Political Discourse as it once was. Quotes from the Lincoln/Douglas debates:

"If I have reasoned to a false conclusion, it is the vocation of an able debater to show by argument that I have wandered to an erroneous conclusion."
- Abraham Lincoln, 8/21/1858

 

"I desire to address myself to your judgment, your understanding, and your consciences, and not to your passions or your enthusiasm."
- Stephen A. Douglas, 8/21/1858

 

"But I have a right to claim that if a man says he knows a thing, then he must show how he knows it. I always have a right to claim this, and it is not satisfactory to me that he may be 'conscientious' on the subject."
- Abraham Lincoln, 8/21/1858

 

 

 


Scoring


Form letter reply or no reply at all. It is not clear that anyone has even read the correspondence beyond possibly noting the topic. A complete disregard of a constituent's specific questions especially after repeated attempts. A complete lack of engagement in the democratic process.

 

Attempts to address the specific points raised by the constituent but in a demonstrably unreasoned manner, whether sincere or through deliberate rationalization.

 

 

A valid, rational argument that places truth above politics and partisanship. Fully engaged in the democratic process.


 

 

 

 


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"The care of human life and happiness and not their destruction is the first and only legitimate object of good government."

- Thomas Jefferson, 3/31/1809, in a letter to the Citizens of Washington County, Maryland


 

"I have a right to claim that if a man says he knows a thing, then he must show how he knows it. I always have a right to claim this, and it is not satisfactory to me that he may be 'conscientious' on the subject."  - Abraham Lincoln debating Stephen Douglas, 8/21/1858


Senator Dianne Feinstein, CA

After nearly two years and 16 contacts with Senator Feinstein's office, she has refused to engage in the democratic process. Over that time her office has replied essentially with 3 form letters which, of course, do not address any of my stated concerns. Such complete disregard for a constituent's genuine concerns on an issue of such great importance is inexcusable from a person who purports to represent. (19 contacts)

Summary of Contacts:

Contact
Summary
Initial contact. Trying to engage the debate.
No reply so a second attempt to engage made. (The message has been lost.)
Still no reply so another attempt made.
Undemocratically DisengagedAfter three contacts spanning 10 months, a simple, content-free e-mail form letter reply was received.
Called the Senator's office seeking clarification of her position.
I sent another letter via form on the web site.
Undemocratically DisengagedReceived an e-mail form letter from the Senator's office.
Replied with an e-mail requesting more information.
Recieved a reply that I need to resubmit my letter.
Resubmitted my original letter.
Played phone tag with Kristen Steinke, the Senator's legal analyst on this issue, and finally we spoke in person.
Sent a fax of my original letter to the the legislative analyst, Kristen Steinke. (This is nearly 2 years after I had originally submitted this same letter.)
Left a message for Kristen asking about the status of the fax.
Received a message from Kristen concerning the fax.
Undemocratically DisengagedReceived another form letter with some supplemental material.
Replied with a letter concerning the central issue in this debate as admitted even by Justice Blackmun: the personhood of the unborn.
After a month and a half without a reply to my fax I called Kristen. She couldn't find the fax and asked me to resend.
I refaxed my letter concerning the personhood of the unborn.
I again called Kristen and left a message inquiring as to whether my fax was received. I have not received a return call.

 


First contact: To Senator Dianne Feinstein from a private citizen.

May 30, 2001


Senator Dianne Feinstein
United States Senate
331 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Dianne Feinstein,

As my representative in the U.S. Senate, I would like to better understand your pro-choice position by getting answers to just a few specific questions. These questions are straightforward and I would prefer answers to these questions rather than a general form letter response so that I may better understand how you represent me, your constituent.

As a rational person who is pro-life, I can find no Constitutional basis for one person's 'right' to legally kill an innocent person. The 14th amendment of the U.S. Constitution makes clear that all persons, regardless of citizenship, are to be protected equally by the laws. This argument presumes:

1) the pregnant woman is two individuals and not one
2) the second individual is also a person entitled to rights
3) all persons are included by the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment of the U.S. Constitution

If you accept these three statements then there is no other rational position but to be pro-life. As a pro-choice person you must disagree with at least one of these three statements. In summary, I would like to know which and why.

The first statement is based on the fact that our lives as individuals begin at conception/fertilization. There is overwhelming evidence to support this fact. According to U.S. Senate Judiciary Subcommittee testimony given by numerous internationally known biologists and geneticists, the answer is clear:

"Conception (fertilization) marks the beginning of the life of a human being ... There is overwhelming agreement on this point in countless medical, biological and scientific writings."
Subcommittee on Separation of Powers to Senate Judiciary Committee S-158, 97th Congress, 1st Session 1981, p.7

Further testimony was given by Jerome Lejuene, the Father of Modern Genetics, who told lawmakers, "To accept the fact that after fertilization has taken place, a new human has come into being is no longer a matter of taste or opinion ... it is plain experimental evidence."

Opposing testimony to these points was invited but none was received because to do so is profoundly contrary to scientific knowledge.

One does not need a degree in biology to accept this position as fact for if a new individual did not exist after conception/fertilization then a pregnancy must at some point conclude by the mother splitting into two individuals, an act of asexual reproduction. Since we each have two parents who created us at conception/fertilization, if we are not independent beings from that point on then human beings must reproduce asexually which is absurd.

My first question for you is do you believe that conception/fertilization marks the beginning of a human being's existence? If no, please explain when this occurs and why you believe this is so.

The second statement is that unborn human beings are in fact persons entitled to rights. Being a person is not a subjective matter, as some seemingly believe; it is a matter of objective fact. Africans are persons and have always been persons even though they were not treated as such during the days of slavery. Dred Scott was factually incorrect by not recognizing the objective fact of the personhood of Africans. Those today who claim that while the unborn are human beings they are not persons are making a similar arbitrary, subjective assertion. Upon serious examination, I have never found a rational argument to support this pro-choice conclusion. Let me explain why.

You and I are persons because we are each inherently capable of thought, feeling, emotion, reason, and all of those other attributes commonly associated with persons. The unborn are also persons because they are beings that have this same inherent capacity. While they do not have the immediate capacity to demonstrate these abilities, neither do you or I while unconscious. You and I retain our personhood while unconscious because we are beings with these inherent capacities. It's that simple. Unborn human beings are persons for the same reason that you and I are; we all have inherent capacities that distinguish us from all non-persons. We all have the being of persons so we all are persons.

While one could perhaps argue that only those individuals with blue eyes are persons, one would be hard pressed to explain why this position would not be arbitrary since it has nothing to do with being a person. The only non-arbitrary place for assigning personhood is the beginning of that individual's existence which is conception/fertilization. Any other place ignores the inherent capacities of that being which is what defines the being for what he/she truly is, a person.

My second question is do you believe that unborn human beings, while living members of the species homo sapiens, are also persons? If no, when do they become persons and why at that time?

The third part of my position comes directly from the U.S. Constitution. The 14th amendment clearly states that all persons are to have equal protection of the laws. Since you swore an oath to uphold the Constitution I doubt that you have an issue with the 14th amendment. Do you have a different reading of this amendment?

I have given a lot of thought to this issue and have found no rational pro-choice arguments that address this fundamental issue of the personhood of the unborn. Even Roe v. Wade specifically avoids it which is absolutely inexcusable; You can't argue that there are no victims simply by dodging the point.

In today's political climate, being pro-choice is easy. Given the rationality of pro-life arguments that I have heard, I think that someday arguments for the choice of abortion and the choice to own slaves will be held in the same regard. The arbitrary denial of the most fundamental protections, called by our founders the "unalienable right to life and liberty," in order to achieve one's own ends against an innocent person is a crime against humanity. There is no Constitutional right to kill an innocent human being for one's own benefit. (Again, Roe v. Wade specifically avoided this point and therefore can not be used as a defense.)

I am very open to a rational pro-choice argument but I'm having some difficulty finding one. Thank you for your time and I look forward to your reply so that I may better understand just how you are representing me in the Senate.

Sincerely,

A Private Citizen



Second contact: Senator Dianne Feinstein did not reply so another message sent on 10/6/01. (This message has unfortunately been lost.)

Third contact: Still no reply so another attempt made.

February 2, 2002


Senator Dianne Feinstein
United States Senate
331 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Dianne Feinstein,

Re: Your position on slavery

I simply can not understand your continued support for slavery. Clearly, the evidence that slaves are fellow human beings is scientifically incontrovertible and they are deserving of the dignity and respect due all persons as guaranteed by the equal protection clause of the Constitution. The founders of the Feminist movement, including Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, were completely opposed to slavery precisely because they believed that by definition there could be no exceptions to 'equality'. By simply ignoring the humanity of the slave you do not justify your position; you are merely masking a terrific injustice.

I would like to point out that as shocking as the above paragraph sounds today it is exactly like your position on abortion and every statement is just as true. Please read it again with this in mind:

I simply can not understand your continued support for abortion. Clearly, the evidence that the unborn are fellow human beings is scientifically incontrovertible and they are deserving of the dignity and respect due all persons as guaranteed by the equal protection clause of the Constitution. The founders of the Feminist movement, including Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, were completely opposed to abortion precisely because they believed that by definition there could be no exceptions to 'equality'. By simply ignoring the humanity of the unborn you do not justify your position; you are merely masking a terrific injustice.

I have twice now (in letters dated 5/30/01 and 10/6/01) asked you three simple questions concerning your position on the humanity and protections due the unborn and you have not replied except for an unacceptable form letter. I will give you one more opportunity to reply in writing (original letter is enclosed) before I make an appointment with your office so that you can explain in person your support of slavery and its equivalent. As the person who purports to represent me in Congress, I do not believe I am asking too much.

Sincerely,

A Private Citizen


Fourth contact: After three contacts spanning 10 months, a simple, content-free e-mail form letter reply was received.

Undemocratically Disengaged Senator Dianne Feinstein's form letter reply is probably sent to anyone who disagrees with her on this issue. It, of course, does not even attempt to answer the fundamental questions contained in the original correspondence demonstrating a complete lack of engagement in the democratic process.



March 6, 2002


Thank you very much for writing to me about your opposition to a woman's right to choose. I realize that many people take positions on this issue through deeply held religious and moral convictions, and I respect your right to disagree with me.

I strongly support the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. The Roe decision balanced the interests of women to make highly personal reproductive decisions and the protection of unborn children. The Court held that the government may not interfere with a woman's reproductive choice during the first trimester of pregnancy. During the second trimester, the government may regulate a woman's right to an abortion. And, in the third trimester, the government may prohibit abortions, but must make exceptions if needed to protect a woman's life or health.

I am sorry we are not in agreement on this issue. I value your input and please know that I will work hard to represent the best interests of California and the nation in the Senate. If you have further questions, please call my Washington, D.C. staff at (202) 224-3841.

Sincerely yours,

Dianne Feinstein
United States Senator


Fifth contact: Called the Senator's office seeking clarification of her position.

Spoke with Charity who was not exactly polite. She refused to entertain the idea that they might still have my letter and simply insisted that I resubmit. She suggested I could wait on hold for 20 minutes while she checked and when I suggested she could call me back she said she could find out in 1 minute. She promptly discovered that they didn't have my letter...

She suggested that I may want to contact the legislative analyst for this issue.


Sixth contact: Resent my questions via the web form on her site.

November 6, 2002

Hello,

I initially sent this letter a year and a half ago. I have been sent form letters in reply that do not answer my specific and very relevant questions. I have repeatedly asked for answers in correspondence dated 10/6/01 and 2/2/02. Anyone who has a position on the abortion issue should have answers to these questions and I would appreciate a full reply. As your constituent I think I deserve honest answers and not 30 second sound bites. Thank you.

My original letter is included.

Sincerely,
A Private Citizen

Seventh contact: Received a simple e-mail reply "valuing my opinion". I'm seeking clarification of your position, Senator, not offering an opinion.


Undemocratically Disengaged Senator Dianne Feinstein's second form letter also does not even attempt to address any of the questions posed.



November 25, 2002

Thank you for contacting my office again to follow up on
your concerns about a woman's right to choose.

Be assured that I do value your opinion and appreciate how
strongly you feel about this issue. Comments like yours help me to
make the most informed decisions on issues of importance to you,
to California, and to the entire nation.

Sincerely yours,

Dianne Feinstein
United States Senator

 


Eighth contact: Replied with another e-mail asking for clarification of her position.

November 25, 2002

Dear Dianne Feinstein,

In your reply (of 11/25/2002) to my questions (originally dated 5/30/2001) you simply thanked me for offering my opinion. The purpose of each of the 4 pieces of correspondence that I've sent is not to offer my opinion but to solicit information concerning your position. You did not answer any of my questions and so now I know no more than I did before.

Do you feel that elected representatives are free from any obligation to explain why they hold the positions that they do? This is what I infer from your reply.

Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas held more than 20 hours of public debate on issues surrounding slavery, the most contentious social issue of their day, and you are unwilling to answer just three fundamental questions concerning your position on abortion. Has our democracy changed or are you simply unwilling to support your position?

I am trying to be a good citizen in our democracy by engaging in a relevant discussion of national importance. So I ask for the fourth time, please provide me, your constituent, the answers that I have requested so that I can better understand your position.

I have included my initial correspondence of a year and a half ago containing my three questions. Thank you.

Sincerely,
A Private Citizen



Ninth contact: Received an e-mail reply that I should submit questions via her web form which is exactly where I had been submitting.

November 27, 2002

Thank you so much for contacting me to share your thoughts and
concerns.

Currently I receive approximately 30,000 letters and e-mails a week,
but due to system
requirements, I am unable to adequately address messages that are not sent
directly through my
website.

If you wish to receive a response to your concerns, please e-mail me
at http://feinstein.senate.gov/email.html

Again, please accept my apologies for this inconvenience. I value
your opinion and I look
forward to your next e-mail.

Sincerely yours,

Dianne Feinstein
United States Senator

 

[Note: The place to which I was supposed to send my correspondence is exactly where it was submitted the first time.]



Tenth contact: Again resubmitted a letter via her web form seeking a clarification of her position. (These first 10 contacts span over a year and a half.)


December 23, 2002

Re: Does anyone read these?

Dear Dianne Feinstein,

In order to get further clarification of your position, I had asked you several questions starting over a year and a half ago (original dated 5/30/2001). Your replies simply thank me for offering my opinion but ignore the fact that it is additional information that I seek.

I am trying to be a good citizen in our democracy by engaging in a relevant discussion of national importance. So I ask for the fifth time, please provide me, your constituent, the answers that I have requested so that I can better understand your position.

I have included my initial correspondence of over a year and a half ago containing my three questions. Thank you.

Sincerely,
A Private Citizen

 


Eleventh contact: Played phone tag with Kristen Steinke and finally we spoke in person.


March 10, 2003

After several calls back and forth Kristen Steinke, the Senator's legal analyst on this issue, and I finally spoke. She provided me with her fax number where I could send my letter.

 


Twelfth contact: Sent a fax of my original letter to Kristen Steinke.


March 25, 2003

I faxed my initial correspondence of nearly two years ago to Kristen Steinke.

 


Thirteenth contact: Left a message for Kristen asking about the status of the fax.


March 31, 2003

I left a message for Kristen checking on the status of the fax that I had sent to be sure that it had arrived as there were some fax communication issues. I asked for a response.

 


Fourteenth contact: Received a message from Kristen concerning the fax.


April 1, 2003

Kristen called back and left a message that she had received the fax and was working on a response.

 


Fifteenth contact: Received another form letter with some supplemental material.

Undemocratically Disengaged Senator Dianne Feinstein's form letter reply is almost word for word the same form letter that she sent over a year ago. She obviously is not interested in engaging with her constituents.



April 9, 2002


Thank you very much for your letter of March 25, 2003 regarding your opposition to a woman's right to choose. I realize that many people take positions on this issue through deeply held religious and moral convictions. Respectfully, we disagree on this issue..

As you know, I strongly support the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. The Roe decision balanced the interests of women to make highly personal reproductive decisions and the protection of unborn children. The Court held that the government may not interfere with a woman's reproductive choice during the first trimester of pregnancy. During the second trimester, the government may regulate a woman's right to an abortion post viability. And, in the third trimester, the government may prohibit abortions, but must make exceptions if needed to protect a woman's life or health. For your information, I have included a Congressional Research Service report on case law regarding a woman's right to choose.

I am sorry we are not in agreement on this issue. I value your input and please know that I will work hard to represent the best interests of California and the nation in the Senate. If you have further questions, please call my Washington, D.C. staff at (202) 224-3841. Additional legislative information may be found on my website at http://feinstein.senate.gov.

Sincerely yours,

Dianne Feinstein
United States Senator

[This form letter was accompanied by a 15 page Issue Brief for Congress on abortion. It contained very generic historical information and contained no information on Senator Feinstein's position which is what this dialog is supposed to be about.]


Sixteenth contact: Replied with a letter concerning the central issue in this debate as admitted even by Justice Blackmun: the personhood of the unborn.

April 27, 2002


Senator Dianne Feinstein
United States Senate
331 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Dianne Feinstein,

Thank you for your reply of April 9, 2003, and for the Congressional Research Service report on the legislative history of abortion. It is a nice summary but it unfortunately does not answer any of the questions that I have asked.

My central question is truly fundamental to the issue of abortion as even Justice Blackmun and notably also the appellant in Roe agreed as Blackmun wrote in Roe:

The appellee and certain amici argue that the fetus is a "person" within the language and meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment. In support of this, they outline at length and in detail the well-known facts of fetal development. If this suggestion of personhood is established, the appellant's case, of course, collapses, for the fetus' right to life would then be guaranteed specifically by the Amendment. The appellant conceded as much on reargument.

Justice Blackmun, of course, concluded that the unborn were not persons and contained in the material you sent was essentially the justification that Justice Blackmun used in denying personhood to the unborn:

The Court emphasized that, given the fact that in the major part of the 19th century prevailing legal abortion practices were far freer than today, the Court was persuaded "that the word 'person', as used in the Fourteenth Amendment, does not include the unborn."

This logic is absolutely flawed for it suggests that a definition for what it means to be a person can reasonably be inferred from past legal practices and this is clearly untrue. When Dred Scott was the law of the land the established legal practices were against the equal treatment of persons of African descent but such practices were clearly contrary to the objective fact that those of African descent are persons just like you and I and were entitled to equal treatment. And yet Dred Scott was overturned.

Additionally, civil rights legislation was completely contrary to past legal practices regarding those of African descent which should make clear that what it means to be a person entitled to equal treatment can not be derived from past legal practices.

If reference to past practices were a rational way to determine who is deserving of equal treatment then women would also never have won the right to vote. Yet women did win that right even though our constitution does not explicitly define what it means to be a person so as to include women as equal participants in the eyes of the law.

It is quite clear that rights have justifiably been granted by the courts in the past based on the recognition that persoonhood is an objective state and not a shifting, subjectively inferred quality determined from past practice; the constitution does not need an explicit definition for just decisions to be made in this regard as all civil rights have slowly become more justly realized in our country.

So the question before us now is how do you, a pro-choice Senator, define personhood non-arbitrarily such that we are not persons at some point before our birth? Failed attempts at personhood definitions in the past have used race, religion and gender as defining characteristics but such definitions all fail because they don't even attempt to include the characteristics fundamental to the defined object which is what all definitions require.

I will offer a definition as an example. A person is a being with the inherent capacity to think, feel, emote, reason, recognize truth and beauty, be conscious, understand themselves to be an "I", and all of those other functions commonly associated with persons. This definition quite simply separates all that is impersonal from all that is personal.

It is an objective fact that unborn human beings have the exact same inherent capacities of personhood that born human beings have since each is the same being simply at different stages of development. They can't demonstrate these abilities but neither can you or I while unconscious; you and I retain our personhood in full while unconscious because our inherent capacities for functioning as persons are completely retained even though we may lack the immediate capacity to demonstrate these attributes; in other words it is only as a person that I could ever hope to function as a person. These inherent capacities are what make us persons; they are what separate us from all that is impersonal.

Now as Justice Blackmun wrote in Roe, if the unborn are persons then their rights are enshrined explicitly in the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment. Therefore those who are pro-choice today must have a definition of what it means to be a person that excludes the unborn.

While Justice Blackmun's stated "definition" of what constitutes being a person was plainly false, he was absolutely correct in stating that personhood is central to this debate. This is why I am requesting such a definition from you, Senator Feinstein.

Unless someone can rationally explain with non-arbitrary definitions why we are not persons before our birth then our unalienable right to life as guaranteed by the 14th Amendment can not be infringed for someone else's benefit.

I have included a copy of my original correspondence as it contains a more complete discussion of this and related points.

I look forward to your reply. Thank you.

Sincerely,

A Private Citizen


Seventeenth contact: After a month and a half without a reply to my fax I called Kristen. She couldn't find the fax and asked me to resend.

June 10, 2003

After a month and a half without a reply to my fax I called Kristen. She couldn't find the fax and asked me to resend.

Eighteenth contact: I refaxed my letter concerning the personhood of the unborn.

June 12, 2003

I refaxed my letter concerning the personhood of the unborn.

Nineteenth contact: I again called Kristen and left a message inquiring as to whether my fax was received. I have not received a return call.

June 16, 2003

I again called Kristen and left a message inquiring as to whether my fax was received.

I have not been contacted since.

 


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