Sunday, August 23, 2015

Hypocrisy and cynicism

Here in Michigan, we have lately been treated to yet another political sex scandal. Two members of the state legislature, Todd Courser and Cindy Gamrat, have been accused of an inappropriate relationship. They are social conservatives. Meanwhile it has also been revealed that a relatively high number of professors at the socially conservative colleges of Liberty and Oral Roberts Universities have accounts on the cheaters website Ashley Madison. What hypocrites those folks be.

They are of course. It is shameful that they should commit such acts while attempting to defend right morals. Not only are such things wrong in themselves, they hand ammunition to those who do not support proper mores. This does not help the cause of social conservatism.

Neither however does it make the positions of social conservatives wrong. Gay marriage is still a moral affront even should supporters of marriage as one man to one woman themselves stray. It is intellectually shallow to imply that that hypocrisy makes any given philosophic point wrong, and nothing short of sophomoric to take pride in anyone's failures.

Unless that is you believe that hypocrisy does in fact make a stance on an issue wrong. If that's the case then you may as well go all the way and condemn everyone because we're all hypocrites to one degree or another. None of us live completely in sync with even our own codes much less that of real right and real wrong. If hypocrisy is your measuring stick for good and evil then we're all doomed. You condemn yourself the instant you condemn your adversary.

It is surely a rare man who does not believe lying wrong. Rarer still perhaps is the man who has never lied. We all fail, yet failure does not disprove our beliefs. It is only the cynic who asserts as much, and we wonder whether cynicism is a worse disease than simple human frailty.

Monday, August 10, 2015

The Victor should get the Spoils

Yesterday's Detroit Free Press offered an editorial on how Michigan might reform the way in which it draws Congressional districts in order to be more 'fair' (whatever that means) in the allotment of seats. You may find the article here: http://www.freep.com/opinion/ , if you so desire.

It's an op-ed written rather fairly, to be fair. It talks about how Michigan Democrats would use the current system exactly as the GOP has recently (in its favor, naturally enough) if given the chance. Yet it also points presumed out anomalies in Michigan voting patterns. President Barack Obama has won the state comfortably both times he's run, and Michigan has two Democratic Senators despite Republicans controlling the state legislature. Yet this point little more than questions whether the Free Press editorialists are themselves being partisan under a white flag of openness.

True, they do point out that the option they present of a bipartisan committee to draw new districts after every census might well aid the Republicans from Democratic despotism should the GOP ever be in the minority in Lansing. But it is easy to wonder if that is a smokescreen which hides the actual truth: that Michigan is a Republican state where statewide popular elections muddy the fact.

It would behoove us to remember that prior to the turn of the 20th Century senators were elected mostly by state legislatures. Indeed, that the US Senate itself was originally intended to represent the States as States. The people already had their direct say in the House of Representatives. The states, being sovereign themselves, were supposed to be represented in the Senate. If those rules still applied, rules altered by the route of a Constitutional Amendment also sold under the banner of fairness, Michigan would have along with a its Legislature two Republican Senators to compliment its decidedly Republican state house and congressional delegation.

So the truth may be that Michigan is more staunchly Republican than it appears and that the scheme for more neutral district drawing is little more than an attempt to in fact reshape our state as more to the left than it actually is. Perhaps we ought to have kept our Constitution as originally written rather than having altered it for the sake of fairness.

Now you see why the word 'fair' was quoted above. Like so many other terms of political origin, it only means in this case what the writers of the Detroit Free Press editorial board wish it to mean. It should surprise no one that that meaning is selfish.

To a degree the victor should should get the spoils. In Michigan's case, that has left the cause of partisanship, a cause besmirched only by the losers, exposed for what it is: selfishness itself.

Friday, August 7, 2015

The left, the libertarians, and sensitivity: the Don Jones saga

Miami Dolphins player Don Jones has been fined by his team, and committed to sensitivity training, for his rather innocuous tweets after openly homosexual football player Michael Sam was drafted by the St. Louis Rams. He has also apologized to Sam and the Dolphins, and the Miami fans. What to think, what to think. In the defiant world which is American football, well known for insults and trash talk, the very idea of sensitivity training simply begs for comedy. Yet this is no laughing matter. There are too many ramifications for the larger society involved, not the least of which involve First Amendment free speech and freedom of religion rights. Consider there's this the fascinating mix of societal reaction towards personal beliefs. Michael Sam is praised for merely being homosexual; indeed, he's truly lauded for being ostensibly nothing more than how he was born. Any contrary reaction to that brings on the derision and sensitivity counselors. Yet when Tim Tebow is openly Christian and his football peers react ill towards it, nothing. Donald Stirling isn't even offered sensitivity training; he's just ostracized. This from the snake oil salesmen who peddle tolerance. Sterling's comments were reprehensible, of course, and there's no issue with public and private censure there. Interestingly enough, however, that's actually a conservative position. We say and have said that certain attitudes merit censure. Tebow and his Christian fellows likewise preach it. The left are the ones who preach pretty much open tolerance yet demonstrate by action that they are more draconian than the right. Just gore their ox, in this case the ox of homosexual rights, and we see that their pleas for tolerance ring quite hollow. They weren't particularly supportive of Tebow. No NFLer was sentenced to sensitivity training for reactions to him. Yet a guy who's presumably against gay rights, an historically valid and at least arguably more moral more position to hold, is sent to the sensitivity police. Who ought we send next? The Catholics? The Evangelicals? The Muslims? Oh, that would be quite interesting, wouldn't it? To be sure, the actions against Don Jones were privately taken. Yet why not take them? And why not send those others to camp as well? We're society, we're not the government. We can't be oppressive. And therein lies the problem which our liberal and, yes, it's true, our libertarian (notice how little reaction to Jones has been) friends will not see. Yet it is their attitudes which are producing modern America. The fact is society can be even more oppressive than government precisely because it is governed by nothing but its passions, and there are few real checks on those. Never mind that society is ostensibly (the word of day, because it fits) private. It still can and does violate rights. Indeed, it can violate them quite more immediately and comprehensively than a government can. You don't think so? Then consider again the swift and sure reaction to Don Jones. And consider that all the NSA does, relatively speaking, is listen to your phone conversations with your mother.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

70 years in the atomic age

Should we have or should we have not? That is a question which is asked about many things, not the least of which involves what happened 70 years ago today. We have arrived at another anniversary of the atomic age: the first use of an atom bomb, dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, an August 6, 1945.

It is easy to believe that the US should not have dropped the bomb. Many civilians were killed or injured, and civilians are off target according to the Just War theory promoted by the Catholics and many others. It rests on the idea that civilians are noncombatants, innocents, and should be safe from the traumas of war.

Yet William Buckley, the famous conservative writer and himself Catholic, suggested that perhaps that no longer applies. In the modern world with modern warfare, are civilians actually noncombatants? It's simple enough to see that in Imperial Japan during World War II, civilians were often encouraged to participate in the war effort. Some estimates claim that as many as 70% of the civilian population of Okinawa were injured or killed during the 82 day battle where the Allies occupied the island. To be sure, many were pressed into service. But many fought the invaders voluntarily just the same. Either way, they were not innocents.

Buckley's idea hardly singles out Japanese intentions. Across the sphere of total war, can it be argued that those who work in munitions factories are noncombatants? That those who organize and participate in scrap metal and scrap rubber drives are wholly innocent, or even those who merely buy war bonds? Still, there are true innocents involved, mostly the children. Therein we find the greatest tragedy of human warfare: that it has become so terrible that children are involved at all. But worse: that organizations such as Hamas and the Viet Cong, even the Japanese and Germans, have been heinous enough to use them as shields as well as actual fighters. This certainly isn't the fault of the children, but a reality that must be dealt with just the same.

The picture isn't pretty. Yet it seems be the face of modern war, and even though (by and large) the bad guys started the practices, it is still the reality we must live with. It is small comfort but we may just have to content ourselves, so much as we can, that it is not our fault. Even so, we must never forget the cost of war. That it leaves a bad taste, as it should, is a reflection of our humanity.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Presidential vs Parliamentary elections

Uh oh. Although she maintains a strong lead among Democrats, Hillary Clinton is neck and neck with two GOP Presidential hopefuls, Jeb Bush and Scott Walker, when two months ago she would've swept them right off the landscape. But she does lead the Donald in a hypothetical head to head race against him. Yet neither of them are considered trustworthy by the electorate as a whole. Meanwhile, Joe Biden might be entertaining the notion of jumping into the race himself. Isn't there a fascinating and exciting 16 months of nail biting election coverage ahead of us?

Not if you give it a moment's thought, no. Too much can happen, and many unforeseen or foreseeable things might occur along the way which would affect the contest unimaginably.

Is the American election cycle too long? It is very easy to say yes. Issues and worries such as mentioned above certainly go a long ways towards supporting that answer. Yet we shouldn't be all that sure that the most obvious other democratic system of parliamentary style campaigns are that much better. True, they're shorter. But does that enhance elections or merely condense them to the point where sound bites and knee jerk reactions are all that matter? Given too that they tend to be called when the party in power at least perceives their standing as greater than the opposition and it's easy to wonder if they're a true measure of the will of the people. The parliamentarians may only be manipulating them.

Ideally, longer campaigns should give the voters greater time to consider the candidates and the issues more clearly and thoroughly. Yes, we realize that that's not likely to happen. Indeed, it may never happen at all. Perhaps all we're stuck with with longer election cycles is exactly what we have: an attempted media frenzy over people most of us don't care much about. But we did say ideally.

Still, the vetting process we deal with in these United States does offer something which parliamentary systems don't necessarily. It does allow voters the time to see and hear from candidates they might not get to experience in a more party dominated scheme. And it further allows the crackpots, blowhards, marginal players and egotists a day in the sun before reality, um, sets in. It may also, again, allow the opportunity for a better look at the important issues of the day.

Hey, we're not saying we believe this all true. Yet it does make some sense. At least, more sense than fretting over The Donald's computer prowess.