Might does not make right, but neither does impotence or relative weakness. That weakness does not justify strikes me as an important principle, but I have never seen it articulated. The Left tends to assume the opposite. They tend to assume that mightlessness makes right. I'll dub this the Converse Callicles Principle.
The power I have to kill you does not morally justify my killing you. In a slogan: Ability does not imply permissibility. My ability to kill, rape, pillage and plunder does not confer moral justification on my doing these things. But if you attack me with deadly force and I reply with deadly force of greater magnitude, your relative weakness does not supply one iota of moral justification for your attack, nor does it subtract one iota of moral justification from my defensive response. If I am justified in using deadly force against you as aggressor, then the fact that my deadly force is greater than yours does not (a) diminish my justification in employing deadly force, nor does it (b) confer any justification on your aggression.
Suppose a knife-wielding thug commits a home invasion and attacks a man and his family. The man grabs a semi-automatic pistol and manages to plant several rounds in the assailant, killing him. It would surely be absurd to argue that the disparity in lethality of the weapons involved diminishes the right of the pater familias to defend himself and his family. Weakness does not justify.
The principle that weakness does not justify can be applied to the Israeli-Hezbollah conflict from the summer of 2006 as well as to the current Israeli defensive operations against the terrorist entity, Hamas. The principle ought to be borne in mind when one hears leftists, those knee-jerk supporters of any and every 'underdog,' start spouting off about 'asymmetry of power' and 'disproportionality.' Impotence and incompetence are not virtues, nor do they confer moral justification or high moral status, any more than they confer the opposite.
The principle that mightlessness makes right seems to be one of the cardinal tenets of the Left. It is operative in the present furor over the enforcement of reasonable immigration laws in Arizona. To the south of the USA lies crime-ridden, corrupt, impoverished Mexico. For millions and millions it is a place to escape from. The USA, the most successful nation of all time, is the place to escape to. But how does this disparity in wealth, success, and overall quality of life justify the violation of the reasonable laws and the rule of law that are a good part of the reason for the disparity of wealth, success, and overall quality of life?
I feel it to be my duty to do my bit, day by day, to counteract the tsunami of liberal-left Unsinn from the crapweasels of PC by linking to outstanding writers and thinkers. There is no way I can write with the authority of a Victor Davis Hanson or a Thomas Sowell or a Charles Krauthammer on history or economics or politics. But I can help spread the word.
Your post on why the left “went ballistic” over the Hobby Lobby case was well-done as usual, and I for one was grateful for your emphasis that the so-called contraceptives in question were really abortifacients, and that the latter is not a proper adjective for the former. I do have a couple of questions/comments though.
First, about the left and religion. While I don’t like the politics or the theology of people like Jim Wallis of Sojourners or the President’s former pastor Jeremiah Wright, it certainly seems that they are really religious and their politics flow from their faiths. I’m inclined to say that they have a mistaken anthropology and overvalue one understanding of justice at the expense of other legitimate senses, but wouldn’t say that they’re not really religious or that their true religion is leftism. (Well, maybe if I knew more about Wright’s theology I would say that about him. But I don’t believe that all lefties who claim to be Christians are just faking it and make a god out of the state and/or left-wing politics.)
Second, the statement that “they don't have the right to use the coercive power of the state to force others to pay for them when the contraceptives in question violate the religious beliefs of those who are forced to pay for them” seems to be overdrawn, at least if it’s generalized. If a Jehovah’s Witness owns a business, does he have the right to refuse to pay for an employee’s insurance when it pays for a blood transfusion? What about a pacifist being forced to pay taxes to support a war effort (especially one that doesn’t involve direct national self-defense)? There are all sorts of things we’re forced to pay for even though they violate our moral and religious beliefs, and while we can sometimes successfully fight those challenges (when, e.g., it poses an “undue burden”) there are other times when we must knuckle under unless we wish to engage in civil disobedience.
Maybe I will get to the first objection later.
Here is a very blunt response to the second. If you are opposed on moral grounds to blood transfusions, then you hold a position that is not morally or intellectually respectable. Therefore, IF the government has the right to force employers to provide health insurance that covers blood transfusions for employees, THEN it has the right to violate the beliefs of a Jehovah's Witness when it comes to blood transfusions. And the same goes for pacifism. If pacifism is the view that it is always and everywhere wrong to kill or otherwise harm human beings, then I say you hold a view that is not morally or intellectually respectable. I could argue this out at great length, but not now; I told you I was going to be blunt.
Note, however, that the blood transfusion case as described by Monokroussos is importantly different from the pacifism case. The first case arises only if something like the PPACA -- ObamaCare -- is in effect . I say the bill should never have been enacted. Government has no right to force private enterprises to provide any health insurance at all to their employees, and no right to force workers to buy health insurance, and no right to specify what will and will not be covered in any health insurance plan that employers provide for their employees.
The pacifism case is much more difficult because it arises not from a dubious law but from the coercive nature of government. I believe that government is practically necessary and that government that governs a wide territory wherein live very diverse types of people must be coercive to do its job. Moreover, I assume, though I cannot prove, that coercive government is morally justified and has the moral right to force people to do some things whether or not they want to do them and whether or not they morally approve of doing them. Paying taxes is an example. Suppose you have a pacifist who withholds that portion of his taxes that goes to the support of what is perhaps euphemistically called 'defense.' Then I say the government is morally justified in taking action against the pacifist.
But if the government has the right to force the pacifist to violate his sincerely held moral principles, why is it not right for the government to force the pro-lifer to violate her sincerely held principles? The short and blunt answer is that pacifism is intellectually indefensible while the pro-life position is eminently intellectually defensible. But the pro-choice pacifists won't agree!
Clearly, there are two extremes we must avoid:
E1. If the government may force a citizen to violate (act contrary to) one of his beliefs, then it it may force a citizen to violate any of his beliefs.
E2. The government may not force a citizen to violate any of his beliefs.
The problem, which may well be insoluble, is to find a principled way to navigate between these extremes. But what common principles do we share at this late date in the decline of the West?
Perhaps we can agree on this: the government may legitimately force you to violate your belief if your belief is that infidels are to be put to the sword, but it may not legitimately force you to violate your belief if your belief is that infanticide and involuntary euthanasia are wrong. (Suppose the government demands that all severely retarded children be killed.) But even here there will be dissenting voices. Believe it or not, there are those who argue from the supposed moral acceptability of abortion to the moral acceptability of infanticide. May the Lord have mercy on us.
So what's the solution? The solution is limited government, federalism, and an immigration policy that does not allow people into the country with wildly differing values and moral codes. For example, the Hobby Lobby case would not have come up at all if government kept out of the health care business.
The bigger the government, the more to fight over. But we don't seem to have the will to shrink the government to its legitimate constitutionally-based functions. So expect things to get worse.
Rather than being what it began as, a “narrowly political strategy for living peacefully in a world of inexorably clashing comprehensive views of reality and the human good,” liberalism has for many become that comprehensive view of reality and the human good. Your neighbor’s ideas are no longer different. They are heretical. Liberalism could become the problem that it was intended to solve.
Could I present liberal-left ideas in such a way that the reader could not tell that I was not a liberal? Let me take a stab at this with respect to a few 'hot' topics. This won't be easy. I will have to present liberal-left ideas as plausible while avoiding all mention of their flaws. And all this without sarcasm, parody, or irony. What follows is just shoot-from-the-hip, bloggity-blog stuff. Each of these subheadings could be expanded into a separate essay. And of course there are many more subheadings that could be added. But who has time?
Abortion. We liberals believe that a women's right to choose to terminate a pregnancy is a very important right that must be upheld. We are not pro abortion but pro choice, believing that decisions concerning a woman's reproductive health are ultimately her decisions, in consultation with physicians and family members and clergy, but are not the business of lawmakers and politicians. Every woman has a right to do what she wants with her body and its contents. While we respect those who oppose abortion on religious grounds, these grounds are of a merely private nature and cannot be made the basis of public policy. Religious people do not have the right to impose their views on the rest of us using the coercive power of the state.
Voting Rights. We liberals can take pride in the role our predecessors played in the struggle for universal suffrage. Let us not forget that until the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U. S. Constitution on 18 August 1920, women were not allowed to vote. We liberals seek to preserve and deepen the progress that has been made. For this reason we oppose voter identification laws that have the effect of disenfranchising American citizens by disproportionately burdening young voters, people of color, the elderly , low-income families, and people with disabilities.
Gun Control. We live in a society awash in gun violence. While we respect the Second Amendment and the rights of hunters and sport shooters, we also believe in reasonable regulations such as a ban on all assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.
Marriage. We liberals believe in equality and oppose discrimination in all its forms, whether on the basis of race, national origin, religion, gender, or sexual orientation. For this reason we support marriage equality and same-sex marriage. Opposition to same-sex marriage is discriminatory. As we become more enlightened and shed ancient superstitions, we extend the realm of freedom and equality to include more and more of the hitherto persecuted and marginalized. The recognition of same-sex marriage is but one more step toward a truly inclusive and egalitarian society.
Taxation and Wealth Redistribution. We liberals want justice for all. Now justice is fairness, and fairness requires equality. We therefore maintain that a legitimate function of government is wealth redistribution to reduce economic inequality.
Size and Scope of Government. As liberals we believe in robust and energetic government. Government has a major role to play in the promotion of the common good. It is not the people's adversary, but their benefactor. The government is not a power opposed to us; the government is us. It should provide for the welfare of all of us. Its legitimate functions cannot be restricted to the protection of life, liberty, and property (Locke) or to the securing of the negative rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (Jefferson). Nor can it be restricted to the securing of these and a few others: people have positive rights and it is a legitimate function of government to ensure that people received the goods and services to which they have a positive right.
Health and Human Services. A decent society takes care of its members and provides for their welfare. The provision of welfare cannot be left to such institutions of civil society as private charities. It is a legitimate state function. People have positive rights to food, water, shelter, clothing, and health services. These rights generate in those capable of satisfying them the duty to provide the things in question. It is therefore a legitimate function of government to make sure that people get what they need.
Capital Punishment. We liberals are enlightened and progressive people. Now as humankind has progressed morally, there has been a corresponding progress in penology. The cruel and unusual punishments of the past have been outlawed. The outlawing of capital punishment is but one more step in the direction of progress and humanity and indeed the final step in implementing the Eight Amendment's proscription of "cruel and unusual punishments." There is no moral justification for capital punishment when life in prison without the possibility of parole is available.
The Role of Religion. As liberals, we are tolerant. We respect the First Amendment right of religious people to a "free exercise" of their various religions. But religious beliefs and practices and symbols and documents are private matters that ought to be kept out of the public square. When a justice of the peace, for example, posts a copy of the Ten Commandments, the provenience of which is the Old Testament, in his chambers or in his court, he violates the separation of church and state.
Immigration. We are a nation of immigrants. As liberals we embrace immigration: it enriches us and contributes to diversity. We therefore oppose the nativist and xenophobic immigration policies of conservatives while also condemning the hypocrisy of those who oppose immigration when their own ancestors came here from elsewhere.
It is hard for many of us to understand why so many leftists have worked themselves up into a frothing frenzy over the 5-4 SCOTUS Hobby Lobby decision, a frenzy that in the notable cases of Nancy Pelosi and Hillary Clinton has spilled over into shameless lying. But even among those lefties who are not lying about the decision, and who understand what it was and just how narrow and circumscribed it was, there are those who are still going nuts over it. Why?
The upshot of the decision was that closely-held, for-profit companies such as Hobby Lobby may not be coerced by the government into providing exactly four, count 'em, four, abortion-inducing contraceptives for its employees in violation of the religious beliefs of the proprietors of the company. That's it!
(Parenthetical Terminological Observation: There is an interesting terminological question here that perhaps only philosophers could get excited over, namely: how can a substance or device that destroys a fertilized egg, a conceptus, be legitimately referred to as contraceptive? A genuine contraceptive device, such as a diaphragm, prevents conception, prevents the coming into being of a conceptus. Contraception comes too late once there is a fertilized ovum on the scene. 'Abortifacient contraceptive' is a contradictio in adjecto. Call me a pedant if you like, but what you call pedantry, I call precision. One ought to insist on precision in these matters if one is serious and intellectually honest.)
My question again: why the liberal-left frenzy over such a narrow and reasonable Supreme Court decision, one that did not involve the interpretation of the Constitution, but the mere construction of a statute, i.e., the interpretation of an existing law? (And of course, the decision did not first introduce the notion that corporations may be viewed as persons!)
1. The first point is that ". . . while the religious right views religion as a fundamental, and indeed essential, part of the human experience, the secular left views it as something more like a hobby, so for them it’s as if a major administrative rule was struck down because it unduly burdened model-train enthusiasts."
First a quibble. It is not correct to imply that it is only the religious right that views religion as an essential component of human experience; almost all conservatives do, religious and nonreligious. I gave an example the other day of the distinguished Australian philosopher David M. Armstrong who, while an atheist and a naturalist, had the greatest respect for religion and considered it an essential part of human experience.
Well, could religion be reasonably viewed as a hobby? Obviously not. It cuts too deep. Religion addresses the ultimate questions, the questions as to why we exist, what we exist for, and how we ought to live. It purports to provide meaning to an otherwise meaningless existence. Religions make total claims on the lives of their adherents, and those who take their religion seriously apply it to every aspect of their lives: it is not something that can be hived off from the rest of one's life like a hobby.
It is because of this total claim that religions make to provide ultimate understanding, meaning, and directives for action that puts it at odds with the totalizing and the fully totalitarian state. The ever-expanding, all-controlling centralized state will brook no competitors when it comes to the provision of the worldview that will guide and structure our lives. This is why hostility to religion is inscribed into the very essence of the Left. In fact, I would go so far as to say that there cannot really be a religious Left: those on the Left who are 'religious' live as if leftism is their real religion.
I would reformulate McArdle's first point as follows. The Left has no understanding of religion and no appreciation of it. They see it as a tissue of superstitions and prejudices that contributes nothing to human flourishing. They want it suppressed, or else marginalized: driven from the public square into the realm of the merely private.
That the SCOTUS majority took religion seriously is therefore part of what drives leftists crazy.
2. McArdle's second point has to do with negative and positive rights and the role of the state. A positive right is a right to be provided with something, and a negative right is a right to not having something taken away. Thus my right to life is a negative right, a right that generates in others the duty to refrain from killing me among other things. The right to free speech is also a negative right: it induces in the government the duty not to prevent me from publishing my thoughts on this weblog, say. But I have no positive right to be provided with the equipment necessary to publish a weblog. I have the negative right to acquire such equipment, but not the positive right to have it provided for me by any person or by the state.
Now suppose you think that people have the positive right to health care or health care insurance and that this includes the right to be provided with abortifacients or even with abortions. Then the crunch comes inevitably. There is no positive right to an abortion, we conservatives say, and besides, abortion is a grave moral evil. If the state forces corporations like Hobby Lobby to provide abortions or abortifacients, then it violates the considered moral views of conservatives. It forces them to to support what they consider to be a grave moral evil.
People have the legal right to buy and use the contraceptives they want. But they don't have the right to use the coercive power of the state to force others to pay for them when the contraceptives in question violate the religious beliefs of those who are forced to pay for them. To a conservative that is obvious.
But it riles up lefties who hold that (i) religion is a purely private matter that must be kept private; (ii) there is a positive right to health care; (iii) abortion is purely a matter of a woman's reproductive health.
3. McArdle's third point has to do with the Left's destruction of civil society. I would put it like this. The Left aims to eliminate the buffering elements of civil society lying between the naked individual and the state. These elements include the family, private charities, businesses, service organizations and voluntary associations of all kinds. As they wither away, the state assumes more of their jobs. The state can wear the monstrous aspect of Leviathan or that of the benevolent nanny whose multiple tits are so many spigots supplying panem et circenses to the increasingly less self-reliant masses. To cite just one example, the Obama administration promotes ever-increasing food stamp dependency to citizens and illegal aliens alike under the mendacious SNAP acronym thereby disincentivizing relief and charitable efforts at the local level while further straining an already strapped Federal treasury. A trifecta of stupidity and corruption, if you will: the infantilizing of the populace who now needs federal help in feeding itself; the fiscal irresponsibility of adding to the national debt; the assault on the institutions of civil society out of naked lust for ever more centralized power in the hands of the Dems, the left wing party. (Not that the Repubs are conservative.)
From the foregoing one can see just how deep the culture war goes. It is a struggle over the nature of religion, its role in human flourishing, and its place in society. It is a battle over the nature of rights. It is a war over the size and scope and role of government, the limits if any on state power, and the state's relation to the individual and to the institutions of civil society.
In one sense, Alan Dershowitz was right to refer to the Hobby Lobby decision as "monumentally insignificant." In another sense wrong: the furor over it lays bare the deep philosophical conflicts that divide us.
Here. Kelly utterly demolishes Pelosi's shameless fabrications.
That the Left lies repeatedly and blatantly and shamelessly about matters that are easily checked says something about them. Among other things, it says that they view politics as war. "All's fair in love and war." "The end justifies the means." Truth is not a value for the Left unless it serves their agenda. You have to understand that. It is the agenda that matters, the things to be done. "The philosophers have variously interpreted the world, but the point is to change it." (Karl Marx, 11th Thesis on Feuerbach, my emphasis.) And they think they know what sorts of change are truly ameliorative. But that is precisely what they do not know, and why Obama and his crew are proving to be a disaster both for the country and for the world.
And that the mainstream media does not call the Left on its lies shows that they have abdicated their journalistic responsibilities. They are in the tank for their man. But that may change somewhat as Obama exposes more and more of his incompetence and lawlessness. I don't reckon that Chris Mathews and the rest of the Obama shills over at MSNBC are getting quite the same thrill 'up the leg' as they did back in 2008.
Left-wing bias at the NYT is nothing new, of course, but the following opening paragraph of a July 8th editorial is particularly egregious. But before I quote it, let me say that the problem is not that the editors have a point of view or even that it is a liberal-left point of view. The problem is their seeming inability, or rather unwillingness, to present a matter of controversy in a fair way. Here is the opening paragraph of Hobby Lobby's Disturbing Sequel:
The Supreme Court violated principles of religious liberty and women’s rights in last week’s ruling in the Hobby Lobby case, which allowed owners of closely held, for-profit corporations (most companies in America) to impose their religious beliefs on workers by refusing to provide contraception coverage for employees with no co-pay, as required by the Affordable Care Act. But for the court’s male justices, it didn’t seem to go far enough.
This is a good example of the sort of Orwellian mendacity we have come to expect from the Obama administration and its supporters in the mainstream media. War is peace. Slavery is freedom. A defense of religious liberty is a violation of religious liberty. Those who protest being forced by the government to violate their consciences and religious beliefs are imposing their religious beliefs. The Orwellian template: X, which is not Y, is Y.
Every statement in the opening paragraph of the NYT editorial is a lie. The 5-4 SCOTUS decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby defended principles of religious liberty. It did not violate any women's rights. Neither the right to an abortion nor the right to purchase any form of contraception were affected by the decision. The ACA mandate to provide contraceptives was not overturned but merely restricted so that Hobby Lobby would not be forced to provide four abortifacient contraceptives.
I won't say anything about the ridiculous insinuation in the last sentence, except that arguments don't have testicles.
Truth is not a value for the Left. Winning is what counts, by any means. They see politics as war, which is why they feel justified in their mendacity.
The quite narrow question the Supreme Court had to decide was whether closely held, for-profit corporations are persons under the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act . "RFRA states that “[the] Government shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion.”3 (Ibid.)
If Hobby Lobby is forced by the government to provide abortifacients to its employees, and Hobby Lobby is a person in the eyes of the law, then the government's Affordable Care Act mandate is in violation of the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act. For it would substantially burden Hobby Lobby's proprietors' exercise of religion if they were forced to violate their own consciences by providing the means of what they believe to be murder to their employees. So the precise question that had to be decided was whether Hobby Lobby is a person in the eyes of the law. The question was NOT whether corporations are persons in the eyes of the law, as some benighted cmmentators seems to think.
Note also that the issue here is not constitutional but statutory: the issue has solely to do with the interpretation and application of a law, RFRA. As Alan Dershowitz explains (starting at 7:52), it has to do merely with the "construction of a statute."
I started to take the quiz but then quit in disgust after the first two questions.
Here is the first question:
Which of the following statements comes closest to your view?
I would say that both statements are true. That some government regulation is necessary is obviously true. But that many types of regulation makes things worse is also the case, though it is not as obvious. What does it even mean to ask which of these comes closest to my view? The rational thing to do is reject the question as poorly defined.
Here is the second question:
Which of the following statements comes closest to your view?
Hard work and determination are no guarantee of success for most.
Again, both of these statements are true, at least in the USA at the present time. The second statement is obviously true. Success is not guaranteed for anyone. You could be doing everything right and be killed by a drunk driver. In every success there is some element of luck. The first statement is not as clearly true, but it too is true. Again, there is the problem of what 'comes closest' even means. I am a conservative and so you will expect me to plump for the first statement. But the second is one that every sane person must accept. So in one sense of 'closest' the second is closest to my view. In another sense, the first is closest, because it is more characteristic of my view. A near-certainty that everyone must accept on pain of being irrational is not characteristic of any political view. Capiche?
Not all of the question pairs display the faults of the first two. They display others such as false alternative. And a few, I grant, are well-formulated. #20 for example:
Which of the following statements comes closest to your view?
These statements cannot both be true, and there is no false alternative: it must be that one of them is true.
One of the purposes of this site is to combat the stupidity of Political Correctness, a stupidity that in many contemporary liberals, i.e., leftists, is willful and therefore morally censurable. The euphemism 'undocumented worker' is a good example of a PC expression. It does not require great logical acumen to see that 'undocumented worker' and 'illegal alien' are not coextensive expressions. The extension of a term is the class of things to which it applies. In the diagram below, let A be the class of illegal aliens, B the class of undocumented workers, and A^B the intersection of these two classes. All three regions in the diagram are non-empty, which shows that A and B are not coextensive, and so are not the same class. Since A and B are not the same class, 'undocumented worker' and 'illegal alien' do not have the same intension or meaning. Differing in both extension and intension, these expressions are not intersubstitutable.
To see why, note first that there are illegal aliens who are not workers since they are either petty criminals, or members of organizedcriminal gangs e.g., MS-13, some of whose members are illegal aliens, or terrorists, or too young to work, or unable to work. Note second that there are illegal aliens who have documents all right -- forged documents. Note third that there are undocumented workers who are not aliens: there are American citizens who work but without the legally requisite licenses and permits.
So the correct term is 'illegal alien.' It is descriptive and accurate and there is no reason why it should not be used.
Now will this little logical exercise convince a leftist to use language responsibly and stop obfuscating the issue? Of course not. Leftism in some of its forms is willfully embraced reality denial, and in other of its forms is a cognitive aberration, something like a mental illness, in need of therapy rather than refutation. In a longer post I would finesse the point by discussing the cognitive therapy of Stoic and neo-Stoic schools, which does include some logical refutation of unhealthy views and attitudes, but my rough-and-ready point stands: one cannot refute the sick. They need treatment and quarantine and those who go near them should employ appropriate prophylactics.
So why did I bother writing the above? Because there are people who have not yet succumbed to the PC malady and might benefit from a bit of logical prophylaxis. One can hope.
What follows is an old post from about ten years ago worth dusting off in the light of current events. If 'true' admits of degrees, what I say below is truer now than it was then. Just two of several current examples. Barack Obama, the most Left-leaning president in U. S. history, traded Bowe Bergdahl for five of the worst Gitmo terrorists. Was that a prudent thing to do? Only someone who is blind to a clear and present danger could do something so utterly irresponsible. The second example is the Iraq pullout, the effect of which, whether intended or not, is to make the whole region safe for ISIS. Anyone with his head screwed on right would have seen that coming. But not a leftist insensitive to danger. I could go on, the Southern border . . . .
Conservatives take a sober view of human nature. They admit and celebrate the human capacity for good, but cannot bring themselves to ignore the practically limitless human capacity for evil. They cannot dismiss the lessons of history, especially the awful lessons of the 20th century, the lessons of Gulag and Vernichtungslager. They know that evil is not a contingent blemish that can be isolated and removed, but has ineradicable roots reaching deep into human nature. The fantasies of Rousseau and Marx get no grip on them. Conservatives know that it is not the state, or society, or institutions that corrupt human beings, but that it is the logically antecedent corruption of human nature that makes necessary state, social, and institutional controls. The timber of humanity is inherently and irremediably crooked; it was not first warped by state, social, or institutional forces, and cannot be straightened by any modification or elimination of these forces.
I used the word 'know' a couple of times, which may sound tendentious. How do conservatives know that evil is not a contingent blemish, or that human beings are so fundamentally flawed that no human effort can usher in utopia?
They know this from experience. But although experience teaches us what is the case, and what has been the case, does it teach what must be the case? Here the lefties may have wiggle room. They can argue that failure to achieve a perfect society does not conclusively show that a perfect society cannot be achieved. This is true. But repeated failures add up to a strong inductive case. And these failures have been costly indeed. The Communists murdered an estimated 100 million in their social experiments. They did not hesitate to break eggs on a massive scale in quest of an omelet that never materialized. They threw out 'bourgeois' morality, but this did not lead to some higher morality but to utter barbarity.
I would also argue that experience can sometimes teach us what must be the case. We have a posteriori knowledge of the essential (as opposed to accidental) properties of some things. These are tough epistemological questions that I mention here only to set aside.
The main point I want to make is that the Left is insensitive to danger because of its Pollyannish view of human beings as intrinsically good. Leftists tend to downplay serious threats. They are blind to the radical evil in human nature. This attitude is betrayed by their obfuscatory use of the phrase 'Red Scare'to the very real menace the USSR posed to the USA in the 1950's and beyond. It wasn't that conservatives were scared, but that the Soviets were making threats. This is now particularly clear from the Venona decrypts, the Mitrokhin archives, and other sources. I especially recommend reading Ronald Radosh on the Rosenberg case.
The Left's insensitivity to danger is also betrayed by their attitude toward the present Islamo-terrorist threat. They just can't seem to take it seriously, as witness their incessant complaining about the dangers to civil liberties after the 9/11/01 attacks. There is something deeply perverse about their attitude. They must realize that a liberty worth wanting requires security as a precondition. See my Liberty and Security for an exfoliation of this idea. But if they grasp this, why the unreasonable and excessive harping on individual liberties in a time of national peril? Don't they understand that theliberties we all cherish are worthless to one who is being crushed beneath a pile of burning rubble? How could Katrina van den Heuvel on C-Span the other day refer to Bush's playing of the 'terror card'? Such talk is border-line delusional.
It is as if they think that conservatives want to curtail civil liberties, and have seized upon the 9/11 attacks to have an excuse to do so. In the lunatic world of the leftist a conservative is a 'fascist' -- to use their favorite term of abuse. This is absurd: it is precisely conservatives who aim to conserve civil liberties, including the politically incorrect ones such as gun rights.
Terrorists and the rogue states that sponsor them pose a very real threat to our security, and this threat must be faced and countered even if it requires a temporary abridgement of certain liberties. Thatis what happens in war time. Leftists ought to admit that it is precisely their insensitivity to the threat posed by such Islamo-terrorists as Osama bin Laden that led to the 9/11 attacks in the first place. If a proper response had been made to the 1993 World Trade Tower attack, the 2001 attack might never have occurred. We were attacked because we were perceived as weak and decadent, and we were perceived as weak and decadent because leftists in the government failed to take seriously the terrorist threat.
It must be realized that liberty without security is worthless. Genuine liberty is liberty within a stable social and political order. I may have the liberty to leave my house any time of the day or night, but such a liberty is meaningless if I get mugged the minute I step out my door. So if the Left were really serious about liberty, it would demand adequate security measures.
As the West slides into the dustbin of history, the philosopher's pleasures are of the owlish sort. The owl of Minerva spreads her wings at dusk, to survey the scene of strife, with an equanimity born of distance, as befits a spectator of all time and existence.
Walter Williams against Slavery Reparations. But is Williams really black? Or is he a traitor to his race? Could anyone be a traitor to his race? Is there any idea so preternaturally dumbassed that leftists won't promulgate it? If I argue against reparations, leftists call me a racist. If a seriously black man like Williams does, he is called an Uncle Tom. That's the Left for you.
I have often pointed out that there is nothing liberal about contemporary 'liberals.' Kim R. Holmes' Intolerance as Illiberalism is well worth your time. Excerpt:
Hard illiberalism, however, is not the only variant. There are “soft” versions too. They often appear “liberal” and even operate inside democratic systems otherwise committed to the rule of law. But their core idea is that liberal democracy and the constitutional rule of law are insufficient to bring about absolute equality.
It is this form of illiberalism that is gaining traction in America today. It comes in many guises and varying degrees of intensity. It is a campus official countenancing “trigger warnings” and speech codes that censor free speech and suppress debate. It is a radio host shouting that he hopes employees of the National Security Agency get cancer and die. It is politicians and government officials who bend the rules, launch investigations, overturn laws, criminalize so-called “hate” speech, and stretch the meaning of the Constitution to impose their views on Americans. It is the mindset of “us versus them” that leads government officials such as New York’s governor to say that there is “no place in the state of New York” for “extreme conservatives”— by which he meant not fringe or violent groups but anyone who opposes abortion or the redefinition of marriage. And it is the idea that constitutional limits, individual rights, and even due process can be ignored in the “greater” cause of creating income equality.
These people have become not merely intolerant but fundamentally illiberal.
Illiberalism is not just about government denying people the right of free expression and equality before the law. It is also about controlling how people think and behave. It is a threat both to our democratic system of government and to the “liberal” political culture.
Congressional investigators are fuming over revelations that the Internal Revenue Service has lost a trove of emails to and from a central figure in the agency's tea party controversy.
The IRS said Lois Lerner's computer crashed in 2011, wiping out an untold number of emails that were being sought by congressional investigators. The investigators want to see all of Lerner's emails from 2009 to 2013 as part of their probe into the way agents handled applications for tax-exempt status by tea party and other conservative groups.
Lerner headed the IRS division that processes applications for tax-exempt status. The IRS acknowledged last year that agents had improperly scrutinized applications by some conservative groups.
Her computer crashed and she lost the e-mail? Mendacity on stilts. Typical Obama administration bullshit. A computer crash does not cause the loss of e-mail: the stuff is stored on the e-mail provider's server. We all know that. One is struck by the chutzpah of these IRS liars. What contempt they have for the people who pay their salaries! See fourth article below.
Go Kirsten! Kirsten Powers has it all: beauty, brains, and the female equivalent of that which I was about to refer to using a word I decided not to use. I think I'm in love. And she stands up to Bill O'Reilly displaying grace under pressure when the pugnacious Irishman becomes obnoxious. She's smarter than O'Reilly and she knows it. Bill does too. But hats off to O'Reilly for giving the young whippersnappers a forum and for speaking truth to power lo these many years. He is an inspiring profile in civil courage.
"Speaking truth to power" is a lefty phrase that we need to co-opt. Leftards use the phrase even when they have power. You see, for a lefty, having power is supposedly bad and so they have to pretend that they don't have it even when they do. It's like money in that respect. They like to posture that they are anti-Establishment when they are the Establishment, and that they are dissenting when they are spouting and toeing the party line. They also think they somehow own dissent as if conservatives are somehow barred by the very meaning of the word from dissenting.
In any case, Miss Powers really hits the nail on the head in her column: Here is some of it and it ought to anger you with a righteous anger:
Don't bother trying to make sense of what beliefs are permitted and which ones will get you strung up in the town square. Our ideological overlords have created a minefield of inconsistency. While criticizing Islam is intolerant, insulting Christianity is sport. Ayaan Hirsi Ali is persona non grata at Brandeis University for attacking the prophet Mohammed. But Richard Dawkins describes the Old Testament God as "a misogynistic … sadomasochistic … malevolent bully" and the mob yawns. Bill Maher calls the same God a "psychotic mass murderer" and there are no boycott demands of the high-profile liberals who traffic his HBO show.
The self-serving capriciousness is crazy. In March, University of California-Santa Barbara women's studies professor Mireille Miller-Young attacked a 16-year-old holding an anti-abortion sign in the campus' "free speech zone" (formerly known as America). Though she was charged with theft, battery and vandalism, Miller-Young remains unrepentant and still has her job. But Mozilla's Brendan Eich gave a private donation to an anti-gay marriage initiative six years ago and was ordered to recant his beliefs. When he wouldn't, he was forced to resign from the company he helped found.
Got that? A college educator with the right opinions can attack a high school student and keep her job. A corporate executive with the wrong opinions loses his for making a campaign donation. Something is very wrong here.
As the mob gleefully destroys people's lives, its members haven't stopped to ask themselves a basic question: What happens when they come for me? If history is any guide, that's how these things usually end.
Image credit. (HT: Bill Keezer) By the way, I am grateful to all my correspondents. Don't take it amiss if I forget to credit you by name. And of course some of you I do not mention by name for your own protection.
If you send me something, but don't want it posted, just say so and I will honor your request. Otherwise, everything you send me is potential blog fodder.
In these "times that try mens' souls" one has to be very careful. But there is also such a thing as civil courage.
I hope you don’t mind my seeking your help on an issue related to the history of philosophy. I and a few friends are have a disagreement re: the origin of belief in divine apatheia.
In Manana: Christian Theology from a Hispanic Perspective, Justo Gonzalez discusses the political motivations behind the origin and development of the concept. His claim is that belief in divine impassibility merely reflects the desire for permanence (of power) on the part of the ruling class so that Athenian politics is responsible for the philosophical development of the belief, a projection onto God of the political aspirations of the elite.
The question of how apatheia got adopted/revised by Christians isn’t so much my concern at this point (as legitimate a question as it is). I’m interested in Gonzalez’s history and whether and to what extent he’s right in supposing apatheia was a projection onto the divine being of the political aspirations for the permanence of the city and its ruling class.
Does that ring true with your understanding? Thoughts?
Well, if it serves my political interests to believe that p, that leaves open the question whether p is true or false. Suppose I am a member of the royal court. Then it would serve my earthly interests if the masses were to believe that the king rules by divine right. But one cannot show that the king does not rule by divine right by showing that the interests of the ruling class are served by that belief's being widespread.
So there are two logically independent questions. Does the holding of a belief serve interests? Is the belief true? To say that the questions are logically independent is to say that both an affirmative and a negative answer to the first is consistent with both an affrmative and a negative answer to the second.
If God exists, then he is either impassible or not. This question cannot be decided by showing, assuming that it could be shown, that widespread belief that God is impassible would help legitimate the dominance of the ruling class. (I am having a hard time imagining how such an abstruse doctrine could get a grip on the popular mind. Does Joe Sixpack think about such things?)
The bolded thesis supra is a 'weasel' thesis. Gonzalez does not state unambiguously that the impassibility doctrine is nothing other than an expression of class interests, and therefore either false or unsupportable by reasons. But that is probably what he means.
If that is what he means, then he is guilty of the logical/epistemological error of confusing the holding of a belief with the propositional content of a belief. It is a concern of the sociology of knowledge to study the incidence of beliefs as states of people, their causes and effects and modes of transmission. But the evaluation of belief contents as to truth, falsehood, consistency, inconsistency, rationality, etc., does not belong to the sociology of knowledge.
There is nothing new about the move Gonzalez appears to be making. It's old hat. It is the standard Marxist rubbish of reducing belief systems to systems of ideology in the service of class interests. But if all is ideology in the service of class interests, then so is the system of Marxist beliefs. In which case it is a self-vitiating system of beliefs if not outright self-refuting.
[Senator Joseph] McCarthy in the 1950s became infamous for smearing his opponents with lurid allegations that he could not prove, while questioning their patriotism. Reid has brought back to the Senate that exact same McCarthy style of six decades ago -- and trumped it.
During the 2012 presidential campaign, Reid libeled candidate Mitt Romney with the unsubstantiated and later-refuted charge that Romney was a tax cheat. "The word's out that he [Romney] hasn't paid any taxes for 10 years," Reid said.
Later, when asked for proof, Reid offered a pathetic rejoinder: "I have had a number of people tell me that." One wonders how many names were on Reid's McCarthyite "tell" list -- were there, as McCarthy used to bluster, 205 names, or perhaps just 57?
When asked again to document the slur, Reid echoed McCarthy perfectly: "The burden should be on him. He's the one I've alleged has not paid any taxes."
Call this the Reid Principle: The maker of scurrilous and unsubstantiated allegations is presumed veracious. The burden of rebutting the charges is borne by the victim of the smear.
Reid's behavior in this and in other cases makes it clear that Democrats see politics as a form of warfare. Conservatives need to wise up.
On Easter Sunday, it is only fitting that the reliably despicable Ross Douthat should once again rise from the dead with an incoherently dreadful column on Piketty. I will not try to summarize it. As Aristotle observed [I think], shit has no form, and hence cannot easily be apprehended by reason. You may read it for yourself. I take Douthat's column as a good sign, a harbinger of Spring. When the rats on the sinking ship of capitalism pause in their scramble down the hawsers to acknowledge the reemergence of Marx from the dustbin of history [how's that for a mixed metaphor?], there is hope on this annual celebration of resurrection.
Note that Wolff does not address the content of Douthat's essay, though he does have the decency to link to it. What he does is portray Douthat as a reliably despicable zombie and rat, a shill for capitalism, who has penned an incoherently dreadful column, a piece of shit beneath the apprehension of reason.
Well thank you Professor Wolff for this wonderful Easter Sunday illustration of the Central Axiom and for reminding us once again of how dangerous you leftists are, and, indirectly, how important our Second Amendment rights are.
Hate speech? That's a term leftists use for speech they don't like. No one in his right mind could see Heidegger's magnum opus, Sein und Zeit (Being and Time), published in 1927, as anything close to hate speech. The claim that it is is beneath refutation. Nor can his lectures and publications after 1933, when Hitler came to power, be dismissed in this way.
Heidegger undoubtedly inspires violent passions: he was a National Socialist, and what is worse, he never admitted he was wrong about his political alignment. But according to Michael Dummett, the great logician Gottlob Frege was an anti-Semite. (Dummett says this in either the preface or the introduction to Frege: The Philosophy of Language. ) Now will you ignore Frege's seminal teachings because of his alleged anti-Semitism? That would be senseless. And let's not forget that the later Jean-Paul Sartre was not just a Commie, but a Stalinist. Should Critique of Dialectical Reason be dismissed as hate speech? Should we deny Sartre the title 'philosopher' and re-classify him as a Commie ideologue? Of course not. And please no double standard. Why is being a Nazi worse than being a Stalinist? Why is murdering people because of their ethnic affiliation worse than murdering people because of their class affiliation?
You have two highly influential philosophers. One aligns himself politically with the mass murderer Hitler, the other with the mass murderer Stalin. That is extremely interesting, and no doubt troubling, but in the end it is truth that we philosophers are after, and in pursuit of it we should leave no stone unturned: we should examine all ideas in order to arrive as closely as we can to the truth. All ideas, no matter what they are, whether they come from a Black Forest ski hut or a Parisian coffee house, or the syphilitic brain of a lonely German philologist. Haul them one and all before the tribunal of Reason and question them in the full light of day. To understand the content of the ideas it may be necessary to examine the men and women behind them. But once a philosopher's propositions have been clearly set forth, the question of their truth or falsity is logically independent of their psychological, or sociological, or other, origin. To think otherwise is to commit the Genetic Fallacy.
Sartre claimed that man has no nature, that "existence precedes essence." He got the idea from Heidegger's Sein und Zeit, p. 42: Das 'Wesen' des Daseins liegt in seiner Existenz. It is an interesting and influential idea. What exactly does it mean? What does it entail? What does it exclude? What considerations can be adduced in support of it? Questions like these are what a real philosopher pursues. He doesn't waste all his time poking into the all-too-human philosopher's dirty laundry in the manner of Faye and Romano. Are people in this Age of Celebrity incapable of focusing on ideas?
And then there is Nietzsche. If the Gesamtausgabe of Heidegger ought to be marked with a skull-and-crossbones, then a fortiori for the Gesammelte Schriften of Nietzsche. There are dangerous ideas in Nietzsche. See my post Nietzsche and National Socialism. Indeed, Nietzsche's ideas are far more dangerous than Heidegger's. Should we burn Nietzsche's books and brand The Antichrist as hate speech? Stupid!
The Nazis burned books and the Roman Catholic Church had an index librorum prohibitorum. Now I don't deny that certain impressionable people need to be protected from certain odious influences. But Heidegger writings are no more 'hate speech' (whatever that is) than Nietzsche's writings are, and they don't belong on any latter-day leftist's index librorum prohibitorum. Are they both philosophers? Of course. Are they on a par with Plato and Kant? Not by a long shot! Are their ideas worth discussing? I should think so: they go wrong in interesting ways. Just like Wittgenstein and many others.
For social and political diary entries from Frege near the end of his life, see here. (HT: Marius Manci) Very interesting.
California’s Democrats have long chafed against Proposition 209, a 1996 voter-backed measure that said: “The state shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, colour, ethnicity, or national origin” in public employment or education. In January SCA 5, a Democratic bill which, if approved by voters, would have exempted universities from this rule (and thus allowed them to bring back affirmative action), whizzed through the state Senate. It seemed likely to pass in the lower house, too.
But SCA 5 was defeated in the lower house. That's good news and a victory for justice, which is not to be confused with 'social justice.' Only the morally obtuse could object to Prop. 209.
Unfortunately the morally obtuse have infiltrated deep into our institutions:
"The university has been hurt” by Prop 209, says Gene Block, UCLA’s chancellor. Like other university administrators, he says that diversity creates a better atmosphere for learning.
That is just politically correct nonsense. But I am not in the mood to explain why one more time.
See here for links to posts critical of the Left's diversity fetish.
When liberals are up to their usual scumbaggery ought one take the high road with them, patiently making one's case in gentlemanly fashion and rebutting theirs, assuming there is one, all the while ignoring their insults and slanders? In The Liberal Slandering of Paul Ryan Peter Wehner takes seriously and replies earnestly to the mouthings of the race-baiter Paul Krugman and others. But slanderous scum like Krugman are beneath serious reply and it is arguable that replying in measured tones only gives them a credibility they don't deserve.
Once you grasp that it is a war, and that liberals will say anything no matter how absurd, then you will appreciate that mockery and derision are much more effective means of opposing them. But you must also provide solid arguments for the fence-sitters. In Six Arguments Only a Liberal Believe, John Hawkins supplies just the right admixture of mockery and derision to his substantive point-making.
I'm all for civility, but civility is for the civil only.
Glenn Reynolds reports on successful pushback against such outrages as the FCC's "plan to 'monitor' news coverage at not only broadcast stations, but also at print publications that the FCC has no authority to regulate."
I hereby introduce 'obamination' to refer to those abominations perpetrated against the populace by big government, whether perpetrated by the POMO prez himself or by any liberal fascist. Every obamination is an abomination, but not conversely.
The Obaminator himself claims not to be for big government. We already know, however, that he is the most brazen liar ever to occupy the presidency. Here's more evidence. And here is documentation of Obama's mendacity in refusing to own up to his own call for a fundamental transformation of America.
Again, what is Putin? He is a constant reminder to the postmodern Western mind that the human condition has not yet evolved beyond the fist. He is a bumper-sticker example of Aristotle’s dictum that it is easy to be moral in your sleep, given that verbiage without power is hardly moral or difficult. He is also a reminder about what is important in the most elemental sense. As we debate former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg’s remonstrances on oversized Cokes or Michelle Obama’s advocacy of celery sticks, Putin has dogs shot down to spruce up the Olympic grounds. We calibrate to the point of paralysis just how large a carbon footprint the Keystone Pipeline may or may not have; Putin ignores the Arctic tundra to enrich kleptomaniac Russian oligarchs and prop up his dysfunctional state.
Bare-chested Putin gallops his horses, poses with his tigers, and shoots his guns — what Obama dismisses as “tough-guy schtick.” Perhaps. But Putin is almost saying, “You have ten times the wealth and military power that I have, but I can neutralize you by my demonic personality alone.” Barack Obama, in his increasingly metrosexual golf get-ups and his prissy poses on the nation’s tony golf courses, wants to stay cool while playing a leisure sport. It reminds us of Stafford Cripps being played by Stalin during World War II. “Make no mistake about it” and “Let me be perfectly clear” lose every time. Obama’s subordinates violate the law by going after the communications of a Fox reporter’s parents; Putin himself threatens to cut off the testicles of a rude journalist.
Putin is a reminder not just of our dark past, where raw force, not morality, adjudicated behavior, but, more worrisome, perhaps of a dark future as well, in which we in the West will continually overthink, hyperagonize, and nuance to death every idea, every issue, and every thought in terror that it might not be 100 percent fair, completely unbiased, absolutely justified. We will do anything to have the good life above all else; Putin prefers the bad life on his own terms.
How can we explain intelligent, articulate, intellectually vigorous people stuck in time, repeating themselves endlessly like robots? Even if the diversity crusade hadn’t become an embarrassment and a sham, the sheer mindless obsession of it suggests a seriously neurotic institution. Yale doesn’t lack diversity, just rationality. Of course it lacks intellectual diversity, but that problem has been solved by shipping “diversity” off to redefinition camp. American English is feeling a lot better, thank you, now that it’s been lobotomized by political hacks. (Covered by Obamacare!)
[. . .]
The good thing about the “diversity” problem is that you can obsess over it forever with no risk of solving it, because it is insoluble—based as it is on a wholly implausible lie. The diversity kingpins aim for group representation in all academic fields based on a group’s numbers in the student population, and in America (eventually the world) at large. But why would anyone suspect that both sexes and all races and nationalities have approximately the same skills at everything? And the same interests in everything? And the same physical qualifications for everything? Doesn’t diversity imply (for lack of a better term) diversity?
No!—and that’s the best thing about the diversity crusade. It is actually an anti-diversity crusade, waged by people who detest diversity. Its goal is to suppress diversity of every sort. Yale women must behave just like Yale men: must major in the same things at the same rates, go out for sports in the same numbers, get the same jobs, make the same money, care to the same extent in the same way about children, family, money, power, sex, and everything else. So why are there “Women’s Studies” departments? Because (dammit!) women and men are totally different! So why is there a diversity campaign? Because women and men are exactly the same!
The United States accomplished the amazing feat of virtually extinguishing race prejudice in a single generation, between the late 1950s and the early ’80s. It was a superb accomplishment, on the order of the Moon landings. But young Americans get no chance to take pride in it: We don’t just suppress the facts, we lie about them. We teach our children from kindergarten up that America still struggles with prejudice against approved minorities and women, when they can see with their own eyes that prejudice in favor of approved minorities and women is everywhere—in education, industry, and government. How are they supposed to learn that it is important to tell the truth? How will they learn what the truth means?
This problem is not keeping the Obama regime up nights. A Hillary administration would be equally indifferent.
War on Truth is the Obama administration’s middle name, and sometimes seems to be its actual goal. Releasing the toxic phrase “War on Women” into the political atmosphere was a risky move for the left—they have got away with it only because Republicans are so timid and lazy. That Republicans are antiwoman is an absurd lie, and what does it say about Republican women? Are they dupes or traitors? Or just dumb broads? (You know how women are about politics. Hopeless.) There was a time when honest Americans of every political type would have exploded at the sheer, filthy dishonesty of the phrase. No more. American culture is changing.
BV: It is indeed. Clear proof is that Obama gets away with his repeated outright lies, his Orwellianisms and his nine-to-five shuck and jive. Something is wrong when even conservative commentators refer to his brazen lies by saying that the POMO prez "misspoke."
While the Obamacrats rave on about the War on Women (believing that abortion poses an ethical question being tantamount, after all, to mowing down young girls in the street as they emerge from the shelters in which they have gathered, cowering, in fear of Republicans)—while they denounce the War on Women, Obamacrats have been merrily waging a war on jobs, a war on small business, a war on the best-by-far health care system in human history, a war on America’s international influence and prestige, a war on economic recovery, a war on energy independence, a war on the Constitution, and many other battles around the edges. But the War on Truth matters most, hurts most, and will be remembered longest.
Do Republicans care about the cultural mainstream’s real prejudice against white boys? Not in the least. Will Republicans challenge the diversity racket, the “affirmative action” con game that still dominates so many important institutional decisions? Americans dislike affirmative action and always have, but Republicans are too scared to speak up. Elections are approaching. Let us at least hear about this war on truth, from every last Republican candidate, for every office, at every level, every day. American culture, society, civilization are at stake. Please.
The chickenshit RINOs are too much enamoured of their perquisites, power, and pelf to take a principled stand on anything. They are go-along-to-get-along, kick-the-can-down-the-road types out for themselves first and foremost, and the Republic be damned. They are as republican as the Dems are democratic.
Dennis Prager was complaining one day about how the Left ridicules the Right. He sounded a bit indignant. He went on to say that he does not employ ridicule. But why doesn't he? He didn't say why, but I will for him: Because he is a gentleman who exemplifies the good old conservative virtue of civility. And because he is a bit naive.
Prager's behavior, in one way laudable, in another way is not, resting as it does on an assumption that I doubt is true at the present time. Prager assumes that political differences are more like intellectual differences among gentlemanly interlocutors than they are like the differences among warring parties. He assumes that there is a large measure of common ground and the real possibility of mutually beneficial compromise, the sort of compromise that serves the common good by mitigating the extremism of the differing factions, as opposed to that form of compromise, entered into merely to survive, whereby one side knuckles under to the extremism of the other.
But if we are now in the age of post-consensus politics, if politics is war by another name, then it is just foolish not to use the Left's tactics against them.
It is not enough to be right, or have the facts on your side, or to have the better arguments. That won't cut it in a war. Did the Allies prevail over the Axis Powers in virtue of having truth and right on their side? It was might that won the day, and, to be honest, the employing of morally dubious means (e.g., the firebombing of Dresden, the nuking of Hiroshima and Nagasaki), the same sort of means that the Axis would have employed had they been able to. One hopes that the current civil war doesn't turn bloody. But no good purpose is served by failing to understand that what we have here is a war and not minor disagreements about means within the common horizon of agreed-upon assumptions, values, and goals.
Have we entered the age of post-consensus politics? I think so. I should write a post about our irreconcilable differences. For now a quick incomplete list. We disagree radically about: the purpose of government; crime and punishment; race; marriage; abortion; drugs; pornography; the interpretation of the Consitution; religion; economics.
Take religion. I have no common ground with you if you think every vestige of the Judeo-Christian heritage should be removed from the public square, or take the sort of extremist line represented by people like Dawkins and A. C. Grayling. If, however, you are an atheist who gives the Establishment Clause a reasonable interpretation, then we have some common ground.
It is amazing how shamelessly blunt the Obaminators are in promoting ObamaYomamaCare. They leave no doubt that pussification and wussification are high on their agenda.
There is also something incoherent about a law that allows these pajama-clad mama's basement dwellers to remain on their parents' health care plans until age 26, when suddenly they are supposed to man up and sign up and pay high premiums for services they don't need (and in some cases cannot need, e.g., maternity care for men) so that old people, who have had an entire lifetime to pile up loot and make provision for old age, and are not saddled with outrageous college loan debt, can get free or subsidized health care.
It doesn't make any bloody sense. On the one hand, young people are given yet another incentive to prolong their adolescence and dependence on parents and not take responsibility for themselves, while on the other hand, they, who are healthy and relatively poor, are expected to bear the lion's share of the health care burden for the old and illness-prone.
My advice to the young: don't allow yourself to be screwed. I know you think Obama is one cool dude, but so is Ron Paul, and he talks sense.
When the president speaks now, few listen. He realizes that and so, like Richard Nixon, must add emphatics as a substitute for honesty. But by now we know ad nauseam all the banal intensifiers — “make no mistake about it,” “I am not kidding,” “in point of fact,” and “let me be perfectly clear.”
Obama is playing a strange game: The more he speaks untruthfully, the more he resorts to emphatic intensifiers that instead confirm that he is speaking untruthfully. In turn, Obama’s audiences play an even stranger game: The more they hear their president speak, the more they are impressed that he can sound so sincere in being so nonchalantly insincere and mellifluously misleading. When I first heard, “You can keep your doctor and your health plan,” I thought, “That can’t be true; he knows it can’t be true; and the American people must know it can’t be true” — and, then, I shrugged: “But he’s hit upon a winning lie.”
It would be nice to be able to expect from popes and presidents a bit of gravitas, a modicum of seriousness, when they are instantiating their institutional roles. What they do after hours is not our business. So Pope Francis' clowning around does not inspire respect, any more than President Clinton's answering the question about his underwear. Remember that one? Boxers or briefs? He answered the question! All he had to do was calmly state, without mounting a high horse, "That is not a question that one asks the president of the United States." And now we have the Orwellian Prevaricator himself in the White House, Barack Hussein Obama, whose latest Orwellian idiocy is that Big Government is the problem, not him, even though he is the the poster boy, the standard bearer, like unto no one before him in U. S. history, of Big Government!
But I digress. Here are a couple of important points in rebuttal of Francis (emphasis added):
To begin, we note that “trickle-down” economics is a caricature used by capitalism’s critics and not its defenders. Those of us who embrace free markets do so not out of a belief that the breadcrumbs of affluence will eventually reach those less well-off, but, rather, out of a conviction that the free market is the best mechanism for increasing wealth at all levels. As for being confirmed by the facts, we believe the empirical evidence is conclusive. Compare the two sides of Germany during the era of the Berlin Wall or the China of today with the China that hadn’t yet embraced an (admittedly imperfect) form of capitalism. The results are not ambiguous.
To this I would add that it is a mistake to confuse material inequality with poverty. Which is better: everyone being equal but poor, or inequality that makes 'the poor' better off than they would have been been without the inequality? Clearly, the second. After all, there is nothing morally objectionable about inequality as such. Or do you think that there is a problem with my net worth's being considerably less than Bill Gates'? There is nothing wrong with inequality as such; considerations of right and wrong kick in only when there is doubt about the legality or morality of the means by which the wealth was acquired. My net worth exceeds that of a lot of people from a similar background, but that merely reflects the fact that I practice the old virtues of frugality, etc., avoid the vices that impoverish, and make good use of my talents. I know how to save, invest, and defer gratification. I know how to control my appetites. The relative wealth that results puts me in a position to help other people, by charitable giving, by hiring them, and by paying taxes that fund welfare programs and 'entitlements.' When is the last time a poor person gave someone a job, or made a charitable contribution? And how much tax do they pay? There are makers and takers, and you can't be a giver unless you are a maker, any more than you can be a taker if there are no givers. So, far from inequality being the same as poverty or causing poverty, it lessens poverty, both by providing jobs and via charity, not to mention the 'entitlement' and welfare programs that are funded by taxes paid by the productive.
You don't like the fact that someone has more than you? Then you are guilty of the sin of envy. And I think that Francis is aware that envy is one of the Seven Deadly Sins. Here is a question for socialists, redistributionists, collectivists, Obaminators: Is your redistributionism merely an expression of envy? I am not claiming that envy is at the root of socialism. That is no more the case than that greed (also on the list of Seven Deadlies) is at the root of capitalism. But it is the case that some socialists are drawn to socialism because of their uncontrollable envy, a thoroughly destructive vice.
There’s a more fundamental misunderstanding at work here, however. When Francis talks about “economic power,” he misapprehends a fundamental aspect of free markets – they only provide power consensually. Apart from government, no one can force you to buy a product or purchase a service. There’s a similar error in his citation of Saint John Chrysostom’s aphorism: “Not to share one’s wealth with the poor is to steal from them and to take away their livelihood.” The economics of capitalism are not zero-sum. Trade only occurs when both sides are made better off by the transaction. The wealthy don’t get rich at the expense of the poor.
Lefties hate business and especially big corporations. I give the latter no pass if they do wrong or violate reasonable regulations. But has Apple or Microsoft ever incarcerated anyone, or put anyone to death, or started a shooting war, or forced anyone to buy anything or to violate his conscience as the Obama administration is doing via its signature abomination, Obamacare?
On the other hand, did the government provide me with the iPad Air I just bought? You didn't build that, Obama! Not you, not your government, not any government. High tech does not come from politicians or lawyers, two classes that are nearly the same -- yet another problem to be addressed in due course.
Be intellectually honest, you lefties. Don't turn a blind eye to the depredations of Big Government while excoriating (sometimes legitimately) those of Big Business.
Opposition to Obama's policies is precisely that, opposition to his policies. If you think race has anything to do with it, you are either delusional or lying. One must realize that for a leftist, lying is not wrong if it is in the service of what they take to be a noble end. Mendacity's affront to 'bourgeois' morality is as nothing compared to the wonderful achievement of what they call 'social justice.' This is why Obama and his supporters brazenly lie and lie about their lying, as well as deploying the other modes of untruthfulness. The end justifies the means. They have no qualms of conscience because they don't see what they are doing as wrong. The distress of the five and a half million who have had their insurance policies cancelled is taken in stride as part of the cost of implementing a system that they imagine will serve the common good.
A government big enough and powerful enough to control health care delivery will be in an excellent position to demand ‘appropriate’ behavior from its citizens – and to enforce its demand. Suppose you enjoy risky sports such as motorcycling, hang gliding, mountain climbing and the like. Or perhaps you just like to drink or smoke or eat red meat. A government that pays for the treatment of your injuries and ailments can easily decide, on economic grounds alone, to forbid such activites under the bogus justification, ‘for your own good.’
But even if the government does not outlaw motorcycling, say, they can put a severe dent in your liberty to enjoy such a sport, say, by demanding that a 30% sales tax be slapped on all motorcycle purchases, or by outlawing bikes whose engines exceed a certain displacement, say 180 cc. In the same way that governments levy arbitrary taxes on tobacco products, they can do the same for anything they deem risky or unhealthy.
The situation is analogous to living with one’s parents. It is entirely appropriate for parents to say to a child: ‘As long as you live under our roof, eat at our table, and we pay the bills, then you must abide by our rules. When you are on your own, you may do as you please.’ The difference, of course, is that it is relatively easy to move out on one’s own, but difficult to forsake one’s homeland.
The nub of the issue is liberty. Do you value it or not? And how much? Which trumps which: liberty or equality of outcome?
In other words, Republicans oppose Obama's policies, not the man, because they believe the president will so inexorably change the structure of our social and economic system by mandating and punishing human behavior that nothing less than individual freedom is at stake. Under present circumstances, this hardly seems delusional. Does anyone really believe that subsidized policyholders with pre-existing conditions won't eventually face other mandates and penalties related to their lifestyle choices?
The best proof of this to date is the bitter wrangling and the wastage of time, effort, and money over Obamacare. This fight will continue until Obamacare is repealed or gutted. In the long and nasty process, the political climate in this country is bound to become ever more toxic. Way to go, liberals, way to go!
Big government leads to big trouble as we fight endlessly, acrimoniously, and fruitlessly over all sorts of issues that we really ought not be fighting over. The final clause of the First Amendment of the U. S. Constitution enshrines the right "to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." So the more the government does things that grieve us, by intruding into our lives and limiting our liberties, the more we will petition, lobby, and generally raise hell with the government and with our political opponents.
If you try to tell me how much soda I can buy at a pop, or how capacious my ammo mags must be, or how I must speak to assuage the tender sensitivities of the Pee Cee, or if you try to stop me from home-schooling my kids, or force me to buy health insurance, then you are spoiling for a fight and you will get it. Think of how much time, energy, and money we waste battling our political enemies, working to undo what we take to be their damage, the damage of Obamacare being the example du jour.
So if you want less contention, work for smaller government. The smaller the government, the less to fight over.
The split between lawmakers and the White House reflects the dilemma the president finds himself in as he seeks to follow through on last week’s acknowledgment about his incorrect promise on health care coverage.
A statement is either true or false, correct or incorrect. "No Republican voted for Obamacare' is a statement and it happens to be true or correct. But it is incoherent to speak of a promise as either correct or incorrect. 'I promise to loan you $100 on Friday' is a promise, not a statement. A promise is either fulfilled or not fulfilled. If, come Friday, I loan you $100, then I fulfill my promise. If I don't, then either (i) the promise I made is insincere, or (ii) something happened outside my control that prevented me from loaning you the money, or (iii) I reneged on my promise.
To speak of Obama's now famous lie -- If you like your health plan you can keep your health plan, period -- as an incorrect promise shows total confusion or perhaps willful obfuscation. First, there is no such thing as an incorrect promise. Second, a lie is not a promise. Obama lied about the already existent content of the ACA. He did not promise what that content would be.
And then Bubba comes along to add a further layer of incoherence and absurdity to this sorry spectacle.
Under pressure from Bill Clinton, Obama yesterday tried to correct his 'incorrect promise' by changing the law, something he is not constitutionally authorized to do. The passing , repealing, and amending of laws is a legislative function, not an executive function.
Ken Cuccinelli could have won in Virginia had the Libertarian candidate not siphoned off votes. Libertarianism is a healthy, if extreme, counterbalance to the the hard leftism that controls the Democrat Party, and the soft leftism of the RINOs. But the Libertarian Party is not only unnecessary, but destructive. Libertarians should follow the lead of Ron and Rand Paul, join the Republican Party, and push it in a libertarian direction, at least with respect to economic and political issues.
Libertarian ideas are many of them good; the Libertarian Party, however, is a disaster.
I have had my say on this topic in previous posts wherein you will find my reasons:
Specifically referring to the mileage taxes that Sarvis indicated he may support and which may require GPS systems to be installed in everyone's cars, Paul said "anybody who would conceivably vote for someone who would endorse a mileage tax" is "insane" because a mileage tax would be an "invasion of privacy" and would just give the government more money it could waste. In an interview on MSNBC, Sarvis indicated that he could support "vehicle-miles-driven taxes."
For liberal scumbaggery and dumbassery, it is hard to beat Ed Schultz. This is the guy who called the sweet and loveable and ladylike Laura Ingraham a "right-wing slut." Now he is saying that the health plans that Obamacare will outlaw are 'crappy.'
If so, there must be some one standard relative to which they are adjudged 'crappy.' But what is that standard, and who sets it? Is maternity care built into the standard? But maternity is not in my future, or in my past for that matter. And if you are a woman past a certain age, or a nun of any age, maternity is not in your future either.
Primary care physicians advise their patients to have colonoscopies starting at the age of 50. Suppose you are a healthy 27-year-old runner who thrives on a fiber-rich diet. You and Sir Thomas Crapper are on most excellent terms. Your policy does not cover colonoscopies, let us assume. Does that make it 'crappy'? Not at all. It makes it reasonable. Why buy what you don't need?
So what would be a crappy plan for one person might not be for another. It depends on age, sex, and other factors.
Who is to decide? Obviously, the person in question or the person's parent or guardian. Not the government.
So here is the nub of the issue. The government has no right to force you to buy health care or health insurance (not the same, by the way), or anything else. Whether you buy and what you buy is your business. Or do you think that the citizen-state relation is or is closely analogous to the child-parent relation?
The various mandates (individual, employer, HHS) are egregious assaults upon individual liberty and upon the mediating structures of civil society such as private enterprises, clubs, fraternal associations, and churches. (In a later post I plan to talk about contraceptives and abortifacients and the assault on religious liberty.)
So do you value liberty? Or do you want an Obama-style "fundamental transformation" of our country in the direction of a collectivist nanny-state? We are well on the way to it already. How far do you want to go?
Let us understand what is fundamentally at issue here. Let's not get hung up on details such as those pertaining to the inasupicious 'rollout' of ObamaCare. We need clarity as to the "conflict of visions" ( T. Sowell) of Right and Left.
But we can't have clarity as long as Obama and his defenders lie and bullshit and prevaricate. The latter include Feinstein, Pelosi, and Wasserman-Schultz.
So, Mr President, please tell us forthrightly what your vision for America is. Don't lie to us, or try to trick or fool us or try achieve your ends by stealth.
Then and only then can we have the 'conversation' -- to use a nice squishy bien-pensant liberal word -- we need to have about the direction of the country.
But please, no more lies, and no more lies about your lies.
A Pond away, the American-born Janet Daley of The Telegraphsee things with exceptional clarity. Concluding paragraphs:
Economic freedom, as well as political liberty, is being traded in at a startling pace even in the US, where it was once the be-all and end-all of the American dream. US citizens are discovering that their president’s flagship health-care programme is going to force them to buy the sort of health insurance that he believes they should have rather than the (cheaper, less comprehensive) kind they had chosen for themselves. They may have been willing to take their chances with minimal coverage that would pay only for catastrophic events, but the government says no. In its paternalistic wisdom, it will insist (by law) that they pay for everything it thinks is desirable, whether they want it or not.
The principle of the ideological struggle with communism — that the power of the state was an inherent danger from which the individual must be protected — is being lost to memory. Government is always the custodian of virtue now, holding out against the wicked, self-serving forces of profit and private interests. It is as if we have learnt nothing from the history of the 20th century about which values and beliefs actually delivered a life that was worth living — and how much vigilance is required to preserve them.
Barack Obama does not have proprietary rights in presidential mendacity: he has many illustrious predecessors. But Obama has pushed the arts of deception, prevarication, and empty bluster to new heights. Unfortunately for him, the economy is bad, which fact will make it difficult for him to get away with his lies, bullshit, and Orwellian abuses of the English language.
I'll give the guy this much: it takes balls of brass and chutzpah on stilts to lie brazenly about what can be easily checked. Was he ever a used car salesman? Of course, he would have spoken of 'pre-owned vehicles.'
But the sound and fury against the Tea Party is a sideshow. The second aspect of the current partisan divide reveals the real extremism in politics today, and it isn’t to be found among Tea Partiers. The complaint against the supposed “extremism” of the Tea Party is nowadays followed by a much more risible lament: that the very design of our government is to blame for “gridlock” and the increasing conflict between the two parties in Washington. Supposedly serious people have written in the last couple weeks that Tea Partiers should be arrested and charged with treason or sedition for causing the government shutdown. More frequent are the calls for abolishing the Senate because of its equal representation of small states and out of frustration with the filibuster. A couple of liberal pundits, like the usually more sober-minded Jacob Heilbrunn at the National Interest, have suggested abolishing Congress altogether. And New York Times columnist Thomas “China-Is-Awesome” Friedman periodically recycles his fantasy that we could be “China for a day” so that his favorite authoritarian wish list could be imposed without our democratic consent.
This is not a brand new phenomenon. Starting with Woodrow Wilson, “progressives” (to use a name more accurate than “liberal”) have complained that our various mechanisms of “checks and balances” prevent government from being more “effective.” This is just code for the liberal desire that its opposition should simply shut up, surrender, and submit to their rule unquestioned. It is a liberalism that has grown too lazy to argue with—or even tolerate—opposition, which is what happens when you come to believe that you embody “the side of history.” This display of contempt for the institutions of democratic deliberation reveals today’s progressives to be highly undemocratic—and illiberal, too. With their will to power checked as intended by our founders, the Left is letting out a primal scream.
As soon as I took office, I asked this Congress to send me a recovery plan by President's Day that would put people back to work and put money in their pockets. Not because I believe in bigger government -- I don't.
Obama is not just a bullshitter, but an Orwellian bullshitter.
I stumbled upon a good brisk read the other day by David Mamet in the genre, How I finally saw the light and stopped being a benighted leftist. The title is The Secret Knowledge: On the Dismantling of American Culture (Sentinel, 2011). Here is a taste, from a footnote on p. 10:
*The Left and the Right, I saw, differ not about programs, but about goals -- the goal of the Left is a government-run country and that of the Right the freedom of the individual from Government. These goals are difficult to reconcile, as the Left cannot be brought to actually state its intentions, nor to honestly evaluate the results of its actions.
In his second sentence, Mamet makes two extremely important points. The first is that leftists employ a stealth strategy. They are not open about their ultimate goals. The gun-grabbers among them, for example, will rarely state openly that one of their goals is the banning of the private ownership of handguns. They know full well that an open espousal of their totalitarian agenda would incite the opposition of the 'tea-baggers' as they derisively call Tea Party members as well as that of the rest of the rubes of fly-over country. The second point it that leftists, as adherents of a quasi-religion, are committed to its nostrums whether or not they work out in reality. Are the public schools better than they were in '65? Obviously not. So throw more money at them while harrassing homeschoolers and blocking voucher programs.
But I must quibble with Mamet's first sentence. It is simply not the case that the goal of the Right is freedom of the individual from government. That is a goal of anarchists, but conservatism is twice-removed from anarchism. For between anarchism and conservatism lies libertarianism. Conservatives are law and order types. They believe in a strong national defense. They want the nation's borders to be secure. All of this requires local, state, and Federal government.
When leftists say as they repeatedly do that conservatives are anti-government, that is a lie and they know it. It is a mistake for Mamet to give aid and comfort to this lie. Conservatives are for limited government. It takes no great logical acumen to see that if one is for limited government, then one is for government. And even a liberal should be able to understand that it is a false alternative to suppose that the choice is between no government and totalitarian government.
Christopher Hitchens' NYT review of Mamet begins thusly: "This is an extraordinarily irritating book, written by one of those people who smugly believe that, having lost their faith, they must ipso facto have found their reason."
And as I read more of it, I am becoming irritated myself. Consider his answers to the questions put to him in an interview. The questions are serious, but he returns frivolous answers, e.g.:
You also wrote about hating “every wasted, hard-earned cent I spent in taxes.” What cent did you hate the most? All of them gall me the most.
Only a lunatic extremist would think every cent paid in taxes was wasted. And surely no conservative would maintain such an absurd position.
We don't need more extremists. Contemporary liberalism is a set of extreme positions. The answer, however, is not some opposite form of extremism. I believe it was Goethe who said that no one is more hostile to a position than one who once espoused it but has come to reject it. I paraphrase.
While listening the other day to Barack Obama shuck and jive about fiscal responsiblity, shamelessly posturing as if he and not his Republican opponents is the fiscally responsible one, when he is in truth the apotheosis or, if you prefer, the Platonic Form of fiscal irresponsibility, I realized just how uncommonly good our POMO Prez is at bullshitting. He is indeed a consummate bullshitter. But what is it to bullshit, exactly? When is a statement bullshit?
. . . grounded neither in a
belief that it is true nor, as a lie must be, in a belief that it is not true.
It is just this lack of connection to a concern with truth — this
indifference to how things really are — that I regard as of the essence of
bullshit." (emphasis added)
Professor Frankfurt has a fine nose for the essence of bullshit. The bullshitter is one who 'doesn't give a shit' about the truth
value of what he is saying. He doesn't care how things stand with reality. The
liar, by contrast, must care: he must know (or at least attempt to know) how
things are if he is to have any chance of deceiving his audience. Think of it
this way: the bullshitter doesn't care whether he gets things right or gets them
wrong; the liar cares to get them right so he can deceive you about
the bullshitter does not care about truth, what does he care about? He care
about himself, about making a certain impression. His aim is to (mis)represent
himself as knowing what he does not know or more than he actually knows.
. . . bullshitting involves a
kind of bluff. It is closer to bluffing, surely than to telling a lie. But what
is implied concerning its nature by the fact that it is more like the former
than it is like the latter? Just what is the relevant difference here between a
bluff and a lie? Lying and bluffing are both modes of misrepresentation or
deception. Now the concept most central to the distinctive nature of a lie is
that of falsity: the liar is essentially someone who deliberately promulgates a
falsehood. Bluffing too is typically devoted to conveying something false.
Unlike plain lying, however, it is more especially a matter not of falsity but
of fakery. This is what accounts for its nearness to bullshit. For the
essence of bullshit is not that it is false but that it is phony. In
order to appreciate this distinction, one must recognize that a fake or a phony
need not be in any respect (apart from authenticity itself) inferior to the real
thing. What is not genuine need not also be defective in some other way. It may
be, after all, an exact copy. What is wrong with a counterfeit is not what it is
like, but how it was made. This points to a similar and fundamental aspect of
the essential nature of bullshit: although it is produced without concern with
the truth, it need not be false. The bullshitter is faking things. But this does
not mean that he necessarily gets them wrong. (emphasis
Now what does this have to do with Obama? As Frankfurt points out, the essence of bullshit is a lack of concern for truth. But truth and consistency are closely related notions. Two statements are consistent (inconsistent) just in case they can (cannot) both be true. Now I do not know if there are any cases of Obama contradicting himself synchronically (at a time), but there are plenty of examples of him contradicting himself diachronically. He said things as a senator the opposite of which he says now. Victor Davis Hanson supplies numerous examples in Obama as Chaos:
. . . when the president takes up a line of argument against his opponents, it cannot really be taken seriously — not just because it is usually not factual, but also because it always contradicts positions that Obama himself has taken earlier or things he has previously asserted. Whom to believe — Obama 1.0, Obama 2.0, or Obama 3.0?
When the president derides the idea of shutting down the government over the debt ceiling, we almost automatically assume that he himself tried to do just that when as a senator he voted against the Bush administration request in 2006, when the debt was about $6 trillion less than it is now.
The problem here is not merely logical; it is also ethical: the man is not truthful. Truth, falsity, consistency, inconsistency pertain to propositions, not persons. Truthfulness, deceitfulness, lack of concern for truth and consistency -- these are ethical attributes, properties of persons. Obama the bullshitter is an ethically defective president. When Nixon lied, he could be shamed by calling him on it. That is because he was brought up properly, to value truth and truthfulness. But the POMO Obama, like that "first black president" Bill Clinton, apparently can't be shamed. It's all bullshit and fakery and shuckin' and jivin'. There is no gravitas in these two 'black' presidents, the one wholly white, the other half-white. Everything's a 'narrative' -- good POMO word, that -- and the only question is whether the narrative works in the moment for political advantage. A narrative needn't be true to be a narrative, which is why the POMO types like it. Hanson has Obama's number:
But a third explanation is more likely. Obama simply couldn’t care less about what he says at any given moment, whether it is weighing in on the football name “Redskins” or the Travyon Martin trial. He is detached and unconcerned about the history of an issue, about which he is usually poorly informed. Raising the debt ceiling is an abstraction; all that matters is that when he is president it is a good thing and when he is opposing a president it is a bad one. Let aides sort out the chaos. Obamacare will lower premiums, not affect existing medical plans, and not require increased taxes; that all of the above are untrue matters nothing. Who could sort out the chaos?
[. . .]
The media, of course, accepts that what Obama says on any given day will contradict what he has said or done earlier, or will be an exaggeration or caricature of his opponents’ position, or simply be detached from reality. But in their daily calculus, that resulting chaos is minor in comparison to the symbolic meaning of Obama. He is, after all, both the nation’s first African-American president and our first left-wing progressive since Franklin Roosevelt.
In comparison with those two facts, no others really matter.
Is Obama an incompetent, way out beyond his depth? Or is he very skillfully executing the plan he had all along? N-Pod argues the latter.
The key to understanding what Mr. Obama has pulled off is the astonishing statement he made in the week before being elected president: "We are five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America." To those of us who took this declaration seriously, it meant that Mr. Obama really was the left-wing radical he seemed to be, given his associations with the likes of the anti-American preacher Jeremiah Wright and the unrepentant terrorist Bill Ayers, not to mention the intellectual influence over him of Saul Alinsky, the original "community organizer."
[. . .]
But foreign policy was another matter. As a left-wing radical, Mr. Obama believed that the United States had almost always been a retrograde and destructive force in world affairs. Accordingly, the fundamental transformation he wished to achieve here was to reduce the country's power and influence. And just as he had to fend off the still-toxic socialist label at home, so he had to take care not to be stuck with the equally toxic "isolationist" label abroad.
So why is there such a disconnect between what Obama once declared and what he subsequently professed? There are four explanations, none of them mutually exclusive:
A. Candidate Obama had no experience in foreign policy and has always winged it, now and then recklessly sounding off when he thought he could score cheap points against George Bush. As president, he still has no idea of how foreign policy is conducted, and thus continues to make things up as he goes along, often boxing himself into a corner with serial contradictions. Trying to discern any consistency or pattern in such an undisciplined mind is a futile exercise: what Obama says or does at any given moment usually is antithetical to what he said or did on a prior occasion. He is simply lost and out of his league.
B. Candidate Obama has always been an adroit demagogue. He knew how to score political points against George Bush, Hillary Clinton, and John McCain, without any intention of abiding by his own sweeping declarations. The consistency in Obama’s foreign policy is his own carefully calibrated self-interest. Bombing or not bombing, shutting down or keeping open Guantanamo Bay, going or not going to the UN or the U.S. Congress — these choices are all predicated not on principle, but only on what a canny and unprincipled Obama feels best suits his own political interests and self-image at any given moment. In a self-created jam, he flipped and now goes to Congress in hopes of pinning responsibility on them, whether we go or not, whether successful or unsuccessful if we do. He is a quite clever demagogue.
C. Obama is a well-meaning and sincere naïf, but a naïf nonetheless. He really believed the world prior to 2009 worked on the premises of the Harvard Law School lounge, Chicago organizing, and Rev. Wright’s Church — or least should have worked on such assumptions. Then when Obama took office, saw intelligence reports, and assumed the responsibilities of our highest office, he was shocked at the dangerous nature of the world! There was no more opportunity for demagoguery or buck-passing, and he had to become serious. In short, it is easy to criticize without power, hard with it to make tough decisions and bad/worse choices. He is slowly learning.
D. Obama is the first president who genuinely feels U.S. exceptionalism and power were not ethically earned and should be in an ethical sense ended. As a candidate, he consistently undermined current U.S. foreign policy at a time of two critical wars; as president, he has systematically forfeited U.S. authority and prestige. There is no inconsistency: whatever makes the traditional idea of the U.S as a superpower weaker, Obama promotes; whatever enhances our profile, he opposes. He is often quite angry at what could be called traditional America — seen often as a downright mean country here and abroad.
All of the above, say I. But especially (A), (B), and (D).
Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon. Conservatives have a tendency to try to win every debate with logic and recitations of facts which, all too often, fail to get the job done because emotions and mockery are often just as effective as reason. The good news is that liberals almost never have logic on their side; so they're incapable of rationally making the case for their policies while conservatives can become considerably more effective debaters by simply adding some emotion-based arguments and sheer scorn to their discourse. This has certainly worked on Twitter, where conservatives keep making the Obama campaign look like buffoons by taking over its hashtags.
The bolded sentence above is #5 of Saul Alinsky's Rules for Radicals. The rest of the text is from John Hawthorne's 12 Ways to Use Saul Alinky's Rules for Radicals Against Liberals. I agree entirely with Hawthorne's advice. I have come to see that calm and careful argumentation, the marshalling of facts, and all the rest of what constitutes rational persuasion are simply not enough. While necessary, they are not sufficient. Not sufficient, because most people are emotion-driven, not reason-driven. This is especially true of the young. It is the cool, not the cogent, that persuades them.
The Left knows how to fight and the Right had better learn. If you doubt that politics is war conducted by other means, then consider the following from a recent Dennis Prager column:
The head of the Louisiana Democratic Party, State Senator Karen Carter Peterson, D-New Orleans, stood before her colleagues in the state Senate and announced the reason people oppose Obamacare.
"You ready?" she asked three times.
It is President Obama's color.
"It isn't about the administration, and it should not be about the administration of the state nor federal level when it comes to Obamacare," she said. "But in fact it is. And why is that? I have talked to so many members in the House and Senate and you know what it comes down to? Are you ready for this? It is not about how many federal dollars we can receive. You ready? You want to know what it's about? It's about race. Now nobody wants to talk about that. It's about the race of this African-American president. ... It comes down to the race of the president of the U.S. which causes people to disconnect and step away from the substance of the bill."
What the senator said is of course egregiously false, and she must know it. But then why does she and so many other liberals say things like this? Because it is a useful lie. It is useful to the forwarding of the leftist agenda. Liberals lie and distort and smear because it works. The end justifies the means.
There are examples aplenty of this. For the Left, politics is a form of warfare. The above example, which is entirely characteristic, proves it.