Thursday, January 31, 2008


By way of confession, I find it easier to point out negatives.
It's easier, safer, and is more agreeable with my cynical nature.
This is why you will find more criticisms than endorsements in my opinions.
Endorsing anyone puts you out on a limb. You are then placed in a defensive position. The first time your guy does something stupid, people expect you to defend him.
It is not an exciting way to live, but you wind up eating less crow.
I would like to turn over a new leaf, and enthusiastically endorse a candidate for president. (I know how eagerly you await this endorsement.) but, I can't.
I assume that Mike Huckabee is floundering in the wake of McCain and Romney, and will most likely not regain footing.
So we have a two-man race.
I must admit that I struggle with personal preferences. I never cared much for McCain until Limbaugh and Hannity loaded up on him.
Rush Limbaugh said there was no difference between McCain and Clinton. And Sean Hannity in his usual intellectually dishonest fashion likes to remind people that McCain flip-flopped on such important social issues as tax cuts, immigration, and McCain-Feingold finance reform.
[In keeping with my nature, I would like to point out that the Limbaugh statement cannot even be called an exaggerration. It is a lie. And Hannity, well. . .Recently, a woman caller asked Hannity if John McCain had flip-flopped on any social issues in the past five to ten years. What issues, specifically, Hannity wanted to know. Abortion, gay marriage, the war, she responded. Well yes, Hannity deftly redirected, he has flip-flopped on several of those issues. He has flip-flopped on tax cuts, on immigration, and campaign finance reform. Are you confused, too? I think that was the point.]
I became so disgusted with their hyperbole that I unwisely began studying McCain more closely to dredge up something good.
In the pure spirit of reactionism, I reasoned that such obfuscation on the part of talk radio must conversely recommend the man.
But however unjustly they have judged him, he leaves much to be desired.
He has a consistent pro-life voting record, but is ambivalent on the repeal or overturning of Roe v. Wade. He has stated that he wishes there were "less intensity" on the issue of abortion.
He has staked out a disturbingly unclear position on embryonic stem-cell research.
He is opposed to a federal marriage ammendment, citing state's rights. (Though I would remind you that the early-on favorite Fred Thompson held the same position.)
He has yet to clear up what he was about in 2000 with his evangelical-bashing rampage.
I commend him for supporting the permanent establishment of the Bush tax cuts, but I would commend him even more had he the foresight to support them in the first place.
Robert Novak insists that McCain did, in fact, state that Samuel Alito was "too conservative."
And last and least, John McCain is a global warming disciple.

Now, the other one.
Was it not as recently as 2004 when conservative punditry justly deconstructed John Kerry for being a flip-flopper? Well, we appear to have the Republican equivalent in Mitt Romney.
I guess we all know that Romney was pro-life, then "effectively pro-choice" when running for governor of Massachusetts, then at some point during his governorship underwent a change of heart that he neglected to tell anyone about, and returned to his pro-life position.
In the interest of being unlike Hannity and Limbaugh, I researched this as carefully as I could.
Romney says he was "personally pro-life" originally, but when it came time to run for office felt that the issue of government intrusion into private life trumped his private pro-life beliefs. During his tenure in office, he became convinced otherwise, and is now, publicly and privately, pro-life, although he still retains an interest in letting states make the decision.
Even if you ignore the suspicious timing, there is still an enormous ideological problem with choosing civil liberties and now, state's rights, over the right of babies to live.
How pro-life are you when you feel that the issue is a personal or state decision?
On the issue of gun-control, Mitt Romney has a powerful lot of explaining to do.
While governor, he stated his support of the state's strict gun laws and vowed to let no one chip away at them. He also supported the Clinton assault weapons-ban.

I will vote for either one of these against Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama, but I will find myself pining for the days of W, or even Reagan.
Input, anyone?

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

So Atlas Shrugged. . .

The problem would have been clearly illustrated to you a couple of days ago had you heard our local conservative talk-show host; a self-described Christian conservative.
He was enthusiastically recommending the book Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand.
Now, apart from a snide suspicion that he was trying to display his intellectualism by discussing such a highly regarded but daunting book, I do not understand his connection of conservatism, (most particularly, that much maligned "compassionate" conservatism) with the ideology of a committed humanist.
But then, he is not alone.
Ronald Reagan, Newt Gingrich, Dick Armey, Tom DeLay, Trent Lott, Bill Buckley, Ann Coulter, Laura Schlessinger, George Will, Cal Thomas, Michael Reagan and Rush Limbaugh are all fond of quoting Rand and consider her a great influence on their thinking. I am aware that one can admire certain ideas of a particular person while discarding the rest of their ideas, but this goes deeper than that.
Some years ago, I heard Limbaugh discussing the book Atlas Shrugged. The only difference, he said, between he and Rand was that Rand did not believe in God and he did.
Small difference, that.
Hot or cold, night or day, living or dead, heaven or hell.
Ayn Rand's whole objective in life and the motivation for the book Atlas Shrugged, was the advancement of the complete autonomy of man.
"My philosophy, in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute." thus stated Rand in the appendix to Atlas Shrugged.
Having relayed that quote is sufficient proof of the problem we have here. I would consider it a small problem indeed had Limbaugh simply misspoke when he stated the difference between he and Rand, but I don't believe he did. I think that he simply thought that the one difference between them was of great insignificance.
So, let me ask, how solid is a conservatism based on the philosophy of Ayn Rand?
Were this an isolated incident, or if this propensity for Rand was limited to Limbaugh the subject might not be worth broaching. But in reading the who's who of conservative ideology and finding all those disciples of Rand, I'm troubled.
Add to that list Clarence Thomas, and you compound the problem. He supposedly requires all of his first year law students to watch the movie version of The Fountainhead, one of Rand's earlier works.
I have watched The Fountainhead. It is an old black and white starring Gary Cooper.
Don't waste your time. Unless you really like over-the-moon melodrama.
The problem is not a minor technicality, it is not the i dotted or the t crossed.
It is a foundational defect. It is a matter of structural integrity.
The reason Rand was an objectivist and championed individualism was because she hated the idea of God.
In her early life, she found inspiration in the works of Neitzche and shared his "reverence for human potential and his loathing of Christianity and the philosophy of Immanuel Kant."
Kant believed that we cannot have certain knowledge about the true nature of reality ("things-in themselves"), but only of the manner in which we perceive reality.
Rand was decidedly more arrogant. She believed that if any perceived object interacts with the senses, everything there is to know about that object can be gained by your sensory interpretation. What you see is what is and only what you see, feel, touch is what is.
Kant believed that reason could lead you somewhere. Rand's objectivist epistemology worshipped reason as lord of the pantheon.
Rand diverged from Nietzche in a curious manner. In the minds of many, she out Neitzched Neitzche. She supposedly transcended his philosophy and considered him too enslaved to emotion and a subjective interpretation of reality. Unlike Neitzche, she believed that if anyone would gain power by achieving control of the masses, and in doing so, sacrificed their ideals and standards, they then unintentionally became a slave to those masses.
Bottom line, Rand created a religion of breathtaking arrogance.
Rand may be forgiven for some of her excess when you take into account a large part of her "theology" was in reaction to communism.
However, she arrived at a conclusion that is inherently more antichrist than communism or socialism.
It is a clever twist on an old argument.
You shall be as God.
Whether you care about the particulars of Randian philosophy is beside the point.
I think the reason that this grand scope of humanity, this rugged individualism, appeals to such strong personalities as Limbaugh, Reagan, Buckley, and Thomas should be fairly obvious.
It is a philosophy of vibrant, brimming pride; pride in capitalism, pride in patriotism, pride, most of all, in self.
Thus the seduction of Ayn Rand. She takes away God with her left hand and hands you the key to your inner power in the other.
The phenomenon of objectivism is symptomatic of a big problem with political conservatives.
They would see the objection to Rand's humanism as hair-splitting.
Whereas I see it as the difference between right and wrong.
The manifestation of the larger problem with conservative ideology is the excitement of today's leading conservatives over the prospect of lower taxes and balanced budgets at the expense of moral issues.
I listen to these intelligent people and I hear them hold forth on fiscal policy, constructionism, civil liberties and immigration and they make sense on most of these issues.
I wish they would devote the same amount of intelligence to the problems of our nation's heart.
You talk about what you care about. Out of the abundance of the heart. . . .
Next time you hear a conservative hyperventilating over the genius of Ayn Rand, remember how foolish she really is, and remember the folly of placing too much trust in our uneasy alliance with libertarian leaning Republicans.

Thursday, January 10, 2008


Sean Hannity makes a show out of stating, over and over again, that he is not a partisan hack because he has disagreed with the President on immigration, on Harriet Miers, and the Dubai ports deal (a deal that I still suspect the President had his good reasons for making, not the least of which may be summed in Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.)
The issue I am about to raise is not to establish my objectivity credentials. I have immense respect for President Bush, and believe that he is a more committed social conservative than President Reagan.
But his stance on a Palestinian state is unacceptable. It is no more moderate than any of his predecessors, but it is still a solution that would place Israel in an untenable position. I believe it was Joel Rosenberg who said that for an American to understand the Israeli opposition to a Palestinian state, you would have to imagine how you would feel if Al-Queda was requesting statehood in an area adjacent to Washington D.C.
Most pretentiously, President Bush called for an end to the "occupation" of the West Bank by the Israeli military. This is incredible naivete, even for an optimistic peacemaker, and I question whether he really believes it is possible for Israel to protect itself with no buffers.
I think a more appropriate stance would have been a demand for all the rocket attacks from Gaza to cease completely and immediately. There have 2,500 since 2005, and, according to Rosenberg, 25 just since the President arrived in Israel. I don't understand the blindness that would ask for a peace settlement with enemies such as these.
I have heard it said that the Jews have a saying, "Never again." It is the defiant, to-the-wall determination of a people who have been hounded by every race on earth for thousands of years; a persecution culminating in the death of six million.
And it is this perceived paranoia that has protected them thus far. They cannot afford to be magnanimous. They share borders with four countries who wish them death and destruction.
I understand the idealism that propels the prospect of peace in the Middle East.
But peace, if I am not mistaken, has never been afforded by a compromise. Peace is gained when the aggressor is defeated.
More land will most definitely leave the Palestinians hungry for more.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Not Happy

Perhaps I've inherited a paternal quirk.
I tire easily when too much is made of one human being.
That is one reason I'm starting to roll my eyes when I hear the ubiquitous moniker "Reagan conservative."
I can't help but think the revered politician would be a little nauseous at the adulation and infallibility ascribed to him.
Another reason for the eye-rolling is because I feel this term has been bastardized.
Its chief significance is that of fiscal policy. Social policy is secondary.
To the extent that a candidate that is something of a conservative activist, socially, and something of a mishmash, economically, is branded a liberal by at least two of the big three conservative talking heads. And a candidate that is decidedly limp-wristed on the abortion issue and another that compartmentalizes morality and business is awarded the conservative label without a second thought.
Ambiguity aside, I don't really like Mike Huckabee. I think he is smart-aleck, inexperienced, and cynically patronizing. (And what is with this Ed Rollins clown, of Christine Todd Whitman fame?)
But I'm really sick and tired of this diminution of abortion and homosexuality by Rush Limbaugh, and Sean Hannity. (I like Glenn Beck, but can't help but feel his views on Romney are a little biased with a foxhole mentality, being a fellow Mormon.)
If either one of these verbal maestros had spent half the time on either one of these issues that they spent on immigration, the upstanding, exploited, mistreated Duke lacrosse players, or the upstanding, exploited, mistreated Don Imus, it would've been time well spent.
I understand the importance of national security, national identity, and civil liberties violations but they are a distant second in comparison with the moral issues that we face.
I'm seriously disillusioned with politics at the present, to the point that I would kill for a Bob Dole right now.
The way things stand now, if I have to vote for one of the top five candidates, I won't just be holding my nose, I'll be holding a bucket.