Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Idealess Convention 2008

If you've watched any of the first two days of the Democratic convention then you could be excused from believing that what separates democrats from republicans is that republicans apparently hate the middle-class, are sending poor helpless soldiers into a meatgrinder, and are stealing your wealth in order to give it to Exxon.

I would like to ask? What exactly is the middle-class? I know how it's defined economically but I can't help but wonder what people the democratic politicians and pundits are talking about. 

The only thing that I can gleam is that the middle-class is suffering immensely and that they all live in the idyllic small towns, drive pick-up trucks, and work in blue-collar jobs. WTF?!? 

Soldiers are a lot of things but helpless and innocent, no matter how ill-conceived the war, isn't one of them. They are highly trained men with guns sent to kill not innocent kids plucked from a neighborhood park by a psychopath.

I'm no fan of my money being taken from me and redistributed, regardless of who it goes too. That being said, it sure as hell isn't going to Exxon rather it's going to the elderly, foreign countries, and the poor. I would almost rather it go to Exxon because at least then I get something in return.

The most curious speaker was Xavier Becerra (D- Los Angeles) who apparently represents migrant workers in Congress. I didn't know they had their own district.

It seems that the democrats have finally given up thinking entirely in favor of rote repetition of empty, vaguely marxist political platitudes. That's generally in line with Obama's candidacy but still a bit sad. No matter how bad the republicans are, the democrats will always be more vacuous.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Heroic dignity

In what is likely to be my last Olympics post I would like to talk about the athletes that lost. Some reacted bitterly, and some violently, some with justifiable shock, and others still with a quiet dignity.

Alicia Sacramone's fourth place vault finish due to inexplicable judging and her disastrous floor routine that almost certainly cost the American's the gold could have resulted in moaning, complaining, and excuses. She instead took responsibility for the mistakes she made and refused to complain in the face of legitimate injustice. It was a disappointing Olympics for a 20 year old girl with huge aspirations and she handled it with class and dignity.

Matt Emmons blundered away his chance for gold on his final shot for the second straight Olympics and how did he respond? With such restraint and dignity that it was singled out by Olympics chief Jacques Rogge as the most touching moment of the games.

Lolo Jones roared into the lead with two hurdles to go, assuring her of a gold medal only to clip the ninth hurdle breaking her rhythm just enough to deny her any medal at all. In few sports is the consequence for a small mistake larger than for a hurdler and yet she handled the massive disappointment with profound stoicism. She held her composure long enough to give numerous interviews, hug her rivals as they walked by and congratulate the winners with genuine respect. For what must felt like an eternity she was the epitome of good grace, never diminishing the glory of her rivals by surrendering to personal pain, knowing as she did that at 26 this was almost certainly her only Olympics.

Only later, standing alone in the dark did a cameraman finally catch glimpse of the immense pain and disappointment. Holding her head low, trying hard not to break down completely, it became obvious how much she hurt. Still, with the full weight of the disappointment resting on her and after all of her struggles, she refused to surrender her dignity and for that she will always be golden.

A gay diver? Shocking!

There seems to be a bit of hullabaloo about NBC not making a bit of hullabaloo about Matthew Mitcham's sexuality.

In a sense they do have a point. NBC commentators delved into the personal lives of numerous athletes during the games, with most of the stories being far more mundane than his. Sports is after all partly about human interest stories. We want to root for people that inspire us personally and his story was certainly a great one for many gay viewers.

Of course NBC also has a point but one that they didn't express. The Olympics are watched by a worldwide audience that is far less supportive of homosexuality than the U.S. population, especially the worldwide sports audience. Most of their decisions are made with similar considerations and if there were hundreds of millions of people that would have enjoyed that story then no doubt it would have been the talk of the mens diving competition. Still, business is business and supporting homosexual pride just wasn't quite cost effective enough.

What I find more curious is that anyone is surprised. I just assumed that he was gay and in fact I assumed that most (or at least more than the average) of male divers are gay just like I assume that many male figure skaters are gay. Am I making a stereotype? Obviously yes but am I wrong? I doubt it.

This quote also requires a response:

"His sexuality, specifically because he’s the ONLY ONE, and because gay men are painted as unathletic in our culture, makes it a big part of the story."

Really? In my experience gay men (and far more prevalent stereotype about lesbians is that they are quite common as female athletes) are regarded as fitness freaks, very competitive, and quite athletic. It isn't that gay men aren't perceived as athletic it's that heterosexual athletes in generally mainstream athletics don't like homosexuals. Basketball, football, baseball, hockey, soccer, even tennis and golf all are generally sports that are hostile to gay men and that is an entirely different problem. Certainly no one who watches figure skating cares one way or the other and probably not in diving either.

Had Matthew Mitcham been a gay basketball player or discus thrower or even a swimmer then it would almost certainly been far too big a story to suppress over ratings concerns.


Apparently a North Dakota teenage motorcyclist grabbed the attention of the local police by popping a wheelie on his bike and then speeding off at nearly 150 mph to escape police pursuit. Most interestingly though, a few minutes after successfully managing to evade the police he simply pulled over to the side of the road to answer his cellphone and was promptly arrested.

I don't really see how a wheelie is any business of the police but what I really don't understand is why the kid simply waited by the side of the road?

I would love to make a point how the police pursuit actually created a more dangerous environment than the wheelie ever could and that it's just another example of petty tyranny by the state but I just can't summon the will to because I just can't comprehend why this kid just stopped. Why?

Hippy Cancer

It is being reported that incense may increase the risk of certain types of cancer. Take it with a grain of salt as nearly everything causes cancer in high enough dosages. Still, any opportunity that I have to chuckle at incense-loving neo-hippies, who have longed used similar studies to justify everything from vegetarianism to outlawing smoking, gives me a small amount of satisfaction.

I don't really think that incense is dangerous but I also don't think cell-phones, red meat, and DDT are either. It always comes down to dosage... just ask a chemist.

Celebrity feud: McCain v. Madonna

So Madonna took a shot at John McCain? Shocking!

She compared him to Hitler? How fresh and original!

McCain's campaign predictably responded in the most humorless and ironic way imaginable. They actually took her seriously. McCain in his own petty, authoritarian way can't stand to be tweaked and rather than dismissing Madonna as an irrelevant old whore with a fake British accent, had his campaign actually responded with outrage. Outrage!

I'm sorry but are fucking kidding me? Madonna is a lot of things, a brilliant self-promoter to be sure, a clever business woman no doubt, but hardly still culturally relevant. She certainly garners media attention and sells tickets but her Hitler-McCain comparison smacks of stale desperation as does his reaction to it.

Madonna attacking a mainstream Republican is about as unexpected as Michael Moore or the DailyKos doing so and her particular attack was about as unique and clever as an episode of America's Funniest Home Videos.

McCain seems to have really embraced the Republican parties recent tyrannical tendencies including it's utter inability to shrug something off. A tyrant can't stand to be criticized no matter how minor or silly it is and while McCain is certainly no tyrant, it is more because of the limitations of his office than any restraint in his character.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Obama-Biden 2008

The news of the day is why Joe Biden? What does it say about Barack Obama?

Some on the right have speculated that it suggests a lack of confidence but I'm not quite buying it.

I find Joe Biden to be a troubling pick but one that will almost assuredly help Sen. Obama. It isn't that Sen. Biden has any particular baggage that I know of, he doesn't. Nothing more than an almost quaint habit of being a blowhard. Nor is it that he's politically more offensive than Obama as he certainly isn't that. Rather, it's that he is the perfect media pick for Sen. Obama to distract from his obvious short-comings.

Sen. Obama had an immediate appeal for three distinct reasons: he was running against Hillary Clinton; he presents a large, grand vision of "change;" He's dignified - don't underestimate this one after sixteen years of shameless Clintonism and W. Bush incompetence. 

What he lacks though, is personal charisma, political achievement, or really any qualifications for the job of the Presidency. When standing across from Hillary or in front of ten-thousand people, Barack Obama is appealing, even to some conservatives. He elegantly contrasts with the seedy, petty, nasty partisanship of the post-Kennedy era that defines the lives of most of the media and electorate. However, that image of him only holds when viewed from a distance and that is what Joe Biden does for Barack Obama.

When viewed up close, Obama is an old school hyper-liberal. He is way of the left of America on issues like gay marriage and abortion, supports the kind of massive socialist programs that Bill Clinton had supposedly excised from the democratic party, and is as partisan as anyone. Obama is largely politically indistinguishable from the divisive Nancy Pelosi or Ted Kennedy and has even less political experience or achievement than George W. Bush did when he ran for president. He is considered, by many, to be personally aloof, arrogant, and testy when pressured.

Joe Biden will be sold to America as a Cheneyesque figure that brings needed experience into an Obama White House, alleviating Obama's one real weakness. That isn't true. In truth, Biden will be a bait and switch of sorts. He will do much of the retail politicking that Obama isn't good at, some of the attacking that Obama wants to avoid, but mostly he will keep America at arms length from Obama. Biden is very media friendly. He is quotable, charismatic, energetic, well-reasoned, detailed, and occasionally clumsy - all things that allow Barack Obama to avoid any serious scrutiny.

Whenever anyone tries to investigate Obama's vacuous  yet grandiose vision of fluffy change, they will be met instead with the meat and potatoes of Joe Biden. Biden will shake your hand, look you in the eye, and point to Obama on a podium or a magazine cover and assure you that he is ready. America will be charmed by, distracted by, and reassured by Joe Biden and they will elect Barack Obama. Something that seemed much less likely when the focus was on Obama himself which is exactly why he hasn't been able to pull away from John McCain.

Sen. Biden is a magic trick, a bit of distraction from the real candidate, but a tactically outstanding choice for Vice President. Kudos to you Sen. Obama for your shrewdness but shame on you for proving that you are no different from the Clinton, Bush, or Karl Rove. Your just what I thought you were.

Crystal Mangum's next shameless fifteen minutes

Don't remember Crystal Gail Mangum?

She was the stripper who falsely accused three Duke Lacrosse players of raping her and is now the quixotic beneficiary of a book deal, rather than a jail sentence.

This probably has a lot to say about our culture of celebrity, indifference to justice, embrace of victimization, irrationality, and racial egalitarian fantasy but I just don't think I can stomach it at the moment.

PETA's virtual animal park?

It is being reported (who knows if it's true or not) that PETA has acquired a big-time donor willing to help them purchase one of the Seaworld parks which, after rehabbing and freeing the animals, they would turn into a virtual animal park. This, is one of the worst and funniest ideas I have ever heard.

Animal rights folk, like most leftist, have a lot of big dumb ideas. Remember Air America? Who on this earth would travel miles to go to a virtual animal park? Do they understand how these big parks make their money? It isn't with entrance fees but rather by charging eight dollars for a glass of lemonade to people who are... wait for it, watching animals do tricks.

I hope that they find some way, although I know truly that this will never happen, to buy one of the three Seaworld parks just so I can experience a bit of schadenfreude at their expense.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

This seems reasonable

In the on-going statist efforts to legislate and criminalize any conduct deemed disorderly or undesirable comes this gem concerning an overdue library book in Wisconsin:

"[Heidi Dalibor], 20, was arrested earlier this month in connection with a pair of books overdue for several months."
Really? If this absurd display of authoritarian control doesn't shock you, then how about this one:

"Eleven-year-old Katie and three-year-old Sabrina Lewis have been selling spare melons, radishes, and of course, zucchini from their family garden at a roadside stand on Saturday mornings. Recently, the cops showed to bust them."
Bureaucracy and statism out of control yet again.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A bit of Beethoven

My primary recommendation of the week is for solo piano enthusiasts:

Beethoven's 15 variations with fugue on a theme from Prometheus.

There are many good versions so find a good one and enjoy.

Cash for grades?

An interesting article from the generally awful New York Post reports that last years privately funded initiative to reward minority  (black and hispanic, not asian) students with monetary rewards in exchange for passing AP tests has failed. In fact, the number of these students who passed the AP exams actually decreased from last year.

The laughably misguided quote of the article is here:

"Those behind the privately funded initiative said they saw many positive results on which to build, including an 8 percent increase in the number of AP tests taken and a 19 percent increase in students scoring at the top point level."

So, more kids took the tests and less passed? I call that a disaster.

What actually happened should be obvious... the students who were already motivated to do well did even better. Students on the bubble overreached by taking exams and failed them and of course the unmotivated students didn't even bother.

I suspect that it was a deeply disenfranchising experience for the middle-ground students and irritating to the poorer performers.

Surely the program was well intended but it obviously failed to address the underlying reasons why so many black and hispanic students perform poorly in academics. It's awfully difficult to get the correct answer when you don't know what the problem is.

I don't know the answer but I do know that public schools are not primarily structured around academic success. Colleges are set up to keep you in school as long as possible, elementary is daycare, junior highs are prisons, and high school is primarily designed to keep bands of criminal teenagers from roaming the streets while keeping the teachers unions happy. Not exactly ideal for solving this problem...

Smoke 'em if everyones got 'em

A handful of bar owners in West Virginia decided to protest the new ban on smoking in bars. The most interesting quote is this one:

"Either rescind the order or enforce it," Ellison said. "Either make it happen or let it go. I want a level playing field."

It would seem that liberty, property rights, and freedom of association are not his primary concern but rather equality. I often feel like I'm living in the wrong century, caring as I do about such anachronistic and outdated ideas as freedom.

Another reason I despise the British press

This article concerning Barack Obama's half-brother from the London Telegraph. 

Another reason why I love the Onion so much.

So I ask this? What is the purpose of this kind of reporting? George Obama made it clear that he prefers this information remain a secret. It tells us nothing at all about Sen. Obama's policies or fitness to be president. 

Does the Telegraph have nothing better to spend its resources on, for example British issues?

Do-nothing congress?

So the Wall Street Journal reports that this Congress hasn't been doing much in the way of passing legislation:

"In two decades of record keeping, no sitting Congress has passed fewer public laws at this point in the session -- 294 so far -- than this one."

It seems as though they have been spending the bulk of their time on meaningless drivel:

"...no Congress in the same 20 years has been so prolific when it comes to proposing resolutions -- more than 1,900, according to a tally by the nonpartisan Taxpayers for Common Sense.

...Congress has saluted such milestones as the Idaho Potato Commission's 70th anniversary and recognized soil as an "essential natural resource."

I'm not even sure how to respond to this but I will try.

It's always my preference for Congress to do as little as humanly possible because then they can't do much in the way of damage. I'm more than a little pleased that they are wasting their time on such meaningless nonsense but it makes me think that maybe it's time to consider a part-time Congress?

A man can dream...

Friday, August 15, 2008

An olympic update

So one of the worlds most sparsely populated nations and one of it's most populace are now celebrating having both won their first olympic individual gold medal.

So to Tuvshinbayar Naidan and Abhinav Bindra I can only say congratulations on your success.

I find India and Mongolia's juxtaposition to be an inexplicable curiosity that I just can't wrap my head around... and I've long had a mild affection for both nations. Congrat's all around.

Be a prick, go to jail.

Another charming development for free speech and the right to be a public jerk.

Apparently, intimidation is now a crime so long as you do it with racial overtones... and so Jeremiah Munsen from Alexandria, La. gets to spend four months in prison for driving around a civil rights rally with a noose tied to his truck.

Tacky? Sure.
Racist? Probably.
Juvenile? Oh yes.
Criminal? Apparently so...

This is another blow to the principle of  free speech and I wonder how long until we reach European standards and start prosecuting anyone who says anything that is deemed racially insensitive? I imagine not long...

Phelps, NBC's Savior?

That's what the Adam Buckman at the New York Post thinks.

As great as Michael Phelps is, his achievements will not be the ones that I remember most vividly from this olympics but rather it will be those last thirty-five meters swam by Jason Lezak in the 4x100 m freestyle relay that will go down in my memory along with the 2007 fiesta bowl and the 2004 ALCS as one of the most thrilling sports moments in my life. He may have very well swam the greatest finish in swimming history, chasing down the great Alain Bernard to smash two records and win a gold medal.

Fake fireworks and singers, and the fake minorities in the opening ceremonies, random violence, blatant rules violations, and a war, have all marred this olympics. Suspicious judging, underachieving Americans, and NBC's idiotic "live" delay out here on the west coast could have easily dulled my interest. Yet, it's Lezak's relay swim and even more so, the individual medal he wanted so badly that keep me tuning in.

Sorry Michael, as great as your story is, it's the Jason Lezaks of this olympics like the Rulon Gardner's of past ones that keep me watching. Phelps is the glory of sport, the icon but Lezak is the drama and the heart; he is the man we identify with because he is never the favorite, his wins are never easy, and his achievements so rarely headline making. Rather, his victories are often by slim margins, hard fought, and deeply, deeply personal... just like ours.

Stable sure, but...

A decent op-ed fromt the Wall Street Journal.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

A willing decent into tyranny

Rasmussen's latest poll on the so-called fairness doctrine brings some very discouraging results for the liberty minded. 

47% of polled likely voters believe that the government should mandate equal airtime for opposing viewpoints on television and radio.

Even more shocking is that 31% believe the same of the internet. I can't imagine how that would even work or be enforceable but nearly a third of likely voters seem utterly unimpaired by similar concerns.

Here's a list of questions for this mass of potential voters:

1. What would the standard be for determining legitimate opposing viewpoints? Would libertarians get equal air time? Pro-life Democrats? Communists? Larouchites? How would this be determined and by whom?

2. Doesn't having the government mandating political entertainment and discussion on the airwaves encourage abuse? First amendment, anyone? Hello?

3. What about the rights of radio and television stations? Would they be forced into airing unprofitable material in order to fulfill some government mandate?

4. Where on earth does the government get the authority to do this?

5. Are you all fucking crazy?

I don't think that I have to address the myriad of problems with the fairness doctrine in this blog because they are well reported on in conservative circles. What this really suggests to me is that potential voters in this country are appallingly ignorant of the long-term implications of their actions.

As usual, it looks as though it's just a matter of time before the great public in this country puts an actual dictator in charge. Fantastic.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Utopian fantasies abound

One of the easiest ways to identify a philosophy, political outlook, or social vision that is doomed to failure, is to look for an underlying hint of utopianism. See if you can find it in John McCain's latest comments on the Russian conquest of Georgia.

Much the same as environmentalist's faith in ecological harmony being constrained by the fact that there is no such thing. The environment isn't harmonious but rather is starkly violent, hyper-competitive, and ever changing. What they are actually pursuing is a nostalgic return to childhood or primitivism, but not balance or harmony.

Then of course, there are the myriad of utopian political visions such as communism, multiculturalism, egalitarianism, etc. all of which suffer from the basic truth that human beings are not infinitely malleable. Hence their tendency to drift into authoritarianism in an attempt to force that change that our natures resist.

How about the neo-conservative utopian vision for the middle-east? Somehow, in spite of culture, race, religion, and history we could turn them into a nice, happy, pro-western democracy... and all we need to do to topple the dominoes, is strike Iraq. Worked out about as well as any other plan rooted in utopianism.

What is John McCain's utopianism? A frightful combination of 60's trauma induced faith in interventionism coupled with a new-age egalitarianism.

John McCain's foreign policy is rooted in the belief that American military influence can maintain an international equilibrium or harmony if you will. Somehow, we can prevent all wars, invasions, political uprisings, and genocide if we just try hard enough and have enough troops. That is the bold, imperial dream that defines his foreign policy and like any other utopian vision, it's rooted firmly in hope rather than fact. This kind of irrational disconnect from reality doesn't bother me much when I hear it from an athlete or motivational speaker but it's a bit more troubling when spoken by someone who might very well one day control the largest nuclear arsenal in the world.

I hate to take a cheap shot at the man but I've begun to suspect that his time spent imprisoned in Vietnam has left him permanently removed from reality, and stuck in his own vision of the world. He spent the worst years of the war in a prison camp being tortured with only his commitment to his duty to protect. He had to believe that the war was just or he wouldn't have been able to survive it. He didn't endure the most disillusioning years of the war as his fellow Senator's Hagel, Kerry, and Webb did. Instead he spent those years necessarily reinforcing the noble and just cause that lead to his imprisonment and torture. Couple that with his fathers belief that had the he been allowed to utilize total war, then the U.S. could have emerged successful. That, and not the facts of reality today, are what shape McCain's perfectionist foreign policy. While he may be a brave and decent man, he is also damaged in a way that makes him incapable of having a realistic view of the world. For him, the interventionist policies of the past sixty years are not failures, they just need more troops or more time and nothing will ever convince him otherwise.

The world is a chaotic and dynamic place with different nations, races, religions, corporations, and NGO's all vying for resources, influence, and power. It is an ever changing world where adaptability is second in importance only to having a keen sense of danger and the rational pursuit of our national interests. This requires a level of objectivity that the Arizona Senator is tragically incapable of.  

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The international senators

There is something about John McCain and Barack Obama that I find not only inappropriate, but generally distasteful: their habit of engaging in foreign policy while serving as senators.

I understand that they both need to look presidential and that they need to outline their vision of our foreign policy. That's perfectly fine.

What isn't fine is actually engaging in foreign policy assuring a nation at war with a nuclear power that every American supports them (McCain) or touring Europe as though he were already president (Obama).

Neither one of these two men represent anyone other than the people of their state, and only on issues of domestic policy. I don't discourage them from discussing foreign policy in an appropriate manner and in the appropriate places but I absolutely disdain the arrogance involved in attempting to represent me, and the American people, before we have explicitly given either of them the right to by way of an election.

John McCain, speaking for America

So John McCain declared publicly today that he told President Saakashvili today that he speaks for all of America when declaring our support for Georgia.


I don't support Georgia in this. I'm an American. How presumptuous, arrogant, and absurd of McCain to think that a good number of American's wouldn't support Georgia in this. Why you ask?

Because Georgia's President is a fool. The simple truth is that Georgia and Russia had a little border dispute over an advantageous region with an oil pipeline so what does Russia do? It sets a trap. It prepped its military for a fast conquest and then encouraged the South Ossetians to get uppity with the hopes that Georgia would send in the military thus giving Russia a pretense for invading and conquering Georgia. Of course, after diplomacy, they will give most of it back except for the regions they wanted in the first place.

Georgia walked right into this trap because President Saakashvili foolishly thought that the west or the U.N. would back him up. Russia knew better. Russia also knew that had they invaded without any justification, no matter how weak, then they wouldn't be able to rely on China protecting them from the one thing they fear: economic sanctions. Thus they tricked Georgia into giving them that justification. A trick predicated on Georgia's naive faith in the U.N. encouraging them to pick a suicidal fight with Russia, which they did.

President Saakashvili gambled the integrity of his country and lives of thousands of his countrymen on the absurd notion that the U.N., or NATO, or anyone else would come to help them. In the days before these useless organizations, Georgia might have instead developed allies in the region who might have been able and willing to help or solved the issue through diplomacy. Instead they relied on the idealism of the U.S. and the United Nations. Only a fool would risk so much on so little.

The other element is that while Georgia may have been provoked, they still picked this fight and it was a fight that they knew they couldn't win. They only reason they did it was their faith that the their allies and the U.N. would save them. That's a dangerous, dangerous fantasy which encourages war over diplomacy. A country in a difficult situation is less likely to make a concession and more likely to start fighting if they believe that their allies will come rescue them after a few days of fighting. These kinds of small scale wars can escalate out of control very easily by dragging larger, wealthier nations into a conflict that has virtually nothing to do with them. 

So while I have no affection for Russia and what they are doing (other than admiring the fact that they seem to understand the state of modern international diplomacy better than most), I also no interest in supporting Georgia. They don't deserve it, no matter what John McCain says.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Protesters of the world, unite

There has always seemed, at least to me, to be something terribly wrong with people who protest about things which are of little consequence to themselves, i.e. animal rights protesters, minimum wage laws, human rights abuses abroad, etc.

It isn't that I find protesting pointless and absurd... because I don't. It's that I find half-hearted protesting to be pointless and absurd. If you are going to protest then you should go all out when doing it. Put your heart and soul and life into it; risk your life or your property or your liberty or all three. Most protesters protest as a hobby, getting out and waving signs about some issue that means everything to them for a couple hours a week or month. The issues are purely ones of vanity, designed to give them a sense of moral superiority and their lives a veneer of meaning. They risk very little and change even less. 

"What are you doing to change the world?" They ask so arrogantly. 

"Nothing less than you," I usually respond.

Such behavior can often lead to overreaching and these olympics have brought the fools out in force. French rioters attacking a paraplegic bearer of the olympic flame or protesters flying to China in order to roll on the ground in a Tibetan flag. What is the purpose of this? Is it really to make a difference? Do these people really think that a nation that causally murdered hundreds of its students is going to listen to a handful of petty protesters?

No. Of course not. The point of most protests is the self-indulgent desire to feel that they are part of something bigger than themselves, without the work and effort of truly being so. It is sham and a fraud and it doesn't deserve any respect.

Most of these protests have nothing to do with the stated cause. They aren't really going to help animals, free Tibet, or stop wars for diamonds because doing so is difficult and often life-threatening. The only thing they are doing is trying to artificially give meaning to their lives by attaching themselves to an international cause. It doesn't matter that they will have no effect, and possibly diminish the issue. All that matters to them is the warm, fuzzy feeling of being together, fighting for the  downtrodden in a cause that's "real". They can  then return home to their "empty, consumeristic middle-class" that they despise. That same life that affords them the both luxury to fight for real change, rather than merely surviving, as well as self-indulgent exercises in futile vanity like most protests.

What most protesters do is a farce, an insult, and a disservice to the people who live with oppression, violence, and suffering every day. Are you really showing "solidarity" with political prisoners in Tibet by waving a sign a few times a week? Somehow I doubt it...

What should they do? Do I expect middle-class Americans to fight in foreign wars, etc? Not unless they really care that much, but if that's the case then they are probably already there. I just want people to fight for what matters to them. How about protecting liberty and freedom in your own town? Or cleaning up a local river? Or helping the suffering in your own city? By focusing on a distant issue that a person can't really affect, it gives that person a false sense of achievement and thusly depriving that person the opportunity to make a real difference in someone's life or in their community.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

I was just following orders

Here is a video discussing the aftermath of the Charlie Lynch trial. 

Forgetting about the horrible abuse of power that was the prosecution of Mr. Lynch, what is most depressing to me about this was the Jury Foreman's response to after the trial. She (Kitty Meese) can be heard, starting at 1:02 into the video, making this horrifying statement:

"We found Mr. Lynch guilty on all five indictments. I think the majority of us thought he was a nice man with good intentions who didn't stay within the parameters of the federal law. Under the federal law we had no choice but to find [him] guilty."
The key phrase here is "no choice."

Kitty Meese, as well as her fellow jurors, is a symbol of everything that is wrong with our justice system.

Her sheepish sentiment that she isn't responsible for her decision; that she had to follow the law. She had to accept the states argument that it was acting justly without question. She couldn't question the appropriateness of the prosecution or the law used to justify it. Her judgement meant nothing and she wasn't responsible for the outcome of her decision. She had no choice.

This woman is morally reprehensible in my view.

First let me say that I despise drugs and drug users and very little philosophical sympathy for drug users, per se. My beef here is with tyrannical federal power that goes unchecked because of the meekness of those whose responsibility is to check it: the people.

Mrs. Meese is not without culpability here, just like the nazi officers who claimed to be just following orders. She isn't simply a cog in a machine or a part of the process. She is the process. She, and the eleven other jurors, are ultimately the ones responsible for what happens to Mr. Lynch. It is their responsibility not only to judge the facts of the case but whether the prosecution was just or the law constitutional.

What keeps the government from passing and enforcing oppressive laws? Juries.

What keeps the state from arbitrary, political, or personally motivated prosecutions? Juries.

The weapon of juries is the process of jury nullification. Their justification for its use should not be racism, celebrity awe, favoritism, etc. but rather the rational, independent judgement of each individual on the jury. 

Mr. Lynch may spend as much as one hundred years in jail for a prosecution based on a 5-4 supreme court judgement and the jury's morally responsibility is absolute. The state can't be blamed for abusive prosecutions, that's the nature of the government. What is supposed to keep the state in check is the people, by way of juries. Mrs. Meese and that jury abandoned their responsibility and tried to claim helplessness. The truth is that they cowardly ran from their greatest civic responsibility.

Mrs. Meese obviously lacks the moral courage or integrity to live in a free society and all of us will pay the price for it.

Friday, August 8, 2008

A quick comparison

I've argued many times that the left-wing blogs are sloppier and angrier than the conservative ones. That isn't to suggest that they are any more dishonest, partisan, or inaccurate because I'm pretty sure they are just about equal on that.

Radley Balko has done excellent work exposing police abuses in the drug war and his reporting on the inexcusable Berwyn Heights incident has garnered the raid some mainstream coverage. Forgetting about the irresponsibility and danger of unnecessary paramilitary raids for a moment, I would like to draw attention to the coverage of it to make my earlier point.

Over at Reason, Radley Balko's coverage is well researched, well reasoned, passionately honest even in condemnation and outrage. Other libertarian leaning blogs also picked up the story as one would expect.

Finding this story on classically conservative blogs such as national review's the corner or redstate is impossible. They don't seem to have any interest in the story which doesn't surprise me considering their recent fondness for law and order authoritarianism.

The most psychologically telling response was this one from the DailyKos. Note the opening paragraph:

By now you've probably heard about the brainless July 29 police assault on Cheye Calvo of Berwyn Heights, Md., and his family. First the cops plant marijuana on them, then storm the house, terrorize Calvo, his mother-in-law, and his wife, and shoot dead their two Labrador retrievers. Despite having apparently been investigating a pot-smuggling ring for some time, the cops didn't even know that Calvo is the community's mayor.

Bold portion is my highlight.

In no other report on this subject, is the idea that the drugs were planted ever even suggested. In fact, the origin of the marijuana is well documented and explained, so why on earth would this blogger think to suggest that they were planted? I don't know, perhaps someone should ask him:


This kind of paranoid outrage and disdain for evidence is extremely common on the left, especially in the blogosphere, and supports my general sentiment that the primary psychological state of a leftist is irrational terror.

Capitalism for social good

I've long been arguing the point that positive incentives rather than punitive ones are the most effective means towards nudging companies into socially beneficial behavior outside of the direct pursuit of profit. Business will always respond to economic incentives so... give them one.

It looks like someone else had the same idea:

Wow, what concept? Using the market forces to encourage your agenda rather than using the state to tyrannically demand the same. This is how capitalism is supposed to work. This is how the invisible hand is supposed to operate. This is environmentalism at its best: Envirocapitalism. 

I believe in solar power, energy efficiency, and various forms of recycling. I want clean air, and clean water but I want liberty more and I've never believed them to be mutually exclusive. Carrotmob gives me hope for a world where environmentalism need not also mean authoritarianism, where profit need not be a dirty word, and where people can act as stewards of the environment and still where a suit and tie.

To you Brent Schulkin and his team, a hearty thanks.

And there shall be nothing for all...

Another example of irrational and arbitrary guidelines (this time for the purpose of diversity and multi-culturalism) causing shortages and in this case the closure of a much needed service.

You Tell 'em McCain... On Second thought

So it appears that a border dispute over South Ossetia has broken out between Georgia and Russia. Honestly this doesn't really bother me and I can find very few reasons why anyone in the U.S. should care. True, Georgia is a somewhat firm U.S. ally but does that mean anything consequential? What should the U.S. position on this conflict be? I would hope that it would be something along the lines of:

Good luck with whatever your issues are, don't let this spread beyond the two of you.

Of course, no such luck. My favorite quote comes from Sen. McCain:

"Today, news reports indicate that Russian military forces crossed an internationally-recognized border into the sovereign territory of Georgia. Russia should immediately and unconditionally cease its military operations and withdraw all forces from sovereign Georgian territory. What is most critical now is to avoid further confrontation between Russian and Georgian military forces. The consequences for Euro-Atlantic stability and security are grave."

Interesting. Not only does McCain feel comfortable giving orders (considering that his knowledge of the South Ossetian conflict likely comes from nothing more than a few minutes worth of briefings), but then has the audacity to suggest to these two warring states "what is most critical." I tend to think that Georgia and Russia have some ideas as to what is critical, that is after all why they are fighting in the first place. Not that Sen. Obama is much better. The Senator from Arizona isn't done yet though, as he goes on to suggest that the very stability of Europe is at risk. Seriously?

First of all, what business of the Senator McCain's is it to involve himself in what is essentially a border dispute? There is very little risk of this spreading, unless of course other nations recklessly, arrogantly, or needlessly insert themselves into this conflict.

Secondly, is Europe really threatened by this? This is a region of the world that has dealt with localized and not-so-localized conflicts for more than two millenia. Is there any reason to think that this will be any different or any worse? In short, no. 

Georgia and Russia have an issue and it's not one that concerns most of the rest of the world. It is a private issue between them and it will reach resolution without our meddling. One side will win and one side will lose, built up tension will be released, people will surely die, and maps will likely need to be redrawn. Or we could try to maintain "the stability" of the region and watch this issue flare up for rest of eternity or descend into chaos as tends to happen whenever the international community gets its collective panties in a knot about something.

And so this is the issue at hand: Does the U.S. have anything at stake in this conflict worth (an oil pipeline seems to be about it) the potential risk of involving ourselves in it? Is it appropriate for a potential president to be so casual in his decrees and condemnations concerning the seriousness of this issue to both Georgia and Russia? Should we even bother with attempts at mediation and U.N. resolutions considering how regularly they are simply ignored?

Considering the limited risk to the U.S. and Europe, why not simply allow this conflict the hash itself out and we can console the loser with a nice U.N. resolution after the fact? Why not indeed...

Thursday, August 7, 2008

California Uber alles

An interesting bill sb 1322 now sits on California Gov. Schwarzenegger’s desk, having already easily progressed through the state assembly and senate. This bill’s basic function is to remove all of the anti-communist regulations and restrictions on teachers in California, thus putting communism on a level playing field with the wide range of other -ism’s.

This bill is interesting to me because it's legislative success suggests one of two things... either communism is now so utterly passe in this country that no one fears it or that it’s underlying ideas are so common that no one finds explicit communism objectionable anymore.

Conservative bloggers have already started in on this topic here, and here with the slightly panicky tone that is oh-so familiar for regular readers. They fear that without authoritarian rules designed to ostracize anyone with communist ideas, then our schools will soon be turning out generation after generation of leftism indoctrinated drones. I believe this passage to be the most troubling to them:

"This bill would delete provisions that prohibit a teacher giving instruction in a school or on property belonging to an agency included in the public school system from teaching communism with the intent to indoctrinate or to inculcate in the mind of any pupil a preference for communism. The bill would also delete provisions that a teacher may be dismissed from employment if he or she teaches communism in that way."

Perhaps they have a point... but I doubt the one that they will likely think of. The problem isn't that our public schools will turn generations of kids into happy little leftists because they already do that. The problem is this bill suggests that we have completely abandoned the principle that we should be teaching people how to think, not what to think. Most people who read about this bill will worry that their children are being influenced in favor of communism when they should be concerned that their children are being indoctrinated rather than educated.

A teacher who teaches communism with the intent to indoctrinate or predispose someone to it should be fired because preaching and indoctrinating is not their job in an educational environment. Our teachers should be cultivating intellectual curiosity, sound methodology, historical context, and logical skills, etc. but not indoctrinating. It shouldn't matter what ideological predilection an academic has, he should leave it at the door and strive to sharpen the conceptual faculties of his students.

The language in this bill  flagrantly acknowledges a philosophical premise that the left has been pushing for years: that the human rational faculty (empiricism, reason, and applied logic) is useless in knowing the truth of the world and therefore educating to those ends is pointless. 

In their world, you can't teach a student to understand anything because their is nothing to understand, thus it is simply a battle of which emotional ideology is to be impressed upon the next generation, ideally theirs of course. No point in striving for impartiality because it is impossible and futile. No reason to train students minds to think logically, rationally, and efficiently because it is a lie. Just accept your base emotional whims and go with the heard.

Accepting the notion that education is simply cultural indoctrination, absent of objective value, is to completely abandon its purpose, value, and utility. Given that, what underlies the left's vigorous support of the public school system, if not to educate and enlighten?

Simply put, they believe that the purpose of education is to indoctrinate. Ultimately it is their intent to mold generation after generation into compliant, harmless, unthinking, desperately confused robots seeking some authority to submit to. That is what is scary about this bill - it is the tacit approval of this coming to pass.

Gov. Schwarzenegger should veto this bill and should follow it up with the decimation of the entire public school system in California. It is obviously horribly corrupted by irrationalism and the only thing that can fix it is nature itself.

Sir Francis Bacon once said:

"Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed"

The natural world is reality and it has rules. Every misstep and every violation of those rules will be mercilessly punished; the world enforces its nature absolutely and relentlessly. Those same rules, when understood and obeyed, open the door to immense human potential as well as a kind and benevolent universe. Civilization is the byproduct of a far stricter adherence to that fact than those cultures which still dwell in poverty and barbarism. Within civilization, complete liberty is man's most natural state and the free-market (i.e. capitalism) its economic expression. Only the coercive force of the state (or chaotic violence) can corrupt the market and nowhere is that corruption more apparent than the public education system.

State sponsored education attempts to violate one of natures rules: that of accountability. The state taxes the people in order to subsidize public schools. It regulates the competition and controls its curriculum. The schools are funded based on forced attendance and not on achievement or quality. Coupled with an obscenely powerful teacher's union, and meddling politicians the public schools have become ineffective bastions of irrationalism, inefficiency, and leftism. It is only their sheltered existence and the states ruthless oppression of competition that keeps them in existence. In the natural world they would have died out years ago. 

Let loose the market upon education such that it can devour the weak and irrational parts of. Force the school system to abandon it's absurdities or die as a consequence. The insipid and irrational ideologies such as communism stand little chance in the market place of ideas and a school system which accepts them will justly whither away, bested by the superior, more rational schools which will necessarily and inevitably evolve. 

In a free society, without government intrusion, it is the rational, and their institutions, that will flourish and they would have nothing to fear from any phantoms of communism. They need not worry about their culture being corrupted because the market, and nature itself will continuously cleanse such irrationality from the civilized world.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

U.S. Foreign Aid

Here's a somewhat random listing of the top recipients of U.S. foreign aid in 2006:

Israel - $2,520,000,000
Egypt - $1,795,000,000
Columbia - $558,000,000
Jordan - $461,000,000 
Pakistan - $698,000,000
Peru - $133,000,000
Indonesia - $158,000,000
Kenya - $213,000,000
Bolivia - $122,000,000
Ukraine - $115,000,000
India - $94,000,000
Haiti - $163,000,000
Russia - $52,000,000
Ethiopia -$145,000,000
West Bank/Gaza - $150,000,000
Liberia - $89,000,000
Bangladesh - $49,000,000
Bosnia - $51,000,000

Give it a moment to sink in...

What is most striking about this list to me is how seemingly nonsensical it is. We give to impoverished nations and wealthy nations, allies and enemies, nations with strategic resources and those with none. We give to nations with exploding economies and those that have been impoverished since the dawn of man. We give three times as much to Haiti as we do to India even though India has a population that is 127 times larger, thus we give 381 times the money to Haiti per capita. WTF?????

Even if you ignore the question of merit or the legal/moral questions concerning foreign aid, you are still stuck with the self-evident fact that our foreign aid policies are insane.

Then of course there is the question of benefit; is our generosity having any positive results? Looking at that list it should be obvious that our foreign aid has neither improved those nations noticeably or made them more amiable to us.

The real question is why on earth we give any foreign aid whatsoever. Domestic policies aside, foreign aid makes very little sense. Do we really think that we gain more of a benefit from it than say... more police officers? How about job retraining programs for Michigan? Or vouchers for private schools? Or paying down the national debt? Or tax breaks for small-businesses, or even a bridge to nowhere? Can anyone really say that the $20+ billion that we give out every year to line the pockets of despots and corrupt bureaucrats, wouldn't do more good domestically?

By what right does the government give away our wealth? Was their some constitutional clause somewhere that says it's our national obligation to give randomly to foreign countries? I don't recall seeing it. I could perhaps tolerate it if there was some legitimate benefit but in my lifetime I have seen none and I believe that foreign aid is effectively theft and the politicians that endorse it are treasonous criminals. I will never, ever vote for a single politician who would ever endorse a single penny of foreign aid again...

Islam stands alone

I'm not a particularly religious man... and when I say that, what I actually mean is that I am, as far as I know, the worlds only atheist Christian apologist. That being said, I have issues with many of the so-called great faiths.

Hinduism is a nostalgic throw-back to the highly localized deities of primitive polytheism. I find it troubling only in the sense that it is archaic and a little silly.

The great eastern religions from Taoism to Buddhism all suffer from the same irrational metaphysical foundation which is exactly why they are so popular among leftist: they are ideologically related. No rational man could possibly take them seriously, for even a moment.

Islam has a special place in my heart though. I truly despise this religion and the only time you will ever see me in the Dawkinsesque anti-religious mode, that atheist are notorious for, is when discussing Islam and occasionally Scientology. Why is that you ask? Because Islam is truly unique, and not in a good way.

One of the hallmarks of a healthy religion is a rationally coherent and relatively consistent moral code. They should essentially engage your intellect even though they will often make absolute decrees which occasionally defy reason and they all require a leap of faith. Unhealthy religions usually resemble cults and the hallmark of a cult is that they are highly, highly prescriptive or ritualistic and usually lack any conceptually coherent moral code. 

Islam is deeply prescriptive faith, more so than any other major faith other than Judaism or middle-ages Catholicism. The key difference is that Jewish prescription is often rationally derived (such as the kosher diet which prevents easily communicable diseases from pigs) or philosophically consistent with the faith and Catholicism has matured after centuries of scholarly monasticism. Islam has no such safeguards or maturity, it's prescription is as nonsensical as it is ubiquitous.

A similar feature to tyrannical governments, cults, and brainwashing techniques is the notion of arbitrary prescription and absolute submission in order to find value or fulfillment or meaning. All things come from the source, whether it's the state, the leader, the faith, or whatever and all you need to do is submit to it's arbitrary demands. Islam fits this model to a tee.

Some of it's other charming characteristics include: 

an innate and baseless elitism - they are supposed to be the greatest people in the world simply because they are muslims.

Complete integration between the faith and every other element of their civilization. It's not just math, it's Islamic Math! They are simply deeply uncomfortable with any notion of separation or secularism - see Turkey for ample evidence of their best effort yet.

A sense of historical and holy obligation to make their faith the one and only faith.

Islam also, in part because of it's innate sense of superiority, is in a constant state of psychological turmoil which manifests itself in a tendency towards familiar violent outbursts, cultural nostalgia, hyper-sensitivity (see: Jewel of Medina), and bitter resentment towards other cultures.

While Islam's list or prescriptive demands is long, inconsistent, and comically surreal to be sure, when combined with its penchant for violence (not too much greater than in Christianity but far more dangerous considering it's cult-like and tyrannical nature), natural receptiveness to socialism, megalomania, and demented arrogance and you'll get a rough idea as to why I find this "great faith" so troubling. 

P.S. If you find this offensive and are not a muslim then please don't bother me. Just research some of my claims - I didn't make them up, and make an assessment on your own as to whether or not you think I am taking things out of context or reacting irrationally to things. If I am wrong then I will gladly reconsider my position.

However, if you are a muslim and find this offensive then please don't kill me. I don't want to die but I would rather die than kow-tow to your pathological rage.

Monday, August 4, 2008

The bi-partisan menace of gay marriage

Gay marriage is an issue that politicians, from both major parties, would simply prefer disappear, but I'm rather fond of it... just not for an obvious reason. I like the issue because it illustrates so elegantly how the major political and social movers and shakers are utterly incapable of considering a solution to a problem that involves less government meddling, and not more.

This is an issue draped in more nonsensical rhetoric than any issue in my lifetime and virtually no one has the courage to address it honestly and without prejudice.

First things first... homosexuals do not have the right to get married, sorry GLAD. Then again, no one does. What you do have is the right to not be prevented from entering into a voluntary agreement, not exactly the same thing.

Of course, I should also point out that gay marriage wouldn't destroy the institution of marriage either... feminists and government already did that, just kidding... but only a little.

Please don't take that lame middle-road and go for domestic partnerships because that actually is discriminatory, not to mention idiotic. Then again, much of what comes from continental Europe is.

This isn't about bigotry, equality, or any other such nonsense. This issue is about the roles of government.

Politicians want to use the state to shape and manipulate their social and cultural environment, which is exactly why this issue is hot right now and also exactly why marriage is regulated by the state in the first place. The belief was that marriage, in it's most traditional form, was good for society and thus government should regulate it and encourage - you can thank John Calvin and the Protestants for being the first to do this but the idea can be traced back further than you would ever think.

Thus marriage between a man and a woman was given the governmental stamp of approval and everything else was... well, illegitimate. Thus if the government allows polygamists, or homosexuals, or anyone else to marry then they are giving equal approval to that. Oh no! Gay marriage and straight marriage equal? The horror.

Of course it isn't that straights don't want gays to be in love, have medical benefits, etc. In fact, it isn't even the concept of marriage that really bothers them... at least not deep in their souls. What upsets them so much is the idea that their community, state, or country not only approves of gay marriage but encourages it. After all that is what marriage recognition is all about... it's about encouraging marriage.

And I don't disagree.

I don't see any reason why the state should encourage homosexuality... of course I also don't see a reason why the government should encourage good nutrition,  hospitals, sobriety, heterosexuality, or anything else.

The state has no business regulating marriage. Marriage is social, religious, and/or cultural institution that is recognized solely by the members of or adherents to said culture or group. It is their right to recognize, regulate, and encourage or discourage marriage.

If the Catholic church doesn't want to recognize a gay marriage then no one should be able to force them too, on the other hand nothing compels anyone else from recognizing theirs either. 

Of course that isn't exactly kosher to some segments of the homosexual political activists because they don't want to be simply tolerated, they want to be accepted and are more than willing to use the state to do it. This is an assault on our basic liberties which include the right to be a bigoted, racist, sexist idiot and that's a right that I've no interest in giving up. Not because I have a problem with homosexuality but rather because I don't want the state telling me who I can or can't hate... because quick frankly, I hate almost everybody anyway and so I'm a little touchy about criminalizing my misanthropy.

Back to the point... the key issues are those of legitimacy and equality. If the question of legitimacy is entirely left to the judgement of the observer than that problem simply disappears. If you find a certain marriage obscene or illegitimate then you are free to not recognize it or approve it. The question of equality however, is another issue entirely but one that can, and should, be solved through contract law.

Issues such as alimony, divorce settlements, medical care, survivor benefits, etc. are all issues for contract law (with the exception being child-support but that is a different matter entirely) and have no intrinsic connection to marriage. Anyone, married or not, regardless of their relationship, can engage in contractual arrangements with anyone else and it is the states job to enforce those contracts. It should be easy to develop standard marriage contracts which cover all that we associate marriage with today. The states only role would be to deal with disputes and enforce the contract when necessary. Recognizing or approving the marriage wouldn't even enter into the equation.

Thus, my solution is simply to remove all government recognition and regulation of the institution of marriage. Discrimination is province of the individual and not the state. 

How I grew to love Bill Clinton

I've long believed that Bill Clinton is a groveling, shameless, borderline sociopath and yet I find myself wishing that he were running for office this year...

Don't get me wrong, my views of Clinton have not changed but I would accept his needy, self-indulgent pragmatism over McCain's  authoritarian imperialism or Obama's LBJ revival any day of the year.

The tragedy of Corey Maye

Corey Maye is a particularly tragic victim of one of this nation's most disturbing domestic trends: the militarization of our police forces.

Please read up on him and this issue at Radley Balko's great blog theagitator.com.

Delusions of failure

Matt Welch over at reason's hit & run has a great post about this insane article from Greg Anrig. Read and enjoy...

A reading list

In my humble opinion, the most important intellectual attribute is the capacity for clear, conceptual, rational thought. That might not be apparent in my the garbled gibberish that dots this blog but I don't proofread or re-draft here... maybe I should.

Still, here is a reading list for those that would like a nice example of what I value:

Eric Hoffer - most people reading this will have never heard his name but a paragraph into The True Believer and you will know just how remarkable this man truly was.

Saint Thomas Aquinas - the Summa Theologica is his premiere work and Catholic or not, this man was and is one of the truly sublime logicians in history.

Sir Francis Bacon - anyone who goes through their life without reading his essays will almost certainly be the worse for it. In terms of his clarity of thought and efficiency of prose, he is stands rivaled only by Mr. Hoffer.

Ayn Rand - apologies for her rejection of biological human nature, interesting if incomplete philosophy, late-life paranoia, cultish tendencies, and irritating literature. Other than that, she was a powerful, creative, witty, and often profound thinker who is far too often overlooked by serious intellectuals in large part because of how off-putting her devoted followers are.

Rudyard Kipling - has ever a man more important, more significant, and more praised than he been so quickly and completely dismissed? I can think of none. Kipling has cruelly and unfairly labeled many distasteful things and his poetry and literature, once a staple of western education, are now virtually black-listed by modern academia. Few men have ever spoken to the truth of human nature as he.

Aristotle - shame on you if you don't read something from him at least once a year. Aristotle may very well have been the most brilliant mind in human history. Organon and the Nichomachean Ethics are his two most relevant works but his wildly inaccurate work in biology and physics are valuable, if not for their accuracy, but for his intellectual process. It is a wonder to see how the mind of a genius works, even when it's wrong.

Gottfried Wilhelm Von Leibniz - one of the few people on this earth of truly transcendent genius. The scope of his work ranges from history and theology to biology, linguistics, and most famously mathematics and probability. 

The clarity and elegance of these great thinkers makes them not only intellectually and philosophically valuable but also accessible and dare say, entertaining.

The Ron Paul effect

This article from last week in the AP concerns itself with the notion that Ron Paul could have an effect on the election in some of the western states. 

"In Nevada, there's absolutely enough to have an effect on the election," said Chuck Muth, a leading conservative activist in a state in which early polls show McCain and Democratic candidate Barack Obama in a statistical tie.

Of course it's a long way till them general election and the popular support for outside the mainstream candidates often declines as the election approaches so I have my doubts.

A more interesting quote is this one:

"I think that you will see not just Libertarians who always vote for the Libertarian candidate but conservative Republicans saying we've had it, we've had enough and they're going to go ahead and vote Libertarian," Muth said.

Is the republican party finally showing signs of fracture. Is the small-government wing of the party finally fed-up? Again, I have my doubts but let's hope so.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

What should a conservative stand for?

I would think that the most important political position of an American conservative should be pro-capitalism.

He should believe in the absolute protection of private property, freedom of association, and commerce and every right so rationally derived.

Liberty should be his banner in the political war, capitalism his aim, and government his nemesis.

He should seek to constrain and restrain the state and never forget that government corrupts and should never be used to further his ends, because when government is unleashed it will devour liberty first.

Oh lament the conservative!

To lament the conservative one first must know what he is and what he must do.

Evelyn Waugh once said:

"[Kipling] was a conservative in the sense that he believed civilization to be something laboriously achieved which was only precariously defended. He wanted to see the defences fully manned and he hated the liberals because he thought them gullible and feeble, believing in the easy perfectibility of man and ready to abandon the work of centuries for sentimental qualms."
There are not many statements that more clearly and concisely illustrate what it means to be a conservative and the troubling nature of a liberal.

Conservativism, in any culture, has respect for said culture and it's traditions; the conservative isn't afraid of change but rather of liberal recklessness because he knows how hard civilization is to achieve and how easily it can be destroyed. A civilization, no matter how great, can quickly descend into chaos and the conservative knows it. He is the defender of civilization and tradition is his weapon.

Liberalism is the catalyst for cultural change both good and bad. The liberal is dynamic, experimental, radical and often intellectual. He challenges tradition and fights for change. Violence and revolution are the means to his ends but a lack of judgement is his curse. The liberal will destroy civilization more often than he improves it, but he can improve it.

Given a rational foundation, those two competing ideologies work in partnership. With liberals driving a society forward and conservatives steering away from danger, a nation can move forward indefinitely. It is only when irrationalism takes root that civilization decays from within and irrationalism is the hobgoblin of liberalism.

Conservatism will always fall back on tradition and thus, as long as a society has a strong rational foundation then civilization is resilient and durable. Protecting a rational foundation is, above all, the supreme duty of the conservatives because when they allow liberals to infect a society with irrationalism then that societies demise is almost certain. Liberals are allowed the luxury of immediate gratification, foolish utopianism, and grand experiments because good or bad, they will flourish and feel no guilt over what was lost but will simply move on. The conservative will follow the liberal's successes but civilization will follows the conservatives failures and protecting the rational philosophy is his greatest challenge and the only one that he cannot afford to fail. When the irrational finally destroy civilization it will do so with mantle of a defender of tradition.

The modern American conservative has failed in that task. The American left has long been infected with a particularly virulent form of irrationalism, one armed ironically and uniquely with a long-term strategy. The American conservative, never arming himself with a true rational defense, was simply no match Gramsci's marxism, Derrida's Deconstruction, or the left's long march to the institutions and his defeat was as inevitable as it was tragic.

The American conservative has been in trouble for many years but has occasionally shown sparks of life with Goldwater, Reagan, and even George W. Bush gave some us hope. He appeared to be a comfortably harmless president in the mold of Taft, Coolidge, or Harding. Someone that could hold down the fort till a better, braver, stronger leader would come to man the defenses more aggressively and more fervently than he. To say that we conservatives were wrong would be the most profound of understatements. George W. Bush is the physical manifestations of the intellectual rot within the minds of the American conservative. We had fallen further and sunk deeper than we ever expected and he showed us just how far: all the way.

I do not know exactly when the American conservative died but I know for certain now that he is dead. I also know that if no one will stand up and take his place to defend the rational and traditional America then this great and brilliant nation will die a meek and violent death.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Kneel before your next president!

I sometimes have a hard time trying to decide who is worse: John McCain or Barack Obama. The basis for my confusion is that my evaluation uses only one piece of criteria: the candidates degree of and affection for authoritarianism. I'm torn between the militarized imperial state of John McCain or the socialist PC nanny-state of Barack Obama.

Let's see, what would I like to go to jail for, refusing to hand over my laptop or a random piece of paper when traveling abroad or for being a racist, sexist, anti-hopist? It's so hard to choose.

For John McCain it's a bit more clear-cut because he is a security authoritarian:

Answering a question about his approach to combatting crime, John McCain suggested that military strategies currently employed by US troops in Iraq could be applied to high crime neighborhoods here in the US. McCain called them tactics "somewhat like we use in the military…You go into neighborhoods, you clamp down, you provide a secure environment for the people that live there, and you make sure that the known criminals are kept under control."

What matters is that I am safe and everyone is safe from me and so on. He might as well cover the world in bubble wrap. Of course, who cares if I am free... he was born to be a monarch.

Barack Obama on the other hand is more of a modern leftist:

"In Africa, you often see that the difference between a village where everybody eats and a village where people starve is government. One has a functioning government, and the other does not. Which is why it bothers me when I hear people say that government is the enemy. They don't understand its fundamental role."

Great. Governments fundamental role? Governments fundamental role mr. Obama is to do as little as humanly possible in order to ensure the liberty of all and as a result the society will flourish or flounder based on the quality of its people, not it's government.

Barack Obama wants us to apologize for our past crimes:

"I personally would want to see our tragic history, or the tragic elements of our history, acknowledged."

"I consistently believe that when it comes to whether it’s Native Americans or African-American issues or reparations, the most important thing for the U.S. government to do is not just offer words, but offer deeds."

Unless he can raise the dead then I'm not exactly sure what he's talking about. I would have no objection to apologizing to slaves so long as I get to own one but seeing as that isn't going to happen then I don't really want that on the next presidential agenda. That is Obama though, pandering to emotions more thoroughly than Clinton ever could have dreamed. For Obama it is about hope, possibilities, dreams and very little about ideas, values, and the nitty-gritty. For this whimsical senator from illinois, governing amounts to little more than a new-age feel good session.

McCain prefers to subsume the individual man to the greater goal of national greatness:

“Sacrifice for a cause greater than self-interest, however, and you invest your life with the eminence of that cause. Americans did not fight and win World War II as discrete individuals.”

"A world where our ideals had a realistic chance of becoming a universal creed was our principal object in the last century...In the process, we became inextricably involved in the destiny of other nations. That is not a cause for concern. It is a cause for hope.” 

So there, it is our duty as a nation to re-shape the world in our image and the obligation of every citizen to put this meglomaniacal vision at the forefront of their character. The imperial presidency indeed! I don't personally have any interest in following this pied-piper of national greatness to the inevitable apocalyptic conclusion of his delusions of glory. I saw more of that than I care to with the current president, thank you very much.

So what am I to do? Wish-washy victimhood, thought police, and a resurgent socialism or watching as "national greatness" descends into the Vader presidency? Such a choice is made nearly impossible by the intangible yet palpable fear that whichever choice I make, the long-term legacy will be measured in bodies stacked deep.