Sunday, May 31, 2009

Greetings from the Great Divide

Two quick pictures from a recent trip to Barnes and Noble.

I thought it was interesting that the Ayn Rand collection now has its own end cap. Apparently more people are "going Galt" than what the media would have us believe.

In the current events section, I couldn't help but notice that the hyperbole is getting worse.

It might be kind of hard to read, but one of the books on the top shelf is Jack Cafferty's "Now or Never", which says if we don't apply Cafferty's ideas to the country, all will soon be lost.

On the next shelf down is Ross Clark's "The Road to Big Brother", all about the survelliance society that is England, and how it is transforming America as well.

I got the sense, while perusing the latest books, that the Great Divide between left and right is growing bigger by the day, with both sides believing that big changes must come, or else the idea of America could vanish forever. I'm not discounting the possibility, but I'm starting to wonder if our idea of America (the conservative one) isn't already gone.

Toqueville on The Myth of Equality

From Alexis de Toqueville's Democracy in America, Chapter XIII: Causes of the Restless Spirit of the Americans in the Midst of Their Prosperity

It is possible to conceive of men arrived at a degree of freedom that should completely content them; they would then enjoy their independence without anxiety and without impatience. But men will never establish any equality with which they can be contented. Whatever efforts a people may make, they will never succeed in reducing all the conditions of society to a perfect level; and even if they unhappily attained that absolute and complete equality of position, the inequality of minds would still remain, which, coming directly from the hand of God, will forever escape the laws of man. However democratic, then, the social state and the political constitution of a people may be, it is certain that every member of the community will always find out several points about him which overlook his own position; and we may foresee that his looks will be doggedly fixed in that direction. When inequality of conditions is the common law of society, the most marked inequalities do not strike the eye; when everything is nearly on the same level, the slightest are marked enough to hurt it. Hence the desire of equality always becomes more insatiable in proportion as equality is more complete.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Great Divide

Taking a look at the Gallup Survey polling on gay marriage, I was really struck by the partisan divide. Overall, Americans oppose gay marriage 57-40. Among liberals, however, 75% support gay marriage, while 80% of conservatives oppose it.

Moderates are splity roughly 50/50, which leaves me wondering how on earth we can expect to find a single solution to make every American happy?

As a conservative, I view the pushing of this issue as less of an "equal rights" struggle and more of a "philosophical mandate". Of course I say that as a heterosexual married male, but frankly, my view doesn't matter one iota less than that of any other American (or more correctly, it shouldn't matter less). At some point the governmental meddling in every social issue is going to lead to an imposition of a philosophy that tens of millions of Americans are opposed to. Maybe instead of opposing gay marriage, abortion, etc... the new Republican Party could simply say that these aren't areas in which the government needs to be involved (a pipe dream, to be sure).

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Must Read: The Protean Corporation

Michael Malone is thinking big thoughts about the next model for corporations.

Spot the Facism, Volume I

In my opinion, one of the most important political books of my generation is Jonah Goldberg's Liberal Facism. I've read it several times now, and each time I'm struck by the author's ability to highlight the facist and totalitarian themes in modern politics (both liberal and conservative). It is without a doubt a nice Facism, but it's still facism.

Case in point: Parade Magazine's profile of DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano. There were two quotes that really stuck out with me.

Napolitano refuses to prioritize among the threats. Job one, she insists, is to “help keep the nation in a state of readiness and help assure the American people that we are prepared and resilient.”

Facism can only thrive in a state of crisis. How exactly is a "state of readiness" different than a state of eternal crisis?

But the secretary says she is inspired by the seriousness of the challenges of her new role. “It’s a time in history that won’t come again,” she says.

Facism is, like all utopian dreams, intent on remaking the world. It's true that this time in history won't come again. That doesn't automatically mean that this needs to be an auspicious time in history, nor does it automatically mean that Janet Napolitano's dream of what can be done at this moment in history is right.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Signs of the Cultural Apocalypse Vol. II

A father in Ohio called 911 because his son wouldn't clean his room.

The son is 28. And a school board member. Oh yeah, and a political consultant. He lives rent free in a room in his parents' basement.

Dad says he's not going to press charges because he doesn't want to ruin his son's political career. At this point, I'm not sure an arrest would make things any worse.

Can someone please run against Andrew C.M. Mizsak in Bedford, Ohio? His term expires this year, and I'd love to see a candidate run on the platform of "At Least I Don't Live In My Dad's Basement".

Monday, May 18, 2009

Column Bleg

I've got too many ideas for columns/blog posts swirling around in my head, and not a lot of free time to write this week. If anybody wants to help me out here, I'm going to list two headlines, and I'll let you pick which one I should focus on this week. Just send your vote to e-a-r-l-c-l-a-r-e-n-d-o-n-at-g-m-a-i-l-d-o-t-c-o-m. (obviously without all the hyphens).

Here are your choices of topics:

-Don't Fear the Reaper

-Failure's Not Just An Option, It's a Reality

I'll tally up the votes (of course I'll be thrilled if I get one or two) and post the results on Tuesday night.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Thoughful Conservatism

My piece on Thoughtful Conservatism is up at Pajamas Media now. Many thanks to the PJM staff for using it.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

What Would Saul Alinsky Do?

As President Obama tries to decide what, if anything, should happen to the former officials in the Bush administration for allowing waterboarding to take place, I’m sure he’s getting advice from all kinds of people. There is one person, however, that Obama seems to be ignorning on this issue, even though he’s been a big influence on the president when it comes to domestic policy. Perhaps it’s time that President Obama ponder the question, “What would Saul Alinsky do?”

I’m sure most liberals would automatically assume that Alinsky would never condone an activity like waterboarding. They would be wrong. In his 1971 manifesto Rules for Radicals, Alinsky made it perfectly clear that, unlike the president, he wouldn’t say that waterboarding “violates our ideals and our values”.

Alinsky wrote, “The practical revolutionary will understand Goethe’s ‘conscience is the virtue of observers and not of agents of action’; one does not always enjoy the luxury of a decision that is consistent both with one’s individual conscience and the good of mankind. The choice must always be for the latter. Action is for mass salvation and not for the individual’s personal salvation. He who sacrifices the mass good for his personal conscience has a peculiar conception of ‘personal salvation’; he doesn’t care enough for people to be ‘corrupted’ for them.”

What American value is violated by allowing interrogators to use coercive techniques on interrogation subjects? The sanctity of life? The inherent dignity of all mankind? Alinsky would find it preposterous that we would think that risking the lives of innocent civilians is worth it, as long as the dignity of our enemies is left intact.

Alinsky was (rather oxymoronically) an absolutist when it came to pragmatism. Throughout Rules for Radicals he exhorts his followers to see the world as it is, not as we wish it to be. When you view the world through clear lenses, you see that we have an enemy that is devoted to killing as many American civilians as possible. Our enemy has declared war on us, and the fact that we no longer say we’re engaged in a War on Terror doesn’t change that. Alinsky’s third rule of the ethics of ends and means is this: in war, the end justifies almost any means. In fact, Alinsky wrote, “Agreements on the Geneva rules on treatment of prisoners or use of nuclear weapons are observed only because the enemy or his potential allies might retaliate.”

If that’s true, then we should be under no practical or pragmatic obligation to refrain from coercive interrogation techniques. After all, we’ve seen that our enemy doesn’t operate under the rules of the Geneva Convention. Alinsky points to Lincoln’s suspension of habeas corpus during the Civil War, “believing that the civil courts were powerless to cope with the insurrectionist activities of civilians. ‘Must I shoot a simple-minded soldier boy who deserts, while I must not touch a hair of a wily agitator who induces him to desert…’”

Under Alinsky’s view of the ethics of means and ends, coercive techniques like waterboarding are hardly controversial. After all, no one dies. No one is physically harmed. In fact, considering the brutality of our enemies, one can imagine a National Security Advisor Alinsky encouraging the President to “do whatever it takes” to ensure the survival of as many Americans as possible, even if that meant a suspected terrorist had to feel like he was drowning.

There is one caveat to this argument, and it is this; Alinsky made it clear that (in his mind), the world is divided up between the “Haves”, the “Have Nots”, and the “Have A Little/Want Mores”. It’s been quite some time since Barack Obama lived in the world of the “Have Nots”, so maybe he feels that Alinsky’s rules no longer apply. I’m not convinced. This is, after all, an administration that seems to apply Alinsky’s ethics of means and ends on an almost daily basis. Need new pictures of Air Force One in action? Who cares if it terrorizes thousands of New Yorkers, let’s go buzz the Statue of Liberty! Have a failing car company? Force executives to leave and hand over control to the auto union! If Alinsky’s ethics of means and ends has found a home in our domestic policy, but is being ignored when it comes to foreign policy, the only explanation for this contradiction that I can see is that forgoing the use of coercive techniques (and putting them forever off limits by calling them torture) is, in Obama’s mind, a worthy means to an end. That leaves me with one question: Just what is the end President Obama is seeking?

Friday, May 1, 2009

Thought for the Day

Clearly, a civilization that feels guilty for everything it is and does will lack the energy and conviction to defend itself. - Jean Francois Revel