Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Lode 9/28

Dwight D. Eisenhower was undoubtedly one of the heroes of World War II. Campaigning under the slogan, “I Like Ike”, the old general won a landslide election to become president of the great land he had helped to defend. Despite being a military man, Ike was also quite prudent when it came to national defense. Before leaving office, he warned, “in the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”

His advice is even more prescient today. The communists gave us a reason to keep military spending high, but with the collapse of the Soviet Union, the defense budget was cut out of necessity under Clinton. Now that the war on terror is going poorly, Bush and company are in need of a justification for Cold-War levels of defense spending. Hurricane Kartina has provided this justification.

The reasoning goes that if FEMA couldn't repsond quickly enough after Katrina, the military could. This is all well and good, except for one thing: the military was never meant for this role. It is entirely probable that military men and women could do as good a job as FEMA did. It is equally as probable that most firefighters could deliver the mail adequately. The difference is, of course, that firefighters do not carry guns.

It may seem benign to allow the military to help with natural disasters under the guise of homeland security. Yet, as the military takes larger and more intrusive roles in our affairs, we may wonder how wise it was to grant the military more power. If Ike was right, it will not be so easy to get the men with guns to give it back.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Reply to Troutsky

I have had the pleasure of engaging in a conversation of sorts with Troutsky. To say that we do not agree on much would be an understatement, yet, ironically, I have found that I can have a more reasonable discussion with a socialist who is steamed at how conservative our government tends to be than with a republican party hack who claims that his party is. In other words, Mr. Troutsky is thinking and I greatly appreciate it.

Some time ago, I asked him: What small changes would you recommend to assuage the damage done by the current system?

He replied in length.

Being one of the more thoughtful bloggers to engage me in this cyber spatial discourse, I want to provide an equally thoughtful response to your questions regarding my ideology and viewpoint and also thankyou for the somewhat rare , civil tone of your comments. It would seem at first blush that we have fundamental disagreements as to what constitutes "progress"in terms of historical development and human social conditions but this may be decieving, may in fact be more a product of labels and symbols and terminology than real opposition.

Your basic question has to do with my obviously radical beliefs and how I might effect changes given the modern "realm of necessity" and it's seemingly insurmountable blockages to the revolutionary project to which I subscribe. Somebody recently said "praxis is now an enigma".Yes indeed, the last seventy years has seen the movement for an international workers party eviscerated , due to some terrible mistakes in both theory and action. On these points the Left owes everyone a huge apology and a reckoning of those mistakes in detail is in order. Stalin was a tyrant, probably "evil", though I struggle somewhat with that word. Ho Chi Mihn, Mao, Nasser, and all the other "leaders" turned dictator or ideologue , teaches us something of the razors edge separating revolutionary struggle from fascist despotism. Some even attempt to include Hitler and Milosevich in the panapoly of discredited socialist leaders, a fine piece of propoganda, if false. I understand any distrust of the Left carried over from this last, brutal, blood spattered century.

But this notion of "dustbin of history" is to me an unscientific way of approaching past epochs and within each of the struggles these figures represent there is a matrix of cause and effect requiring a great deal of study and analysis before they are relegated to a place, much less a dustbin, in history. As Edward Said and others have taught, controlling the dominant narrative is the highest expression of imperialism, once our minds have been colonized the power has been projected without a shot having been fired. This is where the more modern concept of "The Spectacle", best expressed by Debord, comes into play with the New Imperialism and it's imperative to translate over-accumulated capital into some type of "fix". All of this to say, there is much modern theoretical work going on right now, much of it very exciting. There is a great deal of organizing and agitating going on right now, in areas such as global justice, human rights, environmental justice etc. There are many struggles against various forms of oppression going on right now, there is a huge global peace movement and all these factions are beginning to make linkages between themselves and the structural and systemic roots of their various causes, many of which, as Marx astutely pointed out, are economic in nature. In other words, we aint goin in no dustbin.

As to the question ,"what is to be done" or as you put it , what small changes can we hope to effect, knowing that we cannot overthrow capitalism overnight. Though you wouldnt know it by reading mainstream media, socialists are everywhere. There are still trade unionists who know exactly what the struggle is about, there are many more who still need to be organized. We have a long and proud tradition with many heroes but the schools don't teach it, the radio doesnt play our songs and the tv news won't mention our activities. General Electric owns NBC. (you get the point) Though sectarian factionalism plagues the movement, there are many parties and organizations, Communist, Socialist, Maoist , Marxist-Leninist etc.. who educate and demonstrate and are building a student movement, there are brilliant scholars and intellectuals working to adapt theory to contemporary issues but most importantly there is a mass groundswell of moral indignation at the denigration of basic liberal values which so many people around the globe believe exemplify the progress of mankind. For these well meaning "progressives", militarization, vast inequalities in opportunity and huge disparities in wealth are causing them to question bourgeois "democracy" and question authority, priveledge, wealth and power. What I do is constantly and at every chance possible point out to people the basic contradictions and immoral aspects inherent within the capitalist system and point them ,depending upon their development, to resources where they can learn more, to areas where they can become active and to likeminded comrades where they can find solidarity. Although I realize "liberal reforms" and electoral politics are a shadow game, they provide a space where i can interact with my fellow citizens and try to educate. For example, I worked on the Kerry campaign in several states and some local campaigns here in Montana knowing full well those figureheads are just part of the Spectacle but taking every opportunity to discuss capitalism with all the good liberals I meet. Lenin spoke of the unwillingness of Marxists to engage in the "realm of necessity" as "Left -wing infantilism" . Marx did not try to predict when the "rupture" of capitalist forces would occur, he did teach us to be ready and what signs to look for.

So what is a Libertarian to do in these times? Do your candidates hope to control the power of corporations? Do you hope to cut military spending? The few Libertarians I know who can articulate their views seem to have a great deal of faith in Friedman and the Market but at least they havent been bullied away from a vision of a better world. Call it idealistic or Utopian if you like, the courage to dream is diametrically opposed to the fear- based world view so in vogue now and is at the core of a humanistic spirituality so needed on our planet.

Indeed, what is a libertarian to do? First, I think that there are several areas where left and right--and perhaps only far left and far right--can emphatically agree. We would both say that an imperialist foreign policy is detrimental to the well-being of America. Perhaps we may not agree on the reasons playing empire is a bad idea, but a call to clean up the Iraq mess has been heard loudest from the far left, and recently, from the far right.

Secondly, we can agree that civil liberties need to be given back. The Patriot Act was a sham that should never stand up to constitutional muster and it stinks of the alien and sedition acts of yore. On these two limited fronts, I would offer to wage war. And there is one more.

It is imperative that Washington be rid of corruption. It is the job of Congress to spend money for the public good. While we would disagree as to what constitutes this "good", it is safe to say there are certain measures that are ostensibly not good, namely pork spending. It is difficult to find a way to do away with this egregious waste of tax-payer dollars--especially when the "fiscally conservative" republicans are very large culprits--but I have an idea that just may help. It starts with "term" and ends with "limits".

Our representatives no longer represent us in any real way. Rather, they are policy whores for the plutocratic corporations. Do not get me wrong, I have not had an epiphany and do not feel that corporations are intrinsically evil. Rather, I merely wish that our representatives were beholden to our interests, not those of some big-wig with money and power.

Term limits would undermine, at least in theory, the influence of the wealthy. Power is a wonderful narcotic. I am suggesting we mandate Congress does some time in rehab. Of course this is wonderfully idealistic. As big a bunch of fools as they may be, I know of no man who has fired himself of his own volition. Still, one can hope.

I believe that this would be all for now. Of course there are departments I wish to slash, and programs to cut, but advocating such is only treating the symptoms of the disease. While this is emblematic of a Western style medicinal approach--if not Western thought in general--forgive me if I suggest a way to treat the actual problem. It has been said--by me, among others--that our representative spend like drunken sailors. It is impossible to remove the drink of power, but a new crew of sailors may just do the trick.

Also, I do not believe capitalism is panaceatic. Ayn Rand seems to think so, but she is wrong. It is an imperfect system to be sure, but I cannot find a suitable replacement. It is immoral to take from one man to give to another, no matter his need. Christian compassion depends on the consent of the giver. To legislate morality is a bit of an oxymoron.

Lastly, libertarianism is admitedly, almost a doomed philosophy. The tendency is always to grow away from a libertarian style of government. So while I hope to turn the government right around, pragmaticism tells me that the prospect of saving this sinking ship mighty slim. My omnipresent pessimism is a bit depressing, but I cannot afford to run from what I see to be the truth of the matter.

It is just too bad I couldn't remain young and idealistic for very long. Twenty is too early to be bitter.

Monday, September 26, 2005

"Conservative" Ineffectiveness, Exhibit A: Partial-Birth Abortion

First, I must apologize to my regular readers for my absence. School has been keeping me rather busy unfortunately, and I simply haven't had the time to sit down to write. Nonetheless, I am back, at least for the moment. For partial birth abortions are back in the news, at least as a sort of a footnote and I felt that it couldn't hurt to grace the topic with my opinion.

The Bush administration has asked the Supreme Court to reinstate a ban on a procedure that critics call "partial birth" abortions, setting up a showdown that could be decided by the president's new choice for the court.

The appeal, which had been expected, follows a two-year, cross-country legal fight over the federal law.

An appeals court in St. Louis said this summer that the ban on late term abortion is unconstitutional because it makes no exception for the health of the woman.

First off, I hope all the pro-lifers are thrilled with all Bush has done on the abortion front. He passes a ban on a rare kind of abortion that all but the most callous pro-choicers would balk at. Then this wimpy law was over-turned in court.

Now, since I'm a state's rights guy, it may seem hypocritical to bash Bush for not getting something done that I wouldn't do myself. Unfortunately, state's rights are no longer applicable on any legitimate basis. Thus, playing hardball may be the only way to go.

Does this mean I am turning my back on my Constitutional principles? I say, no. If liberals are going to use the courts to get their agenda passed, is it not time for conservatives to do the same thing? If I sound conflicted, know that it is because I am.

After all, allowing the courts to legislate on an issue that falls under the jurisdiction of the states is by definition and increase in federal power, that is, an anti-conservative measure. So it seems that conservatives--those of us who actually wish to limit the power of the government--are caught quite soundly.

The revolution, when it comes to abortion or any other issue, must come from the legislature, but the court must let the legislature be. This sounds like it'll take a lot of work. If we can't even get a ban on partial birth abotion, how will we set up a legitimate conservative government that does not milk the taxpayers and infringe on liberty.

I could just stop being a dreary pessimist, ignore the facts and put on an optimistic air like Limbaugh does.

What fun would that be?

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Lesson (Not) Learned

Since Roberts has shown no sign of blatant conservatism, and even has fringe conservatives anxiously awaiting to see if Bush betrayed them, one would think that the Democrats don't have a leg to stand on if they choose to mount an opposition to the Roberts confirmation. Whether or not the opposition will be large enough to potentially stop the confirmation remains to be determined, though the prospect of Roberts not ending up as Chief Justice seems slim.

Yet despite the fact that Roberts has shown no signs of "extremism", nor do the democrats have enough votes to stop the confirmation--barring the use of the filibuster--a certain democratic senator is going to vote against Mr. Roberts. As a side note, this puts the number of opposing votes at half of the number Ruth Bader-Ginsberg got.

The Senate Democratic leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, said Tuesday that he would oppose the confirmation of Judge John G. Roberts Jr. as chief justice, surprising both the White House and fellow Democrats still conflicted about how to vote.

In becoming the first Democrat to declare formally how he intended to vote, Mr. Reid may have made it more difficult for fellow Democrats to support Judge Roberts. Many Senate observers expected Mr. Reid, who comes from a Republican-leaning state and is opposed to abortion, to support Judge Roberts.

To be honest, this just surprises me. The democrats have to know that they got lucky on Roberts. Bush could have appointed a Scalia clone, but he didn't. Further, if the Dems play hardball now, not only will this play out poorly in the press--just a hunch--but Bush can pick a Scalia clone next time around for O'Connor's seat.

And O'Connor's seat is what really matters. Put a conservative in the place of Rehnquist and nothing changes. Place a conservative in O'Connor's chair and the court becomes more right-leaning.

A lot could still happen, and the story will play itself out. There is a lesson in all of this, as always. Bush appointed a moderate to placate the more moderate members of his party as well as the democrats. As Bush is not a student of history, this is no surprise. Still, he should note that this time, as in times past, it did not work.

As Joseph Gannon once observed, "It's a damned good thing to remember in politics to stick to your party and never attempt to buy favor of your enemies at the expense of your friends."

Bush has sold his party out again and again. Will the Republicans finally get it?

If the conservatives in this country possess a lick of good sense, they will make "Won't Get Fooled Again" the party song in '08 and try to stage a real revolution where Reagan left off.

I am getting tired of saying it.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Katrina Clean-Up

From what I've read, Bush said we're going to rebuild New Orleans during his speech last week. While a bad investment, there is something to be said for the sentimental value of the Big Easy, so I'll refrain from complaining, for now.

As long as the money spent is somehow made up, I'm not going to raise a whisper. There are plenty of government programs to cut, and if the feds need a hand at discerning which to choose, I will offer my services free of charge. Alternatively, Bush could raise taxes. This would solve the revenue problem, although the last thing he needs is another drop in his approval ratings.

So what is Bush going to do?

President Bush on Friday ruled out raising taxes to pay for Gulf Coast reconstruction, saying other government spending must be cut. "You bet it will cost money, but I'm confident we can handle it," he said.

"It's going to cost whatever it's going to cost, and we're going to be wise about the money we spend," Bush said a day after laying out an expensive plan for rebuilding New Orleans and the Gulf Coast without spelling out how he would pay for it.

Years ago, when I was a naive Republican, I would have believed him. This is the same Bush who has a vice-president named Cheney. It was Cheney who said that, "deficits don't matter" and then went on to show that not enough people care to prove him wrong. Looks like the deficit gets bigger again, as we all know Bush is not going to cut spending. I bet the Chinese are stoked.

Bush said it's important that government quickly fix the region's infrastructure to give people hope. Asked who would pay for the work and how it would impact the nation's rising debt, Bush said he was confident the United States could pay for reconstruction "and our other priorities."

He said that means "cutting unnecessary spending" and maintaining economic growth, "which means we should not raise taxes."

Someone please tell Mr. Bush he cannot have his cake and eat it too. One cannot play empire, cut taxes, and increase domestic spending. Even FDR knew that, as social spending fell during World War II. With respects to fiscal responsiblity, Bush is closer to Johnson than Reagan.

It is high time we stop this nonsense about Bush being conservative. He is a liberal, who loves to spend more money than the government has. Even Clinton balanced the budget.

Perhaps I am judging Mr. Bush too harshly. He could, in fact, cut spending to raise money for New Orleans. The trouble is, his record precedes him. And that record is nothing, if not worrisome.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Praise God and Purge the Seminaries

To say that "liberal" Catholics were disappointed with the election of Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, is an egregious understatement. In light of the scandals involving pedophile priests, the new Pope is wasting no time in cleaning house, and those same liberals are not going to be too happy about it.

Investigators appointed by the Vatican have been instructed to review each of the 229 Roman Catholic seminaries in the United States for "evidence of homosexuality" and for faculty members who dissent from church teaching, according to a document prepared to guide the process.

Amid all the jokes about priests and altar boys, the scandal has been framed in the wrong light. The Church is not suffering from a pedophilia problem, but a problem with homosexual priests. Michael D. Rose, editor of the New Oxford Review, has been saying this for years, most notably in his book Goodbye Good Men, but when the New York Times--hardly a proponent of Catholic sentiment--backs up these assertions, suddenly the validity of the homosexual problem is more secure.

The issue of gay seminarians and priests has been in the spotlight because a study commissioned by the church found last year that about 80 percent of the young people victimized by priests were boys.

It is unknown how many Catholic priests are gay. Estimates range widely, from 10 percent to 60 percent.

It is amazing to me that the Times had the fortitude to print this. Even if the high-end estimates are true, we have sixty percent of a population committing eighty percent of the acts. The gay priests are working overtime to the tune of twenty-five percent. If the low-end estimates hold true--and priests about accurately reflect the high-end estimates of homosexuality in the population at large--the results are even more staggering. Suffice it to say that homosexual priests are not only committing more heinous crimes, but doing so at a greater rate than heterosexual priests.

Benedicts reaction then, is quite understandable. Obviously, those homosexuals who are, "practicing", so to speak, should not be allowed to be priests. Whether one agrees with Catholic thought on the issue of homosexulaity or not, one must agree that consistency begs that the priests of the Church refrain from serious sin.

The tougher issue is whether or not homosexuals who are living chastely may still continue to be priests. Benedict thinks not. I am not entirely sure. What I will say, however, is that if a young man is a homosexual, he is putting himself into a very bad situation by joining the seminary. We ask God to "lead us not into temptation" but he expects us not to seek it out. Putting a gay man in a seminary is only slightly better than throwing a straight man into a sorority. The dots connect themselves.

Benedict is not lacking in passion for reform. Many will feel that he has over-reached in condemning all homosexual priests. For while homosexual priests are more likely to become pedophiles, certainly not all gay priests are living in sin. It seems a bit absurd to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

That being said, the new Pope's heart is in the right place, and change is needed now more than ever in the Catholic Church. Not the change liberals would seek; change that would reject Christian traditions and render the Church an institution lacking authority, leaving us as just another group of Protestants. What Benedict must do, and indeed is already starting to do, is to give the Church a good scrubbing. A bath, or baptism if you will.

Only a renewal of the orthodox teachings of the Roman Catholic Church will save her. She has not stood for two millennia by confirming to the winds of a changing world. She has clung to the Truth she was founded on and stood the test of time. Fad after fad has come and go, but the Holy Church remains. Benedict will bring her through this storm, just as the Popes of the past have. After all, God is with him, and us. And amidst the suffering a few bad apples have wreaked upon some unfortunate people, that is a great comfort.

One Nation, Under...

If the judge hadn't been from San Francisco, and I hadn't been following the steady moral decline of our wonderful society, this one may have come as a bigger shock. Apparently, the Pledge of Allegiance is unconstitutional. The decision was made in district court, and will be appealed. Unfortunately, San Francisco is in the 9th Circuit. The most liberal circuit court in the land will let the decision standl; my money is on it and I'm not even a gambling man. That'll leave it up to the Supreme Court to finally settle this once and for all, since, of course we all know that the Pledge is something the high court should stoop to deal with.

U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton ruled that the pledge's reference to one nation "under God" violates school children's right to be "free from a coercive requirement to affirm God."

With all due respect, Mr. Karlton, I think you should move. My student loan just went through and I will personally pay for your ticket. The Declaration of Independence states that, "..all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.." I am sure you are familar with Jefferson's works, good sir, and while the Declaration is by no means a legally binding document, it is powerful symbol of our Christian heritage.

Chesterton once said, "The Declaration of Independence dogmatically bases all rights on the fact that God created all men equal; and it is right; for if they were not created equal, they were certainly evolved unequal. There is no basis for democracy except in a dogma about the divine origin of man." Adding anything to that on my own diminishes the brilliance of his point.

Karlton said he was bound by precedent of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which in 2002 ruled in favor of Sacramento atheist Michael Newdow that the pledge is unconstitutional when recited in public schools.

In another typical moment of genius, Chesterton wrote, "The atheist is not interested in anything except attacks on atheism." To a large extent, this is quite true. It certainly is in the case of Mr. Newdow.

I was talking with a nihilist friend of mine about this very thing. I told him that if he really believed that there wasn't a God, he would have no trouble with me pledging that he exists, and that he should actually just laugh at me when I pray. He chuckled and agreed, and I thanked for his consistency and honesty.

What is at stake to the Christian with the pledge is infinitely more than what it at stake for the atheist, at least in my humble opinion. Newdow and like-minded folks should in no way be forced to say the pledge, but neither should folks who wish to say it be prevented from doing so. As the oft repeated cliche goes, freedom of religion does not mean freedom from religion.

It is not my intent to blow this out of proportion. The loss of the pledge will not be the end of the world. However, the religious heritage of this country has been eroding away for some time. It is true that the religious right still exerts a powerful force, but in numbers only. When it comes to the culture war, the secular left has won. This recent case is simply evidence of this.

Perhaps the reason that the atheists keep winning is that they care about it more than the Christians do. This would seem to prove Chesterton right. Regardless of the reasons, each day this republic slides away from the deistic framework it once sat firmly upon. Is it any wonder that this fall has had disastorous reprecussions for all?

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Roberts II

My reaction to the Roberts nomination was initially one of jubilee. That feeling has been waning for some time. It doesn't help when Joseph Farah compares him to Stephen Breyer. While not a regular reader of Mr. Farah, he writes for WorldNetDaily, home of some of my favorite commentators. Rather than act as a mouthpiece for Bush--like Rush and Hannity often do--WND seems more principled than, say, FoxNews.

John Roberts still has most conservatives buffaloed.

They just can't believe George W. Bush would betray them so boldly.

But he has.

Even I, the ultimate skeptic, am just beginning to fathom the extent of the shell game that has been played on conservatives – most of whom are actively working on behalf of the confirmation of a new chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court who will make Ruth Bader Ginsberg look like a moderate.

Stephen Breyer. That's who Roberts most resembles, according to his friend.

The article is mostly taken from one source, so it is best to take Farah's piece with a grain of salt. That being said, if Roberts truly is a moderate or liberal, that would explain the lack of outrage over his appointment. Farah's piece alone isn't enough to convince me completely. It is Roberts himself who is doing his best to do that.

Supreme Court nominee John Roberts jousted with Democratic senators Tuesday at his confirmation hearing to be chief justice, dodging their attempts to pin down his opinions on abortion, voting rights and other legal issues.

Roberts said he felt the landmark 1973 ruling legalizing abortion was "settled as a precedent" and that the Constitution provides a right to privacy.

I can't imagine those words coming from Thomas or Scalia. I was hoping for more of a "there is no carte blanche right to privacy" approach. Also, Roe v. Wade is a case of judicial activism. Hiding behind precedent is cowardly. Why don't we just go back to the precedence of Plessy v. Ferguson while we're at it? Why can't Roberts come out and admit what conservatives--and honest liberals--know to be true?

To an extent, I'm willing to let Roberts' cowardice slide. After all, with a slim majority made up of McCain like moderates and a group of Democrats who realize what is at stake, it may be best to play it cool. If, however, Roberts does come down on the pro-choice side of any decision, the conservatives may have finally had enough.

The fringe left--NARAL and People for the American Way for instance--are displeased that Roberts won't tie himself down to a stance on the abortion issue. The liberals in the Senate seems slightly ticked that Roberts won't do something stupid that they can use for ammo against Bush. I've never paid attention to a Supreme Court nomination, but things appear to be going well enough, at least for Roberts.

Whether or not they are good for conservatives, and by extension the republic, remains to be seen. Bush's legacy, and the future of the Republican Party, hang in the balance.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Back to Bashin'

I knew yesterday's niceties wouldn't last too long. News of Brown's resignation overshadowed the Roberts hearing. Still, the coverage of the short affair had a few lines that brought be back to my old self. Everytime I read about a congressmen, I feel a combination of anger and humor, both in equal parts.

Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) made 49 first-person references in a 10-minute statement that was, ostensibly, not about himself.

Ah yes, the ego of a congressman is not something to be easily topped, at least outside of Hollywood. Thanks for reminding me why I have such a hard time voting for either of the two major parties. Check your ego at the door next time. Please?

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) showed exceptional emotional versatility, working a crossword puzzle during the hearing and then choking back a sob while making a prosaic statement about partisanship.

I really hope he finished the crossword. I can understand the man's need to take a break. His job is pretty hard. I mean, where else can a person make $158,100 a year for showing up to the occasional dull speech or a roll call and vote? Then again, if I had to listen to Mr. Schumer talk about himself for ten minutes, you can bet I'd be engaging in a harder drug than a crossword puzzle. So maybe Coburn does get a pass...

A television camera behind Coburn caught the senator working a crossword puzzle. But Coburn went from detachment to emotional overdrive when it was his turn to talk; seconds after asserting that "a super-legislator body is not what the court was intended to be," he paused and wept.

...but crying? Come on, Tom, you're a big kid now. I probably shouldn't be ripping on the guy since it would appear that I agree with him, at least when it comes to the high court. Still, I don't know if the tears are helping anybody. The whole republic is coming down, Mr. Coburn. It's okay, the light will be carried forth by another people at another time. You just get back to your crossword puzzle.

The rest of the article is pretty dull, as small bits are thrown out by senators, leading me to believe that the Roberts nomination is going to be a cakewalk for Bush. Funny that majority party thing.

Only two more points left to make. Roberts gave a pretty short speech. No, I don't know what that means. But he did reference baseball.

Roberts delivered what may have been the shortest opening statement by a modern Supreme Court nominee -- less than seven minutes, including the thank-yous and two baseball metaphors.

I keep going back and forth on this Roberts fellow. He's Catholic and he likes baseball. Should be nothing but good news. We'll see I guess.

Lastly, the small group of protesters cracked me up.

With the nation distracted by the hurricane and flooding down south, neither left nor right nor middle displayed much energy. By 10:30 a.m., only 170 people had showed up for public tickets to witness the noon proceedings -- making unnecessary the plastic cordons and the queue signs leading almost all the way to Union Station. Outside the Russell Senate Office Building at 11 a.m., a grand total of 21 people demonstrated against Roberts, chanting: "Two-four-six-eight, separation of church and state!"

Twenty-one people. Wow. If the reporters can count the exact number of people in your protest, it's not a protest. It's a field trip. Sometimes you just have to chuckle.

Micro-Government 101

The news cycle has been dominated with stories that have just plum not interested me lately. Thus I am going to do something a bit different for today's post. I'm going to talk about my life, and use a little story to illustrate some sort of lesson.

I live in a house with three other guys. The four of us attend Michigan Technological University. We are all juniors and have been friends since we met in the dorms freshman year. As was to be expected, living in close proximity to one another in the dorms was one thing, but having to share everything is proving to provide many learning oppurtunities.

The most recent incident to illustrate the tension created when people have to share living quarters is as follows. My housemate Kevin gave himself a haircut. As an aside, the haircut was less than stellar and Donny, another housemate, had to give it some finishing touches. Anyway, Kevin did not clean up all the hair that was spilled in the bathroom. Zac, the final housemate, is a neat freak and spazzed when the hair remained two days later.

A house meeting was called and we discussed how people were not obeying the implicit rule that when you used something, you need to clean up after yourself. It's a good rule to be sure. No one likes having to sit on a dirty toilet or to cook on a skillet that has gunk all over it. Yet, we were not obeying the rule. Why, I wonder?

Obviously, a rule is a grand thing, but without some sort of incentive, either positive or negative, the rule is not going to work completely. This incident reflects less poorly on myself and the fellows I live with, and more on the whole of humanity. And here comes the predictable lesson. People are fallible and cannot be trusted to govern themselves based on a code of honor.

But there is another lesson, too. A certain amount of government is needed. We instituted a fine that will go to a general house fund. This will, supposedly, provide a disincentive to not clean up after oneself. I'm skeptical as to how long this rule change will work, if at all, even though it was my idea.

This government thing is harder than it looks. Maybe I should stop being so harsh on the folks in Washington. I'm sure this stage will pass and I'll call for hellfire to rain down upon the beltway in no time.

This has been a slightly humbling experience. I don't wish to over-dramatize the event. It was hardly worth mentioning at all, except to demonstrate the larger points that I have made. Governing is quite difficult, and at times we--or maybe it's just me--need to remember that our elected representatives are doing the best they can.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005


Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton have to be at least a little ticked. It is one thing when fellow African-American Kanye West plays the race card as he did earlier this week, but now Howard Dean is joining the game. This move is surely an attempt to diminish the little credibilty he has, making him on par with, say, the Huffington Post.

Race was a factor in the death toll from Hurricane Katrina, Howard Dean told members of the National Baptist Convention of America on Wednesday at the group's annual meeting.

Race was a factor because the hurricane was racist. In fact, I think Katrina was a hate crime. Please.

Dean, chairman of the Democratic party, made the comments to the Baptists' Political and Social Justice Commission. The Baptist Convention, with an estimated 3.5 million members, is one of the largest black religious groups in the country.

Can you say cheap PR stunt? Keep telling those black folks how much the Democrats love them and how much the Republicans hate them. Also, Dean made some pretty harsh anti-Christian remarks earlier. Apparently you are free to worship Christ if you are black and vote for the Democratic party. Must have missed that chapter of the Bible.

The Democrats love to talk about how the Republicans would want to "turn back the clock". Note: this is not a statement regarding daylight savings time, at least, near as I can figure. While in some respects this is true--conservatives do love those founding fathers--the expression is usually meant with respect to two things. First, abortion. I haven't the time or the energy to address that one now. The other issue to which the phrase applies, is race.

It is obvious that if we white conservative Christian folk could, we'd put every African American in shackles. Of course the propostion is absurd. Can you imagine the NBA with only white people? The ratings would be so low MSNBC would blush. Since we all know all people care about is money--especially those confounded conservatives--I think it's safe to assume that slavery will remain a historical phenomenon, in this country at least.

What irks me most about the race card is that it's played even when it doesn't help the hand. Are there racist people in America? Unfortunately, yes. We can only hope the backwards cretins in-breed until they all win darwin awards. But until the world becomes a perfect place--or we're all one big happy race--racism is going to be an issue. To say that "race was a factor" in a natural disator like this betrays all the sacrifices the great civil rights leaders of the past made. We've got a ways to go on the race issue, but can't we recognize racism from unfortunate events? I guess not.

The fact of the matter is, race wasn't an issue as much as income was. The mayor told people to leave. The people without money could not do so. As far as I know, and I could be wrong, the police were not preventing blacks from leaving the city. If that was the case, I'll join the protest.

There were a lot of people in New Orleans who didn't have a significant enough rainy day fund to provide for a journey to safety. While some were clearly living in dire poverty, I wonder how many of the "poor" owned, say, cable televisions. Being up to one's ears in debt is the American way, but when it leads to being in water up to one's neck we may want to rethink our priorities. I'll wager we're not going to see this slant in the mainstream news outlets. Someone has to buy the products sold during commercial breaks you know.

There is a connection between being African-American and living in poverty. While Dean and company would love to blame whitey, no one wishes to point the blame back at the community itself. Seven out of ten children of black mothers are born out of wedlock. Until this statistic changes, it doesn't matter who's in charge or what color folks are.

It's easy for me to say all of this. I am a white kid raised in suburbia, and as such I may not have the necessary credentials to comment on the matter. That being said, we are never going to make further inroads on the race issue until people are willing to take responsibilty for their actions. If saying so means I come off sounding Limbaugh-esque, so be it. A spade is a spade is spade.

Dean is contributing to the problem by allowing people to abdicate responsibility. I am not saying that this tragedy should be blamed on the poor people in New Orleans. What I am saying, is that there are several lessons to be learned here if we stop and take the time to look at the issues.

I guess it's easier to point fingers at the man with power. Maybe we can even come up with a federal program or two while we're at it.

It appears that it is division and finger pointing, and not learning from mistakes and taking responsibility for one's actions that is the national past-time.

Gays Not Welcome (I Guess)

So basically I reported it wrong. Fortunately I'm just a blogger and not a real reporter. Honestly, you folks can come to me for witty commentary if you want, but the best place to get one's news is not from me. I haven't the time to be a thorough reporter. Sorry, but even Dan Rather gets things wrong once in awhile right?

Oh, yeah, I should probably say what I got wrong. Turns out governor Schwarzenegger is not going to sign the gay marriage bill. This could have some potentially dangerous ramifications for Mr. Arnold, but it would appear he has mastered the game of politics by coming up with a very good reason for his veto.

Schwarzenegger said the legislation, given final approval Tuesday by lawmakers, would conflict with the intent of voters when they approved a ballot initiative five years ago. Proposition 22 prevents California from recognizing same-sex marriages performed in other states or countries.

A fascinating idea governor. You mean to say that the citizens of a state should be free to decide what moral precepts they accept? The idea seems downright revolutionary.

As a short aside, the founders set up a republic because of their fear and distrust of the people. However, on a state level, this fear is substantially less founded. As discussed yesterday, the ability of people to move acts as a buffer against tyranny. At the very least, the whole thing is a bit curious. The "representatives" apparently disagree with the people they are supposed to be representing. No system is perfect.

And then, just when I think that old Arnold has finally done something that I can agree with, he goes and says something stupid. These things happen.

The Republican governor had indicated previously that he would veto the bill, saying the debate over same-sex marriage should be decided by voters or the courts.

Not the courts, in the name of everything that is sacred and holy, not the courts. This is so absurd it hardly merits my attention. If the voters vote something in, it should stand. I don't see how a ban on gay marriage is counter to the California constitution, but then again, crazier things have happened--such as making up a right to privacy and taking away property rights. The decision, Arnold, belong with the people, not the courts. Half right.

Kudos to the man anyway for throwing down the gauntlet and using the veto. I'll take right for slightly wrong reasons. It is Arnold after all.

California: Gays Welcome

California is, arguably, this nation's most left-leaning state. It should come as no surprise then that the state has passed a bill giving the rubber stamp to gay marriage. The bill awaits the approval of Governor Schwarzenegger, who, if memory serves me correctly, said he will sign it.

The California Legislature on Tuesday became the first legislative body in the country to approve same-sex marriages, as gay-rights advocates overcame two earlier defeats in the Assembly.

The 41-35 vote sends the bill to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

My stance on gay marriage is well known. As a practicing Catholic, I find the prospect of homosexual intercourse to be morally repugnant. Yet, as an amateur student of our wonderful constitution, I am quietly applauding this decision. For just as surely as this is a loss for traditional marriage, it is a victory for state's rights.

I firmly believe that the 10th amendment is the most underrated of all the brilliant restrictions placed on the federal government by our founding fathers. This may come as a surprise to folks who have only known a post-Warren supreme court, but once the law of the land was dictated by legislatures. Actually, a very long time ago, it was dictated by the states. The important thing is that both dictations stem from the people, the "consent of the governed" if you will.

Moral decisions were supposed to be left to the states precisely because moral issues are divisive. Reasonable people are not going to see eye-to-eye on abortion and gay marriage because the issues have a moral basis. Rather than allow several men and women in robes to circumvent the will of the people--and tick off half the population--the people should be able to decide which moral laws should govern them.

Detractors complain that we will have different standards in different states. Precisely. Democracy depends on the ability of patrons to vote with their feet. That is one of the principles which this nation is founded on. Since government tends to become corrupt, the citizen's ability to move to a less repressive state regulates the power of the bureaucracy.

Someone invariably tells me that then people will simply move to get around the laws. And what is so wrong with that? A great many Minnesotans drive to Wisconsin to buy fireworks. Legally speaking, an abortion is simply an economic service, no different from the economic good that is purchasing fireworks, though I wager fireworks are a bit more fun.

Gay marriage then, does not quite fit into this analogy. Homosexuals will simply have to stay in those states which allow members of the same sex to marry. It is ture that this will cause a few conflicts between states. This will give the supreme court something to do, since a return to state's rights will leave are justices quite bored.

Surely the small inconveniences that will have to be worked out are a small price to pay for adhering to the bill of rights. The alternative is a federal standard that is either deemed homophobic or decadent. I do not care to participate in a civil war--even if only a cold one--over something that is so trite a matter.

One need look no further than Roe v. Wade to see what happens when a government mixes moral standards and legalese. If mixing relgion with politics is problematic--and at a federal level it assuredly is--mixing principles antithetical to the religious precepts of a majority of the citizens with politics is equally undesirable. No matter who "wins" on the gay marriage debate, there are going to be some folks who are just plain steamed.

When the federal government plays moral arbiter, it takes away the citizen's greatest power: the ability to vote with one's feet. We would not tolerate having to purchase all of our groceries from one store. Why do we react with indifference when the feds set up one standard of rules for everyone to play by?

It is true that I wish the legislature in California would have voted the other way on this one. Hopefully, the other states will not follow suit. Of course some states will vote against and others in favor; such is the nature of the 10th amendment. This being said, I can manage a smile knowing that those dead white guys who set up this wonderful experiment are way more clever than we ever give them credit for. The system does work.

Now if we would only listen to those fellows more often we may just manage to save this republic from doom. Preservation. Now that is something that transcends moral viewpoints.

Lode 9/7

As promised, here is my column for today's Michigan Tech Lode:

One would think that in the wake of a horrific tragedy such as Hurricane Katrina the partisan bickering would be put aside. One would be wrong.

The Bush bashers are out in force. According to his many detractors, Bush's mistake this time is that he under-funded Louisiana. I think they are absolutely right. Bush—who is too dumb to speak coherently, at least according to the Democrats—is fully culpable for Katrina. Impeach the man now!

As far as my knowledge, I do not believe anyone has blamed Bush completely for Katrina. But taking the point to it's logical extension illustrates the inefficacy of the attack.

There are several problems with this round of attacks on Mr. Bush. First, in what has become a staple of leftist ideology: money solves problems. This is woefully absurd. Is it unfortunate that Bush allocated less than half of the money needed to guard against this sort of thing—as if Katrina was preventable? Of course. But had he upped the budget threefold American citizens would still have died by the hundreds. The folks in New Orleans died not so much from a lack of Benjamins as a lack of food and water.

It is further interesting to note that liberals have consistently slammed Bush—and I think rightfully so—for the mounting deficit. Well, Bush actually cut spending. Rather than praise the man, he is slandered for not being able to allocate money for everything and simultaneously keep the budget balanced. You cannot always have your cake and eat it too.

Pointing out the speck in Bush's eye only distracts us from the planks—and there are many. In the end, history will probably show that we could have done things better in New Orleans. Yet, last I checked, humans are still held at the mercy of nature and will forever remain so. To say otherwise is, at the very least, bad strategery.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Poor Snowball?

Hurricane Katrina has dominated the news since it hit, and deservedly so. Most of the stories are relevant, if painful. Still, there are seeds of irrelvancy in the forest of poignancy. What I suppose could be called "the tale of Snowball" is one of them. And yes, the pun was intended.

Among the thousands of crushing moments from last week's deadly hurricane, one image brought the anguish home to many: a tearful little boy torn from his dog while being shuttled to safety.

It tugged at the heartstrings, prompting an outpouring from around the country of people on the hunt for both the boy and his dog Snowball in hopes of a reunion.

Where is Bush on this one? Sure, we've got untold thousands dead, but this kid probably feels terrible. Everyone knows that the president's job is to make sure people feel good all the time. It's not as if he has a good excuse for not looking for Snowball himself. It's not as if Katrina is a worse tragedy--in sheer number of lives--than 9/11. Oh wait.

A side note: does anyone think Bush is going to declare war on natural disasters?

The story goes on to talk about all of these people who are sad about the boy and his dog. Now on one hand I do understand that he's not too thrilled to be missing his best friend. The thing is, he's a kid, and we expect children to be irrational. Adults should know better. Turns out they don't, as shown here:

"We had dogs that swam the entire time in 4 feet of water and survived," said Parks. "Even cats were in about 8 to 9 inches of water in the upper cages and they swam and survived, too. Just like everybody else, they're survivors."

I want you all to read that last line again.

Just like everybody else, they're survivors.

Wrong. A dog is just a dog, and a human life is infintely more important than a dog's life. I am sorry for the kid, but I cannot get worked up over a few cats and dogs. We should of course, treat animals humanely, but we shouldn't treat them as equal to humans because they are not.

Dennis Prager sums up nicely what is wrong with this picture.

The majority of American students I have asked since 1970 whether they would save their dog or a stranger have voted against the stranger.

A Tucson, Ariz., woman in late 2004 sent firefighters into her burning home telling them that her three babies were inside. The babies for whom the firemen risked their lives were the woman's three cats.

The best known animal rights organization, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), funded by the best educated in our society, has launched an international campaign titled "Holocaust on your plate," which equates the barbecuing of millions of chickens with the cremating of millions of Jews in the Holocaust. To PETA and its supporters, there is no difference between chicken life and human life.

Only a very morally confused age could produce so many people who do not recognize the immeasurable distance between human and animal worth. We live in that age.

Indeed we do, and Snowball has proven to be a perfect illustration of this.

Monday, September 05, 2005


I've recently been hired for the point/counter-point section of the Michigan Tech Lode. As it's name suggests, an issue is chosen and the other fellow and myself grab a side and argue. It's safe to assume I play the conservative pundit. This week, I defended Bush against his accusers. I'll post my column Wednesday--when the paper comes out. Until then, there is a smaller problem to deal with.

William Rehnquist died over the weekend. The Chief Justice was a throw-back to the days when the Constitution actually mattered. Conservatives, and indeed, all Americans should be a little sad with the passing of the great man.

Bush, in what can only be construed as an attempt to placate no one, has nominated Roberts for chief justice. When Roberts was nominated, I was thrilled, but skepticism has been growing. Many conservatives, most notably Ann Coulter, have expressed reservations over Roberts. Since the guy shares my religion, I'll give him the benefit of the doubt. Then again, JFK was a Catholic, too.

President Bush on Monday nominated John Roberts to succeed William H. Rehnquist as chief justice and called on the Senate to confirm him before the Supreme Court opens its fall term on Oct. 3. Just 50 years old, Roberts could shape the court for decades to come.

His age is one thing that frightens me just a wee bit. We know where Scalia and Thomas stand. Bush's move is a snub to them for their years of service. No surprise there, though. Being a legitimate conservative has always been a thankless job.

Getting a new chief justice of Bush's choosing in place quickly also avoids the scenario of having liberal Justice John Paul Stevens making the decisions about whom to assign cases to and making other decisions that could influence court deliberations. As the court's senior justice, Stevens would take over Rehnquist's administrative duties until a new chief is confirmed.

It's more than that though. Bush has the votes to get Roberts through. Roberts is either a closet conservative or a moderate in the tradition of O'Connor. Aside from Chuck Schumer and a couple of fringe groups like People for the American Way and, opposition to Roberts has been almost non-existent. Raising the stakes by making Roberts chief justice is a safe move.

That's probably why I disagree with it. It's unfortunate that playing empire in Iraq has butchered Bush's approval ratings to the point where he can't even nominate Scalia for the job he deserves, but such is the game in Washington.

It makes sense for Bush to nominate two justices instead of the three--if Scalia was elevated to chief justice for example. As long as he comes through with a strict constuctionalist for O'Connor's seat I, and what's left of the conservative movement, will get off his back. My guess, though, is that he'll go with the spineless Gonzales.

In retrospect with regards to the newpaper job, defending Mr. Bush could prove to be more difficult than I thought.

Friday, September 02, 2005


With the news of Hurricane Katrina occupying the attention of most of the media I decided I would take the time to comment on something completely different which has been weighing on my mind for some time. If there is one thing we do not like as human beings--besides to be told we are unloved or unwanted--it is to be told we are wrong. Indeed, no man is more despised than the one who is convinced he is right.

There is more to it than that though. The man who is completely sure he is right is not actually taken seriously. The intellectually honest person must admit that he could in fact be wrong. Yet to take a firm stance, to defend it from invaders and not back down, all the while realizing that one may be defending not a sacred mount, but a miserable anthill is the true sign of valor. And courage is something we cannot stand.

Rather than valuing the man with conviction, open-mindedness is held sacrosanct. While it is true that as human beings we must be open to new things to continually refine and reform our truth, we must wish to at some point find that which is true. Chesterton said it best when he stated,"I opened my intellect as I opened my mouth, in order to shut it again on something solid."

And that is the grand catch. The message is: look for truth, but if you do find it, for goodness sake, do the rest of us a favor and keep it to yourself.

Yet I stand on my mighty anthill, honored to defend it. Or to be ignored.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Katrina Brings Chaos (and Humility?)

Hurricane Katrina has wrecked havoc across New Orleans. Havoc indeed is too light a term, and whatever comments I post regarding this tradgedy are trite by comparison, regardless of how poignant my insight may happen to be. Nonetheless, aside from offering a desperate prayer to God Almighty, the little I can do lies in whispering into the haze.

It seems that tradgedy can either bring out the best in people or the worse. When the tragic is tied to the degree of helplessness, people become the animals that they are and we see what humanity can bring. Such a diagnosis is admitedly dark, but it seems to be the only acceptable theory which fits the events taking place within our great country. The reader may judge for himself.

Storm victims were raped and beaten, fights and fires broke out, corpses lay out in the open, and rescue helicopters and law enforcement officers were shot at as flooded-out New Orleans descended into anarchy Thursday. "This is a desperate SOS," the mayor said.

About 15,000 to 20,000 people who had taken shelter at the convention center to await buses grew increasingly hostile. Police Chief Eddie Compass said he sent in 88 officers to quell the situation at the building, but they were quickly beaten back by an angry mob.

"We have individuals who are getting raped, we have individuals who are getting beaten," Compass said. "Tourists are walking in that direction and they are getting preyed upon."

"Hospitals are trying to evacuate," said Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Cheri Ben-Iesan, spokesman at the city emergency operations center. "At every one of them, there are reports that as the helicopters come in people are shooting at them. There are people just taking potshots at police and at helicopters, telling them, `You better come get my family.'"

An old man in a chaise lounge lay dead in a grassy median as hungry babies wailed around him. Around the corner, an elderly woman lay dead in her wheelchair, covered with a blanket, and another body lay beside her wrapped in a sheet.

"I don't treat my dog like that," 47-year-old Daniel Edwards said as he pointed at the woman in the wheelchair. "I buried my dog." He added: "You can do everything for other countries but you can't do nothing for your own people. You can go overseas with the military but you can't get them down here."

Suffice it to say that New Orleans has seen happier days. It is not my intention to come off as pretentious. Certainly the people are behaving wrongly, but in fairness, this is not to be unexpected. It would be more puzzling if there were not incidents in the capcaphony that is New Orleans. That being said, it is still interesting to note what is happening, all the while knowing that I, too, would probably be a member of the angry mob.

It was commented--by a friend of mine--that it sounded like Iraq. The comparison is not airtight, but it speaks to a very real truth. There is very little difference between human beings. We are all capable of great things and we are at the same time capable of acting like the savages we are seeing in New Orleans.

One gets the impression that those in New Orleans are very much wrapped up in self-pity. Again, this cannot be blamed, and I too would be first among those bemoaning the hand of fate were the tables turned. Yet that attitude seems to epitomize what is wrong with Americans.
We were appalled that the terrorists would dare attack our land. We are less appalled that Hurricane Katrina chose us be the reciever of her bountiful gifts, but we are most assuredly not happy.

Yet such is the way of the world. Terrorism is not new any more so than natural disasters are. We do not deserve to be made to suffer anymore than the citizens of say, the Middle East or Africa, but nor do we deserve to suffer any less. Pain is a part of life and wishing it away does no good at all.

If one is forced to look for the good in this terrible situation it is this: we are once again experiencing the anguish present constantly to the rest of the world. Perhaps this time we will take the lesson to heart. Then again, perhaps it is in our nature to remain stubborn to the end. Oddly enough that is one of the greatest reasons we suffer.

Be it because of God or not, another reason humans suffer is because of natural disasters, much like Katrina. Occasionally it is important to be reminded of this. A little humility wouldn't kill us, least of all me, who has turned a tragic occasion into an oppurtunity to bestow my wisdom.

One can be assured the irony is not wholly lost.