Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.
--C.S. Lewis--

Friday, August 29, 2008

Just A Comment

I'm elated that Sarah Palin is McCain's pick. Although the post got deleted when I re-started this blog, I did suggest her early on, as evidenced by the endorsement list over at the Draft Sarah Palin blog. However, I do want to make one point. While I think she'll make a great VP, it would be dishonest to not admit that she was chosen largely for her gender. That saddens me a little, because I dislike identity politics no matter who it is playing the game.

Obama's Speech

Like most people in this nation, I think it's a wonderful thing to have progressed to a point where the anniversary of Dr. King's speech can be celebrated at a convention nominating a black man who stands a better-than-even chance of being our next president. However, the inherent irony was also not lost on me.

We all know the famous, "not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character" line, but did you ever stop to consider how at odds it is with the current ideals of the Democratic party? After all, their nominee won his race based largely on the color of his skin RATHER THAN the content of his character. He was a state senator in a district gerrymandered to guarantee it would be filled by a black man. He lead the charge in the Illinois Senate to guarantee that "black" seats would stay in the hands of black politicians even after their proportions within the state declined. His entire career has been based on the exploitation of racial identity even as he claimed to want us to rise above it.

I wonder what Dr. King would have thought of Obama's character. After all, would a man who said, "Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that," have sat in the pews of a pastor who spewed hate and venom? "Like an unchecked cancer, hate corrodes the personality and eats away its vital unity. Hate destroys a man's sense of values and his objectivity. It causes him to describe the beautiful as ugly and the ugly as beautiful, and to confuse the true with the false and the false with the true," seems to be a pretty accurate description of a pastor who decried America while supporting Palestinian terrorists. Jeremiah Wright derided the Declaration's claim that "All men are created equal" as a lie. Dr. King described it as a promissory note that was about to come due.

Would a man who fought to keep the civil rights movement non-violent even as he was pelted with rocks have condoned becoming friends with an unrepentant terrorist whose only regret 40 years later was that he didn't do enough? When that man was photographed standing on an American flag in 2001, wouldn't it have caused Dr. King, a man who loved this country despite it's flaws, to think twice about remaining a friend and colleague? When he learned that the man's wife had once praised Charles Manson and thought it was "wild" that his followers killed strangers and then stabbed a corpse with a fork, would it have hurt his heart?

I'm not foolish enough or dishonest enough to try recruiting Dr. King to the Republican party posthumously. He was a pacifist who opposed Vietnam and would probably have opposed Iraq. He was a socialist who would have been right in line with Barack Obama on domestic policy. But he was also an undeniably decent and good man who loved his fellow humans...even those who did not love him. And his rhetoric on August 28th, 1963 was so loving in its insistence on justice that Malcom X called the event the "farce on Washington". I think he would have voted for Obama this November. But I also think a part of him would have been a little sad that his dream has been lost amid the clutter of radicalism and identity politics.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Prayer At The Democratic Convention

Delivered by Don Miller.

Father God,
This week, as the world looks on, help the leaders in this room create a civil dialogue about our future. We need you, God, as individuals and also as a nation. We need you to protect us from our enemies, but also from ourselves, because we are easily tempted toward apathy. Give us a passion to advance opportunities for the least of these, for widows and orphans, for single moms and children whose fathers have left. Give us the eyes to see them, and the ears to hear them, and hands willing to serve them. Help us serve people, not just causes. And stand up to specific injustices rather than vague notions. Give those in this room who have power, along with those who will meet next week, the courage to work together to finally provide health care to those who don’t have any, and a living wage so families can thrive rather than struggle. Help us figure out how to pay teachers what they deserve and give children an equal opportunity to get a college education. Help us figure out the balance between economic opportunity and corporate gluttony. We have tried to solve these problems ourselves but they are still there. We need your help. Father, will you restore our moral standing in the world. A lot of people don’t like us but that’s because they don’t know the heart of the average American. Will you give us favor and forgiveness, along with our allies around the world. Help us be an example of humility and strength once again. Lastly, father, unify us. Even in our diversity help us see how much we have in common. And unify us not just in our ideas and in our sentiments—but in our actions, as we look around and figure out something we can do to help create an America even greater than the one we have come to cherish. God we know that you are good. Thank you for blessing us in so many ways as Americans.
I make these requests in the name of your son, Jesus, who gave his own life against the forces of injustice.
Let Him be our example.

Two thoughts. First off, NO Republican minister could ever get away with a prayer that blatantly political. It would raise cries of "theocracy" from EVERYONE in the media and Democratic party. Sheesh, George Bush couldn't even cite Jesus as his favorite philosopher with more outcry than this raises. More importantly, this is, as far as I can tell, an abuse of God for political purposes. I subscribe to the Dennis Prager interpretation of the idea of "taking the Lord's name in vain" (That the Hebrew more accurately means "carrying the Lord's name. The idea is that the commandment condemns acting in God's name falsely, not just saying his name inappropriately.) and this seems like a clear violation.

Secondly, it's interesting that he ended with an invocation of Christ. In most political circumstances, that's frowned upon as exclusive, since only Christians pray to Christ. If you keep your god generic, a pastor can lead a prayer including Jews, Muslims, and various other theists. Once you insert Christ though, it becomes a Christian prayer. I wonder if that was a conscious effort to court Christian voters, or if he just invoked Christ because that's how he's used to praying as a Christian?

I think this prayer is indicative of something larger than just the prayer itself. I think one of the fundamental divides between left and right is the left's idea that there is no sphere of life that politics should not inhabit. That's why when liberals took over college campuses, they started inserting politics in the classroom and squashing opposition, something you never saw prior to the 1960's. It's why Hillary Clinton felt entirely appropriate in writing a book advocating that the entire society should be involved in raising children. It's also why Britain is currently considering the idea of removing fat children from their parents, and the leftwing state feels completely comfortable lecturing people on their personal health habits. Someone should write a book...

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Democratic Roll Call Vote

Could it get any more obnoxious? "The representatives of the great, wonderful, stupendous, and utterly awe-inspiring state of X, home to the clearest water, shiniest ponies, cutest puppies, and all things good and wonderful, cast our votes for the great one, the messiah of all mankind, that humanitarian of humanitarians, Barack Obama!"

I assume that Republican roll calls are just as saccharine. Fortunately we didn't end up with the lengthy fight we expected, so I hope to be saved much of this silliness at our convention.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Nancy Pelosi To Clinton, "Avoid Victim Politics"

Without victim politics, what do Dems have left? Condescension and sanctimony I guess, but only for the rich ones...

Obama's Rock Concert

When people rave about Obama packing 70,000 people into a stadium, shouldn't it also be mentioned that he's providing a free rock concert? I mean, maybe he could pack them in without that, but he isn't.

Biden's Hair Plugs

Can we stop with women complaining about the double standard regarding appearance already? We finally finish hearing about Barack's body fat and Mitt Romney's hair, and now Biden's plugs have become the new source of stories. WHO CARES??

Obama's VP

-He touts his humble roots.
-He's a lawyer.
-He has practically no real-world experience outside of politics.
-He's great in prepared speeches, but ranges from unimpressive to embarrassing when shooting from the hip.
-No executive experience of any kind.
-He's a part-time law professor who likes to throw the fact around to impress people.
-He plagarizes other politicians.
-He thinks he's the smartest man in the room.
-He likes to hear himself talk.

Did Obama pick a VP or himself in 20 years?

Friday, August 22, 2008

John McCain's Houses

Man, it's reprehensible that this guy can't immediately identify how many properties he and his wife own! It's obviously four...or seven...or eight or more...

On a related note, do you really want to live in an America where marrying a younger, hot, blonde, beer heiress is a hit AGAINST you?

Friday Fun

Insert Weekend at Bernie's joke here.

Someday, people will be writing articles like this about global warming.

Gun-slinging granny.

A mayor shuts down a little girl's vegetable stand and calls her self-centered. Wanna guess whether he's a Democrat or Republican?

200 proof booze. It's for fueling cars...really!

That's what you get for worshipping crocodiles.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Frank J. Is A Freakin' Genius

How does the man do it?

Just A Quick Note

When Rick Warren (and for the record, I'm not a big fan and refuse to read The Purpose Driven Life) holds a civil, discussion forum, where each candidate is asked serious and respectful questions, and allowed time to give a thoughtful answer, people cry theocracy. This is despite the fact that in America, religious participation in politics has a history that stretches all the way back to our founding. However, what really strikes me as funny is that many of the same people who decry an event of this type, were quick to defend Jeremiah Wright as firmly within the best principles of the black religious tradition in America. So apparently, hatin' on whitey from the pulpit is ok. Asking serious questions and offering both sides a chance to participate however, is beyond the pale.

Ranking The California Legislature

How did your bloodsucking local politicians do?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Philosophical Quote of the Day

I'm currently reading Frederick Coplestone's A History of Philosophy, Volume I. I thought I'd share this rather impressive quote from a character named Empedocles.

"Wretches, utter wretches! Keep your hands from beans."

Apparently he was influenced by the Pythagoreans, who for reasons not entirely clear to the modern world, considered beans to be off-limits to their followers. Perhaps it had something to do with their views on the transmigration of souls. Or perhaps they all had to bunk together and were just sick of leaving the windows open. And people say philosophy is boring...

Not A Bad Idea

Revoke The Games

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

More Displays Of Tolerance On The Left

Apparently tolerance among gays only extends to the bedroom, and not to the ballot box.

One VP Question I Haven't Seen Discussed

One of the time-honored roles for a VP is as the official attack-dog of the campaign. This isn't true of every presidential VP pick, especially in recent years, but it can be a useful consideration. While Obama and McCain have not been as annoyingly nice as I was afraid they would be during this campaign season, neither one really seems to be comfortable with going for the other guy's jugular. Obama is just too obsessed with his own high self-regard and McCain seems confused whenever he has to attack the OTHER party. It takes them both out of their element (Obama's element is praising Obama, and McCain's is talking about how lousy those OTHER Republicans are). So why not pick the VP that can most effectively take the fight into your opponent's living room?

In Obama's case, I'd be tempted to say that this consideration makes Biden the prime choice, if it wasn't for Joe's penchant for sticking his foot in his mouth. Other good choices would include any of the seasoned old veterans like Chuck Schumer, John Kerry, etc. For McCain, I think it would definitely be a Christ/Portman/Romney type. Whatever other flaws they may have, all are bright, quick on their feet, and have a decent amount of political experience. The young guns like Palin and Jindal would make poor attack dogs because they have the most to lose in terms of harming their own political futures, and the business world types like Fiorina and Fred Smith don't know the political world well enough.

FWIW, I doubt either campaign will pick based on this criterion. Neither guy seems to think in those terms. But, given that negative campaigning generally works, such a decision could mean a lot more than vague guesses about who balances the ticket or brings a swing state into the fold. Voters may not vote based on who the VP pick is, but they DO listen when the VP starts swinging for the fences. See Darth Cheney's mauling of Silky Pony back in the 2004 vice presidential debates for a good example of this.

Breaking--Barack Obama's Vice Presidential Announcement

HUGZ all! BHO here. My new BFF is TK. ONID, LOL! He is 2G2BT and a BHG. GTBG, AITR!

Monday, August 18, 2008

New French Superweapon...Or Is It American???

Ok, I stand second to none in my admiration for the United States' ability to come up with creative and freakin' cool methods for wasting bad guys, but you're going to try selling it with plausible deniability rather than going with the "wrath of Zeuss striking from the heavens" angle? Seriously? A mysterious super-weapon fries targets without leaving a trace and other countries are just going to say, "Hmm...it was either America or France... Yeah, that's it. America or France, but without physical evidence, we'll never know which." Somehow, I think they'll probably figure out it was us.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

In Your Face Einstein!

Ever since that no-talent creep Einstein ruined everyone's day by proposing that it would be impossible for an object with mass to travel faster than the speed of light with his stupid relativity theory, sci-fi nerds everywhere have had to live with the tragic remnants of their shattered dreams. Apparently, this Einstein guy decided to point out that an object's mass increases exponentially as it approaches light-speed, until it reaches infinite mass. Therefore, infinite energy would be needed to push it above the speed of light. All this leaves us cold and abandoned out here on an isolated edge of a galaxy nowhere near any other friendly galaxies.

While comforting, talk of Federation-style warp drives have always remained a tantalizing fantasy, rather than a realistic vision of the future. Now however, faster-than light travel may again be an attainable goal...albeit one for future generations, since the technology to produce the necessary power and make the proper dimensional manipulations has yet to be invented. Still, men may once again dream of someday visiting far corners of the galaxy, thanks to some intrepid physicists. (Although admittedly, I was already ahead of them thanks to Futurama. I wonder when someone will take up Futurama's other suggestion, and propose simply increasing the speed of light, which seems like a lot less effort than moving the universe?)

Still, Einstein shouldn't be let off the hook for denying us our dreams for so many years. My only comfort is that his precious unification theory is still as far away as ever. Take that you glorified patent examiner!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Obama's Reaction On The Russian/Georgian Conflict

I've heard a lot of people criticize his initial statement on the conflict as being too wishy-washy. It condemned violence and called on both countries to show restraint, without assigning any blame or naming any very concrete actions to be taken. I don't really think that this is a fair criticism. The Obama camp's explanation that the statement was put out before anyone really knew what was going on, and whether assigning blame was appropriate seems perfectly reasonable to me. After all, Russia has peacekeepers in the region, and if reports are correct that some of these peacekeepers were killed, then I could understand a very limited incursion to protect their own troops. Now that Russia has gone far beyond what would be necessary just to ensure the safety of peacekeepers, it would be unconscionable for Obama to avoid speaking out more strongly, but in the opening minutes of the conflict, I can't really argue with caution.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Could McCain's Good Fortune Hurt The GOP's Congressional Efforts?

Two pieces of conventional wisdom:
1. Increasing awareness of pressing domestic issues tends to help Democratic presidential candidates, since they promise people free stuff. One of the easiest issues to work it's way into the forefront of American consciousness is gas prices, their rise would seem to help Obama.
2. In recent days the GOP seems to have found an effective stick with which to beat up Congressional Dems, by blaming them for not doing more on gas prices. "Drill faster!" seems to be an effective battle cry. This is fueled largely by rising prices.

Therefore, isn't it possible that falling gas prices (along with the current issues in Georgia) will help cement McCain as the better candidate to lead, while simultaneously taking away from the importance of one of the few issues the GOP members of Congress seem to be winning on? (Yes, yes, I know this ignores all sorts of other things like coattails, the perceived desire of Americans for divided government, etc. Shut up, it's my blog.)

If this is true, here's an interesting question. Would you rather the GOP do well and McCain lose this fall or vice-versa? At first thought, despite my better instincts, I think I'd rather root for McCain. That may just be the liquor talking though...

Russia And Georgia

I don't have anything truly profound to say on the issue, so I'll keep it short. While others have made good points about balancing the needs of the War on Terror with the ideals of democratization and self-determination, the bottom line seems simple to me. I'm perfectly willing to accept that Georgia was foolish to invade the disputed area in the first place. They probably should have anticipated that the presence of Russian peacekeepers would be a convenient excuse for Putin. But the fact remains that Georgia is a weak ally (in terms of their resources, not their commitment), while Russia is a strong sometimes ally/often rival. Georgia has 2,000 troops in Iraq, currently the second strongest commitment of any US ally. Given that their total active military strength is 28,666 people, that puts almost 7% of their armed forces in Iraq. That turns what would otherwise appear to be a respectable commitment into an almost superhuman one. They also offered up to 500 troops for Afghanistan earlier this year. For purposes of comparison, the UK, one of our strongest and most capable allies, has around 8,500 troops in Afghanistan and approximately 4,000 in Iraq, for a total commitment of 12,500 out of their 196,000 active-duty forces, about 6.4%.

So, to recap, Georgia is a Democratic US ally, who currently has troops putting their lives on the line to assist the US in a conflict that only peripherally affects them. Now they are engaged in what could become an existential conflict for them (Though I'd say this is unlikely. Far more likely is that Russia's design is to humiliate them and make it clear that they remain under the sway of the Russian Federation no matter what borders are recognized by the international community.). Is the moral calculus really all that difficult? Isn't one of the arguments for remaining in Iraq the idea that the US is harmed every time the world sees us as unwilling to stand by an ally?

On top of that, the practical calculus doesn't seem much harder. Russia will continue to work with us when it suits them, and oppose us, either actively or behind the scenes, when it does not. Why should we believe that allowing them to slap around a more faithful ally will convince them that working with us more often is beneficial to them?

Obama Eloquently Replies, "Nuh uh! You Are!"

...to John Mccain's charge that Obama is merely a political celebrity without the experience to lead. Seriously, right here. Aside from the completely unoriginal nature of merely saying, "I know you are, but what am I" in response to an opponent's attack ad, Obama has several problems here.

First of all, it mistakes John McCain's argument, which is twofold. He isn't simply saying that Obama is a celebrity as if this fact alone would make him an unfit and risky president. His message is that Obama's rise has been due to his celebrity, RATHER THAN EXPERIENCE OR ACCOMPLISHMENT, and therefore he would make an unfit and risky president. Even if Obama can successfully portray McCain as the true celebrity president rather than himself (a hard sell given that McCain has never jokingly been referred to as the Messiah, doesn't drape himself in glowing rhetoric about how his nomination marked the day that the waters would cease to rise, the poor would be fed, etc., and the fact that Obama is the one receiving hagiographic news coverage while McCain can't even get conservatives to say nice things about him), it does not logically follow that McCain's celebrity makes him a bad candidate. Obama seems to be trying to make the argument that McCain's status as a Washington insider makes him a bad potential president, a much more potentially fruitful line of attack, but mixing this with the celebrity response just muddies the more effective half of his message.

A more effective potential use of the celebrity counter-charge might be to argue that McCain is a celebrity seeker, who is driven by positive press rather than ideology. Hey, at least that message would resonate with many conservatives! However, I think it would be better for Obama to avoid the celebrity theme as much as possible. He's just fighting on a battleground of McCain's choosing, and any good general knows that you only do that when forced to. Since Obama still leads in the polls, he would be better off just avoiding this terrain. Trying to fight it out only increases the press attention on an Obama weakness.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Obama Needs A Campaign Song

Remember when Hillary wanted to let America pick her campaign song? Well, I think now we should try to help Obama pick himself a song. With that end in mind, here are my suggestions.

"When you're a celebrity, it's adios reality..."

"High above the mucky-mucky, castle made of clouds, there sits Wonderboy, sitting oh so proudly. Not much to say, when you're high above the mucky-muck."

Sometimes Obama just feels like a woman.

"Seriously guys, I was. And STOP making fun of my name!

All The Bums But One

I think this polling data illustrates something I find fascinating about legislative politics. It tends to weaken individual accountability. While the country seems to have a "throw the bums out" mentality about Congress as a whole, when specifically asked about their district, most people respond, "not my bum!" I think that is why, while the mood in the country may color individual races (as we saw in 1994), Tip O'Neill really was telling the truth when he said that, "all politics is local". Unless a challenger can recognize the mood of the nation, and tie specific offenses by the local incumbent to that mood, it doesn't matter how foul the country feels about the Congress as a whole.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Am I The Only One?

While I think McCain's celebrity ad was actually fairly effective, and neither silly nor racist, it was unfair. To Britney Spears. While no one thinks she's currently at the top of her career arc, it shouldn't be forgotten that unlike Paris Hilton, Britney is not merely a celebrity for celebrity's sake. While she most certainly will not ever be mentioned in the same breath as the truly great female vocalists, she is definitely a top-selling singer, with 31 million albums sold in the US and 83 million worldwide. In comparison, Christina Aguilera, a contemporary (they both released their debut solo albums in 1999) with more actual talent, has only sold about 37 million albums worldwide. It may not be high art, but Britney's music can be fun. Am I the only one brave enough to admit I really liked some of her early stuff (though I'd never play it with other people around)?

Apparently The Knights Templar Are Suing The Pope

Seriously. I just checked, and yes, it is still AD 2008. I think the pope should make a deal with these guys. He'll agree to their demands, as long as they agree to let their order be tried for war crimes committed during the Crusades. And for that matter, let's open it up to everyone. The Arab nations can sue the Templars for war crime reparations too, as long as the pope gets to counter-sue the Arabs for their invasion and conquest of Palestine in the first place. Let's all get as silly as we can.

Take A Time-Out Guys

Ross Douthat discusses the silliness and paranoia of the pro-Obama crowd here. The Obama-worshipping segment of the press seems to think that they can browbeat people into voting for their man. (Oops! By pointing out that Obama is a "man" am I subconsciously playing into racial stereotypes about the hyper-masculinity of African Americans?) Seriously though, can it get any worse than an article describing the discussion of Obama's skinny frame as a stand-in for race? Oh yes, it does. Because Timothy Noah claims that ANY discussion of Obama's physical appearance is a cover for introducing racism. Does he realize how many articles were written on Hillary's pantsuits or haircuts? Does he remember the video of John Edwards getting his hair done that someone set to the tune of "I feel pretty" on Youtube? How about the discussions of George W. Bush's jogging and overall fitness regimen? No, forget all that. He seriously wants to claim that Obama cannot be treated like every other candidate because he's a black man.

It reminds me of the flap over the bar owner who started selling Obama-as-Curious-George tee shirts. He was accused of being racist, even though he explained that he really did think Obama's hairline and ears resembled those of the cartoon monkey. Well, I guess they did have a point. It's not like any other American politicians have ever been compared to a primate.

If Timothy Noah is really serious about this line of reasoning, perhaps he can explain the racist intent underlying articles like this one. Perhaps he can elucidate the racially tinged undertones of Maureen Dowd's column comparing Obama to Mr. Darcy. After all, isn't Darcy a romantic fantasy for thousands of American women? Maybe that plays into unconscious fears of the black male as a sexual predator? No one seemed to be complaining about his hagiography in Men's Vogue, even though it praised his svelte physique as well. Apparently they've only recently caught on to the subtle game being played by Obama's opponents. (I can see the secret meeting of Texas oil men, the Bush family, the Illuminati, the weird sisters, Vlad Tepes, and other members of the RNC right now. "I know what we'll do! Let's get a bunch of articles out there about how handsome and fit Obama is!" "Oooh, that'll stick it to him!" "Yeah, and let's make sure that we get pictures of him running shirtless on a beach." "Wow, there's no way he'll win now!")

Seriously, for the supporters of the supposedly post-racial candidate to get so worked up over invisible terrors like this just shows that maybe it isn't middle America needing to get over it's racial angst. Maybe it's the people who dwell on it all day, looking for secret signs of their opponents ill intent. "The guilty man fleeth where no man pursueth..." (Proverbs 28:1)

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Meanest Election EVER!!

Articles like this one, drive me crazy. Ignore for a moment that the only candidate being accused of negative tactics is McCain. (Apparently it's a subtle dog-whistle to racist whites to have a black man appear in ads with two white women, but repeatedly using the word "confused" when describing the oldest man to run for the presidency is a completely legitimate observation of fact.) What really annoys me is all of the "meanest campaign ever" hand wringing we go through every four years. Shockingly enough, it grows louder in years when the Republican attack ads are more effective than those of their opponents. 2004 was a particularly good example of this lament. But, are these concerns really correct? Let's review some past elections:

-Thomas Jefferson was accused of atheism and sexual relationships with his slaves, while his opponent, John Adams, was accused of insanity and monarchical aspirations. It was also implied by the Federalists that Jefferson and his allies wanted to bring the French Revolution to America, and that their election would leave the populace unsafe in their own beds.

-Everyone remembers the famous Burr-Hamilton duel that lead to Hamilton's death. What caused that event? Oh, yes. A political rivalry characterized by personal attacks by both men.

-When Andrew Jackson won the White House, his wife was openly called an adulteress and a whore. She died shortly after he won the election, and he spent the remainder of his life convinced the assaults on her character had done his beloved wife in.

-Charles Sumner was beaten senseless by Congressman Preston Brooks (while one of Brooks' fellow Congressman held the other senators off at gunpoint) after he insulted his fellow Senator (and Brooks' uncle) Andrew Butler on the floor of the Senate during an abolitionist speech. The insult? Butler had taken "a mistress who, though ugly to others, is always lovely to him; though polluted in the sight of the world, is chaste in his sight—I mean, the harlot, Slavery." Sumner then went on to drive his point home by engaging in the rarefied intellectual pursuit of mocking Butler's speech and mannerisms, both the product of a recent stroke.

-Pro-slavery forces openly threatened crowds in 1856 and 1860 with the argument that if the Republicans took over, black men would be stealing their white daughters.

-You have to love the simplicity of Tilden supporters during the disputed election of 1876. "Tilden or blood" is as clear as it gets.

-"Rum, Romanism, and Rebellion" helped lose the election for James G. Blaine, who was, according to his opponents, "Blaine, Blaine, James G. Blaine. The continental liar from the state of Maine."

-Who could forget the classic slogan, "Ma, Ma, where's my pa? Gone to the White House, ha ha ha." (Implying that Grover Cleveland had fathered an unacknowledged illegitimate child)

-Woodrow Wilson (a good liberal, I might add) didn't worry about all the niceties of debate, or even about trying to come up with clever epithets to hurl against his opponents. He just jailed people for disagreeing with him during WWI or refused to let the Post Office deliver their publications.

-Lyndon Johnson was a master of nasty campaigning, threatening nuclear war if people elected Barry Goldwater in his famous "Daisy Girl" ad, and tying Senator Goldwater to the KKK in another ad, "Confessions of a Republican". The tone of the campaign can be captured by these parodies of Goldwater's slogan, "In your heart, you know he's right". “In your guts, you know he's nuts” “In your heart, you know he might" "In your heart, he's too far right"

-The 1976 Ford/Dole ticket was derisively called, "Bozo and the Pineapple".

The list goes on, but I think the point is sufficiently made. Election nastiness has been present throughout American history. It hasn't lead to our national downfall yet, and the current crop is actually pretty mild by historical standards. So why not stop hyperventilating over imagined dog whistles for racists and appreciate for a moment the fact that, for the first time ever, a black man is in a position to be treated exactly like every previous presidential candidate in history?

Monday, August 4, 2008

RIP Solzhenitsyn

In the aftermath of the widespread exposure of Jeremiah Wright's foul diatribes about America, many commentators seized on his first name to argue that he was simply following in the example of his namesake (i.e. the Biblical prophet who wrote the eponymous book of Jeremiah). As pointed out by the religion editor of the Kansas City Star (March 29, 2008, H.T. Dennis Prager) there are plenty of religious fools willing to defend Wright in this vein.
"Scholars and black clergy say Wright … simply reflects a heritage of prophetic preaching in the black church. Prophetic preaching 'is the trademark of the black church tradition, of which Jeremiah Wright is perhaps one of the most illustrious exemplars,' said Walter Earl Fluker of Morehouse College in Atlanta. "'Black prophetic preaching emerges from black slavery,' said the Rev. Angela Sims, instructor of Christian ethics and black church studies at St. Paul School of Theology in Kansas City. 'Black prophetic preaching can be associated with Old Testament prophets, including Amos, Hosea, Jeremiah and Isaiah,' she said. "'The African-American church has always had a prophetic role in black life in America,' said the Rev. Donald D. Ford I of Second Missionary Baptist Church of Grandview. "'Wright fits in that tradition,' said Peter Paris, professor emeritus of Christian social ethics at Princeton Theological Seminary in New Jersey." The Chicago Tribune (March 28) reported that "Wright's preaching … is in the 'prophetic' tradition, one of many that have evolved in black pulpits. … 'Shocking words like 'God damn America' lie at the core of prophetic preaching,' said Rev. Bernard Richardson, dean of the chapel at Howard University." In the Wisconsin State Journal, Bill Wineke, a columnist and ordained clergyman of the United Church of Christ (UCC) wrote: "You see, you and I may look at the short clips of Wright sermons played almost endlessly on cable television and agree that they are filled with 'hate.' [Hillary] Clinton knows better. … She knows the tradition of prophetic preaching in the church. Every theologian I know who has actually attended Trinity United Church of Christ -- including Martin Marty, probably the most popular theologian in America today -- agrees Wright's sermons, taken in context, rest squarely in that tradition." Wineke then goes on to relate how another UCC minister, from a generation ago, also spoke from the prophetic tradition: "In Madison, the late Rev. Alfred W. Swan, minister of the First Congregational Church (now part of the UCC) from 1930 to 1965, was regularly denounced for his preaching. One Sunday in 1952, Swan mounted the pulpit to announce 'I am not a Communist, and I have no intention of being one.' That was after Swan had criticized the Korean War, urged the country to make peace with China and suggested that Russians were better off than they had been before the 1917 Revolution. Not surprisingly, Swan regularly faced calls for his dismissal." The Rev. Anthony B. "Tony" Robinson wrote in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer (March 28), "After 9/11, Wright charged that 'America's chickens are coming home to roost' … he said 'God damn America.' … Sounds like what the Bible calls a prophet." The Dallas Morning News (March 29) reported, "More than two dozen well-known black preachers and scholars, in Dallas for a long-planned conference, offered unequivocal support Friday for one of their number who was not there. … Several of the scholars and preachers spoke at a news conference. They said that Dr. Wright's sermons fit into a long-standing black tradition of prophetic preaching." Warren Bolton, associate editor of Columbia's (S.C.) The State (March 26), compared the Rev. Wright with Jesus Christ. The Rev. Marshall Hatch, pastor of New Mount Pilgrim Baptist Church in Chicago, wrote in the Austin Weekly News (March 26): "It is providential that this has come in the midst of Holy Week 2008, a season when we commemorate the crucifixion of Christ and the vindication of God for faithfulness to prophetic speech."

Among the many basic facts that this line of reasoning ignores, (such as the prophet Jeremiah, you know, telling the truth...) one seems vital. Any coward can "preach to the choir" by ranting against people who aren't present. The real Jeremiah instead spent his time criticizing God's people IN THEIR LAND, TO THEIR FACES. Wright meanwhile, spent his time blaming whitey to a cheering crowd of black parishioners who were gratified to hear that their problems were all the fault of someone else. Jeremiah showed God's people love by begging them to fix a situation rapidly careening out of control. Trying to save people from themselves was, in fact, the main purpose of his prophetic ministry. In contradistinction, Wright merely took advantage of his situation to exploit a cushy pulpit.

However, a man who was actually deserving of such a title has now passed away. Alexander Solzhenitsyn truly was "a Jeremiah", publicly criticizing the Soviets while still living within their system. Even more importantly though, was the fact that he did not stop there. Upon being thrown out of his homeland he could have become a comfortable celebrity in the West, resting on the laurels of his own brave stand against communism. Instead, he went on to criticize the West too, telling them exactly what they did not want to hear, and railing against the corrupting influence of secularism in a speech guaranteed to make sure he would never be invited to the right parties. The Scriptorium does a far better job than I can, so I'll let them write the rest of the eulogy. Just remember, if you ever need to understand the true bravery of a real Jeremiah, look no further.

Because Sometimes You Just Need To Smack The Snot Out Of Subatomic Particles

The Large Hadron Collider is nearly complete, and should be fully operational in September. I'm already getting warm fuzzies.

NYT Sinks Lower

In the whole flap over McCain's "Celebrity" ad, this is probably the worst, and least rational argument made to date. The New York Times seems to be claiming that any ad that portrays the faithful and married Senator Obama in any context with two young white women must, by definition, have racist sexual overtones. Apparently the Times believes both that Obama is seen as a potential adulterer by much of the general public, and also that the threat that he might someday be romantically involved with a white woman sends us honkeys into paroxyms of panic. (Hey wait, isn't he the PRODUCT of a black man messin' with one of "our women"? Good thing we honkeys never figured that one out, or there might have been trouble...) However, unlike the really demented leftists, the Times doesn't even have the moral courage to make the argument in clear, unambiguous tones. Instead, we are left with a mealy-mouthed "uneasy feeling" experienced by their blogging staff.

Let's accept for a moment their assumption that the Ford ad of 2006 was racist (even though it wasn't). Does the mere fact that such an ad exists prove that any other ad combining the images of a black man and a pretty white woman is, by it's very existence racist? In the Ford ad, a sultry-looking blond told him to "call me" while noting his attendance at a party at the Playboy mansion. Surely this is a slightly different case than flashing pictures of Britney and Paris while discussing the fact that Obama is more celebrity than substance. Whatever you think the merits of that argument to be, Britney and Paris are the purest living embodiments of the concept of celebrity without substance.

The NYT's other arguments are equally profound. For example, saying that Barack Obama "rightly" said that Republicans are trying to scare voters on race in response ignores the fact that Obama has been making that particular argument for months, long before the McCain ad. He was priming the pump to label anything he could a racist attack back in June. It also ignores the fact that Obama first claimed that his "dollar bill" statement had nothing to do with race, then later admitted that race was "one of the factors".

Their most intelligent argument however, had to be the idea that "dealing from the bottom of the deck" is indelibly linked to the OJ Simpson trial. In an America in which the World Series of Poker's Main Event draws literally thousands of participants at $10,000 per entry, is televised on ESPN, and has spurred household games nationwide, the New York Times is convinced that a legitimate gambling phrase essentially meaning "to cheat" must conjure up images of a trial that occurred 14 years ago, and can have no other possible, more innocent meaning.

In a world where Tiger Woods is probably the country's most beloved athlete (see his smokin' white wife here), it's sad, but not unexpected that the Times cannot let go of it's dim view of the American people. As I mourn the death of rational newspaper journalism, I can at least take comfort in the fact that this level of irrational protestation can only mean that McCain really hit a nerve with the ad. Hopefully he can home in on this unease with Obama's lack of prime-time experience and exploit it.

Friday, August 1, 2008

And Freedom Dies A Little Bit More

Gavin Newsom, the self-obsessed mayor of San Francisco has proved once again that his city produces more stupid ideas per capita than any other city on the planet. Apparently now he wants to have garbage collectors sort through residents' trash to make sure no one slipped an aluminum can into the garbage. Those who do will recieve fines and eventually can even have their service cancelled.

Aside from the obvious privacy issues involved in going through someone's trash, the risk of dangers like needle sticks, and the fact that Lady Liberty is currently spinning like a top in her grave, here's another problem to ponder. Newsom has now designed a system that combines the worst inefficiencies of both worlds.

In addition to people making the effort to sort their trash, and having multiple trucks to collect the different types of cans we all put out, the trash will be sorted a second time at the recieving point. That means that the inefficiencies of a system that requires an excessive number of highly-paid union drivers and expensive trucks requiring maintenance is combined with a system that requires lots of low-pay, (Relative to the rest of San Francisco, not the real world. The trash sifters will probably start around $50k a year, with full benefits.) manpower intensive sorting work. Why not just have one can, and thereby save on drivers and trucks if you're going to sort it at the destination anyway?