Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter and Commie Jesus: New Testament or Second Bill of Rights?

or Jesus told me to vote for a Caesar that would take your money and give it to me

WWJD? He'd have you vote for Progressive Caesar.
Been noticing a lot of memes about what a communist Jesus was and how he thought everyone should be communist.

This got me thinking about, among other things, the shift in thinking over Christianity's first century from a communal bunch of disciples waiting for the Second Coming to more independent Christian households looking to occupy themselves as the salt of the earth.  The statement "If anyone will not work, neither let him eat"* has such a realist, capitalist character to it for the years in which Christian communities started to dig in for the long haul (which would last thousands of years).

Another distinction: Obama's
kingdom IS of this world.
It is only in the early years of Christianity that there is the general expectation that converts will give up their worldly goods to the community of believers--an expectation so irresistible that new converts lie about the goods they elect to keep to themselves.  The emphasis on helping the unfortunate and vulnerable becomes a more general injunction to not "be so heavenly that one is no earthly good" (as the modern saying goes).

A related meme I saw recently was one showing the Pope flying in his private airplane and comparing him to Christ who supposedly would have been toting around the poor with him in his private airplane.  Jesus did travel by private boat, and while we don't know that he never took "the poor" with him, we are given the impression that he often sought conclusion and often traveled with only his inner circle of disciples with him.

Jesus irritates Judah Iscariot at some point by accepting a lavish gift from an acolyte.  Judah maintains that the gift could have helped so many poor people, and Jesus claims (in so many words) that the wasteful misuse of wealth was inspired by the Holy Spirit.  The narrative indicates that like a scandalous televangelist Judah was planning to misuse the funds himself.

Jesus routinely lives by the hospitality of others.  It would appear that Lazarus and his sisters own property and not only entertain Jesus but large groups of his followers.  How much the travels of Jesus and his companions are funded by the businesses of his followers we don't know.  Some of his inner circle abandon their fishing businesses in Galilee and we don't know how well those businesses ran themselves.  It should be said that Jesus probably spent many a night on the ground and was likely at least as accustomed to poverty as to opulence.  He has a reputation as a partyer, as he didn't seem to avoid feasts where there were wine, women, and song.  He no doubt seemed wasteful to many.  His own mother fully expected him to solve a wine shortage at a wedding.

Given the interaction between Iscariot and Jesus, and the reminders in the gospel narratives that the apostles were often missing the point of what Jesus was saying, it could make one wonder whether the idea that Jesus wanted them to live as a commune until his return was as mistaken an assumption as the idea that he was returning to them in the same generation.

But there is an interesting tension in people's thoughts about the person of Jesus, specifically with those who are looking for grounds to reject organized religion or traditional religion.  Many of those who do, it seems, will gravitate to Jewish Jesus or to New Age Jesus, that is, to a story of Jesus as merely a Jewish reformer in the spirit of Gamliel or a story of Jesus as a Hindu guru who is trying to convey New Age truths to backward monotheists.  Some people, inexplicably, assent to both narratives in  some vague conceptual fog, allowing them to criticize Saul of Tarsus for being too Jewish (in his morés about gender roles) and for being too anti-Jewish (in his supposed expanded concept of grace beyond what Reformer Jesus intended).  Jesus becomes at once becomes an advocate against the Christian concept of grace and a reformer rejecting Mosaic morality.

This is all a thought-provoking backdrop, I think, to the cultural battle over whether Christianity means entrusting the government with our Christian duties (as Elizabeth Warren seems to believe).  Is the Mosaic  respect for property rights (thou shalt not covet, thou shalt not steal) something unbecoming to modern Christians, making libertarianism (along with the republicanism of the Federalist Papers) antithetical to Christianity?  Or is both libertarianism and Christianity in accord with voluntary support for the poor?  Are they not both antithetical to involuntary support for the poor?  The only act of coercion attributed to Jesus was against the commercialization and merchandizing of spirituality in the Temple.  In this he does not seem to be railing against either commerce or capitalism but against a Temple-trader monopoly that allowed people to be charged/taxed with exorbitant fees to fulfill their religious obligations, and against the the profanity of it being allowed in the Temple itself?

There is a conflict in many Christians between the reality of being community members providing for their families and the austerity suggested by Christ in abandoning familial responsibilities for the cause, between trusting fully in grace and the perfection of "go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven", between the simplicity of penitence and the implication that heaven will reject the one that doesn't loudly and proudly claim Jesus as his spiritual leader.  Between the gospel spoken of by Paul in his letter to the Galatians and the hard gospel described in John MacArthur's The Gospel According to Jesus.  Between the burden that is easy and light and the small gate to the narrow road.

Ironic anti-capitalist
merchandizing of spirituality
Also, buy the baseball cap
And what about Jesus' death?  I don't think it makes much sense to most people, Christian or not, that God would require a man, perfect or otherwise, to suffer an agonizing death before being willing and able to forgive transgressions.   Perhaps it is something that we can only understand imperfectly, if at all.  If it is unlikely that the Apostles were willing to die terrible deaths themselves for a man whose resurrection was faked, maybe the man that survived crucifixion might be a little on the inscrutable side.  I don't think people have tried that hard to understand the nature of the "good news" that he taught before he died for our sins.  What basis for forgiveness did he teach?  How did he say people could be put right with their Creator?  What specifically was the good news?

But it seems more than a little insipid to say that he simply said that people should all be nice to each other and that this is the crux and gist of his message.  And at least as insipid--and irresponsible--to suggest that his message was essentially that people are obligated to trust in a worldly empire that defines and enforces a right to other people's money.  Are we to no longer make distinction between what is Caesar's to take and what is God's?  "Render unto Caesar that which is God's, because Caesar is God's man"?

All of this makes me wonder whether it is neither the case that Jesus was simply a wise teacher, nor that Christendom (or the New Age movement, for that matter) has well understood the spiritual life offered by Jesus.  It's a deeper mystery that shouldn't be exploited -- not for the financial gain of "ministers," not for the opportunism of "altruistic" politicians, and not for the self-righteous glory of social reformers.

Anti-capitalist propaganda equating supply-side economics
with a celebration of wealth and a lack of concern for the poor.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Marriage and other memes

When I see the memes that berate social conservatives (conflated with Christians--I do think Christians should take the divorce statistics to heart) that imply that it's hypocritical to care what happens to the insitution of marriage under the soaring divorce rates, I can't help but see this as another way to say "Now that liberalism has successfully dealt a death blow to the institution with our social policies, affecting Christian households as much as any others, what the #$!%& do you care what we liberals do with it now?"

Yes, as long as the millenia-old tradition is practically a goner, let's hoist its almost corpse, cover it with confetti, and play pinata with it.  That's a good idea.  Perhaps more cynical yet is the "conservative argument for same sex marriage" which contends that we are somehow going to make the American marriage stronger.  This is an inspiration for various memes.  The heterosexuals have screwed up marriage--give the gays a chance.  This is another variation on the same theme.  Some people that have lived the gay lifestyle for years are less optimistic about this.  (Remember your training, liberals--such people simply don't exist--and if they do, they don't count; repeat the mantra).  

Then there is the related cynicism of the studies that underlie these memes in the public subconscious:  Homosexuals don't have a bigger problem staying monogamous and if they do it's because they are oppressed.  Homosexuals don't have a bigger problem with chemical addiction and if they do it's because they are oppressed.  Homosexual couples' children are not more likely to be socially maladjusted, and if they are it's because they are oppressed.  Do the results of all this rampant oppression we hear about all the time have no ill effects that show up in studies?  Or does the magic of gayness overcome the ill effects that have a pronounced effect on humans that happened to not be gay? Or are the ill effects of an oppressive heterosexual regime "controlled" out of the study so that the unbiased, predominantly liberal social scientists are able to show how well-adjusted homosexuals would be if they weren't constantly oppressed?

Regarding the degradation of marriage, social scientists seem as clueless as the public as to why divorce rates have soared since the 60s.

Why oh why would most people want do-overs on decisions they make early in their lives?  Why would people be unable to pick the ideal mate during the peak of their fertility?  Why, now free of the social conventions that might otherwise hold people together, would young people decide to break up a family even when there are children involved?   Why would a society that prizes self-fulfillment and self-actualization and self-expression as the highest goals, create young husbands and wives that routinely break up their familes?  that routinely pick the "wrong person" at the first go? 

Vote for gay marriage though, and you'll feel better about yourself even if society continues to fall apart.  That's what's important, after all.  The broken family has become the norm, because God forbid there be any stigma to divorced families and single parenthood.  Nothing is any better than anything else, and a home with a dad and a mom is certainly no advantage over a home in which a single parent is trying to pull it together on his or her own.  A home in which one's father remains committed to one's mother and vice versa is no advantage in forming healthy relationships.  And remember, kids, most of all, that male and female are just a marketing gimmick thought up by Mother Nature eons ago, so don't believe there are any roles that aren't simply made up.  You are whatever you think you are, because you started yourself from scratch after you were born.   Unless you are homosexual--that is the one immutable thing you must be if you have any same sex attractions, the one given.  If you don't like your private parts, well then, Nature made a mistake.  If you have same sex attraction, well, as the song goes, there are no mistakes, 'cause you were born that way.

Welcome to Utopia where we can play any game we want with our biological programming with absolutely no repercussions, because there are no rules that we don't make up, nothing hardwaired, nothing planned, nothing 'natural' to the human condition, no ideal situation that we were adapted for, no environmental setbacks that good progressive intentions can't overcome by their very nature.  Unless you are gay, and then you don't want to resist your programming at all.  Don't mess with Mother Nature in that case.  But if you don't like your body, that's not a disorder, God made a mistake, and we can fix you right up!      

And there are certinaly no signs that the eroding familial safety net is causing people to look to the State for that support.  It's just pure enlightenment that causes people to be unable to see how it ever coudl have worked any other way-- a society now in which kids often live in a different state from their parents, and very often live far away from their grandparents.  The State is soon to be your parent, deciding your valgoods are spentues in school, paying for your college education.  Which means every parent is paying your way, and ever social security recipient is your grandparent.  The public is your family, the state administrators your parents.  It will be so much better anyway when the choices of college majors will be determined by a Committee of Education and Cultural Values instead of being decided what parents will voluntarily shell out money for (corporate fascism! bourgeoisie!).  Imagine when it's the State that will decide whether you can best serve the People as a common worker or get to be part of the cultural elite trasmitting the values of the Good.  Hey, the State has an obligation not to waste the public's money, and once the State takes enough control over the distribution of resources, they will have to decide who is worth educating to what level. 

And who is worth keeping alive.  In England now, many infants and old people are being phased out because the state doesn't have the funds to sink into non-productive members of society.  It's about the worker, you see.  After Thatcherism improved the lot of Britain, the progressives used the increased wealth to stir up class envy (straight out of Orwell's 1984) and the workers' party took over.  And infants and the aged can't work as hard.  They consume more resources than they produce.  So the ones with less chance of making it often get fast-tracked to death due to resource allocation.  (The Rich can, for now anyway, come to America for help--making the divide between Rich and Poor much more pronounced in England than in America--ironic?) Remember, it's cruel to let the free market of voluntary trade decide whether someone is allowed to consume more than they produce--the humane thing is to place the power of life and death into the hands of administrators who make the hard choices over how the Workers' money is spent.  

And it is administrators that should decide your children's values--as they do in California.  What makes you as a parent better equipped to decide a child's values than educated social scientists?  Just because you were able to procreate?  Stop doing the social scientist's job and get back to producing goods and services, Worker!  (Someone has to create wealth for us to redistribute.)  We'll educate your child, thank you very much. 

After all, it takes a village.

Monday, March 25, 2013

My Job Is More Important Than Your Job

I agree.  Let's pass a law that limits football players' salaries.

Not just football players but basketball players.  And limits on what actors can make per movie deal.  Are movie and tv actors more important than soldiers?

Actors like to tell us that teachers are more important than corporate executives.  I think teachers are more important than actors.  I think it's unfair that some actors can get paid so much.  Seriously, who do they think they are?

Or maybe the constant recourse to "importance" is flawed.  In a free society, where people are perfectly free to exchange their wealth for services they care about, does the most important job get paid the most.  Is garbage duty not important?  Who do you think you are thinking you deserve something better than garbage duty simply because you studied for years to get skills that few people have?

Yes, I think we should do a lot for soldiers, particularly those who serve in highly dangerous tours of duty.  However, we can't afford to pay most soldiers, except maybe the exceptionally skilled, the same as the highest paid football players.  That's a competitive sport, and a select few get the dough.  So if you want to follow the progressive program to take over the free market in order to make the world more fair, you'll need to limit football players' salaries.

Like I said though, I think the Hollywood bigshots should feel the pinch as well.  It's all well and good to be an armchair Marxist like Bill Maher.  Put your money where your mouth is, Hollywood limousine liberals.  Stop filming in Canada and Florida to avoid the high California taxes.  Work for less money.  Have fewer mansions and estates.  'Cause you're not more important than a teacher either.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Bill Maher Is Rich Liberal Hypocrite Par Excellence

Larry Elder has recently pointed out that since the election Bill Maher has changed his tune about taxation of the wealthy.  Whereas before he has stated:
"America's rich aren't giving you money. They are taking your money. Between the years 1980 and 2005, 80 percent of all new income generated in this country went to the richest 1 percent. Let me put that in terms that even you fat-a** teab**gers [asterisks added], sorry, can understand. Say 100 Americans get together and order a 100-slice pizza. The pizza arrives, they open the box, and the first guy takes 80 slices. And if someone suggests, 'Why don't you just take 79 slices?' — that's socialism!"
... he has since turned a 180, and acknowledged that 10 of those Americans have stocked the pizza box with  70 of the slices — as Larry Elder sums him up:
"ln California, I just want to say: Liberals — you could actually lose me." As a resident of California, a state with high income taxes, Maher complained that his taxes are "over 50 percent." What's more, Maher made a point seldom heard except on Fox News or by a rich Parisian. Maher said, "Rich people ... actually do pay the freight in this country ... like 70 percent" of the taxes. (Presumably, Maher meant that the top 10 percent of taxpayers pay about 70.5 percent of the federal income taxes.)
Maher, you voted for Brown, you voted for Obama — it sucks now that you are reaping what you sowed, doesn't it?  Think about how much worse it is for us that didn't vote for these characters and are being hit by the policies that you helped make happen. 

What a comedian Maher can be about politics:
“I think when you go that far left – you’re really the right-wing. I consider Lenin and Stalin right-wingers.”*
Not everything is funny just because it is really absurd and told with a straight face.  But maybe that's his schtick.  Maybe like Andy Kaufman, he is making a joke within a joke.  He is lampooning the Left and they don't realize it, and that is the real joke.

On a mostly unrelated note, Ted Turner's son has recently criticized CNN for tacking hard left and given a definite nod toward Fox News.  Notice how none of the people that criticize Fox News as being the ridiculously ideological outlet among a bunch of neutral players ever say anything about CNN.  Why?  Because CNN is just saying what they already know to be true, and how could that be anything other than unbiased fact?  

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Road to Meltdown Paved With Good Intentions

Michael Medved is always irritated by callers that say that Obama wants to bring America to its knees.  I think this is mostly because there isn't much to be gained by arguing about what Obama may or may not be trying to do.  As far as I know, all the left-leaning people that I've personally known believe that they will make this great nation even more glorious by making it more liberal--liberal policies can't help but do that.  I think Medved is a little too hard on these right-leaning conspiracy theorists for these reasons:
[Dr. Benjamin] Carson said [that] if someone wanted to ruin the United States, they “would create division among the people, encourage a culture of ridicule for basic morality and the principles that made and sustained the country, undermine the financial stability of the nation, and weaken and destroy the military. It appears coincidentally that those are the very things that are happening right now." *
If you are driving and a passenger grabs the wheel and starts lurching the car dangerously, it may well be a moot point whether that person intends to crash the car.  It doesn't change the fact that what he is doing could have some disastrous consequences.

One might say that attributing bad motives to Obama is at least giving him the benefit of the doubt, that he's not an idiot.  People can make very foolish and horrible choices by being blinded by their world view, and even though Obama has talked the talk of unity and compromise, his rhetoric and politics turn ugly when his opposition actually dares to oppose him.  He unveiled himself as a consummate liberal at the beginning of the year, a few months after his reelection.  His negotiation over budget was predictable:
GOP:  We need to cut spending.
Obama:  First, tax the rich.
GOP:  But that have very little effect on the deficit.
Obama:  I won't do anything unless we tax the rich.
GOP: Ok, fine, we've broken our oaths and taxed the rich.  Now, spending cuts.
Obama:  First, let's talk about taxing the rich some more.  
He's got a one-track mind.

Whether Obama really believes we can deficit spend our way to prosperity, it doesn't really matter.  Crazy is as crazy does.

The good people on the Left who still believe in Obama also believe in these policies, so they are sure that Obama can't be steering us toward disaster, trusting that Obama is smart and sincere and noble.  He sounds so fatherly, he looks so concerned and principled.  What could go wrong?

David Limbaugh expresses it eloquently here:
My personal belief is that Obama, like so many leftist radicals, has a strong distaste for pre-Obama America and that he believes that the United States has been an imperialistic international bully, that we've consumed too much of the world's resources, that we've been an environmental felon and that our capitalistic system unfairly and inequitably distributes income and wealth -- and I think he means to effect wholesale change to rectify those sins.
Do I believe that he wants to "destroy" America, as such? No. In his mind, as warped and foreign as I think it is, he doubtlessly believes he is helping to create a better America -- a utopia of sorts.*
It could well be that Obama merely seeks to humble America and put America in its place, rather like putting Britain in its place when his diplomats told British diplomats that the U.K. was just like any other nation and couldn't expect special consideration.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Bible Miniseries Racially Charged With Obama-Satan

Satan?  Or have the Presidential years been really unkind to Obama?
Scorsese's Jesus
I don't think I would noticed a resemblance (at least not based on this picture alone) if people weren't implicating "The Bible" mini-series as anti-Obama propaganda.  Supposedly a little child pointed out the resemblance between Obama and Satan, as well as asking why all the good people looked white.  How race-conscious do you have to be as a child to notice everybody's race?  Still, generally they (and I'm talking Hollywood, not just Christian filmmakers) have almost always chosen actors they felt would have broad appeal as the protagonists, and these have tended to white people with movie star looks.

I know at least one person who thought Joseph, Mary, and Gabriel in this latest miniseries looked overly Nordic. (Hmmm, is that Gabriel, or Thor?)

Check out Last Temptation of Christ. Willem Dafoe looks pretty darn white to me.  And look at the cast of ethnic characters standing behind the Scotsman (Judas):
The Disciple Judas in Scorsese's 'Last Temptation'
I've tended to notice this tendency in most all Bible dramas that I've seen.  Proof to most critical race theorists that Christendom is institutionalized racism, rather than a very common shortsightedness.  It seems like this haunts most Biblical productions to a great degree except for one:  The Passion of the Christ.

There's something different
about Caviezel in this picture.
The director of Passion took great pains to overcome the past productions' tendency to "whitewash" (pun intended) the cultural and ethnic context of Jesus' life and death.  The movie is a constant reminder to Jesus and his disciples were, ethnically and religiously, Israelites.  Jim Caviezel gets valmorphanized with a new nose right out of the Shroud of Turin. Everybody's speaking (a reconstruction of) Aramaic, the language of the Jews at the time, and a true effort to convey the religious context of 1st Century Judaism is attempted.  Gone is the image of WASPs speaking King James English in proper British accents.  Jesus is finally an Israelite, and so are his Galilean disciples.  Any European-looking people?  Yes, playing Romans, who speak Latin.

Oh, and one more person:
This clean-shaven Caucasian is none other than Lucifer, the Accuser of the Brethren.

Ironic that the one real attempt to give us Semitic Jesus instead of white-bread Jesus comes from the man vilified as an anti-Semite from the movie's very release (long before his nervous breakdown)? Or more ironic that given this, Hollywood and its progressive entourage focused entirely on a scene with a Judaean mob?  I think it was either Time or Newsweek with a long article that argued that the scene was inherently anti-Semitic in character--without the author explaining why he was attacking the Gospel of John (the source of the scene) as racist.  All the artistic freedom Hollywood was frothing with over Scorsese's unusual weirdfest went out the window.

Gibson's Kepha ("Peter" in Aramaic) to the left of Jesus
(on Jesus' right hand).  The first Pope looks kind o' Jewish. 
Of course, it didn't help that Gibson's later maniacal episode had him regressing into his father's anti-Zionist paranoia.  Yet, how eagerly the powers that be focused their attention on this episode as having the utmost significance, even though the Judaean religious leaders are hardly the only Israelites in the movie.  So much more attention in fact, than they ever give to the Islamic leaders/activists and African American ministers that spout the same paranoia.  Curious.

But Christians all over America were still embarrassed that Gibson gave the anti-church crowd what they wanted (over 2 years later) by opening up a full can of crazy.  As they will probably be embarrassed that someone didn't speak up during the making of this latest Bible miniseries and say, "Hey, can we make the Devil at least as white-looking as the other main characters?  As a rule of thumb, it would distract people much less if the Devil is always at least as Caucasian-looking as Mary the mother of Jesus.

Odeya Rush
Speaking of which, I'm not sure if even the Israeli actress Odeya Rush is as conscientious a choice as Mel Gibson would have made (although Caviezel seems like a bad choice without the makeup).  However, she is slated for the title role in the prequel to Passion of the Christ., which is Mary, Mother of the Christ.  The continuity with Passion will be in the screenwriting not the directing.  (One Bible blockbuster sandwich, hold the Mel.)  To demonstrate how pervasive the anti-Passion propaganda has been, check out Odeya Rush's suspicion these many years later:
Rush said that she was somewhat reluctant when she was initially handed the script, but found it completely devoid of anti-Semitic sentiment.*
Odeya Rush was 6 years old when that movie came out.  Her knowledge of Passion was founded on hearsay.  The "anti-Semitic sentiment" that caused such an uproar for the first film was from the Gospel of John.  Hopefully, she would find all the Gospels devoid of the sentiment.

Jim Caviezel
... and Jim Caviezel
Post-script:  The Gibson/Caviezel portrayal is not only the least European Jesus we've seen, surpassing even Pasolini's unibrowed Spaniard in The Gospel According to Matthew, it is one of the most accessible, down-to-earth, naturally human portrayals ever, far removed from Zefirelli's hypno-tranced messiah.  Speaking of the White Jesus of Easters Past, here are Jeffrey Hunter from King of Kings and the Swede Max von Sydow from The Greatest Story Ever Told.   

Above:  Max von Sydow looks almost Middle Eastern next to this Son of Odin. 

Follow-up: Mehdi Ouazzani, the "Obama-Satan" actor has played many different ethnicities--mostly European.  I guess there would have been fewer complaints had he kept his sinister mustache for the Lucifer role.  He could've twirled it while offering Jesus the kingdoms of the earth.  
Obama "look-alike" Mehdi Ouazzani

Errata: I originally confused the roles of Victor Argo (Peter/Cephas) and Harvey Keitel (Judas) in Last Temptation.

Jesus Hood and his band of swarthy men:

Sunday, March 17, 2013

gender paygap

And what if a woman's nature tends toward wanting to shoulder less financial responsibility?
At a moment in history when the American conversation seems to be obsessed with bringing attention to women in the workplace (check out “The End of Men,” or Google “gender paygap” for a primer), it seems a remarkable chasm between what we’d like to see (more women in the corporate ranks) and what we’d like for ourselves (getting out of Dodge). But it’s true: according to our survey, 84% of working women told ForbesWoman and TheBump that staying home to raise children is a financial luxury they aspire to.
What’s more, more than one in three resent their partner for not earning enough to make that dream a reality
   — Meghan Casserly
On a somewhat related note, interesting post on protesters trying to keep people from listening to Warren Farrell in Toronto.  Perhaps, since they are Canadians, we can't expect them to believe in a right to free speech.

Reagan and the Argo-Nots

I recently heard a left-of-center person scoff at the idea that the timing of the release of the hostages had anything to with Reagan.

Is there a liberal that believes that the Ronald Reagan's election may have legitimately influenced the Iranians to give up the hostages?

There seems to be two schools of thought on the matter among progressives:
(1) There is NO connection.
(2) There is a little too MUCH connection if you know what I mean.

Some think it's ludicrous that the perception of willingness to use force is itself a kind of strength.  Some think that Reagan had nefarious connections in Iran, picked up the phone after his election and said, "Well, now, boys, you can let them go now."  In either case, the sole connection between these disparate points of view in the perception of these events is the belief that it is humility and politeness that deters the crazed, bullying aggressor from further acts of violence.   Some progressives might even decide that the Iranians came to an understandable conclusion that Reagan, being the Evil Imperialist, would not be cowed, where they had once hoped that Carter could be panicked into compliance--it would be consistent with liberalism but the attitudes about dealing with terrorists is entrenched and reactionary.  Or so it seems to me.

Maybe it is a coincidence that the resolution was achieved minutes after Reagan's inauguration.  It would have made more sense if it had happened the day after the election, right?  Maybe it's just a coincidence.  Are there any similar coincidences where good things happened during Clinton's terms that he shouldn't take credit for?

Side note on Argo:  It sounds like the truly brave Canadian diplomat had criticized the early version of the film for not recognizing the extent of his involvement in the rescue.  The studio obliged by changing some exposition at the end of the movie.  The original statement compared his 112 citations to the complete lack of recognition the CIA received.  Now it sounds an awful lot like he's saying that the movie that portrays him quite favorably is not being fair in giving him his due.  There's a line from the movie... Argo... never mind.  Yes, ain't life unfair.

Another observation:  Aside from the various liberties in telling this story of the Canadian Caper, the one thing I'd like to complain about is a certain Star Wars reference.  I remember the showcase for showing off one's Star Wars action figures and there are two things that are wrong with its depiction in the film.
  (1) The Jawa and the figure of one of the Sand People are switched.  The spots are labeled.  You can see the labels.  A fan in 1980 would not have confused the two. No way.
  (2) One figure is missing.  You can see the "Death Squad Commander"  real well because C-3PO is not there.  What kid would've collected the Dark Helmet lackey before getting Threepio?  No one.  Where's Threepio?

But I still felt a lot of nostalgia at the sight of it.  And it reminded me of the T.I.E. Fighter (why did the Empire use English acronyms?) that would eject its "wings" so that you could pretend it got destroyed in a space fight.  Nice!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Rob Portman: Do Liberals Really Hate When Republicans Moderate?

Some of my most conservative friends, if I asked them about many large social programs they would not be in favor of removing them completely (although that would be something interesting to hear a real debate about).  Most of them are pro-national defense and not against some infrastructure and social safety nets.  However, most of the reform policies that they would be in favor of have been deeply and rigorously villainized by the liberal coalitions.

In other words, unlike many self-described libertarians, they are not wholly against government programs but believe they are bloated, unwieldy, stupid, and corrupt--their sheer size and scope invites corruption.  (In all fairness, many self-described libertarians agree.)

I've written recently about the libertarians giving themselves a liberal makeover (what could be called Miss America libertarianism, to riff on a cute phrase).

Now we have Rob Portman "coming around" on using the state's power to make everyone acknowledge same-sex unions as part of the millenia-old, pre-state institution of marriage.  Whether because he doesn't want to risk hurting his son's feelings or because it gives him an excellent opportunity to get that post-Romney political makeover that some politicians are looking for, or both, we may not ever know.  He has a much more personal reason than either Biden or Obama did when key culture war issues provided a convenient distraction from questions of fiscal leadership.  How timely!  (Portman's conversion may be timely too.)

Matthew Yglesias, and presumably many more progressives, thinks this is narcissism.  How many liberal causes you must take up before you are no longer guilty of narcissism?   Yglesias doesn't say exactly although he throws some examples out there right from the big liberal playbook.  Yglesias apparently worships at the εκκλησία of liberalism.

Now, elsewhere liberals are likely to hold that principled consistency is absolutism and black-and-white thinking--usually just when applied to conservative causes, oddly enough.  When one is badmouthing the Tea Party is convenient to juxtapose them with "reasonable" (i.e. more liberal) Republicans. (McCain almost seemed to win the GOP nomination more for his popularity with liberals than with conservatives, that "maverick.")  Principled consistency in sticking to the progressive platform is not absolutism for liberals-- just goodness and mercy.

"We're just talking about gay marriage.  We are not talking about polygamy! Slippery slope! Slippery slope!"  You don't have to get far into the fray to hear that one.  Now why don't we hear "We're just talking about gay marriage.  We are not talking about Medicare, affrimative action, redistribution, open borders with fast-track to social care, etc."  No, we're hearing, "If you don't swallow the whole progressive platform, you're a narcissist."  Or hypocrite or whatever.

There is no slippery slope!!! No!!!  You can avoid the slippery slope by being as selectively compassionate as you wish.  However, some of us like to care about everybody.  And we need everybody's money to care for everybody...  (Not all the narcissism is on the conservative side.)

It's all part of the progressive narrative.

Make no mistake though, liberal activists group love moderate Republicans because they can simultaneously beat them up for encouraging "conservative extremism" and for embodying weak versions of liberal compassion.  As we saw last autumn.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Philosophical Dilemma of Left-Right Economics

A friend provided this gem a while back:
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?
Progressive economists seem to think that minimizing the disparity of fiscal outcomes (regardless of the choices one makes--it seems to be) is the utmost priority, since disparity is prima facie evidence that robber barons are stealing money form the people by not paying more for their work than they are willing to accept.
Conservative economists seem to think that the overall history of the United States has been financial liberty causing unprecedented growth that has raised the standard of living such that America's poor are rich relative to the average yokel in most parts of the world, an effect that has made socialists around the world deeply angry at the arrogance of our success.

This recent contribution by +Darth Thotz quoting Margaret Thatcher really brings it home:
"And what a policy! Yes, he would rather have the poor poorer, provided the rich were less rich. That is the liberal policy!"
To a conservative, liberals seem so obsessed with fairness that they would prefer fairness to betterment and advancement.  Better to hold everyone back than to let some get much further ahead..  To a conservative, this is a pathological preoccupation.

This theme has surfaced repeatedly (and should) over the past year as Democrats made it a key bit of political marketing in 2011/2012 to demonize success, entrepreneurship, wealth, and financial incentive (i.e. profit) in order to defeat Romney's Kennedy-esque supply-side plan for growth.

Another recent post highlights the progressive view:

Yes, unless we make centralized authority even more powerful, corporations will steal our money by offering us cheap food and cheap appliances, offering iPhones, flashy sports shoes, huge Big Gulps, and cigarettes that we think we can't live without.  Because liberty is really slavery and slavery is really liberty.  Umm, which "Ministry" in Orwell's 1984 is that most like?  "Corporate Control" thus becomes the collectivist dog whistle for class envy and centralized nanny state control.

So even if 95% or more of liberals  assume that the "poor" and specifically minority demographics may have had improved standard of living on average between the reigns of Carter and Obama, a greater disparity is grounds for rethinking.  If the same policies that reduce the Ugly Disparity make the poor are worse off than they were before, , it's all right as long as the "rich" can be made much, much poorer than they were before.  (Who the %&#! do they think they are, making filthy money while people are struggling?!) So as minorities have been hit particularly hard by the stifled economy (and it can always be blamed on Bush), the President has fought hard to make sure that some gesture at greater redistribution was made even though it did little to change the size of the deficit.

Alexis de Toqueville said many poignant things about the uniqueness of America and its Founders' notion of republican government (some of which anticipate George Orwell's 1984 quite a bit).

Égalité is an expression of envy. Its real message to the heart of every Republican* is "No one shall be better off than I am;" and as long as this [idea] is preferred to good government, good government is impossible.  
And also:

There is in fact a manly and legitimate passion for equality that spurs all men to wish to be strong and esteemed. This passion tends to elevate the lesser to the rank of the greater. But one also finds in the human heart a depraved taste for equality, which impels the weak to want to bring the strong down to their level, and which reduces men to preferring equality in servitude to inequality in freedom.  [emphasis mine]
Was he a man ahead of his time?  Or has it been the same danger looming over us all along?  Dr. Benjamin Franklin would have thought it was the latter.
* Note:  Toqueville is not referring to the GOP, and is referring to something more inclusive than Jefferson's antifederalism; he is referring to the basic idea of government that Ben Franklin, John Adams, and James Madison thoguht they were giving the American people.

Toqueville quotes are from:

Monday, March 11, 2013

Margaret Thatcher on Inequality of Income

"Let me give you my vision: a man's right to work as he will, to spend what he earns, to have property, to have the state as a servant and not as a master; these are the British inheritance."
   -- Margaret Thatcher

This is where social and fiscal policy meet in the Progressive philosophy:  Equality of outcome.

Socialists the world over have hated America, not simply because America is not socialist (nor simply because America is powerful--China is powerful and mainly looks after its own national interests), but because our brand of capitalism has long afforded a better deal to the poor masses than all the well-meaning collectivism of Europe and Asia combined.  Case in point: People rushing in droves to be "exploited" by our "corporationey" businessmen.

This may be the penultimate question of fiscal philosophy between left and right.  Is it better to tolerate disparity if everybody is better off?  Or is it better if everyone is less well off but the disparity of income and/or wealth is less?   Thomas Sowell has explained over and over again that "trickle down" economics is not just a misnomer, but one that is a strawman-in-a-label.  The supply-side economics advocated by John F. Kennedy (and underlying his tax reducing policy) was described as "a rising tide lifts all boats."  Progressive economics, on the other hand, purports to raise some small boats higher by sinking some big boats.

Does it matter that the rich become filthy rich as long as the standard of living and average wealth of the poor  and middle class rises as well?   Does lowering the disparity of income between rich and poor matter if the policies cause the poor and middle class to be poorer than they were before?

Madame Prime Minister turns this argument around the way Republicans should be able to:
"And what a policy! Yes, he would rather have the poor poorer, provided the rich were less rich.  That is the liberal policy!"

There's some dialogue that wasn't in the Meryl Streep film!  What a powerhouse!  We lost an important voice when we lost Madame Thatcher.  A very important voice.  Look again at the quote at the beginning of this post.  While the "letter" of our American Constitution is innovative, both the "spirit" and "letter" of our Constitution are an elaboration of principles of British conceptions of common law, natural rights, religious liberty, rights of habeus corpus, right to trial by a jury of peers, right to property (protected from the avarice of the State).   This woman understood the foundations of our liberty better than 95% of Americans in red or blue states.  

Monopoly Is As Monopoly Does

Saturday, March 9, 2013

South Park Conservatives: Is South Park Liberal?

Even though South Park has gone so far as to brutally ridicule those who think that anything can be tolerated in classrooms in the name of political correctness, even to ridicule transsexual surgery, it was premature of pundits 10 years ago to think that the pop culture tide had permanently turned against political correctness and against liberalism.  Still, the citing of "South Park Republicans" by pseudo-conservative Andrew Sullivan is a noteworthy event of the '00s.

In a more recent January interview with South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the evidence Hadley Freeman offers for it being "safe to assume that they veer more towards the left in their attitudes" is that Parker and Stone wryly have Satan in their show talk about being in league with the Republicans (or finding them useful for his purposes anyway).  It's hard for me to tell from that who they are really laughing at. I'd probably write something like that just for a laugh.  Parker and Stone have admitted to hating conservatives almost as much as they hate liberals, but it may be less than obvious whether that statement  may be taken at face value.

The real kicker in this interview is what they call the big lie of their whole career:
"The big lie of our whole career is that rightwing fundamentalists are always trying to shut us down," Stone says. "It has literally never happened. The Mormons haven't, the Christians haven't – OK, the Scientologists did, but they don't count. But when we make fun of liberal people, they're like 'What?!' I think religious conservatives are more used to taking a beating."
Liberals aren't the only group that is not used to being skewered on tv/film:
They've also been attacked by every religious group possible, but never asked to back off before, even when they stabbed Jesus in the neck and made all Catholic priests pedophiles. They said despite all that the most vocal group about religion has been atheists. "We got calls from atheists friends a couple times saying, 'What the f***, we thought you were on our side?' and we say, 'We're not on anybody's f***ing side and we're not atheists.'"*
Well, Matt Stone has elsewhere described himself as an atheist (who thinks Richard Dawkins is a jerk), so maybe Parker is agnostic; or they simply do not want to be labeled as atheist spokesmen.  But that is just one of many gems from that Huffington Post interview. They continue:
When I asked them which group they've pissed off the most over the years, they both said "liberals." "Liberal people got mad at us for 'Team America' -- that's the most I've felt it.
And this one:
"Ripping on Republicans is not that fun for us only because everyone else does it," Matt explained. "It's so much more fun for us to rip on liberals only because nobody else does it, and not because we think liberals are worse than Republicans but, just because..."
"... it's like fresh snow. I mean how're you gonna rip on Sarah Palin in a new way?" Trey pointed out.
Yeah, I mean, who didn't take a shot at Palin?  Where was South Park when we had Jocelyn Elders embarrassing the Clintons at every turn?  Maybe in the '90s we could have had a South Park episode where Janet Reno burns down a church with children inside because the people inside won't give up their guns.  (Or maybe now we could have an episode where Obama takes out Fox News with a drone attack because they are the only news outlet that won't love him up--after first declaring a hiatus on habeus corpus and "constructing a legal regime.")

But let's hear that again:  "Ripping on Republicans is not that fun for us only because everyone else does it."  
"There's something uniquely aggravating about the smugness of liberal Hollywood," Matt said. "You have to laugh at Alec Baldwin when he gets political. You have to. He is an amazing actor, he may even be a great guy, but that sh** is funny. Sean Penn getting on TV on CNN and talking about politics, Sean Penn running around Katrina and Haiti that is funny. That's all.
Amen, brothers.  

One Parker-Stone quote that's made the rounds a lot and seems to shed light on their particular neti neti brand of centrism:
"What we're sick of — and it's getting even worse — is you either like Michael Moore or you wanna f***ing go overseas and shoot Iraqis... We find just as many things to rip on the left as we do on the right. People on the far left and the far right are the same exact person to us."
It's unclear to me whether they would see extremism as a matter of attitude or a matter of position.  Of course, the mere avoidance of "extremes" is not a recipe for reason, just a version of the "argument to moderation" fallacy.   As Parker and Stone have often pointed out for good ridiculing sport, what do celebrities know about politics?

Friday, March 8, 2013

Sean Penn, A Tragic Figure Mourning Hugo Chavez

If you are right-of-center (or is it really the center?), it's easy to think of Sean Penn as a buffoonish dabbler in world politics.

Reading these articles (here and here) a picture emerges of Sean as "damaged," who feels alienated from people and angry at the world, who feels he has never been truly loved.  This is a sad composite portrait.
His father, Leo, the son of Russian-Jewish immigrants to the US, was an actor and director, who supported the Hollywood unions and was blacklisted after refusing to co-operate with the House Un-American Activities Committee. The influence of his hard-drinking father, who won the Distinguished Flying Cross as a bombardier, was immense.
One article recounts how Penn preferred staying in the Haitian shelters with the disaster refugees to comfortable hotel accommodations, showing a man driven by dedication and humanity.  This gives me an ambivalence toward Penn as he seems to be a person fueled by deep griefs.  His passion for activism, on the one hand, it could be treated with all the respect due to the well-meaning intentions of an extreme religious fervor; on the other, a man whose liberalism was partly born (it would seem) out of the alleged repression of McCarthyism should have a deeper appreciation of the Bill of Rights than to laud and embrace the oppressive and repressive tactics of Chavez--going so far as to call for the arrest of those who dare blaspheme the name of Chavez.  It's hard to know just how seriously to take this guy or how much respect to give him.

One of these accounts presents Penn's Haiti involvement as a direct natural consequence of his concern over the Katrina disaster.  Another presents it as a direct consequence of desperately needing something on which to focus his attention in the wake of a bitter, lonely divorce.  It is perhaps too much of ad hominem argument to presume that most of Penn's activism is a way of dealing with his alienation and disappointment; of itself it doesn't make him right or wrong.

Penn's brother Chris says that his idealism is a "kind of innocence," which suggests that he thinks Sean is often motivated by a well-meaning naivete.  It is possible that the dissonance felt by Penn as a liberal who has made it big off the capitalist money machine only adds to this need to save the world.  But a lot of people in dire circumstances have been helped by Penn working out his issues.  In this sense he has joined a long list of Americans who have demonstrated that individuals (particularly those with accumulated wealth) succeed in solving problems where governments largely fail.

Is it interesting that the House Un-American Activities Committee, so hated by Penn's father, got its bad reputation addressing the undermining of American interests by those who sympathized with totalitarians' hatred of America for offering  everybody a better deal than any collectivist government was able to.  (Remember those waves of people emigrating to communist and fascist regimes?  I don't.)  Poor Hugo Chavez.  No matter how many freedoms he suppressed, no matter how many dissenters he jailed, no matter how much wealth he redistributed, he still ended up with an oppressed, dirt-poor country riddled with rampant violence and corruption.  I guess he just wasn't in office long enough.

I keep thinking about Penn's letter to Trey Parker and Matt Stone shortly before Team America was released.  While Penn was predictably apoplectic over them making light of the war against terrorism, he seemed unusually bothered by Parker and Stone's advice to not vote if you don't know what your doing.  To me this highlights how much Democrats (Republicans too this last election--fearing conservative apathy--but mostly Democrats) promote voter turnout as the key metric of political participation.  It's as though the whole crew of Gilligan's Island is at the helm hands on the wheel, and Ginger takes her hand off the wheel because "I don't know which way to turn it."  "Ginger, don't you dare not participate."  Penn has a point that it would certainly be better if people did try to educate themselves on the issues, but people also tend to feel educated  by reading one article or by watching Jon Stewart.

Watch this short video, notice where these people report getting their information, and consider who benefits most from large numbers of "low information" voters going to the polls who if not prompted to vote might just stay home watching reality tv.

Finally, here's an amusing video (warning: has a lot of profanity) where Penn and Kid Rock trade leftwing and rightwing political insults.   Is Penn a "Granolacrat"?  I don't know, but the word is pretty funny. Something about this puts Penn's far-leftism into a richer context.  Maybe.

Out of Ideas

Something happened tonight.  The Koch Brothers forgot to send out that email telling us what to think for the next day, so I am fresh out of corporation worship and bigoted rants.

So I'm left wondering what my left-of-center friends are doing.  Perhaps earlier this evening they talked to their close friends about how hateful and dull conservatives are since they don't realize how awful Bush was and how wonderful Obama is.  Or why Republicans don't seem to realize that Obama should get what he wants from them.  Some of my left-of-center friends may have noticed some of the conservative -oriented posts on my Facebook page (if they are one of the very few that aren't screened from such horrors) over the last few years. Perhaps they are mourning my lost humanity or wondering if they should have paid closer attention to the signs warning that I was losing my common sense and ability to empathize.

I don't know.  I can't tell.  Is there any real sort of dialogue about it?  Back in the 90s I hear conservatives were talking among themselves, delineating conservative philosophy.  The Republican Congress (starting in 1994) that happily coincided with controlled spending and economic growth did not achieve an impact on what the next generation was taught.  (This was left to schoolteachers with an unbiased faith in their unions' right to keep them employed no matter how poor they are at teaching.)

Progressives watched in horror as Clinton capitulated by declaring the "End of Big Government"  and consoled themselves with the fantasy An American President (what could happen if we got liberal President that followed his conscience and stopped capitulating to evil conservatives).  Now this generation of progressives think they have that President, and anyone who doesn't like him does so because they are misled or don't like black people (or both).

Where is the middle ground?  Will my liberal friends ever accept me in my conservatism knowing that I
  • want to enslave them to evil corporations 
  • am trying to bring about a theocracy
  • want the planet to be destroyed (after killing and eating the Lorax)
  • am a less cute version of Alex P. Keaton
  • want millions to die starving in the streets and die for lack of medical treatments
  • wish that Paul Ryan would really roll that old lady off the cliff
  • want innocent Muslims to be tortured
  • get perversely excited ("fact" 3) at the sight of our flag
  • get perversely excited at the thought of trading "blood for oil"
  • want to keep Muslims and Buddhists ("fact" 4) from practicing their religion
  • hate Obama (but not Halle Berry) because of the One-Drop Rule
  • hate immigrants unless they are "white"
  • want to re-enslave black people 
  • enjoy monster truck rallies

???   Will they accept me knowing all that?

That's a lot to ask of them.  Of course, they are good people and will wish me well; they'll just know there is no point in discussing the events of the day since I am incapable of reason.  On political issues.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Coming Out of the Closet

Many of Michael L. Brown's posts/articles are noteworthy.  Not only does he have some in-depth perspective of the Middle East (history, language, politics, etc.) and on Judaism and the history of the Jewish people, but he has an in-depth perspective on the history of gay rights and public policy with regard to homosexuality in America (much of which has gone into his book Something Queer Happened to America).  

His post on putting social conservatives "in the closet" is especially noteworthy.  Given that he seems to regularly make the "most hated" list for many gay activist sites, it is especially interesting that he makes this point (emphasis mine)
In the midst of our very spirited debate (the three of us are from New Jersey or New York), I repeatedly told listeners they needed to read the book Mitchell edited, Crisis: 40 Stories Revealing the Personal, Social, and Religious Pain and Trauma of Growing Up Gay in America. In keeping with the sub-title, I reiterated that it was important that those of us who opposed gay activism understood the personal dimensions involved. In fact, I started the show by asking Mitchell to tell his own story, wanting others to know the pain he suffered growing up with same-sex attractions.
I also made clear that rampant, no-fault divorce among heterosexuals (including all too many Christians) had done more to destroy marriage than all gay activists combined.
I am tempted by the cynicism of thinking that no matter how compassionately one approaches the subject, social conservatives will only be demonized by activists for "homosexual equality,"  since for them, by definition there can be nothing compassionate about what they see as oppression.  Some mixed hope aroused by Shane Windemeyer's "coming out" (an interesting choice of words) as a friend of Chik-fil-A COO Dan Cathy.  There may be hope for a meaningful (non-recriminating) dialogue yet, but I am also dismayed by Chik-fil-A's distancing themselves from conversion therapy.  Progressives support people who want to change their gender (as though their dysmorphia was more real than their bodies) but not people who want to (and have succeeded in cases) of changing their orientation, reacting as if it were a sort of psychological mutilation. (Curiouser and curiouser.)  It makes me uncertain about whether integrity can be maintained.

However, I am dismayed about those who profess faith in a gospel of compassion and mercy who let their natural political frustration at having lost power over the acculturation of their children dictate the tone of their speech.  In spite of the cultural resistance to same-sex marriage and to homosexuality transcending religion and politics in both time and space, gays interpret the real hostility they meet as being somehow religiously motivated.  Christians (and hopefully Muslims) do their religion no credit by giving their political opponents ammunition in this way.  Even when I've heard embarrassing remarks, I've never had the impression that there was some kind of underlying tendency toward anti-gay violence--rather a sense of helplessness and defeat (a notion that would make many an activist cheer haughtily).

I read something not that long ago about an employee that kept getting comments from his supervisor about her recent marriage to a woman, and didn't like his lack of response on it so she tried to get some point-blank response from him about his feelings on same-sex marriage, and so he admitted that he didn't believe same-sex was a good thing.  She smiled and said, "I'm reporting you to HR, buddy."  So much for don't-ask-don't-tell.  And exactly who gets associated with McCarthyist paranoia?

For now, you can have conservative beliefs or traditional moral beliefs in the privacy of your home.  How long before subjecting one's children to one's "hate speech" beliefs becomes classified as child abuse?  At this rate, not long.
"elderly woman in Palm Springs was besieged by an angry mob protesting Prop 8"

Friday, March 1, 2013