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Thursday, January 06, 2011

5 Pieces of Advice For President Obama (Political)

5. Give the Republicans everything they want on the domestic policy front, while issuing cheap, symbolic, rhetorical slams from here until November, 2012. Among your true believers, you'll be a spineless, unprincipled worm, but in winning presidential politics, it's called, "pivoting."

4. Maybe hiring another dude from Chicago as your next Chief of Staff wasn't the best way to dispel the opinion on the right that your real talent lies in cronyism. If you absolutely owe him a favor, bury him (in the bureaucracy, that is) somewhere with a ton of money. I won't say a word, Mr. President. I'm here for you.

3. Because Iraq has already said that the end of 2011 will be the end of our combat mission there, definitely do keep this promise. Your left flank called; they wanted to know where you are keeping Anti-War Candidate Obama. Moreover, does anyone even know what the *&@! we are actually doing in Afghanistan? I don't know if our troops know how to say, "Pointless Narco-War" in Arabic, but someone does.

2. Do your level-best to encourage US policy toward Israel in the direction of your opponents' perception of it--somewhere between indifferent and hostile. We're getting hosed on this deal, anyway. However, if they want to bomb Iran, you didn't see anything and you know nothing. On the other hand, I'd tell South Korea to have a nice life. Not your problem. Give them the, "We're Cutting The Defense Budget To Save The Country And My Job" Face. They secretly don't like us or our military bases, anyhow.

1. FIRE the Keynsians!!! Pete's sake, sir. You are either the most ideologically blinded president since FDR, or you're getting bad advice. In either case, you're bleeping Barack Obama. You could be the most dedicated supply-sider since Jack Kemp, and your party can't say a word, because A) it'll work, B) you're black (identity politics and all) and C) if you don't, Hillary will stab you in the back. But we'll see how good a primary challenge she runs when the economy is hopping, and unemployment is 5% percent again. Just trust me.

BONUS: END ABORTION. Somewhere down deep, you know you're totally wrong on this. As with anything, it's never too late to start over. Besides, politically, if you joined the pro-life cause, you'd ruin the Republicans for 75 years. How does "Greatest President Ever" sound? Seriously. Just think about it.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

The 5 Best Things About Today

5. Prayer.

4. Talking with my buddy Jason Ford Smyth.

3. The fact that I read what I regard as the most beautiful word in English in the Wikipedia article on Richard Dawkins. Bonus points if you guess or remember my favorite word.

2. That today is today. Think of it for a moment: We all could have died in our sleep last night. For some of us, to die is gain. But some, not at all.

1. That Part V of my series, "The Woods" is written, and Part VI should be written today.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Almighty God, Lord and Giver of Life, we praise You for our lives, made as we are in Your own image. So much did You love us, you sent your Son to redeem us, and you keep us and teach us by your Holy Spirit. Yet we suffer greatly, and we do not see as you see. We do not understand. If we said that we did, we would forget the place you have given us, and we would dishonor your holy Name. Instead, grant us many graces to endure well, to not lose heart, to weep as those who know your goodness. Be patient when we forget. Bring us those who know when to speak and when to be silent. Lord Jesus Christ, the Scriptures say of you, "Surely he has borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows." Mighty God and Prince of Peace, we ask that you would carry our afflictions in a special way now. We know that you suffer with us, and you are inviting us to suffer with you. Just as it appeared hopeless in the dark hour of your death, so it may appear now. And we also remember how you wept at the death of Lazarus, though death would hold him only a little while. By this we know you are not ashamed to be with us and cry with us in our suffering. Though I myself am happy and healthy, others of your children are not. I ask you to remember those for whom I pray. Though it is not today, we hope to experience the happiness of restored health, not unlike when your Apostles realized that you had risen from the dead, and had defeated the work of the devil. Be pleased to accept our tears and comfort us in our affliction. Heavenly Father, we ask all this through Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever, Amen.
In contrast to the feckless, inane, dismissive stupidity from E. J. Dionne I referenced yesterday, Peter Beinart is exactly spot-on. And this is why the Tea Party has a chance to not be co-opted by the Republicans. (Full disclosure: I am of the opinion that Peter Beinart, while often wrong, says something interesting or useful 86.9% of the time.) Anyway, the issue of foreign intervention is not going anywhere, and any serious discussion of national financial solvency must by necessity include the possibility of major cuts in defense spending. However, before the Republicans tie me up and burn me at the stake Latimer-style, (ahem) I would point out that entitlements (Medicare, Social Security) have an even bigger share, depending on how you look at it. If the Democrats were any better than the spineless invertebrates on the ocean floor, (that is, consistent with the application of their ideological outlook and flow of policies) they'd man up and impose a means-test for both, but especially for Social Security. If they really believe in it as a means of social protection, they'd tell us all that these programs are essential parts of the plan to prevent income inequality from producing social inequality. [You sound like Mickey Kaus.--ed.] We can only hope. I digress. Don't be afraid to use the coercive power of government in this way if you really feel it's "the right thing to do." Which usually outs most people as inconsistent hypocrites, since the elected officials are afraid of the right-wing mob, who, while decrying "tax and spend" policies, does not favor the cutting of [bribes] programs they actually use. On the other hand, most progressive types might seem, despite protestations, to care more about the appearance of solving a problem than actually solving it. (Which is one of the points of Sowell's "The Vision of the Anointed: Self-Congratulation As a Basis For Social Policy".) That title itself could explain American conservatism's visceral hostility to its opposite. [Semi-Germane Side-Rant: I think Mickey made Slate suck less, and now that he's at Newsweek, Newsweek sucks less, too. Though for my part, I never understood some of the right-leaning celebration at the impending demise of Newsweek; though its left tilt was observable and sometimes irritating, every time I have read a Newsweek, it has ranged from, "That was pleasantly diverting as I wait at the dentist's office" to, "That was an amazing piece that has enriched my intellectual life." I have never been angered by what I viewed as an unfair presentation of an issue. But that's just me.]

Monday, January 03, 2011

I was watching one of my favorite shows the other day, and the characters paid homage to one of the worst songs in pop history. No, everything Britney Spears has ever recorded is vastly superior to this idiotic slime. Yes, I said it. And I mean it. The sick, twisted part of it all is that the artist (justly, probably) and his former band define popular music itself. But the song that inspires me to want to punch someone in the face every time is "Imagine," by John Lennon. This 4-minute bucket of dog-piddle is the reason we have a culture-war in the first place, and not that this is a good thing. If you attended university in the US any time in the last forty years or so, you know the grubby guy with the crappy goatee who is always blathering about "corporate interests" or some such? This is his favorite song. Ditto, Marxist college professor. I don't even have to think war is a good idea to think, "You'd have to be a first-class buffoon to believe that" every time I hear the song. And I just figured out why, beyond a palpable antipathy for the paradigmatic college-age bearers of such a message. It is the "religion is the source of all our troubles" canard set to music. Does anyone with a shred of sense (and the willingness to pick up a history book) actually believe this? Apparently. And what is more, the record of history shows precisely the opposite: the most vicious crimes against humanity have been perpetrated by committed secularists. Oh, the most annoying of us Christians will preach Jesus in a public school assembly after being told to go easy on the Jesus (God bless you, Kurt Warner). But are you kidding? Do you seriously want to make this argument? More than that, the most militant Marxist regimes imitate religious practice. A popular fictional example is Marko Raimius' description of the Soviet Union in Clancy's "The Hunt for Red October." I think David Horowitz makes the case powerfully in his autobiographical work, "Radical Son: A Generational Odyssey." (A must-read; he made me cry. He said everything I had ever felt, he explained my coming-of-age as an anti-socialist so well, even 40 years later.) Same point made (though more from the left) in "Torture and Eucharist" by Cavanaugh. The New Atheism terminates in anti-humanism. So one can tell me to settle down if you wish; it's only a song, after all. But the logical outworking of those ideas--and the power to enforce them--ends in state-sanctioned murder.
E.J. Dionne is a terrible columnist. Not only does he represent the institutionalized "left" in our country (as close to completely insane, wrong, and backward as you can get right now) but he doesn't even argue such a case with nice words. At least with Buckley, Krauthammer, and heck, even Mark Steyn, I enjoy reading them even when I disagree. And I do. But this:

"Thus the new majority will open the next Congress with a full reading of the Constitution and establish a rule requiring that every new bill contain a statement citing the constitutional authority behind it.

My first response was to scoff at this obvious sop to the tea party movement. One can imagine that the rule's primary practical result will be the creation of a small new House bureaucracy responsible for churning out constitutional justifications for whatever gets introduced.

But on reflection, I offer the Republicans two cheers for their fealty to their professed ideals. We badly need a full-scale debate over what the Constitution is, means and allows -- and how Americans have argued about these questions since the beginning of the republic. This provision should be the springboard for a discussion all of us should join.

From its inception, the tea party movement has treated the nation's great founding document not as the collection of shrewd political compromises that it is, but as the equivalent of sacred scripture."

is utter, complete nonsense. The reason conservatives carp about originalism is that the process and the means by which something is accomplished in this country confers legitimacy on it in our republic. The story of the Democratic governance of this country is the story of a carelessness about the will of the people, about the process by which laws are enacted, and a commensurate loss of legitimacy for the political process itself. A teacher of mine once told me that the separation of powers was really an innacurate way of looking at how America's political system works. He said "separate institutions sharing power" was a better description. If that's true, we have exactly the contours of the problem. Our entire political class has been wrangling for the reins of what they view as a giant candy store, while the people (on every side of every issue) say, "We're ruled by idiots, and worse still, corrupt idiots who don't listen." [Rant Once Again Explicating Personal Views Noone Cares To Know: Personally, I think truth as I see it leans right economically, left on foreign policy (sort of, owing to a growing conviction about military non-intervention) and I am what I can only describe as a semi-traditionalist on social issues. Anti-drug war, anti-death penalty, anti-abortion, reluctantly in favor of a Constitutional amendment prohibiting gay marriage (owing to a deference to so-called "natural law"; however, the Defense of Marriage Act violates the plain wording of the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the Constitution; thus, only a repeal followed by an amendment federally outlawing such unions is just. Anything less would force the states to recognize unions in other states. On the other hand, I'm fairly sure homosexual adoption is less detrimental than children as wards of the state, and much less so than not living at all.] It seems our political class is less intelligent, less forward-thinking, less moral, and less qualified than the average person. And that's saying something, considering. In any case, it is simply slander to say that an originalist view of the Constitution takes one back to the "Dark Ages" of 1789 (oh, the horror!) ; for one, "as amended" must always be added to any invocation of the Constitution. And no, Mr. Dionne, I don't think the "right" will win every argument about the nature of the Constitution. But I do believe the side running roughshod over the Constitution and demeaning it as a part of the process of implementing its "solutions" the last 40 years may have trouble making the case.