Saturday, May 14, 2005

Making Secondary Primaries Primary

The linked article is very important to read if you are a political type. I suspect that this will be the first of many on this subject.

The Democratic Party is beginning to make noises about changing its primary system. Ostensibly, they are concerned about the fact the larger states are being unfairly deprived of their true strength by virtue of their later primaries. States like Michigan are loudly griping that the nomination has usually been decided before their primary is conducted.

The real reason behind these moves is the fact that only the most radical left-wing members of the party get emotionally engaged in the process early on, with the more sedate types tending to wait until later. This is forcing candidates to take radical positions in the early primaries which make them less viable in the general election.

If they bunch the primaries, with very large states being heard from right alongside the small ones, the condensed process will allow for more of a centrist voter base.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Who Is a Liberal, and Why Does It Matter?

Lawrence Auster has composed an interesting analysis of modern political labels for his View from the Right blog. Auster considers David Horowitz as an individual who has commonly been known as a conservative (since his conversion from leftism) but who does not show many of the characteristics normally associated with conservatism. In fact, Auster notes, Horowitz does not consider himself to be a conservative:

"I have on occasion said to David Horowitz that in my view he is a liberal, a comment with which he disagreed. Yet Horowitz seems to have had second thoughts on the subject. In a postscript to his exchange today with Jacob Heilbrunn, he writes:

"'I'm uncomfortable with labels myself. I am a liberal--free market, individualist, politically tolerant, even ecumenical, and progressive. But my reactionary political enemies who dominate the cultural institutions that are the arbiters of public language--the universities and the media--label me a right-wing conservative (and worse). There's not much I can do to redefine the political landscape, but I have given it a try by creating DiscoverTheNetworks.org.'"

Here both Auster and Horowitz reflect the arguments regularly made by this author on this site in regard to the flaws in today's political labels. Auster then goes on to provide a conservative's critique of classical liberalism:

"My point here is that Horowitz's typical mainstream mixture of liberal and conservative views, whether we call the mixture 'conservative liberalism' or 'liberal conservatism' or simply 'unlabeled,' is at bottom a form of liberalism rather than of conservatism, and as such will show the characteristic weakness of liberalism in relation to leftism. As long as a person's highest political values are the procedural liberal values of individual rights, equality, tolerance, and free inquiry, then, even though he is not a leftist, he nevertheless shares a fundamental orientation with the left: the lack of allegiance, or at least of primary allegiance, to a substantive civilizational or spiritual order. Such a person will be more concerned about defending and expanding individual freedoms than defending the social and familial order that makes such freedoms possible; he will care more about tolerance for other cultures and peoples than the preservation of his own culture and people. In the long run, liberals' inner commonality with leftists makes them incapable of standing firmly against the left's ongoing reconstruction of human society."

I do not agree with Auster's claim that the highest values of a liberal are procedural. I believe that there are very powerful basic thoughts behind these values, as I have alluded to on this site before. However, I believe that he is asking the right questions; specifically, what are the real bases for the values we hold? As a consequence of this seriousness, Auster's piece is quite useful and shows the increasing interest in rethinking political labels today.

Friday The Thirteenth, Pre-quelled

So it's Friday the 13th, a day for which our culture seems to have conceived a dread. Somewhere in the murky historical memory is the tale of the birth of this superstition; one thing is for certain, it shows no signs of dying anytime soon.

Does anyone have any idea why this is taken to be an ill-starred time?

Well, let me share with you a theory that I heard in my youth. The Talmud (Makot 23b) says that the Jewish People were given 613 commandments, or mitzvot. (There are disputes between Maimonides and other early commentators about the exact list, but all feel obligated to arrive at that total somehow. Incidentally, most of them relate to aspects of the Temple service, leaving only 270 applicable in the present day.)

Thus, people who feared or hated the Jews saw the coinciding of the sixth day of the week with the thirteenth day of the month as a bad omen.

Interestingly, when Terry Wallis made his miraculous recovery in 2003, emerging from a coma after nineteen years, it was widely noted that his injury had occurred on Friday the 13th (July 13, 1984) and recovery had come on Friday the 13th (June 13, 2003), almost 19 (6 plus 13) full years later. Perhaps, then, 613 is one way that God signs His name.

Give Me A Vowel

...and this gem from an Associated Press story: Tom Delay is a "lightening rod".

One thing is for certain. The state of language in journalism today is "frightning", with no indication of "brightning" on the immediate horizon.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Bolton, Not Runnin'

Finally, the Republican Party showed that they have one of those long things in the middle of their backs, you know... that knobby thing.

Indeed the presence of spine was confirmed by standing up to the media blitz and the Democrat spin cycle - and voting out of committee the nomination of John Bolton for Ambassador to the United Nations.

Who knows? Maybe they will have the courage to move forward on the Nuclear Option to stop judicial nominees from being filibustered.

Best news of all: the strong message to the Congress (and, frankly, the world) that President Bush and his administration will stand behind its nominees and not back down at the first sign of resistance. Bravo!

Headless Headline

The job of a political and cultural columnist has oh, so many demands, the most strenuous of which is reading the Yahoo headlines more or less every hour. Yahoo News, incidentally, is provided by Reuters.

Over the years, I have had occasion to highlight the doozies that they seem to produce all too often. Perhaps my all-time favorite came after a man shot up a Wisconsin church a few months ago, murdering seven innocent parishioners. The headline of their follow-up story read: Church Gunman Upset Over Sermon. That may never be topped.

But I loved this one today: Jolie Hails 'Strength and Spirit' Of Sierra Leone. I guess you have to go to collagen to learn worldly stuff like that.

The Blog Syndicate

Roger Simon and a select group of others are heading up a new blog syndicate that plans to directly challenge the establishment media in the area of reporting. This could be big whether Simon's group implements it or someone else. George Gilder may have lost his internet investing fortune, but he was dead right in his predictions about the media future, particularly with regard to narrow-casting overcoming broadcasting. You're going to be able to get your news from someone you trust and from people who may have a lot more head knowledge about a particular happening than the cap-toothed or expense-accounted wonder with the NYT or the networks.

See Peter Hannaford's insightful American Spectator article about it here.

Bad News Bears

Reviewing some economic news of the past few weeks:

1. The price of oil has fallen by ten bucks a barrel – from roughly $58 to $48 -- ever since Goldman Sachs analyst Arjun Murti predicted it was heading for $105.

2. The U.S. Treasury announced that April tax receipts were astonishingly strong, leading experts to predict this year’s budget deficit has been overestimated by at least $50 billion.

3. Last month's surging exports and employment (previously called a "soft patch") mean the perfectly respectable 3.1 percent first quarter GDP growth is soon to be revised upwards towards 4 percent. So, while earlier reports said the pace of economic growth over the past 8 quarters had been running at a mere 4.3 percent pace (which gave Paul Krugman a “whiff of stagflation”), it was actually a bit better than that.

For Democrats planning to rehash Senator Kerry's 2004 nonsense about the economy to gain Congressional seats next year, all this goods news is very bad news indeed. Whenever reality goes against their theories, however, the Dems can count on The New York Times to “interpret” the news in imaginative ways.

Last Sunday, New York Times writer Daniel Gross warned of “The Perfect Storm That Could Drown the Economy.” I naturally assumed he must be writing about some other country, but apparently not. Mr. Gross presumably reads the sort of news we just reviewed. Yet he somehow sees in these same tea leaves “many obvious and worrisome portents” that could lead to a “major recession” or even a “full-blown crisis.” In fact, Mr. Gross imagines “some [U.S.] imbalances are eerily reminiscent of conditions that helped touch off recent economic crises: Mexico in 1994, Asia in 1997, Russia in 1998 and Argentina in 2002.” “What's more,” he adds, “a recovery would be comparatively slow in coming.”

I long ago stopped expecting New York Times reporters and columnists to accurately report the economics news. But you’d think they might at least try reading the economic news.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Brian Wilson's Art

Fred Schendel, songwriter and keyboardist for the progressive rock band Glass Hammer, has written a highly interesting disquisition on differing aims of popular music artists, taking as his starting point Brian Wilson's great album SMiLE. Looking at the rise of popular music in critical estimation in the 1960s, Schendel writes,

"Inspired by the provocative style of Bob Dylan, the Beatles began to speak out on any and all subjects to an ever-eager press, and their words spread like gospel. And so it has been throughout the subsequent history of rock music. From the ├╝ber-angst (brilliantly articulated) of the Who to the antiwar and antiestablishment blathering of almost every acclaimed late-Sixties band to the political ramblings of the Bonos and Michael Stipes of today, the idea that rock music (and musicians) had a chance—no, a duty—to speak out about things traces directly back to the Beatles.

"And the manner of this speaking shall be negative, depressing, and anger-inducing to the extent possible. This is the unwritten commandment of rock and roll consciousness-raising, and it has been followed to the letter by countless so-called artists of the last forty years: Grumpiness equals respectability.

"Meanwhile, shifting our story back to the Sixties—there were the Beach Boys, with nothing more important to say than Have Fun and Be Happy. They were doomed. They could be fun, and popular. But never Important; never really respected."

Schendel's observation that an artist must be somber in order to be considered serious by most critics is quite accurate. Like the writings of P. G. Wodehouse and the films of Buster Keaton, there is much more to the music of Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys than many critics are willing and able to see. By definition, those critics are superficial.

Monday, May 09, 2005

The Notion of Atheocracy

Baylor Prof. Francis Beckwith hit me with a fascinating new term last week -- Atheocracy. It is simply the opposite of a theocracy. Atheocrats want a governent and public square completely denuded of religion. I thought the term would be good for spurring conversation and BOOM, Dr. Beckwith turned it into a web site and blog. You can check it out here.

Here's a little snippet:

Welcome to the Atheocracy Report, a website dedicated to supporting the political liberty of religious citizens to participate in America's liberal democracy.

Atheocracy.com intends to accomplish two goals: (1) To offer a positive case for the right of religious citizens to participate in America's liberal demorcacy by critically assessing the burdens placed on them by those who mistakenly claim that an atheocratic public square is a neutral one; (2) To document and offer commentary about unjust and uncharitable discrimination, depictions, and marginalizaiton of religious believers who seek to participate as citizens in the public square and shape the laws and policies of their communities. Because this injustice is often supported and perpetuated by groups and individuals that maintain that all religious belief is irrational and thus ought to be sequestered from the public square, we refer to these groups and individuals as atheocratic, which literally means supporting "atheistic government."

These atheocratic groups and individuals often misrepresent, charicature, and enage in ad hominen attacks against serious religious believers. The Atheocracy Report believes that church and state ought to separate, and that a theocracy is just as bad as an atheocracy. However, religious believers often come to the public square, not merely with blind faith and sacred Scripture, but with arguments and reasons that are distinctly pubic. We believe that these ought to be assessed on their own terms. Citizens should not be dismissed by an atheocratic litmus test that excludes them from the conversation because they happen to be religious believers. Nor should these citizens have their arguments ruled out a priori because they happen to be consistent with views congenial to belief in God and inconsisent with atheocratic views on the nature of law, morality, the good life, or human beings.

Check it out and encourage the good professor to follow through on a great idea.

The Beverly Hill-Bill-y Story

Hey, if you have a few minutes of time on your hands, no way can you afford to miss the text of the lawsuit of Peter Paul against Bill and Hillary Clinton. Paul, a Beverly Hills producer type, was the single largest contributor to Hillary's Senate campaign, although he did not really want to be quite that big.

The story as laid out in the complaint is absolutely fascinating and will give you a window into how the Clintons operate.

My favorite part? The news that Bill Clinton allowed Chaka Khan to be photographed sitting on his desk in the Oval Office.

And to think that Washington journalists still sneer at R. Emmett Tyrrell for getting too carried away over that pair's shenanigans!

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Ogden Nash, Move Aside

Popular demand has been unrelenting. Everyone insists that I publish my bit of doggerel describing the United States taking on the war in Iraq without the assistance of France, Germany or Russia. So, in honor of the Prez' visit to Putin, here goes:

Fighting in the desert sans
France.
"Look, Ma, no Hans"-
perchance.
Constancy, not Ivan's
essence.