Liberalism vs. Conservatism

October 8, 2010

The Goal Is to Silence, Not to Oppose

The protestors dressed as clowns to distract from the fact that their goal is to intimidate.

Posted by Justin Katz at 6:16 AM

October 3, 2010

Only One Side Counts

It's peculiar, in the era of the Tea Party movement, to read a mainstream columnist decrying the disappearance of protesting.

Posted by Justin Katz at 6:29 PM

September 14, 2010

So That Nobody Hasn't Been Warned

Travis Rowley's pamphlet, The Rhode Island Republican, offers a reminder of what we face at the ballot box, this year.

Posted by Justin Katz at 6:13 AM

August 4, 2010

Marriage However They Want It

A judge in California has made same-sex marriage a federal issue. I'd suggest that there are much bigger considerations involved in the immediate issue.

Posted by Justin Katz at 9:56 PM

July 28, 2010

Teaching While Catholic

A Catholic professor fired for teaching Catholic thought as if it might be accurate provides a teachable moment... that emotion trumps intellect and "inclusivity" trumps interaction.

Posted by Justin Katz at 5:57 AM

July 23, 2010

Their Best Weapon Is That Which Ought to Target Them

Hate speech is just a tool by which Evil protects itself while distorting Good.

Posted by Justin Katz at 2:00 PM

The Government They Prefer

A charity event has been effectively muffled in Tiverton, RI, not by tax-hawk right-wingers (like me), but by those who operate the local high-taxing, business-killing fiefdom. That shouldn't be a surprise.

Posted by Justin Katz at 10:00 AM

July 21, 2010

From Within the Socialist Depths

Jay Nordlinger's profile of Norway's Progress party is apt to give a conservative hope that all is never lost.

Posted by Justin Katz at 10:00 AM

June 2, 2010

The Underlying Assumption of the Leftist Taxers

How can the government possibly define "unearned income" in any objective way?

Posted by Justin Katz at 10:00 AM

April 29, 2010

Interesting Poll Results

It looks like even Rhode Island might be crossing an objective center line in politics, from left to right.

Posted by Justin Katz at 9:29 AM

April 19, 2010

The Center Is Relative, I Suppose

Is the Rhode Island government "centrist" or liberal? Oh, come on.

Posted by Justin Katz at 10:16 AM

April 13, 2010

The Definitionally Centrist Tea Party

A look at the RI Tea Party has convinced Ed Achorn that the movement of which it is a part is the reawakening of the great American middle.

Posted by Justin Katz at 2:00 PM

April 10, 2010

For Us to Be Them, Somebody Must Be Us

As the Obama Era drags on, advocates for big government continue to cite Europe as an exemplar of the government-citizen compact at work. The problem is that the world needs a United States.

Posted by Justin Katz at 7:52 AM

January 31, 2005

The Impossibility of Discrete Policies

On my list of intended posts is a response to some comment-section speculation about why folks would spend so much time opposing same-sex marriage — or any other aspect of the "gay rights" movement, for that matter. The insinuation is that the interest is peculiar unless there's some hidden motivation of the sort in which Freudians specialize.

One consequence of that sort of thinking relates to the defense of the mainstream media and academics as "objective": those taking liberal views, since they're obviously correct, can assess things objectively, while those taking opposing views must have dark ulterior motives. The analysis of experts, scholars, and writers who disagree with the Objective Assessment must be tainted. Similarly, those who support same-sex marriage can do so through plain logic, but those who oppose have twisted hearts distorting their thoughts.

Personally, that sort of linkage is what has pulled me ever more deeply into the same-sex marriage debate. It draws on the essences of so many aspects of humanity and human society.

As I suggested, I'm still giving thought to the difference of essences when it comes to motivation to argue against gay causes. For the moment, however, I just wanted to marvel at the impossibility of handling the same-sex marriage debate apart from broader arguments about the functioning (and proper functions) of our society.

In a post on Anchor Rising, I posited that human nature creates a marketplace that incorporates every aspect of society, from economics to familial culture to religion. Liberal welfare policies ignore this marketplace and the interaction of culture and economics, leading to quick-fix solutions (taking money to give money) that exacerbate the problem they seek to resolve.

It's a quick fix to raise the income bar to public assistance for childcare (for example) in order to help two-income families and divorcées. Unfortunately, it also raises the income level at which families have financial incentive for both spouses to work. The market dynamics of workforce size then push salaries toward half the natural level of household incomes, increasing the necessity of two-income families. The daily life created under these circumstances strains relationships and serves to undermine the unity of the family, increasing divorces.

Now apply this environment to the same-sex marriage debate. One of the "conservative" arguments for same-sex marriage is that there will no longer be any need for "marriage-lite" designations that are intended for homosexuals but that wind up being available to heterosexuals. Change the definition of marriage such that homosexuals can marry, and heterosexuals will lose the option of alternative designations with less cultural weight.

The gamble is that the same sort of cultural barrier that keeps opposite-sex acquaintances from getting married will keep same-sex friends from getting married. If possible, I think that would entail an undesirable cultural suspicion of close friendships that mirror marriage in some respects (e.g., cohabitation) — just look at the new eye that modern society brings to the historical practice of sharing a bed. Given the vastness of heterosexuals' majority, however, I don't think preservation of marriage via full sexualization of same-sex relationships likely, and it is made even less so by the solidifying economic norm of the two-income family.

Consequently, the availability of same-sex marriage will be exploited by same-sex acquaintances. Two men or women who've had their expectations of marriage shattered already will be particularly prone to redefine the institution to fit their own purposes. That leaves only those other relationships that would continue to be barred from marriage (say, for example, single-parent plus adult child households), and they have all the claims of mutual care and support that homosexuals do, thus deserving the quick fix of marriage rights.

Posted by Justin Katz at 4:11 PM | Comments (9)

January 24, 2005

A Tally of Power

James Glassman has put together an interesting assessment of conservatives' percentage of control of some of the nation's most powerful institutions:

At the Capitol, the procession’s starting point, Republicans hold a 10-seat majority in the Senate and a solid grasp, for the 10th year in a row, on the House. The majority of governors, including those of the four largest states, are Republican, and the GOP controls most state legislatures.

Most significantly, Americans, by a 3 to 2 margin, identify themselves as conservatives rather than liberals.

The American left — liberalism, collectivism, statism, New Dealism (call it what you want) — remains firmly in charge of most powerful U.S. institutions. Here is a brief review of 10 of them, along with my rough estimate, by percentage, of conservative influence.

Blogs haven't yet made the cut, by the way.

(via Patrick Sweeney)

Posted by Justin Katz at 12:54 PM | Comments (1)

January 21, 2005

When Principles Skirt Politics

I don't wish to drive away a new reader — particularly one with whom I've fundamental disagreements, but who seems willing to engage in straightforward discussion — and I hope I will not do so with this post. Be that as it may, Norm (aka "reality based") has left a comment that lends itself to an analysis that is worth sharing on the main blog. You may read the post and the appended conversation at that link, but I've culled out the text here:

The reason that I believe the government is a better entity [than "the market"] to make such decisions is because I believe in democracy - in government of the people, by the people and for the people. In other words, I believe that we the people should make decisions about such things ( and yes, the media is the topic at hand here, but I am personally more concerned about the other issues I mentioned) - and I believe that in a democracy, the government is the means through which the people decide such things.

We the people, speaking and acting through our elected representitives, can consider more factors when making such decisions than does "the market". The only factor in the impersonal decisions of the market is money. ...

I am not nearly as angry and sad about the possibility of children hearing a "dirty" word or seeing an exposed breast. I am angry and sad about the millions of children growing up in poverty, even though they live in the richest country in the world. I am angry and sad about the children who can't afford to see a doctor or a dentist or even to have enough food to eat. I am angry and sad that a great "Christian" president would call ketchup a vegetable in order to spend less money on school lunches for children who don't have access to adequate nutrition. I am angry and sad that we always seem to find the money to build more prisons, yet we are so miserly with the money that we spend on schools. ...

Access to food and medical care are life and death issues, access to quality education is a life determining issue; I just don't see that swear words or exposed breasts are anywhere close on that scale of importance.

And again: if you are so offended by such things (as I am by other aspects of popular media) I challenge you to kick the habit, kill your television. There are far better forms of entertainment, and far more accurate sources of information available. If that is an unthinkable thought for you, ask yourself why. Is there the slightest chance that you are addicted to TV? Are you like one of those smokers who "could quit anytime you want to?" Prove it to yourself; unplug it for a week and see what happens.

I'm going to skip through the myriad differences on specific policies to get to a point that ought to come quickly to mind to anybody who's read much conservative debate: "the market" is precisely "we the people" making decisions. In capitalism, those decisions are expressed in terms of money; in democracy, they are expressed in terms of votes (well, money too, but leave that aside).

A healthy society will determine which of the two systems — or what other system, or what combination — ought to resolve particular problems. The market does disproportionately weight the wealthy, but the government disproportionately weights those with political infrastructure and, especially in pure democracy, those willing to manipulate the ignorant. In short, neither the government nor the market is always the answer, in whole or in part.

Now look at Norm's actual handling of specific issues. Initially, it appears that he wishes to use the government (votes) to help those at a disadvantage in the market (money). But then he laments that we the people, acting through our elected representatives to consider more factors than the market does, enact policies involving prisons and schools with which he disagrees.

(I'll pause on a specific issue just long enough to note that calling our education spending "miserly" is simply erroneous. With this issue, the flaws of government clearly require a market-based correction, albeit not a total one.)

Ultimately, it appears that Norm understands — and approves of — the principles of market-based society. Wherever he places objectionable entertainment on the scale of social importance, Norm's preference for making public decisions via government ought to dictate a government solution to the problem. And yet, his solution in that respect is a market-based one.

Posted by Justin Katz at 8:13 PM | Comments (12)

January 10, 2005

Fear Dust for Liberals

I've taken a cathartic moment to review, over on Anchor Rising, a masterful and uplifting paragraph by Nation writer Katha Pollitt. For dear irony's sake, I believe it's worth an Andrew Sullivan Malkin Award!

Posted by Justin Katz at 8:30 PM

November 17, 2004

The Red Inside the Blue

I blogged this over at Anchor Rising, but I'm intrigued enough to post it here, as well. Blogger Sensible Mom challenges the notion that the federal government transfers Blue State largesse to Red State indigents:

But let's focus on the election map by county. Those states with large cities, Illinois, New York and California, benefit from the corporate taxes payed by the businesses in those cities. In addition, in many of the blue states, there are large areas of red. Take a look at Illinois and California. One of the collar counties of Chicago, DuPage County, is wealthy. I would like to see the average tax bill per household in DuPage compared to the average in the city of Chicago [I'm going to try to find this data]. I bet it is higher in DuPage.

Move over Lawrence, my hypothesis is that the bulk of the blue states' taxes are paid by corporations and by the people living in the red areas. I now have to research my theory.

Yes, I know the numbers clearly show that Blue States send more to the feds while receiving less back, but something about those numbers seems like a function more of the statistics than of the reality, if you know what I mean.

(Via Lane Core)

Posted by Justin Katz at 10:57 PM

November 11, 2004

The Keepers of Family Values

Over on Anchor Rising, I've posted a response to some claims that Massachusetts liberals "are showing how to conserve family life through the way they live their family values." (In short, the reasoning is that Catholicism inspires socialism, charity via taxes... or something like that.)

Posted by Justin Katz at 8:36 PM

November 8, 2004

No Way Out but Through

Joel, on the blog of Methodist Minister Richard Hall, pays me a compliment of dubious desert:

During the past year, the people I have come to admire the very most are the Bush supporters from "blue" states and the Kerry backers from "red" states. It's pretty easy to be for Kerry if you're from California or Bush if you're home is Oklahoma. But I can respect a person such as Justin Katz from Rhode Island for standing up for what he believes in even though his state will vote Republican only during Reagan-type landslides, it seems.

Admirable or foolishly obstinate? I suppose it's a question of who it is that's kicking against the pricks.

Being in the midst of a desperate job search during the weeks surrounding the election has been instructive. I can't look at the gnashing of teeth among Democrats — as addressed in several of Lane Core's Blogworthies this week — and see a clueless foe increasingly out of power. Instead, I get a glimpse of the thoughts that could very well be going through the mind of a potential employer's résumé screener who has just typed my name into Google.

To some of them, a staunch and religious social conservative is probably the equivalent of an intellectual and somewhat polite Klansman. Would you want to work with a Klansman? I think anybody who has responded to my opinions thus is wrong, of course, but I can't blame a person for the conclusion to which he or she comes having made that erroneous conflation. To tackle the cliché: is discretion the better part of valor? What about when the countdown is at three weeks 'til the mortgage payment is due?

Of course, taking an appropriately optimistic view of things, I could declare it a blessing to have my desire to think and write align so neatly with principle. A writer of any sort must get his name out there, and perhaps all the extra incentive, as negative as it may be, keeps one from giving up halfway.

In the meantime, though, there were 161,654 Bush voters in the state...

Posted by Justin Katz at 8:49 AM | Comments (7)

November 3, 2004

Well into the Next Day

Okay, so maybe in the wee hours of the night/morning, I didn't give adequate consideration to the extent to which the nation continues its rightward swing. I just thought it wouldn't have been so close; look at the opposition candidate.

I think the sheer numbers are by far the most significant aspect. The proponents of slinking "progress" have pushed too hard for too much ground — and perhaps they've reached people's limits no matter the pace. They fight bans on infanticide (to the clear-minded); they seek to bypass the legislature through the judiciary; they believe it's censorship or religious oppression when people of faith speak out and act in their capacity as private citizens, but they call it "civil disobedience" to use the structures of the civil sphere to disobey the law.

Considering my emphasis on cultural matters, there's surely a tilt to my perception for which you should account. That said, however, I think the cultural fight undergirds even the central issue of this election: the War on Terror. America-haters don't hate the country because of fellow citizens who agree with them. More mildly, people who disagree with the President and conservatives on domestic issues were only too obvious in their efforts to find reasons to oppose him as a wartime leader.

The War on Terror will continue, now, but on a broader scale, we may at last be entering the Era of the Culture War. The liberal side isn't going to relinquish its command of societal strongholds just because doing so may dismantle educational, artistic, and informational structures. More than ever, it will be obvious from their point of view that the "system" is not working, because it is not working toward their goals. Already skeptical about their chances in the branches of government that are directly answerable to the people, should they develop any sense that they are losing the judiciary as well, they will feel disconnected from the entire civic sphere of the nation.

This election was one of many showdowns — amid those already fought and yet to come — but it was a supremely significant one. The liberal side risked all-important credibility among its legions in the media in order to make this election a full assault. Toe to toe. And it lost. Those vested in the relevant aspects of American society will surely attempt to regroup and continue their struggle, but they'll do so understanding that theirs are inherently defensive maneuvers.

Others will split from the legitimate opposition, some into radicalism, some into feigned cooperation. From the former, we can expect violence and vitriol until they've lost the ability even to spew those. But keep an eye on the latter, the liberal Republicans and libertarians, for they represent the future's opposition. Whether they commandeer the liberals' worn, but still well-placed, bastions or force schism on the Right, they represent the next stage in humanity's incremental spiral toward the essential choice of every man and woman's life.

Posted by Justin Katz at 4:21 PM

November 1, 2004

"I Sound Like Who?"

A number of people of my acquaintance, online and off, should take a moment to ponder Jim Geraghty's point:

The far left hates George W. Bush with a raging fury. So does al-Qaeda. Was it really so shocking that the rhetoric of the former would eventually be taken up by the latter?

No, this tape should cause many on the left to stare into the mirror for a long time and ask, "What have I turned into? How did I become so reflexively partisan, so blinded by rage, so intemperate in my rhetoric that my own arguments are being echoed by a man who planned and enjoyed the mass murder of Americans?"

"How the hell did I reach the point where I agree with Osama bin Laden on Bush?"

Posted by Justin Katz at 9:41 PM

October 22, 2004

Speaking of Partisans

Hey, when Ann Coulter is right, she's right. I laughed:

Among his other pointless carping about the war in Iraq, Kerry keeps claiming the military is overextended. His supporters claim Bush has a secret plan to bring back the draft. Whatever happened to all those gays who wanted to join the military? We haven't heard a peep out of them lately. How about rounding up a "Coalition of the Fabulous," Sen. Kerry? And what does his good pal Mary Cheney tell him about that?

I wondered:

The Party of Ideas is now equating Halliburton with Enron. The only surprise is that Edwards didn't throw in Watergate and Abscam just for good measure.

As even the New York Times admitted the day after the vice presidential debate, "[T]here is no evidence Mr. Cheney has pulled strings on Halliburton's behalf" and "The independent General Accountability Office concluded that Halliburton was the only company that could have provided the services the Army needed at the outset of the war."

I cried:

On the basis of their own insane, violent behavior toward Republicans, Democrats demand to be put in the White House – so the violence will stop. At this rate, it's only a matter of time before the Kerry campaign announces that anti-Bush insurgents control most of the Bush-Cheney 2004 headquarters, and that the sooner the U.S. pulls out of those quagmires the better.
Posted by Justin Katz at 8:10 AM

October 8, 2004

Nowhere Left to Go

One hears of liberals' promising to leave the country should George Bush win, as did Alec Baldwin before the 2000 election, if I'm not mistaken. In all honesty, I half joked the opposite during that election season. It isn't a promise, joking or not, that I've made this time around, however, should John Kerry win.

The difference isn't that John Kerry is any more palatable a candidate. (Although, he may very well be more sane than Al Gore, and he'd probably be more constrained in the damage that he could do.) Rather, I think liberals' and conservatives' differing circumstances with respect to expatriating have become much clearer since the closing months of 2001.

One assumes, when liberals threaten to flit away, that they would go to some other modernized country: Canada, for example, or any of the Western European nations. Such a move would almost certainly involve a transition to life under a government that's already more in line with the person's politics.

But where would conservatives go? The same emigration would be, for them, akin to escaping trade school for a liberal arts school, Rand for Marx, the oven for the open flame. Perhaps a couple countries in Eastern Europe would do, ideologically, but they'd entail lowered economic expectations.

That consideration might actually fall in the "benefits" column. A struggling nation would be one in which conservative policies could make a readily tangible difference for the better; conservatives are, in the main, inclined to enjoy building their communities up. Liberals prefer "progressing," which in their usage means "tearing down" (e.g., the old order, the status quo, or the existing paradigm).

Of course, conservatives are also inclined to preserve, and it mightn't be too alarmist to suggest that, if America's conservatism cannot be preserved, less developed nations cannot be built up.

Posted by Justin Katz at 6:43 AM

September 4, 2004

For VDH, History Is Now

I've put my finger on at least one reason that Victor Davis Hanson's writing is so compelling. It's as if he's offering a well-written historical account... of the present. I've changed this paragraph to past-tense to illustrate:

"Seething"? The radical Left was courting disaster and threatened to destroy the credibility of liberals who were apparently fearful of condemning the madness in their midst — this "cry of the heart" to save Saddam Hussein from the wrath of an imperialistic and bullying United States. When upscale protestors swore at delegates and paraded obscene signs in New York while John Kerry went windsurfing in shades and racing gloves, you had a recipe for disaster for wannabe populists.

A sense permeates Hanson's writing that he already knows the outcome. In the bifurcated images of the liberal/Democrat segment of society, we get a perspective akin to historical juxtapositions of a king's soft, perhaps naive, life and the brutality of his foot soldiers, and the historian builds his narrative with a view toward where it's headed.

Posted by Justin Katz at 11:00 AM | Comments (3)

August 26, 2004

Who's Polarizing Whom?

While waiting my turn for a haircut, about an hour ago, I perused a Time magazine (opportunity for waiting-room chuckles). One of the articles was a typical equivalence piece: Michael Moore on this side, Rush Limbaugh on that side, we're a polarized nation.

Well, the very first item from Jay Nordlinger's Impromptus today hits a related note, and I was so stunned by it — stunned, incredulous, amazed, but subtracting a degree or two of surprise from those words' meanings — that I had to stop reading the column and react:

The New York Choral Society was scheduled to sing at the Republican convention. They were to sing patriotic songs — "From the Halls of Montezuma," "Anchors Aweigh" — in honor of America's armed forces. Nothing too partisan. Nothing partisan at all.

But the Society has backed out, because — well, its members are left-wing, and they can't stomach the idea of appearing at a Republican convention.

Do Republicans and (more specifically) conservatives have to begin fielding their own regional choirs? (Perhaps a religiously affiliated group would have been smarter from the outset.) Our nation is polarized, indeed, but perhaps conservatives wouldn't be excessively partisan to suggest that one side deserves a little bit more of the blame than the other.

Posted by Justin Katz at 12:42 PM

August 22, 2004

Now We Need an Opposite Experiment

Spain is apparently volunteering to be (another) experiment in liberal government:

Spain's new government is pressing an ambitious social reform agenda that would put the historically conservative Catholic country on par with the most liberal nations in Europe. ...

The agenda appears to have the support of the public. A Gallup poll found more than half of Spaniards support same-sex marriage and think homosexuals should be allowed to adopt children. Two-thirds of the Spanish public support legalizing same-sex marriage, for instance, according to polls. Although the Socialists do not hold a majority in the parliament, most of the proposed laws are widely expected to pass because of support from other left-leaning parties.

I vote that the United States not pass any further liberal reforms until Spain has had a couple of decades to ferment.

Posted by Justin Katz at 3:36 PM | Comments (1)

August 14, 2004

The Thickets of the Thides

Let me state right up front — for the record and for any interested conspiracy theorists on the other side — that I remain an independent operator. Of course, I'm aligned with a general political movement and have developing relationships with specific players therein, but that alignment is entirely ideological and not a matter of vested interest.

That said, I imagine I'm not alone, as a hopeful writer, in awaiting with anticipation the day that thousands of words will be spent offering conspiratorial insinuations about my biography. When that time comes, I'll be able to play a pundit version of that Kevin Bacon game: Three Links to Gray Text on a Black Background. Here's how it works: Start with a reasonable and respectable person criticizing a conservative writer — say, Eric Muller continuing his assault on Michelle Malkin:

If you go over to Dave Neiwert's place and listen very carefully, you'll hear a slight "hiss." That's the sound of the last of the air escaping from the hole in the life raft currently supporting Michelle Malkin's book "In Defense of Internment."

So we follow the link and find:

For an excellent and quite thorough examination of Malkin's career after leaving Seattle, be sure to check out Matt Stoller's lengthy exegesis about Malkin and the people who are behind her.

Following the link, we find this tidbit about Malkin's publisher, Regnery:

The publishing house has John Birch society ties, the Birch society of course being the 1950s group so extreme in their right-wing ideology that they thought Eisenhower was a communist stooge.

And — perhaps because Stoller is so thorough, indeed — we find a link to our goal of gray text on a black background:

In the halcyon days, Welch's [John Birch] Society was allied with William Regnery, whose name appears on American Security Council (ASC) incorporation papers. The ASC was a domestic covert operations arm of the military-corporate complex, closely aligned with the JBS, Libery Lobby and other sons of the fascist revolution.

Jumping back into this fight was just about the last thing that I wanted to do, in my capacity as a blogger, but I was procrastinating, and various stops along this trail raised some points worth making. Because I'm wholly unqualified to address revelations about fifty-years-ago forerunners of the fascist allies of the military-corporate complex, I'll leave aside "The Early Days of the John Birch Society: Fascist Templars of the Corporate State" from Alex Constantine's Political Conspiracy Research Bin and continue backwards with Stoller's "exegesis."

What makes Stoller's August 7th blog post so interesting is the example it represents of the impossibility of discussion in the current, polarized climate. Consider:

As you can see from the chart on the left, Townhall is the Heritage's most direct channel to the public, with 25 million visits last year (and an ambitious community building strategy through Meetup, which so far has 27,000 members). Townhall.com, with its extremist rantings defending the Confederate flag, Japanese internment, neo-eugenic pseudo-science, racist behavior, attacks on liberals, and anti-Muslims propaganda, is often fodder for the even more extremist right-leaning community site, the Free Republic.

I guess when one starts with Townhall as "extremist," there isn't anywhere to go except "even more extremist." (Although, I'm very glad to hear that the folks over at Free Republic are sufficiently circumspect to only lean to the right... extremely.) Most of Stoller's list of "rantings" I would be able to address as points that liberals merely fail to understand, wondering aloud whether it is the simple fact that conservatives indulge in "attacks on liberals" that makes them extremists. But even in this short paragraph, we get an item that I am at a complete loss to understand, let alone rebut: "neo-eugenic pseudo-science." Doesn't Stoller know the history of Planned Parenthood? (Yes, I noticed the design of that page.)

The impossibility of common ground arises again and again in Stoller's piece, to such an extent that it's hard to respond without a sardonic grin. Take, for example, some dark advice that Stoller says the Heritage foundation gives to speakers:

As an aside, I should say that it will be very helpful, I'd even say essential, that you treat with respect people and ideas that you disagree with. Treat them as intelligent people whose only failing is intellectual error. When journalists call, be sure that you understand what the other side is liable to say about your position, report it respectfully, and offer them names of experts on the other side.

Stoller sees this as evidence that the automatons on the right "are 'Minnesota Nice' salespeople who are ultimately confident of victory and so care little for immediate personal attacks." Imagine how stunned I was to conclude that various public speaking and career counseling instructors that I've had in my life must have been in on this iniquitous manipulation! Henceforth, with a view toward claiming my pearly wings, I will maintain a "face" of self-confident mockery in public, even as my true nature is closer to self-deprecating good will. In that spirit, we return to Stoller:

To promote her first book, she got interviews from Enter Stage Right, the National Review Online, C-SPAN, , Insight magazine, Right Wing News, and reviews from the American Conservative, VDare, Mark Krikorian, the National Review, Reason, David Limbaugh, James Edwards Jr., and Frank Gaffney at Fox News. Yes, her book was basically reviewed only by partisan sources.

Some might wonder why no oppositely partisan or ostensibly objective reviewers took on the book. Perhaps Stoller would suggest that they knew it was nonsense — et cetera, yadda cetera — but we'd run into a wall of differing interpretation. Either one side propped Malkin up, or the other side stonewalled her. This divergence extrapolates in a passage at which I actually laughed out loud:

There's more. A lot more. David Brock's new book is on the case, as is Dave Johnson at Seeing the Forest. But the key points are simple. Right-wing institutional support, with places to house people to create ideas, outlets to distribute and promote them, and the tactics and relationships to turn these ideas into the mainstream, is breathtaking.

I'd explain the joke, but either you laughed along with me or you'll refuse to accept my premises. Institutional support? Housing people to "create ideas"? Mainstream outlets? Please.

Laugh though I might, this brings me to a more serious point that must be made; Stoller writes something that a repeatedly insightful commenter mirrored on my blog on Wednesday. Here's Stoller:

The important part is to note that Michelle Malkin is being gradually inserted into the mainstream press, through Fox News, the Heritage Foundation, and now USA Today. Muller shows that in the debate in the blogosphere, she essentially concedes that her thesis is untenable. Still, whether she believes her own stuff at this point is irrelevant, because her career and livelihood is entirely tied up in the right-wing superstructure of financial and media support. While real thinkers are able to change their minds (and sometimes do), Malkin doesn't have that luxury, not if she wants to keep her career (one could say she has 'right-wing tenure').

The use of "tenure" is interesting in light of the aforementioned comment from Ben Bateman:

I simply don't care what Eric Muller thinks about the Japanese internment or relocation, for the same two reasons:

First, he cannot freely choose to believe otherwise. He is a law professor. If he agreed with Malkin, he would be hurt professionally.

Second, like the [Cuban] official, he was chosen for his political beliefs. He has had lots of time to become a super-expert on this subject only because he holds a job in academia. (Recall that he wondered how Malkin could have done the necessary research while holding down a job in the private sector.) And the only way to get an academic job is to [espouse] specific political views. So everyone with that level of expertise will hold the same view, which has nothing to do whether that view is correct.

Now that I've reached the serious matter to which I intended all of the above to lead, let me say that I'm not so much concerned about picking a side (although, of course, I'd tend to lean toward Ben's) as I am about highlighting the intellectual and practical mess our society has gotten itself into. (And again, of course, it shouldn't be difficult to guess where I lay the preponderance of the blame, but leave that aside for the time being.)

Stoller declares that, thanks to the blogosphere, "a scurrilous and potentially dangerous book by a well-known author pretty much discredited before it is officially released." Neiwert writes that "Muller and Robinson's critique is devastating and nearly complete." And as I've already quoted, Muller believes Neiwert has effectively sent Malkin's book to Davy Jones's locker.

But in the sense that matters, they're wrong, and they know it. In a comment to his own post responding to my earlier entries to the debate, Muller notes:

JadeGold, you can sneer all you like. But this book is already a top seller, and Michelle is all over TV--not just FOX--and radio speaking about it. More people will learn about the internment from this book than from all of the books that have been written about it, put together. That calls for a response.

Unfortunately, in his method of response, Muller has ensured that he will convince only those who are already inclined to attribute to Malkin the worst motivations and intentions. As for the other side, consider this quip in the midst of an entirely unrelated post by Bryan Preston:

Brinkley wrote the 2004, election season hagiography of not-JFK [John Kerry], Tour of Duty. I haven't read the book, but to pull an Eric Muller and judge by its title and cover, it's about not-JFK's four month stint in Vietnam.

Clearly, between Malkin's book's instant popularity and the inability of its critics to resist exactly the tone, approach, and posture that has been wearing away at the public's assumption of academics' credibility, an opportunity is in the process of being missed for progress in our application of history's lessons to very real modern problems. Neiwert provides a quick example that doesn't require us to dig into the argument itself. He quotes from the flyleaf of the book (emphasis added):

Everything you've been taught about the World War II 'internment camps' is wrong:

-- They were not created primarily because of racism or wartime hysteria

-- They did not target only those of Japanese descent

-- They were not Nazi-style death camps.

Later, toward disproving Malkin's point, Neiwert changes the first bulleted point in a very significant way (emphasis added):

One of Michelle Malkin's major themes -- her chief claim on the flyleaf -- is that racism was an insignificant factor in the decisions that led to the internment.

Readers ranging from neutral to disagreement now have a reason to think Malkin's critics evasive. Elsewhere, Neiwert provides examples of exactly the attitude that ensures that the percentage of people who fall in that range represent (and should represent) a majority:

The reality is that -- as I've argued previously (several times) -- over the past 10 years, there have been many more acts of real terrorism planned and committed on American soil by white fundamentalist Christians than by radical Islamists of Arab extraction. If we're going to commit to racial profiling based on known terrorist threats, then whites, once again, would be the first logical choice. ...

If many Americans had had their way [during Japanese internment], we'd have had little ground for boasting that the conditions in our camps were superior [to the Nazis'].

I daresay that this is precisely the attitude that scholars such as Muller will have to jettison decisively before their fellow citizens will trust the picture that they offer of the past. Forcing discussion toward that end seems to have played a large role in Malkin's decision to write the book. As Ben Bateman put it:

Academia has a serious bias problem on any issue that touches on politics. They refuse to address it or even recognize that it exists. Is it any wonder that people find a non-academician's view of history more interesting and believable than the stale PC melodrama of hysterical white racists tormenting innocent minorities?

The unfortunate reality is that the Japanese internment issue does touch on politics of the day — very important politics. Whether it's too starkly drawn or not, Malkin's book offers academics enough of a splash in which to see the problem reflected, and to address it in a way that assists in the challenge of our era.

Neiwert may be content to curl his lip about "planned and committed" white supremacist terrorism (a construction that ought to inspire skepticism about the nature of the instances that he's piled up in order to make such a claim), but most of the rest of us — outside of the media and outside of the academy — are more concerned with preventing an international network of radical Islamists from again managing to level an entire city block — or worse.

Posted by Justin Katz at 2:52 AM | Comments (9)

August 9, 2004

Reason Overruled

Moral culpability is not entirely lashed to a measurement of distance, and finding excuses not to look along the line of likely outcomes of a given decision, far from absolving one of responsibility, is itself an immoral act. That, in a nutshell, is my response to a point in the comment section of this post. After I'd suggested that knowing homosexual couples is irrelevant "to whether same-sex marriage is intelligent or dangerous public policy," liberal periodic commenter Angie wrote:

I believe that people who are arguing against SSM do not know any gay couples. If you socialized regularly with gay couples--benefits, dinner parties, workplace--you would not be too popular if they knew you were writing hundreds of thousands of words on the computer daily about why THEY should not get married while you yourself are married and enjoying the benefits of that. And besides that, you'd have a face and a personality to add to the subject matter. Not just a logical analysis. Similar to how I believe most pro-life advocates either cannot bear children or they have a loving partner who will support them emotionally and financially should an accidental pregnancy occur. Just another way to think about these issues which leaves out the legal/logic/ethic speak and brings real humans into the picture.

Reread this sentence:

If you socialized regularly with gay couples--benefits, dinner parties, workplace--you would not be too popular if they knew you were writing hundreds of thousands of words on the computer daily about why THEY should not get married while you yourself are married and enjoying the benefits of that.

I have no doubt that this is true. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if confronted with evidence that those hundreds of thousands of words have contributed, directly and indirectly, to my current state of semi-employment. But unless Angie is offering an enciphered explanation for her taking the wrong position, the reality of interpersonal influence is irrelevant both to the substance of the issue and to the moral responsibility to take the right position. It is a sign of the apathetic turpitude of our times that precisely her formulation likely underlies the tacit responses to this sort of matter across our society. One would think that liberals, of all people, would applaud a principled stand against the demands of social pressure.

Furthermore, it's simply to state the factual to note that the activists and their friends in the media have ensured that the same-sex marriage cause will not lack for sympathetic faces and personalities, piled on top of decades of cultural-elite effort to normalize homosexuality generally. And that's entirely apart from the people who've contacted me personally over the past few years, as well as those whom, yes, I do know. I can only ascribe it to a baseline spiritual desperation, in our society, that so many have brushed off the wisdom that broad decisions can be skewed if made while embroiled, or by those who are embroiled. Whether the topic is homosexuality, abortion, or any other matter with emotional weight, it remains true that we ought not — cannot — leave out the "legal/logic/ethic speak" that becomes more difficult as we approach the adverse consequences of choosing the correct path.

Look, reason tells me that human life begins at conception and that, for the sake of society, for the sake of humanity, we must hold to the moral principle that human life is uniquely and individually valuable. Destitution, much less inconvenience, is not sufficient justification for taking another's life — no matter what rhetoric we might employ to depreciate that life. Similarly does reason tell me that marriage is central to the health of our society as well as — and this is important — the well-being of those most dependent upon our social foundation. Reason also suggests that same-sex marriage, especially within our modern context and considering the mechanisms through which it is being thrust into the law and the culture, will further the corrosion of the institution.

If any group that must be factored into these decisions lacks for the sympathy that flows from "a face and a personality" it is those who have yet to be born. (Consider the enthusiasm with which pro-lifers have met increasingly detailed sonogram pictures.) It is easy to respond to the pull of loved ones' desires; it is somewhat less easy to hear the pleas of the countless people who will inherit whatever society we manage to bequeath. To blind one's self to the latter through deliberate focus on the former compounds moral travesty upon moral error.

Posted by Justin Katz at 10:05 AM | Comments (25)

June 29, 2004

Moore and More Deception

How much dishonesty is packed into Fahrenheit 9/11? So much that it is spilling out into coverage and opinions about the movie. Here's "film historian and former Journal reporter" Bob Leddy writing in the Providence Journal:

Conservatives hope that the whole Michael Moore business will dissipate in the national atmosphere of short attention spans. And anyway, the film will be seen only by those who already hew to Moore's politics, right? "There's only a very small percentage of Americans that are going to go and see this movie," said David Bossie, head of a conservative group called Citizens United.

Well, maybe. ...

As a movie event, Fahrenheit 9/11 is the real deal, the likes of which were not equaled even by Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ. On the first day of its national release (on fewer than 900 screens), Fahrenheit 9/11 took in $8 million. The figure had tripled by the close of the opening weekend.

Note that, grammatically, it is the "movie event" that was "not equaled even by" The Passion. Naturally, the reader wonders what the measure of realdealdom is, and most writers will satisfy that curiosity by offering explanation in the subsequent sentence. At first glance, one might believe Leddy to have done just that, but if his measure is first-day gross, Moore's film would have made the top 10 list, because Passion currently sits at #10, with $26,556,573. That number, by the way, puts Gibson's film at #3 on the list for films that opened on a Wednesday. (Fahrenheit opened Friday.) As for Moore's movie tripling in revenue — well, almost tripling, to $23.9 million — for opening weekend, well, so did Gibson's (and then some), which took in $83.8 million, Friday to Sunday.

The best I can figure, giving Mr. Leddy (an expert, after all) the benefit of the doubt, and seeing how oddly impressed he is that Moore could rack up those figures "on fewer than 900 screens," he might have been comparing Moore's $27,558 per-theater average to Gibson's $27,554. Or something.

Posted by Justin Katz at 3:56 PM

June 22, 2004

Hypocrisy Is a One-Way Street off Route 66.

PROEM:
Click "Turn Light On" at the top of the left-hand column for a simpler page design that may be easier to read.


I've bookmarked this and put it aside. Resolved to post it and decided not to. Thought perhaps a new tone was in order and, now, decided to call a hypocrite by her name. Here's Providence Journal blogger Sheila Lennon on June 17:

As last week's portraits of Bill and Hillary Clinton were unveiled in the White House last week, the former President noted that we need to "return to vigorous debate about who's right and wrong, not who's good and bad." Jarvis quotes Clinton repeating the concept last night.

I'll say Amen to that. I'm weary of hearing political partisans call each other "haters." I'm tired of manufactured outrage.

We're all in this America together. We can disagree about our course, but polarizing attacks on those who don't think like you swears at the idea of the melting pot, of living together peaceably based on our common interests. Demonizing others in the name of God or country diminishes us.

Stirred up by talk radio for ratings and profit, our meaner instincts are a lousy set of values on which to base a fair and just society.

Thus far the various considerations have been enough for me to put aside all of her promotion of the Left's own hate-mongers that I've noticed at least as far back as her glowing recommendation, in February 2003, of a foul-mouthed writer who called a man speaking in support of the war an "Oreo" and a "traitorous black person representing the [pro-war] 'cause.'" Maybe, I reasoned, actually upholding the ideal that others only mouth is the better way to prove the point.

But today, I noticed a post about the reemergence of the protest song — protesting whom, you can guess. Among the links is a Flash video that juxtaposes the Bush daughters and the corpses of the Hussein boys. Lennon also links directly to a song by John Gorka called "Brown Shirts" (MP3), which begins, "brown shirts here in the White House/brown shirts up on the Hill." I was particularly impressed with the lyrical twist that the White House brown shirts "speak of God as their witness, but they would kill Jesus again."

Maybe Ms. Lennon was only "weary of hearing political partisans call each other 'haters'" because it hadn't been put to music yet. "Demonizing others in the name of God or country diminishes us." Right. I'll keep that in mind.

Posted by Justin Katz at 2:28 PM | Comments (15)

Together Again Like 9/12?

In yesterday's Bleat (in the off chance that you haven't read it yet), James Lileks suggests that post-9/11 unity mightn't be reprised in the event of another attack:

Why, I even remember back to the end of 2001, when the general mood seemed to favor bold action to forestall future catastrophe. If we hadn't deposed Saddam, and Bush had won a second term, and there had been a terrorist attack in 05, [Stephen Hayes's] book would be the Democrat's brief for impeachment. BUSH KNEW and did nothing.

And it's not going to get better. I don't think the next attack will bring us together like 9/11. Last time a small portion of the nation went straight to blaming us for enflaming poor Mo Atta and his motley crew; the last three years have seen that poison spread and flourish, and blaming America for the ravings of medieval theocrats is now a legitimate argument in polite society. I'd almost venture to say that a third of the country would conclude that a radiological device exploded in Manhattan would be Bush's fault, because he made the "evil doers" (roll eyes) super-extra-fancy-grade-AA mad.

For the last few weeks I've had this gnawing belief that bin Laden got lucky by attacking during Bush's term. Conventional wisdom says the opposite, because Bush fought back. But he's the enemy now. I ask my Democrat friends what they’d rather see happen – Bush reelected and bin Laden caught, or Bush defeated and bin Laden still in the wind. They're all honest: they'd rather see Bush defeated.

Posted by Justin Katz at 11:18 AM | Comments (2)

June 21, 2004

Sticklers for the Rules

In a piece extolling dogma, Jonah Goldberg touched on a reality that has come up here, in recent weeks, in the context of discussions between liberals and conservatives (broadly defined):

And this is where my renewed faith in dogma comes from. Without getting too deep in the weeds, dogmas are simply values or principles that cannot be proven, but that we accept as true or divinely decreed (and therefore true). Chesterton and Hayek explain to us that the right dogma is just as liberating — if not more so — as bad dogma is oppressive. For example, you could never be a first baseman on a baseball team unless everyone else, on both teams, accepted any number of dogmas uncritically. Everyone would have to agree that it's worthwhile to play the game in the first place. Everyone would have to accept that the umpire's decisions are final. Everyone would have to accept that the rules were clear and applied to both sides equally. Everyone would have to agree that cheating is both wrong and deserving of punishment when found out. And so on.

Now, I would wager that very few baseball players can give you very articulate and knowledgeable explanations of why these things are all so. But I would also bet that most baseball players are certain these things are true nevertheless. In Anthony Lewis's world, these people are enemies of decency and humanity. But in reality it is exactly the opposite. Without an unthinking agreement to play by the rules, you could have five first basemen all squabbling over the bag. You could have ties settled by fistfights. Indeed, you could have horrendous bloodshed. As Hayek noted, society's adherence to traditional morality guarantees the most fundamental freedom: freedom from getting your ass walloped by everybody else. (Okay, I'm paraphrasing).

Posted by Justin Katz at 9:43 AM | Comments (2)

June 5, 2004

The BBC Looks the Other Way

Surely you've seen this:

Just before the war against Iraq I began to receive strange calls from BBC journalists. Would I like information on how the leadership of the anti-war movement had been taken over by the Socialist Workers Party? Maybe, I replied. It was depressing that a totalitarian party was in the saddle, but that's where the SWP always tries to get. Why get excited?

Oh there are lots of reasons, said the BBC hacks. The anti-war movement wasn't a simple repetition of the old story of the politically naive being led by the nose by sly operators. The far left was becoming the far right. It had gone as close to supporting Ba'athist fascism as it dared and had formed a working alliance with the Muslim Association of Britain, which, along with the usual misogyny and homophobia of such organisations, also believed that Muslims who decided that there was no God deserved to die for the crime of free thought. In a few weeks hundreds of thousands of people, maybe millions, would allow themselves to be organised by the opponents of democracy and modernity and would march through the streets of London without a flicker of self-doubt. Wasn't this a story?

It's a great story, I cried. But why don't you broadcast it?

We can't, said the bitter hacks. Our editors won't let us.

Don't believe for a second that it's just in England, just the BBC, or just the groups named in this instance. Anybody who's been on a college campus in the past ten years will know that this story is merely a single barb of a pervasive vine poking through.

(via Harry's Place)

Posted by Justin Katz at 8:40 PM

A Blue-State Conservative Personal Ad in Verse

Just the other day, I was thinking that I hadn't done my poetic exercises in a while. Well, John Derbyshire has given me an excuse. Here's the result:

A Conservative Medium in a Blue State
by Justin Katz

Although the sympathetic ears are few
For conservatives in states that aren't red,
Embracing our beliefs, we can't be blue.

On street corners and blogs we speak what's true
And rive atrophic shibboleths when said,
Although the sympathetic ears are few.

Even as baneful policies sail through
And savings sums and household gross are bled,
Embracing our beliefs, we can't be blue.

Exposed and marked with nonconformist hue,
We sacrifice for words that might be read,
Although the sympathetic ears are few

Dishing ideology cordon bleu
Shrews force-feed each indoctrinating shred.
Embracing our beliefs, we can't be blue.

In social spheres we are the last taboo;
we seek companionship through ads instead.
Although the sympathetic ears are few,
Embracing our beliefs, we can't be blue.
Posted by Justin Katz at 4:19 PM

Biting at the Mirror

Because the lines that others had quoted from it seemed to hint at either subterfuge or publicity-seeking, I hadn't bothered to read, much less comment on, disgraced ex–Times chief Howell Raines's bit of advice for John Kerry. Perusing it on Lane Core's blog, however, I note a few statements that are particularly interesting in light of other pieces that I've read lately.

Although many commentators have focused on Raines's bluntness with respect to Kerry, the most remarkable thing about the piece — "remarkable" being a measure of size, not surprise — is the degree to which the condescension and snobbery fairly ooze through the pores in one's monitor. Ours is "an electorate schooled to respond to simple messages"; "greed will make folks vote for Democrats if it's properly packaged." If this piece can be taken at face value, it appears that Mr. Raines has learned nothing from his downfall. In his attempts to manipulate the simple, greedy American public, he transformed the New York Times into a discredited rag, and now he would have the Democrat candidate for President follow the same course.

In his smarmy arrogance, he does, however, reveal what many conservatives have sensed beneath the disingenuous arguments of leading liberals. This something is the classic tendency to describe one's opponents by looking in the mirror. Consider:

Kerry has yet to learn to do what Bush and vice-president Dick Cheney do when they're in the hot seat. They take over the interview even when they have nothing to say and nothing to sell.

Big mike, no message. That's an interesting observation, coming from a man in the process of advising a party whose biggest problem is that it is defined most starkly only in opposition to the other's ideas.

Americans aren't antagonistic toward the rules that protect the rich because they think that in the great crap-shoot of economic life in America, they might wind up rich themselves. It's a mass delusion, of course, but one that has worked ever since Ronald Reagan got Republicans to start flaunting their wealth instead of apologising for it. Kerry has to understand that when a cure is impossible, the doctor must enter the world of the deluded.

The elite self-avowed "corporation-bashing" hater of business believes the possibility of individual economic advancement to be an illusion. I don't know much about Raines's background, but I get the sense of an old-money snob standing in the corner, with his veins cracking through his powdered skin, sneering at the nouveau riche. Perhaps the poor can never become wealthy, in his view, because they can never become the only type of rich that counts.

Projecting onto conservatives his own emphasis on deceiving the deluded fools who, unfortunately, have at least the power of the vote, Raines insinuates — as a truth so obvious as to require no analysis — that the Laffer curve is merely legerdemain. The idea that confiscating too much of the income for which people work will discourage them from working is taken as a self-evident deception. (Perhaps the missing analysis is that we filthy masses will work because that's what filthy masses do.) The lesson that Raines draws from this analysis is astonishing, from a certain perspective:

It means that he must appeal to the same emotions that attract voters to Republicans — ie greed and the desire to fix the crap-shoot in their favour.

From a supporter of the party of big government! The party of leg-up affirmative action and class warfare. The party of identity politics and give a man a fish so that he'll have to come back to you for a fish tomorrow. Of government benefits for illegal aliens and of abortion on a whim.

Now, it is absolutely true that — to many conservatives' objections, including mine — part of President Bush's strategy has been to absorb some of the votes on offer for big government bribery. That, however, is only a problem from the President's political right. What Raines and his ilk have apparently concluded, as they seethe to the President's left, snarling as he moves toward them, mirror in hand, is that liberals must do more of what they've tripped themselves up by doing too much.

By interpreting the Republicans', and conservatives', success as the product of false promises and appeals to the worst in people, rather than the best, some liberals conclude that they've simply been attempting to buy off too few people. In response to conservative advice that retirement preparation be a matter of individual risk and individual reward — founded on a faith in the American system and the American economy — Raines slaps some lipstick on an aging (toothless) redistributionist whore and calls her a "pot-of-gold retirement" that is "as secure as Cheney's investment in Halliburton."

One wonders, though, with the Rainses' giving no indication that their wealthy is up for grabs and with economic possibility's being seen as a delusionary lie, from whom the wealth is supposed to be redistributed. Indeed, one could argue that citizens' beginning to wonder just that is among the larger problems that liberals currently face. The simple electorate has begun to notice that, when asked "who will pay?," the Democrats have really only been holding up a mirror. And Raines's advice? Hold the mirror higher.

Posted by Justin Katz at 10:23 AM | Comments (3)

June 2, 2004

Shades of Purple

It looks like Ilya Shapiro has come up with the notion of Purple Politics, as well, although his version varies somewhat from mine. Marc Comtois summarizes Shapiro:

I'm pretty confident that Shapiro is a Libertarian, and that is what he means by being not RED or BLUE but PURPLE. A mix of both, the classic fiscal conservative, social liberal, but not a moderate. I'm sure we differ on various issues, but the larger point is that those of us who like our "culture" sometimes risk a bit of harassment from those who share our fundamental political beliefs, which in turn cause fits of near-apoplectic disbelief among our colleagues in academia or "society." I think being part of Purple America is fun, myself. It's fun not being easily pigeonholed, after all.

The gap that Marc uncovers by tagging Shapiro as a libertarian is — if libertarians who read this will forgive me a generalization — typical of folks of that persuasion. It's often a self-congratulatory ideology... truth through contrarianism... the best of both worlds... thought of a higher order. As Shapiro puts it:

In the wake of the 2000 presidential election, one of the most bitter, close, and bizarrely concluded votes in American history, the colors became an important part of socio-political discourse in this "50-50 nation." Yet we are finally starting to transcend them. Purple Americans, among others, defy political and cultural stereotypes, and thus confound the conventional wisdom of the media, pollsters, and pundits.

Unfortunately, thorough thinkers can't long straddle this line. In an attempt to do so, Shapiro puts Red and Blue in entirely different aspects of life — values and tastes, respectively:

I gather that I am not alone in sensing a certain disconnect between my cultural and political affinities. That is, I am a cosmopolitan conservative, residing in that nebulous region distrusted by both coastal elites and the populist sages of the heartland, Purple America.

Purple America is not so much a place as an idea, or more precisely a confluence of values from Red America with tastes from Blue America. It believes in personal responsibility, discipline, civil society, spontaneous order, ordered liberty, and that the best thing government can do is not get in the way. Yet it craves independent films, fine cigars, Belgian ales, and South American fútbol -- along with a good baseball game (preferably without the designated hitter).

Phrased like this, of course it's possible to see a blend as not only possible, but preferable, as the marriage of good sense and good taste. But Red and Blue aren't defined thus. Although I can't currently find it, I've linked, in the recent past, to an essay arguing that the schism of fine tastes from common values is a relatively modern event in our country.

Not too long ago, the elite would have been among the pews with the average folk. Elites might have preferred wine to beer while having a picnic, but both blue and white collars would have been found beneath faces frowning upon certain lusts being indulged in the bushes. It reduces conservatives to rough buffoons to believe that, as a class, they reject high culture as high culture, not because it is currently served with a subtext that they find abhorrent.

Red and Blue are all about values, not whether one privileges values. This is where Shapiro's separated feet start to slip away from the line:

[Purple America] couldn't care less who sleeps with whom where, just that its tax dollars aren't used to subsidize or photograph the event. ...

Purple America demands independent creativity grounded in a solid moral core, and its inhabitants develop an inevitably thick skin, being attacked for its Godless "hedonism" on one side and its politically incorrect "insensitivity" on the other.

Does he demand a solid moral core, or does he not care whether people behave morally? When he proceeds to give examples, he reverts to the values/fashion distinction; "Godless 'hedonism'" isn't an accusation generally thrown at people who wear Italian clothing. Now, I haven't read enough of Shapiro's work to make concrete statements from my limited observation within this one piece, but it seems to me that he overlooks the deeper differences between the sides in the culture war.

There are real disagreements about values, and what makes each stereotype accurate, in its way, is that those values are applied across a range of issues more or less consistently. For example, in the conservative view, it matters what people do, whether or not it is federally subsidized. Shapiro apparently empathizes, because he claims on behalf of Purple America belief "in personal responsibility, discipline, civil society, spontaneous order, ordered liberty, and that the best thing government can do is not get in the way." Yet he apparently wishes to deny a practical consequence of that collection of principles: that some other structure than government must ensure responsibility, discipline, and so on. Believing in small government doesn't mean that we can "care less," but that we must care more.

The danger, a particularly libertarian one, of seeking to transcend the political order is that it leaves one with no independent ground on which to stand. Those who fall prey to the temptation are no less easily pigeonholed for the fact that they are floating.

Posted by Justin Katz at 11:26 PM | Comments (2)

Reaching Those Who Can Be Reached

A couple high-profile posts have evoked comments of the sort that aren't often made on Dust in the Light. Since comment-area diatribes tend to be condensations of broader views — whatever those views may be — I've been impressed once again, in a discouraging way, with the impossibility of wading through differences to common ground on which to build agreement.

With patience, one can often see that the erroneous opinions are honestly held, and rooted in good motivation. Unfortunately, seeking to follow the trail of good will requires greater devotion of time than is reasonable when dealing with someone whom one doesn't know in some other context. But then what? Encountering recitations from the ideological breviary of the other side, the temptation is to fisk, point to point, but that's a bit like trying to stride through a brier patch.

Consider Angie's May 25 09:25 p.m. comment to this post:

Russia invited democracy. We did not have to force it down their throats. Maybe in time the Middle East would invite it too. Time.

How does one respond? Decades of multinational foreign policy have been rendered moot by a three-word sentence. There is only waiting, and in the case of Russia, by that worldview, waiting paid off. Why not, then, Iraq?

If you have a health problem, doesn’t the doctor run lots of tests before suggesting surgery? What was the urgency to take the most extreme route possible?

Of course, if some sort of gangrenous infection is creeping up your arm, you'd rather the doctor make an educated guess about its origin and cure at some point (particularly if the healthcare system is state run, with all the delays that entails). And how is a careful — surgically executed — war to remove a dictator who was clearly malignant "the most extreme route possible"?

The conclusion to which this progression of thought leads is one that conservatives find themselves continually repeating, as if in frustrated amazement: such folks as Angie are following a patchwork method for understanding interactions. Each view of an event — as history, as current events, and as likelihood — is bent to fit the frame. Look to the very next comment, from Tim:

Europeans are not against america, but against the war. We all agreed Saddam had to be removed, i think you will find few europeans that would think otherwise, but there are other ways than war.

One could point out that Europeans associated with the Oil for Food program were especially against war for reasons not directly related to feelings about America. More on topic, however, is the idea that there's some way to remove a heartless tyrant, who is already grooming is blood-thirsty sons to continue the reign, than by war. Normally, I'd suppose that he means to invoke the ideal of diplomacy, in which case the goal would be less the regime's removal than its reform, but then I'd be at a loss as to how to explain the thought that follows (note that the "you" is another commenter, not me):

And talking about corrupt ties to "evil" countries. The Moore movie you mentioned at the end of your blog did open a few eyes on the connections Bush's family has with Bin Laden's family. And wasn't it mr Blair who recently visited mr. Khadaffi himself.

So, now pursuing diplomacy toward reform with Libya is an indication of corruption. That's a considerable spin beyond the simple omission, on the part of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, of war's role in that success. When those who fetishize diplomacy see a particular leader's interaction with another, unsavory, leader as proof of underhanded dealing, they are doing more than putting together a patchwork; they're refusing to secure the pieces of that patchwork in order to allow them to be refit as necessary.

The danger of such intellectual structures was brought home to me in a different post, about the anti-war ex–staff sergeant Jimmy Massey. In a May 26 10:35 a.m. comment defending his or her native Canada, somebody using the nametag "Withheld to prevent persecution" offered this:

Did you know that your country was found guilty of committing war crimes by the UN? Your government ignored the order to stop their state sponsored genocide and pay reperations and stepped up their campaign, officially allowing the targetting of "soft targets" (civillians, residential buildings, etc). Did you know that your country used Iraq, Iran, and other middle eastern countries as pawns in a diabolical game of chess with Russia throughout the Cold War? Did you know that the newly chosen ebassador (read: leader) to Iraq, Mr Negroponte formed CIA trained 'Death Squads' responsible for the unlawful detainment and deaths of tens of thousands of people? Did you know that Daddy Bush killed 200,000 Iraqis in Bahdad in 1991 including the infamous "highway of death" in the last days of the slaughter when US pilots shot into the backs of retreating soldiers? Did you know your government has now twice overthrew the democratically elected Aristide (won last election with 94%) and installed a war criminal who has since been murdering dozens of Haitians every day? Did you know that in the 1950's, the US sponsored a coup in Guatemala overthrowing the democratically elected leader, resulting in the death of over 120,000 peasants? Did you know your gov't overthrew a democratically elected leader in Iran, resulting in the death of 70,000 civilians and a brutal dictatorship that lasted decades? Did you know your gov't sponsored a coup in Indonesia that killed 800,000 Indonesians? Did you know that since the 1970's (it continues today) your gov't has sponsored a campaign of terror in South Africa that has left 1,000,000 dead and mutilated Africans? Did you know thatyour gov't actively covered up the genocide taking place between the Hutus and the Tutus in the mid-1990's to prevent UN involvement until it was too late, resulting in the death of over a million people (a common tactic was shooting the men in the legs so they couldn't get away, herding women and children of the village into churches, burning down the churches and then going back to finish the men)? Did you know in the 1970's your gov't sponsored a coup to overthrow the democratically elected leaders of Chilli, resulting in the death of over 30,000? Did you know the US waged war on the people of El Salvador, killing over 80,000 "soft targets"? Did you know that between 1954 and 1975 your country shot, bombed, and napalmed over 4 Million civilians in IndoChina?Did you know the US military and the CIA are directly responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people in Somalia, Haiti, Afghanistan, Sudan, Brazil, Argentina, and Yugoslavia?

I don't think there's a single topic about which I could rattle off such a litany, which suggests to me that this 1) took quite a bit of time to write and/or 2) came from a bullet-list somewhere. Perhaps the most frightening aspect of the comment is the reckless lack of thought made evident when Withheld goes on to total the atrocities for which the United States is responsible as on the order of the Nazis, Stalin, and Genghis Khan combined. If he actually believed this, he would be morally obligated to seek to topple the United States, not just to grouse about "filthy Americans."

There are those who do follow through to the moral implications of such rhetoric, although they more often seek to undermine than to topple — corroding foundational ideals rather than attacking the proclaimedly diseased outgrowth. Is that the method of removing a regime without war of which they speak? It certainly is no less damaging. In fact, I'd say that it is the most extreme route possible, akin to burning the patient alive.

And the existence of people — some prominent, albeit thinly deceptive — who are actually pursuing such an end at this very moment, from within the freedoms, liberties, and good intentions of the country they despise solidifies the necessity of seeking to reach those who can be reached, who are not so far gone.

But how?

Posted by Justin Katz at 10:09 PM | Comments (3)

May 26, 2004

Two Sides and a Question of Values

Frankly, I'll take Michelle Malkin over Wonkette any day — and according to any measure of value that one might think to apply. Addressing the phenomenon of which the latter is an indication, Michelle writes:

This female Beavis and Butthead duo illustrate what normal Americans hate about the Capitol scene: narcissism, moral bankruptcy and self-congratulatory media-political incest. The Washington Post's legitimization of this shallow "story" illustrates something else: the mainstream media's perverted moral values. The paper's recent profiles and features of social conservatives drip with condescension and ridicule. Religious activists are portrayed as intolerant homophobes; Republicans as gun-toting rubes; abstinence promoters as freaks.

But give The Washington Post two vain, young, trash-mouthed skanks who couldn't care less about what their parents think of their sex-drenched infamy, and the newspaper can't wait to help make them full-fledged members of the media elite.

It's never reported, but I'd love to see some kind of information — whether statistical or anecdotal — about the people who respond in the wrong way to media blips like the one that Malkin describes. This Washingtonienne chick (Beavis, presumably) has now established lower-echelon whore blogger as a potential perch from which to be struck by national media lightning. How many young women, do you suppose, will hurt themselves and those who care about them attempting to repeat the trick?

Posted by Justin Katz at 2:15 PM | Comments (2)

May 15, 2004

Seeing How the Other Half (Doesn't) Live

One indication that conservatism is on the rise is the increasing number of those-strange-creatures columns by liberals. Folks who've been Internet media readers for at least a few months will recall, no doubt, Margo Mifflin's much too serious and sincere piece about the internal turmoil resulting from the revelation of her therapist's Limbaugh listening. Well, Oliver Griswold has gone so far as to camp out on our side of the media divide:

Looking for a challenge and a little affirmation, Oliver Griswold tests his die-hard liberal beliefs and goes on an all-conservative-media diet for one month. Life on the Right side of the dial doesn't turn out the way he expected.

Now, since I found the piece via the unyieldingly liberal Sheila Lennon, I didn't expect anything near a full conversion on Griswold's part. Unfortunately, there wasn't so much as an upward notch of compassion for conservatives and liberals' shared humanity. The big surprise to which the lead alludes is that Griswold confirms himself in every particular of the stereotype in which he believes.

The piece begins well enough, and the average conservative will likely feel a burst of sympathy for Griswold. After all, his immersion in conservative media echoes the experience of every conservative who has yet to discover alternative forms of information and debate. But then:

Too frequently I discovered those lofty themes are not meant for all Americans, but trotted out in a jingoistic attempt to suit conservatives' own agenda, which is often racist, nationalistic, xenophobic, and greedy. The more I read, the more disillusioned I became with the gulf between the rhetoric and the reality of the Right. My resistance to conversion on any issue was bolstered by the sense that the Right doesn't have a vision for America, it just drags one out as a means to achieve selfish ends. The oratory sounds like cock-a-doodle, but the truth tastes like doo.

For a moment, sympathy shifts to the realization that Griswold has captured perfectly the way conservatives feel about liberals. But reading through his evidence is a bit like listening to a visitor's description of one's hometown and noticing that certain architectural details are out of proportion, some are left out, and some are just distorted. It seems Griswold didn't take in the scenery; he trolled for evidence of his preconceptions. He didn't listen; he argued, and he did so in a way no different than liberals often do from their own territory. He even availed himself of the cliché of comparing the dictionary definitions of "liberal" and "conservative."

In some cases, one doubts that he actually performed his little experiment. For example, consider the following supposed contradiction that he believes as indication that "many of the lofty themes didn't mix very well, leading to some bad-tasting intellectual pretzels":

The Heritage Foundation unequivocally supports President Bush's tax cuts (lofty theme: helping the economy), while also supporting an expansion of the USA Patriot Act (lofty theme: making America safe), without making the connection that reducing the size of the federal treasury will make the hiring of additional Justice Department workers more difficult.

Could Griswold really have spent a month-plus reading conservative media without once encountering the argument that cutting taxes increases government revenue? Even dismissing that idea, one would think that he could come to understand that (many) conservatives believe tax cuts to be right and the Patriot Act to be necessary, and if spending cuts are required in other areas to make both possible, well then, that suits conservatives' "vision for America" just fine.

Or consider this "clue" about the Right's view of the Left:

According to the home page of the Media Research Center, all of the network news operations are liberal, and conservatives never win Pulitzers. (Past Pulitzer Prize winners include Wall Street Journal editorial page editor Paul Gigot, Newsweek columnist George Will, New York Times columnist William Safire, Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer, among other leading conservatives.)

If that paragraph is a clue about anything, it's about why conservatives often suspect liberals of being disingenuous. Gigot won the Pulitzer for commentary in 2000. Krauthammer snagged it in 1987. Will and Safire almost constituted a wave, receiving their prizes in '77 and '78, respectively. There may very well be other conservatives on the list of winners from 1970 to 2004, but I didn't recognize any of their names. The four "leading conservatives" whom I do recognize amount to a little less than 12% of all commentary Pulitzers awarded in the past 34 years; even if there are four whom I don't recognize, their win rate is 23.5% — a wee bit shy of the percentage of Americans who share their views.

The kicker of the piece, however, comes with two references to Griswold's job as a teacher. The first is at the beginning, as he's beginning his "project": "I drove to the middle school where I teach, walked into class, and happily explained my plan to the students." The second is toward the end:

The following week I went on vacation to the mountains. A complete absence of any media at my secure, undisclosed location offered a reprieve from thinking about the project, but when I returned, I felt guilty about the lack of exposure. I decided to extend the project by a week. That's when one of the eighth-graders in my class asked, 'Are you going to die?'

How better to prove conservatives' contention that liberals simply consider their view to be de facto truth? For all their claims about nuance and openmindedness, many liberals simply can't see the ideological structure upon which they're standing, so they believe it to be terra firma. Frankly, the cocktail of my reactions to the following leaves me able to formulate a response only through vertiginous vision:

They believe their views are correct, as do we all. But here, the point is that the Right establishes narrow strictures not just for the ideas they are willing to hold, but also for the ideas they're willing to hear, and then proclaims the space within those parameters 'the mainstream.'

Didn't Griswold notice that most folks on the Right use "liberal media" and "mainstream media" interchangeably? More significantly: how perfectly representative of the way in which people of a certain mindset only spot — and decry — that which appears superficially in others, although it is fundamental to themselves.

Those who populate the conservative media tend to believe that opinions exist along a spectrum of possibilities. Some are correct, and contradictory ones are wrong, to whatever degree. We figure out which are which by putting them up against each other, and we approximate an impossible objectivity by admitting what biases we can see. Thus, ostensibly objective institutions are liberal because they deny the bias.

The irony, here, is that relativism is a leftish principle, yet those on the Left often fail to apply it to the one area of life in which it is most applicable: human opinion. For Griswold, conservative principles aren't sincerely held in good will; they're a result of hypocrisy and anger. He confesses to being a "flaming liberal," but those flames must be thick, indeed, for a man to so dramatically miss the attitude and tone at play on Fox News:

On one of those first days, FoxNews.com ran a headline: 'Bush Warmly Welcomes Kerry to Race.' Directly beneath, the subhead read: 'Bush: Kerry has switched positions on almost every issue.' It made me wonder how the New York Times had covered Kerry's later primary victories. I scoffed that, at the very least, Times headlines and subheads wouldn't have argued with each other. I mean come on. But then I caught myself. Wait a minute. Do arguing headlines mean that FoxNews might really be as 'fair and balanced' as they claim? Had I been brainwashed my entire life?

For those who join Mr. Griswold in not getting it, let me just say this: it takes a certain arrogance to never question whether the butt of one's joke wasn't the witty one to begin with.

Posted by Justin Katz at 10:28 PM | Comments (13)

May 13, 2004

Who Are Those People, and What Do They Want?

John Hawkins has put together a short FAQ for liberals about what conservatives believe. I've had a few conversations recently in which the ability to direct an acquaintance to this particular answer would have been useful:

Well, how about the United Nations? Aren't they the good guys? How can conservatives have a problem with them?: The UN is a corrupt, incompetent, toothless, largely anti-American and anti-semitic organization, where dictatorships and global small fry have an inordinate amount of power and influence. That is reason enough to hold the organization in contempt. But, more importantly, conservatives believe that the United Nations often tries to insert itself in matters of US law, put itself above the US Constitution, and chip away at the sovereignty of the United States. That is simply intolerable.

One warning: a variant of John's answer is likely to represent the first time many people who get their information from mainstream sources will have heard such a string of accusations. Be gentle as you turn folks' world upside down.

Posted by Justin Katz at 11:38 PM | Comments (4)

May 5, 2004

The Info in Rhode Island and Around the World

I'd hazard a guess that Jill Dau, of Cumberland, Rhode Island, doesn't read Friends of Saddam, a blog devoted to the unraveling oil-for-food scandal. I'd even go so far as to suggest that she doesn't read Instapundit. Here's part of a letter that she wrote to the Providence Journal that shows why I'm willing to make such gambles on the information sources of a person whom I don't know:

Isn't it time for America to transfer power to the United Nations? Our arrogance continues to paint bigger targets on American backs.

(Just to clarify: she seems to be limiting her prescription to our handling of Iraq, although she may be among that crowd, chiefly Democrats and other liberals, for whom the advice might be more broadly applicable.)

There are only two possibilities, as far as I can tell. Either Ms. Dau hasn't come across good-sized portions of the relevant information, or she's willing to place such a pivotal nation as Iraq in the hands of an organization that's apathetic about genocide, so much so that it's impeding efforts to investigate corruption that facilitated Saddam Hussein's work in that area. I'll pick the charitable option.

After all, a quick search of the Providence Journal's online archives yields only two abstracts of pieces that deal directly with the oil-for-food scandal this year — "Annan-gate," a 96-word editorial from March 21, and "U.N. 'help' for Iraq," a 436-word editorial from last Wednesday. To be fair, I don't read the printed version of the paper, and it's possible that the news or editorial department ran a story from a different source, such as the AP. However, it's also fair to say that mainstream media coverage of the scandal has been woefully meager. For example, there's nothing currently on the ProJo's Web site about secretive memos. There's also nothing, as it happens, about the human-rights credentials that the U.N. is willing to grant to Sudan.

Nonetheless, I have to wonder whether it is possible for the sort of person who would take the time to write to a newspaper not to have heard a hint of such scandals. I guess it is, particularly given the human tendency to overlook sparse tidbits that might tilt a pilaster of one's entire worldview. It's quite a bit easier to construct a comfortable model for international policy if there's a pure and infallible organization to shoulder every burden.

ADDENDUM:
Somehow, a letter from Albino Conte, of Johnston, Rhode Island, seems related in ways that flow just below the surface of the different topics:

I was amused by the minuscule April 13 article, "Award for abuse victims," buried on page A-3, about the millions of dollars paid out by the Lutheran Church for sexual abuse. If it had been the Catholic Church, it would have been front-page news.
Posted by Justin Katz at 7:28 PM

May 3, 2004

Crossword Clue: Liberals Know It When They See It

Paul Vincent of Bristol, Rhode Island, has broken the seal of the unspeakable in a letter to the Providence Journal:

One of President Nirschel's responses to the negativity engendered by the creation of the [whites-only] scholarship was to establish a lecture series treating all the related issues -- an idea that, in my opinion, all reasonable people would agree was excellent. However, when asked if conservative speakers would be welcome, the president answered yes -- provided they were "thoughtful." Mr. Nirschel didn't say whether such a stricture would be applied to liberal speakers, but -- count on it! -- it won't be.

Yes, political correctness -- by which I mean sympathy for left-leaning attitudes and policy prescriptions -- is in the saddle at Roger Williams University, as it is on most campuses. So sure am I of this that I will make the following assertion -- only a guess, but take it to the bank: Al Sharpton, an unreconstructed race hustler (only the utter cravenness of the Democratic National Committee allowed his serious participation in the presidential primaries), would be welcomed as a speaker to this lecture series with open arms; by contrast, David Horowitz -- author of Left Illusions and an articulate opponent of the slavery-reparations movement -- would be well advised not to wait by the phone.

I can hear President Nirschel's opinion of Horowitz now: "He's too unthoughtful"!

Not know enough about Mr. Nirschel, I won't place bets as to the likely reception of such folks as David Horowitz. Broadly, however, it's accurate to suggest that "thoughtfulness" is one of those vague criteria that can substitute when there is no justification. Applied to all sides of a debate equally, one can trust that it's likely meant as a measure of productivity — allowing discussion to move forward. Applied only to conservatives, it presumes at least a greater inclination toward unthoughtfulness on their part, or at least that "forward" is a predetermined direction.

Posted by Justin Katz at 11:05 PM

April 28, 2004

Investigating the Strange Creatures of the Left

Bill of INDC Journal offers some absolutely hilarious photo-rich coverage of a protest of some sort in Washington:

I could barely contain my glee as I drew upon the swarm. This was no minor gathering of a select few common moonbats, rather a cornucopia of various genera, species and subspecies. I had struck scientific gold, and was assaulted by a whirling mix of color ...

... sound ...

... and smell, as I plunged head-first into their midst!

Posted by Justin Katz at 10:37 PM

Typical in Approach, Anyway

Something that the 29-year-old teacher daughter in the family profiled for the Washington Post's example of Blue Staters says is indeed typical, and therefore merits mention:

But later, after church, out for breakfast, the three of them talk about how deeply they disagree, not only with what the priest said but with what Pope John Paul II said the day before, that same-sex unions "degrade" what marriage is supposed to be.

"I don't believe he would have said that," Maryanne says, referring not to the priest or the pope but to Jesus.

"They were 12 men hanging around together," Heather says, thinking of the disciples and a statistic she saw as she prepared to be a teacher. "Hmm. It's 10 percent of any class. Do the math."

It ought to be remembered that this is one statement drawn from a longer conversation, probably without summarization's being the only reason for its publication. Still, within Maryanne's limited point, exaggerated numbers (or at least the highest that anybody serious has been willing to put forward), provided, no doubt, by the education establishment, are applied in a way that not only offers nothing by way of insight into the historical figures in question, but presumes the speaker's view. It takes as an unstated given that the only reason to oppose SSM is a lack of familiarity and the resulting bigotry.

Even if a homosexual likely exists in any group of 10 (rather than any group of 35), assuming that the orientation necessarily dictated a position on same-sex marriage is ludicrous. For one thing, if Christ is God, then He knows homosexuals personally no matter how rare they are. For another, the disciples' conception of sexuality would have been much different, given their historical placement. For yet another, they certainly weren't interested in the pursuit of self-fulfillment in this world.

But most of all, Ms. Maryanne grants, without giving indication that she's aware of doing so, the underlying argument of SSM advocates: that the institution of marriage is less a family structure than an acknowledgement of emotional connection and sexual intimacy. The question is what Jesus would have suggested marriage should be — how its public practice would have fit within His larger teachings.

That's certainly a matter of legitimate debate. But Maryanne's explication (as presented) doesn't address it, nor does she argue what we should believe marriage should be and why. Instead, she uses a dubious statistical claim to dismiss the statements of her Church; that is the basis for her dissent from it in the second most prominent newspaper in the United States.

Thus do many liberals respond to the basic question at hand — What is marriage? — by declaring, "It is what I believe it to be, and you're a bigot if you disagree."

ADDENDUM:
In the comments section to this post, Jeremiah Lewis responds well to a line above that I didn't take the extra time to hone, but should have. Noting my mention of the disciples' interest in "the pursuit of self-fulfillment in this world," Jeremiah writes:

Their limited understanding of Jesus' mission led to disagreements as to how they should act with each other. Their squabbling over who would sit at the right and left of Jesus seems more like an argument about who was more important/worthy on earth - it was this very earthly fulfillment that they were after for which Jesus rebuked them.

I agree with this, and I shouldn't have come so close to denying the human impulses of the disciples; those very foibles constitute a large component of Christian theology. The mud through which I attempted to wade too swiftly was between the personal perspective of the individual disciples and their relevance to statements that Jesus would or would not have made. Maybe I just tripped on the difficulty of imagining one of the 12, having dropped everything to follow the Son of God, arguing that he ought to be able to procure the Social Security benefits of a homosexual spouse.

Looking up the passage to which Jeremiah refers (I think) — almost identical in Matthew and Mark — I note that it was well chosen, based on the specific relevance of Jesus' answer to a modern debate weighing individual desire and liberty against a social institution. From Mark:

You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.
Posted by Justin Katz at 6:39 PM | Comments (2)

Useless Stereotype Comparisons

By now, most people who will read them have taken in the Washington Post comparison of a Red State household and a Blue State household. The parallels are, to put it mildly, problematic.

Rich Tucker, to whom Lane Core links, notes that the media elite "sees liberals as normal people, and conservatives as some strange species from somewhere 'out there'":

This seems like a whitewash. If the paper could find a "typical" red state voter who fit all the stereotypical traits, it ought to have been able to find a "typical" blue stater who did, as well. Maybe a limousine liberal from the Upper East Side ("How could George W. Bush have been elected? Nobody I know voted for him!") Or an anti-war activist who marches for every cause that comes down the pike (there must have been at least one such liberal here in D.C. for the pro-abortion rally this past weekend...)

Instead, as Michael Graham puts it, the liberal piece introduces "a straight, white, blue-collar, never-divorced Catholic couple with two happy, straight adult children... and who don't even drink." I forget who said it, but this brings to mind a comment about Al Gore, that despite his paean to families "joined at the heart," he has a traditional family and, presumably, understands that it provides the optimal structure for raising children and pursuing real happiness as an adult.

Perhaps the most telling aspect of the two Wapo pieces is the difference in underlying narrative: journalist David Finkel first accompanies Red Stater Britton Stein through his morning Internet rounds for the conservative talk of the day. We hear a story about the parents' playing a practical joke on their children. Then, we head off to church and hear about community and being "like-minded people." For the closing scene, Finkel follows the Red State father out of the house, leaving the family behind, to go out drinking at Hooters with buddies. (That's the photo accompanying the story online.) Finkel ticks off the rounds, and the suspicous reader can only imagine him, sitting in that bar, anticipating the material to come. Oh well. The dads stopped at four, still articulate, if a little uncareful with their tales about planned-community life.

The Blue State family is introduced — in contrast to the preceding story — as a family: "the Harrison family." The online picture? "Tom and Maryanne Harrison and their daughter, Heather, walk from church to Sunday breakfast in their San Francisco neighborhood." We get anecdotes of handing out dollars to homeless children and realizing — gosh darn it — it just isn't enough: "beyond that one man were dozens of homeless people in the neighborhood, thousands in the city, millions in the country." A job so big, only a big government can accomplish it.

We find out that the empathetic man of the house learned tolerance listening to the stories of fellow participants in a month-long detox program. (Conservatives might suggest that only for a liberal could the lesson of a struggle with alcoholism be the importance of striving for "tolerance toward whatever a person wants to do, even if he wouldn't necessarily do it himself.") For this article, we find out that — believe it or not — the wife has a life and biography as well, one of compassionate activism. The daughter is preparing to be married; the son proposes to a woman during the period of his family's interviews with Finkel.

Apart from these differences of presentation, one could argue endlessly about whether the two families are truly typical of the groups that they are meant to represent. Personally, I find the problem to be that the Harrisons are typical, while the Steins are emblematic. Finkel could easily have found more-emblematic liberals; he could also have found more-typical conservatives. Finkel could have provided more individual and family background for the Steins, and he could have spent more time discussing the environment of the Harrisons. Beyond the problems of San Francisco, is it any less the case that they live among "like-minded people"? If not, how then are they comparably typical?

Because of this imbalance, and because it was such a sure bet, I wasn't going to comment on the series... until I saw Sheila Lennon's take on the Steins:

This town sounds to me like the past, a past I wanted desperately to explore beyond, in the '60s ...

Britton Stein, the father of the family and main subject of the piece, is a churchgoing, Drudge-reading, junk-food eating, Fox News watcher.

During the fourth round of beers at Hooter's, he and his friends get to the core of Sugar Land...

This could be Thornton Wilder, writing in 1938. It could be Our Town.

I'm awfully glad it's not mine.

In conformity, they hope to find safety. To me, it sounds like condo hell, living by the rules of the crankiest co-owner.

I want the wild sprouts, the signs of life. I want copper-colored roses and unapproved plants. Spring's dandelions turn my lawn to a field of yellow, with the purple tops of bugleweed following suit. After they're gone, we mow.

I've got news for Ms. Lennon: even here in her home state of Rhode Island — which is pushing out everybody but the rich and the poor — there is "condo hell." Just try to put the wrong-colored shed in my brother-in-law's neighborhood. Similarly, there are, no doubt, Drudge readers who don't keep a meticulous lawn. Even ignoring her presumptions about the relationship between neighborhoods and the politics of the people who inhabit them, I find it worth a chuckle that Lennon includes the following, casually, within her ode to the free-spirited block:

On trash night in my neighborhood, on the curb you can see what everyone's tossing out, and an informal recycling program swings into action.

What is entailed in the garbage inspection and "informal recycling program," I don't know, but such details would have certainly helped Finkel, had he wished to offer a balanced comparison, to offset this:

"The first time I put my trash out, I put it by the curb, and my neighbor came out and said, 'We don't curb our trash here in Sugar Land.' " Lannom says, laughing. "I had some cinch bugs in my front yard or something, my neighbor says, 'Craig, I want to talk to you about your brown patch.' "

"It's so predictable here," Stein says.

Sides of a coin.

Posted by Justin Katz at 1:16 PM | Comments (2)

April 19, 2004

This Closed Mind of Mine

If you've got a moment, grant yourself the pleasure of reading Douglas Kern's review of Peter Singer's latest book. The review begins:

I'm closed-minded. I've made up my mind on most major issues, and I foresee no likelihood that my most cherished principles and beliefs will ever change. I do not worry that my closed-mindedness presents any handicap to me in the free marketplace of ideas, because my life experience indicates that most genuinely new ideas are stupid. I have little time or mental energy to spend refuting the clever arguments of idiots who contend that black is white, night is day, Communism is misunderstood. As I don't want to die as big a fool as I am now, I search for truth where it is, not where it is not. So I am closed-minded, and proud.
Posted by Justin Katz at 11:44 PM | Comments (1)

April 16, 2004

Strength in Numbers

Many twenty- and thirtysomething conservatives across America are probably at least a little disappointed to have missed the latest wave of campus culture: conservative caché. Reading their letters to the student paper, I have to admit that my entire experience with higher education might have been different had I been part of a group such as URI's Students for the Awareness of Conservatism. At the very least, it would have offered company for my multiple letters to the editor.

Here're Ryan Lospaluto's thoughts upon attending a Kerry presentation:

On Tuesday I went to see Senator and soon to be Democratic Presidential nominee John Kerry in Providence. Even though I am not on the same side of the political spectrum as Kerry I was excited to see him speak and eager to hear what he had to say.

I have to admit much of what he said sure sounded good. I mean, sure he wants to make life perfect for us and is willing to spend a lot of our own money to do it.

How encouraging it would have been, once upon a time, to have like-minded fellows with whom to play drinking games based on the amount of taxpayer money Clinton promised away with each State of the Union! In a comment to a post on Michael Williams's blog, Kurt quotes the astute 19th Century historian Alexander Tyler:

A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves money from the public treasure. From that moment on the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most money from the public treasury, with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world's great civilizations has been two hundred years. These nations have progressed through the following sequence: from bondage to spiritual faith, from spiritual faith to great courage, from courage to liberty, from liberty to abundance, from abundance to selfishness, from selfishness to complacency from complacency to apathy, from apathy to dependency, from dependency back to bondage.

I'd say we're pretty close to complacency and apathy, indeed, when it is more important that politicians promise handouts than that they have any prospects of actually being able to deliver. Spreading awareness of conservatism couldn't be a more timely endeavor.

Posted by Justin Katz at 10:32 PM

April 12, 2004

The Burden of the Bien Pensant

By now, you've probably already come across a link to Margot Mifflin's piece on Salon describing the ordeal of introspection sparked when her therapist admitted to enjoying Rush Limbaugh — as a rhetorician, not a right-wing-nut joke — and you've already decided to watch the commercial to read the whole thing or to skip it. Well, I read the whole thing and was surprised at how seriously the piece took its subject matter.

Perhaps I missed it, but Ms. Mifflin didn't seem inclined toward the self-dispraising irony that one might have expected under such circumstances. Rather, she seems not to wonder at all whether there's something in the incident that ought to challenge her own opinion. She even writes of letting her shrink off easy in the debate over Rush's character:

I granted her that I didn't even find his recent Donovan McNabb gaffe worth losing his ESPN gig over, and neither did most of my black journalism students, but I wouldn't forgive him for telling a black caller, years ago, to take the bone out of his nose and call back later, among other cracks. She'd never heard this. I didn't mention that he'd called 13-year-old Chelsea Clinton the White House dog, or that he'd claimed that all composite illustrations of criminals look like Jesse Jackson, or that he'd joked about AIDS.

On the substance — well, look — Limbaugh has been a public figure of an entertainment sort for decades, mostly in live media. Is it surprising that FAIR can draw one-liners from throughout his career and, out of context, prove them to be factually incorrect? Not at all. It'd be surprising if his media enemies couldn't do so, but beginning with a presumption of evil, every word is turned to the most objectionable angle and piled into a mountain of proof.

The nose-bone incident captures the various bits of this process well — from the careerwide span to the removal of context to the uncharitable reaction. According to Snopes, the comment was made in the early 1970s. Moreover, the proof of the quote comes from Limbaugh himself, admitting in 1990 that he felt guilty for once having made the comment. In other words, by the time Mifflin gets to it, the line is twice removed from context. The second removal suggests Mifflin's finely tuned capacity for outrage, so sensitive that she won't forgive him for a thirty-year-old comment of which she's only aware because he expressed remorse about it. This bit of evidence for her argument is like Mifflin's reaction to the therapist in that it tells one much more about her than about either of the people to whom she's reacting, which is why the lack of self-reflection is palpable.

It would, of course, stretch things to transform this into a blanket statement about the relative behaviors of liberals and conservatives. Yet, there's some generality to be found. From personal experience, I can suggest that I react quite differently upon finding out that acquaintances are staunch liberals than they react in return. Perhaps part of it is that conservatives are outside of the media mainstream, so we're used to the discovery corresponding to what Mifflin sees as "betrayal."

Whatever the case, perhaps her therapist should have assigned her a certain number of hours of weekly Rush listening. Just pondering the subtext of his catchphrase about tying half his brain behind his back "just to make it fair" would do her a world of good.

ADDENDUM:
One last amusing note. Mifflin describes a disconnect between Limbaugh's "rhetorical techniques" and her counselor's advice to her to avoid "name-calling, 'provocative' language, finger pointing and mudslinging." Earlier in the piece, she mentions that Rush's "fabrications... helped Al Franken land a bestseller," without providing the title of that book. It was, of course, Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Idiot.

Posted by Justin Katz at 10:05 PM | Comments (1)

April 5, 2004

No Solution but to Defeat Them

Bryan Preston has moved through a transition of a different sort:

Dialogue in our own culture hasn't done squat. We're about as divided as a country can be, and over such a basic question as whether to defend ourselves or not. Leftists today openly cheer the deaths of their own countrymen. How sickening is that? We're sure not going to win the war with Islamofascism with dialogue. Sometimes you've just gotta kill the other guy before he kills you and your family, and when it comes to Islamofascism, that's the situation we're in. You lefties didn't understand that on 9-11, you don't understand it now and I'm convinced you never will. You'd rather bury your empty little heads and pretend George W. Bush is a bigger threat to world peace than an Osama fanatic with a suitcase nuke hanging out in downtown Chicago. You're entitled to your opinions, no matter how asinine they may be.

So here's what I plan to do with the next few months, in terms of the blog and in terms of my attitude. Dialogue with you people is done.

Of course, we ought to approach each new person across whom we come as if he is sincere and open to persuasion (and even capable of persuading), but it's always disheartening to realize that a great number of people are determined to believe as they do regardless of the reality upon which they propound. When there are enough of those people to constitute a political force, political victory becomes the first consideration... especially in an election year.

(And yes, I realize that those who live in the parallel realities of the Left or extreme Right will call me a hypocrit for this post. Leave your comments if you must, but don't expect a response. [Although you may, in fact, get one.])

Posted by Justin Katz at 7:21 AM | Comments (2)

April 1, 2004

So Many Worlds from Which to Choose

Jay Nordlinger writes of the interplay of the two, irreconciliable worldviews when it comes to Iraq:

"U.S. weapons hunters in Iraq have found more evidence Saddam Hussein had civilian factories able to quickly produce biological and chemical weapons, the CIA's top weapons inspector told senators yesterday."

I realize that's not good enough for the world, but it's good enough for me. Is it good enough for you, too? I suspect so.

The line following the sentence I quoted is, "But they still have not found any weapons."

Again, what they have found is good enough for me. If they'd found Little Boy and Fat Man themselves, sitting right in the kitchen of Saddam's favorite palace, it wouldn't have been good enough for Dominique de Villepin.

Of course, nukes in the kitchen wouldn't have been an imminent threat. At the very least, they'd have to be driven to the launch site. Somehow, I can't help but relate this you-see-white-I-see-black matter to an Arkansas friend's note that Nordlinger reprints. It's about the issue of, umm, black and white:

A co-worker of mine has a daughter in public elementary school, here in Pine Bluff. They're still doing Black History Month stuff, apparently, because the kids were told to come to class dressed as a famous (and presumably accomplished) African-American. My co-worker's kid was told to come as Tina Turner. My co-worker informed the teacher that her child would come as Condoleezza Rice instead. The teacher refused to allow it, on grounds that Rice 'is for white people.' Nice, huh?

These little travesties always seem to have that extra little degree of lunacy: pop star Tina Turner was not "for white people"?

Posted by Justin Katz at 5:11 PM

March 24, 2004

The Libertarian Fantasy Government

While running a couple of errands, a little while ago, I heard a caller on the radio arguing one of those points that is so dumb it takes a bit of intelligence to find it plausible. In a nutshell, he declared that morality is not, properly speaking, part of the American system of government. Everything is based on laws derived from individual rights.

In some ways, this represents the first lap around the track for those who have rejected the notion of a government based on higher principles of a more religious nature. Essentially, all he's done is to re-label morality as individual rights, without crediting morality as the basis for rights. He's appealing to the same concept of objective, transcendent truth that he thought to leave behind at the starting line, but he's added a layer of obscuring rationalization. At some point, he'll come across somebody's explanation of why this is so or something will trip up his rhetorical structure, and he'll be off again for the next lap.

For one example of his case, the caller tried to make a distinction between the religious Commandment "thou shalt not kill" and laws governing murder. The former is a moral declaration having to do with the sanctity of the individual life, in his formulation, while the latter is an assertion of the legal right of a person not to be killed for no reason. But last I heard, the most accurate translation of that Commandment actually is "thou shalt not murder," and indeed, all religions growing from the Old Testament recognize some form or other of legitimate infliction of death. Moreover, the concept of "no reason" requires a subjective measure and an appeal to morality.

A second example to which the caller made recourse was that judges rule based on the law rather than morality. If only that were true! Even accepted "objective" law leaves room for judgment on such matters as whether discrimination is "invidious." More importantly, judges who do handle the law objectively do so simply because that's their prescribed function within our government system. What do such people think the legislature is for?

At best, folks who take this caller's view are describing their ideal government based on their own moral principles, rather than the U.S. government as it is actually constructed. To the extent that this ideal is both legitimate and feasible, it is as a limited ideal for government within a society that has assigned power to areas of life and culture that more appropriately and effectively dabble in morality. This construction, as I see it, is the nation that our Founding Fathers sought to create, and we've managed to mangle it so horribly in part because we've slipped into legalisms and rhetorical illusions.

Posted by Justin Katz at 5:13 PM

March 17, 2004

Clarity and Confusion in Rhode Island

Reading through some new letters on the Editorial/Opinion page of Good Five Cent Cigar, it occurred to me how clearly and undeniably students taking the conservative side tower over their opponents. I'm biased, of course, but even doing my best to judge objectively, the difference is clear on everything from spelling to rhetorical structure. I wonder what thoughts the imbalance sends skittering across the minds of the liberal English professors.

Of course, the disparity is, in large part, attributable to those academic role models. Conservatives in a New England college will find themselves battling not just their peers, but also the professors themselves. They've had to hone their thinking as well as to learn to go above and beyond the necessary so as to render impossible the lowered grades that ideology might otherwise summon.

It's surely too untenable a state of affairs to seek to make permanent, but it seems to me that the best arrangement for conservatives and (therefore) the country would be a sort of split culture. If conservatives could hone their ideas in the hostile cauldron of a liberal educational system, further sharpening both wit and understanding on an opposing media establishment, yet secure decisive control of the government through the majority approval of citizens, our system might very well find the sum of its potential.

In practice, the liberals have overplayed their natural role as intellectual foils, however, and they can't help, therefore, but poison the instinctive conservatism of the rational beings known as citizens. When a worldview is so thoroughly promoted — even in direct contradiction to reality — it can hardly help but corrupt the order of the society, particularly when that worldview has captured both the sources of information and the mechanisms for implementing law.

There are plenty of liberal majorities in a new poll of Rhode Islanders, but a few points are striking, both in the survey results and in the near certainty that the opinions expressed will be thwarted. Even in this ultraliberal state, 67% of respondents opposed legalizing marriage for homosexuals. 43% favor some sort of civil unions, but the point is that a bill currently under consideration that would define marriage should be unobjectionable to a majority of citizens. Of course, by the time the state's single paper gets done spinning and respinning it, seeking to paint its supporters as extremely as possible, and its opponents (those who support same-sex marriage) as domestically as possible, the opposite statute, also making its way through the government, which only 31% of citizens ostensibly support, is probably more likely to pass.

There's an even more likely scenario for the imposition of same-sex marriage that relates to another poll question. Here's the question:

Currently judges in Rhode Island are appointed for life. In other states, judges are elected, appointed for specific terms, or reappointed every few years with a review and public input process. When it comes to judges in Rhode Island, which of the following is closest to your point of view?

Only 10% of respondents would like to keep the appointed-for-life rule. 60% think judges ought to face reappointment "every few years." Think a bill will even be proposed to accomplish such a change? Another surprise that'll be allowed to fade into online archives is that 64% of Rhode Islanders actually favor the death penalty "in some circumstances" (eerily, the same percentage who believe assisted suicide should be legal). And an unrelated, much less grim, surprise is that 67% believe that "all [school] subjects [should] be taught in English."

Suffice to say that the issues break out such that the state really ought to be more balanced than it is, politically. Both confirmation of this and some vague direction for an explanation are supplied by two questions having to do with self-characterization. 50% of respondents called themselves "Independent," rather than Democrat or Republican, and 59% insisted that they were "somewhere in between" liberal and conservative.

So, what gives? Well, I'd say that media's phrasing of issues and events helps to bolster the impression that conservatives and Republicans are too mean and nasty for voters to let go of the safe territory of "unaffiliated," even if they are more often correct than their opponents. The independents end up voting Democrat. Perhaps the dreadfully garbled images of the parties and factions leave voters with no confidence to do otherwise than follow deep-seated self-image — something formed young (at college, say) that often requires the triumph of right over "cool" to reform it.

And it doesn't help that the professors don't endeavor to make their sympathetic students feel more compelled to substantiate their opinions, more likely to seek input from wherever it can be found and to form complete pictures — more like, in a word, conservatives.

Posted by Justin Katz at 11:55 PM

March 16, 2004

Liberals for Lunacy

The picture accompanying this Boston Herald article about Hillary Clinton's opinion of Kerry's Republican-hating comments is precious enough, but check out this meaningful typo before it goes away:

The New York senator said Kerry is now in the crosshairs of the sane "vast, right-wing conspiracy'' that came after her husband, and urged Kerry to "counterpunch.''

(via the Corner)

ADDENDUM:
For the record, I still can't tell if the typo is what Kathryn Jean Lopez meant when she wrote, "HRC still gives us a lot more credit than we deserve." I don't think so, but I could be wrong.

ADDENDUM II:
Well, this doesn't really clear up the question. (It doesn't link to me, either.)

Posted by Justin Katz at 1:32 PM | Comments (2)

March 3, 2004

View from the Core Scorecard

Hey, whaddaya know? Lane Core looks to have rightly assessed the intended tack of the New York Times's coverage of conservatives. It's a little less:

Note how the male conservative approaches the issue in his characteristic dance of religious faith and economic bravado, while the rest of the pack lingers behind, tails down and ears perked.

And a little bit more:

Hey, you conservatives really don't get along, do you? Why, you know what that President Bush guy said about you?
Posted by Justin Katz at 8:34 PM | Comments (1)

In Love with Misery

A person of conservative persuasion might be inclined to see such misery among them as proof that liberals know they're losing:

I don't have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad. We're all depressed, impotent, socially awkward, afraid of and allergic to everything. Everybody's out of work or scared of losing the jobs that are breaking their balls and corroding their souls; they can't afford to lose the health insurance that pays for their anti-depressants, Viagra, and weekly visits to the therapist. A dollar will buy you a double cheeseburger, a cup of crappy convenience store coffee, and a pull of the slot machine at one of the million senior citizens centers masquerading as gambling casinos. Banks are run by brazen pimps and usurious mob-men. Shopkeepers peddle bulk generic sudafed and white gas and Doritos to pasty, meth-addled punks. There's no one anywhere that seems to know what to do with us. We know the air is unfit to breathe, our food is unfit to eat, and we sit watching our TVs while some local newscaster tells us about Botox surgery, inspirational octogenarian dog groomers, and various and interchangeable hoods, hustlers, and whores, as if this is exactly the country the founding fathers imagined.

But even my political memory is long enough to know that this is just the way liberals see the world. I, myself, was once a kinda-sorta liberal of this tincture. An interesting question: is the misery a result of the ideology, or the other way around? It's probably a cycle that can be entered from either direction. From one direction, the ideology of saving everybody (in a worldly sense) is bound to become bitter when people refuse (or are just too darn ignorant to realize how brilliant one's plan is). From the other, dislike of people and general reality convinces a person that control must be imposed upon society from "experts" who know what they're doing.

This is Pop Politics 101 stuff, of course, and probably an indication that my brain needs to chew some bubblegum for a while. But anyway, it presents an opportunity to revel in how incredibly happy I am to have slipped into a faith-driven worldview in which things are good by definition and adversity is a mechanism through which an even better reality can be reached — regardless of worldly success or failure.

Posted by Justin Katz at 1:02 PM | Comments (1)

February 4, 2004

Not on My Channel

James Pinkerton, in whose opinion I've had less and less interest over the past year or so, thinks that the "Repressive Right," by asking the FCC to react to the travesty of the non-football parts of the Super Bowl, is going to push society into the wilds of cable and the Internet, prepare the way for the government expand into those wilds, and open the door for left-wing political censorship on television. In actuality, if anybody is going to bring about this outcome it will be the Lascivious Libertarians and Libertines.

The blinders of their own brand of puritanism are leading the Pinkertons of America to a failure to understand not just politics, but reality itself. They completely miss the compromise and perspective wherein lies the wisdom of conservatism. Every line is drawn with a big thick crayon, and as Craig Henry notes, they are all drawn where the libertarians would like them to be, with scarcely a mention of where they are.

This was not just a new low for network television; it was a new low for network television that happened to be achieved during the Super Bowl — the single-most-watched event in America. This was not just an accidental spectacle from which the performer recovered with coquettish professionalism; it was a direct and obvious assault on the very idea of decency, extending to include the disturbing commercials sprinkled like cyanide salt throughout the game. By failing to understand that and to use their platforms to caution against allowing a reasonable and natural reaction to go too far in the future, people who are absolutists about their free speech in my livingroom make of themselves yet another extreme from which to choose. And most people, given such a choice, will pick the extreme that at least aligns with their general view of society.

What makes Pinkerton's view even more ridiculous, however, is his suggestion, in essence, that we have to allow trash on television or else nobody will actually watch television — or that we must bring cable to television to avoid television's going to cable. As if people are clamoring for more trash during the Super Bowl. Frankly, I've never heard anybody express the hope that the following year's halftime show and commercials would be more depraved. It may have worked, over the past several decades, that the business of entertainment has managed to maintain an audience while substituting titillation for talent, but it's not a trend that can continue forever.

The well for those murky and salaciously addictive waters is nearly dry, and Pinkerton is making it more likely that society will choose just to fill it in rather than draw from it more reservedly. When the antics of the degradation shysters manage to unite me and Providence Journal columnist Froma Harrop against them, red flags ought to go up. And the license-at-all-costs crowd ought to take heed.

Posted by Justin Katz at 2:52 PM

January 31, 2004

The Times's Sneak Attack

The New York Times's effort to "cover conservatives" is just so bizarre-yet-predictable that I haven't known what to say about it that the fact doesn't say about itself. However, Lane Core makes a suggestion that I find dishearteningly plausible:

I think "what this is about" is playing up as much as possible — if not more — the differences of opinion among various conservative camps, to make it look like the general conservative movement in the country is weaker than it actually is. They will, concomitantly, downplay or ignore the differences between various liberal factions.
Posted by Justin Katz at 3:19 PM | Comments (1)

January 15, 2004

Don't Compare Hitler to Hitler

Having just hinted at the unfairness of painting MoveOn.org's ad contest with the red ink from the two Bush=Hitler ads, Sheila Lennon links to a comment on the subject with the title "Let's not retire the Hitler comparisons."

The title is misleading. David Weinberger's essay actually makes a worthwhile point that we oughtn't forget that Germany reached the horror that it did through some series of events, and that we shouldn't hesitate to learn from that history. Of course, the circumstances, both domestic and geopolitical, that brought Hitler to power make his situation different in just about every significant way from George Bush's.

But Weinberger's argument is well taken, particularly if we remember that some steps that may be cause for concern may not, therefore, be unjustified to take at a given time. It further legitimizes the argument if we emphasize, as Mike Sanders seems to do in a comment to Weinberger's post, that the similarities can come from both sides of the aisle (ahem — refer to the NRO picture in the previous post).

All of this said, it would be remiss of me not to draw attention to a parenthetical that nearly made me discount everything Weinberger had to say thereafter:

(Oddly, none of these commentators have complained about the Bush administration's repeated characterization of opponents of the Iraq war as "appeasers," a direct reference to the British policy of appeasement that failed to stop Hitler, or about its use of the phrase "Axis of evil" with its implicit comparison to WWII's Axis.)

That's jaw-dropping in its foolishness. Think it through (as my Dad used to insist I do): If one refers to British appeasers to explain anti-war folks in the U.S., then Hitler, in the modern parallel, would be... Saddam Hussein. The Axis of Evil designation compares Iraq, Iran, and North Korea with Germany, Italy, and Japan. How are either of these inapt — let alone unfair? Moreover, how do they even begin to balance the rhetorical scale with calling the President of the United States Hitler?

Posted by Justin Katz at 12:53 PM

Today's Banner at NRO

Posted by Justin Katz at 12:07 PM

They're Heeere (A Liberal Administration)

Fr. Rob learns from The West Wing:

I think that Leftism is false, like any other ideology, because it is an a priori approach to the world. As such, it fails to acknowledge or account for reality. It fails in economics because it fails to account for the principle of scarcity, the reality of the market, and how human beings actually behave economically. It fails in social policy because it fails to acknowledge the reality of human nature, most often by denying that there is such a thing at all, or by holding, usually implicitly, that human nature can somehow be changed. It fails morally also because it fails to account for human nature (usually by ignoring the Fall and its consequences), and because it denies, most often implicitly, but sometimes explicitly, the reality of the created order and its Author.

You can follow the link to see how this view relates to the television show and the circumstances under which the connection occurred to Fr. Rob. Let's just say that liberals would prefer to recast the role of reality's Screenwriter.

Posted by Justin Katz at 11:37 AM

January 10, 2004

Growing Wise (i.e., Conservative)

Lane Core notes a long, but well-worth-reading, essay by University of Texas at Arlington Professor Keith Burgess-Jackson about his maturation to the wisdom of conservatism. Actually, it would be more accurate to say that his increased wisdom made him conservative, or even that he defines conservatism as the viewpoint of the wise.

There's too much worth quoting, in that vein, to pick and choose. However, more interesting, whether Burgess-Jackson realizes it or not (and certainly to the chagrin of many of my fellow bloggers, should they spot it), is that much, if not most, of what he says applies to libertarians, as well.

The world, to the young, came into existence with them and exists to be manipulated by them. What came before is to be questioned and, if found wanting (as it usually is), abolished. The world is to be built anew, from the ground up, using only our ideals and our technology.

He could easily have added "and reason alone" at the end of that passage. In this phrasing, one could say that liberals err in their confidence about the purity of their ideals, while libertarians err in their confidence in logic — specifically, their own personal logic. To be sure, the latter is better, because many problems that wisdom assists in solving, such as those involved with economic issues, really require only a smidge of practicality.

Burgess-Jackson makes other statements that inadvertently catch libertarians in the net that he has thrown over liberals. There's the respect for tradition, and the belief in belief, as well as the codependent nature of liberty and responsibility. And I recalled Ben Franklin's line about a reasonable man being able to think of a reason to do just about anything when I read this paragraph:

The experienced person realizes that institutions such as marriage evolved for a reason, even if the reason is hard to articulate. Institutions represent tradeoffs and compromises among disparate values and interests. Sometimes these values and interests are difficult to discern, so defenders of tradition are easily put on the defensive by their critics. They are accused of being blind, biased, and obfuscatory. They are said to be "prejudiced" and "bigoted." Why, they cannot even articulate their opposition to such things as homosexual marriage or adoption! What ignoramuses! If you can't articulate the reason for something, it is said, you should cease believing and defending it.

Apart from this error of libertarian omission, the only major disagreement that I have with the professor is that he claims conservatism as being pessimistic. This is the old, Boomer view of the way in which outlook aligns with politics. But it isn't pessimistic to realize that human beings are flawed and that, eventually, the length of time and the number of people, and therefore opportunities for error and sin, will lead to corruption in human society.

The conservative believes that we should acknowledge this fact of life and build our society with reference to it because, ultimately, he is optimistic that people will choose rightly, given the chance, and that, in so doing, they will come to greater reward than any liberal activist or libertarian capitalist could ever promise.

Posted by Justin Katz at 9:43 PM | Comments (11)