Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Well, tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and I am headed to Utah to visit family. So posting will be light, if I post at all. So Happy Turkey Day! I hope we can all take a minute to actually be thankful for something (I know, times are tough, but they could always be tougher, right?) and enjoy our family and their company as much as the feast itself...
A few interesting things to read over this Holiday:
Thanking the Puritans on Thanksgiving
Is Thanksgiving Catholic?
A New American Pilgrim
This is what I like about the Crunchy Con movement and the New Urbanist movement, and how I see them becoming entangled. They both evoke the spirit of neotraditionalism. I just think change should emerge in a grassroots, community-first way, and that some of the most basic ways I believe we can change this culture of consumption is through an investment in our infrastructure, building cities that are once again friendly to the pedestrian and the neighborhood, rather than commuter islands built for the benefit of the oil and auto and construction industries. Let's create communities we can once again be a part of. That's real America--and it's an idea, not a geographic location, or the arbitrary colors red or blue on a map.
Certainly, had one remained in the insulated right-wing bubble during the course of the election (which many conservatives, alas, did) than one would suspect that Obama's choices would have consisted of terrorists, radical preachers, and Dennis Kucinich.
So Max is just a victim of a trend--intellectual isolationism--that is plaguing so many on the Right these days...
In any case, fingers are pointing. They will continue to do so. Both Douthat and Dreher think that placing the blame on the social conservatives is foolish.
Douthat does have some criticism though:
No, social conservatives aren't the problem for the GOP. But they haven't been the solution, either: Too often, on matters ranging from the Iraq War to domestic policy, they've served as enablers of Republican folly, rather than as constructive critics. And calling Catholics who voted for Obama "mindless" and "stupid" is a poor substitute for building the sort of Republican Party that can attract the votes of those millions of Americans, Catholic and otherwise, who voted for the Democrats because they thought, not without reason, that George W. Bush was a disastrous president whose party should not be rewarded with a third term in the White House.Good point. I'd say, exactly the point.
I would also like to add that there needs to be some self-examination infused into the populist wing of the GOP. I think the notion of Sam's Club Republicans does a good job to address this. I've read recently some pieces on Huckabee vs Palin, and how they're really not so different. People seem to think that basically because their politics are similar that the candidates themselves are somehow similar--or equal.
I would have to vehemently disagree. First of all, Huckabee was more experienced, certainly smarter or at least better spoken, but most importantly he was very, very likeable. He was the sort of person who, I believe, could have lead this nation as a whole despite political differences. He has some of Obama's charisma that can transcend political boundaries.
Palin does not, nor will she ever. Her tone from the beginning was acerbic and divisive--exactly what this country does not need. She did not come across as very wise, but rather very ambitious. Bobby Jindal, who vocally said he would not consider a VP slot and wanted to finish the job he started in Louisiana, exhibited wisdom. Palin...well, not so much.
So who will Social Conservatives support next time? As a group, will they exhibit wisdom? We shall see...
Robert Parry of Consortium News is reporting that in 1992 the Russians turned over to the White House a secret report confirming that senior US officials and Reagan campaign staff met with Iranian officials in Europe during the summer of 1980. The meetings, since known as the October Surprise, were designed to delay the release of the American Embassy hostages in Iran until after the US elections, depriving President Jimmy Carter of a success that might have kept him in office.
Parry is now reporting that current US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was also involved, according to the intelligence allegedly provided by the Russians. Gates was, at the time, a senior official in Carter’s National Security Council. If Gates was truly part of the meetings and was not reporting his activity to the White House, one might suggest that he was part of a conspiracy engaged in regime change, to use the currently popular expression. Parry suggests that Gates was rewarded after the election and that his career took off, eventually resulting in his being named Director of Central Intelligence.
I am more concerned that Obama is appointing only hawks to his cabinet than I am by any allegations about Gates, though the tale told by Parry is disturbing to say the least. Meeting clandestinely with the officials of a foreign country to come to an arrangement intended to influence the results of an election in the United States goes well beyond ordinary political shenanigans and makes Richard Nixon’s sins seem almost trivial.So it seems that Mr. Gates has weathered other storms, and transitioned more than once between Republican and Democratic administrations. Unbelievable.
Here, for example, are some texts that every Government concentrator at Harvard is required to study: The Declaration of Independence, The Articles of Confederation, Locke’s Second Treatise, The Federalist Papers, The Anti-Federalist Papers, Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, Tocqueville’s Ancien Regime, The Lincoln-Douglas Debates, Mill’s On Liberty, Arendt’s Origins of Totalitarianism, Thucydides’ Peloponnesian War.Happy reading!
An unknown person in a large crowd shouts "tyrant" at a political leader. If he knows history, it should strike fear into his heart. It would feel like the prelude to assassination. And yet, you would keep speaking. Nothing has happened yet, so of course, you go on, terror gnawing at your consciousness...I don't know. I'm sure someone, somewhere, has shouted tyrant at the man before this. If someone shouted tyrant at me I'd probably be a little flattered....
... men’s hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth....
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
I do think that his commitment to not only continue our mission in Afghanistan, but deepen and broaden it, is a hawkish position...
Obama initially positioned himself on the left of his party on this issue, but I would have a hard time believing anyone deduces that he continues to hold those foolish positions after looking at his appointments.
Indeed, expanding efforts in Afghanistan is certainly not dovish, though perhaps owl is a better term than hawk when it comes to Afghanistan. After all, Afghanistan has long been the "good war" while Iraq has been its more sinister twin. Certainly walking away from either would be disastrous, as Roland points out, but being smart and practical about these things is not the same as being a hawk.
Now if Obama decides to either A) invade Pakistan, or B) take a hard line with Iran or C) flex our military muscle with some other future threat, I may be willing to concede. But as it stands, I see Obama more as the practical politician (thank God!) who knows when quitting is simply the wrong, and inhumane action.
I’m sure that somewhere in the three dozen novels that comprise the Left Behind series the Gospel message is presented. But there is something horribly wrong when the greatest story ever told is buried beneath a third-rate tale of the apocalypse.Couldn't have said it any better myself...it's kind of how I felt about The Passion when it came out. Then again, I've personally boycotted that film, so I admit to never having seen it. Still....
...I think Christianist is a harsh term. So is "theocon." There are some radical Christians out there, but simply lumping a group together based on their religious beliefs is unfair--it's our actions that define us, and our intent. Thus we come by the term Islamist, as they have a specific goal to actually bring about a global Islamic caliphate. Their intent is to dispose of all other religions and forms of government. Their actions are often violent.
Those Sullivan deems Christianist, however, are typically not looking to establish a theocratic state, but rather have some of their cultural beliefs infused in government--can we honestly say that pro-life legislation would usher in a Christian Theocracy? Does a ban on gay marriage truly constitute the sort of radicalism associated with a term like "theocon"? I'm all for gay marriage, but I won't stoop to calling its opponents bigots or theocons. At times they are. Usually, they're not.
I’m much less averse than some conservatives to big infrastructure projects, and I’d particularly like to see high speed rail spring up between various American cities, although I must admit that I’ll always love the drive between Los Angeles and San Francisco...I'm with him on this one, for a number of reasons. First of all, infrastructure is one area that the government should have some hand in, especially big infrastructure--which is necessary in this big country of ours. Of course it's best when private industry is involved, and when has this not been the case? But to form a really cohesive inter-state infrastructure you need Federal involvement.
I'm also completely in favor of the high-speed rail idea. This country could benefit greatly from rail between cities, coasts...but we simply don't have enough actual rail on the ground to make passenger trains feasible. We need dedicated passenger rails, and to do this, quite frankly, we need government to light the spark. Eventually, I think the rails could not only be environmentally a boon to this country, but economically profitable. I love taking the train when I have the chance. If I could easily and quickly get to say LA or San Antonio or Chicago by hopping a train, I'd do it in a flash. No car repairs. No $4.00 gas.
Obama does seem committed in Afghanistan, though finishing a war is hardly the mark of a hawk. At this point, any other course of action would be dangerous. We need to at least stabilize the situation there before making our exit. With Pakistan's fingers so deep in the mess, I'm not sure how this can be done. So in my mind, it is likely that Obama will please no one but the pragmatists.
Perhaps Douthat is right:
Among right-wing hawks, there will be strange-new-respectful talk about Obama's centrist instincts, his Scoop Jackson-ish tendencies, his Reaganesque blend of idealism, pragmatism and strength. Meanwhile, the rest of the right-wing coalition will be getting steamrolled.I would disagree, however. Obama will do his best to disentangle us from foreign actions, and will also quite likely begin scaling back defense spending. That conservatives will be steamrolled is open to debate. Right now, we are all in this crazy economy together, and I think partisanship ought to be at the end of a long, long line...
In another fine moment at Eunomia, Larison sums up exactly my thoughts those long years ago as I was derided as unpatriotic for not supporting the Iraq war. (I have since been derided as a Bush-loving fascist for not wanting to withdraw immediately, so I suppose all good things come to those who wait!)
This adoption, or rather perversion, of the language of morality by supporters of aggressive policies abroad lends them an initial advantage in framing the debate and setting the terms. I cannot count the number of times that advocates for invading Iraq derided opponents for supposedly being unable to distinguish between good and evil or even for not recognizing the validity of such categories. On the contrary, I think opponents of the war were paying more attention to the line between the two, but what we objected to even more was the ready identification of a bad policy as an expression of Goodness and the idea that opposition to it was somehow morally corrupt.
"Ultimately, I believe that marriage will be strengthened if less people marry. This is a counterintuitive claim. But given the challenge inherent in matrimony, it stands to reason that there won't be as many couples truly compatible with marriage, in comparison to the numbers of people who married when marrying was simply something you had to do....My preferred vision of marriage involves a culture that approaches it more slowly, more cautiously, and with a greater appreciation of what marriage really entails. A stronger institution of marriage is one that has less frivolous and ill-considered marriages. (For those who are uncomfortable with the notion of less married couples in our society, I can think of many thousands of Americans who are desperate to join the franchise, if given the opportunity. But this is controversial.)"
Freddie deBoer, at Culture11
So I have never been very shy about shifting my political opinions as I evolve intellectually. I have juggled them quite a lot as new evidence or better arguments comes to light. I try to think of things deeply, without the fetters of ideology to too tightly constrain my thoughts(though this is not entirely possible all the time, one can certainly be less ideologically influenced if one tries).
The problem, all too often, is that good ideas are quashed by the ideologues. Yes, at times one needs to stick to ones principles. At other times, though, one needs to reevaluate them.
For instance, I once identified as a neo-con. Perhaps I jumped into those shoes too quickly. I was upset with the Left's willingness to abandon the Iraqi people, and supported finishing what we started, even though I was vehemently opposed to the invasion in the first place. I also supported military action for humanitarian purposes. Somehow, I guess, this made me think I was a neocnservative.
I'm frustrated to no end by the Iraq War, however. We are entangled worse than ever before in the quagmire of mid-east politics. We have emboldened and strengthened Iran. We are in a worse position to help Israel. The only bright light is that things are improving, that Saddam Hussein is dead and gone, and that we might be out of there soon, and while I don't consider it a victory, at least we won't have left Iraq in the throes of all-out civil war and genocide.
One unintended consequence of the war has been the way it has hamstrung any efforts the US may have made to intervene in crises of humanitarian nature that are fast approaching or may already have become genocidal. Like Darfur.
For a glimpse as to my meaning, check out these photographs of the current strife in the Congo. Here is a place that really does need outside help to stabilize. Well, between the disaster of this economy and the Iraq war, the twin failures of nation building and supply side economics, of democracy by force and trickle down economics, we have no ability to effectively intervene. Nor can we even flex the tiniest of muscles when an ally like Georgia is attacked by the Russians.
We have effectively out-sourced our industrial and manufacturing capabilities, and if the auto industry fails then we can kiss this era good-bye. I'm not a fan of bailouts, but come on people! Who will make our tanks? The Chinese? Who will bankroll them? The Chinese? What if we need them to fight the bloody Chinese? I doubt this is in the cards, but who knows?
I think along with the bankrupting of our financial system by greed and foolishness and ego; the off shoring of our manufacturing base; and the massive growth of the Federal government, defense spending, entitlements, etc. we also have seen a shift away from the American Tradition--that being an amalgamation of individualism, hard work, family, community, honest government, fiscal sanity, and moderation. Remember our grandparents? They were frugal--not perfect by any means--but they understand modesty, and simplicity, and hard work. My grandfather was a carpenter, built his own house, and along with my grandmother raised eight children, all of whom have been absurdly successful both in their marriages and in their careers.
What has happened to this generation? Coaxed along by a Government awash in debt, a capitalism of hyper-wealth, of derivatives and subprimes and a class of investment bankers who produce no goods or services, nothing tangible, but only profit endlessly through a series of magic tricks, the best and last being that magical house of cards we see crashing down around us now...
Can we be blamed for our high credit card debt? Our shallowness? Our apathy or materialism? These are the values that have been laid at our feet. Even our most prominent ministers, those heretical televangelists, have given up the old message of simplicity, of casting off our worldly possessions--the whole "first shall be last, and the last shall be first" has become an antiquated notion, I suppose.
And thus we find ourselves, a country wobbling. We are uncertain of our values. Our families have become disjointed, fractured--our divorce rate is higher than ever before--yet we focus on the subject of gay marriage, plucking that tiny speck of dust we see in our neighbors eye out before we see to the log in our own.
So I no longer consider myself a neoconservative. I started this blog because I think in the end, I am an independent--conservative to a point, and liberal to a point, and always searching for more knowledge, more truth, more reason and compassion and grace. There is not a sure answer anywhere. As Freddie said yesterday "I have a deep aversion to those who believe in one truth or one mechanism to advance human kind."
Indeed. And that's a good thing.
Friday, November 21, 2008
Thursday, November 20, 2008
I think both are right to some extent. I am very much in line with Dreher's desire to return the culture to a time of heightened spiritual belief, less materialism, and more simplicity. I just disagree that the marriage debate is a fundamental part of the equation. I think other things, like our consumer culture, our media and its glorification of cheap sex, extreme violence, and ridiculous wealth are all far more dangerous to our values than gay marriage.
Sullivan, on the other hand, is wrong to think we can never return to a more teleological society, driven by common purpose, a higher purpose. He's right in that social conservatives need to focus on what is truly important, and denying gays their basic rights is hardly that. With all the ills of this world, social conservatives should be too busy to care about gay marriage.
Essentially I think that the wrong questions are being asked. Modernity is full of moral qualms, but there are good things that have emerged as well. We need to find a way to determine what is truly good, universally good, that has been, perhaps, uncovered only now--like equal rights for women or gays--and what is bad, morally decrepit, or dangerous to a society.
William F Buckley wrote:
Conservatives pride themselves on resisting change, which is as it should be. But intelligent deference to tradition and stability can evolve into intellectual sloth and moral fanaticism, as when conservatives simply decline to look up from dogma because the effort to raise their heads and reconsider is too great.In other words, it is best to be conservative. Tradition has great value. We should seek the wisdom of the past. But we should not excuse ourselves any creative effort, or any reconsideration of our values simply because everything modern can be written off. Sometimes tradition is wrong.
Thus my constant call for balance. If we do seek to do away with some of the follies of modernity, let us be wise in our choosing. Few would argue that the advancements in science should be rolled back. Some social advances are equally right and just.
Saturday, November 15, 2008
Q: It was mentioned you were in favor of getting rid of the Department of Education. Is this true, and if so, how do you feel this would benefit the country?
A: I do believe in eliminating the Department of Education.
First, the Constitution does not authorize the Department of Education, and the founders never envisioned the federal government dictating those education policies.
Second, it is a huge bureaucracy that squanders our money. We send billions of dollars to Washington and get back less than we sent. The money would be much better off left in states and local communities rather than being squandered in Washington.Finally, I think that the smallest level of government possible best performs education. Teachers, parents, and local community leaders should be making decisions about exactly how our children should be taught, not Washington bureaucrats. The Department of Education has given us No Child Left Behind, massive unfunded mandates, indoctrination, and in come cases, forced medication of our children with psychotropic drugs. We should get rid of all of that and get those choices back in the hands of the people.
Paulson held a bazooka to taxpayers’ heads. He groveled on his knees in front of Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. He lured leaders from both political parties into linking arms in a panicked Chicken Little line dance for the beleaguered mortgage industry. Paulson demanded an unprecedented $700 billion troubled assets relief program for the good of the country. For the health of the housing market. For the survival of the economy. No time for deliberation. No time to review the failures of such interventionist approaches around the world. Now, now, now!Damn skippy.
It's a tough situation, though. Now we also have the auto-makers asking for a bailout, and probably more deserving of one than the idiots on Wall Street. Then again, is either industry really deserving of one? The collapse of the US auto-makers would be disastrous, but isn't it already happening? Hasn't it been a long time coming?
It certainly seems that way to me.
Friday, November 14, 2008
I've been thinking about the failures of Bush & co. and re-examining my belief in some basic economic philosophies. I've been blogging lightly and haven't written an article this week at all due to burnout and headaches.
So here are some things I've been reading:
Roland Dodds of "But, I Am a Liberal!" defends Lieberman, and makes a strong case for the Dems keeping him in his chairmanships. I agree, for one because it's just the smart thing to do, but also because Lieberman and the centrist DLC are my favorite part of the Democratic Party, and quite integral to its success in winning over moderates.
Check out Michael Lewis's "The End" which details the excesses and stupidities of the Wall Street industry and culture. Amazing. Just disgraceful. Excellent, excellent article.
For fun, read Rashid Khalidi's "Palestine: Liberation Deferred" While I am not politically in agreement with Mr. Khalidi, I thought the McCain camps attempts to use him as a smear against Obama were downright foolish. Christopher Hitchens agrees.
NormBlog has a moment of better Bushiness.
Bob from Brockley has a thought-provoking piece up: "A Land Without People for a People Without Land" and no, it's not what you're thinking...
The Stark Tenet has some good advice for Mr. Obama. On that note, read Ben Stein's piece at the NYT:
CHAMPION ONLY THE SERIOUS IDEAS Don’t sign on to any economic policy proposals without some statistical or theoretical heft to them.What a novel idea!
If you haven't already, read the late, great William F. Buckley's treatise on legalizing marijuana. He sailed out into international waters to smoke so as to not break the (bad) law prohibiting its use here. Problem was, he forgot to bring any snacks. Big mistake.
Frontline has a documenatary about Afghanistan out that is a must-see.
And over at Slate there is a conservative forum/debate over the future of the movement.
Unless you're Austin Bramwell, in which case you believe in "The Right to Remain Silent" and stay outside of the movement, where, he believes, the only real accomplishments are made.
Oh, and did you hear? Obama may tap Hillary Clinton for Secretary of State? If he really is building up a Team of Rivals, will he offer McCain a job?
While the world wrings its hands over the fate of an estimated quarter million people caught up in the roiling conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo, it seems likely that little will actually be done about the long-running African civil war. The best bet for stopping the violence, the United Nations' 17,000-strong multilateral peacekeeping force, known as MONUC, is spread thin and considered ineffective; it will take months to increase its presence in the country. The European Union is reluctant to deploy a crack force, and southern African leaders have committed only to sending in a "technical team." The world's response, in the words of Henri Boshoff, a military expert for the Institute for Security Studies in Pretoria, is likely to be "too little too late."And herein lies my frustration with the Iraq war. I won't even begin to describe what I think about the feckless, ineffective, shameless United Nations--but the US should not be tied down either in foolish wars or in the foolish exercise of protecting ungrateful allies from threats they denounce as false...
Believe it or not, I am going to say something nice about Democrat Rep. Dennis Kucinich. He voted against the bailout every time. In a ready-for-YouTube exchange, he snorted when Kashkari said, (paraphrasing here) “taxpayer money shouldn’t be poured into businesses that are going to fail.” Kucinich retorted that Kashkari would be hearing that line played back to him for the rest of his career.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Saturday, November 8, 2008
Friday, November 7, 2008
Here’s another version of the video showing Vlaams Belang and National Front leaders in Belgium, singing a vile antisemitic song, this time with English subtitles.
If you aren’t aware of the back story, Vlaams Belang is the neo-fascist group with which some so-called “anti-jihad” bloggers insist we need to make alliances. Vlaams Belang has sponsored “anti-Islamization” conferences in Europe, attended by some well-known writers and bloggers—who then turned around and attacked and smeared LGF for refusing to be associated with these Neanderthals.
Yeah. Fuck you too.
This raises an obvious question for The New York Times: should Bill Kristol’s contract as an opinion columnist be renewed when it runs up at year’s end? There is no problem with the conservative viewpoint advanced in his pieces—he was after all hired as a replacement for a conservative voice, William Safire. Still, the Times must be concerned about Kristol’s intervention in the campaign he was writing about. Simply put, the pundit meddled in the campaign he was commenting on.Interesting.
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
McCain Concedes (graciously)!
As of this writing I have seeded, on Newsvine, 270 links, the exact number Obama needed in electoral votes to win this thing. Well, he far surpassed that, and I think this election is as much a referendum on George W Bush and the failed policies of his administration as anything else.
It's also, as many pundits have put it, a transformational election. Nobody, regardless of political affiliation, can deny that. America has just elected the first Black President in its history. For the first time ever we have someone other than an old white guy at the helm--and that, in and of itself, is pretty damn cool.
So while I may not agree with Senator Obama on many things, I'm still filled with pride that America has come as far as it has. I think Obama has a real chance to govern from the center, for all of America, and I hope and challenge him to do so, and to work with his opponents in the coming years to make this country as great as it can be.
Congratulations Obama. You deserve it.
And on a side note, good job McCain, too. You fought hard, and bowed out graciously. You will always be one of the most admirable public servants this country has ever been blessed with.