Saturday, May 17, 2008

My letter to Hillary

(Hat tip to Beth at MVRWC)

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Thursday, May 15, 2008

More on Senator John McCain, the Boundaries of Conservative Republican Thought Historically Speaking, and Certain Troubling Contemporary Ahistorical So-Called "Conservative" Trends Thereof:
(Part V of a Dialogue)

This is a continuation from the fourth part of this series which can be accessed here. To start from the beginning (if you have not read the previous parts) please go here.

And though I have noted it in every part of the series so far, a reminder of the colour schemata in this series (to cut down on confusion as to the sequence of arguments) still seems pertinent; ergo I reiterate for a final time what I noted in the first part of this series:

The orange font is from the emailer's original email while light blue font is my responses to the emailer's original note. The dark green font is from the emailer's follow-up to my first response while the regular blog font colour is my response to the emailer's follow-up note. Any sources I quote in this note will be in dark blue font and possibly smaller type as a result of the format this original text was taken from (I do not have time to change it). [Excerpt from Rerum Novarum (circa April 26, 2008)]

Without further ado...

Furthermore, the Reagan years were an aberration of sorts...in the past hundred ten odd years, there were only three non-establishment Republican candidates: Teddy Roosevelt, Barry Goldwater, and Ronald Reagan. (The Democrats had only one -Harry Truman- in that same span of time if you exclude the thrice defeated William Jennings Bryan.) TR only became president because the establishment plan to shut him up by making him vice president backfired when McKinley was assassinated. He was able to get elected on his own in 1804 and if he had not died when he did, probably would have won in 1920...a story for another time altogether perhaps.

Goldwater broke the back of the establishment in 1964 along with the Democratic stronghold of the south though he lost in a landslide thanks to the establishment doing their part of not supporting him as they should have. But he made an important breakthrough because other than his home state of Arizona, all the states he won electorally were in the deep south: a break of the "solid south" which had been dominated by Democrat electoral power since 1856. This paved the way for Nixon to come through in 1968 and then even more spectacularly in 1972 but Nixon was an establishment candidate. He was replaced by Ford in 1974 and in 1976, the entire establishment supported Ford against Reagan -even Goldwater who basically brokered Nixon's resignation supported Ford over the candidate who was ideologically much closer to himself.

Well, Goldwater was actually closer to Rudy Guiliani that he was to Reagan. Once issues like abortion and homosexuality became issues Goldwater was both pro-gay and pro-abortion.

Sigh...more education is needed on this obviously.

I think it is more than safe to say that Reagan turned out to be a true conservative while Goldwater didn't.

Senator Goldwater did take the view that someone who was gay should not be disallowed in the military if they are competent soldiers. If you are going to oppose his view on that then at least familiarize yourself with it first. It is not a matter of being "pro gay" but instead pro military and recognizing that those who can shoot straight can make valuable contributions to the nation's defense even if they are not personally straight. There is also the recognition that there have been homosexuals in the military in every military since the days of the Roman empire and policies that involve pretending otherwise are both naive as well as stupid.

I happen to have not viewed the gays in the military issue as much of a big deal -ironically I differed from Goldwater on means though not the end if you will. I had no problem with the "don't ask, don't tell" policy when Clinton announced it (unlike Goldwater) and I do not now: it has nothing to do with being "pro gay" any more than defending someone's right to believe something makes me "pro" their view. And I am not going to anathematize Goldwater for disagreeing with me on this issue viz. the means.

As far as the abortion issue goes, to understand Goldwater's position it helps to consider some of his comments from The Congressional Record:

There is no position on which people are so immovable as their religious beliefs. There is no more powerful ally one can claim in a debate than Jesus Christ, or God, or Allah, or whatever one calls this supreme being. But like any powerful weapon, the use of God's name on one's behalf should be used sparingly. The religious factions that are growing throughout our land are not using their religious clout with wisdom. They are trying to force government leaders into following their position 100 percent. If you disagree with these religious groups on a particular moral issue, they complain, they threaten you with a loss of money or votes or both. I'm frankly sick and tired of the political preachers across this country telling me as a citizen that if I want to be a moral person, I must believe in "A," "B," "C," and "D." Just who do they think they are? And from where do they presume to claim the right to dictate their moral beliefs to me? And I am even more angry as a legislator who must endure the threats of every religious group who thinks it has some God-granted right to control my vote on every roll call in the Senate. I am warning them today: I will fight them every step of the way if they try to dictate their moral convictions to all Americans in the name of "conservatism." [Senator Barry M. Goldwater: From The Congressional Record (circa September 16, 1981)]

I can not only understand Senator Goldwater's anger on these matters but to some extent I have long shared it. On religious matters it embodies opposing those who would try to make others follow every jot and tittle of their personal opinion as if it was required dogma lest they be viewed as "heterodox" "anathematized", or whatever.{1} On political matters it encapsulates those who try to claim some unique franchise on the term "conservatism" by focusing on one or two issues and disregarding the rest; essentially, ignoring the underlying philosophy of a conservative outlook while uncritically parroting one or two talking points positions which are based on certain foundational presuppositions which they do not bother to question. To quote Goldwater, "just who do they think they are"???

Of course there are some areas where Reagan fared a bit better on the issue of conservatism. Neither man was supportive personally of abortion but they went about it differently. In Goldwater's case, his claim that women had a "right to abortion" late in his life was a recognition that RvW was "settled law" (cf. John Roberts) whether we like it or not. But just because something is "settled law" does not mean it cannot at some point be changed.

Goldwater according to his autobiography was personally was opposed to abortion -viewing it as a states right issue not a federal one. And while Reagan was better on balance than Goldwater on abortion perhaps;{2} nonetheless, on the plethora of what embodies conservative principles, Reagan did not fare as well overall as Goldwater.

For Goldwater was not only opposed to The Great Society as Reagan was but also to The New Deal which Reagan was in many respects not. (My view on this is somewhere between that of Reagan and Goldwater.) But the root difference between Conservatives and Liberals was one that Goldwater noted decades ago in the following fashion:

The root difference between the Conservatives and the Liberals of today is that Conservatives take account of the whole man, while the Liberals tend to look only at the material side of man's nature. The Conservative believes that man is, in part, an economic, an animal creature; but that he is also a spiritual creature with spiritual needs and spiritual desires. What is more, these needs and desires reflect the superior side of man's nature, and thus take precedence over his economic wants. Conservatism therefore looks upon the enhancement of man's spiritual nature as the primary concern of political philosophy. Liberals, on the other hand,—in the name of a concern for "human beings"—regard the satisfaction of economic wants as the dominant mission of society. They are, moreover, in a hurry. So that their characteristic approach is to harness the society's political and economic forces into a collective effort to compel "progress." In this approach, I believe they fight against Nature.

Senator Goldwater did not believe in trying to harness any governmental entity to try and "compel progress" regardless of what that proposed "progress" happened to be. He was in other words completely consistent on this matter. The same cannot be said of The Gipper who did not mind trying to use government at times to "compel progress" depending on the issue at hand.

The problem with judicial activism on one hand is it makes one lack credibility when they criticize the other side for doing the same thing: yet this is precisely what the religious right sorts want to try and do. The hallmark of conservatism is advocating the maximum of human liberty consonant with societal order: subsidiarity if you will. And part of subsidiarity is not involving the federal government in the attempt to compel societal virtue.

This is why Goldwater did not favour activist judges of any stripe and Reagan in this area was a bit inconsistent. They were both conservatives, believing in the same core principles but differing at times on how they viewed those principled to be best implemented. Neither was 100% perfect but Goldwater overall was better than Reagan was.

At bottom, your comments about Goldwater reveal to me that you do not really understand the heart of conservative philosophy despite (usually) having some good conservative instincts XXXXXXX. But that is a subject for another time perhaps...I have said all I intend to for now on it.

And if not for Carter being such a horrible president, Reagan would probably not have been elected in 1980. There was that and also because Carter and his advisers made the same mistake in 1980 that Governor Pat Brown and his advisers did in California in 1966: they presumed Reagan was easier to beat than the other major candidates so they sabotaged the front runner to get Reagan as an opponent. So Reagan got the nomination, resisted the attempts to paint him in demonic colours that the Democrats tried to do, and won in 1980 by significantly dominating the south -winning all but Georgia and West Virginia. He added those states in 1984 when he swept the south: the second time a Republican had ever done that. (Nixon was the first in the 1972 election to do it.) Bush Sr. ran as carrying Reagan's mantle the same way that Taft ran as carrying TR's mantle in 1912. And just as Taft was a huge disappointment, so too was Bush Sr. and both of them lost re-election in three party races. The Republicans in 1916 as in 1996 went with an establishment candidate and need I go on??? The bottom line is, what we saw this year is historically more probable than not.

1916, the year of the Bull Moose "It's all about Teddy" debacle.

You mean 1912. Woodrow Wilson ran for re-election in 1916 on the "he kept us out of war" platform winning narrowly.

TR's act of self-agranddizement was both embarrassing and destructive.

In a sense it was sure. But your claim that it was an act of "self-aggrandizement" shows me you do not know much about what actually happened. TR followed the Ben Franklin model and did not campaign for the presidency -noting that he would not seek the nomination but if there was a grass roots movement that supported him, he would not refuse out of a proper sense of duty on the matter. As it happens, there was such a movement from many who were pissed off at the Republican party bosses and the most visible person they could find to champion their cause was TR. I could note more on this but that you do not even realize that TR responded to a movement to draft him and did not lead such a charge himself tells me just how shallow your knowledge on this matter really is.

But you are right about this event having a destructive nature to it as it basically drove the Roosevelt element out of the Republican party and let the conservative oligarchy element to deservedly die on the vine in the general election. But it also opened a new vista in the form of the election primary contributing to the nomination of a candidate.

That election also was one of the first where primaries became a factor in nomination and it was the Roosevelt faction that favoured the primary system as a way of breaking the establishment hold on the party machinery. The problem is, the primaries were not viewed as binding back then but instead as voluntary; ergo Wisconsin Senator Robert LaFollette won two primaries out of the first four, President Taft won two out of the first four, and TR won nine of the last ten including Taft's home state of Ohio which he won by a large margin. The momentum had clearly shifted and Taft was losing where the party bosses were unable to keep a tight control on things. And at the convention, the conservative party bosses rigged the machinery to get a nomination victory for Taft. They did this not only in seating Taft delegates in Alabama and Arizona but also from California -a state that Roosevelt had won. As a result of the California shafting, TR and his delegates saw the screw job in the making and walked out of the convention hall and formed their own party.

Of course you think that TR was the "embarrassment" because he did not smile, lie back, and have "thoughts of England" while he was being screwed by party bosses. But then again, that is the difference between those who are party loyalists (like you) and those who are not (like me). Disgraceful actions are disgraceful in and of themselves, not okay or otherwise worth being quiet about when "our guys" do it but then shrieking like a banshee when "their guys" do.

One of the major differences between TR and Reagan was their post presidential years. Reagan was a true statesman when push come to shove and Roosevelt wasn't.

Reagan was an old man of 77 who did not have much else he could do when he left office whereas TR had just turned 50 and still had plenty of gas in the tank. That point aside what exactly did Reagan do of a "statesman-like nature" that you think was so compelling or otherwise accomplishing of something positive??? I cannot think of anything offhand -he gave a great speech at the 1992 convention and attended Republican functions on occasion but that is about it.

By contrast, TR was involved in a much-publicized African Safari in support of science in 1909-10{3}, fought the corruption in his own party in 1911-12, trekked through South America in 1913-14 again to aid in the advancement of science -though that time he was infected by malaria and the result was a loss of a massive amount of weight and health problems that plagued him for the rest of his life.

Despite that though, he campaigned energetically for Charles Evans Hughes in 1916, offered once President Wilson received his declaration of war to raise an all-volunteer infantry, and on party matters also through his efforts at campaigning for Republicans enabled them to regain control of the Congress in 1918 which put an important check on President Wilson's efforts. And besides these things, he was an energetic campaigner for physical fitness and hunting his entire life, supported the Boy Scouts, and wrote a number of books on a variety of subjects from foreign policy to history.

If I did not want to finish this thread as soon as possible, I would supply links in that paragraph to substantiate every point I made. The bottom line is this: the contributions of TR after he was president so dwarfed those of RR that your assertion is (with all due respect) absurd. I do not fault RR for this for a variety of reasons but your deprecation of TR's post-presidential record overall is frankly quite disturbing.

But McCain has repeatedly stuck the knife in the back of the GOP establishment (and it was not even to being a conservative dagger), whereas the other guys didn't. That's the major difference here.

As I said, I can sympathize with some of McCain's annoyance. I find myself embarrassed by the ahistorical and narrow-minded dogmatism of the self-anointed "true conservatives" a lot. The pro lifers particularly are at times embarrassing and I noted this not only recently but indeed in every election cycle since I have been blogging to some extent or another.{4} And I noted it in discussion forums long before anyone had heard of my apologetics stuff and in various conversations and formats prior to that as well. If not for having spent enough time on this response already, I would make quite a list -my position on this has been both ample as well as consistent over the years.

For what could be a response to Medved's Kool Aid drinking (although it isn't actually) Rush's little brother has this to say.

David is wrong: McCain is not "liberal lite." Compared to Obama (8%) and Clinton (9%), McCain's lifetime conservative rating is 82.3%. That is lower than the ratings of Tancredo (97.8%), Brownback (94%), Hunter (92%), Thompson (83%). I am not sure about Guiliani and Romney but if we consider the flop-flop of Romney and Guiliani's views on certain core conservative issues where he is seriously lacking (unlike McCain) it seems probable that both of them would finish lower than McCain on that score. (The American Conservative Union does not rank governors or mayors so this is a nebulous area.)

No, you are wrong. I hinted above that his voting record does not give us a true picture of the real John McCain. How many of John McCain's votes in the Senate were decisive?

Neither you nor I are in a position to know this without an exhaustive review of the Congressional Record.

I think it is undisputable that the legislation he has co-authored and sponsored tells us more about the real John McCain than his voting record. I can't think of any legislation McCain co-authored or sponsored that wasn't only leftist but to the far left.

So because you cannot think of any, that means none exists huh??? You realize presumably that finding just one piece would invalidate your whole presumption. However, I am not sure whether or not you would ignore whatever I would present as if it was non-existent. Certainly without a pledge to avoid such things I will not expend an ounce of time on the matter.{5}

Just the damage wrought by MF itself more than wipes out any positive effect of his voting record.

By whose assessment??? The intention was to (i) control soft money contributions in campaign financing, by prohibiting national political party committees -in not only national but also state and local races-from raising or spending non-federally limited funds and (ii) utilizing issue ads within 30 days of a primary or 60 days of a general election which named candidates along with any such ad paid for by corporations -be they non profit or unincorporated entities -one that stretches to both business entities as well as union ones.

The result so far is a significantly lessened influence of soft money on campaigns since MF was signed into law. It is a regrettable piece of legislation in several ways this is true and we will see clarifications on it coming from the courts which in my mind is just fine. But I doubt you have taken any time to look soberly at this piece of legislation -a presumption based on your track record thus far in what I have responded to.

Medved is lying through his teeth when he says that MF was only "useless" and has done no real harm, especially to the Right to Life cause. The Wisconsin Right to Life case soundly refutes him there.

One example doth note a definitive statement on this matter make. MF affects a variety of activist causes -among the organizations fined for failure to follow campaigning guidelines in the 2004 election were (according to Wikipedia) the liberal League of Conservation Voters ($180,000) and Moveon.org ($150,000) as well as the conservative Swift Boat Veterans for Truth ($299,500). I do not know the reasons for the fines so levied so am not in a position to say whether they should have been more or less in any given case.

Presumably Medved was referring to the effect of MF on balance as opposed to one particular issue or group. But then again, I am inclined towards giving a charitable interpretation whenever this is feasible to do where the party in question has not given me just cause to not do so. By contrast, you apparently are driven to presume the worst without sufficient cause to do so viz. Medved's statement on this matter. This shows the depth of who really has a "derangement syndrome" here XXXXXXX and I will give you a hint: it is not this little black duck, nosiree.

And MF is as brash a violation of the First Amendment as the criminalization of porn isn't.

You appear to take a Hugo Black approach to the first amendment and historically the courts have never sided with that interpretation -heck the 1919 Schenck vs. United States case{6} is the example that most readily comes to mind. That point being noted though, there is still a question as to the extent of MF in passing constitutional muster. And that being noted, I have no problem with the Supreme Court (in its current configuration under Chief Justice Roberts geared as it evidently is towards judicial restraint) hearing cases on MF.

But it doesn't stop there. You have McCain Leiberman, which is McCain's open vying for the Cardinal's red hat in Pope Algore I's church of the environmentally ill.

You realize presumably that variations of that bill have been introduced since at least 2003 and they have died every time right??? Even the one currently up (S. 280) is nowhere near being in danger of being made into law. But to know this would be to know the status of the bills and the percentage of bills that actually make it out of committee.{7}

I don't think I need to tell you how dangerous the radical evironmentalist agenda is to this country in terms of economics and national security.

I agree with you on that.

And yes there is the McCain Kennedy amnesty bill. This is the only area where the unconservative Bush is anywhere near as liberal as McCain.

Bush is a fiscally irresponsible "dime store new dealer" (cf. B. Goldwater) and McCain is not. There is another issue for you.

Furthermore, if I am not mistaken, McCain's voting record post-2000 is only in the low 60's to high 50's.

It varies from session to session but you are (as you have been thus far) quite spectacularly wrong. The average in that span of time excluding 2007 is...well...you do the math yourself. Here are the numbers:

2006: 65%
2005: 80%
2004: 72%
2003: 80%
2002: 78%
2001: 68%
2000: 81%

I trust you do not need a calculator to figure out that you are (yet again) quite mistaken.

Furthermore, the average numbers are even higher than that prior to 2000 on balance with only five years with a rating of less than 83% going all the way back to not only his first Senate year (1987) but even including his previous four years as a Representative from Arizona (1983-1987). I could say more but once again: the facts do not substantiate your presumption.

If you are going to say that McCain is going to govern more conservatively than Bush you need to bring something more substantive than "Bush has set the bar so low" to the table.

I have not said he would govern more conservatively.{8} What I said was simply that it would not be hard for him to since Bush set the bar so damned low.

Finally, you really have a lot of nerve engaging in the same kind of deadagenting and sophistry that you have railed against (and rightly so) these last few years. In the text of this letter I have pointed out where you have done that to the point of moonbattery.

Since so little of what you said is sustained under examination, you would be wise to not speak so brashly as you have been. I have engaged in no sophistry at all. What I have done is take a view on these matters which accounts for the diverse streams in the well of what is commonly called "conservatism" while you have shown an ahistorical understanding on these matters both wholly and in most of the significant parts. Conservative instincts are good to have (and on balance you have them) but instincts not informed by facts make for a dangerous combination.

I could get up in a twist about having my intelligence so carelessly insulted. But why? I have better things to do than to expend emotion on such nonsensical horseshit.

If anyone should feel their intelligence has been insulted on this, it is me. Kindly do your own homework next time and do not blindly and uncritically genuflect, bow three times, and incense the opinions of either of the Limbaugh boys.

Notes:

{1} Or someone's particular interpretation of an accepted dogma to the exclusion of other possible viewpoints.

{2} If we rule out his signing of the most liberal abortion law in the country when governor of California.

{3} Financed by both Andrew Carnegie and also sales of his own writings.

{4} I do not have time to look for them but the archives of this weblog contain several examples -the most recent one from January of this year:

On the Candidacy of Mike Huckabee and the Political Stupidity of Pro-Lifers (circa January 9, 2008)

{5} I spent enough time tracking down the sources on this note already.

{6} Which upheld the US Sedition Act of 1918.

{7} A hint: it is very small and I gave it to you already.

{8} I did not realize that in responding to the longer email the first time, I actually did say this though I intended more nuance than that. The emailer can consider this to be a victory for them if they want but it would be a pyrrhic victory if they do.

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Monday, May 12, 2008

After the last posting, if I do not reflect upon something good, it may ruin the rest of my day; ergo it is Shakeapeare time and a bit of a sonnet on spring.

It was a lover and his lass,
With a hey, and a ho, and a hey nonino,
That o’er the green corn-field did pass,
In the spring time, the only pretty ring time,
When birds do sing, hey ding a ding, ding;
Sweet lovers love the spring.

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Sex slave dungeon: As dramatic family snaps emerge, the question is asked - how could NONE of Josef Fritzl's family known his horrific secret

I have an operative presupposition that appears to be a bit of a paradox. To try to frame it into words, essentially I believe and have for as long as I can readily recall{1} two principles:

--People are much better than we presume.

--People are much worse than we presume.

Taking this approach a priori, I find myself oftentimes pleased at the good that I see in other people. But conversely, a subject such as the one covered in the above Daily Mail article shows the converse about people being worse than we presume. I try as much as I reasonably can to see the good in others but sometimes that is impossible and this is one of those times.

Some, perhaps many people would read the above article and foam at the mouth about how evil this man is for what he did to his own family, what he in justice deserves for his wickedness, and the like.{2} But not today.

No today I find myself thanking God that but for His grace, that could be any of us who would rail against this man.{3} I may feel differently tomorrow but right now, that is all I can muster except to pray that God will comfort and heal the victims of this evil man.

Notes:

{1} I can in retrospect see this at least implicitly going back at least a couple decades if not longer.

{2} Certainly I will readily admit that I am inclined at that direction myself oftentimes.

{3} The theological term for this is "original sin" or the idea that we all have a weakness in our nature that can make us susceptible to a variety of ills from the most minor to the very worst of evils. That without complicated theological terminology is the concept in a nutshell.

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