Sunday, September 30, 2007

Farewell Sweet Princes!

What a night. I find myself, as I often do on Sunday evenings, listening to Matt Drudge, only to learn that he's giving up the radio gig for good. Tonight marks his last show.

Those who only know Drudge from his website have missed out. His dry humor and timely use of clips from the powers-that-be was amusing, often to the point of hilarity, and also informative. His show will be missed.

Reeling from this blow, I learned that Fred Reed is hanging it up, for--at least--a month. He's probably the best columnist writing today, both funny and poignant. He explains himself in his typically contrarian tone:

The schools are terrible, we know they are terrible, we have known it for decades, and yet they only get worse. The universities are become dumbed-down propaganda chutes, and we know it, yet they only get worse. The War on Drugs is an ineffective farce continued for the benefit of drug lords, and we know it, yet we continue. The racial situation is both grim and stagnant. We have no military enemies, yet spend ever more on “defense.” None of these foolishnesses can be changed. If they could be, by now they would have been.

A train wreck once started goes to completion.

If Pat Buchanan announces that he's hanging it up, I think I may have to go cry.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Disrespecting the Dead

Today's first article:

In one of my classes the other day we happened to be discussing why it was easier to believe in God years ago then it is now. I confess an inability to understand the question. I do not think it has ever been very easy to believe in God; rather, I think it has always been prudent to put some stock in a Deity of some sort while making plenty room for doubt. Agnosticism, and not atheism, is the natural attitude of man.

I do not promise to discuss God for the entirety of my article. I merely intend to use Him, if He will allow it, to demonstrate a particular point. And that is this: men do a tremendous service—to their ancestors, to themselves, and to their progeny—when they regulate the vices and imperfections, present at all times, to men long dead, reserving the virtues for themselves. They are also engaging in fallacy.

Consider, as my class did, the story of Moses and the burning bush. As Camille Paglia points out, “Knowledge of the Bible, one of the West's foundational texts, is dangerously waning among aspiring young artists and writers.” This is true, it is distressing, and it is the subject for an altogether different article. Anyway, I trust that we all know at least a thing or two about Moses. So far as I can tell, there are three possible reactions to the story: one could believe Moses, as I do; one could disbelieve him, as those who reject the possibility of the miraculous must do; or one could profess an honest agnosticism toward the very bizarre affair.

But it is not fair to poor Moses to say that he only believed that his experience was divine because he lived long ago, and thus , by implication, was stupid. We have no evidence to allow us such an ungenerous conclusion. Is it honestly supposed that Moses didn't know that bushes are not in the habit of starting on fire without being consumed? Yet it is precisely because he knew a thing or two about bushes that the incident struck him as extraordinary. If Moses was really as ignorant as some would suggest, he wouldn't have gone closer to the bush at all. He would have shrugged it off as a natural occurrence.

Or we may take another event, which occurs some years later in that same book. A fellow by the name of Jesus Christ allegedly raised a fellow by the name of Lazarus from the dead. This was generally not done, and you can bet your last denarii that this was as shocking then as it would be if it happened today. The same options present themselves to the reader. It is not enough to say that men do not come back from the dead. Everyone, from the most uncivilized cannibal all the way down to the talking heads of cable news shows, knows this. Belief in a miracle doesn't work without a law; it is the temporary suspension thereof which makes for the miracle.

Anyway, my real point, which has probably been lost somewhere in Galilee, doesn't concern miracles. I merely suggest that our attitude toward our ancestors is frequently uncharitable and unfair. The men of yore may have been more foolish than we are—and they may not have been—but perhaps they had the good sense to realize it.

Cicero—a dead guy—says somewhere that “To be ignorant of what occurred before you were born is to remain always a child.” But there is another way to remain a child. And that is to pretend that all who came before you were ignorant.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Indefensible Infanticide

Today's second article:

Humans are not rational creatures; we are rationalizing ones. We start with emotional reactions and then proceed to cherry-pick evidence which supports our guttural impulses. Just watch the cable news. Bill O’Reilly and the Fox News crowd provide talking points to “conservatives” who would rather hear confirmation that they are right than have to bother with thinking. Yet one sign of emotional maturity is in realizing that how one feels about something is not concomitant with its objective truth.

Thus it is to the objective truth we now turn. The case against abortion can be summarized thus. There exists within the womb of a pregnant woman a collection of human cells which are replicating; the fetus is both human and alive. At some point, the fetus produces heartbeats; later, brain waves can be detected. At or around nine months from conception, the woman painfully gives birth to a human child—an act for which we can all be thankful, since without it we wouldn’t be here. Now, whereas the right to life is something shared by human beings, all forms thereof deserve protection. Any violation of this right is murder and should be punished as such.

Pro-abortion feminists like to point out that the woman's body belongs to her; thus the child has no right to demand that the woman go through the pain of delivering that child. But we do not excuse a man from working to support his children simply because he would rather use his body to consume alcohol than go to work. If his dependents starved because he failed to provide them food, he would be guilty of murder.

The same applies in regards to the pregnant woman: her body is her own, but she cannot use her body to harm that of another. Her right to do what she wishes with her own body ends when it violates the right of the life inside of her to continue living.

It is also argued that a fetus cannot survive on its own; thus a fetus has no rights, and a woman is acting rightly if she chooses to have an abortion. This is preposterous. The right to life is not related to the value of a particular individual. Infants, severely handicapped, and some elderly people are unable to provide for themselves—just like fetuses. Nonetheless, their right to life is irrevocable because of their membership in the human family.

The innocent blood of the 46 million babies ruthlessly slaughtered annually worldwide so that women can remain temporarily free from the consequences of their actions is perhaps the largest atrocity in world history; it is certainly the most appalling exhibition of barbarism on behalf of members of the United States. The number of people who partake in, defend, or otherwise excuse abortion as morally acceptable give evidence to the decay of our society. One often hears comparisons of America to Rome, but we are more like the mortal enemies of the late republic: the Carthaginians, as we gleefully sacrifice our young to Moloch.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Their Own Worst Enemy

As anyone who has paid attention well knows, George W. Bush is not a conservative. For those true believers who still support the president, here's one more stab in the back:

[Hillary] Clinton unveiled her plan as Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt said President Bush wants to achieve universal health care before he leaves office.

Leavitt told the USA TODAY editorial board that Bush will veto a Democratic plan emerging from Congress that would add $35 billion in taxpayer subsidies to the Children's Health Insurance Program over five years. In doing so, Leavitt said, Bush will urge Congress to join him in seeking coverage for all Americans.

I'm not saying every false conservative turns out to do everything his constituents hate, but Bush is a good indication that a number of reforms enacted by the pretender will be antithetical to the desires of his base.

I keep saying that conservatives had better have learned their lessons by now. But then Bush gives them even more evidence that he despises them. Still, if they don't have things figured out by the time everyone starts writing the "most important election ever" columns, they are not only worthy of the faux-conservatives who march under the republican banner; they are fully deserving of the derision with which such phonies treat them.

The Last Great Hope

Today's column:

Ever since the democrats recaptured Congress in the '06 elections, the political focus has turned from lame duck Bush to the candidates vying to be the next President of the United States. The most important issue in the coming election is the War on Iraq. Should we bring the troops home? And, if so, how soon?

The answers, by the way, are “Yes” and “Immediately, if not sooner”. Staying the course is foolish consistency, evidence of what Ralph Waldo Emerson called “the hobgoblin of little minds”. We haven't made any progress in Iraq, and keeping American troops there in perpetuity will only postpone, it will not eliminate, the chance of a bloodbath for those who foolishly trusted us. It is unfortunate that the United States will emerge from the debacle in Iraq the worse for wear. But it is also inevitable, and it makes no sense to remain ensconced in Iraq merely to save face. Indeed, it is downright evil to make soldiers die so that our elected representatives and the commentators who supported this war can attempt to protect their tattered pride.

On a larger level, Americans are beginning to reexamine our entire foreign policy, one of the fruits thereof being the present war with Iraq, a war seventy percent of Americans now think was a mistake. Should we continue a foreign policy of aggressive interventionism, or should we return to the “humble” foreign policy upon which Bush campaigned? Are we really safer by attacking countries which have not attacked us, or would we do better to mind our own business?

I know of only two major-party candidates who oppose interventionism: Dennis Kucinich, democratic representative from Ohio; and Ron Paul, republican representative from Texas. The two candidates differ immensely on matters of fiscal policy, but have nonetheless co-sponsored a bill to extricate ourselves from Iraq by withdrawing all of our troops. Both candidates are to be preferred to the rest of the candidates from the two major parties, which are increasingly revealing themselves to be but two factions of one party: the war party. While the republicans finagle over how big our base should be in Guantanamo, the democrats are busy striking a balance between opposing the current war, supporting the troops, and maintaining that they are tough on terror. Kucinich and Paul are the only candidates even vaguely worth watching—or supporting.

But Ron Paul comes out ahead because of his fiscal policies. Liberal democrats, most of whom are honestly anti-war, may have a hard time supporting a candidate who supports eliminating almost every department of the federal government, but Paul grasps the larger point in the anti-war debate. A government which is large enough to provide for the needs of every citizen is also large enough to support the military industrial complex which lobbies incessantly for war. As president, Kucinich probably wouldn't invade foreign countries like his predecessors have done; but he would fail to remove the apparatus whereby a less scrupulous president would launch future wars.

Cindy Sheehan, leftist though she is, appreciates the point. Cautioning her fellows liberals against putting too much faith in the democrats, who, after all, despite control of congress, have done nothing to stop the war, she writes: “The Federal Reserve, permanent federal (and unconstitutional) income taxes, Japanese concentration camps and, not one, but two atom bombs dropped on the innocent citizens of Japan were brought to us via the Democrats.” It may seem curious to single out the Federal reserve and permanent income taxes, but as Justin Raimondo notes: “Without the Fed, the inflationary policies that fund our wars of conquest couldn't be implemented; with no income tax, the empire our rulers envision would only be a megalomaniac's fantasy.”

As the sole opponent of both interventionist wars and Big Government, Ron Paul offers the only hope of shattering the dreams of the war party. While the republicans are busy trotting out Fred Thompson to play the role of Bob Dole to the next Clinton president, concerned citizens of all fiscal idealogical bents should band together to support Ron Paul. Anything else promises more of the usual Washingtonian chicanery: lies, broken promises, and body bags by the thousands.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Laughing at Rudy

If you watch the Ron Paul clip I linked to below, you'll notice that some of the candidates, Rudy especially, laugh when the moderators ask Dr. Paul questions. I guess it's easier to laugh at the most consistent and intelligent man running for office than to attempt to argue with him. But the recent statements emanating from camp Rudy strike me as downright hysterical.

Rudy Giuliani’s presidential campaign is up with a radio ad in Iowa claming he is liberals’ “worst nightmare” — an effort to get early voters to think ahead to November when they caucus in January.

As John Stossel might say, "Give me a break!" Rudy is completely unelectable. He has tied his caboose to the George W. Bush presidential train to nowhere. His sole claim to the presidency resides in his presence as mayor during September 11th. But he deserves no more credit for the city not falling into anarchy than did anyone connected with Pearl Harbor. Does anyone seriously think that Rudy did something that no one else would have been able to do in his role as mayor?

His positions, when he can articulate them clearly, are indistinguishable from that of the democrats, save that he is tougher on terror. This means our civil liberties will be more likely to fall by the wayside, other foreign countries will be invaded; meanwhile the borders will remain as they are: insecure. Sounds great. Where do I sign up?

Hillary will have no trouble trouncing Rudy if the party is so foolish to nominate him. In fact, the article states that while Rudy claims that he can beat the Lizard Queen, his proof is that he trails her in the polls be less than any of the other candidates. After Bush invades Iran, that gap is going to expand even faster.

Chuckle at Ron Paul now if you want. The democrats are going to have the last laugh come next November.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Misunderstanding Libertarianism

Joe of The Evangelical Outpost can't bring himself to support Paul. He's written two pieces about him; the first was a thinly veiled ad hominen attack, but the second offered some much needed clarification. It is to the latter that I now turn:

I wrote that Libertarianism is a utopian ideology and a "rightwing equivalent of Marxism." While I stand by that assertion, it needs some clarification. One key distinction is that Marxist utopias are progressive, they are derived from a forward moving evolutionary process brought about by class conflicts inherent in capitalism. By contrast, the Libertarian utopia of Paul and his supporters (like my friend Jemison) is regressive: The ideal state is derived by devolution, a regression to an earlier point in history in which libertarian political theory was believed to be dominant.

Honestly, I'm not sure what right-wing Marxism would be, but it is certainly not libertarianism. Joe makes two mistakes in this paragraph. First, he assumes that libertarians are utopians. While there are those, Ayn Rand comes to mind, who believe that if only we let the market take over, everything would be hunky-dory, many libertarians would disagree with Rand. I am quite sure that Paul is one of them. Libertarians, myself included, tend to be pessimistic. We have arrived at our conclusions, not because we believe that libertarianism will usher in a paradise, but because we no longer have any faith in government. Men are not angels, indeed, far from it, and they are only to be trusted warily with power. Paul's message is not that his reforms will usher in perfect happiness for mankind; as a Christian, he knows better than to expect heaven on earth. Instead, he advocates a return to limited government because it will be better than the status quo. It is irrational to conclude that every idealist is a utopian. Libertarians tend to be anything but.

His second mistake is his creation of a distinction between regressive and progressive reforms. No such distinction exists. Progress is a relative term. Marxists would cite collectivization as progress on the road to paradise--unlike libertarians, Marxists tend to believe in utopia, at least as I understand them. Libertarians would cite abolition of the IRS as evidence of progress. The term only means to continue in the positive direction with reform; but, just as in physics, one is free to define one's coordinates. It sounds worse to favor regression than it does to favor progress; who could possibly be against the latter? But it's an arbitrary distinction devoid of real meaning. You could call Marxists regressionary--is that a word?--for wishing to return to a form of Plato's--totalitarian--Republic.

[Libertarians] seem to forget that many of the advances of society have come from direct government intervention.

Such as? There may have been a large number of advances brought to us by Government, but I've not seen the evidence. To be fair, I've studied this very little, but if I recall correctly, most of the inventions and technological advances which we now make use of in this country were products of the evil private sector. James Watt wasn't a government employee, now was he? If the government is so wonderful at making "advances", why don't we just turn everything over to Big Brother?

The difference is that conservatism is progressive, relying on incremental changes that are derived from a host of first principles while Pauline libertarianism is regressive, longing to return to a time in history that never existed.

This is just plain wrong. The reason conservatism fails is that it is neither regressive, nor progressive, no matter how one sets up one's coordinate system. Conservatism advocates standing still. We must conserve things as they are because they are good the way they are.
That's one of the reasons I no longer consider myself a conservative. Put plainly, it neither works nor makes sense.

Besides, there is already a nation that has instituted most of the policies libertarians endorse--no taxes, no regulations, no federal law enforcement, no drug laws, etc. It's called Somalia. And, brothers, it ain't no Utopia.

There must be some sort of Responses to Libertarianism book of which I am unaware, because people always bring this up. Libertarianism is NOT anarchy. It is not even completely anti-government. It advocates a decentralization of government power so that the temptation to abuse that power is slight and any attempt at doing so will be ineffective, but it doesn't advocate the abolishment of all government. It is not revolutionary in that sense.

Anyway, I find it amusing how little people understand the l-word, though they fear it so. We are at once told that our ideals can never be achieved and that they are stupid anyway. That about covers it I guess, except that neither objection stands against scrutiny. But Joe is a bible believing Christian. Anyone who believes in the doctrine of Original Sin can't be too far removed from libertarianism.

Flopping Like a Fred

George Will is thoroughly unimpressed with the newest republican presidential candidate:

Sean Hannity, who is no Torquemada conducting inquisitions of conservatives, asked Thompson: "When you look at the other current crop of candidates -- Republicans -- where is the distinction between your positions and what you view as theirs?" Thompson replied: "Well, to tell you the truth, I haven't spent a whole lot of time going into the details of their positions."

Sean Hannity is a complete hack who is actively running interference for non-conservative candidates, while attacking the only legitimate candidate in the field: my boy, Ron Paul. Hannity, and people like him, is the reason Republicans will receive a well-deserved beat-down in the '08 elections. But I digress.

Fred doesn't really make sense as a candidate. He is running because the Republicans are still searching for the next Bob Dole, someone who the party rank and file will tolerate, but who is not a genuine threat to Hillary's assured and anointed rise as Queen. Thus it is interesting to see that while Rudy McRomney can no longer be taken seriously, it appears that Fred is too incompetent to even play his assigned role. This, of course, begs the question: who will the party nominate? It may not be too late for Newt to enter the race.

He also is unfamiliar with the details of his own positions... Thompson said he had advocated McCain-Feingold to prevent, among other things, corporations and labor unions from "giving large sums of money to individual politicians." But corporate and union contributions to individual candidates were outlawed in 1907 and 1947, respectively.

This isn't a good sign. You can be ignorant of many things and still gain the presidency, witness George W. Bush's continued mistakes in foreign policy. But you have to be able to convince the people that you know enough to deserve their trust. That Thompson doesn't know anythin about the bills for which he voted is appalling. Unless he cleans up his act, and soon, Fred has no shot at either the nomination or the presidency.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Rethinking Women's Suffrage Or How To Get Lots of Dates

Today's first column:

Democracy, notes H. L. Mencken, “provides the only really amusing form of government endured by mankind.” In watching the debates, especially the incoherent babbling of “America's Mayor”, I find myself agreeing with Mencken. But a more interesting fact arises. While our leaders who have proven successful at using democracy believe in it very heartily, the people as a whole do not. Indeed, there is always a largely unsuccessful campaign to get out the vote-or-die—which is odd. If democracy is so good, why can't the people be made to realize it? And if democracy, which vests, for some odd reason, virtue in the unwashed masses, why can't said be made to see the virtue of voting?

It may be possible to make a moral case for democracy, but I have not seen one, and I doubt that anyone would stoop so low as to make it. But there is a practical case for it: democracy, if it has any positive value at all, is only good insofar as the people care for the human rights for which the democracy was first formed. And when the people care not for liberty; when they allow their leaders to take it away and oppress them under draconian laws and staggering taxes; when their property can be given to the government without provocation; when the causes which previously drew them together to form a “more perfect union” have all faded, democracy has proven itself worthless. Indeed worse; for while under Voltaire's ideal “soft despotism,” the people bore no responsibility for their conditions, democracy makes the people their own jailers.

Now, it is no secret that government, once small and generally harmless, has grown to gargantuan proportions. Economist John Lott summarizes: “From the beginning of the country to the 1920s, the federal government had been about 2 to 3 percent of GNP. You'd have a war sometimes and it would go up. After the war was over, government would go back down to where had been previously. But it began to grow through the 20s and the 30s and 40s.” We now appear to be stuck with the miserable beast. The Republicans don't even pretend to believe in small government anymore; only the lonely libertarians are wary of a government which has grown beyond the wildest dreams of the fiercest founding federalist. At this point, democracy is inimical to responsible, which is to say, small government, the only kind which hasn't the power to usurp civil rights and start immoral foreign wars.

A case could be made for getting rid of democracy entirely. But a less drastic course presents itself, courtesy again of Mr. Lott: “I've noticed from looking around at these countries that the government growth seemed to coincide with when women were given the right to vote in these places...The effect is dramatic. If you look at 10 years prior to when a state gives women the right to vote, you find expenditures and revenues were flat. Once women were given the right to vote, the next year you see an increase in government expenditures. It keeps going up dramatically. In 10 years, government expenditures and revenue doubled in real terms.”

When one recalls the role of women in the accursed temperance movement of the early twentieth century, Lott's observation can be taken without surprise. Whether because of nature—my view—or because of centuries of social conditioning, women are equipped with a motherly instinct which compels them to vote for measures which increase safety, thereby restricting the freedom upon which government ought not to impinge. The quickest and surest return to more sensible government then, is, almost inarguably, the repeal of the 19th Amendment and an end to women's suffrage.

This reform is not practical of course, and it will be fought tooth and nail not only by women but also by the leaders who rather like Big Government, and know that women are good and loyal customers. But the right to vote is not a right at all; it is merely a privilege, created by man, and can not only be taken away without real harm, but must be when that so-called right is causing damage to real rights, such as liberty.

If there were a way to keep all who loathe liberty from voting, I would advocate such a measure; but there is not. Yet the United States once existed quite happily without women voters, and I hope for a return to days before, “the tyranny of the petticoat”, in John Adams immortal phrase. With luck, after eight years of tyranny under Hillary Clinton's petticoat, dreaded image that, even women will begin to rethink their role in the republic.

Wasting a Week of Time

Today's second column:

The main point of education is not, as is commonly thought, to instill knowledge in the individual. That is a desired consequence of the process, but it is a secondary one. As one of the founders of the public school system once let slip, the system exists for the “subsumption of the individual”. This warrants thought as we examine week long orientation, which the freshmen have recently survived.

As I hearken back to my orientation week, my first reaction is one of mild repugnance, recounting the vapid boredom which hung, like a rain cloud, over that entire week. We were awoken too early; we were allowed to return to our rooms too late. Our free time was scarcely sufficient to allow for a simple game of Madden with a new roommate. Instead, we marched, or rather slogged, from sunup to sundown, as the wiser OTLs impressed upon us such enlightened bits of information as that: ramen noodles are not part of a well-balanced diet (obviously one must supplement with vitamins); it is not necessary to imbibe in alcohol in order to have a good time (though it helps immensely, especially during orientation week); getting involved is a good way to meet people (as is raiding with one's clan in WoW); that one should spend two hours studying for every hour spent in class (this is ridiculous; does it still apply if one does not attend class?).

And so on and so forth: platitudes upon platitudes, of which anyone with half a brain was well aware from probably second grade onward. Perhaps there are those who believe that staying up until 5am is a good way to insure attendance during 8am lecture, but such people are beyond the reach of reason. Alas, there are those who are simply not cut out for the education which Tech provides, and the institution is wise to send those packing who prove unable to hack general chemistry. It remains unclear what a week of orientation could provide that say, a two-day affair could not.

But of those who will eventually graduate from Michigan Tech: how does week long orientation serve them? It inculcates a sense of order, a we-say you-do mentality. And, it must be said, this is beneficial from Tech's standpoint. While engineers who do not question are not engineers, engineers who do not comply with orders are difficult to manage. Although there will be entrepreneurial exceptions, the vast majority of Tech graduates will work as cogs, albeit sophisticated ones, in various corporate wheels. Orientation week is good practice for the endless meetings, endlessly caricatured in Dilbert cartoons.

The biggest objection to a week of orientation is the same objection I have to formal education in general. By making education compulsory we make it that less desirable to those who are intellectually curious. May those lucky few who have not lost it already, retain it despite orientation week and four years at Tech.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

More Qualified Than Rudy

The lisper still believes that they hate us for our freedom, but this kid is on the right track:

When the attacks happened in 2001, there were a number of US troops in a country called Saudi Arabia, and the leader of al-Qaeda, Osama Bin Laden, said he wanted them to leave.

Normally, I'd caution against listening to what children have to say on the matter, and a case could certainly be made that my ruminations would be irresponsible if my audience ever crept above the single-digit range, but this child, whoever he is, appears to be knowledgeable about our enemy than is Rudy Giuiliani. In Rudy's defense, he'd like to point out that he lived through 9/11.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Ron Paul @ Republican Fox Debate 9-5-07

My affinity for Ron Paul is in danger of crossing out of the platonic, but I don't particularly care. Here he is demonstrating why he is the only candidate fit for the presidency.

My article for next week's Lode had already been written. If you guessed that it's a ringing endorsement for Mr. Paul, you'd be right.

It's also worth checking out Vox's column which also focuses on Mr. Paul. Here's a snippet:

Ron Paul threatens the notion of politics as a team sport; his focus on actual constitutional principles makes him equally appealing to anti-occupation, pro-border Democrats as to anti-occupation, pro-border Republicans. That's why he is the only candidate in either party whose support ranges from devout Christian conservatives to gay, peacenik Ralph Nader fans.

I haven't been this giddy about politics since I first discovered talk radio. Hang on tight. It's going to be a fun ride.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Neo-Con Nonsense

I've never liked Ben Shapiro, but I had to laugh when I read this:

Ahmadinejad may be a kook, but he's no dummy. He has only one assurance that the United States will turn a blind eye to his nuclear weapons program: The assurance that the American anti-war left will stop any prospective military action cold...

The anti-war left swallows Ahmadinejad's Hussein-lite strategy hook, line and sinker. Justin Raimondo of writes, "The Iranian nuclear program is contracting, not expanding, and furthermore Tehran has agreed to a timetable for making their entire program transparent, and bringing it within the parameters established by the IAEA." Of course, this deliberately misreads the available information. Tehran claims that it is complying with international standards by slowing its production of centrifuges; still, they have produced hundreds of new centrifuges since May. As for agreements regarding weapons production and U.N. inspections – well, that clearly worked to everyone's satisfaction in North Korea.

For the record, Justin Raimondo is a libertarian. And while we liberty-lovers don't mind being called liberals since those who typically bear the moniker are anything but, it is not in the classic sense that the young Mr. Shapiro used the term. But to call a libertarian a liberal is to demonstrate that one knows nothing about politics. We're not seriously pretending that Ron Paul has anything in common with, say, Hillary Clinton are we?

Tangentially, one wonders why we're so uppity over everyone else having nukes. We're the only country who used them, and we did so immorally. Then again, any use of nuclear weapons is immoral, which begs the question of why we have them in the first place.

Sometimes I feel bad for the neo-cons. It can't be easy to argue on behalf of a philosophy which neither makes sense nor is vaguely consistent. But then I remember that they have blood on their hands, and pity drops like collateral damage.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

About That Surge

Thus speaks General Petraeus:

"The surge will run its course. There are limits to what our military can provide, so, my recommendations have to be informed by — not driven by — but they have to be informed by the strain we have put on our military services," Gen. David Petraeus said in the interview at Camp Victory in Baghdad. "That has to be a key factor in what I will recommend."

While he would not get specific about the recommendations that he gave to President Bush during a surprise visit to Iraq yesterday, when Raddatz asked if March would be the time for a drawdown to avoid further strain on the military and even longer deployments, he answered by saying, "Your calculations are about right."

Keep this in mind when the drums start beating for war with Iran. The sixth anniversary of 9/11 is coming up--yes, it's been six years--and the event marks a perfect time for a slight change in strategy in the Middle East. We'll go for what Fred Reed called "Victory through distributed defeat".

Briefly Reviewed: The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins

Today's first article. I'm trying something a little new with the formatting. As always, feedback is much appreciated.

Perhaps best known for his first book, The Selfish Gene, the eminent evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins is also the author of eight other books. In his latest book, The God Delusion , we experience Dawkins as an outspoken atheist and fierce opponent of religion in all its forms. The first message of his book is directed at those unbelievers who are still trapped, like R. Kelly's narrator, in the closet: “You can be an atheist who is happy, balanced, moral, and intellectually fulfilled.” But Dawkins is not content with mere emancipation from the shackles of belief; he will not rest on his laurels while religion is merely accorded an equal footing with atheism. Dawkins goes so far as to liken the religious education of children with sexual abuse, and calls for the extirpation of religion; he even finds agnosticism to be a “poverty”. For not only is religion nonsensical but, departing drastically from Voltaire and Seneca, it is a pernicious influence which is holding humanity back from the all-but -inevitable progress (with occasional saw-tooth regressions) of the moral Zeitgeist.

That the 20th century, result of this “progress”, was by far the world's bloodiest escapes his attention, as he optimistically states, without proof—blanket and unfounded assertions are par for the course for Richard Dawkins—that “there seems to be a steady shifting of standard of what is morally acceptable”. In short, all religions are bad because 1) the books upon which they are based are stupid; 2) the followers fail to actually follow the books; 3) and even when they do follow them they shouldn't do so because (see 1) the books are stupid; meanwhile, those who have had their “consciousness raised” by (the prophet) Darwin, the keepers of a completely arbitrary and morally subjective system under the guise of a loosely defined Zeitgeist are more moral. The reason: because Richard Dawkins is oh so smart.

But this is nothing more than what Chesterton, who knew a thing or two about atheists, called refusing to “submit to that arrogant oligarchy who merely happen to be walking around.” Dawkins reasons that early Americans were unenlightened because they, like the rest of humanity, kept slaves, while modern Americans are more moral because we no longer do. It is telling, though less than surprising, that Dawkins fails to single out the cause of slavery's demise: Christianity. That we practice infanticide and call it abortion is irrelevant to Dawkins, moral parasite that he is. Though it will surely give future atheists reason to gloat when the barbaric practice is finally banned because of the movement of the Zeitgeist. One envisages a future Dawkins character proving that atheists are more moral because we no longer practice abortion like our benighted ancestors.

Parts of his book are good: his tangents related to evolutionary biology are informative, and his warnings about the dangers of fundamentalism, though cliché, merit heeding. But one gets the feeling that Richard Dawkins knows no more about religion than I do about his master subject. He can't see how anyone could believe any of it to be true, and thus pretends that it is not useful. But there are a great many people who have believed it to be true; in fact, atheism is largely a new trend, and if many of the pagans, like Seneca, doubted that their religion was correct, they didn't sneer at those who did believe, and they certainly didn't pretend that it was without utility.

Throughout, Dawkins' tone is condescending and mean-spirited. And while I couldn't care less about what Dawkins thinks of believers—my faith is not that shallow—mocking those who happen to believe in a non-materialistic world is not the best way to win converts—or friends. Even those who are sympathetic with him will conclude that Dawkins is a jerk, and a tactless spokesman for atheism.

But there is another rather large flaw in The God Delusion. Dawkins believes that science has largely answered humanity's questions, questions whose very ambiguity caused our ancestors to regulate them to the realm of theology. To Dawkins, questions that presently remain unanswered will either be answered by later science or deserve no answer. By virtue of his enormous brain, Dawkins knows that those questions which cannot be answered by science, will also be unanswerable by religion. “Why are we here?” may be more meaningful than “Why are unicorns hollow?”, but both are difficult to answer so—implicitly of course—why bother asking? This fails to account for the possibility of revelation: certain questions are beyond the capacity for human reason to understand, but are attainable since God has, allegedly, deigned to walk among us. But Dawkins knows that this could not have happened because his human reason tells him so. QED.

Now science is not without its uses. Indeed, many religious people practiced science; Albert Magnus—from those poor Middle Ages, which produced Dante and the cathedral of Chartres—springs to mind. Whether we believe the world to be a part of God's creation or simply the result of natural selection applied over a large period of time, or both, science allows us to better understand the natural world around us. But science cannot answer the deep probing questions which have haunted man since the beginning of time. For all of our science, we are no closer to understanding why humans existence than was, say, Gilgamesh. Worse, we seem to forget this, postulating that because Gilgamesh did not have science and technology, we are obviously better off than he was. Maybe. But we still die, and all the science in the world is unable to tell us what it all means.

Contrary to what one might infer from his book, most religious people don't care if Dawkins doesn't share their faith, though many certainly pray for him. The religious individual who reads his book should not be filled with indignation. Instead, the feeling which he will feel first and foremost is that of pity. At worst, religions are, in the words of the irreligious Fred Reed, “gropings toward something people feel but cannot put a finger on, toward something more at the heart of life than the hoped-for raise, trendy restaurants, and the next and grander automobile.” Those who cannot even begin to consider that something suffer worse than mere delusion.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

A Lesson Unlearned and the Coming “New War”

Today's second article:

Although I have since gone into “retirement”, I come from a family of wrestlers. My dad, a grappler himself, would often impress upon me the benefits of proficiency with at least two moves. “You have to have a Plan A and a Plan B,” he would instruct, “and plan B can't be to try Plan A harder.” Wise words, and ones which apply to more than man's oldest sport, though I reckon George H. Bush never talked to his son about the virtues of having a Plan B. Faced with growing disappointment in Iraq—inevitable defeat really, but you can't say that—Bush orchestrated a troop surge. In other words, he tried Plan A harder. My old man would not be pleased.

The neo-conservatives are beside themselves with happiness—glorious slaughter, liberty marching ever onward, democracy triumphing, and all that. This is less than surprising. War mongers like war, and will always rejoice when blood shows slight promise of being shed. These are, after all, the same fellows who have been clamoring to bring on the Iranians for some time now.

More surprising are the comments of the (probable) next President of the United States, one Hillary Rodham Clinton: “[The surge is] working. We're just years too late in changing our tactics. We can't ever let that happen again. We can't be fighting the last war. We have to keep preparing to fight the new war." A bit surprising for leftists anyway, whose memories tend to reach as far as back at the first Clinton administration. But Democrats have been traditionally hawkish and Hillary is no exception. After all, she voted for “the last war”.

She concedes that trying Plan A harder is a good strategy, indeed, one that works. She even implies that throwing more troops into the battle is indicative of a change in tactics, something it assuredly is not. Then she reveals what she believes has been problematic with our empiric endeavor in Iraq. Absent is admission that the war was immoral because we were the aggressors. Missing too are any statements regarding the false pretenses upon which we were led into it. The leading Democratic presidential candidate, the ostensible standard bearer for those who are tired of Bush's interventionism, has one objection to the War in Iraq: we were too slow at changing tactics. In a word, the tragedy of the Iraq War was one of—mismanagement.

Now, everyone admits that the war was managed poorly. Bush failed—sorry, is failing—in his attempts to secure Iraq. But the United States military has never been particularly successful at fighting guerrilla style warfare; nor are they expert at keeping the peace in foreign lands, especially when the inhabitants are hostile. Unlike the Romans of antiquity or the British of a century ago, Americans lack the will to play empire, at least in the conventional sense. But this is no new lesson; anyone who has studied American history at an even ephemeral level was well aware of this. The sacrifice of the troops in Iraq has already been largely in vain; if we retain only this lesson, I fear their efforts will have been entirely so.

The real problem with the War in Iraq was that it was a war of aggression, and, thus, immoral. Even had Saddam been working on weapons of mass destruction, even had he teamed with Al-Qaeda, even had our endeavor succeeded and liberty and democracy spread like wild fire in the Middle East, the war would still have been wrong. That there were no WMDs, that the connections between Saddam and Al-Qaeda were dubious to non-existent, that liberty and democracy have not spread in the Middle East are interesting facts, but they are beside the point. As Ilana Mercer noted back in 2002, prior to the invasion of Iraq: “There is no moral argument for attacking a nation that has not aggressed against the United States.”

It doesn't sound like Hillary, or any of the other major Presidential candidates, understand this basic concept. Instead, “We have to keep preparing to fight the new war.” On Iran.

The Only Reason Worth Reading National Review

Is the lovable, witty, charming John Derbyshire. Alas, he writes too little, but here follows another gem:

The strongest impression I got from Iversen’s book [High School Confidential] was of mediocrity. None of the school’s students or teachers seems very smart or interesting, and not much teaching or learning gets done. One of the author’s footnotes tells the essential tale: “As a Mirador twelfth-grader, I never had to write a paper longer than two pages. I never had to find any source beyond the one assigned book.”

This isn’t a slum school, mind. The parents of Iversen’s classmates were small business and professional people and civil servants, some well above middle-middle-class. It’s just that the easy hedonism of life in today’s America — especially, I insist on believing, today’s California — drains life of any need to struggle or concentrate. Even the students’ misdemeanors and extracurricular adventures are insipid and unimaginative by comparison with what I remember of my own...

This is the next generation of Americans? We are doomed, doomed. Or, as any one of Iversen’s female classmates would say — as they all in fact do say, around four times per page: Oh my God...

We are trending towards a state of society in which the adult American male, like the devout Hindu, lives life in four stages. None of our four stages has anything to do with celibacy or responsibility, though, let alone renunciation (what’s that?) Our four stages are: high school, high school, high school, and high school. That’s our truth.

I've rambled on and on about the decrepit state of the American education system, but Derby's comments are especially poignant given the comments, if one could call them that, of Miss Teen SC during the pageant. Her answer is worse than stupid, because it wasn't coherent enough for that. And she's an honor student.


Saturday, September 01, 2007

Damnable Dawkins

A friend of mine lent me his copy of The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. I'm about ninety pages in; I'm contemplating doing a full review for the school paper, but I felt the need to take some time to flush out some of my thoughts thus far.

Vox Day has already written a book, due out in February, which should expose Dawkins for the intellectual fraud that he is. Yes, he is a renowned evolutionary biologist, and perhaps he is deserving of such fame given his knowledge of his particular field. But it is very obvious that he understands nothing about religion. It's not just the lack of respect, or the seething smugness which emanates from every sentence; most intolerable is his failure to address any substantial claims made by those of us who are religious.

The book can be adumbrated thus: Dawkins notes that stupid and ignorant religious people believe such and such. Whereupon Dawkins notes how stupid and ignorant they are. Or, to put it to the tune of a modern pop travesty:

This is why I'm smart,
This is why I'm smart,
This is why, this is why,
This is why I'm smart.

I'm smart cause I'm a bright,
You ain't cause you not.
This is why, this is why,
This is why I'm smart.

Certain facets of religion may deserve dismissal and derision, but to brush over, say, proofs from Aquinas with a handful of trite phrases is intellectually embarrassing. Dawkins is handicapped by lacking the ability to comprehend the religious mind. He is literally unable to comprehend how anyone could believe in God, despite the fact that, throughout human history, such belief has been near ubiquitous. Yes, there was doubt, too. There always is. But Dawkins isn't even able to comprehend doubt because he can't understand faith.

Earlier in the book, Dawkins discusses the supposed divide between religion and science. As I've written before, there is no conflict between the two disciplines. Science is valuable to the religious person, though not essential; yet science is inadequate to answer life's probing questions. Dawkins, poor fellow, seems not to understand this. He asks: "What are these ultimate questions in whose presence religion is an honored guest and science must respectfully slink away?"

One calls to mind Chesterton's quip: "No sceptical(sic) philosopher can ask any questions that may not equally be asked by a tired child on a hot afternoon." For the existentially autistic, such questions would be those that relate to the afterlife. Science is wholly unable, for instance, to determine if ultimate justice is meted out in the hereafter. Religion may not be able to answer such questions; but if they are to be answered, it will be theologians and philosophers, and not scientists, who will do so.

Later on, Dawkins addresses the miracle of the sun at Fatima. When tens of thousands of people confirm a miracle, even those who were initially very skeptical about the possibility of one, prudence, demands, one would think, at least a tepid agnosticism about the affair. Dawkins even admits: "It's not easy to explain how seventy thousand people could share the same hallucination." He nonetheless concludes, "But any of those apparent improbabilities [mass hallucination] is more probable than the alternative: that the Earth was yanked sideways in its orbit, and the solar system destroyed, with nobody outside Fatima noticing."

In other words, the miracle didn't happen because miracles don't. One is torn between admiration of such sincere faith and disgust at such blatant disregard for one's fellow man, and his, often religious, experience.

I hope the book gets better, but it's not hard to see why Vox placed him in the unholy trinity of irrational atheists after reading the first 90 pages. Surely atheists can do better than Richard Dawkins.