Follow by Email

Monday, June 23, 2014

Edmund Burke and America 2014

I've been re-reading Edmund Burke's commentary on the French Revolution and I'm astounded at his prescience. He and Alexis de Toqueville were very prophetic in their view of things to come. Burke's tone is both comical and erudite; he pokes fun at the sacred cows of his day, political booster clubs that made grand pronouncements on world affairs as if they spoke for the nation instead of a handful of nutjobs. America is full of those, and now they have the Internet as a tool for spreading their doctrines.

Just a few quotes from Burke will show how right-on he is even when it comes to today's political situation:

"...I cannot stand forward, and give praise or blame to anything which relates to human actions, and human concerns, on a simple view of the object, as it stands stripped of every relation, in all the nakedness and solitude of metaphysical abstraction. Circumstances (which with some gentlemen pass for nothing) give in reality to every political principle its distinguishing colour and discriminating effect. The circumstances are what render every civil and political scheme beneficial or noxious to mankind." (In other words, it's only a good idea if it actually works out in the real world.)

"I should therefore suspend my congratulations on the new liberty of France, until I was informed how it had been combined with government; with public force; with the discipline and obedience of armies; with the collection of an effective and well-distributed revenue; with morality and religion; with the solidity of property; with peace and order; with civil and social manners. All these (in their way) are good things too; and, without them, liberty is not a benefit whilst it lasts, and it is not likely to continue long." (This is a list of priorities that determine if a policy is good for society or not.)

"A state without the means of some change is without the means of its conservation. Without such means it might even risk the loss of that part of the constitution which it wished the most religiously to preserve." (This relates directly to the Convention of States project to amend the Constitution using Article V of the Constitution, which would allow state legislatures to fix problem with federal overreach without having the federal government itself, which is guilty of the overreach, vote on how it is done.)

"A spirit of innovation is generally the result of a selfish temper, and confined views." (As good a description of Progressivism as I've ever heard.)

"Compute your gains: see what is got by those extravagant and presumptuous speculations which have taught your leaders to despise all their predecessors, and all their contemporaries, and even to despise themselves, until the moment in which they become truly despicable. [...] This was unnatural. The rest is in order. They have found their punishment in their success. Laws overturned; tribunals subverted; industry without vigor; commerce expiring; the revenue unpaid, yet the people impoverished; a church pillaged, and a state not relieved; civil and military anarchy made the constitution of the kingdom; everything human and divine sacrificed to the idol of the public credit, and national bankruptcy the consequence; and, to crown all, the paper securities of new, precarious, tottering power, the discredited paper securities of impoverished fraud and beggared rapine, held out as a currency for support of an empire..."

That last quote is uncanny, especially when you compare it to the current state of affairs in the United States. We are being led by ideologues who despise their own country and its traditions. The Progressives want to tax churches. We borrow spend trillions on "economic stimulus" and yet our middle class is drying up. We are printing a paper currency based on nothing, using a fancy term like "quantitative easing" to justify it as a good instead of a means of devaluing the dollar. In other words, we are doing everything the French revolutionaries did wrong. Can we really expect a different outcome?

Edmund Burke's central thesis, that traditions exist because they accomplished a good for society and should not be tossed aside lightly, is the core of Conservatism. The Neo Con revolution has subverted true Conservatism in our country. Radicalism under the guise of Free Market Capitalism and the Bush Doctrine have replaced the wisdom of our Founders. If even our so-called Conservatives are radicals, we're really in trouble.

Anyone who calls himself a Conservative should read Reflections on the Revolution in France. Those of you who think that the current Republican policy positions represent Conservatism will be in for a shock.

Monday, October 28, 2013

"Conservatives" and Education: Why is local control such a radical idea?

The State of Indiana is meddling again. We have a solid Republican legislature, a Republican governor, and a Conservative state supreme court. Nevertheless, the state thinks it's perfectly alright to mandate exactly how local school boards do their business. They feel the need to reach into every classroom and have people who've never taught a single lesson in school decide what form of pedagogy works best. They have seized property taxes from local municipalities and used it to enforce their pet theories with an iron fist. All of this has been done, ostensibly, in the name of Conservatism.

Even talk radio hosts have jumped on this bandwagon. Both Limbaugh and Hannity tend to paint the lack of positive outcomes for certain students as a problem of the local schools, something changeable by legislative (i.e. state-level) means. Yet, in all other areas, they extol the virtues of governance at the most local level possible. They cite the overspending caused by unnecessary bureaucracy. They cite the unresponsiveness of a distant and cumbersome centralized government. They cite the wastefulness of collecting funds from local areas and then redistributing a fraction of that money back to the same places it was taken from. In all of this they are absolutely right. For some reason, there is a disconnect between the principles of true Conservatism and so-called Conservatives' opinions on public education.

Can it be said that state control of local school policies has improved our educational standing compared to the rest of the world? Certainly not, and these selfsame pundits are constantly citing the widening gulf in achievement between the United States and the rest of the industrialized world. They have bought wholesale into the Progressive idea that equalizing funding via state redistribution schemes will equalize achievement, yet we can all see that this notion has completely failed. The same people who deny that funding makes a difference in achievement are perfectly fine with norming funding so that all schools within a state spend the same amount per pupil.

I suppose that makes me either an extreme right-winger or a liberal, depending upon whether you consider public education to be exempt from the principles that govern the rest of Conservative thought. I, for one, don't think so. Let's keep the state's paws out of local schools. They've done enough harm already.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Shutdown and the Debt Clock

Listening to the radio the other day, I noted that Glenn Beck was ranting about the debt clock being unrealistically slow, as if to say that it's being slowed down to make Obama look good. Normally, the debt clock is running so fast that the numbers on the end are just an unreadable blur. To see what the debt is at any point in time, go to this site. Hit refresh every second or two and you can see our national debt go up by a few tens of thousands of dollars. It's great fun!

It then occurred to me that America was in the midst of a government "shutdown," meaning that only the essential functions of government were in operation -- the military, national security, etc. Because of this, our rate of expenditure was drastically lower than normal, so our debt was increasing very slowly. (Sadly, though, it was still increasing.)

I also noted that Wall Street was on the rise through most of the shutdown. Could it be that a less-intrusive government is actually good for the economy? Could it be that supply-side, free-market economics actually works? Though analysts were constantly reporting on Wall Street, none of them even brought up this question. Even FOX analysts reported on the numbers as if Wall Street was hoping the shutdown would end; no one got the real lesson: Less government = good business.

I realize that the Republicans lost the war of words over the shutdown. Well, it's hard to win a war when you're only fighting defensively. As usual, the Republican Party chose to respond to criticism rather than level any. They chose to allow President Obama to set the tone and framework of the argument. I should have seen every Republican leader in Washington angrily wagging a finger at the president, laying the blame for the shutdown squarely on his shoulders. He refused to even discuss the issue, holding the nation hostage over a pet program he himself admits needs to be improved. He refused to fund individual programs, sent one-by-one, in a tantrum of epic proportions. He failed to respect the Constitutional framework which grants the power of the purse to the House of Representatives. He ignored the will of the people, the vast majority of whom are dead-set against his ironically-named Affordable Health Care Act.

The Republican Party should have been spending wads of money on a barrage of attack ads on radio, television, and the Internet. Instead, they allowed themselves to be whipped into submission. Why do the spineless ones always get control of our party? How do they do it? You would think the assertive would be the logical winners in a power struggle. It makes no sense to me.

The debt clock will soon be a giant digital blur in the sky. It saddens me. For a brief time, we almost had our spending under control. It makes me wonder, why does the government even hire workers who are nonessential in the first place? Perhaps that is the most important issue, again ignored by the media, to come out of this whole debacle.

Monday, October 7, 2013

1 - 800 - F*** - YOU, America!

When I saw the Facebook post about Obamacare's 1-800 number, I thought to myself, "This must be a joke. It's too good to be true!"

So I dialed the number. However, I read the number wrong on the Facebook post and dialed out the complete phrase: 1-800-F***-YOU. To my surprise, I got through. It was an Obamacare hotline to connect you to the state agency responsible for exchanges. I decided to go through the phone menu to see if it was legit or just a prank.

I kept pressing the indicated buttons, and I kept getting further in the automated voice menu. I was soon instructed, "Para hablar en espaƱol, marque el uno." I was directed to press or say a number in order to get to the right option. I was instructed to say the name of my state to get to the correct agency. I was then presented with the option of speaking to a live representative. I'd heard enough. 1-800-F***-YOU will get you to the Obamacare exchanges hotline.

Can this be a coincidence? I doubt it. Either someone at the phone company is one hell of a social commentator, or someone in the Obama camp was trying to slip his true feelings in under the radar. Either way, to expect that nobody would discover something so outright hilarious, especially in the modern, online world, was unreasonable. It must have been a practical joker at the phone company.

This is resonating all over the Internet for obvious reasons. Considering that a majority of Americans opposes the law and even Democrats have stated it is a train wreck waiting to happen, people get it. The bill was passed by a narrow partisan vote using parliamentary process tricks to avoid even having a debate about it. We were told that Congress would have to pass it in order to see what was in it.

That's a lot like being asked to sign a contract before you can read it.

I was giddy when I got the news about the phone number. I had a grin about a mile wide. I'm smiling as I write this even now. Despite all the crap going on in Washington DC, at least there is some good news to report. Thank you, phone company guy! You made America's day!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Obama the Chicken-Hawk

Syria... Isn't there a Biblical prophecy about trouble coming from Damascus? (See Isaiah 17.) Well, let's look at all of the factors. First, neither group in Syria likes us; neither Assad nor his rivals (largely led by known terrorist groups) have any love for the United States. Assad and his party are Ba'athists, the same as Saddam Hussein was. In fact, according to Georges Sada, one of Saddam's military commanders, all of Iraq's WMDs were sent to Syria as the US was entering Iraq, which is why no significant caches were found.

Now, Russia and Iran are lining up in support of Assad. Russia claims he is the lesser of two evils, noting that the opposition engages in outright barbarism, including cannibalism captured on video. Iran and Syria have been longtime allies. Iran promises to attack Israel should the US intervene. This may be the occasion on which they debut their nuclear capabilities, which we have graciously allowed them to explore. (Thank you, Mr. President.)

What have we to gain from an attack on Syria? Nothing, so far as anyone can tell. Obama has promised that no ground troops will be deployed, so occupation is out of the question. If Assad is toppled, the country and its weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) are turned over to the likes of the Muslim Brotherhood and Al Qaeda. However, if the two sides keep fighting our enemies are engaged in killing each other. Why in the world would we want to put a stop to that? Over 100,000 potential terrorists have killed each other. Thanks, Syria!

What this is really about is Obama saving face. He promised that chemical weapons would constitute a "red line" that Syria had better not cross. So? It isn't like anyone really expected Obama to actually do anything except drop a bomb or two and take credit if things went well. The vast majority of Americans wisely want us to stay out of Syria. We have no self-interest in the country--any step we take will be bad for us.

It's painful to see John Kerry making the case for action in Syria. At least in Iraq we were toppling a known enemy who was aiding and abetting terrorism. Yet Kerry vehemently opposed that (after it became politically beneficial to do so), and is gung-ho on war with Syria. The rhetorical contortions he is making fill me with the greatest of pity for the man.

 Let Obama look like a wimp. Who cares? Who would we be fooling to pretend otherwise? Perhaps the president is just concerned that too many Islamists are dying. He seems to sympathize with them a great deal.


Friday, August 23, 2013

On Fruit and Fallacies

I remember, when taking a course on logic in college, that we learned the names and problems with several logical fallacies. We learned to avoid over-generalization and false causality. We learned how to detect a straw man argument, ad hominem name-calling, and circular reasoning. There was one fallacy that, though I could understand that at times it might be misused, I had qualms about. That was the slippery slope argument.

I would like to relabel this argument and, in turn, argue for the revocation of its fallacy status. I would like to divide the argument into two parts: a fallacy of the "Inevitable Conclusion" and a valid argument of "Contributing to a Trend."

It is certainly illogical to assume that because A leads to B, and B can sometimes lead to C, and C usually leads to D and etcetera, doing A leads to Z. That is something I would put into the Inevitable Conclusion category -- taking one step east doesn't lead me from San Francisco to Boston. The idea on its face is laughable and obviously illogical to anyone with a scintilla of reason.

However, it is equally irrational to deny that sociological change occurs in short, halting steps that lead to, over time, vast upheavals in the fabric of society. One step won't get me from San Francisco to Boston, but if I'm heading toward a cliff it would be quite foolish to argue that each step is inconsequential. The slow and steady march in our society away from stable and responsible two-parent homes has been going on for a long time, and with each step we have heard that we are illogical to assume that the next step we are asked to take will lead any further. We went from no-fault divorce to sexual libertinism, which led to us asking Uncle Sam to support the offspring of the behaviors we allowed. This led to a marked destabilization of the biological family. We were asked to tolerate, then liberate, and now practically to venerate homosexuality. This led to media saturation of the behavior, which has caused a misperception among the general public, which now believes that homosexuality is so common that gays have become a statistically significant minority. (Most presidential polls have a margin of error larger than the percentage of homosexuals among the population.)

This has led to the call to label marriage a legal bond between any two people, of either the same or different genders. Yet, as our opposition calls us irrational for opposing the idea and casts us as primitives, they fail utterly in making a clear and logical case, in unemotional terms, for the benefits to society as a whole that such a redefinition of marriage would bring. Words like "fairness," "equality," "dignity," and etc. are amorphous labels that can be applied to anything if stretched far enough. They are not the components of a logical argument. "Why not?" is actually a known logical fallacy -- an argumentum ad ignorantium, or "appeal to ignorance." The lack of evidence against something does not count as evidence for it.

Opponents of "garriage" are able to make an argument from definition. Marriage is and always has been a male/female phenomenon. When media figures try to use polygamy as a wedge against us, we can simply thank them for making our point for us; polygamy is, after all, simply a phenomenon in which one male has simultaneous marriages with multiple females. Thus, even in cultures with different marriage practices, those practices have always been between a male and female pair. Thanks Mr. Liberal; you've made my argument for me.

Let us not fall for the same trick again and again. The only logically valid argument being made is ours. We argue that since the legal definition of marriage is a relationship between a man and a woman, same-sex marriage is simply a contradiction in terms. If gays want to invent for themselves some other formal relationship structure, they may -- this is a free country. Few of us care if they can own property together, have hospital visitation rights and/or inheritance rights. (Actually, all of these things can be done via a legal contract without any additional laws being passed.) What we object to is being forced to include apples in the citrus category because those apples would really like to be equal to oranges.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Islamists Again... Sigh!

I have to admit that I, like the vast majority of Americans, assumed that the Boston bombings were done by Muslim extremists. I wanted to be wrong. I really, really hoped to be mistaken. And, like most Americans, I heard an internal "told ya' so" when the facts came out.

Now, I didn't care what the perps looked like. I always feel bad for immigrants, especially the Sikhs, whenever it's a guy in a robe and turban. I was in Yuba City, California when 9/11 hit and it was shameful the way a few of the redder-necked individuals harassed the Sikhs, a group of people who often dress in long shirts and turbans and speak a language related to Urdu (which is spoken in Afghanistan). However, they are non-Muslims and generally quite peaceful--I've never heard of a Sikh terrorist of any sort.

I also have a number of Muslim students, most of whom look, act, and think like mainstream American teenagers. They often show, in very subtle ways, self-consciousness and shame whenever an attack occurs, sinking in their seats and acting quiet and subdued. I know how they feel; I get the same way whenever anyone mentions Warren Jeffs, who isn't even a member of my church but whom everyone refers to as a Mormon nonetheless.

We all know what needs to be done. We need to have a moratorium on immigration, even student visas, from areas in which radical Islam is preached. We need not apply a specific label to it; we can refer to it as "theologically-inspired anti-Americanism." This list of nations would include Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Sudan, Syria, Yemen, the Palestinian Authority (within Israel), and now certain provinces of Russia. It's a matter of national security, and our Constitutional protections only apply to citizens. We can use common sense when it comes to immigration; there is no binding legal impediment.

I know that this idea will upset many. I know that it is wrong to stereotype any group, but it would be idiotic and contrary to the national interest to refrain from making intelligent policy decisions based on statistical realities.