Saturday, October 27, 2012

A Religious Aspect of Progressivism

I believe it was Time Magazine (or was it Newsweek) that featured an article intended to patronize the Tea Party movement.  Aside from spending most of the article attacking conservative personalities (later making specious points about conservative positions), the article featured pictures of people in tri-cornered hats with looks on their faces that conveyed the quasi-religious fanaticism with which such unevolved throwbacks supposedly regard the Constitution.

For me, this was not without a certain irony, because the conservative position seems to be to regard the Constitution as a legally binding contract, the words of which have particular meanings that don't change with the times.

I will introduce here an analogy that is not intended to exalt liberalism nor to trivialize Christianity, but to highlight an aspect of the modern controversies over the Constitution.

For most of Christianity, the Gospel accounts and the apostolic letters constitute(!) an exposition of a revelation that is related to, and yet transcends, the covenant of God with Abraham, Isaac and Israel/Jacob that is central to Judaism.  The theology is nuanced, nontrivial, and sometimes controversial, but aims generally at balancing the meanings of Luke 22:20, Matt 5:17-18, and Matt 22:40.  People inside and outside of Christianity have been troubled with resolving perceived conflicts (e.g. Canaanite genocides) between the Old Convenant with Abraham and the New Covenant mediated by Jesus of Nazareth.  The traditional understanding is that the Abrahamic Covenant and its legalistic unfolding in the laws of Moses (the Torah) were a sort of stepping stone to lead to a foretold outpouring of Spirit in which the laws of God would be read from its inscription in hearts rather than tablets or scrolls , in which the spirit of the law would transcend the letter of the law.

For a people largely steeped in the tradition, particularly with the Protestant penchant of challenging doctrine, it was perhaps inevitable that a similar quasi-religious understanding would be applied to the covenant between the People of the States and the federal authority over the States that was constituted(!) by this covenant.  For Progressives like Woodrow Wilson, FDR, and Teddy Roosevelt, the letter of the law was too restrictive on their authority and the Amendment Process too tedious to implement the "spirit" of the will of the people (as they understood that will).

In a loose sense the Pauline understanding of the New Testament that came to dominate Christian theology was "heterodox" and "progressive" in relation to the factions that sought to understand the Gospel in a way that continued to exalt the Torah.  These Judaizing factions (according to Paul of Tarsus) were, by contrast, more "orthodox" (more compatible with the mainstream Pharisaism of the time) and more "conservative" (less threatening to longstanding tradition).

There is a kind of reinterpretive hermeneutics that is used to reconcile new revelations and spiritual paradigms with the traditions from which they arise (e.g. Sufism, Shin Buddhism, Zen Buddhism, Advaita Vedanta, Baha'iism, etc.).  Rather, a misapplication of revelatory exposition seems to underlie Progressivism, treating the Constitution as a spiritual text in need of adaptation to changing times.  Evolving meanings have been the staple of religious evolution; why not apply it to the political beliefs underlying the Declaration and the Constitution?  Only this reinterpretation will be based on Science.  Our new Darwinian sense of enlightenment teaches us that organisms must adapt or go extinct, so the Constitution must adapt. We will interpret laws (and eventually the Constitution) in a way that makes sense scientifically.  This is Woodrow Wilson's Scientism-turned-Progressivism.  The text of the Framers must come to mean something it emphatically did not mean to them, and yet have a meaning that can be indirectly attributed and thus carry the weight of their authority.

In a certain sense, religious documents are treated as "living documents."  As revelatory documents they are thought to require some sort of intuition or inspiration or epiphany to make sense of scriptures and sutras.  And religious understandings can be said to evolve as teachers, prophets, and reformers shine new light on their canon of writings.  The Torah as understood in 300 B.C was different from the understanding of 1000 B.C.  The understanding was different in 200 A.D., even only considering Judaism, let alone the understandings by the various Christian sects.  It is often considered in religious scripture that there is an inspiration in the writing that is larger than whatever the writer might have had in mind or the original audience might have had in mind.

The Living Constitution idea would make more sense if the Greek god Prometheus had inspired the Founders to write the Constitution and had intended that, after the Industrial Revolution, the technological hubris that would inspire logical positivism would also make us ambitious enough to see Prometheus's wishes hidden as the "spirit" of the Constitution, His divine wish for us to evolve into Homo scientificus with a scientific government.

Kagan joins the Court with her empathic qualifications.
In the post-60s conception of Progressivism, the Constitutional hermeneutics of the Left seemed to assume instead that the Greek god Dionysus had inspired our document, the Founders having captured his wishes imperfectly, requiring Supreme Court Justices to rediscover them in the "penumbras and emanations" of the Constitutional text.  Further emboldened by postmodern deconstruction and the relativism of the social sciences, the most fundamental legal text in our land with regard to our rights, the limitations of our overseers,  and the legality of our government is deconstructed to mean whatever it should mean (in the mind of the judicial legislator).  The movement from judicial restraint to judicial activism is fundamentally and ultimately a turn from exegesis to eisegesis.  The guarantee of a people to publicly criticize their government had somehow morphed into a Dionysian right to any expression of sexuality.  The libertarianism of the Founders had somehow evolved into libertinism.  The god-given right to kill an unborn baby became itself an instance of "the right to define one's own concept of . . . the mystery of human life," a kind of Dionysian (or Molechian) sacrament. 

FDR's repackaging of Wilson's reconstruction of our politico-philosophical foundations seems presented in covenantal language.  The New Deal is a new covenant to transcend and ultimately replace an old deal.  FDR's Second Bill of Rights is a new testament to be concatenated to an old testament (the first Bill of Rights) to form an amended canon.  The Progressive canon.  Federal case law that expands on (in Talmudic proportions), reinterprets, and reconstructs the Constitution beyond (and against) what the People of 1776 believed they were covenanting, is part of the Progressive canon as well. 

I believe that the views of the Constitution and its judicial expositions embraced by the Left (explicitly or implicitly) are religious in nature, informed by an overarching worldview and an accompanying value system that would not only be alien to the Framers of the Constitution but entirely antithetical to their understandings of both the intent of the document and the role of religion in society.  In this progressive-shaped pop culture, shying away from the religious fanaticism of the Left can be described as conservative.  To me it just seems sensible.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Why I Won't Vote Democrat For a Long, Long Time: Patriotism and Partisanship

I recently read a post in which someone opined that patriotism implies voting across party lines at times.  This evoked a recurring image of a country that ping-pongs between two lame alternatives, neither of which give anybody (conservative or liberal or libertarian) what they want.  More statism, more crony capitalism, more entitlements, more debt, as we struggle our way into an ever tighter noose.

Personally, I think we could use a Libertarian President in the near future, I think we would have a fiscally strong country if Progressivism took a backseat and our people were mainly choosing between conservative and libertarian schools of thought.  I think some very interesting debates would come out of that.  But I confess that I don't think we are not even close to ready for a Libertarian President.
Here's why:

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Populism of Progressivism; or, If I Wanted Tyranny ...

A quote that lost popularity after 2008:  "People willing to trade their freedom for temporary security deserve neither and will lose both."

It occurs to me that the Progressive push for moving from 1770s republican government (with its horrid checks and balances) to more direct expressions of popular wish fulfillment in government is a brilliant way to set up a society that votes not for those whose policies will ultimately benefit society best but for those whose policies promises them the redistribution favors they value most.  A government can actually purchase our freedoms from us, and charge the purchase price to our collective credit card.  And the beauty of it is that the more the government takes from us to do it, the more desperate we will be for whatever is promised (even if what is delivered is much less).

Think of all the opportunities to hold desperate people as hostages in order to bring in votes for a "Party of Yes."  Think of all the opportunities to then make more people desperate.  
When the people find that they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic.  - Ben Franklin 
Perhaps a little ironic since Progressivism saw overcoming Constitutional restrictions as fundamental to setting up the bureaucracies of intellectuals that would decide what is best for us all.  They would spend public funds promoting what was good for us so we would elect representatives that would enact them as laws, and then administrators would interpret the laws in sensible ways for our own good.  All socialist movements, whether fascist or communist, depended on populist movements to overthrow the conventional barriers to government intrusion.

You might be tempted to think that there's irony that the party now known as the Democrats used to be called Republicans (from the ranks of the Anti-Federalists who opposed the Constitution).  The oldest political party, if its present configuration can be said to bear much of any resemblance to its original.  The name change coincides nicely with their complete ideological metamorphosis, from being the voice for small government and less federal intervention to the very opposite.

I periodically play the "If I Wanted to Create a Tyrannical Federal Government, I Would ..." game in my mind.  Aside from convincing the public to disarm themselves because the danger from themselves was worse than the danger from their rulers, a good one would be to provide more federal help to citizens than their respective states provided (or could provide, if it's deficit spending).  I would take more and more of people's paychecks over the years so that there was not much the states could even take to implement their own solutions to the problems, and the resultant bureaucratic waste would eat up so much and give so little for what it took in that there would be pressure for the government to assume complete control, making the states effectively federal districts, with the government eventually considering all income and all wealth within imminent domain for solving the national crisis.  To hedge my bets I would accelerate the accumulation of national debt by using a temporary crisis to redefine the "normal" level of spending until confidence in the dollar is lost.

In a tax system where 50% of the population pay 97% of the income tax, where 10% pay for 70% of the income tax, I would refer to tax breaks and tax cuts as "expenditures" and would take advantage of the fact that in a system where "the rich" are paying much more than their fair share, tax breaks and tax cuts will "unfairly" benefit them.  I would use "class warfare" rhetoric to rile people's sense of fairness to raise tax rates on the primary payers and thereby reduce the taxable income.  Deficit increases.  Blame the bad effects on predecessor's policies, and point out the obvious fact that now the top 10% are paying less (since they are making less of their income taxable) as further unfairness. Soak the rich some more!  Keep going until it's Germany before Hitler.

It seems extreme, but sometimes harsh policies are necessary to make a system where no one is better off than anyone else even if everyone is worse off.  Progress is fairness, and in Progressivism, Big Brother is here to control things until they become fair, even if that means that Big Brother becomes intrusive in order to make it happen.  

Friday, October 19, 2012

LINOs: Libertarians In Name Only


Self-described libertarians often like the sound of it.  Who doesn't like liberty?  And the identification puts distance between them and pro-Establishment neo-cons.

During the last half of the Bush II era, many conservatives started identifying as libertarians, partly in response to Bush's pseudo-conservatism and partly because of the Left's false (but effective) identification of Bush's Big Government policies with essential conservatism.

So many self-described libertarians who do so because they realize (at least superficially) that the Democrats are cronyist spendthrifts, like the idea of the government letting you do anything you want with regards to sex and drugs, and/or think that being Republican means exalting money and wealth -- fold under any realy test of getting the government out of their lives.

Cut what?!  How will anyone have healthcare without national healthcare?  No Federal Reserve?  Are you nuts?  No mandatory unionism?  How else are we going to have guaranteed jobs no matter how shitty a job we do?   Which benefit?  Hey! I like that free(?)bie!  I want government to stay out of my business but I want them to take care of me as much as possible!

Between 2003 and 2008 I used to see a quote (usually attributed to Ben Franklin) make the rounds frequently:

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Obama's Orwellian manipulations about Benghazi

An interesting thing happened in response to the Benghazi debacle.  For weeks afterward, people had the impression that it happened because of a mob that got out of control.   A couple of Muslims gathered around an iPad and were horrified at the ill treatment of their holy Prophet, and got together their pitchforks and torches to storm the castle.  Meanwhile, Achmed broke out his stockpile of assault weapons, and Abdul finally found a use for those 150 hand grenades he had been saving for a suicide bombing.
[UN Ambassador Susan] Rice’s account directly contradicts that of Libyan President Mohamed Yousef El-Magariaf, who said this weekend that he had “no doubt” the attack was pre-planned by individuals from outside Libya.  “It was planned, definitely, it was planned by foreigners, by people who entered the country a few months ago, and they were planning this criminal act since their arrival,” Magariaf told CBS News.* [emphasis mine]
What an inefficient State Department to take weeks to figure out that unlike the Cairo event (which didn't result in American deaths) there was no corresponding demonstration.  The administration avoided saying for a long time that it was a terrorist attack because of a supposed ongoing investigation. The Susan Rice narrative instead played out in people's imagination.

How is it that instead of talking about terrorists invading American soil, the administration got everyone talking about a riot that started over a videotape?  If it was acknowledged from the beginning that it was a concerted effort of terrorists, how did the idea take over that it was an angry mob that got out of control?

Could it be because Obama equivocated in his Rose Garden speech that "No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation"? That sounds like a warning. It follows a discussion of the events of 9/11/2001 and is general.  The Benghazi events are referred to as "outrageous attack," "brutal acts," and "terrible act." but "acts [plural] of terror" is reserved for America's position on terror (the Obama Doctrine?).

Could this be the reason that the press did not hold  this administration accountable when they subsequently avoided calling it a terrorist attack?  Could it possibly? Or did the press simply forget that it had been called a terrorist attack? 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Romney's budget plan, Obama's non-plan, and JFK's paradox

Recently, I've seen a political joke at in which the website invites the websurfer to click on a button that will lead them to the specifics of Romney's tax plan -- and the button runs away from your mouse cursor.  This allows people to visualize something that perhaps Obama hasn't driven home yet, hard as he's tried -- that Romney is all smoke and mirrors. I've written elsewhere what I think of this canard.

There is a link at this practical joke (and they don't make the link all that noticeable) that leads to an article where Team Obama try to apply the arithmetic that Bill Clinton alluded to at the Democratic Convention.

Let's skip ahead momentarily to Obama's economic plan:  Keep throwing money at desperate voters (even if it is stagnating the economy as did the progressive policies of the Great Depression) while charging it to the Great American Credit Card, and pouring money into green energy enterprises that is so unlikely to pay off that they don't attract a lot of wealthy investors.  And something new being emphasized:  Soak the rich!  (Has this become Obama's one-point plan?)  He did say in the last debate curiously that he would leave the corporate tax alone, ostensibly to help our economy.  So... why isn't the money "lost" in not raising corporate taxes not counted as trillions of dollars lost, in the same sort of zero-sum logic that is applied to Romney???

Remember:  In Obamalogic, letting people keep their money is an expenditure.  All that filthy money that people rake in from filthy success (like publishing Dreams From My Father) is going to waste without government confiscating it to pay the interest on all this stimulus debt.

Capitalist excuses for corporate taxes, but no lassez-faire for capital gains policy though, even though it is arguably as important for growing an economy.  Hitting capital gains favors the already Über-rich over the up-and-comers, the new guys with the new ideas that threaten to give the old guys a run for their money, and Obama has a lot of Über-rich pals that helped him into office, even though he'd like you to think that only Republicans get funded by the wealthy.

No, but let's stick to the leftwing narrative:  Obama is all about the little guy(?) and Romney is the one (Obama says so) that is all about hurting everyone but the 1%.  Yet for all the rhetoric about "a different set of rules," Romney keeps pitching ideas that give breaks to the poor and middle class that aren't given to the so-called 1%.  But Obama is sticking to his story that Romney has a "one-point plan" even though there is good reason to think that it is his policies that hurt the middle class and small businesses.  As Thomas Sowell and Walter Williams point out, Obama offers the Left's tired old "gesture of taxing the rich."

While we are talking arithmetic, let's look at a history of budget.  In the graph below

Friday, October 5, 2012

Taxing Our Way to Fairness

One of my conservative friends recently wrote me this gem:
I guess it really boils down to one philosophical question:  'Is it better for everyone to be poor but equal or is it better for everyone to be wealthy even if some are wealthier than others?'
I think this pulls the whole issue into focus.  It's the difference between the ethos of the United States and that of the Soviet Union.  Of course, in the Soviet Union some people were more equal than others, and without free enterprise, wealth and privilege in the Soviet Union was a function of one's personal political power.  This is what happens when a government takes on enough power to "guarantee" an financial outcome regardless of people's economic behavior.

There has recently been a wealth of information on the Internet about   Notably, Walter Williams and Tom Sowell have been writing about why soak-the-rich tax hikes end up putting even more tax burden on the middle class.  If you are the same sort of ideological purist that Obama is, that doesn't matter (as he said to Charles Gibson).  Obama's demagoguery abstracts away important differences between risk-based income and guaranteed income and reduces it to strawman argument of a secretary who is paying "more" taxes than the CEO he is working for.

Making everyone equally unprivileged vs. creating abundant but unequal prosperity is a critical question in the economic debate.   Are you for the Reagan-Kennedy-Wilson notion that a "rising tide lifts all boats" or are you for the Obama-Carter notion that even if revenues go down and the middle class is left holding the bag, it is the fairness that is of ultimate importance?

Something that I've been thinking about lately is:  Is a state lottery unfair?  In the Obama sense, you truly didn't win through either hard work or intelligence (unless you cheated) but now you have all this money that the others don't.  Seems like the most fair thing would be to distribute the money among all those who contributed.  Wouldn't that be the most fair?  Are people playing primarily for the fun of it, or are they risking some money in order to have a greater income than that of their fellows?  Sounds unfair to me.  Who does that winner think he is?  Aren't the teachers and roadbuilders in his life that enabled him to buy that lottery ticket entitled to their fair share of that sweet cash?  As his Imperial Obamaness would say, "you didn't build that." 

However ...

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Obama's conspicuous lack of details

An article here has parroted Obama's weak (more in substance than in enthusiasm) claim about "Romney's conspicuous lack of details."

Contrast this with Romney's pointed criticism that Obama's uni-partisan construction of his ridiculously complicated Affordable Care Act was rammed through without any sense of consensus.    Romney declares that the Massachusetts state care system was formed by having several options put on the table and a bipartisan effort to choose a combination of options that would be acceptable to a vast majority. 

By contrast, Obama wants Romney to declare in advance exactly what would be in a less reckless affordable care alternative.  

Now exactly what in that 1,000+ page law did Obama promise in the sort of detail he's demanding from Romney?  Obama was extremely vague on content with Affordable Care, but very specific on process.

Whatever Affordable Care would turn out to be, it wasn't going to be a unilateral, partisan effort behind closed doors with lobbyists.  It was going to be a national, public discussion involving actual doctors and nurses and patients sitting around a table, televised on CSPAN, and the act posted many days before being signed into law so that--get this--there would be transparency with the American public.  

It's hard to imagine the process being more different from what the Demander-in-Chief actually brought about.  You don't end up with a 1,000+ page law without it being co-written by lobbyists for special interest groups (such as pharmaceutical companies).  We ended up with an opaque labyrinthine law constructed and implemented in an opaque process (ref Pelosi's we'll pass the law so you can find out what's in it).  

So, it's hypocritical and cynical for Barack Obama to criticize Romney for not ruling out many options in advance.  Romney has outlined some guidelines, many of them negative based on the public negation that resulted in a Republican House in 2010 (and a Republican Congressman from the liberal state of Massachusetts), and some positive ones that are the few boons that Obama touted about his 'Care.  

Monday, October 1, 2012

The bipartisan wars

Reminder of very bipartisan nature of the war (almost  as bipartisan as the bailouts!) as I have spoken of in more detail elsewhere...   

But then, the idea of WMDs in Iraq was also a bipartisan idea at one time.