Saturday, November 13, 2004

GOP Voter Fraud? Uh, No.

Look here for a pretty thorough debunking of the "voting irregularities" disappointed Dems wish were legit. I've been taken aback by the persistent Democrat concern with voter fraud performed by Republicans. The GOP is the party of fair process, as opposed to fair outcomes, remember? If anybody were to rig the results to achieve some sort of "equity," I suspect it would be the Donkeys.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Cut Flower Civilization: An Explanation

One of my astute co-bloggers asked me to define "cut flower civilization." Quaker theologian Elton Trueblood, who published a number of great books with the famed Harper publishing house mid-century, wrote and spoke of the idea frequently. In a nutshell, the metaphor places civilization in the place of a flower. Modernity/the Enlightenment/secularization represents the cutting of the flower at the stem and then placing it in a vase, or perhaps more appropriately, a beaker. For a while, the flower will continue to live and will maintain its beauty. After all, at least some of the citizens of the new order are the same as those of the old order. But over time, its untimely divorce with the soil (tradition, religous belief, etc.) will result in withering and ultimately, death. Advocates of the cut flower civilization hypothesis would point to the dissolution of the nuclear family, sexual promiscuity/sexual disease epidemics, and greater need for prisons/security measures as indicators that the hypothesis is true and the flower is indeed quite wilted.

Novak Gives More Perspective

One of the problems with today's lefties is that they are religiously illiterate. In other words, they have no clue that the civilization they now enjoy is largely built on premises and foundations they claim to despise. Here's a nice bit from Michael Novak (who does know a thing or two about religion):

"For instance, La Repubblica (Nov.7), which I read on the plane, carries a front-page jump column by Eugenio Scalfari, its founder and publisher, under the title "Why We Cannot Call Ourselves Laicists." After confessing his own secular creed — the creed of the Enlightenment and the great principles of liberty, fraternity, and equality — he writes that this does not end the matter. He notes how the Christian idea of a duty to the most needy and vulnerable has undeniably influenced his creed, and how the Christian idea of giving to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's, is a necessary barrier to totalitarianism both Left and Right. The history of the European secular mind cannot be described simply as laicist, he insists, for it also includes a crucial source of light absorbed from Christian faith."

If you need help decoding, "Laicist" means uber secular. There are a few who realize that Christianity is deep in the mix of Western civilization and that Elton Trueblood's Cut Flower Civilization thesis may well be in danger of fully manifesting itself.

How the Enlightenment Really Dies . . .

Andrew Stuttaford has a nice corrective to the gas pains one might experience when reading the ridiculous wailing of earnest American liberals who fear fundamentalist theocracy stands ready to crash over them like a wave:

"In a last attempt to save his life, a desperate Van Gogh reportedly pleaded with his attacker: "We can," he said, "still talk about it." Talk. Dialog. Reason. In response, savagery. The murderer sawed through Van Gogh's neck and spinal column with a butcher knife, almost severing his head. And that, Mr. Wills, is how Enlightenment dies."

Hopefully, the Van Gogh incident will help overwrought liberals understand the differences between murderers and those who might wish to employ democratic processes to reduce the number of abortions in the United States or have some say in the way marriage is defined.

From Dreaming to Dreaming, by Farpoint

The new disc by the South Carolina-based band Farpoint, From Dreaming to Dreaming, finally makes real the potential suggested by the band's first two discs. Farpoint combines progressive rock with American folk traditions and a strong melodic sense to create a very passionate kind of intelligent and sophisticated rock-based music. The first full-length song on From Dreaming to Dreaming, "Autumn Sky," sets the tone with a very catchy organ line and driving rhythm reminiscent of Guy Manning's terrific song "Tightrope" (from his The Ragged Curtain CD) plus a very strong and appealing vocal performance by Dana Oxendine, who is becoming a very accomplished vocalist.

Similarly attractive organ work adorns "Here and Now," which also has a fine lead vocal melody line and passionate singing performances by Ms. Oxendine and Clark Boone. "Sojourn" has a very interesting acoustic-guitar introduction and accompaniment to Boone's lead vocal, and Oxendine's overdubbed choral background is quite effective, as is her gorgeous, ethereal lead vocal in the bridge. The song also has a very beautiful instrumental passage featuring flute, synthesizer, and electric guitar. It is really quite moving.

The melodic inventiveness begins to flag a bit from this high point, so that tracks 8 and 9 are not as strong as the rest, but the band rebounds with very good work on the last two songs to send things home nicely. Some very appealing organ work by Kevin Jarvis and another appealing acoustic guitar accompaniment enliven "Ashley's Song (Sail On)," for example.

Boone's husky baritone voice is used more effectively than on the band's first two albums and has become a positive musical asset for the group. Frank Tyson's growling, grumbling bass guitar is highly expressive indeed and a standout aspect of the production. The percussion of Rick Walker matches him step for step, and the lead guitar work by Mike Givins is quite good if not overly original (which is hardly a criticism—who can really find something truly new to do on lead guitar these days?). Kevin Jarvis's keyboard work provides a solid foundation of melody and chord accompaniment, and his solos are reminiscent of those achieved by the great 1970s progressive bands. The lyrics deal with important matters, largely spiritual ones, in a mature and intelligent way, although, like nearly all popular-music lyrics, they are by no means poetry. The CD artwork is quite attractive as well.

Definitely recommended.

Welcome Tech Central Station Readers!

We're glad to have you on board. Wander the halls a bit, won't you?

Secession city by city . . .

At American Spectator today, Lawrence Henry makes an important point about the blue state secession talk, which is that all the red portions of the blue states (which are substantial) would never agree to the deal. Those folks who draw up the United States of Canada and Jesusland graphics are looking at the state electoral map instead of the county one. What they fail to realize is that Jesusland is lapping right up against their own city limits.

My favorite part is the conclusion:

"No, the interesting thing about all the current secession talk is its similarity to the pre-Civil War era. At that time, an area of the country felt itself threatened by the impending loss of a key portion of its agrarian livelihood. Kicking and yelling, it resisted being dragged into the new industrial age.

"So what are the blue confederates kicking and screaming about? What well-nigh irresistible movement toward modernity do they refuse to recognize? Oh, I could name a few things."

Thursday, November 11, 2004

The Righteousness of Action in Iraq

Now that Sam has brought the war up again, it seems like a good time to share my political sense of the thing. Smart people on both sides have their questions about the war in Iraq, but there is one point of discussion that I think has eluded most. Think carefully for a second. If you wanted to manage the aftermath of 9-11 politically instead of strategically, what would you do? My answer is that the President could have looked very good by hitting Afghanistan, knocking out the Taliban, and calling it a day. Americans would have felt the flush of victory and would feel they had a measure of revenge for the loss of life and property endured in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania. The fact that he didn’t settle for a fairly easy victory over the Taliban tells me something. I think the security team and the President believed more was required to secure America’s safety and that they decided to pursue that course without regard for political consequences. If that is the case, the adventure in Iraq has been thoroughly righteous.

Liberals and War

In response to my piece on the New York Times and John Aschroft, which is currently appearing in The Daily Standard, a writer friend of mine asked, "Dear me, am I of the Far Right? I insist I’m a Jeffersonian of the Real Right; I think he’d be with me, as would Madison. Btw, I am not against a war on terrorists, and I did not object to going after OBL in Afghanistan, but … Iraq…?"

I think this an excellent question, and will offer a couple of points in answer. My Daily Standard piece was actually meant as a critique of the New York Times's approach to news analysis, not as a defense of Ashcroft. Note that I wrote "however much one might disagree with Ashcroft's actions as attorney general"; I am in fact one of those "one"s. My own position--which I published on www.vdare.com just a week after the September 11 attacks--is that the essential element in any internal U.S. measures against terrorism must start by recognizing the difference between citizens and noncitizens: the former have civil rights, and the latter absolutely do not. That, in my view, would still be a very good guide in how to approach these matters, and would have the advantage of being constitutional.

As to my friend's possibly being on the far Right, consider that by my own calculus I am a liberal. I am a liberal of the Right, aka a classical liberal. Another person on the Right could be either a conservative of the Right or a radical of the Right. See my first post for this site, "Why the Reform Club...", in the October archive, for a more detailed explanation.

I recognize that most modern-day libertarians classify themselves as classical liberals, but I don't think that most of them are exactly that--they would part from Burke and Smith and the other original Whigs in several important ways. For example, Smith was perfectly happy with lots of government intervention in the economy for national-defense purposes (and might very well have approved of the War in Iraq), and Burke's Catholic activism would horrify the Reason crowd, the Randians, and many others on the more-radical Right.

Consider, if you would, the following handy reference point:

Conservatives are primarily concerned about preserving civilization.
Radicals are primarily concerned about transforming civilization.
Liberals are primarily concerned about extending civilization.

As to the War in Iraq, we Reform Club Whigs are catholic on the issue: Hunter and I supported it, and Alan opposed it (see Alan's recent posting, "One Antiwar Zealot for Bush," on this). But all three of us approached the issue from the same premises--U.S. national security as the first priority for our federal government, pursued under any rational and appropriate means the Constitution allows. My position is that the Constitution allows a War on Terror but does not require it; hence I have fundamental assumptions in common with those who oppoosed the War in Iraq for national security reasons. Those who opposed it for economic or ideological reasons (especially pacifism) or because of simple fear of casualties, however, cannot really be considered liberals in my view.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Controversial Ashcroft

The New York Times article on Attorney General John Ashcroft's resignation describes him, rather hyperbolically in my view, as "one of the most powerful and divisive figures ever to serve as the nation's top law enforcement official." That's a particularly weird statement when one considers that compared to his immediate predecessor, Janet Reno, Ashcroft was downright obscure.

The article goes to great lengths to persuade us that Ashcroft held bizarre, "extremist" beliefs that made him naturally controversial, in the paper's rather sad attempt to distract readers from the fact that the controversies to which the New York Times alludes were largely a creation of that newspaper and its political allies, who disagreed strongly with the entire thrust of his policies. In fact, the present NYT "analysis" inadvertently proves the point, as I demonstrate in today's issue of The Daily Standard (the online edition of The Weekly Standard), here.

To the extent that Ashcroft had a "tumultuous tenure," as the caption of the photo accompanying the article puts it, the tumult was very much a creation of the New York Times itself and the rest of the radical Left (aided by a good many on the radical Right). The fact is, the New York Times and the rest of the far Left despised Ashcroft for his openly religious views on politics. It is a pity that these partisans seem unable to admit or even recognize that little bit of extremism on their own part.

A little honesty in this regard and similar situations would go a long way toward restoring the credibility of the New York Times. That, however, seems far too much to hope for.

Ted Rall and the Disease of Dumb

The far, far left's favorite op-ed writer Ted Rall has bravely confessed his cultural elitism. Rall, you see, knows that the folks in the blue states are much smarter, cooler, fashionable, etc. than the folks in the red states. Here's a paragraph:

"Maps showing Kerry's blue states appended to the "United States of Canada" separated from Bush's red "Jesusland" are circulating by email. Though there is a religious component to the election results, the biggest red-blue divide is intellectual. "How can 59,054,087 people be so DUMB?" asked the headline of the Daily Mirror in Great Britain, and the underlying assumption is undeniable. By any objective standard, you had to be spectacularly stupid to support Bush."

Rall continues the bloviating for several hundred words. What I've always wondered is how the left can maintain their intellectual superiority when they don't even understand economics and basic human incentives. Their public policy program has always struck me as a big bouquet of "wishing makes it so" and "it is because I say it is" proposals. By their standard, Fidel Castro is terribly, terribly bright. Ditto Mao. I'll take mine mediocre, thanks.

Get Smart. Watch TV.

Unless they chicken out at the last minute, I will be on C-Span with Brian Lamb on Friday Nov. 12, talking about budget deficits (the government's not yours) and other such boring stuff. This will become a call-in show at some point, probably when one of us runs out of things to say. The only study guide required is a short piece I wrote for Apple Daily, in Hong Kong (http://www.cato.org/dailys/09-22-04.html)

Idiotic Ideas About Theocracy

Lefties everywhere are crying about the coming theocracy. Apparently, if you justify a political position via Jesus Christ as opposed to your gut feeling, or Nietszchean thought, or Maureen Dowd's cutesie regurgitations, or any other source of values, you have stepped over the line into theocracy. Excuse me, but is it your vote or isn't it? When I enter the voting booth, I have the right to decide on candidates and their policy positions any way I wish, don't I?

Theocracy is when the church and the government are one. We don't have that in America. The countries that did have it, like Sweden for example, now have enormous states with eunuch churches. What we have is separation of church and state where the church is vigorous and critical. When it was mostly left-wing churches doing it, they were celebrated as they "spoke truth to power" and provided a "prophetic voice." When the conservative churches do it, we get theocracy. Go figure.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Blue States Talking Secession!

On the logic that blue states pay more and get less from the feds than the red states, some "progressives" are shopping about talk of secession. My response to that is, "THROW ME INTO THE BRIAR PATCH BABY!" Secede. We'll pass a lot of great constitutional amendments while you're gone. The South, the West, and the Heartland will find a way to get by. In no time at all, the blue states will head on toward European economic performance while the rest of the world will discuss the emergence of the Sunbelt Tiger!

Jonah Goldberg Nails It!

I have rarely agreed with anything as much I agree with Jonah Goldberg's recent remarks on liberal unhappiness with the election results:

"But what offends them so much about religion is that it is a source of authority outside — and prior to — politics. What has offended the Left since Marx, and American liberalism since Dewey, is the notion that moral authority should be derived from anyplace other than the state or "the people" (conveniently defined as citizens who vote liberal). Voting on values not sanctified by secular priests is how they define "ignorance." This was the real goal of Hillary Clinton's "politics of meaning" — to replace traditional religion with a secular one that derived its authority not from ancient texts and "superstitions" but from the good intentions of an activist state and its anointed priests. Shortly before the election, Howell Raines fretted that the worst outcome of a Bush victory would be the resurgence of "theologically based cultural norms" — without even acknowledging the fact that "theologically based cultural norms" gave us everything from the printing press and the newspaper to the First Amendment he claims to be such a defender of."

Priceless Karl Rove . . .

Last night I saw Tim Russert interviewing Karl Rove. They talked about the business of appointing judges. After asking Rove whether the President would appoint judges who would reverse Roe v. Wade and getting the standard answer about interpreting the law instead of legislating from the bench, Russert took a new tack. "Does the President believe there is a right to privacy in the Constitution?" Rove's answer was priceless:

"Griswold v. Connecticut? The President and I have never discussed Griswold v. Connecticut."

Monday, November 08, 2004

Mike Kinsley: Arrogant Elitist

Michael Kinsley took a stab at irony in the Sunday Washington Post, with ironic results (http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A29470-2004Nov5?language=printer): “If you insist – and you do – I will rethink my fundamental beliefs from scratch, since they are shared by only 47 percent of the population. . . .But could you please stop calling me arrogant and elitist?”

The arrogance of Kinsley’s sermon eludes him because he is so elitist. He presumes, against overwhelming evidence, that everyone who voted for Senator Kerry must be a Kinsley clone – that is, another “softheaded liberal” who shares Kinsley’s beliefs about abortion and gay marriage.

Kinsley asserts “that people on my side of the divide want to live in a society where women are free to choose abortion and where gay relationships have full civil equality with straight ones. And you [meaning those intolerant zealots who voted for Bush] want to live in a society where the opposite is true. . . . We don't want to force you to have an abortion or to marry someone of the same gender, whereas you do want to close out those possibilities for us. Which is more arrogant?”

Kinsley is far more arrogant than he realizes, because he claims to speak for “we” when he really means “me.” He assigns one prepackaged duet of opinions to Kerry supporters and another to Bush supporters. Yet many Kerry and Bush supporters don’t care a bit about these two issues (which have never been under the jurisdiction of federal law). Others hold Kinsley’s view on one of them, but not the other, and that includes Republicans as well as Democrats.

Kinsley is simply dreaming if he thinks most of his views are shared by 47 percent of the population. Exit polls show only 21 percent of voters – not 47 percent -- regard themselves as liberal. Only 25 percent – not 47 percent -- approve of same-sex marriage, and 22 percent of them voted for Bush. Bush also received 23 percent of the gay vote.

When it comes to abortion, however, only 16 percent of the voters think abortion should be illegal, and 22 percent of them voted for Kerry. Nearly half of U.S. Catholics voted for Kerry, and a larger fraction of Muslims and Jews, although many people of those faiths view abortion as equivalent to infanticide (which is also not subject to federal jurisdiction).

Kinsley’s “full civil equality” for gay couples dodges the more sensitive issue of reserving the term marriage for traditional couples. Among those favoring civil unions for gays, in fact, Bush beat Kerry 52 to 47 percent. What “civil equality”means is inherently unclear because it could involve many agencies of federal, state and local governments. The IRS would surely protest if two men or two women tried to file a joint tax return, but that would be a matter of money not morality.

Senators Kerry and Edwards advocated letting the states permit or ban same-sex marriage laws, which state elections just proved is the practical equivalent of favoring a ban. President Bush did not take a fundamentally different position, but worried (from experience) that local judges might contravene state legislatures.
Kinsley goes on to say, “We on my side of the great divide don’t, for the most part, believe that our values are direct orders from God. We don't claim that they are immutable and beyond argument. We are, if anything, crippled by reason and open-mindedness, by a desire to persuade rather than insist. Which philosophy is more elitist?”

Orders from God? Kinsley defines his “great divide” as only a habitual elitist possibly could. He imagines a division between religious Republicans and liberal Democrats. A liberal rabbi or Ayn Randian atheist has no place in “The World According to Mike.” Yet only 8 percent of the voters thought the candidate’s religious faith was a top issue. And 31 percent of those with no religion voted for Bush. Senator Kerry, on the other hand, received 47 percent of the Catholic vote, 74 percent of the Jewish vote and a sizable majority of the Muslim vote.

As for the left’s alleged open-mindedness and mild-mannered “desire to persuade,” that is just an arrogant and elitist description of what arrogant and elitist liars and panderers like Michael Moore and George Soros have been doing to try to trick and buy their way to power.

The Enemy in Fallujah

Michael Fumento sends us the following, from the Kansas City Star:

"'This is as pure a fight of good against evil as we're likely to see in our lifetime,' Marine Col. Craig Tucker told troops. 'This enemy is a terrorist. He is a hardened criminal. This is not an insurgency -- there is no alternative better future for Iraq that is represented by these bastards.'"

Exactly. The enemy in this case is not a band of idealists who are basically hopeful and well-meaning even if possibly mistaken in their desired policies. On the contrary, the enemy that remains in Iraq is a relentlessly vicious bunch of thugs very like the Communists, Nazis, African dictators, and other assorted gigantic criminal conspiracies that have looted and destroyed a multitude of previously livable places in the past century and a half. It is an outpouring of a common, primitive will to group power that is aided by modern technology. And like all its predecessors, it responds only to force.

Garrison Keillor and I Finally Divorce

During my long drives home from college back in the late eighties and early nineties, I passed the time wearing out an old cassette full of material from Garrison Keillor's Prairie Home Companion. My enjoyment from the show has diminished as the once genial entertainer has become less of a delightful monologuist and tale spinner and more like any ordinary angry liberal. The famed Powerlineblog brought this little bit of transcript loveliness to my attention:

"We're over it. We've moved on. We're just fine. The election was days ago. Days ago. Much has happened since then. We've practically forgotten about it here [laughter] in our rush to enter into new activities, new frontiers, new projects. I am now the chairman of a national campaign to pass a constitutional amendment to take the right to vote away from born-again Christians. [enthusiastic audience applause] Just a little project of mine. My feeling is that born-again people are citizens of heaven, that is where there citizenship is, [laughter] is in heaven, it's not here among us in America. If you feel that war in the Middle East is simply prophecy fulfilled, if you believe that tribulation and suffering are just the natural conditions of life, if you believe that higher education is vanity, unnecessary, there is only one book that one need to read, if you feel that unemployment is -[glitch]- dependent on him and drawn you closer to him. [laughter] If you feel -[glitch]- lousy healthcare is a portal to paradise, [applause] then you don't really share our same interests, do you? No, you do not."

Count on Andy Rooney to Tell It Straight

This line from his column posted on the CBS News website pretty much says everything you need to know about the establishment media:

"Television did a good job Tuesday night, I thought. I know a lot of you believe that most people in the news business are liberal. Let me tell you I know a lot of them, and they were almost evenly divided this time. Half of them liked Sen. Kerry; the other half hated President Bush."

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Just so you know how Michael Moore feels about it . . .

Michael Moore now has a map of North America posted on his website that consolidates the blue states with our neighbor to the north and calls that region "The United States of Canada." The red states are re-christened "Jesusland." One gathers this juxtaposition is supposed to elicit either a laugh or a feeling of great pathos.

After a brief scan, I can tell you I was quite relieved to find I live in Jesusland. Neither Nietszcheland, Marxland, Stalinland, or Castroland have ever held much appeal.