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April 2, 2005

Summing Up the Contorted Thinking

Not to pick on M. Carrie Ruo of North Providence, RI, but her letter to the Providence Journal too perfectly captures an impulse behind the Kill Terri crowd:

For centuries, the husband has been given "God-like" authority over his own family. How many wives have gone to their relatives, priests and other conservative counselors, complaining of abuse from their husbands, only to be told that they should stay in the marriage because it is God's will -- that they should obey their husbands and pray?

In the recent elections, we were told time and again that marriage is between a man and a woman, which conveys exclusive rights to the husband and wife over each other's affairs. Why then, did the same conservatives wish to strip away Michael Shiavo's rights? Last I read, he was still married to Terri.

The hypocrites have made the husband king, but now want to take away his crown, simply because they don't like his decision. Too bad.

What's the argument? That Terri Schiavo had to die because conservatives wish to preserve the opposite-sex definition of marriage? That an objectionable view of spouses' positioning relative to each other that has largely faded in the Western world requires us to honor that precedent for a modern man who wanted his disabled wife dead? I could be reading too much into this, but it seems to me that this particular manifestation of adolescent psychosis offers partial explanation for Western liberals' sympathy for the most retrograde practices of Islamic fundamentalists.

For too many, liberalism has devolved into an ideology for feeling one's own rightness, as compared to the wrongness of Western (particularly Christian) conservatives. If the highest sin that conservatives can commit, in the eyes of liberals, is hypocrisy, then some withdrawn feeding tubes and the slithering of the burkqa onto the Western street are a small price to pay in order to wield the scarlet H.

Posted by Justin Katz at April 2, 2005 9:34 AM
Culture
Comments

So are you admitting that attempting to remove guardianship of Michael Schiavo without any evidence that it was legally warrented is hypocritical for a group of people who ordinarily hold marriage up to such a high ideal? That it is hypocritical to think that gays will "weaken" the institution but governmental intervention into a particular marriage will not? Why is the slippery slope ok in one instance but not in the other?

Posted by: Michael at April 2, 2005 11:28 AM

I'm admitting no such thing. I'm merely observing a habit of thought among a certain group of people, without reference to those thoughts' accuracy.

Posted by: Justin Katz at April 2, 2005 11:48 AM

Justin: For too many, liberalism has devolved into an ideology for feeling one's own rightness, as compared to the wrongness of Western (particularly Christian) conservatives.

Justin, I think you are right. "Liberal" is supposed to mean open-minded, seeking reform in the interest of the common good, etc., right? So how did that devolve into the mindset that everything Western, Christian or pro-business is bad? I don't get it.

Posted by: Matt Taylor at April 2, 2005 12:46 PM

The short answer is that a set of positions congealed into an identity, and that identity requires others posed in opposition. A further problem is that many of their positions are unworkable, but since they are intrinsic to the identity, there must be a reason (i.e., conservatives) that they aren't working.

Posted by: Justin Katz at April 2, 2005 12:56 PM

I'm admitting no such thing. I'm merely observing a habit of thought among a certain group of people, without reference to those thoughts' accuracy.

So how do you feel about hypocrisy in general? While I don't consider it the greatest sin a conservative can commit, I find it extremely distasteful. My major issue with those in the "save Terri at all costs" camp is their absolutism, or rather their blindness to certain ambiguities.

I find it disturbing that someone like Tom DeLay can say that he doesn't care about Michael's position as a her husband or that it was irrelevent (I can't remember the exact quote). To deny that their position in this matter is inconsistent with their marriage rhetoric is dishonest. I can still respect the view that saving Terri's life can trump the sanctity of marriage, but to address this issue as if those conflicting views aren't problematic or that there isn't any nuance whatsoever, is troubling.

Posted by: Michael at April 2, 2005 1:32 PM

I agree that hypocrisy is distasteful, but I think most of what is attacked as hypocrisy on the political stage isn't.

I guess part of the question is what "marriage rhetoric" you're talking about. I haven't heard any mainstream SSM opponents declare that marriage is absolutely inviolable. It seems to me that those who parrot this particular liberal line are adding their own import for what "sacred institution of marriage" ought to mean for those who believe in it.

As Ms. Ruo illustrates, they do so in order to construct an illusion of hypocrisy that can then be used to hammer an unrelated issue. Michael Schiavo had to have the power over the life and death of Terri Schiavo so that liberals could feel like conservatives had proven that they don't really believe what they say on other matters.

By the flawed thinking, Michael, it sounds as if you, as a proponent of SSM, should have supported the removal of custody from Mr. Schiavo.

Posted by: Justin Katz at April 2, 2005 1:50 PM

"So are you admitting that attempting to remove guardianship of Michael Schiavo without any evidence that it was legally warrented is hypocritical for a group of people who ordinarily hold marriage up to such a high ideal?" I love the commenters here. They are so clever and they come up with some really neat tricks. Too bad so many of them seem to be incapable of comprehending what you actually write, Justin, and seem to be reading something else than what's in front of their (and everybody else's) eyes. In fact, I find this peculiarity to be a recurring phenomenon of your comment boxes. Do you think perhaps one person is using different names but foolishly commiting the same stupid mistake over and over again when replying to you? Could so many people who disagree with you actually misunderstand plain, simple words so readily?

Really, it's just fascinating.

Posted by: ELC at April 2, 2005 2:52 PM

Actually, you're all debating a moot point here. The following is an excerpt from a web site that has a thorough examination of the history of Terri Schiavo's story. I would suggest that anybody who wants to discuss this case read this site to gather more information on which to base their arguments:

http://abstractappeal.com/schiavo/infopage.html

"Why did Terri’s husband get to make the decision about whether she should live or die?

Michael Schiavo did not make the decision to discontinue life-prolonging measures for Terri.

As Terri's husband, Michael has been her guardian and her surrogate decision-maker. By 1998, though -- eight years after the trauma that produced Terri's situation -- Michael and Terri's parents disagreed over the proper course for her.

Rather than make the decision himself, Michael followed a procedure permitted by Florida courts by which a surrogate such as Michael can petition a court, asking the court to act as the ward's surrogate and determine what the ward would decide to do. Michael did this, and based on statements Terri made to him and others, he took the position that Terri would not wish to continue life-prolonging measures. The Schindlers took the position that Terri would continue life-prolonging measures. Under this procedure, the trial court becomes the surrogate decision-maker, and that is what happened in this case.

The trial court in this case held a trial on the dispute. Both sides were given opportunities to present their views and the evidence supporting those views. Afterwards, the trial court determined that, even applying the "clear and convincing evidence" standard -- the highest burden of proof used in civil cases -- the evidence showed that Terri would not wish to continue life-prolonging measures."

As this examination of the legal record shows (BTW, there are actual court papers written in legalese linked from this site), Michael Schiavo did not make the decision to discontinue life support, although he did argue in court that that is what she would want.

Posted by: reality based at April 2, 2005 3:10 PM

I think the hypocricy alarm comes from questioning those in power. Conservatives have power in this country, and thus deserve to have their motives questioned. If those in control are trying to foist a specific morals-based orithodoxy on how the government is run, then pointing out inconsistencies is important.

If you say you respect the "culture of lfe" yet support the executiion of prisoners, that's an inconsistency that needs to be explained. If you believe in "small government" yet immerse the federal government into a state matter and the marriage of an individual person, that needs to be explained. If you believe in the "sanctity of marriage' yet are willing to gut those legal rights by inserting federal courts into a marriage, than that inconsistency needs to be explained.

Liberalism can easiily, and rightfully, be faulted for not standing for anything. Conservatism, however, appears to be built on much more consistent values and orthodoxy, so it deserve examination when those values can be so easily tossed aside.

Posted by: res ipsa at April 2, 2005 4:08 PM

I agree that hypocrisy is distasteful, but I think most of what is attacked as hypocrisy on the political stage isn't.

I agree with you that liberals hurl the claim of hypocrisy around a lot. I think this is a certain case of hypocrisy, but as I emphasized it is justifiable. Only DeLay, et al, aren't attempting to justify a limited hypocrisy or even to acknowledge that we should proceed with caution when talking about invalidating the marriage contract.

It seems to me that those who parrot this particular liberal line are adding their own import for what "sacred institution of marriage" ought to mean for those who believe in it.

Then I'm having a difficult idea figuring out what you're talking about then when you talk about the sacred institution of marriage. Why should we even have it if a husband can't be presumed to know what his wife wanted? This conflict between what one's parents wish and one's spouse wishes is one of the reasons gays want to get married. This isn't quite that issue because what reality based says above is fairly accurate.

Here is what Tom Delay said: "I don't know what transpired between Terri and her husband. All I know is Terri is alive. ... Unless she has specifically written instructions in her hand, with her signature, I don't care what her husband says." Part of the marriage contract is that society is supposed to accept what you say, absent other evidence. There was nothing on record to say that Michael Schiavo shouldn't have been trusted as her husband, and yet Tom DeLay, one of the most powerful Republicans in the government doesn't care about that accepted contract. That is hypocrisy.

By the flawed thinking, Michael, it sounds as if you, as a proponent of SSM, should have supported the removal of custody from Mr. Schiavo.

Why? I like marriage just the way it is. If I didn't I'd be content with civil unions. I want Michael Schiavo to be the spokesperson for his wife. Because otherwise why would we bother fighting for a legal contract that could be violated by the government because the "don't care" what a husband says.

Posted by: Michael at April 2, 2005 4:24 PM

If those in control are trying to foist a specific morals-based orithodoxy on how the government is run, then pointing out inconsistencies is important.

Exactly, Res. And I think these inconsistencies *can* be explained. And they should be explained. But you can't just say "Move along, move along, there's no inconsistency here, just move along...."

Posted by: Michael at April 2, 2005 4:27 PM

Res,

Hypocrisy has been a favorite charge against conservatives in and out of power. It mostly has to do with the storyline that liberals tell themselves — that they're always the rebels against the mindless authority. Blah.

There is only inconsistency if you insist on another liberal foible: absolutism. I believe in a small government, but one that protects the lives of its individual citizens — an application that is quite direct in the Schiavo case. I believe in the sanctity of marriage, but it doesn't trump the sanctity of life, and in this case, pace Michael, we have a common law wife and two children as evidence that "that Michael Schiavo shouldn't have been trusted as her husband."

Posted by: Justin Katz at April 2, 2005 5:36 PM

Justin,
I really wish you would read the site I keep referring to:

http://abstractappeal.com/schiavo/infopage.html

before you continue demonizing Michael Schiavo and the judges involved in this case. It is fairly easy to rebut the arguments put forward by M. Carrie Ruo. This does not mean that there are no convincing arguments from that side. If you can convincingly rebut the arguments put forward at abstract appeal, then you will have accomplished something- and I would be interested to read your rebuttal.

The ruling to remove the feeding tube was based on a finding that this is what Terri would want, if she were able to speak for herself. The other side of this case (that Terri would NOT want the feeding tube removed) was vigorously argued several times in court.

1. Do you believe that people should not be able to specify in living wills that they would want to be removed from life maintaining apparati if they fall in to a persistant vegetative state?

2. Do you believe that Terri Schiavo was not in a persistant vegetative state?

3. Do you believe that it would not have been her wish to be disconnected from life maintaining apparati?

4. Is there another reason for your position that she should not have had her feeding tube removed?

If number 1 is your reason, than that is a matter of personal values that is subject to debate, but not to proof.

If numbers 2 or 3 are your reasons, then I ask what you are basing your beliefs on, and I again encourage you to go to the source, the actual court documents on which the court's findings were based, to be found in links from here:

http://abstractappeal.com/schiavo/infopage.html

Obviously, I can't say anything about number 4 because I don't know what it would be.

Earlier, you wrote:
"The short answer is that a set of positions congealed into an identity, and that identity requires others posed in opposition. A further problem is that many of their positions are unworkable, but since they are intrinsic to the identity, there must be a reason (i.e., conservatives) that they aren't working."

Are conservatives never guilty of this, as well? (obviously substituting the word "liberals" where your quote says "conservatives")

PS. Condolences on the passing of the Pope. I'm hesitant to write that because you may look for hidden meanings, but I assure you that there are none.

Posted by: reality based at April 2, 2005 7:46 PM

Conservatives can claim to value life in the abstract or in the case of one particular woman, but not necessarily in general. Most religious conservatives oppose Medicare and Medicaid. Without those two programs in most instances there wouldn't be the funds the insert feeding tubes in the first place. For many conservatives, if market forces result in death, regardless of a desire for life, that is morally acceptable. However, if money is available, then someone should be kept alive, maybe even against their wishes.

Posted by: Joel Thomas at April 2, 2005 8:06 PM

Actually Justin, I think that bigotry, another thing liberals brand conservatives with, is rated as high as hypocrisy.

Posted by: smmtheory at April 2, 2005 8:43 PM

I haven't ventured an opinion on the Schiavo case. I know I would not want to be kept alive in her condition. But I also know that is a very, very insufficient basis on which to decide this.

But as for the charge that those who oppose SSM are being hypocritical in siding with Terri's parents rather than with her husband, not only do I not see the hypocrisy, but I actually find it in at least one respect wholly consistent with their view of marriage, and similarly consistent for SSM advocates to side with the husband over the parents. (Though not everybody lined up this way, of course).

SSM opponents believe that marriage is about not just the relationship between the two in the marriage, but about procreation, and hence thus also about the bond between parent and child. SSM supporters argue, however, that procreation is irrelevant to marriage, and that the bond between the two individuals in the marriage is all that is important.

On this basis, where is the inconsistency in SSM opponents believing that Terri's parents had at least as much right to decide whether she live or die as did her husband, as they believe that the parent-child bond is linked to marriage and thus just as essential to marriage as the husband-wife bond is, if not even more so? There is no inconsistency.

And it is also no inconsistency that those who believe that marriage is not primarily about childrearing should thus also believe that the husband's right totally trumps the parents, even though a bond between parent and child is lifelong, while a bond between husband and wife is only as lasting as the marriage is.

Posted by: R.K. at April 3, 2005 4:45 PM

So, because the Schiavo's never had a child, there marriage is of less value than if they had a chilld. Interesting. Maybe we should take this further and just invalidate all marriages where no child is created and deny marriage certificates to the infertile.

Posted by: res ipsa at April 3, 2005 8:43 PM

"So, because the Schiavo's never had a child, there marriage is of less value than if they had a child".

Yawn.

Good tactic, Res. When one straw man argument fails, just rehash another one.

Needless to say, the parent-child bond is not a part of every marriage, but that doesn't make it any less important of a bond. And it certainly doesn't tell us anything as to why a husband should have priority over parents in deciding whether a person should live or die. Now, go ahead and jump to the legal argument. I know, the law grants that right to the husband, but the mere fact that not all marriages produce children tells us nothing about why this should be.

Or is your argument that:

1) not all marriages produce children;

2) therefore, marriage has nothing to do with procreation;

3) spousal bond is the only meaningful bond in marriage;

4) therefore, husband's right to decide whether or not to end wife's life totally trumps parents'.

If that is your reasoning (and I'm sure you'll say that I'm erecting a straw man), I may disagree, but such reasoning is no more inconsistent than that of SSM opponents who disagree with point 2 and thus come to different conclusions on points 3 and 4 as well.

Now, if you criticized those who supported the parents on the grounds that otherwise they always insist on following the letter of the law even when the law goes against one's moral principles (if that had been the case), then the claim of hypocrisy and inconsistency would be stronger.

But the charge of hypocrisy as stated by you and M. Carrie Ruo falls apart upon further analysis.

Posted by: R.K. at April 3, 2005 10:07 PM

The Schiavo case illustrates that the old definitions of Conservative and Liberal no longer apply.

Traditionally, Conservatives favored a small governent that stays out of people's personal affairs, while liberals are more willing to legislate private behavior to acheive sociatal goals (you want to hire only white Christian heterosexuals for your business? You can't. Want to drain some wetlands you own to build a vacation home? Sorry!)

But in this case, it's the Conservatives that are sticking their noses and second-guessing provate decisions, while liberals say "hands off!"

Posted by: Dancar at April 4, 2005 11:25 AM

Private decisions? Government recogniton of marriage is not private. When Michael Schiavo asked the court to decided what to do with Terri's life, he did not seek a private decision.

On what basis do you disregard his second marriage? Bigamy (and polygamy) cases often depend on establishing the public recognition of a concurrent second marriage. Public, again.

Posted by: F. Rottles at April 4, 2005 11:59 AM

If Michael Schiavo had been the perfect husband, are you saying Conservatives wouldn't have called a special session of Congress to thwart the constitution and the judiciary?

Posted by: res ipsa at April 4, 2005 12:08 PM

If Michael Schiavo had been the perfect husband, he would not have been having children with a second woman while his wife was still alive now would he Res Ipsa? Neither would he have been trying to argue that it was her wish to die. He would not have withheld physical therapy that might have given her a chance to eat on her own, and furthermore would not have requested that the possibly fatal urinary tract infection not be treated.

In short Res Ipsa, if he had even been a model husband, this case would not even have been in the court!

Posted by: smmtheory at April 4, 2005 1:19 PM

Once Michael accepted that Terri's condition was beyond recovery, it was decision to carry out what he felt were Terri's wishes.

Regsrding Michael's other relationship, it is reasonable to interpret it as follows (This is my interpretation, since I don't personally know Michael so I can't definitively describe his thinking):

It is reasonable for a man to want a relationship a family. Terri was no longer able to act as a relationship parter or parent. It is interesting the at one time the Schindler's encouraged Michael to stert a relationship with another woman.

At the same time, when one marries, one vows to care for one's spouse "in sickness and in health." Michael may have felt a responsibility as her husband to care for her until the end in accordance to her wishes. Could have have divorced and turned that responsibility over to the Schindler's? Absolutely! But that is a personal decision that doesn't need to be second-guessed by people who have never met the parties involved.

Posted by: Dancar at April 4, 2005 1:45 PM

Res Ipsa, you emphasized privacy.

Now you turn to some standard that at once includes the public practice of bigamy, denial of nourishment, a court order, and the notion of perfection.

With each comment you communicate that you do not understand where you stand.

Posted by: F. Rottles at April 4, 2005 1:56 PM

Perfection is the confusion. If Michael was a "perfect" husband who wanted to respect his wife's wishes and not keep her in a PVS, would conservatives have gone this far to try to prevent Terri's wishes from being respected?

Michael as bad husband is a red herring. Right-to-Life zealots and opportunists like Tom DeLay would have made this a federal issue regardless.

Posted by: res ipsa at April 4, 2005 3:05 PM

I see two rhetorical devices at play among our liberal commenters:

“Person X believes Y. X is a bad person. Therefore Y is false.” This is the heart of the hypocrisy charge. It derails the conversation by luring the target into defending his own character rather than discussing the real issue. The best response is to ignore the emotional bait and deny the argument on its structure alone: Bad people can still hold true beliefs.

“General belief A leads to specific belief B. And B is ridiculous, or those who believe A don’t also believe B. Therefore either general belief A is also ridiculous, or those holding it are hypocrites, or bad people.”

The trick here is that the connection between a general belief and specific beliefs is often quite complicated. The person making the argument doesn’t hold the general belief, so he isn’t qualified to connect it to the specific belief.

This thread gives us several examples:

Res Ipsa: “If you say you respect the "culture of lfe" yet support the executiion of prisoners, that's an inconsistency that needs to be explained.”

Joel: “Conservatives can claim to value life in the abstract or in the case of one particular woman, but not necessarily in general. Most religious conservatives oppose Medicare and Medicaid.”

Res Ipsa: “If you believe in "small government" yet immerse the federal government into a state matter and the marriage of an individual person, that needs to be explained.”

Dancar: “Traditionally, Conservatives favored a small governent that stays out of people's personal affairs . . . But in [the Schiavo] case, it's the Conservatives that are sticking their noses and second-guessing provate decisions.”

If you don’t agree with or understand a general viewpoint, then you don’t have any business telling those who agree with it what specific positions that general viewpoint entails. We will choose our own beliefs. You insist on reducing our beliefs to a stereotype or cartoon, then knocking it down. All you demonstrate by this maneuver is how little you understand what you’re arguing against.

The main difference between liberals and conservatives today is that conservatives are very familiar with liberal thoughts and arguments, while liberals know nearly nothing about conservatism. This puts liberals at a perpetual disadvantage, because they don’t understand us well enough to articulate the positions that they set out to disprove. It’s apparently beneath the dignity of liberals to find out what “culture of life” means, and how it might apply to the death penalty. Liberals apparently consider themselves to be so intelligent that they can hear the phrase “sanctity of marriage,” and from that conclude that we must want husbands to completely dominate their wives, even to the point of deciding whether they should live or die.

Liberalism is becoming brittle. It requires that its adherents not expose themselves to competing ideologies. To a typical liberal, conservatism is not an alternate viewpoint to be considered and rejected, and conservatives are not fair-minded people who hold positions that are reasonable though incorrect. Instead, conservatism is blatant nonsense, and those who claim to believe it are either liars or idiots.

Most conservatives don’t view liberals or liberalism that way. I think that liberals are misinformed. They haven’t thought through all the arguments and considerations. I think that most of them are basically reasonable people who will eventually remove their emotional blinders and come to understand, if not agree with, the concerns that animate conservatives. And I certainly don’t claim to be able to read their minds. I don’t know what position they’ll take on any given issue, so I’m certainly never going to argue along the lines of: “You’re a liberal. Therefore you must hold ridiculous position X. Therefore you’re stupid and/or wrong.”

Please don’t waste your time and ours telling us that the Republican leaders are wrong because they’re bad people. And don’t bother telling us about the ridiculous positions that you believe we must adhere to. You can’t read our minds. You aren’t psychics. You’re arguing from ignorance. Educate yourselves.

Posted by: Ben Bateman at April 4, 2005 3:26 PM

I see two rhetorical devices at play among our liberal commenters:

“Person X believes Y. X is a bad person. Therefore Y is false.” This is the heart of the hypocrisy charge. It derails the conversation by luring the target into defending his own character rather than discussing the real issue. The best response is to ignore the emotional bait and deny the argument on its structure alone: Bad people can still hold true beliefs.

Actually this is the tactic of Conservatives who insist that Michael Schiavo had no right to act on behalf of Terri because of Michael's relationship and children with another woman.

Ben:

My comment you quoted about Conservatives verses Liberals illustratrates the transformation of the Republican Party over the past few decades. Goldwater Republicans don't like government regulation of people's private affairs. But that has gone largely out the window as the party reached out to religious conservatives, who have little problem with governent telling people how to live, as long as it is how they want people to live. This is what the so-called "culture war" is about.

Posted by: Dancar at April 4, 2005 3:53 PM

Ben: [the hypocrisy charge] derails the conversation by luring the target into defending his own character rather than discussing the real issue.

Agreed.

Ben: ...the connection between a general belief and specific beliefs is often quite complicated. The person making the argument doesn’t hold the general belief, so he isn’t qualified to connect it to the specific belief.

Wait a minute ... didn't you just say the character of people making an argument is irrelevant to the validity of that argument? One can accurately say "A implies B" while holding the opinion that A is probably false.

Posted by: Matt Taylor at April 4, 2005 4:54 PM

Dancar: The charge related to Michael Schiavo's character was relevant to his veracity in relating Terri's supposed wish to die. It was a personal conflict of interest, very different from the outlined argument.

It fits my silly-rhetoric model perfectly when you claim that the regulation of private affairs is somehow relevant to the Schiavo case. Conservatives mean something specific by "regulation of private affairs," something that you either don't understand or want to ignore. The phrase refers either to lifestyle choices or to opposition to governmental micromanagement of business by regulation. Neither of those has anything to do with Terri. As Reality Based points out, the government decided to pull the tube, not her husband.

Matt: "One can accurately say "A implies B" while holding the opinion that A is probably false."

Yes, of course. But only if you really understand A. And you're far less likely to understand A if you disagree with it. Even more so if you haven't studied it.

Suppose that I want to argue against Unitarianism, based on how silly I think their beliefs are. It would be difficult, because I don't know what Unitarians believe. If I were a Unitarian, I would probably have a much better idea of what they believe. Or I might not be a Unitarian, but I might have studied their beliefs in some detail. But neither applies to me. I have only a vague stereotype about Unitarians, roughly that they're a church for people who don't believe in God.

Given this, I will not try to tell them how stupid and self-contradictory their religion is---because I don't know anything about it! I will not tell them: "You believe X, which must mean Y, which is ridiculous, and therefore you're all wrong and stupid."

Maybe they do believe those things, and maybe they are wrong. But until I actually know something about the beliefs I'm criticizing, I should keep my shut my mouth, open my ears, and consider that maybe their beliefs are more sophisticated than I know.

Posted by: Ben Bateman at April 4, 2005 6:47 PM

Dancar writes:

Actually this is the tactic of Conservatives who insist that Michael Schiavo had no right to act on behalf of Terri because of Michael's relationship and children with another woman.

As Ben has suggested, you're not bothering to understand what conservatives are actually arguing. Michael's extramarital relationship didn't instantly forfeit his "right to act on behalf of Terri." The point is that the comments supporting the conclusion that Terri would have wanted to die come via Michael's word (and that of his brother and sister). That he hasn't just "moved on with his life," but has moved on with it so much as to replace Terri with another woman — indeed, building more of a family with that other woman than he has with his wife — raises severe questions about the credibility of his testimony regarding his wife's wishes.

Posted by: Justin Katz at April 4, 2005 7:56 PM

Ben: Yes, of course [it's possible to draw conclusions from a premise you don't believe]. But only if you really understand A. And you're far less likely to understand A if you disagree with it. Even more so if you haven't studied it.

Then would you agree that the solution is to explain A, so that it is clearly understood? Or perhaps refer the misguided arguer to appropriate sources of study. Perhaps with better understanding the other guy might find he agrees with you more than he thought.

Re: Unitarianism, you nailed it, at least the dynamics of the Unitarian church as a social institution:

I have only a vague stereotype about Unitarians, roughly that they're a church for people who don't believe in God.

Of course, every once in a while a Unitarian minister gives a sermon regarding the possibility that (gasp!) some form of God might exist. This is just fine according to official Unitarian doctrine, but ruffles feathers among the mostly atheist congregation -- it can be amusing to watch.

Posted by: Matt Taylor at April 4, 2005 7:58 PM
Then would you agree that the solution is to explain A, so that it is clearly understood? Or perhaps refer the misguided arguer to appropriate sources of study. Perhaps with better understanding the other guy might find he agrees with you more than he thought.

It depends on how easy it is to explain: nobody is going to explain 50 years of modern conservative thinking, or thousands of years of various lines of religious doctrines, in the comment section of a blog. Besides, there's always somebody new coming along thinking they're offering oh so sophisticated refutations of conservative positions (happens all the time on Dust in the Light). Nobody has time to restate all the arguments (say, regarding SSM) multiple times. That's why Ben's pointing out it is the interlocuter's responsibility to educate himself about his opponents beliefs, not the opponent's responsibility to automatically start out on the defensive, as if his beliefs must be justified, but the liberal's beliefs don't need to be.

Posted by: Mike S. at April 4, 2005 8:33 PM

Mike: nobody is going to explain 50 years of modern conservative thinking, or thousands of years of various lines of religious doctrines, in the comment section of a blog.

No, that wouldn't be practical. Besides, after a lifetime studying all those conservative (or liberal) thinkers and theologians, we might realize that there are a zillion different, incompatible visions of conservatism and liberalism. Think how confusing that would be.

Mike: Ben's pointing out it is the interlocuter's responsibility to educate himself about his opponents beliefs, not the opponent's responsibility to automatically start out on the defensive.

Yes, you are right, provided it is clear what the opponent believes. Otherwise, how would you know what it is you're supposed to be studying?


Posted by: Matt Taylor at April 4, 2005 9:30 PM

Ben:
I found your previous post (April 4, 3:26 pm) very interesting.

Namely because I could imagine myself making a very similar argument, except switching the roles that you assign to liberal and conservative.

This, for example:
"If you don’t agree with or understand a general viewpoint, then you don’t have any business telling those who agree with it what specific positions that general viewpoint entails. We will choose our own beliefs. You insist on reducing our beliefs to a stereotype or cartoon, then knocking it down. All you demonstrate by this maneuver is how little you understand what you’re arguing against."

I made a point a few days ago in another thread about applying the term “anti-American”, or “blame America first” to people who disagree with President Bush’s various responses to Sept. 11. It is my opinion that most of his responses have increased the likelihood of future terrorism directed against us, in addition to being morally wrong. This does not mean I hate America, that I hate freedom, or any of the other catch phrases that many conservatives often apply to people who express views similar to mine. What many conservatives call “blaming America first” is my (and others’) position that we are responsible for our own actions, and that regardless of how evil or immoral others may be, we are responsible to do the right thing ourselves. I've also heard it said that my opposition to starting a war in which over a hundred thousand have already been killed equals support for Saddam Hussein. I do not, nor have I ever supported Saddam Hussein. Members of our current administration cannot make the same claim.

I can agree with you that liberals do this to conservatives; can you not see that conservatives also do this to liberals?

“The main difference between liberals and conservatives today is that conservatives are very familiar with liberal thoughts and arguments, while liberals know nearly nothing about conservatism.”

I heartily disagree. There most certainly are ignorant liberals – but there are also ignorant conservatives. I’m not going to take the time right now to find empirical data about that, but you haven’t presented any either. Just look at this blog here, for anecdotal evidence: some liberal positions are very weakly or illogically argued, but so are many conservative positions.

“This puts liberals at a perpetual disadvantage, because they don’t understand us well enough to articulate the positions that they set out to disprove. It’s apparently beneath the dignity of liberals to find out what “culture of life” means, and how it might apply to the death penalty.”

I personally understand conservatives quite well; I was raised in a fundamentalist Christian church, for 18 years I went to church 3 times a week, I received a nomination from my Senator to attend West Point – I had been gung ho to be a career military officer since I was 8 years old, the first vote I ever cast for president was for Ronald Reagan. I have always enjoyed debating politics – the first time I actually listened to the liberal argument, open to the possibility that they might have valid reasons for their beliefs and the possibility that I might be wrong, I began to be convinced that we were not as perfect as I had always been taught. I began applying the personal moral standards that I had been taught to our collective actions as a nation, following Jesus’ instructions to pick the log out of my own eye before criticizing my neighbor for the speck in his eye. I have no idea how well you understand liberals’ (or progressives’- your view of Unitarianism as a luke-warm "religion" is similar to my view of liberals as luke-warm "progressives") positions, but I doubt that you understand them better than I understand conservatives’ positions. I have read some of Ann Coultier’s, Bernard Goldstein’s, and Rush Limbaugh’s books; have you read any Chomsky? (and BTW, can you recommend any right-wing author who is more articulate and logical than these 3 – I truly attempt to be aware of the positions of those with whom I disagree (I'm here, aren't I ?), and there must be some author from the right who can present a more reasonable argument than these 3.)

As for it being beneath my dignity to find out what “culture of life” means, its not a phrase that is defined by Webster. It is, at least to some extent, open to personal interpretation. Several times on this blog (not necessarily on this thread), I have asked people who generally represent conservative positions to explain what they mean when they use that phrase (to little avail), and I have offered my interpretation of what I believe would be involved in a culture of life. I doubt that there is a universally accepted authority to define the phrase, so I will ask you, and anyone else, to define what you mean when you use it.

“Liberalism is becoming brittle. It requires that its adherents not expose themselves to competing ideologies. To a typical liberal, conservatism is not an alternate viewpoint to be considered and rejected, and conservatives are not fair-minded people who hold positions that are reasonable though incorrect. Instead, conservatism is blatant nonsense, and those who claim to believe it are either liars or idiots.”

Have you ever listened to Rush Limbaugh or read the “Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler”? We on the left are plenty vilified as well. Does the "typical conservative" agree with Rush and Ann's opinion of us progressives (or liberals)? To my knowledge, you (from the right) have not personally been guilty of this, and I (from the left) have done my best not to stoop to that level. I’m just saying that the brush you are painting the left with applies equally to the right. It is also true that many from each side do not stoop to those levels. How much have you exposed yourself to competing ideologies? – If you’re truly interested in it, I can suggest some excellent books and web sites.

“And I certainly don’t claim to be able to read their minds. I don’t know what position they’ll take on any given issue, so I’m certainly never going to argue along the lines of: “You’re a liberal. Therefore you must hold ridiculous position X. Therefore you’re stupid and/or wrong.” “

I commend you for this. I try to follow the same standard. But there are both liberals and conservatives who do not.

“You’re arguing from ignorance. Educate yourselves.”

Name some authors and books. I’ll suggest some to you, if you’re interested.

Posted by: reality based at April 5, 2005 1:49 AM

Few can articulate and clearly express their moral principles. It takes a lot of time and work. No one can develop a moral view on every specific question that arises.

That's what makes it so easy to object to others assigning me a view based on their assumptions about my moral outlook. Much of the time, I may not know what my own view is! So how can someone else tell me what my view is, and that it's wrong?

The Schiavo case is a great example of this. In thinking about end-of-life decisions, there are lots of fine distinctions to be made, and lots of hard questions to be asked. I followed the news on Terri with some interest, and I even prepare living wills professional, but I don't claim to know all that much about it.

I don't know how accurate doctors' judgments are about predicting that someone will die, or that they won't wake up. I don't know how much pain people in those situations experience. I don't know what the chances are for some new miracle cure to come along in a few years. I don't know whether extended care would bankrupt my family, or if the government would pay for it, nor am I certain about the moral implications of private versus public funding.

And I don't know much about the mechanics of keeping unconscious people alive. There are all sorts of treatments, from feeding tubes and oxygen to dialysis and---I guess---machines that keep your heart and lungs moving. I don't know how much they cost, how invasive they are, or how painful they are.

As a conservative, I'm full of doubt, and I avoid making sweeping moral generalizations. With Terri, the conservatives wanted to focus on the specifics, while the liberals wanted to make sweeping statements that were broad and often inaccurate. Many people heard the phrase "life support" and imagined that she was hooked up to some gigantic iron lung machine out of the 1950s, something like this:
http://www.members.aol.com/jdjandsje3/brook/iron_lung_1.jp

The attack on DeLay fit this pattern. The liberal press wanted to smear together DeLay's father's case with Terri's, when anyone versed in the details could see that they were quite different.

It seems very psychologically important to liberals to think that they understand conservatives. Several times I've seen liberals losing an argument revert to: "Why don't you stop pretending and just admit that you really just (hate gays, hate blacks, want to impose theocracy, want to destroy civil rights, etc.) Once someone even accused me of being a secret Catholic, which I cleverly concealed by refusing to base my arguments on religion.

Liberals think they understand conservatives, but I have no idea what goes on in the mind of a liberal.

Posted by: Ben Bateman at April 5, 2005 2:26 AM

reality based said, "I personally understand conservatives quite well...", then revealed the limits of his understanding with this:

I have read some of Ann Coultier’s, Bernard Goldstein’s, and Rush Limbaugh’s books; have you read any Chomsky? (and BTW, can you recommend any right-wing author who is more articulate and logical than these 3 – I truly attempt to be aware of the positions of those with whom I disagree (I'm here, aren't I ?), and there must be some author from the right who can present a more reasonable argument than these 3.)

Like I said before, if you think conservative thought can be understood or encapsulated with the latest soundbite from Limbaugh or polemic from Coulter, you don't understand conservative thought. Try reading Hayek's "The Road to Serfdom", Russell Kirk, William F. Buckley, Pope John Paul II, Robert George's "Clash of Orthodoxies". Reading National Review, the Weekly Standard, or the columns on Townhall.com on a regular basis would also be useful.

As a general piece of advice (Ben alluded to this, too), liberals need to take conservative arguments at face value in order to understand the argument. That is, you don't have to accept the argument, and you can certainly point out hypocrisies or alternative motivations than those stated if you have evidence to back up the assertion. But you cannot start from the assumption that whatever the conservatives say is a cover for their real motivations. Liberals automatically make this assumption - to wit, that Congressional Republicans didn't really care about Terri Schiavo's life, they were just out for political gain.

Posted by: Mike S. at April 5, 2005 8:54 AM

Here's a column from Dennis Prager (one of a series) outlining the differences between secular liberal values and Judeo-Christian, conservative ones. I'm curious what the liberals here have to say about this column. I'd predict that they would claim that the views Prager attributes to liberals are a caricature, or only representative of a fringe. I'm curious what they'd say about his representation of Judeo-Christian beliefs.

Posted by: Mike S. at April 5, 2005 11:17 AM

I think Prager is generally correct in representing the two dominant political poles in contemporary America -- the Secular-Socialist Left and the Judeo-Christian Right, as it were.

He is a bit off the mark in believing that the Left only seeks chaos in society. Rather they seek to impose their own order, which is contrary to Prager's notion of the Judeo-Christian order.

While much of Prager's analysis is correct, it is parochial, both historically and geographically. The Leftist paradigm did not exist in past eras of American history, and the Judeo-Christian coalition of our time was once fractured into vehemently opposing factions. An 18th century American would likely be shocked to find the "Judeo-" prefix attached to "Christian", for example.

Likewise, we can expect entirely new fault lines to form in future American politics, eventually superseding the "culture war" divide. Take Virginia Postrel's "stasist/dynamist" dichotomy, for example, or the "radical center" suggested as the core of Ross Perot's support.

Prager's political dichotomy also fades in importance as we move beyond the borders of the United States. In Turkey, the conflict is between Islamist and pro-Western factions; in Iraq, it is between Kurds, Sunnis and Shiites, and the list goes on ...

My overall opinion of Prager's essay: correct in some obvious ways, but artificially restricted in scope and so laden with partisan invective as to almost completely obscure his argument.

Posted by: Matt Taylor at April 5, 2005 12:41 PM

This is a favorite diversion among conservative intellectuals: our ideasl are complex and philosophical while liberalism is simplistic and ungrounded. You see this argument in the National Review often.

The reality is you don't need to read Hayek or Kirk to undestand the basics of conservatism, and I can bet that 75% of conservatives in Congress couldn't even tell you who Hayek is. Just because Buckley can talk about him and the folks at NRO can pontificate about the philosophical groundings of conservatism doesn't mean that a Machiavellian pest-controller turned majority leader grounds his positions in classical conservatism.

Politicians spend little time reflecting on the historical roots of their political ideologies. They care about getting reelected, appeasing constitutencies and interest groups, and getting their name in the paper. Their marching orders aren't based in Hayek and Kirk, or even the Pope, but instead they are based on the mechinations of Karl Rove, well-placed Christian Conservatives, and the RNC.


Posted by: Res Ipsa at April 5, 2005 12:50 PM

res,

The reality is you don't need to read Hayek or Kirk to undestand the basics of conservatism, and I can bet that 75% of conservatives in Congress couldn't even tell you who Hayek is. Just because Buckley can talk about him and the folks at NRO can pontificate about the philosophical groundings of conservatism doesn't mean that a Machiavellian pest-controller turned majority leader grounds his positions in classical conservatism.

Politicians spend little time reflecting on the historical roots of their political ideologies. They care about getting reelected, appeasing constitutencies and interest groups, and getting their name in the paper. Their marching orders aren't based in Hayek and Kirk, or even the Pope, but instead they are based on the mechinations of Karl Rove, well-placed Christian Conservatives, and the RNC.

First, kudos for mentioning the all-powerful one, Rove. No political discussion between right and left is complete without him. Second, while it is true that conservatism is distinct from the Republican party (or any particular political party), that doesn't mean the two are completely unrelated. When the Republican party, or individual Republican politicians, do things that are contrary to conservative principles (however those are defined), principled conservatives get upset and act accordingly. For example, when Bush 41 raised taxes, many conservatives voted for Perot as a result. The point is, generally speaking, that DeLay is not the leader of "the conservative movement", he's a product of it.

Posted by: Mike S. at April 5, 2005 2:02 PM

Matt,

He is a bit off the mark in believing that the Left only seeks chaos in society. Rather they seek to impose their own order, which is contrary to Prager's notion of the Judeo-Christian order.

It depends partly on who you are talking about (i.e. not all liberals/leftists have the same goals or ideology), but I think Prager's point is more that the left's ideologies tend to lead to chaos, rather than that that is their ultimate end (though chaos is an end for some leftists, perhaps as a pathway to a new ordering of society). But it is true that that is Prager's opinion, not an established fact.

While much of Prager's analysis is correct, it is parochial, both historically and geographically.

It's an 800 word op-ed, not a treatise. (He's written several books that go into his thought in more detail.) He's specifically talking about modern, Western societies.

Posted by: Mike S. at April 5, 2005 2:07 PM

By the standards Prager uses, the right could easily be defined by the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis, and the Christian Identity Movement.

Ben says he has no idea what goes on in the mind of a liberal. Well, of course, I have no doubt that Ben hasn't a clue of what the liberal Martin Luther King, Jr. stood for.

Posted by: Joel Thomas at April 5, 2005 4:20 PM

I'm sure that I was one of the last people Mike S. wanted to respond so, of course, here I am. Basically the following two comments stole my thunder.

"My overall opinion of Prager's essay: correct in some obvious ways, but artificially restricted in scope and so laden with partisan invective as to almost completely obscure his argument."

"This is a favorite diversion among conservative intellectuals: our ideasl are complex and philosophical while liberalism is simplistic and ungrounded."

Yet I'll say that the latter comment also works when substituting the word "liberal" for "conservative" and "conservatism" for "liberalism". Both sides commonly use that diversion.

The question for me while reading Prager's article was "what is his point ?". To state that secular socialists are against Judeo-Christian principles is not exactly newsworthy. To me, his article was just a mirror image of other articles by some leftists against the pursuit towards theocracy by the GWB, Rove, Republican party, etc, etc.

Is Prager saying that rejection of Judeo-Christian principles has consequences ? OK, I agree with that. So what is his alternative ? Theocracy ? If he argued that the pendulum has swung too far towards absolute secularism and the rejection of all religious practice such as public prayer, then I could agree with that too. But he seems to say that Judeo-Christian principles are good and anything else is bad (or evil, as he liked to use).

To me, this puts him in the same class as those leftists who arrogantly proclaim their superiority based on their principles.

My way is good, your way is bad. End of discussion. Just more deja vu.

Posted by: Mark Miller at April 5, 2005 4:47 PM

Mike S.: "Prager's point is more that the left's ideologies tend to lead to chaos, rather than that that is their ultimate end"

That's an important point. Most complaints about liberalism are not about what liberals consciously believe, but about the consequences of what they believe. Liberals are full of good intentions; they just don't like to examine the consequences of their actions. Liberals' view of conservatives seems to be the opposite: In their minds, we're a bunch of evil, scheming, troglodyte theocrats, but the consequences of our actions tend to turn out pretty well.

The recent Iraq war is a good example. The liberals didn't like Saddam, but they hated US military force. They insisted at every turn that Bush was an evil man doing everything wrong, and that the UN should have handled everything. Now the Iraqis have a democratic government and aren't being dropped into shredders, while we learn about a sickening assortment of UN scandals over money and sex. The conservatives have freed millions of people from oppression, while the liberals would have kept the Iraqi rape rooms running as the UN would have debated endlessly. Yet somehow the liberals still believe that they are the bringers of truth, light, and freedom, while the conservatives are slavering half-wits who, if not restrained by the courts, will bring about an age of ignorance, superstition, and theocracy.

Res Ipsa: "This is a favorite diversion among conservative intellectuals: our ideasl are complex and philosophical while liberalism is simplistic and ungrounded."

No, I wouldn't say that conservatism is inherently more complicated than liberalism. The distinction is in how much each side knows about the other. Liberalism can be quite complicated, but we're all familiar with it because we're surrounded by it. We grew up with it. We had to hear about it in college all the time. Pick up a newspaper or turn on your TV is you want to hear some liberalism. If you want to understand conservatism, you have to go find it.

Reality Based: It seems to be an article of liberal faith that any criticism of one person can be turned into a criticism of anyone else. I don’t agree with that. There are real differences between conservatives and liberals. I state that as an attempt to find truth, not as an attempt to help my side win in some pointless political tug-of-war.

Reality Based: “What many conservatives call “blaming America first” is my (and others’) position that we are responsible for our own actions, and that regardless of how evil or immoral others may be, we are responsible to do the right thing ourselves.”

Blaming America first is a description of behavior, not belief. It is the simple observation that, for a certain group of people, anything that can possibly be blamed on the United States will be blamed on it, and all other considerations will essentially be ignored. You can conduct whatever complex thoughts you like within your own mind, but the practical result will be to blame America at every opportunity. It isn’t an attempt at reading minds; it’s a description of behavior.

For example, you apparently blame the United States for the suffering of the Iraqis. You don’t seem to blame Saddam, or the United Nations, or any other country that could have stepped in at some earlier time and closed the rape rooms earlier. Somehow, it’s all our fault. Doesn’t “blame America first” accurately describe that? You are blaming America. First. You aren’t blaming anyone else, are you? No doubt you feel that you’re justified in blaming America first, but that doesn’t make the description of your behavior inaccurate.

Reality Based: “I've also heard it said that my opposition to starting a war in which over a hundred thousand have already been killed equals support for Saddam Hussein. I do not, nor have I ever supported Saddam Hussein.”

Here again we must distinguish between thoughts and behavior. You may not have intended to help Saddam by protesting the war. For argument, I’ll assume that your motives were as pure as the driven snow. But to a conservative, that’s largely irrelevant. To a conservative, the question is: What effect did your behavior have in the real world? Is it really so hard to imagine that Saddam took comfort and encouragement in watching you and those like you protesting, even though you didn’t intend to encourage him? Is it so difficult to imagine that some of our soldiers might be alive today had some Iraqi general not been encouraged to fight on by news stories suggesting that America might lose heart and withdraw at any moment?

Reality Based: [On conservatives knowing more about liberals than liberals know about conservatives] “I heartily disagree. There most certainly are ignorant liberals – but there are also ignorant conservatives. I’m not going to take the time right now to find empirical data about that, but you haven’t presented any either.”

Again, you’re trying to force the situation into an ideological mold the insists that both sides must be equal in every way. From everything that I’ve seen, conservatives do not make many broad claims about what specific liberals think. We make claims about what they do, and the consequences of what they do.

Granted, we don’t always state that distinction clearly. Verbal economy leads us to say, “Those who support X want to bring about Y,” when we should say, “X will cause Y, though those who support X may not realize it.”

Reality Based: “I personally understand conservatives quite well; I was raised in a fundamentalist Christian church, for 18 years I went to church 3 times a week, I received a nomination from my Senator to attend West Point . . . “

An interesting story. What changed your mind? It’s a cliché that a conservative is a liberal who has been mugged. So what happens to a conservative to turn him into a liberal?

You’ve shared some about your background, so I’ll respond in kind: I went to college in the heyday of political correctness, when you could lose a letter grade on your English paper if you didn’t put “s/he” or “his/her” for every pronoun. I remember liberal tolerance. It meant that I had to tolerate the most outrageous liberalism, but no liberal ever had to tolerate my conservatism. I remember feminist procedures for investigating date rape accusations that put the Star Chamber to shame. I remember reading the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and then realizing just how much my test scores were penalized because my skin was the wrong color. I remember giving up a long-held dream of an academic career---because my views on politics were not acceptable.

I’m not interested in what liberals think. I’m interested in what they do. And I know what they do, because I’ve watched it, firsthand, for eight years of higher education. I’ve even watched what liberals do to their own members who try to dissent. Ask Larry Summers how much liberals believe in tolerance and diversity. Ask Bernie Goldberg. Ask David Horowitz. Ask those who start as liberals, and then dare to think differently.

You want a book recommendation? Try the Black Book of Communism. Take a long, hard look at the trail of corpses your predecessors have left behind in their quest for egalitarian Utopia. Communism, like liberalism, was a very pretty idea. But count the dead bodies.

Joel: “I have no doubt that Ben hasn't a clue of what the liberal Martin Luther King, Jr. stood for.”

This is exactly what I’m talking about. You are completely comfortable making wild assertions about what I know or don’t know---on the basis of nothing at all!

And you might want to be careful about calling MLK a liberal. He may have been a liberal in the lexicon of his own time, but today his views are typical conservatism: “ I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

Mark: Prager was trying to make an intellectual point, and you’re trying to find in it some declaration of superiority. You’re turning questions of truth into questions of motive.

His point is simply that modern liberalism is about blurring distinctions. That hardly seems debatable as a factual matter. For example, he points out that the Left wants to blur the distinction between opposite-sex couples and same-sex couples. Do you really dispute that? Isn’t that precisely what the SSM debate is all about? It’s fine to argue that we ought to eliminate the distinction. But can’t we at least observe that a distinction is being eliminated? Does every observation of a truth have to end with “. . . and so I win.”? Can’t we just discuss truth for its own sake?

Posted by: Ben Bateman at April 5, 2005 5:35 PM

Ben: It’s a cliché that a conservative is a liberal who has been mugged.

"a liberal is a conservative who has been arrested".

I don't believe it, but that's the other half of the cliché.

Posted by: Matt Taylor at April 5, 2005 6:37 PM

Justin, your posts do provide the impetus for some of the most interesting and digestable discussions in the blogsphere.

It's comments like the last half dozen or so that keep me coming back to read (and reread) the discussion threads here.

Thanks, all.

Posted by: Chairm at April 5, 2005 6:38 PM

Mike: [Dennis Prager has] written several books that go into his thought in more detail.

In your opinion, is "Think a Second Time" a good choice for a broad picture of Prager's views?

Posted by: Matt Taylor at April 5, 2005 6:43 PM

Ben,

Martin Luther King, Jr. not only supported affirmative action, he supported outright quotas. Anyway, you're the one that made a blanket statement about liberals that amounted to nothing more than a wild assertion. You're condemning liberals for traits that quite exist in yourself.

Posted by: Joel Thomas at April 5, 2005 9:38 PM

"Think a Second Time" is the only book I've read of Prager's (I've also read his columns for some time). I liked it, and as far as I know it's representative of his views, though I have to be cautious in claiming that because I haven't read any other of his books.

Posted by: Mike S. at April 5, 2005 10:08 PM

Is a tu quoque supposed to somehow serve as a refutation?

Posted by: R.K. at April 5, 2005 11:52 PM

R.K., tu quoque?? can you translate that for us non-Latin speakers?

Posted by: Matt Taylor at April 6, 2005 3:41 AM

tu quoque: any argument which seeks to negate a criticism by accusing the critic of the same thing: "well, you do it, too".

More here: http://www.fallacyfiles.org/tuquoque.html.

Posted by: R.K. at April 6, 2005 7:32 AM

Justin wrote:

That he hasn't just "moved on with his life," but has moved on with it so much as to replace Terri with another woman — indeed, building more of a family with that other woman than he has with his wife — raises severe questions about the credibility of his testimony regarding his wife's wishes.

If all he wanted to do was replace Terri with another woman, he could have divorced Terri years ago and handed guardianship over to the Schinders, who would have willingly accepted it. The fact that he stubbornly retained gaurdian ship implies to me that he did feel a responsibility to care for Terri according to her wishes.

Posted by: Dancar at April 6, 2005 11:05 AM

"If all he wanted to do was replace Terri with another woman, he could have divorced Terri years ago and handed guardianship over to the Schinders, who would have willingly accepted it. The fact that he stubbornly retained gaurdian ship implies to me that he did feel a responsibility to care for Terri according to her wishes."

Why don't you think that he just wants the medical malpractice settlement money? I think if he really felt a devotion to Terri & to carry out her wishes, he would have been more discreet, at least, with his extramarital dalliances.

Posted by: Mike S. at April 6, 2005 11:08 AM

Believe or not I've been listening to Prager a lot since the election. He tends to use a lot of extreme left wing-nut positions to stereotype anyone who is not a Republican. Of course, a lot of liberals do the same thing, using the most extreme conservative positions (ban "Satanic Books" like Harry Potter from schools, ban the teaching of evolution, ban nay entertainment not described as "family").

There is a tendancy for people on both sides to have a sterotyped, charactured view of the other side's views. The reality is that there are people on both sides who think simplisticly, as well as intelliectuals who can eloquently explain their positions. I believe that everone ought to expose themselves to thoughts & arguemnts that conflict with their own beliefs. When one is frequently re-examining their own beliefs, one gets closer to the truth for themselves.

Posted by: Dancar at April 6, 2005 11:20 AM

I've read "Happiness is a Serious Problem" by Dennis Prager, and I recommend it. It's better than "Think a Second Time."

I admire Prager very much, but I wouldn't call him representative of American conservatism. Prager stands out because he is willing to brush aside moral relativism and think seriously about moral issues. He is a traditionalist, in that he is an observant Jew. His specialty is morality, not politics.

Posted by: Ben Bateman at April 6, 2005 11:23 AM

Dancar,

"I believe that everone ought to expose themselves to thoughts & arguemnts that conflict with their own beliefs. When one is frequently re-examining their own beliefs, one gets closer to the truth for themselves."

How often do you think that liberals in the mainstream media, entertainment media, Madison avenue, or the academy expose themselves to thoughts and arguments that conflict with their own beliefs? I'm aware of very few prominent liberals who take conservative ideas seriously and actually address them without dismissing them as bigoted or ignorant. I'm curious who you would name in this group. (There's a somewhat larger group of people, e.g. Mark Shields, who are respectful towards conservatives, but who don't demonstrate that they really understand conservative positions very well.)

Posted by: Mike S. at April 6, 2005 11:50 AM

Dancar, if you've listened to Prager's radio show, then you probably know more about him than I do. How does he compare with, say, Limbaugh or Medved?

Dancar: "There is a tendancy for people on both sides to have a sterotyped, charactured view of the other side's views. The reality is that there are people on both sides who think simplisticly, as well as intelliectuals who can eloquently explain their positions."

Can someone please explain this presumption that any criticism of liberal ideas must also apply to conservative ideas, and is therefore irrelevant? It makes absolutely no sense to me, as a matter of logic.

Me: "X"
Liberal: "Oh yeah? Well, X to you, too!"

That's not an intellectual discussion. It's the blurring and destruction of distinctions, which is precisely what the linked Prager column is about. If we can't make any distinctions, then we can't think. If we can't think, then we can't find truth. Without truth, all we have is power.

So let's try this from the other end. For those of you who keep insisting that the two sides are equivalent on this or that point: Is there any meaningful distinction between liberal and conservative ideas? Note that we aren't talking about people here. We aren't talking about whether those who hold the ideas are good or bad, smart or stupid, etc. We're talking about the ideas themselves, and the thought patterns behind them.

Or try a different angle: Do liberals even believe that liberal ideas are better than conservative ideas, or do they merely believe that liberals are better people than conservatives? I ask this not to be snarky, but because so much of what I hear from liberals is that conservatives are really bad people. It's rare to find a liberal like Reality Based who can credibly claim to have understood and then rejected conservative ideas.

To illustrate, here's a fun line from a recent blog post by a historian who attended an annual meeting of the Organization of American Historians:

". . . at one point I was imprudent enough to let on to a young woman that I had voted for George W. Bush. "And yet you write books," she responded."
http://noleftturns.ashbrook.org/default.asp?archiveID=6437

Posted by: Ben Bateman at April 6, 2005 12:16 PM

Ben: Do liberals even believe that liberal ideas are better than conservative ideas, or do they merely believe that liberals are better people than conservatives?

I don't think liberal and conservative are properties of ideas. They describe an idea's relationship to a social context.

So if someone says that liberal ideas are better than conservative ideas (or vice versa) without further describing the ideas' substance, there is really nothing to talk about except social dynamics, because that's all that "liberal" or "conservative" defines.

Posted by: Matt Taylor at April 6, 2005 12:47 PM

Michael Schiavo did not make the decision to discontinue life support, although he did argue in court that that is what she would want.

This is disingenuous at best. Michael made the decision the remove the feeding tube (not life support, unless food and water is considered "life support" - in which case we are all on life support) the second he decided to petition the court to do so. Courts don't do a darn thing unless a party asks them to do it. Thus, had Michael never petitioned the court, then Terri would be alive today. He is as responsible for the decision as anyone (and likely more so, as he provided the evidence).

Posted by: c matt at April 6, 2005 12:47 PM

Part of the marriage contract is that society is supposed to accept what you say, absent other evidence.

Interesting point. In typical contract law, when one party breaches the contract, they lose all rights under the contract vis a vis the nonbreaching party. If what you say is true, what rights, if any, does or should Michael have in light of the incontestable fact he violated the marriage contract terms of fidelity? Or should society recognize only certain parts of the marriage contract, and ignore others? Hmm, fathering children with another woman would seem to be "other evidence".

Posted by: c matt at April 6, 2005 12:54 PM

Ben,
since you took such care to explain that your question was not asked simply to be snarky, I'll try to answer it.
To the extent that I hold 'liberal'ideas, I do so because I believe that they are good ones; i.e., promote general well-being. I realize that this smacks of utilitarianism, but to my thinking, most labor laws (forty hour work week, workplace safety regulations, that sort of thing) are good for most people involved. I think public transportation is better for people than no public transportation would be. Prohibiting landlords from refusing to rent to prospective tenants on the basis of race or religion infringes on their economic rights, just as prohibiting employers from refusing to hire on those bases does; however, I believe that idea is fundamentally good.

I don't think all conservatives are bad people, any more than I believe that all liberals are good people. On a purely selfish level, I'd rather have lunch with Bill Whittle (www.ejectejecteject.com) than Gloria Allred.

A lot of this is due to my father's influence. He thought FDR was the greatest President this or any nation ever had.

Posted by: Robert at April 6, 2005 12:55 PM

But in this case, it's the Conservatives that are sticking their noses and second-guessing provate (sic) decisions, while liberals say "hands off!"

When a private decision needs a state court and armed state militia to carry it out, it is no longer a private decision.

Posted by: c matt at April 6, 2005 1:00 PM

Actually this is the tactic of Conservatives who insist that Michael Schiavo had no right to act on behalf of Terri because of Michael's relationship and children with another woman.

Not really. There is no need to make a moral judgment at all based upon his other relationship. The only thing that the other relationship proves is that Michael has moved on and is no longer acting as Terri's spouse IN REALITY, so why should the legal fiction be maintained? His moving on may be perfectly understandable. But the fact is he moved on, and therefore has forfeited his position to make decisions for Terri. When Jimmy Johnson moved on to the Dolphins, no one would expect he still had the right to call plays for the Cowboys. Whether moving to the fins was a good, bad or indifferent move matters not - he moved on, that is what matters.

Posted by: c matt at April 6, 2005 1:10 PM

I have no doubt that Ben hasn't a clue of what the liberal Martin Luther King, Jr. stood for.

Or the liberal Jesse Jacksin....oh wait, he was on Terri's, not Michael's side. See, with all this inconsistent liberal behavior, how is a conservative supposed to know how a "liberal" MLK, Jr. would have come down on Terri's situation?

Posted by: c matt at April 6, 2005 1:26 PM

Robert,

"A lot of this is due to my father's influence. He thought FDR was the greatest President this or any nation ever had."

There's a lot of people who develop an attachment to one party or the other, and retain ties to that party for a long time, often passing the ties to further generations.

But, since we're talking about ideas, here, and not voting patterns, what do you think of FDR, his policies, and his actions? Is your father's view of him justified? Why or why not?

Posted by: Mike S. at April 6, 2005 1:32 PM

>Me: "X"
>Liberal: "Oh yeah? Well, X to you, too!"

R.K. just covered this, Ben, with the tu quoque comment above...

Posted by: Mike S. at April 6, 2005 1:34 PM

By the way, if you take away the tu quoque strategy, Mark Miller and Joel Thomas won't have much left to say...

Posted by: Mike S. at April 6, 2005 1:36 PM

Matt,

"I don't think liberal and conservative are properties of ideas. They describe an idea's relationship to a social context."

Yes, in the current social, political, and philosophical context, the words "liberal" and "conservative" have broadly well-understood connotations - are you saying that you don't know what ideas or philosophies those connotations refer to?. Everbody knows that liberals are not homogenous, and that conservatives aren't homogenous, and that ideas that current liberals hold haven't always been called "liberal", and that ideas that current conservatives hold haven't always been called "conservative". So what? What is your point, that "liberal" and "conservative" have no meaning? That there is no point to discussing broad political differences? That there are no ideas or patterns of thought that are generally applicable to liberals or conservatives?

Does anybody want to defend the notion that there are no significant difference, either in underlying political philosophy, or in practical outcomes, between the current Democratic and Republican parties? Or between modern liberals and conservatives? It's silly to have a discussion about the differences, if people think there aren't any significant differences. (Of course, I think it's silly to claim there are no significant differences, but we at least have to establish that one way or the other before we can move on to talk about those differences, if they exist.)

Posted by: Mike S. at April 6, 2005 1:45 PM

Mike: Yes, in the current social, political, and philosophical context, the words "liberal" and "conservative" have broadly well-understood connotations - are you saying that you don't know what ideas or philosophies those connotations refer to?

I might know which ideas are liberal and conservative in today's context, but only because I have observed conservative and liberal groups espouse those ideas. Sometimes the association between groups and ideas is philosophically coherent, but in other cases it looks like mere historical accident.

What is your point, that "liberal" and "conservative" have no meaning? That there is no point to discussing broad political differences? That there are no ideas or patterns of thought that are generally applicable to liberals or conservatives?

Liberal and conservative patterns of thought do exist, of course. It can be useful to discuss these patterns, in the interest of political harmony and in promoting reason over raw emotion when considering ideas.

My point is that we shouldn't put too much stock in those patterns when evaluating the validity of an idea. If a group of people believes A and B, and we find A to be incorrect, we can't also find B incorrect by association.

Posted by: Matt Taylor at April 6, 2005 2:16 PM

Ben wrote: “Can someone please explain this presumption that any criticism of liberal ideas must also apply to conservative ideas, and is therefore irrelevant? It makes absolutely no sense to me, as a matter of logic.”
------ Sure, I will. You seem to be saying that your accusations are legitimate but any accusations made against your view are not. This is not a level playing field for debate. It doesn’t make the points you make irrelevant, but it does not allow for any debate. You are free to believe that liberal criticisms are generally based on demagoguery while conservative criticisms are not. But if you are not going to allow people who disagree with you the same argumentative tools that you use, then I contend that you have no interest in a serious intellectual discussion. I guess if you were a trial judge only one side would be allow to ‘object’.

Iraq War: All I want to say here is that Ben seems to be convinced that the divide on this issue is based on ‘liberal’ vs. ‘conservative’ ideology. I happen to support the war for most of the reasons Ben has mentioned. But I believe that if a Democrat were in the White House and had made the same choice that Bush did, that Rush Limbaugh would be counting the number of deaths while Dan Rather would be talking about the success of the elections. Tony Blair is the leader of most liberal party in a liberal country. There were other leaders who joined the coalition who are not considered ‘liberal’. Of course, there is the anti-war left who opposes any military action regardless of circumstance. But they are a fringe of liberalism. I do not think that Ben is one of those who oppose the war if a Democrat had made the decision but my point is that there is no basis that this issue is divided by conservative or liberal ideological grounds.

Ben wrote: No, I wouldn't say that conservatism is inherently more complicated than liberalism. The distinction is in how much each side knows about the other. Liberalism can be quite complicated, but we're all familiar with it because we're surrounded by it. We grew up with it. We had to hear about it in college all the time. Pick up a newspaper or turn on your TV is you want to hear some liberalism. If you want to understand conservatism, you have to go find it.
------- Pithiness withstanding but … are you serious ? Yes, most college campuses lean heavily liberal and there is a liberal bias in the mainstream media. But are you even implying that conservative thought is difficult to find ? Please. I’ll go so far to say that ANY line of thought is easy to find these days - by radio, TV, web, magazine, anywhere. To say that liberalism is everywhere but conservatism is hidden is absolutely ridiculous. Just as ridiculous as the agenda of ‘Air America’ to combat the conservative bias on the radio airwaves. Thirty years ago before the internet and cable TV, you might have been able to say this. Not anymore.

I do agree with Ben's response to Reality Based about “blaming America first” about the war and Saddam Hussein.

Ben wrote: Again, you’re trying to force the situation into an ideological mold the insists that both sides must be equal in every way. From everything that I’ve seen, conservatives do not make many broad claims about what specific liberals think. We make claims about what they do, and the consequences of what they do.
----- I have to go with Reality Based here. Your comment isn’t about a specific ideological mold, it is about how one defends what you believe. And you seem to be saying that conservatives defend their beliefs in a superior fashion than liberals do. First, I don’t agree. Do you really believe that conservatives generally do not make broad claims about liberals ? Second, and more importantly, so what. What does that mean ? That conservatives would make better litigators because they use superior persuasive techniques ? I thought we are here to debate the merits of the issue.

Joel: “I have no doubt that Ben hasn't a clue of what the liberal Martin Luther King, Jr. stood for.” This is exactly what I’m talking about. You are completely comfortable making wild assertions about what I know or don’t know---on the basis of nothing at all!
------ I agree with Ben’s response. Where I disagree with him is that assertions like Joel made are unique to liberals. Not even close.

Ben wrote: His point is simply that modern liberalism is about blurring distinctions. That hardly seems debatable as a factual matter. For example, he points out that the Left wants to blur the distinction between opposite-sex couples and same-sex couples. Do you really dispute that? Isn’t that precisely what the SSM debate is all about? It’s fine to argue that we ought to eliminate the distinction. But can’t we at least observe that a distinction is being eliminated?
------ You can’t be serious. Yes, support of SSM is based on blurring the distinction between opposite-sex and same-sex couples. Is your point that conservatives don’t want to blur distinctions ? How about the attempt to blur the distinction between euthanasia and cold-blooded murder ? How about the attempt to blur the distinction between Nazi Germany and Castro’s Cuba in the Elian Gonzalez case ? There are other examples too. The point is that both liberals and conservatives alike use the ‘blurring of distinctions”. They just have different when’s and whys ?

Posted by: Mark Miller at April 6, 2005 2:27 PM

R.K. wrote: "Is a tu quoque supposed to somehow serve as a refutation?"

----- Actually, it is in this context. When person A asserts “y is wrong and x does y while z does not do y”, and then person B responds with an example serving that z does indeed do y – that does serve as a refutation. This is because A is being refuted in his assertion that “z does not do y”.

Now, if A said “x does y” and B simply responded “well, z does y too”. That is not a refutation of what A said but a possible example of hypocrisy assuming A’s main point is that y is wrong.

Posted by: Mark Miller at April 6, 2005 2:51 PM

Mike S. “By the way, if you take away the tu quoque strategy, Mark Miller and Joel Thomas won't have much left to say...”

------- Easy to say coming from someone who asserts all the time but when someone makes a counterpoint he either accuses them of ‘not staying on-point’ or just ignores it. Assert and run, assert and run. Good strategy.

Posted by: Mark Miller at April 6, 2005 2:52 PM

"but when someone makes a counterpoint"

The point is that your counterpoints are almost invariably of the tu quoque variety - there's nothing to debate, whether I agree with you or not.

Posted by: Mike S. at April 6, 2005 3:17 PM

When I get time, I'll post a real reply, but for now, I sure would like somebody to define "tu quoque" so that I could better understand what you're discussing

Posted by: reality based at April 6, 2005 3:36 PM

Mark Miller, you said:

"How about the attempt to blur the distinction between euthanasia and cold-blooded murder ?"

Could you explain for me what you see as the distinction between euthanasia and cold-blooded murder? I need to understand why you think there needs to be a distinction between them. And maybe if you've got time you could even explain the distinction you see in your following example.

Posted by: smmtheory at April 6, 2005 3:40 PM

Ben:

I find Prager interesting because he is an independent thinker who doesn't always jump on whatever position other conservatives jump onto. For example, his views on Terri Schiavo were less extreme than those of many conservatives, and many of his callers debated him on this

Can someone please explain this presumption that any criticism of liberal ideas must also apply to conservative ideas, and is therefore irrelevant? It makes absolutely no sense to me, as a matter of logic.

Me: "X"
Liberal: "Oh yeah? Well, X to you, too!"

I was refering to the practice of using an extreme, easily refutable position held by a small number of the other side to discredit the whole other side.

Conservative: Ward Churchill said that 9/11 victims got what they deserved. Liberals always blame America first!!

Liberal: A Conservative said that Sponge Bob Square Pants is gay! Conservatives believe in a gay conspiracy to recruit children!!

During the election, I objected to all those jokes about Bush being not very bright. While I strongly supported Kerry, I thought that the constant barrage of "Bush is a dummy" jokes damaged the credibility of those supporting Kerry.

Do liberals even believe that liberal ideas are better than conservative ideas, or do they merely believe that liberals are better people than conservatives? I ask this not to be snarky, but because so much of what I hear from liberals is that conservatives are really bad people. It's rare to find a liberal like Reality Based who can credibly claim to have understood and then rejected conservative ideas.

This is a generalization some (I'll admit too many) liberals do believe that conservatives are greedy, selfish bigots. But too many conservatives believe that liberals are out do do things like "destroy the American family". I find that more moderate republicans and democrats tend to have a bettr understanding of the other side's views.

Mike S.:

How often do you think that liberals in the mainstream media, entertainment media, Madison avenue, or the academy expose themselves to thoughts and arguments that conflict with their own beliefs?

I'll admit: not often enough!

I'm aware of very few prominent liberals who take conservative ideas seriously and actually address them without dismissing them as bigoted or ignorant.

My favorite is Dave Ross, who is a radio talk show host in Seattle and also does commentaries for CBS radio. I'm not certain he qaulifies as "liberal" although he did run for Congress as a democrat.

I'm aware of very few prominent conservatives who take liberal ideas seriously and actually address them without dismissing them as evil-intentioned or ignorant.

Posted by: Dancar at April 6, 2005 3:55 PM

R.K. posted the following at 7:32 AM this morning:

tu quoque: any argument which seeks to negate a criticism by accusing the critic of the same thing: "well, you do it, too".

More here: http://www.fallacyfiles.org/tuquoque.html.

Posted by: Mike S. at April 6, 2005 4:05 PM

Dancar,

"I was refering to the practice of using an extreme, easily refutable position held by a small number of the other side to discredit the whole other side."

Then you should point out how the accusation is only applicable to a small small number of liberals, not point out that conservatives can be caricatured as well.


"Conservative: Ward Churchill said that 9/11 victims got what they deserved. Liberals always blame America first!!"

This is just a more extreme version of the position that many liberals took, that somehow America was responsible for bringing the attacks onto us, based upon our foreign policies. The point is not that America should never be blamed, or that introspection isn't a good thing, it's the intinct to always look first to what America has done wrong, and to not apply anything remotely like the same standards to other countries.

But Churchill is a good example of the liberal bias in the academy - how else could such a buffoon (without a PhD!) get to be a tenured department chair?

Posted by: Mike S. at April 6, 2005 4:14 PM
The fact that he stubbornly retained gaurdian ship implies to me that he did feel a responsibility to care for Terri according to her wishes.

Or started the process with an eye on her estate. Or maybe just hated the Schindlers that much. Or whatever. There's no basis for your sunny view of his motives, which means that an objective assessment raises questions about his credibility.

Posted by: Justin Katz at April 6, 2005 7:21 PM

Mark: “You seem to be saying that your accusations are legitimate but any accusations made against your view are not. . . . But if you are not going to allow people who disagree with you the same argumentative tools that you use, then I contend that you have no interest in a serious intellectual discussion.”

I really don’t know what you’re talking about here, Mark. You’ll have to be more specific. What tools do I use that I deny others?

Me: “If you want to understand conservatism, you have to go find it.”
Mark: “are you serious ? . . . are you even implying that conservative thought is difficult to find ?”

I’m not implying anything beyond what I wrote: Until very recently, if you wanted to hear conservative ideas, you had to go find them. You wouldn’t find them in newspapers or on broadcast TV. All you got was liberalism.

Mark: “To say that liberalism is everywhere but conservatism is hidden is absolutely ridiculous.”

No, it isn’t ridiculous. Shall we march through the numbers on media bias? Shall we look at readership? Shall we look at how many people still believe the old canard about an unbiased media?

Mark: “Thirty years ago before the internet and cable TV, you might have been able to say this. Not anymore.”

Not thirty years, Mark. Maybe three. Maybe even five. But nowhere close to thirty.

Mark: “Do you really believe that conservatives generally do not make broad claims about liberals?”

I really believe that conservatives are far less likely to try to win a political argument by attacking the moral character of the other side.

Mark: “Second, and more importantly, so what. What does that mean ?”

It means, as I said before, that liberalism is brittle. It has lost its vitality. It can’t succeed in the arena of ideas. As the old legal cliché goes, when the law and the facts are against you, you pound the table. You issue speech codes. You call people names. You try to convince spectators not to believe anything that your opponent says, because he’s such a vile person. A hypocrite. A fundamentalist. A bigot, racist, homophobe, sexist chauvinist pig. (The insults are so cliched by now that they roll off the tongue.) Call him anything at all to convince people to listen to what he’s saying—because you can’t counter what he’s saying.

This is how all dying orthodoxies defend themselves. Did Galileo’s accusers pull out their telescopes to try to prove him wrong? Did the 1950s southern racists try to prove the inferiority of other races? Does the lynch mob at Harvard care whether boys and girls actually have different aptitudes for math? No! What they want is to silence the opposition, and they’ll do it any way they can. One of the easiest ways is slander: “Don’t listen to what that guy says. He’s a really bad guy.” As soon as I hear that, I immediately suspect that the person telling me those words knows that he will lose a serious argument.

Mark: “Is your point that conservatives don’t want to blur distinctions ?”
Yes. We try to avoid blurring traditional moral distinctions, because we want to be able to make complex and precise moral judgments. That was the point of Prager’s column.

Mark: “How about the attempt to blur the distinction between euthanasia and cold-blooded murder?”
That would be creating a relatively new distinction, rather than erasing an old one. And what is the distinction, exactly? Evidence from the Netherlands suggests that there isn’t much of one. Permitting euthanasia quickly turns into the murder of undesirables. Refusing to recognize new and untenable distinctions is not the same as blurring old ones.

Mark: “How about the attempt to blur the distinction between Nazi Germany and Castro’s Cuba in the Elian Gonzalez case?”
You’ll have to explain the major distinction you’re seeing. Both offer essentially no political freedom. That was the point of the comparison, I suspect.

You’re taking the idea of distinctions too broadly. I’m talking about moral distinctions: Behavior A is different from Behavior B. Person X is different from Person Y. And on that basis, we should be free to treat those behaviors and people differently. The liberal impulse is to claim that everyone is the same, and should be treated the same.

I don’t see how that is open to dispute. Liberals should be proud of their record for eliminating many harmful distinctions, such as racial distinctions. There’s nothing inherently wrong with eliminating distinctions. The question is whether it’s a good idea to eliminate a specific distinction. The liberal agenda seems to include eliminating moral distinctions for its own sake, even when those distinctions appear to be potentially quite important.

Dancar: “I was referring to the practice of using an extreme, easily refutable position held by a small number of the other side to discredit the whole other side.”

That’s a fair point, as far as it goes. But I see a distinction: The liberal wackos are much more influential than the conservative wackos. They’re organized, they’ve got lots of money, and they’re pushing their ideas hard. They probably don’t represent the majority of people who call themselves liberals; that’s why the Democrats are having such a hard time. But the soft liberals are willing to donate to, vote for, and otherwise obey the hard liberals with the really crazy and dangerous ideas. Your loonies far more dangerous than ours.

Dancar: “some (I'll admit too many) liberals do believe that conservatives are greedy, selfish bigots. But too many conservatives believe that liberals are out to do things like "destroy the American family".”

First, observe the distinction between character attack (greedy, selfish) and inference of intent (want to destroy the family). Conservatives almost never use character denigration to liberals in general. I’m not sure what that means, exactly, but as a factual matter I think it’s true.

Second, most of that inference of intent from the right is really shorthand for either 1) an assertion that liberal leaders want to accomplish those goals, and rank-and-file liberals will likely follow, or 2) an assertion about the consequence of an idea or policy, even if those advocating the idea or policy claim not to want the consequence.

As an example of 2, I assume that most SSM proponents do not intend to help polygamists, pedophiles, etc. in their quest for legalization and normalization. But those things will still happen, regardless of what SSM advocates intend. A sloppy expression of that idea might be: “You want to legalize polygamy,” simply because it’s more convenient to say, “You advocate policies that will lead to polygamy, even though you don’t intend it.”

Dancar: “I'm aware of very few prominent conservatives who take liberal ideas seriously and actually address them without dismissing them as evil-intentioned or ignorant.”

That’s because liberal ideas are so old, and the arguments about them among conservatives were settled decades ago. Nobody rails against phrenology or phlogiston any more, because they were discredited so very long ago. If liberals came up with ideas that were more than warmed-over communism or socialism, then we conservatives would be happy to consider them. Maybe you’ll change our minds. But all I ever hear from liberals is the same old stuff: Destroy the old institutions! Rise up against your oppressors! Redistribute the wealth! Put government in control of everything!

I sincerely hope that liberals will someday come up with some new ideas. It would be good for the country if they did, and the Democrats will continue to take a beating at the ballot box until they do.

Posted by: Ben Bateman at April 6, 2005 8:18 PM

Mark Miller:

"R.K. wrote: 'Is a tu quoque supposed to
somehow serve as a refutation?'

----- Actually, it is in this context. When person A asserts 'y is wrong and x does y while z does not do y', and then person B responds with an example serving that z does indeed do y – that does serve as a refutation. This is because A is being refuted in his assertion that 'z does not do y'."


Only if A is stating that z never does y, and if that is A's primary point. If A is merely stating that y is wrong and that x does y more often than z does, giving examples where z does y is not a refutation but merely a demonstration that z is not perfect either. And it definitely is not a refutation of A's point that y is wrong.

If A states that x does y, and that y is wrong, and B states that z also does y, A should respond: "Thank you for pointing this out. For my part, since I pointed out that x does y, I will take more care not only in trying not to do y myself but also in encouraging z not to do y. And in turn I hope you, B, will also try not to do y and will encourage x not to do it either. And that you both acknowledge, as I do, that y is wrong, unless you can demonstrate that it is not wrong other than by pointing out that z does it too, which tells us nothing about the rightness of y."

Mark: "Now, if A said 'x does y' and B simply responded 'well, z does y too'. That is not a refutation of what A said but a possible example of hypocrisy assuming A’s main point is that y is wrong."


And the hypocrisy proves what? Nothing more, again, than z's imperfection. What is so often implied is that pointing out hypocrisy negates and thus refutes the argument that y is wrong, and that therefore x can just continue doing y because x is thus no worse than z. This is fallacious. If both x and z do y, this is a reason for both to try to not do it, not to continue to do it.


Posted by: R.K. at April 6, 2005 9:36 PM

Sheesh – I check out for a few days, and an encyclopedia gets written. I’d like to reply to much more, but I’ll start with these:

Ben: “Liberals are full of good intentions; they just don't like to examine the consequences of their actions.”

Sure we do : forty hour work week, child labor laws, workplace safety requirements, the end of the Great Depression, women can vote, African-Americans can attend school with European-Americans (sit in the front of buses, eat at restaurants, drink from drinking fountains, in many states, they can vote, etc.), 70 years of some level of guaranteed retirement benefits for older Americans, some level of environmental protection (actually, Nixon started the EPA, but since then, liberals have defended it while conservatives have fought to neuter it), among others.

“The conservatives have freed millions of people from oppression, while the liberals would have kept the Iraqi rape rooms running as the UN would have debated endlessly.”

The Iraqis are still being oppressed, they are still being tortured, they are still being jailed without due process, their cities are being bombed out of existence. Casting a vote does not mean there is democracy - people voted in the USSR.
Conservatives have consistently advocated and carried out military and covert interventions designed to keep oppressors in power, or to place them in power, because these oppressors have been “good” (profitable) for American elites: Iran 1953 – CIA overthrew popularly elected prime minister Mohammed Mossadegh because he wanted use more of the profit from Iran’s oil for his own people’s benefit. Guatemala 1954 – US installed military junta responsible for tens of thousands of deaths over the course of 30 years, again because the democratically elected government wanted to help that nation’s poor - Somoza, Marcos, Papa Doc, Baby Doc, Saddam Hussein, Manuel Noriega, Diem, Thieu, Chung Kai Shek, Pinochet. These are all tyrannical oppressors who have been installed or propped up by American conservatives in government.

“Here again we must distinguish between thoughts and behavior. You may not have intended to help Saddam by protesting the war. For argument, I’ll assume that your motives were as pure as the driven snow. But to a conservative, that’s largely irrelevant. To a conservative, the question is: What effect did your behavior have in the real world? Is it really so hard to imagine that Saddam took comfort and encouragement in watching you and those like you protesting, even though you didn’t intend to encourage him?”

He may well have taken comfort and encouragement from that; but this is hardly comparable to the tangible, direct support that he received from the Reagan administration in the 1980’s, at the time that he was committing his worst atrocities (chemical warfare, slaughter of the Kurds, etc.) The following web site has a summary, along with links to declassified government documents from that period.

http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB82/

“Is it so difficult to imagine that some of our soldiers might be alive today had some Iraqi general not been encouraged to fight on by news stories suggesting that America might lose heart and withdraw at any moment?”

Actually, yes, it is. As far as I’m aware, the US military rolled over the Iraqi military in a matter of days – pretty much limited only by the speed at which the tanks could go. But even if you’re right – even if some of our soldiers wouldn’t have died as you suggested, NONE of them would have died or been injured if we hadn’t invaded in the first place.

“It seems to be an article of liberal faith that any criticism of one person can be turned into a criticism of anyone else. I don’t agree with that. There are real differences between conservatives and liberals.”

Yes, of course there are differences, but there are also similarities. Differences about policies: invade/don’t invade, etc. Similarities in that there is wide variation among the group labeled “liberals”: some are intelligent, some are not, some vilify their opponents, some do not, some are rich, some are poor. Can you not see that there is a similar variation among members of the group labeled “conservative” ?

“Blaming America first is a description of behavior, not belief. It is the simple observation that, for a certain group of people, anything that can possibly be blamed on the United States will be blamed on it, and all other considerations will essentially be ignored. You can conduct whatever complex thoughts you like within your own mind, but the practical result will be to blame America at every opportunity. It isn’t an attempt at reading minds; it’s a description of behavior.”

Is personal responsibility sucha complex thought? I am responsible for my own behavior. I am a citizen of a democracy, therefore I am also responsible for my government’s behavior. It is my personal responsibility as a citizen to monitor my own government’s actions and inactions and to demand that it act morally.

“For example, you apparently blame the United States for the suffering of the Iraqis. You don’t seem to blame Saddam, or the United Nations, or any other country that could have stepped in at some earlier time and closed the rape rooms earlier. Somehow, it’s all our fault. Doesn’t “blame America first” accurately describe that? You are blaming America. First. You aren’t blaming anyone else, are you?”

I guess one of the differences that I see between conservatives’ and liberals’ positions is that conservatives don’t apply the same moral standards to collective (national) behavior that they do to personal behavior. It is my understanding that conservatives believe that on a personal level, people should take responsibility for their own actions, rather than looking for others to blame – but they don’t seem to extend this moral standard to the national level. I do.


Reality Based: “I personally understand conservatives quite well; I was raised in a fundamentalist Christian church, for 18 years I went to church 3 times a week, I received a nomination from my Senator to attend West Point . . . “

“An interesting story. What changed your mind? It’s a cliché that a conservative is a liberal who has been mugged. So what happens to a conservative to turn him into a liberal?”

In a nutshell, Central America in the 1980’s, and the decision to consider the possibility that we are not always perfect, to look at the evidence before reaching a decision (about whether our actions are moral or not), and to apply the same standards to my own nation that I had been taught to apply to others. I’ll supply a fuller answer later, if you’d like.

“I remember giving up a long-held dream of an academic career---because my views on politics were not acceptable.”

I’ve read some of Horowitz’s posts on web sites, and I’m not convinced. If you don’t mind elaborating, what was/is your field, and how were you prevented from entering it?

“You want a book recommendation? Try the Black Book of Communism. Take a long, hard look at the trail of corpses your predecessors have left behind in their quest for egalitarian Utopia. Communism, like liberalism, was a very pretty idea. But count the dead bodies.”

My predecessors are Gandhi, FDR, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Bob Marley, Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson, Nelson Mandela, the Dalai Lama, Noam Chomsky, Dennis Kucinich, Howard Zinn, and Amy Goodman, among others. With the exception of FDR, none of these left behind dead bodies (other than their own). I'm well aware of the evils of the USSR, China (I lived in Taiwan for 5 years), etc.- that's why I don't propose following thier model.

I don’t look to Mao and Stalin for guidance any more than you look to Hitler and Mussolini.

Posted by: reality based at April 7, 2005 5:30 AM

Reality Based, you are correct that American liberals have accomplished great things:

... forty hour work week, child labor laws, workplace safety requirements, the end of the Great Depression, women can vote, African-Americans can attend school with European-Americans ... guaranteed retirement benefits ... environmental protection ...

but the accomplishments you list tend to support one of Ben's points:

Liberals should be proud of their record for eliminating many harmful distinctions, such as racial distinctions. ... I sincerely hope that liberals will someday come up with some new ideas. It would be good for the country if they did

What, if anything, has the liberal faction accomplished since the 1960's, and what are they working for today? In more recent times, they spend most of their energy holding the line on past gains rather than advancing society, which makes it questionable whether "liberal" is still an appropriate label.

Posted by: Matt Taylor at April 7, 2005 5:53 AM

Matt's comment implies an additional point. Reality Based uses a shifting scale to claim credit for the actions of people who were conservative by today's lines (e.g., MLK). By the standard of MLK's "liberalism," I'm probably a liberal, too!

RB probably won't be able to see it, but that he includes Chomsky and Zinn on his list of heroes (I know too little about Kucinich to mention him) illustrates the point.

Posted by: Justin Katz at April 7, 2005 6:04 AM

"the end of the Great Depression,"

was caused by WWII. You can give FDR credit for that, I suppose, but it was inevitable that we would enter it. It's highly likely that his economic policies actually prolonged the Great Depression, or made it worse. (i.e. price fixing)

"African-Americans can attend school with European-Americans (sit in the front of buses, eat at restaurants, drink from drinking fountains, in many states, they can vote, etc.),"

Which party was it that opposed the Civil Rights Act again?

"70 years of some level of guaranteed retirement benefits for older Americans,"

Also known as a Ponzi scheme that is screwing younger workers and is not sustainable. And was sold to the public by lying about it (that it wasn't a simple tax). And who is resisting fixes to the program to make it more sustainable?

"The Iraqis are still being oppressed, they are still being tortured, they are still being jailed without due process, their cities are being bombed out of existence."

By whom are they being oppressed? It's not Americans that are kidnapping people and beheading them, or blowing up Iraqi police recruits. They're not being tortured by Americans, either. (Spare me the Abu Ghraib spiel - having to wear women's panties on your head is not torture. Being placed in a plastic shredder feet first is.) I have no doubt that there are some innocent Iraqis who have been jailed, and yes, they don't yet have a fully fledged due process of law system set up - that's why they're working on a constitution now. It beggars the imagination to think that the average Iraqi isn't orders of magnitude better off now then he was when Saddam was in power. "Why don't they instantaneously have the rule of law, a functioning legislature, and a stable judiciary?" Does that question really need answering?

As for their cities being bombed out of existence, what language are you speaking? In order for that statement to make any sense at all you must have a very different understanding of "cities", "bombed", and/or "existence" than the common definitions. Can you elaborate?

"I guess one of the differences that I see between conservatives’ and liberals’ positions is that conservatives don’t apply the same moral standards to collective (national) behavior that they do to personal behavior. It is my understanding that conservatives believe that on a personal level, people should take responsibility for their own actions, rather than looking for others to blame – but they don’t seem to extend this moral standard to the national level. I do."

The issue is not individual vs. collective, it's one nation vs. another, or one individual vs. another. The starkest example here is the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. If a Palestinian suidide bomber intentionally kills as many innocent Israeli civilians as possible, to the point that they put rat poison in the bomb to inhibit blood coagulation, his action is deemed regrettable but understandable given the "oppression" he lives under. Yet if the Israeli Defense Forces are carrying out an operation to defend themselves from terrorists and unintentionally kill an innocent Palestinian, that is the grossest of moral outrages.

Likewise, if you applied even the faintest of a level playing field to the U.S. and Iraq under Hussein, there would be no contest. If you rank the number of moral problems associated with each country, the top 20 (at least) would all belong to Iraq. Yet, at best, the left treats the two as equal, if not treating the US as worse.

"In a nutshell, Central America in the 1980’s, and the decision to consider the possibility that we are not always perfect,"

Central America saw a wave of democracy arise during the 1980's and 1990's. The fact that there were a few atrocities committed by groups the US was supporting, and which were blown all out of proportion by the media, doesn't give you the right to ignore all the beneficial results that Reagan's policies enabled. Nor does it give you the right to ignore the atrocities committed by the leftist governments and groups.

What Conservative has ever said the US is perfect? The question is how do we compare relative to other countries, or to any given country? You don't have to be blind to our flaws, but you have to not be blind to our successes, and not be blind to the flaws of other countries.

"I don’t look to Mao and Stalin for guidance any more than you look to Hitler and Mussolini."

Maybe you don't, but many of your ideological cohort do or did. Look at all the fools who wear Che Guevara t-shirts and hang his poster on their walls.

Posted by: Mike S. at April 7, 2005 11:59 AM

"I’ve read some of Horowitz’s posts on web sites, and I’m not convinced. If you don’t mind elaborating, what was/is your field, and how were you prevented from entering it?"

Here's one contemporary illustration of campus political bias.

http://www.techcentralstation.com/040705D.html

Posted by: Mike S. at April 7, 2005 12:40 PM

Here's another example: http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/archive/2005/April/06/local/stories/01local.htm
(If you can find examples of similar behavior from conservatives being tolerated on campus, let us know...)

Posted by: Mike S. at April 7, 2005 12:45 PM

he said:

"I personally understand conservatives quite well; I was raised in a fundamentalist Christian church, for 18 years I went to church 3 times a week.."

Being immersed in it doesn't mean that you absorbed it, especially in light of the implication that you rejected the faith of your parents when you left their house and possibly never gave it another consideration. If that's not true and I've called it wrong then it is because you certainly haven't demonstrated otherwise in the comments you've made.

You also name the Shah of Iran as an oppressor even though he brought social and political reform including the vote for women, land reform, and a program to illiminate illiteracy. He was an established ally of the U.S., though. So is that why you consider him an oppressor? When the 'popularly elected' Prime Minister led a coup attempt and tried to take over, sure the U.S. intervened. Are our leaders suppose to let every ally dangle in the wind whenever somebody else decides they want to take over? Just because that's what Jimmy Carter did in 1979 doesn't make it the right thing to do.


Posted by: smmtheory at April 7, 2005 1:06 PM

speaking of illiminating illiteracy....

should have been eliminating illiteracy.

Posted by: smmtheory at April 7, 2005 3:17 PM

Ben wrote: What tools do I use that I deny others?
------ You have said things like (and I’m paraphrasing) – liberals are well meaning but do not understand about consequences. But if someone wrote that conservatives are well meaning but do not understand about consequences, you react with “How can they say that? What a generalization! What a wild assertion!”. I’ll stick with my analogy that as a judge in a trial between a liberal and a conservative, only the attorney for the conservative would have his objections sustained.

Ben: I’m not implying anything beyond what I wrote: Until very recently, if you wanted to hear conservative ideas, you had to go find them. You wouldn’t find them in newspapers or on broadcast TV. All you got was liberalism.
------- I agree that there is a liberal bias in the media and academia. Bias – not dominance. Overall, I think your assertion is very exaggerated.

Mark: “To say that liberalism is everywhere but conservatism is hidden is absolutely ridiculous.” Ben: No, it isn’t ridiculous. Shall we march through the numbers on media bias? Shall we look at readership? Shall we look at how many people still believe the old canard about an unbiased media?
------- Fox news is the most popular news channel. (not that I think Fox is strictly conservative but is more even handed) Shall we talk which side dominates talk radio ? Of course some even many people still believe the media is unbiased. Many people also think lots of things that aren’t true. But liberalism is everywhere and conservatism hidden in the shadows ? No way. I’m sticking with ridiculous.

Mark: “Thirty years ago before the internet and cable TV, you might have been able to say this. Not anymore.” Ben: Not thirty years, Mark. Maybe three. Maybe even five. But nowhere close to thirty.
------ I was thinking of the beginning of cable news but you are right. It’s much closer to 5 than 30.

Ben: I really believe that conservatives are far less likely to try to win a political argument by attacking the moral character of the other side.
-------- I really believe you are wrong. I believe that the way in which someone attempts to win a political argument is unrelated to which side of the political line they are on.

Ben: It means, as I said before, that liberalism is brittle. It has lost its vitality. It can’t succeed in the arena of ideas.
-------- To an extent I agree with you on this. But what is brittle and lost its vitality is traditional even classical liberalism. Liberalism has many facets and is defined differently now than it was long ago. (not to mention arbitrarily) The same goes for conservatism. It isn’t a total – as in 180 degree – change in definition yet things have changed. So yes, by your definition of liberalism, I agree that it is brittle and can’t succeed in the arena of ideas. But you know what, based on some definitions of conservatism and how some feel it should be applied, it is not only brittle but broken, also lost its vitality and already failed in the arena of ideas. The pendulum has swung and I think it has swing too far the other way but I don’t feel it should go back to where it was in some cultures referred to as ‘conservative’.

Ben: This is how all dying orthodoxies defend themselves … One of the easiest ways is slander: “Don’t listen to what that guy says. He’s a really bad guy.” As soon as I hear that, I immediately suspect that the person telling me those words knows that he will lose a serious argument.
------- Again, we agree on this – except that I would say that it isn’t unique to liberal claims against conservatism. I have a recent example – the Schiavo case. One of the most popular arguments was basically “Don’t listen to what that guy says. He’s a really bad guy.”

Ben: This would be creating a relatively new distinction, rather than erasing an old one. And what is the distinction, exactly? Evidence from the Netherlands suggests that there isn’t much of one. Permitting euthanasia quickly turns into the murder of undesirables. Refusing to recognize new and untenable distinctions is not the same as blurring old ones.
------ Euthanasia vs. Murder is not a new distinction. My point was that the blurring of distinctions (new or old) is not solely a technique used to promote liberal ideas. In some cases, the blurring is warranted in others it is not.

Mark: “How about the attempt to blur the distinction between Nazi Germany and Castro’s Cuba in the Elian Gonzalez case?”
Ben: You’ll have to explain the major distinction you’re seeing. Both offer essentially no political freedom. That was the point of the comparison, I suspect.
------- Sounds to me like you were one the blurrers in that case. The analogy being made was sending Elian back to Cuba was equivalent to sending a Jew back to Nazi Germany.

Ben: The liberal impulse is to claim that everyone is the same, and should be treated the same … I don’t see how that is open to dispute …. There’s nothing inherently wrong with eliminating distinctions. The question is whether it’s a good idea to eliminate a specific distinction. The liberal agenda seems to include eliminating moral distinctions for its own sake, even when those distinctions appear to be potentially quite important.
------- I agree with you here. The question should be about eliminating ‘specific distinctions’. But there has to be a reasonable basis for using distinctions to treat things differently (in the legal sense). But we might not agree on what is ‘reasonable’.

I want to address one other thing that you wrote to Dancar:
Ben: As an example of 2, I assume that most SSM proponents do not intend to help polygamists, pedophiles, etc. in their quest for legalization and normalization. But those things will still happen, regardless of what SSM advocates intend. A sloppy expression of that idea might be: “You want to legalize polygamy,” simply because it’s more convenient to say, “You advocate policies that will lead to polygamy, even though you don’t intend it.”
-------- Beware Mike S./R.K – ‘tu quoque’ response upcoming. Ben has repeatedly used this example that normalized gay relationships will lead to normalized polygamy. If the changes are made by judicial decisions than I can see a legitimate concern. But if they are made by the legislative process, then that argument has less merit. The law draws lines all the time. Some guns are legal to use but others are not. Sure, there are those that believe the right to own a .38 means the right to own a tank – but the laws makes a distinction. And the law can make a distinction between same-sex couples and polygamous relationships. (and I believe that there is a legal basis for that distinction)

Posted by: Mark Miller at April 7, 2005 3:25 PM

R.K. - in response to the A, B, x, y & z discussion.

Good think I used to teach algebra ….(said with a smile)

I think this is all about semantics. If I would have used ‘supported’ instead of ‘does/do’, we’d be fine. What you and I are debating is about ideas/ideology (hence using ‘support’) and the analogy refers to specific behavior or an event (as in ‘do/does’). I think we’re on the same page – well as much as we can be considering our ideological differences.

Posted by: Mark Miller at April 7, 2005 3:29 PM

Justin: I don't claim credit for any of the things those people did, I don't come anywhere close to their accomplishments - I listed them as a response to Ben's implication of who my "predecessors" are. "Predecessors" is a vague notion, and I interpreted it as those whose views I agree with, and from which mine are derived. I don't claim that they fit into any neat category other than "people who I agree with."

Mike S.: You refer to SocSec as a "Ponzi" scheme. Please define "ponzi" (BTW thanks for the earlier definition of "tu quoque".) As to its sustainability and who wants to sustain it, I'll provide some links in a later post.

"They're not being tortured by Americans, either. (Spare me the Abu Ghraib spiel - having to wear women's panties on your head is not torture. Being placed in a plastic shredder feet first is.)"

This illustrates my point very well. Even when provided with absolute, incontrovertable proof, those who have already made up their minds that America can do no wrong refuse to accept any responsibility for the acts of our government and its agents. Here's an article with plenty of links to original documents at the end refuting the dismissal of Abu Ghraib et al as "Fraternity pranks".

http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=15&ItemID=7584

As to bombing , here's a link:
http://www.dahrjamailiraq.com/hard_news/archives/hard_news/000160.php

"If a Palestinian suidide bomber intentionally kills as many innocent Israeli civilians as possible... his action is deemed regrettable but understandable given the "oppression" he lives under. Yet if the Israeli Defense Forces are carrying out an operation to defend themselves from terrorists and unintentionally kill an innocent Palestinian, that is the grossest of moral outrages."

I wrote in an earlier post that I condemn Palestinian suicide bombing And Israeli policies of collective punishment (in which innocent bystanders are often killed- like when firing missiles into apartment buildings). And I find the terrorism committed by both sides in that conflict understandable in that both sides have reasons for their anger and have legitimate complaints against the other. Nevertheless, the terrorism and violence committed by many on either side are dead wrong, and not likely to promote any kind of solution.

"Likewise, if you applied even the faintest of a level playing field to the U.S. and Iraq under Hussein, there would be no contest. If you rank the number of moral problems associated with each country, the top 20 (at least) would all belong to Iraq. Yet, at best, the left treats the two as equal, if not treating the US as worse."

I address the question of relative guilt below.

"Central America saw a wave of democracy arise during the 1980's and 1990's. The fact that there were a few atrocities committed by groups the US was supporting, and which were blown all out of proportion by the media, doesn't give you the right to ignore all the beneficial results that Reagan's policies enabled. Nor does it give you the right to ignore the atrocities committed by the leftist governments and groups."

The contras did not engage the Nicaraguan army; they relied on US intelligence (about troop movements,etc.) to avoid such engagements, and instead went after "soft targets" - agricultural collectives, schools, hospitals, etc (the "soft" part meaning "unarmed"). When our enemies do this we (rightly) call it terrorism. The US distributed comic books promoting and detailing ways to sabotage infrastructure (which again targets civilian, not military targets). Groups supported by the US targeted and killed Catholic priests, nuns, and lay workers who were attempting to help the poor in those countries. The US supported death squads, assassinations, a campaign of terror against political opponents. The "El Salvador option" of extrajudicial killings (murders) - which was vehemently denied at the time - has been discussed for use in Iraq. Even after Congress passed laws specifically forbidding further US support for the contras, Reagan's administration continued to covertly fund them - using various schemes that involved sending arms to Iran (which at the time was fighting our ally, Saddam Hussein, whom we were also arming), and smuggling cocaine into the US.

"What Conservative has ever said the US is perfect? The question is how do we compare relative to other countries, or to any given country? You don't have to be blind to our flaws, but you have to not be blind to our successes, and not be blind to the flaws of other countries."

By your dismissal of the documented torture at Abu Ghraib (the tip of the iceberg) and the way you equally dismiss "a few atrocities" in Central America, you demonstrate that you choose to be blind to our own crimes. By dismissing and minimizing our crimes, you are not very far from claiming perfection for the US. I do not choose to be blind to the flaws of others - I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Saddam was a murderous, tyrannical thug, and many other countries and leaders practice torture, terrorism, murder of dissenters, etc - no matter how bad they are (or were), their atrocities don't justify ours.

And the question is absolutely NOT how we compare relative to other countries, the question is how we compare to the ideal of justice.
(Now I know that not all conservative posters here are Christians, but those of you who are must be able to see the flaws in the relative scale of morality and immorality propsed by Mike, no?)

By your logic of relative levels of atrocities, we would have no right to hold anyone in prison who committed less murders than Stalin. 'Yeah, I killed some people, but he killed more' is NOT a valid defense.

Posted by: reality based at April 7, 2005 4:17 PM

As to discrimination against conservatives on campus, read this article

http://www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/ReadArticle.asp?ID=16550

and then follow the link to the essay in question. The essay clearly deserves an "F" based on poor writing style, regardless of what point of view the author was supporting. Also notice the difference between the writing of the test and the article on Frontpagemag - either the author's writing skills improved dramatically, or the FPM article was heavily edited (perhaps not always unethical in journalism- I'm no expert - but it is certainly misleading in that it gives the impression that the student can express his views coherently)

But don't take my word for it, here's a conservative professor's take on the essay:

http://www.outsidethebeltway.com/archives/8841

Posted by: reality based at April 7, 2005 4:45 PM

"Mike S.: You refer to SocSec as a "Ponzi" scheme. Please define "ponzi" (BTW thanks for the earlier definition of "tu quoque".) As to its sustainability and who wants to sustain it, I'll provide some links in a later post."

Type "Ponzi Scheme" into Google. Basically it's a pyramid scheme, where those who get in early make money, but those who get in later lose the money they invest.

"Even when provided with absolute, incontrovertable proof, those who have already made up their minds that America can do no wrong refuse to accept any responsibility for the acts of our government and its agents. "

Incontrovertible proof of what? And I didn't say that American soldiers did no wrong, I said what they did wasn't as serious as what Iraqi soldiers did under Hussein.

"their atrocities don't justify ours."

I never said any "atrocities" or other wrongdoing by the U.S. was justified - I asked who's committed worse atrocities, and who commits them more regularly?

"And the question is absolutely NOT how we compare relative to other countries, the question is how we compare to the ideal of justice.
(Now I know that not all conservative posters here are Christians, but those of you who are must be able to see the flaws in the relative scale of morality and immorality propsed by Mike, no?)

By your logic of relative levels of atrocities, we would have no right to hold anyone in prison who committed less murders than Stalin. 'Yeah, I killed some people, but he killed more' is NOT a valid defense."

First of all, who defines this ideal of justice? Second, why can't we hold other countries to that standard as well? And see how well they measure up vs. the U.S. on that scale?

I don't understand your logic: I say that a government that murders large numbers of its own people is morally worse than the US, and you say that there's no difference? You seem to be equating a difference in moral culpability with an erasure of it - they aren't equivalent.

Here's a simple quiz. Who's worse, the US or North Korea? The US or Iraq? The US or Iran? The US or Cuba?

Posted by: Mike S. at April 7, 2005 9:54 PM

RB:
''(which at the time was fighting our ally, Saddam Hussein, whom we were also arming),''

dis kool-aid done be recycled so many time it now stinkin like mensroom latrine after end of willie nelson concert

Posted by: kyhillboy at April 7, 2005 10:15 PM

"First of all, who defines this ideal of justice?"

The 1948 UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights seems like a pretty good standard to me. Text available here:

http://www.un.org/Overview/rights.html

"Second, why can't we hold other countries to that standard as well?"

I agree that we should, and that we should withhold our support (particularly any form of military support) from nations who consistently and systematically fail to live up to it. In particular, I believe that we should withhold military support from Pakistan, Indonesia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Israel and many other documented human rights violaters. (BTW: Palestine is not on the list because we aren't giving them military support - if we were, then they would be on the list.)

"I don't understand your logic: I say that a government that murders large numbers of its own people is morally worse than the US, and you say that there's no difference? "

My logic is that we are responsible for our own actions, regardless of how bad others may be (and I'm not by any means saying we're the only, or the worst violaters of human rights). In other words, I do not dispute that other nations/leaders are-and have been- worse; I am saying that this fact is not relevant to examining what we (the US) should or shouldn't do. Are you saying that whatever we do is ok, as long as we're not as bad as North Korea, Iran, etc.?

"You seem to be equating a difference in moral culpability with an erasure of it - they aren't equivalent."

I don't follow this one.

"Here's a simple quiz. Who's worse, the US or North Korea? The US or Iraq? The US or Iran? The US or Cuba?"

I've never said the US is worse than any of these - and its certainly possible to come up with a much longer list. I ask you, who's worse, Charles Manson or Josef Stalin, Charles Manson or Adolf Hitler? Charles Manson or Pol Pot?
The fact that Manson isn't as bad as these others doesn't mean that he's innocent. Our justification for incarcerating Manson is not in comparing him to the worst murderers that we can think of, but comparing him to the ideal of not murdering people. (and if anyone thinks I'm equating the US with Manson, you're missing my point- I'm using an extreme case to illustrate my point that the more extreme guilt of some doesn't excuse the lesser guilt of others.)

Posted by: reality based at April 7, 2005 10:34 PM
I agree that we should, and that we should withhold our support (particularly any form of military support) from nations who consistently and systematically fail to live up to it. In particular, I believe that we should withhold military support from Pakistan, Indonesia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Israel and many other documented human rights violaters.

Israel always makes the list...

Anyway, what do you suppose would be the consequences of taking your hard line? (And benefits, I guess, but make sure you note consequences, too.)

Posted by: Justin Katz at April 8, 2005 7:36 AM

"The 1948 UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights seems like a pretty good standard to me. "

Speaking of the UN, who lives up to this ideal better, the US, or the UN itself?

"I am saying that this fact is not relevant to examining what we (the US) should or shouldn't do."

But it is relevant to assessing whether the instinct to blame America first is reasonable or not.

"I don't follow this one."

I refer you to your question immediately prior to this on, and to you response to my little quiz: "The fact that Manson isn't as bad as these others doesn't mean that he's innocent." Despite your denial, your analogy does compare Manson to the US, and you equate saying he's not as bad as Pol Pot with saying he's innocent. Wouldn't it be more realistic to compare our worst President, say, Nixon, with those people? The gap between Nixon and Manson appears to mirror in some sense the gap between your view of America and mine.

You appear to have some sort of visceral reaction against claiming that the US is a more moral country than various totalitarian or authoritarian regimes that regularly violate the rights of their citizens in the most brutal manner. Every time, it's the "yes, but", like you're paranoid that as soon as you say, "yes, the US is not as bad as Iran", everyone will take their focus off of all the bad things the US does/has done.

To put it in the context of individual behavior, as you seem to like to do, it's the difference between someone who has a healthy humility about their flaws ("Hey, I'm human, I make mistakes, but I'm trying my best.") vs. someone who has no self-esteem at all and constantly denigrates himself ("I'm a complete loser.") You, and many modern liberals, seem much closer to the latter than the former to me.

Posted by: Mike S. at April 8, 2005 9:36 AM

reality, I haven't read your post from FrontPageMag. I'll just stipulate that that particular example doesn't prove anything regarding liberal bias in the academy. The point is that no single incident is determinative in proving widespread bias. I'm curious what your experience with higher education is. Did/do you go to college? What was your major? Do you have any contact with the academy now? Have you read anything else about campus bias besides a couple of Horowitz columns?

A key point here is the one liberals usually make regarding discrimination. They say that you can't really understand it unless you've experienced it. Thus only black people really understand racism, because they've experienced it and whites haven't. Likewise for gays. Now, there is some truth to this: I don't have a visceral understanding of what it's like to be a young black male in this country, which in some places/settings results in very uncomfortable situations. But the question is, how can liberals discount conservative claims of campus bias based on this understanding of discrimination. Of course if you are a liberal, bias against conservative viewpoints or conservative individuals will seem less serious or threatening to you. The question is, why don't you take conservatives claims at face value? That doesn't mean that you have to accept everything they say, but it seems to me you should assume that there might very well be something to them until proven otherwise.

Posted by: Mike S. at April 8, 2005 10:07 AM

Reality Based (from another thread):

"Perhaps you are so unimaginative that the only way you can think of for the US to interact with the rest of the world is through threats, intimidation, and military intervention."

(paraphrased): we must stop being the big bully

Reality Based (from this thread):

"we should withhold our support (particularly any form of military support) from nations who consistently and systematically fail to live up to it."

(paraphrased): we must bully them into changing their ways

Oh no, there's no irony here. Or have you changed your mind about the bullying bit? Or is it just too much nuance for a straight shooter like me to figure out?

Posted by: smmtheory at April 8, 2005 10:12 AM

Justin - (quoting me) "I agree that we should, and that we should withhold our support (particularly any form of military support) from nations who consistently and systematically fail to live up to it. In particular, I believe that we should withhold military support from Pakistan, Indonesia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Israel and many other documented human rights violaters."

J: "Israel always makes the list...
Anyway, what do you suppose would be the consequences of taking your hard line? (And benefits, I guess, but make sure you note consequences, too.)"

To begin with, I would refine my original statement from "withholding support" to "withholding military support"; case in point being Indonesia - the Indonesian military has committed massive human rights violations for many years now - including mass slaughter in East Timor - and, despite the change in government, the military has not significantly reformed. Yet I do believe that we should provide humanitarian support in general and for tsunami victims in particular.

And yes, Israel makes the list, along with the Arab and Muslim nations that we provide military support to. Israel's longstanding policy of collective punishment adds fuel to the cycle of violence as surely as Palestinian murders of innocent Israelis does.

My "hard line" is not about invading anybody or dropping bombs on them - its about not aiding and abetting their crimes- and again, Saddam Hussein is an excellent example - conservative policy was to give him military aid while he was committing his worst atrocities, and later to invade his country. Progressive policy would have been to not give him military support, and not to invade- to not abet the atrocities and help Hussein gain more power over his country in the first place, and to support positive change in Iraq through peaceful means. Noriega is another example of a tyrant that we helped gain power and then used violence (with many civilian casualties) to remove.

The benefits would be that we stop adding fuel to the fire of the cycles of violence. The benefits would be that not as many tyrannical thugs would rise to power in the first place, and that those who do would have more tenuous grips on their power - so that positive elements within those countries have a greater chance of overcoming that power.

The consequences? I honestly don't see any negative consequences of bringing less guns/bombs/etc. into the world. I imagine that you or other people who post here might come up with some.

Posted by: reality based at April 8, 2005 3:30 PM

I think you err, RB, in seeing nations' actions as isolated instances of cause and effect. We didn't offer Hussein what limited support we did in the '80s for no reason — not even just for the reason of money. That support occurred within a global context. We also weren't the only Western nation to offer him support (or even the most generous Western nation to do so).

The conflagration of violence and oppression will burn as a fact of human nature. (Witness its new shade in the oppressive bureaucracies of Europe, as well as the explicit dictatorships that find welcoming comfy seats at the United Nations.) The best we can do is seek to make it a controlled burn.

Posted by: Justin Katz at April 8, 2005 3:41 PM

Mike S said:
"You appear to have some sort of visceral reaction against claiming that the US is a more moral country than various totalitarian or authoritarian regimes that regularly violate the rights of their citizens in the most brutal manner. "

If something isn't broke, I don't see the need to fix it. I bring up and debate points on which we disagree- I don't see the need to debate points on which we agree.
As a US citizen, I have, both in theory and in practice, my human rights respected to a greater degree than they would be in many, perhaps most, other countries in the world. I do not fear that I will be arrested for posting viewpoints critical of the government as I would in Iran, China, and a host of other countries. I could go on and on, but I don't see the need to. As I said, I don't see the need to fix what isn't broken. I am more interested in trying to identify and fix the things that Are broken.
It seems to me that you have a visceral reaction against taking a good hard look at the things we do wrong, the things that I think we need to work on fixing, as evidenced by this:

"Spare me the Abu Ghraib spiel - having to wear women's panties on your head is not torture"

"To put it in the context of individual behavior, as you seem to like to do, it's the difference between someone who has a healthy humility about their flaws ("Hey, I'm human, I make mistakes, but I'm trying my best.") vs. someone who has no self-esteem at all and constantly denigrates himself ("I'm a complete loser.") You, and many modern liberals, seem much closer to the latter than the former to me."

I can see how it might seem that way to you, but my point is that simply being better than North Korea et al. is not good enough. We have made, and continue to make serious mistakes that have a very powerful negative impact on many people's lives, and the first step to improving ourselves is to seriously examine our actions and motives to see what we do wrong and to figure out how we can do better.

Posted by: reality based at April 8, 2005 4:02 PM

I'm with Justin here.

Referring to the support of Saddam Hussein and Noreiga during the 80's as 'conservative' policy is simply untrue. Yes, the President was a Republican but Democrats controlled Congress and thus, spending during that time. I'm not saying that it was 'liberal' policy either. We have given money to many many international leaders throughout history. Some of them have betrayed that assistance and become tyrants, like your examples. To cite them as examples of poor policy is simply jumping on the hindsight train.

You seem to be trying to say that we were once supporting them and then we did a 180 and opposed them - when nothing had changed. Just for the sake of it. The truth is a lot of had changed. And we changed our reaction and support based on their behavior.

Posted by: Mark Miller at April 8, 2005 4:13 PM

Mmmmm, cycles of violence....

The benefits would be that we stop adding fuel to the fire of the cycles of violence. The benefits would be that not as many tyrannical thugs would rise to power in the first place, and that those who do would have more tenuous grips on their power - so that positive elements within those countries have a greater chance of overcoming that power.

See, the US is even responsible for tyrannical thugs rising to power in other countries. And if we would just stay out of the way, they wouldn't be able to do that.

What lesson do you take from the lead up to WWII?

Posted by: Mike S. at April 8, 2005 5:44 PM

Mike S wrote (referring to a conservative student's paper that (deserved and) recieved a low grade from a liberal professor):
"The point is that no single incident is determinative in proving widespread bias."

An excellent point, I agree completely. Conservatives claiming liberal bias on campus can accurately point to statistics showing that a majority of professers in the Humanities (and possibly the Social Sciences) have liberal viewpoints. The question is whether thier opinions translate to bias against conservative students as evidenced by unfair grading, etc. This paper was the only example (that I have found) where I can see the paper and the grade it recieved, to see for myself if any bias is apparent. I would be interested in seeing other examples of contested grades to help confirm or refute the contention.

"Did/do you go to college? What was your major? Do you have any contact with the academy now? Have you read anything else about campus bias besides a couple of Horowitz columns?"

Yes, I first went to college on an AFROTC scholarship at UW (WA), as a pre-engineering student in 1984. Through many political debates with a fraternity brother, my world view began to make a profound change and I decided that I did not want to pursue a career in the military. Knowing what I did Not want to do was not the same as knowing what I Do want to do- I went to school for awhile after that, then went to work for several years at low paying jobs. Currently, I am back at school to finish a BA (interdisciplinary major - mainly Anthropology and Psych) after which I want to get a Masters with certification to teach elementary school. Q2: Most of what I've read about bias on campus has been through Horowitz, and following links from his sites.

"Of course if you are a liberal, bias against conservative viewpoints or conservative individuals will seem less serious or threatening to you."

Excellent point, I agree.

"The question is, why don't you take conservatives claims at face value? That doesn't mean that you have to accept everything they say, but it seems to me you should assume that there might very well be something to them until proven otherwise."

In this particular case, 2 reasons: (1) I'm assuming that, as a general rule, professors are innocent (of letting their political beliefs influence grades) until they are proven guilty, and (2) My general impression of professors I have dealt with is that they have professional integrity, which adds to my presumption of innocence.

Posted by: reality based at April 8, 2005 7:51 PM

response to smmtheory:

I had made the point that a more effective way to promote a culture of life, as well as our national security, would be to send doctors, nurses, teachers, etc. to other countries instead of soldiers with tanks and guns and bombs - to help build up, rather than to destroy. smmt's reply to this was:

"That sounds more like the Culture of the Isolationist Nanny-State than the Culture of Life"

my response to this was what he quoted above:

(RB) "Perhaps YOU are so unimaginative that the only way YOU can think of for the US to interact with the rest of the world is through threats, intimidation, and military intervention."
- [emphasis on "YOU" added]

my point being that providing positive help, humanitarian aid, is not isolationism- and that one who would define it as isolationism must be so unimaginative...threats...etc. So this paraphrase does not accurately reflect the statement it refers to.

smmt: "(paraphrased): we must stop being the big bully"

RB: "we should withhold our support (particularly any form of military support) from nations who consistently and systematically fail to live up to it."

smmt: "(paraphrased): we must bully them into changing their ways"

I guess I just don't see that not providing guns to murderers is bullying. I did restate this sentence later (in a response to Justin) as referring just to military support, not humanitarian to aid - if you really want irony smmt, I guess that's where it is: I refined my statement to better reflect my beliefs - have fun with it.

For anybody who might be interested, this was from an exchange between smmt and I under March 31 comments

Posted by: reality based at April 8, 2005 8:28 PM

Leader of AN (Abusive Nation) to RB version of US leader:
We want to buy some armored vehicles and Apache helicopters.

Leader of RB version of US:
Sorry, you guys have abused too many people's rights, we'll send some doctors, medicine, tractors for your farms and piping for your water lines instead.

Leader of AN:
But we need the weapons to stop the evil regime next door from invading.

Leader of RB version of US:
No dice! Straighten up your act or else you'll never get any of that kind of help from us again.

Leader of AN:
If you insist. Okay send that stuff you said you would send as soon as possible! We need it yesterday.

After Leader of RB version of US hangs up phone, Leader of AN to Generals:
When the tractors get here, take all the parts off that you can to get our combat vehicles running again. When the medicine gets here, send it all to the army. When the water pipes get here, see what you can do to make them into bombs. When the doctors get here, use them as human shields until we can get the French or the Soviets to send us the weapons we want.


Posted by: smmtheory at April 8, 2005 11:24 PM

Mark Miller: "I guess my question is, in your opinion, what is the outcome of the fact that Americans do wrong ? "

Many thousands of people die, thousands more are left homeless and destitute, others have to work like dogs to barely survive.

"Does it mean that we are no better than other cultures or countries where some of their citizens commit crimes and therefore, have no right to ever intervene ? "

Again, we are better than North Korea, Iran, etc., but being better than North Korea or Iran isn't good enough - its a pretty low standard to aspire to. And as to the right to intervene - I think we should judge our "right" to intervene by the same standards that we apply to other nations (does Syria have a "right" to intervene in Lebanon?)

"And then there’s the Abu Ghraib event. This event brought up as an example that our government is morally equivalent to Iraq or North Korea is absurd."

I have never said that we are morally equivalent to them or other evil regimes - what I have said is that practicing evil is not the way to fight evil.

"Here is the distinction between what occurred at Abu Ghraib and the beheadings by terrorists or 9/11 or Nazi Germany. The people who committed the crimes at Abu Ghraib were sought, tried and convicted by our government. "

What happened at Abu Ghraib was not merely the actions of a few low-level MP's, it was the result of a policy that came from the top- a policy of evading international treaties and US laws regarding the treatment of prisoners.

Here is an excellent review from The American Conservative magazine:
http://www.amconmag.com/2004_11_22/review.html

and here's a quote from MSNBC:
"The appeal of Gitmo from the start was that, in the view of administration lawyers, the base existed in a legal twilight zone—or "the legal equivalent of outer space," as one former administration lawyer described it. And on Jan. 9, 2002, John Yoo of Justice's Office of Legal Counsel coauthored a sweeping 42-page memo concluding that neither the Geneva Conventions nor any of the laws of war applied to the conflict in Afghanistan.
and what changes in policy have we seen since the story broke? The man who described the Geneva Conventions as "quaint" is now our attorney general, and we are "rendering" prisoners to countries like Syria where we know they will be tortured. "

source: http://msnbc.msn.com/id/4989481/

"But in this country, even if he wanted to, he (Bush) could not get away with treating the people the way Saddam treated his people. That is the distinction between our government and theirs. Those may be tiny and irrelevant distinctions to you. But to me, those distinctions represent the difference between freedom and tyranny. "

You are correct, Bush could not get away with treating large numbers of Americans the way Hussein treated Iraqis - but he can get away with treating foreigners that way, because most Americans don't want to hear about what our government does in other countries - when presented with evidence that we are torturing prisoners, many Americans are "outraged at the outrage" rather than at the crimes we've committed. They reduce the practices of sodomy with broomsticks and all sorts of other extreme cruelty, including outright murder to "having to wear women's panties on your head" (Mike S.) or "fraternity pranks" (Rush L.). They believe that the media, by reporting the stories, has fueled outrage at Americans and therefore put our soldiers in greater danger, rather than seeing that the actions themselves (torture, etc.) are what have fueled the outrage and subsequent danger. The point they fail to see is that the people being oppressed already know about it – it’s the American public that needs to hear about it so that we put pressure on our politicians to change the behavior.
This is not unlike the “secret bombing” of Cambodia from 1969 - 1973: it certainly wasn’t a secret to the Cambodians – about 100,000 of whom were killed- or to the rest of the people of the region.

NO – I’m not saying Nixon (and Kissenger, et al.) were worse than Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge– we killed approx 100,000, they killed approx 1.7 Million. I’m not saying that we directly installed or supported the Khmer Rouge government – I’m saying that the 640,000 Tons of bombs that we dropped on that tiny country increased the state of chaos there and the popularity of the KR (because they opposed the US backed government of Lon Nol) which made the KR takeover more likely.

Posted by: reality based at April 9, 2005 12:22 AM

smmt:

FYI- there aren't any soviets anymore

Posted by: reality based at April 9, 2005 12:26 AM

Ignoring the point doesn't make it go away.

Posted by: smmtheory at April 9, 2005 3:27 PM

The point being that we Should sell Apache helicopters and armored vehicles to Abusive Nations- that these tools of destruction are more supportive of a Culture of Life than things such as farm equipment and water infrastructure?

BTW - here's a link to what that great conservative thinker, Martin Luther King had to say about war and peace:

http://www.hartford-hwp.com/archives/45a/058.html

Here's what John Paul the Great had to say:

Pope John Paul, in his first public comment on the outbreak of hostilities in Iraq, said on Saturday that the war threatens the whole of humanity, and that weapons could never solve mankind's problems.

"When war, like the one now in Iraq, threatens the fate of humanity, it is even more urgent for us to proclaim, with a firm and decisive voice, that only peace is the way of building a more just and caring society," he said.

The Pope, in a speech to employees of Catholic television station Telepace, added: "Violence and weapons can never resolve the problems of man."

from: http://www.cathnews.com/news/303/124.php

Posted by: reality based at April 9, 2005 4:35 PM

You are still missing the point, but it may be more naivete than obtuseness. What's your position on abortion, For or Against? You may think that it's bad that deposing Saddam cost 'hundreds of thousands' of lives (and keep in mind that is your claim that has very little corroboration), but abortion killed about a million and a half a year before the government stopped keeping tabs statistically. There's no indication that it has declined. So how come you seem to complain more about what you consider an 'unjust' war against Iraq and everything else than you do about the war against children in this country?

Posted by: smmtheory at April 9, 2005 10:07 PM

Mark Miller: "I guess my question is, in your opinion, what is the outcome of the fact that Americans do wrong ? " RB: Many thousands of people die, thousands more are left homeless and destitute, others have to work like dogs to barely survive.
------- Not what I meant. Let me rephrase. Do you feel that governments have no right to intervene internationally (or nationally, for that matter) due to the fact that some of their citizens do wrong ?

I do not defend the events at Abu Ghraib like Rush or other conservative partisans. I happen to believe that if this had happened under a Democrat administration, then Rush et al would be saying things like “see, this is what happens when Democrats are in charge” while the partisan liberals would in turn be playing the events down.

Overall, I think we are the good guys/police and they are the bad guys/criminals. Yes, there are bad people among the police, the police sometimes do bad things - sometimes intentionally or unintentionally and there are instances where police should not intervene, etc. But, I really do believe that the overall intentions of the police and our government is good. While I believe that the general intentions of terrorists and the countries like Iraq (under Saddam) and North Korea are bad - they are the criminals. I do agree that there is legitimate debate as to policy to how to deal with that fact - as there is debate on how to deal with most confrontations.

RB: “You are correct, Bush could not get away with treating large numbers of Americans the way Hussein treated Iraqis - but he can get away with treating foreigners that way…”
----- So Bush went into Iraq so he could get away with torturing foreigners since he could not get away with torturing his own people. And he sent kids to Iraq because the thought of young people dying and mothers and fathers crying over their children’s death brought him pleasure. What other possible reason could there be ? Do I have it right now ?

You seem to believe that we too are the bad guys. That the intent of our leaders and military interventions are the same as the intent of the military interventions by Saddam, Osama Bin Laden, Hitler, etc. Hence your statement “I think we should judge our "right" to intervene by the same standards that we apply to other nations (does Syria have a "right" to intervene in Lebanon?)”. If you see no distinction between Syria in Lebanon and US/coalition in Iraq (why not add Germany’s ‘interventions’ in WWII to your list) - if you see all military interventions as equal (and evil) regardless of circumstance - then there is no further reason for us to debate. The view that the general intent of our government is good (regardless of what party is in the White House) has to be a common starting point.

Posted by: Mark Miller at April 10, 2005 11:00 AM

"So Bush went into Iraq so he could get away with torturing foreigners since he could not get away with torturing his own people. And he sent kids to Iraq because the thought of young people dying and mothers and fathers crying over their children’s death brought him pleasure. What other possible reason could there be ? Do I have it right now"

No, you do not. And I wonder if you truly believe that this is my line of reasoning.

Bush did not invade Iraq because he's some kind of sadistic pervert. He also didn't invade because of the reasons that he told us: that Iraq had WMD's. Besides the fact that US intelligence didn't have any solid evidence of WMD's, all we have to do is to look at a country that recently developed nuclear weapons and is known to have distributed them, and what the US reaction to that country was. A few months ago the story broke that our ally Pakistan was selling nuclear secrets and technologies to other countries, including North Korea. What was the response? Certainly not an invasion, in fact, a few weeks ago we just sold Pakistan more F-16's (Is Pakistan a democracy? No. Who is Pakistan's #1 enemy? - the world's most populous democracy). So even if Saddam did have WMD's, that wasn't the reason for our invasion, otherwise we would have invaded Pakistan as well. Another reason given prior to the war was that Iraq had connections to Al-Queda, and many Fox News viewers still believe this to be the case. The US had stronger links to Al-Qaeda than Hussein ever did: We helped to organize, arm, and train them to fight the Russians in Afghanistan. This whole business about bringing democracy to Iraq was a "reason" invented after the invasion when the other justifications for war have been proven false. And just how much "democracy" are we going to allow the Iraqis to have, anyway - will we let them decide that we can't use any of the military bases that we're building there? What if they don't want to give any contracts to US oil companies? What if they want to have Sharia law? What if they want to ally themselves with Iran or China? Do you really believe that the neocons intend to let Iraqis choose? Do you personally think they should be allowed to choose? If not, then how are we better than the USSR was relative to East Germany?

Bush and the neocons in his administration invaded Iraq to reassert US control over Middle East oil because of the immense economic and strategic benefits that they bring to whoever controls them.

You also said that:

"Overall, I think we are the good guys/police and they are the bad guys/criminals."

and

"The view that the general intent of our government is good (regardless of what party is in the White House) has to be a common starting point."

I believe that it is dangerous and against the principles of democracy to automatically assume that our government is doing the right thing. The difference between a democracy and an authoritarian government is that as citizens we have the right and the duty to closely monitor our government's actions both in terms of domestic and foreign policy. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. The leaders of our government have access to power that is unprecedented and unparalleled in human history. They control a military machine that has no equal, nothing even remotely close. We cannot simply assume that they are always going to do the right thing - we must verify, we must look at all of the evidence before we decide whether or not they are doing the right thing.

History has shown that we have consistantly backed authoritarian regimes because it was percieved that this would benefit the US economically. We have ignored human rights violations by our allies, and used them as an excuse to attack our enemies (who are sometimes guilty of them, and sometimes not). A close look at some of the regimes we support and some that we oppose clearly shows that the level of democracy in a nation is not the basis on which we decide who to support and who to oppose. In some of my previous posts I've given laundry lists of truly evil tyrants that we have helped assume and/or maintain power.

smm said: "You also name the Shah of Iran as an oppressor even though he brought social and political reform including the vote for women, land reform, and a program to illiminate illiteracy. He was an established ally of the U.S., though. So is that why you consider him an oppressor? "

The secret police in the Shah's Iran were every bit as power, ruthless, and cruel as the KGB or Stasi, but smmt defends him because he was an ally, and our allies are held to be "good" by definition. Do some of your own research on the Shah's secret police if you don't believe me.

The danger I'm talking about in this unquestioning obedience to authority is in deciding BEFORE you look at the evidence who is doing good and who is doing evil. Do some research on the Sandinistas - but again, don't come up with a verdict before you look at BOTH sides of the evidence. Go ahead and see what Fox news has to say, but then look at ZNET, The Nation, Common Cause, and Media Matters for America, among others. "Manufacturing Consent" by Chomsky has an excellent discussion of Central America in the 80's.
If you think that you are getting a real opposing viewpoint from Time, Newsweek, CNN, et al., just look at who owns them: large conglomerated corporations. What you hear from them is the corporate viewpoint - what's good for business, for profits, Not what's good for human rights, democracy and justice.

and to smmt: Look at what the Pope said, and look at what you said. One of you must be wrong. Which one is it? I don't know if you're a Catholic, so I don't know how far you believe him.

But what about you Justin? Was the Pope right when he said "Violence and weapons can never resolve the problems of man.", or was he mistaken? Look at what he had to say about invading Iraq. Look at what MLK had to say about Vietnam.

Posted by: reality based at April 11, 2005 3:14 AM

Reality Based,
It must be lonely being you, not to mention terribly stressful. Yes the Pope was right that war and violence threaten the whole of humanity and will never solve the problems of humankind. That doesn't erase the fact that the Pope had no influence on North Korea, Saddam Hussein's Iraq, Iran, Syria, et al. That doesn't erase the fact that the Pope wasn't able to stop Saddam Hussein from torturing and murdering hundreds of thousands Iraqi citizens. That doesn't erase the fact that he couldn't stop China from continuing to threaten invasion of Taiwan. That doesn't change the fact that he couldn't stop the Mullahs of Iran from reppressing the Iranians more than the Shah.

But I see you've dodged the question of abortion. Let me guess, you see nothing wrong with killing fetuses. Let me hazard another guess that you also still see nothing wrong with starving and dehydrating Terri Schiavo to death. Instead you would rather get preachy about how the U.S. government can't do anything right and good.

And you believe my thinking is contorted. You have my pity.

Posted by: smmtheory at April 11, 2005 8:28 AM

reality based,

"The question is whether thier opinions translate to bias against conservative students as evidenced by unfair grading, etc. This paper was the only example (that I have found) where I can see the paper and the grade it recieved, to see for myself if any bias is apparent. I would be interested in seeing other examples of contested grades to help confirm or refute the contention."

But surely you can see that the widespread dominance of liberal views can have more subtle effects than overt bias in grading papers? What about the fact that students are not idiots, and if a professor (in, say, poli sci) constantly denigrates conservatives and/or conservative positions, the students are far less likely to write papers that defend a conservative position, or speak out in class to defend the same (unless they are very courageous/outspoken, and don't need the professor's recommendation to get into grad school.) Not to mention all the examples of administrations harassing conservative religious and political student groups. And politically correct speech codes, etc.

Mike S.:"Did/do you go to college? What was your major? Do you have any contact with the academy now? Have you read anything else about campus bias besides a couple of Horowitz columns?"

"Yes, I first went to college on an AFROTC scholarship at UW (WA), as a pre-engineering student in 1984. Through many political debates with a fraternity brother, my world view began to make a profound change and I decided that I did not want to pursue a career in the military. Knowing what I did Not want to do was not the same as knowing what I Do want to do- I went to school for awhile after that, then went to work for several years at low paying jobs. Currently, I am back at school to finish a BA (interdisciplinary major - mainly Anthropology and Psych) after which I want to get a Masters with certification to teach elementary school. Q2: Most of what I've read about bias on campus has been through Horowitz, and following links from his sites."

I guess I'd make two comments here: 1) campus bias was not as overt and hostile in 1984 as it is now, and 2) I would think that whether or not the campus you are on is highly biased, if you pay any attention at all to the fields of anthropology and psychology you can surely discern their strong leftward tilt. Again, as a liberal perhaps that doesn't concern you as much - but surely you can put yourself in the shoes of a conservative (particularly a 19 or 20-year-old one) and see how they would percieve the situation as much more hostile.

What do you make of the Larry Summer's flap at Harvard?

Mike S.: "The question is, why don't you take conservatives claims at face value? That doesn't mean that you have to accept everything they say, but it seems to me you should assume that there might very well be something to them until proven otherwise."

"In this particular case, 2 reasons: (1) I'm assuming that, as a general rule, professors are innocent (of letting their political beliefs influence grades) until they are proven guilty, and (2) My general impression of professors I have dealt with is that they have professional integrity, which adds to my presumption of innocence."

Again, direct influence on grades is not a fair measure of the effects of campus bias. Certainly a large fraction of professors are fair, including many liberal ones. But you need to look at the situation as a whole, not just at your personal experience. Has there ever been a serious debate in any of your anthropology classes between conservative and liberal positions? Do you know any conservative students in your classes, and have you ever asked them about their views of the bias or lack thereof on your campus?

Posted by: Mike S. at April 11, 2005 10:14 AM
And just how much "democracy" are we going to allow the Iraqis to have, anyway - will we let them decide that we can't use any of the military bases that we're building there? What if they don't want to give any contracts to US oil companies? What if they want to have Sharia law? What if they want to ally themselves with Iran or China? Do you really believe that the neocons intend to let Iraqis choose? Do you personally think they should be allowed to choose? If not, then how are we better than the USSR was relative to East Germany?

Why don't we wait and see, instead of jumping to the conclusions implied by your questions? Because we're not here to blame America first, remember?

Posted by: Mike S. at April 11, 2005 10:17 AM

"Bush and the neocons in his administration invaded Iraq to reassert US control over Middle East oil because of the immense economic and strategic benefits that they bring to whoever controls them."

Can you name names, here? Who are these neocons? And who has the decision-making power at the highest levels?

Mark Miller said, "The view that the general intent of our government is good (regardless of what party is in the White House) has to be a common starting point."

To which reality based replied, "I believe that it is dangerous and against the principles of democracy to automatically assume that our government is doing the right thing."

Can you see the difference between intent/motivations and outcomes?

Mark is referring to the concept of a loyal opposition - the party or parties out of power have commitments to the country that transcend their own political power. Right now we have a situation where many people on the left have abandoned that principle. The new head of the Democratic National Party demonizes Republicans at every step. Before you repeat the mantra that "both sides do it" think about who is doing it - does Ed Gillespie liken Democrats to Nazis? Rush Limbaugh is not equivalent to Howard Dean, Ted Kennedy, or Robert Byrd.

Posted by: Mike S. at April 11, 2005 10:37 AM

Political bias on campus: compare and contrast the treatment received by Larry Summers and Lee Bollinger. http://techcentralstation.com/040705D.html

Posted by: Mike S. at April 11, 2005 11:29 AM

John Leo with a timely column illustrating some of the other kinds of campus bias I was referring to:
http://www.townhall.com/columnists/johnleo/jl20050411.shtml

Posted by: Mike S. at April 11, 2005 11:48 AM

Mike S. defended me. Someone pinch me.

But Mike S. is right. The difference is in ‘intent’ versus ‘action’ and you chose to ignore addressing that distinction.

RB: "Bush did not invade Iraq because he's some kind of sadistic pervert. He also didn't invade because of the reasons that he told us: that Iraq had WMD's."
---- Wrong. I truly believe that he did believe that he felt we would find WMD’s. He was wrong. That does change the intent or purpose.

RB: "A few months ago the story broke that our ally Pakistan was selling nuclear secrets and technologies to other countries, including North Korea. What was the response? Certainly not an invasion, in fact, a few weeks ago we just sold Pakistan more F-16's. (Is Pakistan a democracy? No. Who is Pakistan's #1 enemy? - the world's most populous democracy)."
------ I hadn’t heard that we just sold weapons to Pakistan. But in any case, your comment that invading Pakistan based on the same criteria that was used in Iraq completely ignors Saddam’s past and even current history. You act as if Bush all of a sudden heard that it was possible that Saddam had WMD’s and decided to attack. And if Bush heard that Belgium had WMD’s, the fact that he did not invade makes the decision illogical. Is the existence of UN resolutions condemning Saddam irrelevant ?. Is the fact that he wouldn’t let inspectors in irrelevant ? To you, is his past behavior in regards to supporting terrorists, having WMD’s and invading other countries irrelevant ? My guess is that your response is that our government too has supported terrorists (inadvertently and in hindsight), we have WMD’s and invaded other countries. Actually we don’t invade other countries to gain power over their people, we attack for the purpose of protecting them. Again, you ignore the fact that, regardless of outcome or method, our intent is very different than theirs. And the bottom line is that you see no distinction between Iraq under Saddam and the US. No distinction between the intent of the police and the intent of the criminal.

RB: "Do you really believe that the neocons intend to let Iraqis choose? Do you personally think they should be allowed to choose? If not, then how are we better than the USSR was relative to East Germany?"
---- So you feel that the whole Iraqi election was a ruse by the US ? That we really have no intention of letting them rule themselves. Sounds like a big conspiracy to me. By the way, what other Middle Eastern country have we pursued control for this purpose ? The argument that the US only intervenes based on economic interests is silly. There are numerous of other countries where US control would reap economic benefits. I guess it is a coincidence to you that our ‘interventions’ just happen to be against those whose leaders are murderous thugs. Yes, there are countries run by thugs who we have not intervened against – so there are ‘other’ things to consider. But can you name a US intervention against a peaceful country – regardless of the economic gain ? And by the way, how do you reconcile the support of Tony Blair in this war ? Let me guess, he is just a puppet of the United States and would jump off a bridge if Bush told him to. (that’s the argument I’ve heard from others)

RB: "The danger I'm talking about in this unquestioning obedience to authority is in deciding BEFORE you look at the evidence who is doing good and who is doing evil."
----- I would agree with you here. Except that in my opinion, it is also you that has the unquestioned obedience before looking at evidence. Like I’ve said many many times, there is legitimate debate on whether we should have gone to war in Iraq at this time. But that is different that trying to argue that the US is the ‘bad guy’ in this instance. Arguing that just makes you a mirror image of people like Rush. Rush – US (with a Republican President) can do no wrong. You – US (with a Republican President) can do no right. Not a big distinction to me.

Posted by: Mark Miller at April 11, 2005 2:45 PM

On the hijacking of the word 'liberal'.

Posted by: Mike S. at April 12, 2005 10:58 AM

>> "I’m saying that the 640,000 Tons of bombs that we dropped on that tiny country increased the state of chaos there and the popularity of the KR (because they opposed the US backed government of Lon Nol) which made the KR takeover more likely."

The North Vietnamese involved Cambodia in the war against the government in South Vietnam. The Cambodian government was intimidated, superficially asserted neutrality, aided the North Vietnamese, and this led to American and South Vietnamese counter-measures.

If you had some concept of how chaos was the goal of the Communists, because it would lead to revolution blah-blah-blah, you would be less accusative of the USA. We restrained our hand for most the war in South Vietnam because of peaceniks who'd rather that the people of South Vietnam suffer attacks from across the border.

What followed was tragic but not something you can so easily lay at the feet of our country. Blame America first is your bumper sticker.

Posted by: Chairm at April 12, 2005 5:25 PM

"I could be reading too much into this, but it seems to me that this particular manifestation of adolescent psychosis offers partial explanation for Western liberals' sympathy for the most retrograde practices of Islamic fundamentalists."

This is Mr. Katz' criticism of my LTE of the Providence Journal of late.

Mr. Katz, I take exception to your comment about my letter as a "manifestation of adolescent phychosis". I can only conclude from your immediate hurling of an insult that my point of view hold much water or that you are simply too dense to understand what I'm saying. My point is simply this: When it comes to justice, private or public, it must be applied consistently, otherwise our social fabric of impartiality and fairness unravels. In the case of the Schiavo debacle, we have the conservatives who want to immediately strip a husband of the very marital rights that were promoted in the last election by those same conservatives. Where is the justice in this? If you elect, appoint or sanction a person to be a proxy on behalf of another, it cannot be arbitrarily questioned otherwise we might as well throw out the entire system. (When it comes to marriage it would be quite fine with me as it borders on being a farce anyway.)

As long as I am on the marriage topic: The conservatives were rabid about keeping marriage "the way it is", based on its heritage. If the conservatives are unwilling to broaden the rights and benefits of marriage in this day and age, then they might as well revert to marriage as it was defined millenia ago in the Judeo tradition: girls and boys were married by age 13; Biblical fathers, including Abraham and David, had many wives and/or "other women" ; dowries and courtesies were prerequisites for a couple to unite; families arranged the marriages. If marriage could evolve dropping these (what today's Christians would surely call "unthinkable", yet religious-based) conditions, then why can't marriage continue to evolve to be more inclusive? Hmmm?

Quite ironically, you suggest that my point of view, which you assume to be liberal, supports that of "retrograde Islamic Fundamentalism." I can only laugh at this. The U.S. conservatives are the ones who are trying to shape our country into one based on fundamentalism: where the Church controls who can do what and when; where the government operates in secrecy; where those who dare to disagree are labeled "unpatriotic"; where the rich get richer and the poor become more disenfranchised. I could go on. We might as well have changed our country's name to Iraq.

I'm flattered that my letter has drawn so much dialogue on both sides. Thank you to all those who understood and rallyed to my defense.

Thank you!

-M Carrie Ruo

Posted by: M Carrie Ruo at April 12, 2005 10:31 PM
"The U.S. conservatives are the ones who are trying to shape our country into one based on fundamentalism: where the Church controls who can do what and when; where the government operates in secrecy; where those who dare to disagree are labeled "unpatriotic"; where the rich get richer and the poor become more disenfranchised. I could go on. We might as well have changed our country's name to Iraq."

Speaking of adolescence. . .

Posted by: smmtheory at April 13, 2005 2:42 AM

Chairm:
"If you had some concept of how chaos was the goal of the Communists, because it would lead to revolution blah-blah-blah, you would be less accusative of the USA."

Actually, Ho Chi Minh's goal, from the time that he was fighting the Japanese in Vietnam as an ally of America during WWII , to when he was fighting the French after WWII, and finally, when he was fighting the US after the French were gone, remained the same: independence from foreign control.
(smmt: there's an ally that we left "dangling in the wind" - Ho didn't start out as a communist - he sought the support of the US Before he turned to the communists for help)

"We restrained our hand for most the war in South Vietnam..."

...Six months later the 'Rolling Thunder' air campaign began. In this campaign alone more bombs were dropped on North Vietnam alone than were used in the whole of the Second World War. In the following five years the two Vietnams received the equivalent of 22 tons of explosives for every square mile of territory, or 300lb for every man, women and child. 7 million tons of bombs and defoliants were dropped in total and 2.6 million Vietnamese were killed...

...The total tonnage of bombs dropped over North Vietnam, South Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos came to about 8 million (about four times the tonnage used in all of WWII)...

Correct me if I'm wrong here, Chairm, but WWII was a pretty big war, conducted over a vast area. Yet we dropped more bombs on that tiny corner of South East Asia than were dropped in ALL of WWII. That's "restraining our hand"?

"...because of peaceniks who'd rather that the people of South Vietnam suffer attacks from across the border."

Actually, the peaceniks' goal was that the Vietnamese people would not suffer any more attacks from across the Pacific Ocean.

Here's a little quiz:

Why was the 1959 vote in Vietnam cancelled?

What was a free-fire zone?

What was a strategic hamlet?

Finish this sentence: "It became necessary to _______ the village in order to save it."

How many people died in that war?
(hint: it's a lot more than 58,000 - Asians are people, too.)

Read The Pentagon Papers. It's not Jane Fonda's history of the war - its a compilation of internal papers written by Pentagon officials.

Posted by: reality based at April 13, 2005 2:58 AM

Ms. Ruo,

I think your comment speaks for itself, but one thing:

In the case of the Schiavo debacle, we have the conservatives who want to immediately strip a husband of the very marital rights that were promoted in the last election by those same conservatives.

It may be that I missed something, but I don't recall which conservatives promoted a husband's right to kill his wife.

Posted by: Justin Katz at April 13, 2005 5:20 AM

Reality Based,
Repeat after me... Fetuses are people too!

One and a half million a year in the U.S. alone. That's more death and destruction since 1973 than the U.S. government has visited on anybody since it's inception. Quit your paltry whining about U.S. foreign policy mistakes and start working on changing domestic policy mistakes.

I dare say that you would actually get a better reception here than you do with the other stuff.

Posted by: smmtheory at April 13, 2005 8:23 AM

"How many people died in that war?
(hint: it's a lot more than 58,000 - Asians are people, too.)"

How many people died after we stopped funding the South Vietnamese? How many people took to the ocean in rickety boats after the Communists took over?

"Actually, the peaceniks' goal was that the Vietnamese people would not suffer any more attacks from across the Pacific Ocean."

So it's OK if the Communist party forcibly takes control, but it's not OK for us to come to the aid of those who are resisting? The Communist party (Ho Chi Minh) != "the Vietnamese people".

Would it be OK for us to use military force to help Taiwan in the case of a Chinese attack? Why or why not?

Posted by: Mike S. at April 13, 2005 12:45 PM

Mike S: "So it's OK if the Communist party forcibly takes control, but it's not OK for us to come to the aid of those who are resisting? The Communist party (Ho Chi Minh) != "the Vietnamese people" "

The answer to your question is the answer to my question:
Why was the 1959 vote in Vietnam cancelled?
A: Because the US knew that Ho Chi Minh would win. Our puppet, Diem, was a cruel and ruthless tyrant who was very unpopular with the Vietnamese people.

How many people died after we stopped funding the South Vietnamese? How many people took to the ocean in rickety boats after the Communists took over?

Looking at my world map, Vietnam looks to be smaller than California. Imagine all of the bombs dropped in WWII, times four, dropped on California. Imagine how much infrastructure would be left - how would the people be able to survive there with their fields poisoned and littered with unexploded ordinance that continues to kill farmers? Imagine the anger of the remaining Californians at that tiny minority in their midst who sided with those who unleashed such terror on their homeland in exchange for positions of relative power and wealth.

"Would it be OK for us to use military force to help Taiwan in the case of a Chinese attack? Why or why not?"

Yes, because we would be supporting a benevolent, democratic government that the people of Taiwan have chosen for themselves, not a tyrannical puppet government that we have installed to act as a pawn in our chess game against the communists.

SMMT: "Quit your paltry whining about U.S. foreign policy mistakes and start working on changing domestic policy mistakes."

So you admit that these were mistakes?

"I dare say that you would actually get a better reception here than you do with the other stuff"

undoubtedly true, but I don't need to get my back scratched.

Posted by: reality based at April 13, 2005 1:17 PM

Justin: This is probably going to surprise you here, but I'm going to be "on topic" for a moment:

Is your position about Terry Schiavo the same as smmts' - that living wills that specify that life support should be ended in specified conditions are immoral and should be illegal, or is it your position that this (removal of the feeding tube) is not what Terry would have wanted for herself, were she able to speak for herself?

Posted by: reality based at April 13, 2005 1:23 PM

"The answer to your question is the answer to my question:
Why was the 1959 vote in Vietnam cancelled?
A: Because the US knew that Ho Chi Minh would win. Our puppet, Diem, was a cruel and ruthless tyrant who was very unpopular with the Vietnamese people."

What's the difference between a cruel and ruthless tyrant who is very unpopular with the Vietnamese people, and one who is more popular with them? Stalin was quite popular with the Russian public, too.

"to act as a pawn in our chess game against the communists."

Do you think we should have resisted communist expansion using military force when necessary/practicable, but just faltered in our execution, or do you think we should not have used military force to resist communism?

There are few people who don't agree that the U.S. made many mistakes in Vietnam, and that we did some things that were morally suspect, if not reprehensible. The key question is whether one thinks that our initial aims in getting involved there were acceptable, or whether the whole thing was a morally corrupt enterprise. Many on the left don't, and didn't, argue that we had noble, or at least geostrategically reasonable, aims when we got involved in Vietnam, but that we failed drastically in achieving those aims. They argue that our intentions from the beginning were morally corrupt. (The same is true of Iraq.) They key point with respect to Vietnam was that many on the left simply didn't see any problem with Communism - they didn't think we should be resisting it at all, let alone militarily in far off countries. This is where the "blame America first" attitude became so widespread - the point wasn't that America had the right intentions, but bungled the execution, it was that America was wrong to begin with.

So the question is, should we have resisted Communism, and, if so, what measures were acceptable to resist it?

Posted by: Mike S. at April 13, 2005 1:48 PM

Reality Biased,
Just because your perception is that I have "admitted" that the U.S. has made foreign policy mistakes, that does NOT mean that I believe as you do that our government can do no right or good. I still believe that there was no evil intention behind those mistakes. Our government bureaucracy is made of humans, not mechanical automatons and sometimes humans make mistakes. I have never claimed that our government has never made mistakes. Please note that this is NOT an admission that I think it was wrong for our government to try to prevent communist expansion into Iran, Afghanistan, Viet Nam, various countries in South America and Central America.

Also bear in mind that I continue to notice that your views on abortion are typically Culture of Death oriented. In my opinion this more than mitigates any credibility you may have had about opposing the Death Penalty. That and your other extremist views place you well outside of any resemblance to Culture of Life thinking.

Posted by: smmtheory at April 13, 2005 6:03 PM

SMMT: "Just because your perception is that I have "admitted" that the U.S. has made foreign policy mistakes,"

I guess you didn't notice the question mark at the end of my sentence.

"that does NOT mean that I believe as you do that our government can do no right or good."

I have never expressed such a belief - however, I have said that what isn't broke doesn't need fixing; by which I mean that I believe its more important to look at our mistakes so that we can learn from them than it is to spend time patting ourselves on the back for how good we are.

"Also bear in mind that I continue to notice that your views on abortion are typically Culture of Death oriented."

I wasn't aware that I had expressed any views on abortion yet, other than to note that 'liberals' respect for human rights seems to begin after the umbilical cord is cut, and conservatives' respect for human rights seems to end there.' (not an exact quote of myself, but pretty close.)

"I still believe that there was no evil intention behind those mistakes. Our government bureaucracy is made of humans, not mechanical automatons and sometimes humans make mistakes. I have never claimed that our government has never made mistakes."

All this talk of intentions. Somebody earlier made an excellent point in reference to liberals - perhaps it was Ben (I can't find it right now) - that he wasn't interested in what liberals believe, he was interested in the results of their beliefs. That's similar to my point about looking at the results of our government's actions.

I believe this point was made in one of those discussions about how liberals differ from conservatives, his point being that conservatives are focused on results, while liberals are focused on intent. Yet the conservatives disagreeing with me here want to focus on intentions, not the results that I point out. curious.

Posted by: reality based at April 13, 2005 6:30 PM

Here they are, from Ben Bateman:

"Here again we must distinguish between thoughts and behavior. You may not have intended to help Saddam by protesting the war. For argument, I’ll assume that your motives were as pure as the driven snow. But to a conservative, that’s largely irrelevant. To a conservative, the question is: What effect did your behavior have in the real world?"

"I’m not interested in what liberals think. I’m interested in what they do. "

Posted by: reality based at April 13, 2005 6:42 PM

RB,

I think in this case, it was ridiculous to claim that anything resembling a living will existed. As for the morality of living wills, I'd say that, clearly, some are immoral, and that some ought to be illegal. Where the legal line meant to accommodate a diverse society would fall should be, I'd say, a matter for public debate and (preferably) state-by-state policy.

Whatever the case, though, I think all doubts ought to default to life.

Posted by: Justin Katz at April 13, 2005 7:38 PM

>> "Finish this sentence: "It became necessary to _______ the village in order to save it."

Quizz me this Riddler. Who created that myth? Who still believes it? Who still drags it out as flippant defence of the Blame America First bumper sticker?

But you know what? The Communist Viet Cong were very favorably disposed to destroying the inhabitants of villages that were protected by the US and South Vietnamese forces in south Vietnam. And our forces were defending the border that the Communists were breaching as a matter of war policy; they involved the Cambodian territory. Their aggression against a separate country to their south (South Vietnam) also invited bombing in their own territory. The duplicity of the cambodian regime was based largely on the intimidation of the Communists but also invited invasion.

Read the Pentagon Papers, yourself. Teach yourself something based on reality. Go to Cambodia and talk to the survivors. Talk to families like mine. Learn from the Communist war policy in South East Asia. Then learn to stop blaming America first.

Posted by: Chairm Ohn at April 13, 2005 7:51 PM

[Justin, sorry for going off-topic. I'll tone it down. Mike S - thanks for stepping up.]

Posted by: Chairm at April 13, 2005 7:53 PM

"It may be that I missed something, but I don't recall which conservatives promoted a husband's right to kill his wife."

Kill? I think there is a major semantic problem here. She killed herself 15 years ago by becoming bulemic to the point of brain damage. She demonstrated she did not want food. If anything, he kept her alive way beyond what anyone would have dreamed. If the same incident happened 50-100 years ago, before artifical life support came into use, we would not even be arguing about this. She was kept in a bed prison. I'm sorry, but that is no life. I certainly would not want it--and my partner knows it.

Curious, if the couple were gay, I wonder if there would have been such a similar outcry to keep Terry alive? I wonder if, in the absence of a living will, how the chips would fall if a cognitive gay partner would have finally decided it were time to let their partner die in peace? I already know the answer--which is why we want equal marriage rights.


Posted by: M Carrie Ruo at April 13, 2005 8:49 PM

Yes, curious. I wonder what people's assessment would be if one gay partner who had already recoupled (in a relationship including children) decided to recall that the disabled other partner would have wanted to die. Better yet, here's a litmus test for you: what if Terri had been a man and Michael, currently living with a woman and their mutual children, went to court to have his feeding tube removed?

As for your rhetorical questions, I'm not sure what you're implying. Are you upset at the idea that there would have been less outcry if they'd been homosexual? Or do you think there shouldn't have been any outcry at all?

Posted by: Justin Katz at April 13, 2005 9:17 PM

M. Carrie Ruo so epitomizes the tendency Stanley Kurtz notes here.

I know, we'll probably get more tu quoques. And there certainly are examples of this on both sides, but it doesn't negate the point. An adversarial notion of us vs. them has caused many to be unable to, or refuse to, even consider the possibility that the other side may have legitimate points about anything. And this is how the ability to intelligently discuss and debate issues central to us all will continue to degenerate if it goes on.

Posted by: R.K. at April 13, 2005 10:40 PM

"Kill? I think there is a major semantic problem here. She killed herself 15 years ago by becoming bulemic to the point of brain damage."

Speaking of semantic problems, brain damaged is not dead.

"If the same incident happened 50-100 years ago, before artifical life support came into use, we would not even be arguing about this."

And this is relevant how? I'm diabetic - 100 years ago I wouldn't have lived past 20 or so. That's not a rationale for taking away my insulin.

"She was kept in a bed prison. I'm sorry, but that is no life. I certainly would not want it--and my partner knows it."

This is the key distinction - you think the value of one's life is dependent upon whether it is desirable (on some arbitrary scale). Whereas those trying to protect her life think that human life has intrinsic value, whether the individual is capable of expressing herself or not, and even if the individual herself doesn't value her life. You can't really know what such a life is like until you've lived it, so you have no basis for asserting that if you were in such a state, you'd prefer to be dehydrated to death.

Posted by: Mike S. at April 13, 2005 10:43 PM

Sorry, the link to Kurtz that I posted above does not work. Try this one.

Posted by: R.K. at April 13, 2005 11:09 PM

"You can't really know what such a life is like until you've lived it, so you have no basis for asserting that if you were in such a state, you'd prefer to be dehydrated to death."

I agree that I, nor any other person not in a vegetative state, could know what such a life is like until it is lived. However, if by some unfortunate turn of events I were to experience such a life, I would not be able to decide for myself, which is why I say now that should it happen, please do not keep me alive. I would rather that any useable parts of my body live on in someone else who could enjoy a quality of life.

Using your logic, nobody who is healthy should make DNR decisions.


Posted by: M Carrie Ruo at April 13, 2005 11:20 PM

Justin, I have a question - a consistent and correct criticism of my posts is that I tend to change the subject: is there an appropriate place on your site to discuss issues of war and peace? Although I seem to be in the minority here on the anti-war side, I am not the only one who seems to be interested in discussing these points. I'm not at all implying that its your responsibility to provide places on your site for topics other than the ones you bring up - but if you did want to, where would it be?

also, here's a question for anyone who wants to educate me: how do you put those nice links in your comments that you can click on, rather than the clumsy ones I use that require copying and pasting?

Posted by: reality based at April 14, 2005 1:34 AM

RB,

Well, at one point matters of war and peace more often got their own posts. It's not that gravity or interest changed, just that I generally only post that on which I believe I've got something unique to say. I'll keep an eye out, though.

As for links, use the following code:

<a href="http://www.thewebsiteaddresshere.com">This text will be the link.</a>

Posted by: Justin Katz at April 14, 2005 5:59 AM

Realty Based:

"I have never expressed such a belief - however, I have said that what isn't broke doesn't need fixing; by which I mean that I believe its more important to look at our mistakes so that we can learn from them than it is to spend time patting ourselves on the back for how good we are."

Softening up the language now? You were putting it in a harsher term of abusive behavior earlier instead of mistakes, making (or trying to make) it seem as if the U.S. has been more abusive all along than any other country.

RB again:

"All this talk of intentions. Somebody earlier made an excellent point in reference to liberals - perhaps it was Ben (I can't find it right now) - that he wasn't interested in what liberals believe, he was interested in the results of their beliefs. That's similar to my point about looking at the results of our government's actions."

I don't happen to agree with Ben on that one. So, see if you can find a quote from me saying that I didn't care about your intentions. As far as I'm concerned your intentions are bad and bent toward harmful ends. Just because you haven't admitted to yourself that your intentions are not good doesn't mean that others can't see that.

RB also:

"I wasn't aware that I had expressed any views on abortion yet, other than to note that 'liberals' respect for human rights seems to begin after the umbilical cord is cut, and conservatives' respect for human rights seems to end there.' (not an exact quote of myself, but pretty close.)"

It seems pretty clear to me what your lack of response on this indicates. You brush it off with a cutesy quote and rant all the more about what you perceive as our country's human rights abuses using manufactured talking points all the while proclaiming that you've "kept your mind open to the fact that our government might not be perfect like you were mislead to believe by your fundamentalist parents" and implying that you're the only one around here who is reality based.

Posted by: smmtheory at April 14, 2005 8:28 AM

"Using your logic, nobody who is healthy should make DNR decisions."

Do you know what DNR stands for? Do Not Resuscitate. By my logic, nobody who is healthy would be allowed to enforce a decision to dehydrate someone to death who is in a PVS, that is true. Terri Schiavo wasn't being resuscitated - she'd been in the same condition for 15 years. It took a proactive act by Michael Schiavo and the courts to bring about her death.

My logic results in some hard cases, where someone needs to be cared for for decades, possibly. Your logic (that cognitive function determines the value of life) requires making arbitrary distinctions about the value of human lives, declaring that this one is deserving of the protection of the law, this one not, etc. I prefer a legal system and a culture that protects life, rather than one that arbitrarily decides who should live and who should die.

Posted by: Mike S. at April 14, 2005 9:07 AM

RB: "All this talk of intentions."

What do you think "Blame America First" refers to, if not an intention (or attitude). I only partially agree with Ben's formulation - I think many liberals have, or had, good intentions. But I think in many cases of particular policies, there is ample evidence that they don't work as designed, that they have negative consequence, and that they should be stopped. Yet liberals continue to support them blindly.

Posted by: Mike S. at April 14, 2005 9:20 AM

Forget my above link. Here below is the Kurtz article in its entirety:


The Church of the Left
Finding meaning in liberalism.

By Stanley Kurtz, fellow, the Hudson Institute
May 31, 2001 9:10 a.m.


"Sometime during the past thirty years, liberalism stopped being a mere political perspective and turned into a religion. I
mean that literally. Liberalism now functions for substantial numbers of its adherents as a religion: an encompassing worldview that answers the big questions about life, lends significance to our daily exertions, and provides a rationale for meaningful collective action."

"It wasn't supposed to be that way. Liberalism arose as a solution to the destructive religious wars of Europe's past, and succeeded because it allowed people of differing religious perspectives to live peacefully and productively in the same society. Designed to make the world safe for adherents of differing faiths, liberalism itself was never supposed to be a faith. But that is exactly what liberalism has become. And this transformation of liberalism into a de facto religion explains a lot about what we call "political correctness.""

"Have you ever wondered why conservatives nowadays are so often demonized, even by mainstream liberals? No matter how balanced, well-reasoned, or rooted in long-established principle conservative objections to, say, affirmative action or gay marriage may be, conservatives are still likely to find themselves stigmatized as racist homophobes. By the same token, reasonable conservative ideas are regularly deemed unfit for reasoned debate. This preference for ostracism over engagement amounts to a brilliant strategy on the part of the Left, but the demonization of conservatives can't be explained as a mere conscious tactical maneuver. The stigmatization of conservatives only works because so many people are primed to respond to it in the first place."

"So why have conservatives been demonized? Maybe it's because the religion that liberalism has become is so badly in need of demons. Traditional liberalism simply laid out ground rules for reasoned debate and the peaceful adjudication of political differences. One of the main reasons why politics in a liberal society could be peaceful was that people sought direction about life's ultimate purpose outside of politics itself. But once traditional religion ceased to provide modern liberals with either an ultimate life purpose or a pattern of virtue, liberalism itself was the only belief system remaining that could supply these essential elements of life."

"So how does liberalism grant meaning to life? How does liberalism do what religion used to do? So long as it serves as a mere set of ground rules for adjudicating day-to-day political differences, liberalism remains too "boring" to serve as a religion. But what if liberals were engaged at every moment in a dire, almost revolutionary, struggle for the very principles of liberalism itself? What if liberals were at war on a daily basis with King George III? With Hitler? With Bull Connor? Now that would supply a purpose to life — a purpose capable of endowing even our daily exertions with a larger significance, and certainly a purpose that would provide a rationale for meaningful collective action."

"Consider two standard features of political correctness: the continual expansion in meaning of terms like "racism," "sexism," and "homophobia" and the tendency to invent or exaggerate instances of "oppression." Whereas racism once meant the hatred of someone of another race, the term is now freely applied to anyone who opposes affirmative discrimination, or even to anyone who opposes reparations for slavery. Again, this stigmatization of mainstream conservative positions makes a certain amount of tactical sense (although it badly backfired in the case of the Horowitz ad), but the tactics don't really explain the phenomenon."

"The young students who now live in "multicultural" theme houses, or who join (or ally themselves with) multicultural campus political organizations are looking for a home, in the deepest sense of that word. In an earlier time, the always difficult and isolating transition from home to college was eased by membership in a fraternity, or by religious fellowship. Nowadays, multicultural theme houses, political action, and related coursework supply what religion and fraternities once did. But if the multicultural venture is truly to take the place of religion, it must invite a student to insert himself into a battle of profound significance. The fight for slave reparations, and the unceasing effort to ferret out examples of "subtle" racism in contemporary society, are techniques for sustaining a crusading spirit by creating the feeling that Simon Legree and Bull Conner are lurking just around the next corner. Conservative opponents of affirmative action or slave reparations simply have to be imagined as monsters. Otherwise the religious flavor of the multiculturalist enterprise falls flat, and the war of good against evil is converted into difficult balancing of competing political principles and goods in which no one is a saint or a devil."

"And what about the tendency of political correctness to invent oppression-as in those wildly exaggerated feminist claims about campus rape or economic discrimination? The recent flap over the Independent Women's Forum ad that exposed unreliable feminist claims of oppression hit a nerve because false statistics are not incidental, but are critical to the feminist cause. So many of the young women who affiliate themselves with campus women's centers are looking for a world view, a moral-social home, and a meaningful crusade in which to take part. That is why the horrifying (if false) statistics of female oppression purveyed by these centers conjure up-and are meant to conjure up — images of slavery and the Holocaust. Betty Friedan's, The Feminine Mystique, was a powerful a book because it characterized the suburban home as a "comfortable concentration camp" for women. Friedan's repeated use of Holocaust metaphors for the alleged oppression of women is of a piece with the contemporary feminist practice of making absurdly exaggerated or downright false statistical claims. The Holocaust imagery and the frightening statistics are meant to endow the feminist crusade with an almost apocalyptic sense of urgency and significance. That is why, no matter how many times Christina Hoff Sommers and her compatriots at the Independent Women's Forum expose the errors in feminist claims of oppression, feminists just keep repeating them. It's not about the pursuit of truth; it's about the creation of a cause, a fellowship, a reason for being."

"Of course to say that liberalism has ceased to be a political perspective and has become a religion is another way of saying that liberalism has betrayed itself and become illiberal. This point is made very nicely in an excellent article entitled, "Illiberal Liberalism," by Brian C. Anderson in the current issue of City Journal. Anderson shows how the persistent attempts to silence and stigmatize conservative views by even mainstream liberal voices betray the commitment to rational and civil debate at the core of genuine liberalism. Once liberalism became a religion, the principles that made liberalism what it was — principles like free speech, reasoned debate, and judicial restraint in the face of democratic decision-making — went by the wayside. The secular religion of the educated elite is still recognizable as a distorted version of classic liberalism. But underneath all the talk about "oppression" and "rights," what we're really looking at is a modern way of reproducing good versus evil, and us against them."

"The hidden religious character of modern liberalism explains a lot about contemporary political life. I've already alluded to it in previous pieces on the Horowitz ad and on the president's faith-based initiative. Once you catch on, you'll see it around."

"From de Tocqueville to Allan Bloom and Frances Fukuyama, we've heard the story of America's growing and dangerous tendency toward individual isolation. That story is largely true; but it is also incomplete. We cannot bear our isolation. So in ways sometimes hidden even from ourselves, we strive to overcome it. Liberalism as religion is one solution to the problem of life in a lonely secular world. It allows us to appear to fight for individual freedom, without quite acknowledging to ourselves that we've enlisted in a grand, collective, and almost classically intolerant, religious crusade."

R.K.: Again, I'm not arguing that no conservatives act like they think of conservatism as a religion. Some do (or, more precisely, some act as if all current beliefs of conservatives are addendums to their religion). But this does not negate Kurtz' point, which I can attest to from personal experience. So please, if you want to argue with this, use something other than tu quoques.





Posted by: R.K. at April 14, 2005 8:06 PM

>> "[Professor] Hinton's genocide meme resembles this approach. He begins with something controversial--the difficult trade-offs our government makes between optimizing our security from terrorists and optimizing individual rights and liberties. He then associates it, however loosely, with the worst evil known to mankind--genocide. In this way, he avoids the difficult work of having to discuss how we can protect ourselves from terrorism (and what that means for our civil liberties), or of having to explain why we should protect ourselves less well.

>> But Hinton's piece also echoes an even more disturbing form of leftist argument. This approach involves taking phenomena that, far from widely being considered controversial actually help define us as a nation, and equating them with evil. The professor hints at this in a passage purporting to find echoes of the Khmer Rouge in "an era of new fanaticisms." Hinton does not identify which doctrines (beyond militant Islamic fundamentalism, one assumes) he counts as new fanaticisms.

Argument By Metaphor
The left may lack substantive heft, but it's not short on figures of speech.
by Paul Mirengoff

http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/005/566tjlfa.asp

Posted by: Chairm at May 3, 2005 9:25 AM