of the United States. Should the population of the democratic state become apathetic and ignorant, their leaders will continue to do whatever they must to appease that apathetic and ignorant population. The goal of a leader in a democratic society is not to enact intelligent and effective public policy, but to be liked by enough people to ensure his/her political future.

Now we have reached a point where the nation is divided nearly down the middle, along strict party lines. The debate has become democrat vs republican rather than policy vs policy or ideology vs ideology. Presidential debates are little more than glib exchanges of tired talking points, 30 sec soundbites delivered in lieu of more expansive and less easily digested explanations of political philosophy or policy details. Whatever complaint one has against the United States government, our nation’s faults are ultimately the result of the United States populace. Just as a business will only do that which it believes will be profitable, so will our leaders only do what they believe is politically expedient. Where is the incentive to push alternative public policy rather than selling oneself to the two-party system when these third party candidates are largely marginalized and ignored, and what’s the point of defiance? My main man Dr Paul has stuck to his guns through three decades of service, and though he’s miraculously managed to retain the support of his constituents, he’s been and will continue to be pushed to the sidelines in the presidential elections, shunned by a mainstream media spouting self-fulfilling prophecies of his inevitable failure, when they choose to mention him at all. Can it really be that so many are aware of and believe in the mainstream policy pushed by both of the two parties? If so, how is such a rift drawn between them, that so many people are so passionate about how ‘crazy’ or ‘extremist’ their opponents are?

I propose that to educate oneself, to see past cheap scare tactics and chicanery and really understand the issues, proposed actions, and consequences of those proposed actions is quite an undertaking. I propose that too many Americans have, to this point, not been up to that undertaking. Too many of us are distracted by our daily struggles and entertainments, by fear of losing that ‘American Dream’ lifestyle which we have somehow come to believe is our right, and by a national debate framed by partisan finger-pointing rather than rational discussion of different policies. I have heard my friends berate others for failing to vote, saying that the right to vote is one which must be exercised to avoid betraying one’s own freedom. To cast a vote, however, should not be the be-all-end-all for the American citizen. It is easy to cast a vote. The more difficult task is to cast an informed one, and until the American citizen is willing to rise to that challenge we’d be better off choosing to abstain, or giving up that right entirely to a government whose role has switched from one of a protector of the rights of the citizens to determine their own futures to that of a parent guarding and minding its irresponsible children.