Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Sarah is in the Running

So, Governor Palin doesn't think she was treated fairly by the media, and I'm inclined to agree. Big Media does not like passionate conservatives, and they can seem to be easy targets. Tina Fey's joke awhile back that marriage "is between two unwilling teenagers" is a clear throwback to the liberal fabrication that conservatism means caveman behavior, and was, as the Governor says, more a personal jibe at her family than her views.

I still like Sarah. I know there are folks out there who think her too much of an air head, citing the fact that she couldn't identify newspapers and magazines she read or that famous quip about seeing Russia from Alaska as proof. To be sure, she did appear ill prepared for some of her interviews, and if she wants to go farther in politics that must be addressed. Still, I don't see where reading the papers is necessarily a strong point for anybody. It's not as though the New York Times and Newsweek have a corner on truth (not by any stretch of the imagination!); no less an intellectual than C.S. Lewis never read the papers in great part because he knew you couldn't trust them. That was back in the 1940's and 50's, mind you.

When I look to 2012 I see no one who really excites me other than Sarah Palin. Mitt Romney perhaps, but no one else comes to mind. I think that with a little effort and no loss of the passion the Alaska Governor can make a great run. Who knows? Reagan overcame media bias. Our next best thing might just be coming from the last frontier.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Leslie Nielson

Leslie Nielson, Canadian-American actor who successfully crossed genres throughout his career, passed away yesterday at the age of 84. If anyone can be remembered fondly, if there is someone who we have lost whom you cannot think of without smiling, he is that man.

His life played out like someone who had a certain destiny, who had the kind of talent which would of its own accord come out in due time. Starting as a disc jockey in Calgary, Alberta, he moved on to study under Lorne Greene in Toronto before heading to New York to appear in many live television shows in the 1950s. Though he starred in mainly dramatic roles early on, his career seemed to explode after his role in Airplane! His flair for comedy then dominated the remainder of his acting life.

He played well received comic characters such as Frank Drebin, and less popular ones in nondescript films such as Spy Hard and Wrongfully Accused. In perhaps an homage to his Canadian roots he played an ornery old curler in Men with Brooms. Nielson was likable, indeed endearing, in almost any comic role he opted to play. That perhaps was his best acting.

Or was it acting? It has been said that he had always been a fun loving prankster behind the camera, and it isn't a stretch to find such folks genuinely fun, the kind of people we all want to be around.

So often when tributes such as these are penned, it is with a teary eye. Yet somehow this has been an easier one to write. Although the tear is there, The smile cannot be forced off my face.

We'll miss you, Shirley. If I may, this once, call you that.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Human Reason and Abortion

Pope Benedict XVI has said that human embryos are 'dynamic, autonomous individuals.' It is a good and clear statement of what seems a reasonable philosophic position: human beings have human babies.

It is high time that we state things clearly and emphatically where human life is at stake. We aren't talking about potential, we are talking about reality. The sooner we begin to emphasize that, the sooner we might begin to convince all but the hardest hearted that abortion is a great moral evil.

This is not a wholly, or even particularly, religious position, yet many will attempt to dismiss it as such. Concluding that, again, human beings have human children is no more inherently religious than asserting that rape, theft, or kidnapping is evil. Not that the religious aspect of this or any other moral question isn't important, but only that, when trying to convince someone not particularly or even openly hostile to religion that something is wrong we cannot use religion to defend it. We have to play the game on their field until such time as they come around to a more inclusive point of view.

Fortunately their field offers arguments not directly religious. We have defenses based on reason: if they are reasonable people, they will eventually begin to see these for themselves. If they are not reasonable people, well, they face a future of their making, either secular or religious, at their own peril.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Perilous Times on the Korean Peninsula

The United States and South Korea are going ahead with planned military exercises in the Yellow Sea just days after a North Korean bombardment killed two South Korean marines and two civilians. Meanwhile, protests in South Korea have led to the resignation of that nation's defense minister, and promises from the commander of their Marines that revenge will be certain and severe.

Yet these are ultimately mere sideshows to the real issue, the one drawing relatively scant attention in American eyes. The real question surrounding the recent escalation of Korean hostilities is, how will China respond to how we respond?

Beijing has said, basically, that it has no problems with the military exercises so long as they do not violate its economic zone. Still, it would appear we need more than that. We need the Chinese to reign in their ally in order to cool passions in the region.

Apparently they have admitted, privately, that they believe North Korea has gone too far. But how does that help defuse the situation? It would seem that, in the long run, someone with enough sway to reign in Pyongyang offers the only creditable method of averting further turmoil on the Korean peninsula. China is likely the only nation which can offer a useful leash on the Northern will.

So, then, the most pertinent question may be: has China westernized herself enough to be willing to call out her nearest and longest ally? Or, perhaps, is China testing western resolve by proxy?

We are quick and willing to decry what look like mere reckless actions on the part of a rogue nation. We may be well to fear that such things are not rogue at all, but calculated. In the end, what matters most is not exactly how this situation is resolved, but in who is pulling strings.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Consumerism and Conservatism

Consumerism, the great evil exemplified by the current madness rather ironically known as Black Friday, is something generally associated with conservatism. Yet it is in fact a liberal trait.

To be sure, there's nothing wrong with buying things for others, or even for one's self as such. Clothes, food, even our recreation, are things which must be regularly purchased for various yet obvious reasons. The list is surely much longer, too, but again, we get the point.

It's when we begin to buy things simply to buy them that we start to slip into error, into the evil of pure selfishness. When we have to buy a new TV because the old one is simply old, we have become consumerists. When we buy a Hummer when a van will do, we have become consumerists. When we make any purchase which is plainly conspicuous, we have become consumerists. It displays an excess of pampering, or worse, of egregious self indulgence.

That bigger, better, and newer isn't of itself wrong, true. Making purchases is something which, as with so much else, must be seen in context against the objective standards of right and wrong. There's nothing wrong with buying a tractor trailer rig if you're going into the shipping industry: a Chevy simply won't do the job. But if all you're doing is driving around to attend your daily needs, that Chevy should do just fine.

But to the point: consumerism is a liberal trait because it ultimately puts the state ahead of the individual for no good purpose other than the state. Why else would FDR, that old liberal, want to change Thanksgiving, except to lengthen the buying season? And at that, for the sake of the state in general, and his Presidency and popularity in particular. He wasn't interested in the person, but in himself and his government.

When we become preoccupied with buying things solely for the sake of the purchase, we are putting the nation ahead of the person. And we must include ourselves as persons of course: for we become less real as persons when we turn too far into ourselves. That, too, is a liberal trait, yet we will save comment on that for another time.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Meaning of Thanksgiving

Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me to "recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:"

Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enable to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.

George Washington's Thanksgiving Proclamation, 1789

Anyone who claims that we weren't founded on Christian principles, read these words well and carefully. And have a wonderful and happy Thanksgiving in that light.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Conspicuous Consumption and American Decadence

Friday it begins. Well, actually, tomorrow. Or perhaps even today, depending on exactly where you are and what tricks corporate American has up its sleeves. The holiday shopping season begins in earnest just as soon as the stores can make you feel guilty, or, better yet, selfish enough to buy, buy, buy!

Because, there's no point hiding from it, the real driving force behind American democracy is your obligation to treat yourself right by buying all sorts of goodies for you. Oh, and your family and friends too, of course, because they will love you so much more if you can be the one who purchases them the latest gadget, the newest bauble, the finest trinket. That's what it's all about, holidays in the You-nited States of America: conspicuous consumption of copious amounts of, quite frankly, stuff we don't really need for, ultimately, our own sense of well being.

We aren't even satisfied enough to wait until after Thanksgiving to wallow in our lust for things. Some stores are opening as early as 3 AM Friday, others are offering specials beginning in the late of hours of Thanksgiving Day itself, and a few have even dropped the pretense of caring and are offering great deals today, the day before the actual trigger is pulled to fire off what is supposed to be a full blown shopping orgy.

That such, ugh, celebrations actually run counter to what a holiday such as Thanksgiving is supposed to represent, which is being thankful for what we have (family and friendships above all, with material things coming in after such rudimentary successes as plain old survival, if you care to recall the true meaning of the tradition) only serves to make the season as it now stands more appalling. It has truly become a mockery of what our forefathers have done for us. We celebrate their sacrifice by callously ignoring that they sacrificed, not for us to buy and sell, but to have something better to appreciate: our lives and the gifts inherent in that rather than the ability to compete for better toys.

This is not say that we should not be generous towards others, even of objects not necessary to our inner life. But why not do that all year rather than at the command of the economic intelligensia? Why not buy and give brother Bill or Sister Sue that item in May, at your discretion and not at the hand of a corporate calendar? That would be true giving, and of greater merit.

The only obvious reason this doesn't happen is that we are not trained to think that way. We are expected to be lemmings in all we think and say and do. Our duty is not in fact to be kind to our neighbor but to restore the American economy.

Am I the only one who thinks that crass?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

North Korea Acts up Again

North Korea attacked a South Korean Island earlier today. The North claimed that it was reacting to South Korean military actions, while the South Koreans insisted that they were only engaging in normal training operations.

This incident is the second major aggression by the North Koreans this year. It would appear that the rogue nation is testing the waters, to see how much that world opinion and Western resolve might be pushed as they pursue their agenda.

The Korean peninsula has been a powder keg for years; at some point, outside of a severe change of outlook by Pyongyang, an outbreak of broad hostilities should be expected. If you want peace, especially when dealing with a power hungry little tin can dictator, then preparations for war my be the only recourse to such reckless actions.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Teachers aren't wrong.

While channel surfing a few minutes ago I stumbled across another of those sordid tales we have such a plethora of these days. It involved the killing of an 18 year old high school senior who was sleeping with his teacher. When her husband arrived at home and discovered the pair, he shot and killed the youth.

The entire story is reprehensible for the start. Yet there is one aspect of the whole, if you will forgive this, wretched affair, on which I'll wager a month's wages you will never hear. It won't come from the authorities, it won't come from the general society, and it certainly will not come from the school people. It is the simple point that when we approach education from the standpoint of being nonjudgmental, we should not be shocked when despicable acts such as this occur.

We teach our teachers that nothing is eternally right or wrong. We are expected to teach our students the same thing. That is what I saw in the education classes I had to take in order to become a certified teacher. That is what I was taught, or, well, what they attempted to teach me. Being of sound mind, I laid the idea on the dustbin of rancid thought where it belongs.

It's right out of the bible of the educationists, though: Bloom's Taxonomy of Educational Objectives. It says right in that haughty tome that nothing is to be seen as right or wrong for all times and all places. That's why schools preach being nonjudgmental.

So when teachers sleep with students, why are we surprised? The pedagogue and the young paramour are not, by education's own definition, doing anything wrong. Until we understand that fact and begin to appreciate the ramifications of such dismal thought which today passes as intellect, we will only condemn ourselves to more and worse news with the passing of time, as true right and wrong become dim and shadowy concepts in the mists of the past.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Four Loko and Craft Brewers

Craft brewers in Michigan and elsewhere are jittery in the light of the Four Loko advisory which the Food and Drug Administration aimed at the makers of the aforementioned drink and three other companies which mix alcohol and stimulants such as caffeine in their concoctions. The warning reminds the companies in question that it is illegal to sell drinks which are unsafe for consumption, and that their products appear to fit the bill.

The trouble is that many small breweries, craft breweries which make specialty beers, often use ingredients which contain natural caffeine. They don't add caffeine per se, but it comes into the beverage through the ingredients they use, such as cocoa beans. These brewmasters worry that the recent FDA edict will prevent their making beer their way for the folks who like it.

Part of the issue revolves around the way the Four Loko makers are marketing inexpensive, high alcohol, sweetened, high caffeine drinks to the college crowd and younger. The craft brew industry doesn't do that: they make beer for the love of beer, and are more free to experiment than the large breweries.

When all gets said and done, what we have here is a fine example of the troubles involved in personal freedom issues (at several levels, not simply of the individual), government regulation, and responsible citizenship. It is rather difficult to argue that those of legal drinking age should be kept from a product they want...yet it is also difficult to argue the morality of a company making a beverage aimed at an audience who wants only to get schnockered on the cheap. Toss in the fact that many microbreweries also use ingredients which may violate the standard the FDA apparently seeks to employ, brewers not attempting to entice potentially impressionable youths but, rather, enhance the quality of their product (what true beer lover doesn't appreciate the aroma and rich taste of a chocolate stout?) and we have an interesting mess of rights at work.

How far should the government go, and we must remember we are dealing with a monolithic government, in protecting the citizens from themselves? When considering this question, we must also factor in that there's nothing wrong with that government protecting the citizens not engaging in puerile behavior from the often dangerous antics of those who are. Yet we must also consider the obvious freedoms of the rest: the beer makers and beer drinkers who are not doing wrong but are merely engaging in the responsible marketing and responsible consumption of alcoholic products.

Those in the latter category are surely justified in the fear of what blanket government dictates may impose upon them. Washington certainly seems to use a heavy trowel when issuing edicts. Still, that cannot mean that everything coming from the beltway is wrong or errant. It will be quite interesting to see how the issue plays out.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Judgment of People and Things and Ideas.

They say you can't judge a book by its cover. Then why bother to put a cover on one?

Well, to entice folks to read it. That's why there will be photos or a painting or fancy script on a book's cover. Writers and editors and publishers want the cover to sway your judgment. So, then, the axiom actually means nothing useful. So why employ it?

So that you may feel guilty when you judge something on appearance. Usually this involves something that would generally bring contempt upon itself.

Think about the next time you are blithely told that.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Libertarianism

I have said to many folks, particularly my libertarian friends, that I want to be a libertarian so bad I can taste it. And I mean that. So what keeps me from signing on?

A handful of issues, for starters: as a group, they support abortion; they don't care for an aggressive foreign policy; and I simply can't quite come around on drug questions. Further, and this will sound very odd coming from me, they have too much of a distrust of government. Like it or not, there are things which only a government can do. Keeping order, for one, and keeping potential enemies at bay with the aggressive measures necessary. But I think the root problem with libertarianism as it stands today is the belief that the individual is the final arbiter of morality, the one who sets the standard for right and wrong.

No individual can hold this kind of power. On a practical level, it invites anarchy or worse: a might makes right society. On a philosophic level, it begs one very important question: if I, as an individual, can make up my own mind about people and things, why should I ever listen to you? No progress can be made from such a starting point in ethics, which certainly means nothing can be done in any other area either.

If libertarians were to admit that it is not the individual (or that weak sister, consensus) which dictates what can and cannot be done, that justice and rightness exist outside of those realms having a genuine being of their own, I may reconsider my position. Until then, they are as bad as liberals: they want what they want because they want it. It is a poor substitute for critical thought on critical issues.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Fighting for Peace

Yesterday was World Peace Day. There didn't seem to be many activities in conjunction with it.

A local library in Redford did hold a meeting of teen to discuss ways of promoting peace. That's okay so far as it goes, of course. But how far can it go?

One of the problems with promoting peace is that it's not unlike promoting war. Or promoting cars or trips to the movies or food. Peace and war, like it or not, are in truth moral neutrals in and of themselves.

We can use our cars wrongly, we can watch the bad movies, we can eat too much or what is bad for us. Likewise, we could demand peace when war is the better ethical option. And it is sometimes the better moral choice, no matter how awful the actual fact of it may be.

Further, promoting peace only really works when all parties involved want it. What did the wish for peace gain the peoples of Austria and Czechoslovakia in the years before the Second World War? In fact, it was only the desire for peace on the part of Great Britain and France which allowed the sacrifice of those nations to Hitler. That's hardly a clarion call for peaceful methods: they kept the peace, for awhile, at the price of someone else's sovereignty.

So when asked if you support peace, don't be afraid to ask the next and perhaps most important question: under what circumstances? Because to itself, peace only means the lack of violence. There are times when the overall cause of peace must be defended by the sword.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Competitive Eating?

Famed competitive eater Takeru Kobayashi could not set the Guinness world record for the fastest time to eat a 12 inch pizza. He needed to do it in 105 seconds with a knife and fork, yet the best he could muster was 123 seconds. This has led to speculation that the food athlete is past his prime, while his camp claims that the pizza wasn't cooked properly. That was the reason he couldn't eat it quickly enough.

So, what are we to gather from all of this?

More than anything else, that the west in general is becoming as decadent as the United States. Competitive eating? At the risk of sounding like a namby pamby liberal, that sort of competition truly mocks those in the world who have little or nothing to eat. It goes without saying that much of that issue ranges beyond simple poverty, or simply contributing to charity or even helping the poor directly by taking them food, as governments and various other forces are at work exacerbating the problem. The problem of poor food and poor nutrition isn't as easy as let them eat cake. Still, how can we in good conscience condone food eating contests when there are in fact so many in the world with little, if anything?

Laments that Mr. Kobayashi may be past his prime ignore that reality. If anything, they further insult the poor and hungry. They have nothing, yet this unfortunate soul may not be able to gobble down enough pizza, hot dogs, bratwurst, or whatever, to win his next eating contest or maintain his celebrity status. And we're expected to feel sorry for him.

It's just plain galling to demand that sort of consideration. Yet we should now better understand the slow decline of western civilization.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Switching Allegiances

Some folk think that Senator Jim Webb of Virginia may be considering a change of party. He faces a tough reelection campaign in 2012 in a state which may be swinging back to the GOP. There is also the prospect that a strong GOP challenge to him from George Allen or other strong Republican candidate would end his Senate career, the thought being that if he joined the GOP he could mute that threat.

Newly elected Joe Manchin from nearby West Virginia is said to be considering a similar move. He distanced himself from President Barack Obama and the Democratic party in the recent election to win his heavily conservative state. His supporters insist it won't happen, yet who isn't left to wonder considering his successful campaign tactics?

Switching parties is an idea fraught with danger. Simply say 'Arlen Specter' in a room full of politicos and you would no doubt see many knowing nods with pursed lips. Yet there is something to be said for it. Surely we would have a better idea of the exact makeup of our governing bodies, as a switch by those two alone would shift the Senate from 53-47 to 51-49, a difference which may become titanic in 2012 when we see what is, this minute, 23 Democratic Senators up for re-election while only 9 Republicans face the voters. In what might be another rout, simply having the Democratic party associated with their names may ordain them for the dust pile as happened to several Blue Dogs a couple of weeks ago.

Further, if Webb and Manchin are all that conservative, it seems only right (sorry about the pun) that they man up and join the ranks of the GOP. It is important, if perhaps only symbolically, that representatives align themselves properly.

The Senate may have a working Republican majority anyway, given the philosophical bent of a handful of Democrats in the chamber. If you risk being ostracized by your own people, then you may as well join the other side and get what perks you can from the move and build what seniority you may within it. But the important thing is this: merely the fact the talk of switching parties is on the table is another sign that the Obama Presidency is weak, built itself upon a shallow base which has no real intent on maintaining any long term political action. When your leader is all flash and dazzle, it is no surprise when the followers stay home after the lights go out.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Minority Vote and the Democratic Party

Nancy Pelosi's latest coup, if we are to believe her defenders in the press, is in settling a dispute within the Democratic Party over leadership positions in the upcoming Congressional season. Congressman James Clyburn of South Carolina, the highest ranking African American in the entire history of the House of Representatives, will, essentially, become the number three member of the Democratic House leadership. His exact role is undetermined. Representative Steny Hoyer of Maryland will become minority whip, the number two position behind presumed minority leader Pelosi.

This is news? That the Democratic Party has assuaged a minority Congressman with no specific promises in order to keep the peace? It seems more of a way to avoid any actual confrontation about the exact role of African Americans in a political party which has a hold on the black vote which can almost only be seen as hypnotic.

It is difficult to understand why. Many African Americans hold positions on social issues which are more in line with conservative values rather than those of the Democratic establishment. They oppose gay marriage by about a 70 to 30 margin, tend to be strongly anti-abortion, and support traditional values. Yet they vote overwhelming Democratic.

This despite the fact they seem to make no real headway within the Party, as Pelosi's recent sleight of hand demonstrates. What has Clyburn gained through buying into the plan? Or perhaps more to the point, did he have any intention of actually fighting for a higher spot anyway? Has he sold his soul to the Democrats at such a price that he has no option but to fall in line?

Has the minority vote itself become so blinded that it cannot consider any other options during election cycles? Are politics really only a matter of saying the right things, of cooing sweet nothings, in order to salve certain segments of the electorate?

If such is the case, then that segment gets exactly what it deserves: second rate status within the political power structure. And shame on the Democratic party for such polemics.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Tax Cuts and the Budget

An article somewhere out in the ether, we want to say on the Huffington Post but are simply too lazy and unconcerned to look it up, asserts that the Obama White House has given up on trying to kill the Bush tax cuts and is willing to extend them, at least temporarily. The thought seems to be that that would be the only way to keep the cuts in place for the middle class. This despite the fact that it would also keep the cuts in place for the evil rich.

It doesn't matter how often it may be said, attacks on the wealthy so often are simply jealousy. People aren't bad because they're affluent, and anyone who says they wouldn't want to protect their wealth if they were wealthy is an ignoramus or a liar. It is difficult to imagine that even a full blown and true philanthropist wouldn't want to get the most bang for their buck. If you could feed two poor folks well for the initial price of feeding one, what unsympathetic character wouldn't do it?

But we digress. What all this fuss about tax cuts ignores is that budgeting is a two way street. Simply cutting direct revenue, no matter how much more in taxes that would gain in the long run (which Reagan proved rather well would happen, while the Democrats in Congress squandered the windfall) ignores the other side. It ignores the question of what government should and should not fund.

That issue tends to get set aside when budget talks go on. We fail to ask ourselves what should and should not be the province of government when we talk about the nuts and bolts of how governments acquire their gold. We cannot do that and expect any real fiscal sanity.

Mathematics teach us that both sides of an equation must balance. Likewise, we need to tie revenues and spending together if we are to get any real hold on what governments should and should not be doing. Anything short of that strikes us as intellectual dishonesty, and a recipe for economic calamity.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Think globally? Think Locally.

One of the most basic axioms a conservative should have in his arsenal is known as the Principle of Subsidiarity. Plainly stated, it says that things should be done on the most local level possible. Why? Because that it the surest way to get necessary things accomplished in the most efficient manner.

The closer we are to a problem the better we ought to be able to understand it. We will see it more clearly, and indeed, particularly with issues and events nearby, we will likely have a greater interest in it. Schools, for example, should by and large be run within the local community because it is the locals who have the greatest interest in the education of their kids. Their kids are the ones who are generally going to hang around and run things when the current generation cannot anymore.

As a rule, the closer to a problem the less money which must be spend alleviating it. This is in part due to localized control, again as issues should be seen more clearly but also as there would be no added layers of bureaucracy which would otherwise have to be paid for by the electorate. Perhaps this is why, try as she might, Washington cannot get a grip on poverty: too much money which is supposed to help the poor in fact keeps bureaucrats at their desks.

There are of course many factors to consider when deciding what job should be done where in a national scheme. A nation as a whole must take up the defense of its people: could Detroit reasonably be expected to ward off an attack by a large foreign power on its own? If we were to leave Detroit to its own devices (a prospect many folks out there may not mind, but let's set aside jokes right now) we would hardly be a nation in the best sense of the word.

As a rule, conservatives would argue that few powers would be nationwide in scope. Military protection, the necessary and proper federal judicial arrangements, coinage, and issues of commerce (to varying degrees) come first to mind. State power would be wider than that of municipalities, perhaps, while communities would see to the bulk of day in and day out tasks: police and fire protection, trash pickup, and to the schools, among other chores.

We could go on all day discussing particulars, but you get the point. Local control is the best remedy for most ills. It is a point which should be discussed, if you'll excuse the irony, on a wider scale.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Tolerance: a Term for Accept Liberalism

Tolerance. The word leaps from the mouths of liberals as though a mantra. We need to be more tolerant of people, especially, it seems, those who violate long accepted mores.

Well, let's put the shoe on the other foot. If tolerance is so great, why are you trying to change my, or anyone else's, for that matter, outlook? Aren't we as representative of diversity in our divergent viewpoints as all those different folks and actions we're supposed to blindly accept? Don't we merit the same kind of acceptance which we are supposed to offer everybody else?

In the aftermath of the recent election, there have been many liberal sympathisers who have bemoaned the ignorance of the electorate in putting the GOP back in play. Conservatives have been called dummies and bullies and worse, all because we don't believe in the creeds of the left. Even the President has lamented that he likely hasn't explained himself well enough, as though we poor neanderthals simply can't understand him or his ideals. All because we have repudiated the vast excesses of the past two years.

Well, here's one conservative who's sick and tired of it. Think me dumb if you like; label me (oooh, there's another sin of the right: labeling people. Heaven forbid we know anything about them) a bully or what have you. I have one thing to say, one thing to put in your pipe to smoke.

I'm a right wing traditionalist who believes in the individual who believes in himself and his country when he and they are in the right. I believe in doing and supporting what's right while working against what's wrong, and most importantly I have faith in a just God. Tolerate me.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Say No to Consenting Adults (No Matter How They Protest)

One of the most pervasive while also one of the most ridiculous arguments in favor of certain presumed freedoms is the one about consenting adults. Simply put, it makes moral a given action on the grounds that the folks involved are in agreement as to their joint participation. It is ultimately a wholly untenable position.

To begin with, if all that is required to make something ethically acceptable is the agreement of the parties involved, then we really ought to allow duels. The (presumably) two participants agreed to take shots at each other. So no matter how barbaric, as they freely entered into the contract we would have to let them fire away.

Absurd. Yet when applied to other moral questions, and prostitution for example is one key area where the adage is often used, it is something accepted as axiomatic. The truth is that you would be on stronger ground simply to argue that paying for sexual favors is not in itself wrong rather than to say it's okay because there was no coercion.

The mere fact that people are willing to sell themselves that way while there are also folks willing to buy the, ahem, product, in fact reeks of coercive effects on its own standing. One person wants money, the other wants something which money can buy. A certain coercive effect is in fact at work. Still, even setting that point aside begs the question. The best answer is that nothing is good solely because those involved want to to do it. The act in question must be good on its own stead lest those involved be acting on mere impulse or selfishness. Or, indeed, actual immorality.

This is not to say that a free will act without pressure isn't a factor in moral decision making. It goes without saying that for most personal acts to be moral they must be entered into with a reasonable amount of freedom. In marriage, for example, both the man and the woman involved must do so of their own consent. Yet a hypothetical marriage between a man and a woman both of whom are free to marry is itself already moral. We are in fact beyond the issue of the morality of the potential nuptials by the time the question of will enters the fray.

In short, when considering the rightness of something there are two questions at hand. The first and most important query is whether the act is morally right, seen objectively, on its own. The second is whether those involved are the proper parties to it. Their consent is never a point until after the moral correctness of the action is assured.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Big Tent

For years Republicans have heard that they needed to expand their base. They needed a big tent large enough to hold many people. What this meant was the the GOP had to appeal to minorities and women.

Well, guess what? It has done just that, as the recent elections have demonstrated. The first Latino female governor in New Mexico: Republican. There were several other Latinos put in power under the GOP banner as well. An African American has been elected to the House of Representatives from South Carolina, of all places. This along with another black Republican from Florida, and black republicans seeing victories is more local races as well. Throw in the number of women elected for the GOP, and we have that big tent which the party was told for so long that it needed. How did it gain that advantage?

By appealing to the natural conservatism to which most folks adhere. Family, belief in one's self and one's neighbor, and understanding of the proper role of government: all those ideals and more which are held in the hearts of the common folk everywhere. And that does mean common folks: among the new members of Congress are funeral directors, a pizzeria owner, and a cotton farmer with no college training. In short, the GOP has spoken to the best in humanity, and humanity is responding at all levels.

If the 2010 elections prove to a bellweather, it may be for this sole reason: they may have turned America away from big government and back towards the basic rules of human interaction, which are fair play and traditional values. Two things which should never go out of style.

Except for the Democrats. But hopefully they're going out of style themselves.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Say What?

President Barack Obama said, while on a trip through Asia, that he would have to make some mid-course corrections in the wake of the Republican landslide last Tuesday?

What? Mid-course corrections? He needs to bring that ship back to port and retool it. The American people stately plainly and firmly that they don't want to go where he wants to lead them. They don't want socialism. They don't want problems solved by legislative fiat: ordering people to get something wholly optional, a la health insurance, doesn't address an issue at all. It is nothing more than feel good legislation at best, and downright totalitarian at worst.

Think of it this way. Ordering folks to buy health insurance is just like ordering them to buy a car: since when it is the right of government to command anyone about how to acquire something which is only arguably necessary? No one has to have a car...neither do they have to have health insurance if they want to run the risk of being able to handle their own emergencies. And please set aside any arrogant jealousies about forcing others to help you if you do become seriously ill. Isn't charity still a cardinal virtue? Aren't you supposed to be willing to help those in need, whatever the reason for the need? And why should they pay for your insurance anyway, which is effectively all that any kind of government run health care does.

This isn't to say that individuals are not obliged to do what they can for themselves. But legislating it is a dangerous step, one which must only be used when the issue at hand is beyond what the mere individual ought to want. It's one thing to say that you can't murder. It is quite another to say that you must buy health insurance, which is like saying you must get a job. It simply isn't practical, nor the province of legislative do gooders.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Curling: the Sport for Good Sports

Living in Detroit, it's hard not to develop an appreciation for things Canadian. One of those things for me is the sport of curling, which I learned to love while watching it on the CBC (that's the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation for you neophytes) when I was in my teens. I've played for years now. It's not merely that the game itself is grand, but in playing I've discovered that, of all sports, curling is the most sportsmanlike and curlers are great people. At all levels.

As an example of this, over the weekend at a major curling tournament in Windsor, Ontario I had quite a thrill: I was lucky enough to meet David Murdoch, a Scot who has now been the World Curling Champion twice: in 2006 and 2009. He was walking right past me and I said, somewhat stupidly I'm sure, "You're David Murdoch!" He replied, with huge grin, "I am! And who might you be?" We went on to talk for several minutes about curling and a friend snapped the picture of us which now adorns my Facebook page.

Though he was the only one I was fortunate enough to meet up close and in person, it demonstrated that every curler at every level is very approachable. The reason is simple: every curler is an ambassador for the game, and even the top ranked ones know and accept that. They are sportsmanlike on the ice yet, more importantly, sportsmanlike off the ice.

Murdoch could blown me off. He unfortunately had a poor tournament and there's a degree to which I would have cut him slack had he been terse in our meeting. His team had been eliminated by that point, and at 11 PM on a Friday who could have blamed him if he simply wanted a pint or two to drown his sorrows as many of us may want at the end of a bad week ourselves. Yet he wasn't short or snippy. He was quite gregarious, and generous in giving my friend Ron and I the ten minutes of his time that he did.

Curlers are ambassadors for the sport. I'm not saying that there aren't athletes in other sports who think likewise and approach their game that way. Yet it certainly is a feeling which could be more widespread, and it certainly doesn't seem as ingrained in others as it is with curling and curlers. But the bottom line is this: in promoting the sport we are promoting the attitude which goes along with it. We are promoting the attitude of sportsmanship and fair play and proper consideration of others.

Curlers are a brotherhood, sisterhood, sorority and fraternity all in one. If we can promote that among ourselves it might eventually spread to everyone we come in contact with in our daily lives. It's hyperbole in this case, perhaps, but what's so bad about that?

Saturday, November 6, 2010

A Day Late, but Well Intentioned

Sparky Anderson, manager of the Big Red Machine Cincinnati Reds in the 1970's as well as the Detroit Tigers from mid 1979-1995, passed away Thursday at the age of 76.

Where does one begin a tribute to such a great and well loved man? Sparky was beyond baseball even though he personified the game. He loved everyone and everyone loved him back. He protected his players so that they could perform, but more importantly, he gave to the community of his time and efforts through his CATCH charity as well as many other endeavors.

Perhaps the best thing he said, and this is going to be paraphrased very roughly, was that the sports types aren't heroes despite the adulation they receive. The kids in the hospitals fighting disease, they're heroes. The others just play a game.

The world needs more of that sort of humility coming from its role models. And athletes and movie stars and performers and politicians, you are role models whether you like it or not. Why not take a lesson from one of the best role models that fame and fortune have to offer?

Sparky did not want a funeral or a memorial service, and that wish is being respected. Mostly. How do you not remark on the life of such a remarkable man?

The world has lost some of its humility now, but not all. Sparky will always in some way be with us. God rest, George Lee Anderson.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

A Little more on the Election

Now that a bit of time has passed and we are beginning to digest the full effects of Tuesday's historic election, there are some things which come to mind which may have been lost in the initial glow of the massive GOP victory.

Some political wags bemoan the idea that many good politicians with much political experience have fallen by the wayside. This ignores two things: one, that their experience doesn't matter if they aren't doing what the people in their districts want, and two, putting political capital ahead of good government policy is a dangerous idea.

So what if John Spratt of the House Budget Committee was shown the door? If the people of his district want Republicans in charge of the government, then his experience doesn't mean a thing. When you toss in the possible benefits of a long term legislator more effectively getting pork for his district, then what you have is no longer a government of the people but a government of the special interest. That isn't good government. It's only a recipe for selfishness.

The possibility of stalemate surely hangs in the air for the next Congress as well. So be it, should that actually happen. But the best guess is that we will see several games of chicken as budgets and laws are made as each side will attempt to paint the other into a corner heading into 2012. At some point decisions will be made and folks will be called cowards or courageous for their acts, or lack thereof.

In the end, if the GOP doesn't stand its ground, they likely will face a kick to the head themselves. The real trick for them is not to be bullied by all those who want compromise. Throw it back at the Democrats: make them compromise with you. With the right amount of backbone, the GOP will be the majority party for years to come. But if they let Obama run the show anyway, their victory will, in the end, be hollow.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A New Day in America

The American people have spoken, and the message is as clear as it is simple: 2008 was not the the kind of change that they hoped for.

So what if the Senate was never seriously in play? The House of Representatives is closer to the people anyway, and the results there were astounding: a 63 seat swing as of this writing, and perhaps a few more as close races are resolved. Republican gains in governor's seats and state legislatures were significant. This leaves the GOP with plenty to work with in the next two years ahead of the 2012 elections: 2/3rds of the federal government is still held by the Democrats, which allows room to criticize Washington excess all the more, while taking control of a redistricting process all but certain to aid further Republican political gains.

Yet even looking at the upper House, the GOP did gain big in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Kentucky, while Taking President Obama's old seat in Illinois. Couple this with a virtual Republican win in West Virginia, and there may be a virtual GOP control of the Senate anyway.

We now have true hope and change at our fingertips. If the GOP has learned anything, it is that a return to its roots appeals to the majority of Americans. Fiscal discipline, lower taxes, spending cuts, small government; all these things are important to the average Joe. Further, Americans don't want to apologize for being Americans. Part of the win last night was that most Americans believe in American Exceptionalism, the creed that it is the ideas on which our nation is based along with the drive of individuals who believe in themselves which has made our country great. There is no arrogance in that; it's actually rather humbling when felt properly. Americans quickly tired of their own President apologizing for their being American.

There is a new dawn in America. It simply came in 2010, and not 2008.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Big Day Tomorrow

Real Clear Politics now has the Senate tied at 50-50, if you throw out toss ups. The website also has the House at 224 Republicans, or 6 more than needed for a majority. Further, of the House races seen as toss-ups, 41 out of 43 are held by Democrats. If roughly half of those swing to the GOP, that would put the Party at 245 seats. It would be a swing of 66 seats under that scenario.

Tomorrow is gonna be fun.