Monday, December 31, 2007


What's the difference between the Tommy John surgery and steroids? One is the use of science to improve performance and the other is... the use of science to improve performance.

All right, there are differences. The surgery is the use of medicine to repair a damaged arm, whereas steroids are injected into a healthy body to make it "unnaturally" stronger. The surgery is not available on the street to teenagers who are desperate to compete in sports.

Sports science has for decades improved athletic performance in countless ways. I myself have paid an instructor who used a computer to analyze my golf swing (in my case, no improvement). People in general, not just athletes, are bigger and taller than they were 100 years ago because of improvements in medicine and nutrition.

We're heading for the day when computer chips are integrated with natural brain activity. People will be hooked up to computers and the internet 24/7 through satellite connections that go directly into their head. They will be able to see print in front of their eyes. (Teachers will play hell trying to stop students from cheating on tests!) We will be a civilization of cyborgs. It will be impossible to stop athletes from exploiting these internal computers in their sport. People will accept it: why shouldn't an athlete use computer help to analyze the arc of a thrown football when everyone in the stands is doing it?

We accept all these developments of science and technology, but we draw the line at drug use. Drugs are too easy; inject the needle and a month later you have muscles the average halfback 80 years ago would have envied. I wonder if our objection to drug performance enhancers is a remnant of puritanism.

What if someone discovers a drug that helps the brain function more efficiently and turns an average IQ into a genius? Do we allow students to take this drug? What about when they take their SAT or GRE? Would chess players be tested for this drug?

Olympic athletes from around the world train in the USA because it has the most resources and best training. Often every runner in a 100-meter dash will be an American or will have trained in America. Those athletes are taking advantage of technological and economic progress that much of the rest of the world lacks. Is this a level playing field? Absolutely not.

What would happen if steroids were legal in all sports? Very likely, the science would improve and the dangerous side effects would be cured. Athletes would follow the ideal of the Olympic motto and go faster, stronger and higher. New standards would be set in all sports and athletes would go about attempting to meet and exceed the standards -- as they did before steroids.

We would see our favorite athletes have longer careers. Athletes would no longer be forced into retirement at 35, but 40 or 45 might become the norm. We might see some remarkable specimens last into their 50's.

Instead of dictating from the top down, I think we should try giving freedom and individual choice a chance in the realm of performance enhancing drugs. Let each adult choose for himself how he wants to train for his sport. Freedom often has unintended consequences that make life better in utterly unexpected ways.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Movie Watching

I've already done two posts on Christmas Eve. For any other blog, that would be enough, but is the 'Haf done? Not yet!

I watched two movies today over at my sister's place. First, I must remark that she no longer buys DVD's. She just orders movies through her cable company and they play. What is this new system doing to Blockbuster Video's business?

We watched one good movie and one great movie.

The good movie was Rescue Dawn, which was reviewed by Joe Kane. It is suspenseful and interesting throughout, but the plot, based on a real story, is one dimensional.

The great movie was The Lives of Others, a German movie about the Stasi in 1984. It is one of the best movies I have seen. I won't go into the plot. The movie deals with issues of freedom and power. I would say the theme is morality vs. totalitarianism. The story brilliantly concretizes the value-conflict every step of the way. This movie is great for the reason Rescue Dawn is not: the story of The Lives of Others is entirely made up and is more satisfying than real life, whereas the story of Rescue Dawn is limited to what really happened.

Do not miss The Lives of Others.

UPDATE: I would like to add, upon reflection, that the last line of The Lives of Others is the best last line in movie history. It is even better than the last line of Some Like It Hot, which is the funniest last line ever.

I should also add that the acting is excellent across the cast -- but then, I have always been impressed by German actors. Two of my favorite movies are M and The Blue Angel. Emil Jannings and Gustaf Gründgens are brilliant in those movies.

More Talking to Liberals

I've been talking to liberals again. Liberals might call it an addiction. Hey, I live in blue state; they're everywhere. And besides, liberal chicks are easy. (I'm kidding, I'm kidding.)

Anyway, this liberal woman, a far left PETA type whom I'll call Jane, confessed to me that she supports Hillary Clinton because a Clinton presidency would mean the return of Bill. This excites Jane. Her eyes light up and her voice goes husky at the mention of his name.

Yes, Bill Clinton is her hero. Jane wants him back in the White House.

You know what? I suspect Jane's thinking is more common among Democrats than they like to admit. Bill Clinton has some mysterious power that clouds the liberal mind. They worship the man.

This is one of those things in which liberals and non-liberals (I'll use that to distinguish myself from the conservatives) see the world in polar opposite ways. What Jane sees as white, I see as black. To me Bill Clinton is an obscene joke. He's a con artist and a liar. His judgment is poor and he is immoral. He's a big government liberal who will throw out everything he stands for if that's what it takes to gain and keep power.

He is the ultimate social metaphysician. Everything he says, everything he does, everything he believes is chosen not as a response to reality but to make an impression on other people.

Furthermore, he is stupid. I have never heard him say anything remotely intelligent.

Bill Clinton's presidency was such a disaster that after the first two years it was pretty much over, despite his squeezing into re-election against the hapless, bureaucratic Bob Dole. His inability to accomplish anything turned out to be the best thing for America, as the less the state does the better. His presidency was good insofar as Clinton was thwarted, fought, diminished and distracted by scandals.

This is the man liberals idolize. Why? As I have written elsewhere, a liberal woman once told me she was profoundly moved when Clinton said, "I feel your pain." To liberals that statement is not a corny, calculated line, but an ideal. It is the essence of government -- no, the essence of life. Life is a constant state of emergency in which helpless individuals must depend on the collective to nurse them, to lift them when they fall, to feel their pain.

Bill Clinton knew who he was talking to when he said "I feel your pain." It wasn't me.

PS: I ask you, at what other blog would you get two kickass posts like this one and the last one on Christmas Eve, when the rest of the blogosphere is sitting in boredom with the family, watching their boys play Guitar Hero?

Post-Modern Patrick Henrys

Glenn Greenwald has attacked Romney, claiming the candidate wants a dictatorial presidency. I must admit, one attack from Greenwald raises my estimation of Romney more than 100 lickspittle encomiums from the Republican propagandist Hugh Hewitt ever could.

Romney answered questions about the limits of presidential power. Greenwald interprets Romney's answers to mean he wants to be a tyrant. But Greenwald's argumentation is more tortured than the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. See if you can follow what he is saying here:

In every area, Romney explicitly says that neither laws nor treaties can limit the President's conduct. Instead, displaying the fear-mongering cowardice that lies at the heart of Bush/Cheney Republican power, Romney described the root of his view of the world this way: "Our most basic civil liberty is the right to be kept alive."

Romney recited that cowardly platitude -- what has now become the shameful flagship of the Republican Party -- in response to being asked whether the President has the power to eavesdrop on Americans without warrants even in the face of a law that makes it a crime to do so. At its core, the defining principle of the Republican Party continues to be a fear-driven repudiation of the American ethos as most famously expressed by Patrick Henry, all in service of keeping the citizenry in fear so the President can rule without limits.

Here is my interpretation of this passage: Patrick Henry said "Give me liberty or give me death." Therefore we should be more willing to accept death by Islamic terrorists than to allow the President to eavesdrop on Americans without warrants. It is cowardly to allow ourselves to lose our liberties just because we might be killed by a foreign enemy waging war against us. The Republican Party uses fear to justify its power-lust.

Greenwald takes a slogan that was used to rouse a people to war and twists it to justify not fighting a war. Let the enemy kill us, because fighting back violates civil liberties!

Greenwald continues:

These are just some of the powers which Romney -- and, among the respondents, Romney alone -- claimed the President possesses, either by explicitly claiming them or refusing to repudiate them when asked directly:

* to eavesdrop on Americans with no warrants, even if doing so is in violation of Congressional law (Question 1);

* to attack Iran without Congressional authorization, even in the absence of an imminent threat (Question 2);

* to disregard a congressional statute limiting the deployment of troops (Question 3);

* to issue a signing statement reserving a constitutional right to bypass laws enacted by Congress (Question 4);

* to disregard international human rights treaties that the US Senate has ratified where said treaties, in his view, "impinge upon the President's constitutional authority" (Question 8)

I'll let the legal experts set each specific point straight. Suffice it to say, I don't take the antiwar left's interpretation at face value. I believe their purpose in raising these legal issues is not to support civil liberties (as if they gave a damn about any liberties), but to stop America from fighting the war. I will concede that emergency war measures would be clearer if Congress declared war as is their responsibility. Furthermore, none of this would be an issue if the American government had fought the war seriously and destroyed all regimes that sponsor terrorism in 2001. The war could have been over in 2002 if we had actually fought it; instead we have settled for a state of "permanent war" that is disturbing, as the paleocons and libertarians argue. (But the reason is not warmongering or greed or Halliburton; it is altruism and appeasement, the fear of America asserting its national self-interest.)

At the heart of the liberals' and libertarians' elevation of legal side issues to the essence of foreign policy is their inability to take the war seriously. They don't see our war against militant Islam as anything near WWII or even Vietnam, but as more of a criminal justice matter. Let the FBI pursue these criminals who fly airplanes into buildings.

I don't support Romney, but he is absolutely right that we can't be free if we aren't alive. One of the few legitimate tasks of government is to defend its citizens from foreign aggression. And at the moment there is a totalitarian movement, Islamic fundamentalism or whatever the hell you want to call it, that strives to destroy America and the West and rule the world with Sharia law. It's out there. It's at war with us. Sooner or later it will strike again. This is not fear-mongering; these are the facts of reality.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

A Protest Against "Commercialism"

Is this Christian or socialist thinking? Or both?

"Santa has been perverted from who he started out to be," Conrad said. "Now he's the person being used by corporations to get us to buy more stuff."

A photo of the crucified Santa adorns his Christmas cards, with the message "Santa died for your MasterCard."

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Alvin Lee and Johnny Winter

Probably the greatest guitarists that many young people have never heard of are Alvin Lee and Johnny Winter. Lee's group Ten Years After has one hit that still gets a lot airplay, "I'd Love to Change the World." I don't think Johnny Winter gets much airplay at all.

This clip is good because, instead of using that annoying MTV style of constant fast cuts, the camera lovingly stays on Lee's guitar. You get a really good look at how a master Rock'n'Roll guitarist moves his fingers across the fretboard. Here is a second clip from the same concert.

Here is a video from 1969 of one of Ten Years After's most famous hits, Good Morning Little Schoolgirl, which has always struck me as a sinister song. The '60s psychedelia is silly.

Here is a live performance of Slow Blues In C. It is unbelievable how fluid his playing is.

Who is the best guitarist to come out of the great state of Texas? Stevie Ray Vaughan? Billy Gibbons? I'll go with Johnny Winter. Here he plays Johnny B. Goode. Dude can pick.

Here is a clip from 1970. And here is Johnny smoking through Bob Dylan's Highway 61. In this clip of Sugar Coated Love he looks old, but he can still play.

San Francisco Blues.

Here is a rare recording of Johnny jamming with Jimi Hendrix on Things I Used to Do.

Finally, here is a killer version of Johnny playing Red House in 1991. There's a bass solo in the middle of this song, which reminds me of a joke.

An explorer was making his way in a canoe up the Congo with a native guide when drums began playing in the distance.

"What does this mean?" the explorer asked.

"Drums good," the guide assured him, "but when drums stop -- very bad."

For two weeks they paddled up the Congo with the drums playing. Then the drums stopped.

"What now?" the explorer asked.

"Very bad," the guide said. "Now bass solo."

Both Alvin Lee and Johnny Winter, like a lot of classic rock, are essentially Rockabilly with distortion. Both guitarists were big until the deluge, the New Wave/Punk/Heavy Metal change that hit music in the late '70s. After that I guess both guitarists sounded a little old fashioned. That was the end of the blues-rock era.

As fast as both men play, they never lose the emotion; they never sound like soulless guitar machines. That is because they both have their feet firmly planted in the blues.

Around the World Wide Web 44

1. Bill Clinton's latest:

ORANGEBURG, South Carolina (CNN) – Former President Bill Clinton said Monday that the first thing his wife Hillary will do when she reaches the White House is dispatch him and his predecessor, President George H.W. Bush, on an around-the-world mission to repair the damage done to America's reputation by the current president — Bush's son, George W. Bush.

"Well, the first thing she intends to do, because you can do this without passing a bill, the first thing she intends to do is to send me and former President Bush and a number of other people around the world to tell them that America is open for business and cooperation again," Clinton said in response to a question from a supporter about what his wife's "number one priority" would be as president.

A spokesman for the George H. W. Bush said Tuesday afternoon the former president supports his son's foreign policy and has "never discussed an ‘around-the-world-mission’ with either former President Bill Clinton or Sen. Clinton."

My first reaction to this was, "Clinton is a fool." But on further reflection, I believe that Bush 41, being a pragmatist and moderate, probably does agree with Clinton, but he wouldn't say so in public. The son's foreign policy has hard edges that must rub the father wrong. As bad a President as Clinton was, George Herbert Walker Bush was worse. He was the ultimate pragmatist and Washington insider. I suspect his advice has helped bring about the worst moments in Bush 43's presidency.

2. Gaius Sempronius Gracchus is A Conservative Green. He correctly calls himself a pre-Enlightenment conservative:

The central political commitment of this tradition of conservatism, stated with a view to the conditions of our time, is that the life of civilization should be so ordered, and states should so act, as to enable all members of the human community to live as well, and hence as virtuously, individually and collectively, as circumstances allow.

But, as the reader will know, the central commitment of modern conservatism in America, and similar movements worldwide, is to taking one’s capitalism straight, so to speak, in the name of liberty. At the extreme, this position is indistinguishable in many of its practical commitments from a kind of ecologically blind – and to that extent not really typical – libertarianism.

In particular, state ownership of enterprises or provision of services, egalitarian redistribution of income or wealth, and interferences with the market or other facets of human behavior intended to protect the interests, rights, and dignity of consumers, workers, or even just bystanders – I am thinking here of the issue of externalities, and taking it in a large enough sense to encompass all our environmental concerns – are all rejected and resisted by these conservatives, and attempts are periodically mounted to roll them back.

On all of these issues, I am firmly opposed to the aims and views of modern conservatism. For instance, like nearly everyone today, I favor a mixed economy. And generally I favor more, rather than less, of all those kinds of economic and environmentalist measures these conservatives oppose, to the point that I am, in these things, actually notably to the left of the Democratic Party.

His position is more coherent than trying to yoke Christianity and capitalism.

3. Could there be a better metaphor for what is happening to civilization than the US government outlawing the incandescent light bulb?

Andrew Ferguson writes,

On December 19, President Bush signed an energy bill that will, among many, many other things, force you to buy a new kind of light bulb. He did this because environmental enthusiasts don't like the light bulbs you're using now. He and they reason, therefore, that you shouldn't be allowed to have them. So now you can't.

Didn't conservatives used to talk about dismantling the Department of Energy? As Powerline notes,

President Bush extolled the energy bill in a statement at the Department of Energy.

Such is the fate of conservatism; it has utterly collapsed as a force against big government. It had to collapse: its free market politics stood in contradiction to its altruist morality.

My electric power company (owned by the city I live in) sent me an environmentalist-approved light bulb. I installed it in the dining room. It provides a dim yellow light that I can barely read by. This news out of Washington, D.C. has me worried.

(HT: Two-Four; see also Gus Van Horn and Noodlefood)

4. Speaking of the conservative collapse, Bush has just signed a bill regulating automakers that violates rights and will make cars more dangerous. The bill was driven by environmentalists, who want to regulate capitalism and industrial civilization out of existence. If Bush were a Democrat we might hear some squawking from people such as Rush Limbaugh, but Bush is a Republican. So the conservatives will continue to look the other way and pretend they value freedom while Republicans take us another step toward dictatorship.

5. Hillary Clinton's Christmas ad is an eloquent demonstration of the Democrat point of view. The Democrats are Santa Claus, giving us the gifts of universal health care (socialized medicine) and universal pre-K (whatever that is). To take this bilge at face value, a mind must be totally inert. If one reflects at all, one wonders, "Who is buying the presents?"

You know what is really in those presents? The chains that will enslave us all to the state. Merry Christmas, shut up, get in line and don't raise your head too high. As Fyodor Dostoyevsky wrote,

In the end they will lay their freedom at our feet and say to us, "Make us your slaves, but feed us."

6. Mike Huckabee has become such a joke that there's no way he can win. For instance:

"Who is your favorite author?" Aleya Deatsch, 7, of West Des Moines asked Mr. Huckabee in one of those posing-like-a-shopping-mall-Santa moments.

Mr. Huckabee paused, then said his favorite author was Dr. Seuss.

In an interview afterward with the news media, Aleya said she was somewhat surprised. She thought the candidate would be reading at a higher level.

"My favorite author is C. S. Lewis," she said.

I don't know what is more frightening, that he would lie to a child, pandering to a constituency that can't vote, or that he was telling the truth. Either way, the man is too f**king dumb to be President of the United States.

Friday, December 21, 2007

New Guitar

I just bought this Dean guitar on Ebay for $143.45 (shipping included in price). It might be a turkey, but the price is low enough that I'll take a chance. I look forward to getting my hands on it.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Random Thoughts II

Civilization, or being civilized, means using reason in one's interactions with other people. It means disagreeing without demeaning, without insulting. It means being honest. It means treating people with respect and assuming that they deserve a reasoned explanation of your opinions -- until they prove otherwise.

If I hated everyone with whom I disagreed, I would hate over 99% of the people I meet and I would be miserable. It is much better psychologically to look for the good and rational in everyone; this is not altruism, it is an absolute selfish necessity. You go through life happier and with good cheer if you "accentuate the positive." Of course, this point of view ends when someone lies to you or is otherwise irrational.

Without motivation and discipline, nothing is accomplished. Motivation gets you started and discipline keeps you going. The world is full of obscure geniuses who lack motivation and discipline.

In the dating process, it is wise for men to let women do most of the talking. The man who talks about himself too much is not likely to impress the woman. Why is this? I think it comes from the fear women have that men just want to use a woman for her body and then dump her. A man has to prove that he is interested in a woman for who she is, and he does this by listening to what she says. Or at least by pretending to listen. ;)

“Suicide is the ultimate act of selfishness,” they say. If the individual belongs to the group, then they are right. When the individual kills himself, he robs the group of its property. He kills one of its slaves.

Sartre is the most influential philosopher of the 20th century. The Khmer Rouge studied under him and went on to kill three million people. Most philosophers can only dream of such success.

Mussolini scowled, Hitler ranted, and Stalin’s eyes could never hide his lethal hatred. America’s führers use the Chinese model: like Mao, they smile and dress down to the people.

The crucifix. What is it? A symbol? A standard? No. It is a warning. “This,” the cross says, “is what we do to the best among us.”

The believer asks, “You do not believe in God? But what if you died and met Him? What would you say then?” I would say, “God, you gave no evidence that you exist. Are you a fool? Or are you evil?”

Christians forgive promiscuously.

Man’s state of nature is always described as something akin to a mob in a jungle tearing itself to bits -- “nasty, brutish, solitary, poor and short.” This picture forgets the fact that man by nature has a mind. Law, civilization and order are natural to a rational animal. Liberty under the rule of law is man’s natural state.

When a politician boasts of his compassion, put your hand on your wallet and run.

I saw a politician pray today. He did it to impress his only god, the polls.

If you learn again what you learned 20 years ago, then you really learn it.

It helps to listen to good music once a day. Serious music creates exhalted emotions. And like muscles, if exhalted emotions are not worked out every now and then, they get weak. If you ignore them long enough the fire in your soul goes out.

Passion serves a survival function.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Monna Vanna

Monna Vanna closed in Los Angeles. I was fortunate to have a small part in the play. I'm grateful to the Executive Producer Quent Cordair Fine Art, the Producer LizBeth Lucca, the Director Joel Marquez and everyone involved with the show. Without the initiative of the producers and director, I surely would not have had a chance to act in Maurice Maeterlinck's masterpiece.

I was asked by an audience member why this play is Ayn Rand's favorite. It is because the play dramatizes value-conflict in a good plot that leads to a climax. Like Aristotle, Rand held that plot is the soul of drama.

My only reservation about the play is the translation. On a line by line level, the play is difficult. The syntax is complicated and the sentences are long with subordinate clauses and whatnot. The dialogue is hard for the audience to understand, and several people told me they had a hard time following it. (And I know from the inside that it's hard to act.)

Here is one example from my lines. This is just the beginning of a long speech:

You know, Prinzivalle, the esteem in which I hold you. I have given you more than one example of it that you cannot have forgotten -- but there are others of which you are ignorant: for the policy of Florence that men call perfidious when it is but prudent, requires many things to remain hidden for a time, even from those who are most in her counsels. We all obey her deep-laid plans, and each man must bear with courage the mysteries that make the strength of his country.

Remember, an audience member sitting in the theater does not have the luxury of rereading a line or pausing to contemplate its meaning. A playwright must write with that in mind to help the audience understand clearly and vividly what is being said. Monna Vanna has line after line like the passage quoted above that I fear create a kind of haze in the audience's mind. They have a vague, general idea of what is being said, but not a clear one. Part of the comprehension problem lies with modern audiences that are not used to listening to classical drama. Movies and television are more visual, with brief dialogue that is often epigrammatic. But part of the problem is with the translation -- or maybe even with Maeterlinck's writing.

I would like to see a modern translation done by someone who understands 1) contemporary idiom; and 2) that the human mind can only deal with so much at a time before it loses understanding (the crow epistemology). If I were translating, I would find places to break up some of the monologues into dialogue (perhaps my translation would be an adaptation). Being monologue heavy, the play reminds me of the French neo-classicism of Corneille and Racine, which I believe is the hardest type of drama to act -- harder even than Shakespeare or Greek drama. I'm glad I got the opportunity to act such a difficult style, but I think the play could be more powerful in a better translation.

Now I'm happy to have some time off. In January I'll be auditioning for an interesting project: a local group is doing Hamlet and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead in repertory, with the same cast in both shows. I'll let you know whether or not I get cast.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Happy Pretty Lightbulb Day

Penelope Trunk, writing in the Huffington Post blog, argues that "Christmas Does Not Belong in the Workplace."

Christmas does not belong in the workplace because it undermines diversity at work. And businesses that promote diversity have more profits in the long run than companies that do not have a diverse workforce.

A big problem with Christmas is that those of us who have no reason to celebrate it have to spend a month between Thanksgiving and New Year's dealing with Christmas at work. Christmas is the only religious holiday that everyone has to stop working for. It's the only religious event that offices have parties to celebrate. These practices alienate non-Christians.

This is classic multiculturalist thinking. The holiday celebrated by the majority excludes the minority -- it's inegalitarian! It has to go! With this sententious, victim-centric nagging coming from the left, is it any wonder people are turning to religion to get away from it?

She refutes arguments she hears in favor of Christmas, the first one being:

"Christmas is not a religious holiday."

The only people who think Christmas is not religious are the Christians. Everyone else thinks, "This is not my holiday." In fact, only a Christian would feel enough authority over the holiday to declare that it is not Christian.

Objectivists would agree with those Christians who say Christmas is not a religious holiday. In essence, Christmas is antithetical to the religious spirit. Christmas is a celebration of values and joy on earth. People equate Christmas with happiness, not misery. People say "Merry Christmas," not "Deny thyself and suffer as Christ did."

Christmas originated when the early Christians cleverly co-opted the Roman Saturnalia, a popular holiday at the winter equinox. In a brilliant marketing move, the Christians decided December 25 was when their God was born. For most of history Christmas was not the most important Christian holiday, Easter was. Christ's death and resurrection is more important to the Christian myth than his birth.

All the stuff of Christmas -- the tree, the lights, Santa Claus -- are either of pagan origin or come from capitalist merchants trying to make a buck. As Leonard Peikoff writes,

Even after the Christians stole Christmas, they were ambivalent about it. The holiday was inherently a pro-life festival of earthly renewal, but the Christians preached renunciation, sacrifice, and concern for the next world, not this one. As Cotton Mather, an 18th-century clergyman, put it: "Can you in your consciences think that our Holy Savior is honored by mirth? . . . Shall it be said that at the birth of our Savior . . . we take time . . . to do actions that have much more of hell than of heaven in them?"

Then came the major developments of 19th-century capitalism...

For the first time, the giving of gifts became a major feature of Christmas. Early Christians denounced gift-giving as a Roman practice, and Puritans called it diabolical. But Americans were not to be deterred. Thanks to capitalism, there was enough wealth to make gifts possible, a great productive apparatus to advertise them and make them available cheaply, and a country so content that men wanted to reach out to their friends and express their enjoyment of life. The whole country took with glee to giving gifts on an unprecedented scale.

Liberals worried about "diversity" should not get hung up on the religious connection to Christmas. The connection is vestigial and non-essential, like the mentions of God in the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.

If it helps, let them think of Christmas as Pretty Lightbulb Day. The gay lights we perceive through our senses are at least reality, unlike the mythical birth of a man who was supposed to be the son of a God for whom there is no evidence.

Around the World Wide Web 43

1. Hillary Clinton's radical youth.

2. If you can stomach it, read Keith Olbermann's "special comment" on "Bush's Deceptions About Iran." Olbermann's style should be in the dictionary as an example of pomposity. What a gasbag! All that pretentious verbiage is there to impress the yahoos and cover up a void of substance. Here is the meat of his argument:

In August the president was told by his hand-picked major-domo of intelligence, Mike McConnell, a flinty, high-strung-looking, worrying-warrior who will always see more clouds than silver linings, that what “everybody thought” about Iran might be, in essence, crap.

Yet on Oct. 17, the president said of Iran and its President Ahmadinejad:

“I’ve told people that if you’re interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them from have the knowledge to make a nuclear weapon.”

And as he said that, Mr. Bush knew that at bare minimum there was a strong chance that his rhetoric was nothing more than words with which to scare the Iranians.

Or was it, Sir, to scare the Americans?

Bush's statement was true (and good advice) regardless of the NIE release, which was not the word of God writ in stone, but a guess about 2003 that they offer with "moderate confidence." What the Iranians are doing today, the intelligence community really doesn't know. But the Iranians have publicly stated their wish to have nuclear weapons, haven't they? Do we need spies to tell us they want them?

3. Bloomberg is thinking of pulling a Perot and running as an independent if the other nominees are too "extreme." The result would be the same as in 1992: a Democrat win. This is because more Republicans than Democrats would be disgusted with their candidate and vote for Bloomberg. A far left candidate is pretty much where the entire Democrat Party is these days.

4. Sometimes a song is so bad you just sit there as you listen, wondering, what were they thinking? Such is the case with this song by the Crystals. I won't spoil the impact by telling the title here -- that's the best part. (Ike Turner didn't write this song, did he?)

5. Hillary campaign Kremlinology. With so many forces pulling in different directions and so much advice coming from different people, the man (or woman) at the top must be strong. Rather like a president. And Bill Clinton has lost his touch? Steven Stark does not think so.

6. An eco-fascist lets the truth slip out:

"When the chips are down I think democracy is a less important goal than is the protection of the planet from the death of life, the end of life on it," he says. "This has got to be imposed on people whether they like it or not."

Another gem to add to the list of astonishing statements by environmentalists.

(HT: Instapundit)

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Sea Change

In the religious conservative Michael Novak's endorsement of Mitt Romney, one sentence jumped out at me:

I remember his father's campaigns and what an upright man he was — and no one even breathed a word against him because of his religion.

Mitt's father was George Romney.

George Wilcken Romney (July 8, 1907July 26, 1995) was an American businessman and a politician. He was chairman of American Motors Corporation from 1954 to 1962. He then served as the 43rd governor of Michigan from 1963 to 1969.

Romney was a candidate for President in 1968, ultimately losing the Republican nomination to Richard Nixon. He is the father of former Massachusetts governor and 2008 presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

Romney is famous for making one of the greatest blunders in the history of Presidential campaigns when he said, "When I came back from Viet Nam [in November 1965], I'd just had the greatest brainwashing that anybody can get." (Apparently, "I've been brainwashed by communists" is not the most effective campaign slogan.)

George Romney was a "Rockefeller Republican," the type of moderate that conservatives used to sneer at. It is interesting to note that his son Mitt is at least as moderate as the father, but the Republicans have become a big government party, so he is considered a mainstream conservative today. A Goldwater Republican, if there were any left, would be marginalized as an "extremist."

But to get back to Novak's statement, it raises the obvious question: why? Why was George Romney not attacked for being a Mormon, but his son Mitt is?

I've considered several closely related answers. Politics is dirtier and character attacks are more common now than they were 40 years ago. With the rise of the Religious Right, religion is a bigger factor in politics today. With the dumbing down of America, voters can't understand abstract issues anymore.

I've come to a broader explanation. 40 years ago religion was not taken seriously. Nobody thought to attack George Romney for his Mormonism because nobody thought it was important. Religion was relegated to "church on Sunday" and was not a factor in the rest of life.

Religion was not taken seriously in philosophy departments. Nietzsche's famous line, "God is dead," was a profound statement of the place of religion in the modern mind.

The last 40 years have seen a sea change in our culture. Philosophy has collapsed into the black hole of postmodernism and people are turning away from such nihilism to religion, mistaking its answers for values and ideals they can live by. Most people cannot tolerate the void of values they find in contemporary philosophy.

Today religion is taken seriously. Christian fundamentalists think Romney's Mormonism is of the utmost importance, and some might not vote for him because of his religion alone. Even the secular MSM discuss Romney's religion (although as the propaganda arm of the Democrat Party, there might be some cynicism in this as they work to destroy a Republican front runner).

The change in our culture that Leonard Peikoff warns us of is real and dangerous.

Socialism—a fad of the last few centuries—has had its day; it has been almost universally rejected for decades. Leftists are no longer the passionate collectivists of the 30s, but usually avowed anti-ideologists, who bewail the futility of all systems. Religion, by contrast—the destroyer of man since time immemorial—is not fading; on the contrary, it is now the only philosophic movement rapidly and righteously rising to take over the government.

We have seen a massive cultural change in the last few decades with the rise of religion. Unless this trend is reversed, freedom will continue to suffer. If you want an example of how religion and big government are allies, just look at the current presidency. Under "compassionate conservatism" and "faith-based initiatives" state power has grown and individual rights have eroded. (No one uses the banner of "compassionate conservatism" to dismantle the welfare state and ensure the rights of individuals.)

UPDATE: Minor style edit.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Reagan's Legacy

Some Republicans want to put Reagan's face on Mt. Rushmore. In our bitterly divided America, in which both sides say 20 words attacking the opponent for every one word they say supporting their own side, I wonder if the Republicans really think Reagan deserves this honor or if they just want to rub the liberal nose in conservative shit.

Reagan was a mediocre President who got a few things right. (You could say the same thing about Teddy Roosevelt, whose image is on Mt. Rushmore; he's the farthest one back, as if the artist knew something was wrong including him among Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln.)

The best thing about Reagan was his supply-side economics and tax cuts that spurred an economic boom that, with a few dips along the way, we are still enjoying. He is given credit for ending the Soviet Union, but the fundamental reason it failed is the nature of communism. Socialism, or "planned chaos" as Mises called it, can't create wealth and simply cannot compete with the productive dynamo that is capitalism. Reagan was lucky to be in the White House when the Potemkin Village that was the Soviet Bloc began to collapse and people saw it was an empty facade.

Reagan's pragmatism toward Iran and terrorism, with his non-response to the Beirut barracks bombing and his Iran-Contra Scandal, makes him the single man most responsible for our feckless Middle East policy. Conservatives blame Carter and Clinton, but the enemy knew those men were weak. Reagan is worse because he pretended to be strong but was in fact as weak and appeasing as any liberal you could find. Our pretense at strength convinced people such as Osama bin Laden that America is a paper tiger. We still have not proved him wrong.

The size of government more than doubled during the Reagan Presidency. You can blame it on Tip O'Neill's Democrat Congress, but the fact is that Reagan didn't have what it takes to stand up to the big spenders. Such weakness is the stuff of mediocrity.

Worst of all, Reagan brought the Religious Right to power, destroying the Goldwater paradigm of a party dedicated to individual rights. With Reagan, the contradictions in the Republican Party grow. 20 years later we have a Republican President who expands the welfare state like a liberal and brings in faith to work with the welfare state -- and calls it "compassionate conservatism." The Republicans are well on their way to becoming, like the Democrats, a force for tyranny rather than for freedom.

Reagan on Mt. Rushmore? It would be an act of injustice.

Bad Day for the Democrats

I have maintained that Hillary Clinton cannot win election as President. The Democrat base supports her; the Republicans and independents do not. It's impossible to win without independent votes.

I think the Democrats are blinded to Clinton's weakness as a candidate by their hope for a return that ol' Clinton glory. They have had the idea of a Hillary Clinton presidency in their minds since she ran for the Senate. They want it so bad they can taste it.

Two elections on Tuesday provide evidence of Hillary Clinton's weakness.

In Ohio, Republican Bob Latta clobbered Democrat Robin Weirauch, 57-43.

In Virginia, the score was 61-37 as Republican Rob Wittman stomped Democrat Phil Forgit, an Iraqi war veteran.

In both races, the Republican ran an ad linking the Democrat with Hillary Clinton. Ohio is a state the Democrats need to win a Presidential election.

I don't want to make too much out of two races, as the Clinton factor might have been negligible; on the other hand these elections might be a demonstration of Hillary Clinton's unpopularity. We'll see.

I suspect we're heading toward the biggest landslide since 1984 when Reagan demolished Mondale. I don't take any satisfaction in this. I fear the beneficiary will be Romney or McCain -- meaning more big government. Either man might push Congress to send him a bill mandating that young people serve the government for two years of their life in some "volunteer" program.

(And another thought. Given how unhinged the Democrats have been during the Bush Presidency, what will they be like if they lose again in 2008?)

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

My Top 10 Favorite Rock'n'Roll Christmas Songs

In my day job listening to FM radio stations, 'tis the season for Christmas songs. It's the only time of year commercial stations get to play recordings from the '40s (this ain't Radio Dismuke), by artists such as Bing Crosby and Gene Autry. In this post, however, we'll look at the best rock era songs.

This is a list of my personal favorites, not a list that pretends to be objective by using record sales or number of spins as criteria. These are the songs I like best.

A lot of songs did not make the cut, especially novelty songs such as "I Want A Hippopotamus For Christmas" by Gayla Peevey (recorded in 1953, so it's actually pre-rock). Anything by the Jackson Five is not making my list.

The songs on this list are mostly from the '50s and '60s. The Classic Rock era has failed dismally at Christmas songs. Bruce Springsteen has covered a few standards and the Eagles' "Please Come Home For Christmas" gets a lot of play because it sounds like a '50s song.

10. "Father Christmas" by the Kinks. The only hard rocker on this list. Ray Davies makes it work -- barely. (To be honest, it's only on the list because I couldn't find a 10th song that was better.)

9. "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" by U2. It works because it is retro.

8. "Blue Christmas" by Elvis Presley. Like most of the songs on this list, this recording sounds like a song the artist would do, but it happens to have a Christmas theme. That authenticity is the secret to a great Christmas song. Dig the sideburns and his lopsided grin in the video linked to here. He was the King -- for awhile.

7. "Run Rudolph Run" by Chuck Berry. Chuck Berry's lyrics are often clever:

Out of all the reindeers you know you're the mastermind

Run, run Rudolph, Randalph ain't too far behind

Run, run Rudolph, Santa's got to make it to town

Santa make him hurry, tell him he can take the freeway down

Run, run Rudolph cause I'm reelin' like a merry-go-round

Said Santa to a boy child What have you been longing for?

All I want for Christmas is a Rock and Roll electric guitar

And then away went Rudolph a whizzing like a shooting star

6. "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" by Brenda Lee. Great melody, great voice, upbeat fun.

5. "Jingle Bell Rock" by Bobby Helms. After 50 years, this and "My Special Angel" are the only songs by Bobby Helms that still get much airplay. It's a Christmas classic now.

4. "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)" by John Lennon. This antiwar song will be unbearable to many readers. That's the John Lennon package deal: he's half genius and half moonbat. The songwriting is the real thing here.

Now, if you want a Christmas song that is truly bad, try Paul McCartney's "Wonderful Christmastime." You listen to that treacle and wonder why John was the one who got shot.

(Okay, I'm sorry. I crossed the line with that last joke.)

3. "Little Saint Nick" by the Beach Boys. It's a first-rate Beach Boys song, and pop-rock does not get better than that.

2. "Sleigh Ride" by the Ronettes. This and the number one song have the Phil Spector "wall of sound" style. These songs are the pinnacle of melodic rock. If you want more Ronettes, check out this video of them performing the pop-rock classic, "Be My Baby."

1. "Winter Wonderland" by Darlene Love. There are a lot of versions of this song, but this is the best. It's got beautiful voices singing a great melody to a driving rock beat. (Avoid the Eurythmics' cover, as they do my pet peeve: they slow the tempo down.)

UPDATE: Holy cow, I forgot about "2000 Miles" by the Pretenders. I didn't even realize it was a Christmas song, but it is. It's certainly better than "Father Christmas" by the Kinks.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Around the World Wide Web 42

1. Santa meets Hollywood.

2. Guitar porn that should make Billy Beck salivate. Some beautiful Les Pauls, although I prefer the Strat.

3. Both the Beach Girl and George Reisman question whether a Hillary Clinton presidency would violate Twenty-second Amendment, which restricts a President to two terms.

The election of the wife of a President who has served two terms does not violate the letter of the law, but it does violate the spirit of the law. The intention of the law is clearly to limit the abuse of power by forcing a change in presidents at least every eight years. A husband-wife team in the White House that goes past the two terms of one member is perpetuating their power past eight years.

In a rational culture that valued liberty and took the Constitution seriously, a party would not allow the spouse of a President to run after that President had served eight years. Our culture is neither rational nor does it take the Constitution seriously. The Democrats don't give a damn about anything but the pursuit of power.

4. Check out Duffy. Great voice, songwriting straight out of 1966. That's a good thing.

5. Huckabee's ignorance.

6. Republicans are already launching attack ads linking candidates to Hillary Clinton. (HT: Don Surber)

Aside from the stupidity of the ad -- it would be nice if both parties could explain why their candidate is a value instead of pointing to the opponent and and saying "He's worse!" -- what does it say about Hillary Clinton's prospects that Republicans are already using her to damage other candidates?

2008 might turn out to be the dirtiest campaign ever. Republicans will hammer Clinton as a liberal big spender. Democrats will respond with every ounce of mud their researchers have dug up. Americans will be cynical and disgusted as a result.

Talking to Liberals

Recently I chatted with three white liberal women, all members of teachers unions -- the Democrat base. I asked them who they were voting for in the primary. Without hesitation they all said "Hillary." None of them was at all impressed by Obama. One of them laughed and said she is not one of those people who do whatever Oprah tells them to do. I don't know if we can conclude anything about the upcoming primaries from this anecdotal evidence.

One of the women asked me why Republicans hate Hillary Clinton so.

"Well," I said, "to begin with, she is a statist."

She asked me to repeat the word. She had never heard the word statist before. She reads the Los Angeles Times and watches news on PBS and CNN. In her world statism is merely the way things ought to be; it doesn't need a name, it's just life. She has never known anything but the welfare state and has never questioned it. As a pragmatist and an empiricist, she regards all theoretical talk of political theory as a nice thing intellectuals do, but not connected to our day to day reality.

Hillary Clinton makes sense to her. Republicans mystify her, disgust her and make her afraid. She doesn't understand them and has no curiosity about their ideas, although she is curious about their emotional hostility toward Clinton. It is enough for her to dismiss them as bad people, or at least blind and unenlightened.

I noted that Hillary Clinton worked for a communist lawyer in her radical youth. The liberal's response? "It was the '60s. Everyone was way out back then." She sees no connection between Clinton's radical past and her policies of today. Any talk of Clinton's radical past strikes her as hysterical smears from the VRWC.

I believe her way of thinking is common among Democrats. Although liberals dominate intellectual professions such as academia and teaching, there is something something anti-intellectual about them. They can be articulate, well read and even brilliant, but intellectual matters are compartmentalized: there's theory and then there's life.

I really think a lot of their lack of intellectual curiosity comes down to lack of motivation. Government intervention in the economy is the reality we live in and questioning it is beyond the liberal imagination. So what is the point in reading Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal by Ayn Rand or Bureaucracy by Ludwig von Mises? It seems to them like a tedious intellectual exercise that has no practical value.

Perhaps we are seeing here the fruits of pragmatism -- a philosophy that was influential in American universities a century ago. Liberal thinking is shaped by the ivory tower theorizing they respect (and dominate professionally); but they do not understand its practical consequences.

UPDATE: Minor edits. Sometimes I can relate to Oscar Wilde, who once claimed to have spent all morning putting in a comma, and all afternoon taking it out. Now if I only had Wilde's wit...

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Same Old Same Old

Hillary Clinton has a new campaign ad running in New Hampshire called "New Beginning." It sounds like good position for her to take. People are sick of the way things are; they sense something is wrong and they sense we need to do something now or we will hit a mighty crisis in the future.

Let's look at Hillary Clinton's New Beginning line by line.

CLINTON: I'm Hillary Clinton and I approved this message.

Always good to know.

CLINTON: It is time for America to set and reach big goals again.

Agree. We need to dismantle the welfare state and get the government out of the economy. We need to repeal over a century's worth of bad laws that violate individual rights -- repeal, repeal, repeal, all the way back to the antitrust laws. In foreign policy we need to stop appeasing our enemy and eradicate him with whatever means necessary.

This is what you meant, isn't it, Senator Clinton?

CLINTON: To restore our standing in the world.

Apparently, Senator, you have a different idea from me of what goals we should set and reach. The world is full of socialist states that resent America and shriek every time we meekly assert our national self-interest. The world wants America only to sacrifice for other countries. Who gives a damn what our standing is among socialist states and dictatorships around the world? We should wear their opprobrium as a badge of honor.

How disappointing, Senator, that your first example of a big goal you would pursue is one that plays to the anti-American far left of your party.

CLINTON: To rebuild the middle class dream and to reclaim the future for our children.

Could you possibly be more vague and unspecific? We don't want you to be mistaken for a courageous statesman who takes on tough issues. But let's look at the "middle class dream."

What created the middle class? Capitalism. In feudal times, there was a small middle class in the cities. With the growth of capitalism, the middle class grew. America became the country with the biggest middle class because it was the freest country. Now the middle class dream needs rebuilding. Why is that? Because the growth of the state in the 20th century has restricted freedom. (The number one killer of all economic dreams is inflation, the hidden tax of the welfare state. We need to return to a gold standard.) The only way to rebuild the middle class dream is to restore the liberty that created the vast middle class in America in the 19th century.

CLINTON: We need a new beginning on health care. We need to provide health care for every single man, woman and child at a price that people can afford.

You mean socialized medicine, although you won't say it because when statists speak clearly people run from them as if they had bubonic plague. If you want to read a good argument that destroys your position -- and as an honest Senator, you surely see your obligation to take a diligent look at the opposing view -- then check out "Moral Health Care vs. 'Universal Health Care.'" You might find it persuasive.

CLINTON: We need a new beginning on education. We need to end the unfunded mandate known as No Child Left Behind which has been so difficult for so many.

Let's try a radical new idea called freedom. Let's get the government out of education and let free people decide what is best for their children. Not only would this be moral -- not only would it uphold individual rights in education -- but the practical results could not be worse than our current system of 12 years of government indoctrination, babysitting, progressive education and half-hearted attempts by bored teachers to reach bored students.

CLINTON: We need a new beginning in our foreign policy. If the President won't end this war before he leaves office, when I am President I will.

Maybe you're right. Maybe we should openly quit fighting instead of pretending to fight as the Republicans are doing.

CLINTON: It takes strength and experience to bring about change. I have a very clear record of 35 years fighting for children and families, fighting for working people, fighting for our future.

You married well. You used your fame as First Lady to win a Senate seat in a liberal state you never lived in until you needed to. Aside from that your record is not impressive.

CLINTON: I will stand up for you every single day in the White House.

By "stand up for you" you mean stealing money from the rich and redistributing it to the poor. You mean state interference in the economy. You mean the massive violation of individual rights that is the mixed economy.

What is new about all that?

Friday, December 07, 2007

Mitt Romney vs. America

Mitt Romney's speech, "Faith In America," is offensive, wrong and un-American. Romney reveals in the speech that he understands neither freedom nor America. The speech alerts us that a President Romney would be statist and collectivist.

Romney makes the common mistake of equating religion and freedom.

Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom. Freedom opens the windows of the soul so that man can discover his most profound beliefs and commune with God. Freedom and religion endure together, or perish alone.

This is false. Religion destroys freedom and leads to tyranny. Throughout history, from the Aztecs to the Roman Empire to the Inquisition, religion and state have cooperated to form dictatorships that control both body and soul of the citizens. Religion is one of the few institutions that thrive in tyranny.

Freedom can only exist to the extent that people use reason in social interactions. Romney's statement could be rewritten as: Freedom requires reason just as reason requires freedom.

Reason is the epistemology based on the facts of reality perceived by the senses. When two people have a dispute, reality is the court of final appeal. In a free country with the rule of law, people do not use force on one another, they use reason. They attempt to persuade. Arguments come down to one question, "What is the truth?" Or, "What are the facts of reality?"

Faith is the epistemology based on knowledge that does not come through the senses, but through revelation from God. In any dispute concerning faith, reason is useless because the facts of reality are useless. Since faith comes from the supernatural realm, there is nothing in reality a faithful person can point to as evidence he is right.

When reason is out, force fills the void. The more consistently and seriously a man believes in faith, the more he will support the use of force to work for faith. If faith reveals the truth and there is no way to persuade the unfaithful of this truth with reason, then force is justified. Throughout history there are countless examples of the faithful using force against the unfaithful. Faith leads to force.

America was not founded on religious values, as Romney asserts. America was a product of the Enlightenment, which was the apex of reason and the nadir of religion in history. The values mentioned in the Declaration of Independence, "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" are not religious values. Consistently religious people spurn this world as the realm of Satan and turn their eyes to the supernatural world. Religious ascetics do not pursue happiness, but deprive themselves in this world so that they can get to happiness in the next world.

Religion holds sacrifice, the opposite of "the pursuit of happiness," as the moral ideal. This puts religion at odds with capitalism and liberty, both of which allow individuals to pursue their self-interest. The more consistently religious a man is, the more he supports the state suppressing liberty and forcing individuals to sacrifice.

This brings us to the most startling aspect of Romney's speech, his specific advocacy of altruism, statism and collectivism.

We believe that every single human being is a child of God - we are all part of the human family....

The consequence of our common humanity is our responsibility to one another, to our fellow Americans foremost, but also to every child of God. It is an obligation which is fulfilled by Americans every day, here and across the globe, without regard to creed or race or nationality.

Romney believes that Americans have a "responsibility" and "obligation" to all humans. This is a prescription for American sacrifice to the world, a far cry from "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

Americans acknowledge that liberty is a gift of God, not an indulgence of government. No people in the history of the world have sacrificed as much for liberty. The lives of hundreds of thousands of America's sons and daughters were laid down during the last century to preserve freedom, for us and for freedom loving people throughout the world. America took nothing from that Century's terrible wars - no land from Germany or Japan or Korea; no treasure; no oath of fealty....

Romney sees our participation in the 20th century's world wars as sacrificing to serve God. Freedom is not a selfish value in this world, merely a value because it is what God wants for man. Romney's words signal that, like George W. Bush, he would follow the neoconservative nation building to bring the "gift of God" to the rest of the world.

Domestically, religious ethics lead Romney to a vision of sacrifice for the needy:

These American values, this great moral heritage, is shared and lived in my religion as it is in yours. I was taught in my home to honor God and love my neighbor. I saw my father march with Martin Luther King. I saw my parents provide compassionate care to others, in personal ways to people nearby, and in just as consequential ways in leading national volunteer movements. I am moved by the Lord's words: 'For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: naked, and ye clothed me...'

Can the man who says these words oppose the welfare state in any consistent, principled way? Or would he rather follow George W. Bush's compassionate conservatism, uniting faith and welfare state? Romney's philosophy spells the death of individualism and egoism, the ideas that underlie "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

And notice that he brings up "national volunteer movements." Would he be able to resist using the state to force young people to "volunteer" in service of others? If God demands sacrifice, why shouldn't the government serve God and make people do their moral duty?

Finally, there is this problematic passage from the end of the speech:

...Any believer in religious freedom, any person who has knelt in prayer to the Almighty, has a friend and ally in me. And so it is for hundreds of millions of our countrymen: we do not insist on a single strain of religion - rather, we welcome our nation's symphony of faith.

What of those of us who refuse to kneel in prayer to the Almighty? Does Romney consider us his friends and allies? Or is there no room at Romney's inn for atheists?

The best we can hope for from a Romney presidency is that he doesn't really mean what he says -- that he is pandering to the religious right to get elected. I raise this possibility because he has a record of opportunism. His principles are formed by his political need of the moment. As Ron Fournier writes,

[Romney] campaigned for governor of Democratic-leaning Massachusetts as a supporter of abortion rights, gay rights and gun control — only to switch sides on those and other issues in time for the GOP presidential race. The first thing he did as a presidential contender in January was sign the same no-tax pledge an aide dismissed as "government by gimmickry" during the 2002 campaign.

Romney does not deserve the support of anyone who values individualism, egoism and capitalism. His stated beliefs, if he were true to them, would continue America down the path started by George W. Bush toward a religious welfare state.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

The Oh-So-Nice Party

It happens every election. We get pieces written by Democrats about how their party -- a party full of naive saints who have dedicated their lives to helping the less fortunate -- must learn to be as mean as the Republicans in order to win.

And they're serious. They think they're good, moral people and Republicans are bad, mean-spirited people. They think Republicans are naturally "tough," but Democrats, being altruists, must make a conscious effort to fight back against their fellow man.

Peter Fenn has written the first such piece in this election cycle, titled, "Do Democrats have the backbone to win?"

The one concern gnawing at Democrats is the burning desire to nominate a candidate who can go head-to-head with the Republican nominee and pin him to the mat.


My other concern, I have to confess, is that a lot of Democratic presidential operatives may not be tough enough to handle what the Republicans have dished out.

President Bush, Vice President Cheney, Karl Rove, Swift-Boaters and the religious right have all proven that a “take no prisoners” approach really can work.

Now, remember that the Democrats are the party that invented Borking. For the last 20 years they have depended more and more on character assassination, smears and lies to win political contests. The Clinton White House looked through over 900 FBI files to dig up dirt on their enemies. The Clintons were willing to ruin the lives of the people who worked in the White House travel office in order to get their cronies in there. The Democrats have perfected the art of releasing dirt late in an election; just ask Bruce Hershenson, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bob Dole and George W. Bush.

None of this dents the liberal self-image as a combination of teddy bear, Mother Teresa and Boy Scout. Because they are altruists and collectivists who want to use state power to help everyone, they believe they are good people, unlike those selfish, unenlightened Republicans.

The great thing about being good-hearted altruists is that nothing they do can be bad. The end justifies the means, so they can lie and smear Republicans -- whatever it takes -- and still be good and noble. Besides, those evil right-wingers deserve whatever they get.

Mr. Fenn gives examples to support his argument from recent elections.

Looking back at the 2000 and 2004 elections, a main conclusion that many come to is that Democrats did not respond well enough, did not fight back and did not take on Bush and the Republicans.

Why not?

Al Gore was on the defensive on stories that were blatantly false — from Love Canal to “Love Story,” from “inventing” the Internet to wanting to destroy Detroit’s automakers.

I don't know if Bush and the Republicans were behind all of those stories about Gore. I think David Letterman is more to blame than the VRWC. But why did they stick? Because voters sensed that Gore is an enormous phony who never seems sincere and authentic. And as an environmentalist, his policies would end up destroying Detroit's automakers (and western civilization) if they were allowed to go to their logical end, whether Gore wanted to destroy them or not.

John F. Kerry, too, saw a record as a war hero turned upside down, impugning his patriotism and questioning whether he deserved his medals.

Maybe that's because he threw his medals away when he was a young antiwar activist and accused American troops of behaving like Ghengis Khan. The Swift Boat attacks were effective because they confirmed what people already suspected about Kerry. They made sense, given Kerry's radical, anti-American past.

Both Gore and Kerry were poor candidates who didn't respond to Republican attacks because they couldn't.

All the while, Bush, Cheney, John Ashcroft and the crew had avoided service in Vietnam. ... and blatantly.

None of that "chickenhawk" blather matters a whit because people know who is strong on defense. People know that the Democrat Party has many leftists in it that are outright anti-American. People aren't stupid: they can think abstractly; they understand that what Republican politicians did during the Vietnam War really doesn't matter.

So Mr. Fenn hopes the next Democrat running for President will attack like a Republican. Time to drag out the bean bag line.

This election year has to be different for the Democrats.

Politics ain’t bean bag, as they say.

I knew he wouldn't fail me. Mr. Fenn's thinking is so stale and cliche, he had to use the bean bag line.

My sense right now is that Clinton has an operation that can truly take on the Republicans...

Gee, ya think? Ya think Hillary Clinton has it in her to say a negative word about a fellow human being? Now, are you sure about this, Peter?

The Democrats do not help themselves by looking at the world through glasses that turn politics into a cartoon in which Republicans are these fat guys who smoke cigars and eat babies and Democrats are Bambi. The "reality-based community" is so out of touch with reality that it's amazing they win any elections at all.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Losing a War We Cannot Afford to Lose

Iran has been at war with America since November 4, 1979, when Iran seized the U.S. diplomatic mission in Tehran. Since then Iran has been behind numerous terrorist attacks, including the 1983 Beirut barracks bombing that killed 241 American servicemen, 220 of whom were Marines.

This was the deadliest single-day death toll for the United States Marine Corps since the Battle of Iwo Jima (2,500 in one day) of World War II and the deadliest single-day death toll for the United States military since the 243 killed on 31st January 1968 — the first day of the Tet offensive in the Vietnam war. The attack remains the deadliest post-World War II attack on Americans overseas.

Reagan's response was in effect the same as Carter's response to the hostage crisis: nothing. America continued its pragmatic policy of hoping to appease Iran and avoid war.

The war has continued to this day. In Iraq Americans are being killed by weapons provided by Iran. And yet, we continue to respond with the same pragmatic appeasement as we always have. Currently, our state department is hoping for a "diplomatic" solution with Iran. It seems that as long as Iran keeps the killing of Americans to an acceptably low number our government will continue to appease on a day-to-day basis.

Iran is the fountainhead of totalitarian, militant Islamic fundamentalism. As Leonard Peikoff put it in "End States Who Sponsor Terrorism,"

If one were under a Nazi aerial bombardment, it would be senseless to restrict oneself to combatting Nazi satellites while ignoring Germany and the ideological plague it was working to spread. What Germany was to Nazism in the 1940s, Iran is to terrorism today. Whatever else it does, therefore, the U.S. can put an end to the Jihad-mongers only by taking out Iran.

Only by ending decades of being a "paper tiger" by destroying Iran's regime of the mullahs will Islamic fundamentalists understand that we are serious about fighting back in the war they started against us.

When America invaded Afghanistan and Iraq after September 11, 2001, I supported those actions. Not only were the Taliban and Saddam Hussein dangerous, anti-American dictatorships, but by gaining Afghanistan and Iraq we would have Iran surrounded. We are now in an excellent strategic position to finish off Iran.

I knew that Bush's justification for attacking Iraq was a confused mixed bag. As Elan Journo of the Ayn Rand Institute puts it,

U.S. troops were sent, not to crush an enemy threatening America, but (as Bush explained) to "sacrifice for the liberty of strangers," putting the lives of Iraqis above their own.

Unlike Mr. Journo, who holds that invading Iraq was worse than doing nothing, I held out hope that Bush would go on to attack Iran. That hope has now been crushed:

A new assessment by American intelligence agencies concludes that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003 and that the program remains frozen, contradicting judgment two years ago that Tehran was working relentlessly toward building a nuclear bomb.

As Peter Baker and Robin Wright put it in the Washington Post, the NIE report is "A Blow to Bush's Tehran Policy."

The new intelligence report released yesterday not only undercut the administration's alarming rhetoric over Iran's nuclear ambitions but could also throttle Bush's effort to ratchet up international sanctions and take off the table the possibility of preemptive military action before the end of his presidency.

Norman Podhoretz notes that the report's conclusion is the opposite of what they concluded just two years ago. He thinks the intelligence community is being too safe in light of their embarrassing mistakes regarding Saddam's weapons of mass destruction. And worse:

But I entertain an even darker suspicion. It is that the intelligence community, which has for some years now been leaking material calculated to undermine George W. Bush, is doing it again. This time the purpose is to head off the possibility that the President may order air strikes on the Iranian nuclear installations.

This report comes at a moment when the idea of attacking Iran was beginning to gain some momentum. As Robert Tracinski wrote on September 23, 2007,

For more than a year now, I have been arguing that war with Iran is inevitable, that our only choice is how long we wait to fight it, and that the only question is what cost we will suffer for putting off the necessary confrontation with the Islamic Republic.

Now, finally, there is evidence that some of our leaders are beginning to recognize the necessity of this war and are preparing to fight it. And so for past few weeks, as I have been documenting in TIA Daily, the newspapers have been filled with rumors and speculation about an American air war against Iran.

How is it that the greatest state sponsor of terrorism remains untouched by the "war on terrorism?" It is because America lacks clarity of thought about the war and is guided by faulty philosophical premises. This philosophic failure is not primarily the fault of the anti-American left -- if the right thought clearly and well about the war the left would be ignored and forgotten -- no, the problem lies with the Republicans who claim to be fighting terrorism.

60 years ago we soundly defeated fascism and left Germany and Japan free countries in four short years. That was before the rise of the New Left, altruism and multiculturalism. You could think of WWII as the last gasp of America's Enlightenment heritage of individualism and rational self-interest. Today we're incapable of fighting a serious war and doing what it takes to destroy the enemy.

This latest NIE report effectively stops our war effort as a result of our confusion of purpose. Imagine that Bush had said, "Saddam is a dictator who threatens America and we have right to destroy all dictators who threaten us. We will use Iraq as a base from which to destroy all states that sponsor terrorism." Everything would be different today. The UN would have squawked, as it is full of dictatorships that hate America, but who would care?

Instead, the Bush administration unwisely fomented WMD's as a cause of war in Iraq because it deferred to "world opinion" and wanted the UN to endorse the invasion. Bush set the precedent in Iraq: America would not pursue its self-interest, but would let the UN set the terms of the war. Since WMD's seem to be the UN-approved justification for war, a report that says Iran has halted its nuclear bomb program means the world would shriek if America now attacked Iran. Never mind that our intelligence is uncertain or that Iran might restart its program tomorrow.

What does this mean for the future? The enemy lives on to attack us another day. Sooner or later he will attack. As Andrew McCarthy writes,

Khamenei has reaffirmed that "Death to America" is Iran's motto, Ahmadinejad says a world without America is achievable, we have 30 years of evidence of the Iranian regime acting on those assumptions...

Iran is ideologically committed to destroying the Great Satan, America.

A liberal once told me that America must learn to live with terrorism as Israel has. To this altruistic liberal America seriously asserting itself and destroying our enemy was inconceivable. To the left our only conceivable future is one of long-term terrorism appeased by American sacrifice to the rest of the world.

I worry about what "learning to live with terrorism" would do to the American character. Cynicism and defeatism would spread through our culture as it did in the Hellenic Age and in the Roman Empire. I fear that mysticism would spread as Americans react to hopelessness in this world the way Augustine reacted to the sack of Rome.

[Augustine's The City of God] was written soon after Rome was sacked by the Visigoths in 410. This event left Romans in a deep state of shock, and many saw it as punishment for abandoning their pagan religion. It was in this atmosphere that Augustine set out to provide a consolation of Christianity, writing that it was the City of God that would ultimately triumph — symbolically, Augustine's eyes were fixed on heaven, a theme repeated in many Late Antiquity Christian art forms.

Hopelessness and cynicism would be good for the worst elements of the right and the left. They would increase mysticism and religion; and they would play into the New Left's project of replacing America's heritage of individualism with collectivism and statism.

When you think of the long-term stakes in this war, it really would be better for us to take it seriously and win the damn thing. We cannot afford to "learn to live with it." Such a lesson would cost America its soul.

(NOTE: This was my 600th post.)

Monday, December 03, 2007

Messier 74

A stunning picture of a spiral galaxy called Messier 74:

The red veins give the arms a three-dimensional look. This galaxy is around 35,000,000 light years away from us.

(HT: Centauri Dreams)

Around the World Wide Web 41

1. Huckabee credits God for his rise in Iowa polls.

Am I the only one who thinks it is absurd that a supernatural creature who has in his resume the creation of the universe would fiddle with a poll in Iowa? Oh, wait, I forgot -- the ways of God are mysterious. They certainly are.

2. George Reisman looks at the contradictions in the Republican candidates' position on abortion.

3. How about this quote from Woodrow Wilson?

A man who thinks of himself as belonging to a particular national group in America has not yet become an American. And the man who goes among you to trade upon your nationality is no worthy son to live under the Stars and Stripes.

And he was a Democrat!

4. Why Mike Huckabee will be the next president. If he is on the ticket at all, I will vote for the Democrat. Gridlock is preferable to a religious nanny-stater.

(HT: Born Again Redneck)

5. Marxism is at the heart of global warming?

Global warming is not a communist conspiracy, but environmentalists share the old left's premises of altruism, collectivism and statism, so they push for the same policies. Both Marxism and environmentalism are essentially anti-capitalist ideologies and nothing more. Any positive values they pretend to have are just window dressing to help pragmatists and useful idiots evade their nihilism.

6. Is Hillary Clinton less than inevitable?

(What would it mean if the candidates ended up being Obama and Huckabee? It would mean the Democrats are smart enough not to commit party suicide but the Republicans are not that smart.)

Friday, November 30, 2007

Conformist News Network

About the Republican You Tube Debate on CNN, John Fund writes, "Almost a third of the questioners seem to have some ties to Democratic causes or candidates." I noticed something funny after the debate when they interviewed their focus group of "undecided Republicans" and a woman announced she favored John Edwards. A Republican who wants to vote for John Edwards?

I caught a few minutes of Keith Olbermann last night as he and John Edwards mocked the Republicans because they are outraged that they had to answer a question from a Democrat. If they can't do that, do they have what it takes to be President of the United States? Of course, if an unidentified Republican asked tough questions of a Democrat during a debate, Olbermann would lead the charge against "Republican dirty tricks."

In addition to Gen. Keith Kerr, who turns out from to be connected to the Clinton campaign, the list of Democrat questioners is raising suspicions.

Now it appears that an amazing number of partisan figures posed many of the 30 questions at the GOP debate all the while pretending to be CNN’s advertised “undecided voters.” Yasmin from Huntsville, Alabama turns out to be a former intern with the Council on American Islamic Relations, a group highly critical of Republicans. Blogger Michelle Malkin has identified other plants, including declared Obama supporter David Cercone, who asked a question about the pro-gay Log Cabin Republicans. A questioner who asked a hostile question about the pro-life views of GOP candidates turned out to be a diehard John Edwards supporter (and a slobbering online fan of Mr. Cooper). Yet another “plant” was LeeAnn Anderson, an activist with a union that has endorsed Mr. Edwards.

How could CNN let this happen? Was it planned? Is it some sort of conspiracy?

I don't think so. I believe we're seeing the power of philosophy in action. The liberals at CNN would pick liberal questioners because they would think those questions are the best, most challenging ones to ask Republicans.

Remember, liberals think alike to a degree that it is hard for the rest of us to understand. They have a homogenous ideology, from which they do not stray for fear that they will be denounced as bad people. Progressive education is designed to destroy the virtue of independence; it creates me-too mediocrities who are terrified of thinking different from the group. Political correctness explicitly directs liberals on what they can think. They are accustomed to picking up the cues of what is acceptable thought and what is not.

So when the people at CNN hear questions about God, guns and gays, they think, "Yes, those are the pertinent, challenging questions we must ask of these religious conservatives." And those questions are not unreasonable. But questions regarding individual rights, liberty, the validity of the welfare state, the threat of totalitarian Islam, the anti-progress threat of environmentalism and so on do not occur to liberals. These questions are so far from altruist-statist-collectivist premises that liberals don't understand their importance and might not even be able to understand them at all.

CNN failed to examine the questioners because they failed to examine their bias. The liberal imagination cannot fathom ideas outside the ideology approved by the group. To the people at CNN there is their way of thinking and then there are those extremist wingnuts that no reasonable person takes seriously.

Once again, no conspiracy is necessary to explain suspicious leftist action. Conformists don't need to coordinate their actions, they need merely to act on the premises they hold in common.

Hollywood Goes to War

Currently there are two contradicting pieces on the web that attempt to explain why Hollywood's anti-American antiwar films are bad movies that Americans are staying away from in droves. (A Hollywood mogul in the old days once said, "If they don't want to come, you can't make them." It's still true.)

The first explanation is from a liberal, Sudhir Muralidhar, writing in American Prospect (a magazine earnestly subtitled, "Liberal Intelligence"). The piece is called, "Why Are Iraq War Movies Box-Office Flops?" It should be called, "Why Are Anti-American Iraq War Movies Box-Office Flops?" Sudhir says the problem is too much passion:

In many respects, the greatest risk of making political art during wartime is that heightened political passion will trump artistic judgment, which in the case of moviemaking means that expressing a political stance will take precedence over character development and plot structure. For example, in the heat of the political moment, with a war raging on, producing a movie that features Robert Redford lecturing on the importance of civic engagement just might seem like a good idea.

Sounds plausible. But neoconservative Roger L. Simon, writing in Pajamas Media, says the problem is too little passion:

The movies are essentially inauthentic. The filmmakers think they are supposed to be antiwar, but they don’t feel it in their guts.

How do I know that? Part of this is admittedly a gut feeling on my part. This feels to me like a cinema of “received wisdom,” not based on personal experience or “emotional knowledge” of any kind. No matter how you stand or stood on the Vietnam War, compare these recent ventures (Lions for Lambs, Rendition, Redacted, The Valley of Elah) with, to pick one example, Oliver Stone’s Platoon. The director’s passion is literally splattered all over the screen. Ditto for his Born on the Fourth of July. And, not surprisingly, the audience went.

No passion, no conviction of this sort, is evident in the current movies. And that is lethal. Art without genuine conviction is boring and worthless. What else does the artist (filmmaker) have to give to the audience but his or her passion? It’s no surprise the audience is disinterested without it.

So, who is right? Too much passion or not enough? The answer is neither. Moviegoers are staying away because they don't like depressing movies.

Imagine a friend or lover asked you, "Do you want to see X? It's a depressing movie about moral corruption. The film is steeped in cynicism and shows man as inherently depraved." Do you want to sit through two hours of that?

Sometimes Hollywood can fool us into seeing a depressing, cynical movie if they advertise the values we want to see, such as action, plot, drama, romance and humor. But with these anti-American antiwar movies, we know what we'll get from liberals.

The left believes capitalism, America, Republicans and Bush are all bad. It's impossible for them to make a movie about our current war without portraying the war and America as immoral. As altruists, they think they have a duty to tell the truth about selfish America killing third world people out of greed or whatever. Of course, their premises have nothing to do with reality, so they wouldn't recognize the truth if it tap danced beneath a blinking neon sign that read, "THE TRUTH IS TAP DANCING BENEATH THIS SIGN."

If filmmakers had infinite resources, they would continue to make these anti-American antiwar movies and bask in the satisfaction that they had done their moral duty by exposing the corruption that lies beneath the glittering surface of our capitalist society. They would make these movies despite the fact that Americans are too shallow and stupid to buy tickets to see these masterpieces of cinematic art.

Fortunately for moviegoers, Hollywood does not have infinite resources. The studios must make a profit and the filmmakers must make money so they can send their grandchildren to Ivy League schools. They will get back to making Mindless Man IV and Total 'Splosions XIII, the physicalistic, spectacular blockbusters they do so well. They will tell themselves over martinis at night that they tried to show us the truth. But to paraphrase the Jack Nicholson line, they can't handle the truth.