Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Dirty Blonde Strikes

At the end of the day, Ann Coulter is as serious as a chipped nail. In a curious puff piece she claims, At the End of the Day, Diversity Has Jumped the Shark. What prompted her latest outburst? It was horrible. General George Casey "responded to a massacre of 13 Americans in which the suspect is a Muslim by saying: 'Our diversity ... is a strength.'"

Well, that travesty nearly ranks up there with a botched pedicure. To Coulter, diversity is like painting each fingernail a different color. We can't have that! She asserts: "Never in recorded history has diversity been anything but a problem." It's true, color coordination is so cool. Clearly nail polish and high heels must match the blouse. We wouldn't want fashion-clash, would we? No, not like nasty "Ireland with its Protestant and Catholic populations, Canada with its French and English populations, Israel with its Jewish and Palestinian populations."

I wonder why she didn't mention the USA with its nasty religious diversity and ethnicity? Has this been nothing but a problem? A failure? Does she crave the uniformity of a national church? What about capitalism with its economic diversity? Was the USSR's coordinated state monopoly a worker paradise? Is this what she envies? Or could she envy the Muslim world. They managed to keep diversity in check. How is it working out? What if we fielded a football team and put a 300 pound offensive tackle in every position. Does that sound like a winning team?

Ann Coulter and her breed are overrunning the conservative movement. They're nothing but issue whores. Coulter may be more upscale than most but that doesn't change what she is. As soon as a case can be made that "liberals" are for something, the issue whores line up against it. The issue doesn't matter. It's done for easy money, this breed being too lazy for actual thought. I might say it's done for easy political capital but that's too generous. In reality, Coulter's whole article is little more than an excuse to promote her own "electrifying" book, Guilty: Liberal 'Victims' and Their Assault on America. Politics is the means. Self-satisfaction is the end.

For those of you who are tired of lipstick conservatives, let's remember "America's most irritating cliche" was at one time a firmly held conservative belief. Conservatives used to cherish diversity. "Balance, diversity, creativity -- these are the elements of Republican equation" -- so said Barry Goldwater in his 1964 acceptance speech. His conservatives "cherished diversity of ways, diversity of thoughts, of motives and accomplishments." He added, "This is a party, this Republican Party, a Party for free men, not for blind followers, and not for conformists." But the Coulter wing of the Republican Party, which now seems to be virtually the whole thing, is a party of conformists. They worship conformity. They loathe the evil called diversity. They've forgotten Ronald Reagan who championed it:
It seems to me that America is constantly reinventing what "America" means. We adopt this country's phrases and that country's art, and I think it's really closer to the truth to say that America has assimilated as much as her immigrants have. It's made for a delightful diversity, and it's made us a stronger and a more vital nation.

But our diversity is not only ethnic. You'll find, if you haven't already, that this country is full of different and, sometimes, conflicting ideas and philosophies. Walk by a newspaper stand, and you'll see scores of magazines and newspapers arguing this point and that. Listen to television and radio, and you'll hear more than enough opinions with which to agree and disagree. In fact, if you don't over the next several years find one time, at least, when you feel like taking off your shoe and throwing it at a television screen, then you will have missed out on one of the great American moments. [1]

Even Coulter's one-time hero, George W. Bush spoke the dreaded cliche: "But I am mindful that diversity is one of the strengths of the country." [2]

Coulter is a symptom of the death of the conservative movement. It's not a shell of its former self, it's the reverse of its earlier self. No doubt something will rise out of the ashes of the 2008 defeats. But it won't be conservativsm. It won't be freedom loving. And in a country made great and defined by its cliched diversity, it won't be truly American.

-- Don Jindra


[1] Remarks at Naturalization Ceremonies for New United States Citizens in Detroit, Michigan, found here.

[2] When asked about an impending Supreme Court nomination, quoted here.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Brent Bozell's Moral Lapses

It's funny how conservatives claim the moral high ground but end up wallowing in their own stench. In Seeing Moral Grays in 9/11, Brent Bozell, president of the right-wing Media Research Center, breathlessly asks, "Does The Washington Post really think that the death and destruction of 9/11 'could' be right, or 'could' be wrong?"

Well, no they don't. There is not a hint of that question in the article he fusses over.

Bozell is first bothered by the headline: "9/11 trial could become a parable of right and wrong: Before worldwide audience, both prosecution, defense seek control of narrative." But this is simply laying out the stakes. There is no attempt to make a case for or against moral certainties. The Post's "news analysis" is not about matters of right and wrong, nor is there any reason it should be.

But a propagandist like Bozell demands stories with his peculiar point of view. Apparently the world revolves around Bozell. If stories don't focus on his favorite theme he'll simply lie about them and refocus the "analysis" in his terms. This is the heart of a liar.

Does Bozell deny that "both sides hope to use the case to define Sept. 11 as a parable of right and wrong?" Careful readers don't need to "dismiss" this prediction as what Bozell deceptively terms "willful moral ignorance." Morality is no part of it. The article merely makes a prediction about what both sides will do. And because Bozell is itching so badly to cast the trial as a parable of right and wrong, he's proving the prediction correct.

Bozell asserts: "Liberal journalists always admonished President Bush for his 'arrogance' and 'certitude,' and this is what they meant: He remained certain that the Americans who died on 9/11 were victimized, and were denied their civil liberties in the most complete and horrific way." But the Post article contains no evidence for Bozell's weird accusation. Nowhere does the text imply the victims of 9/11 were not "denied their civil liberties in the most complete and horrific way." Bozell simply invents a lie. This is how the Media Research Center comes up with its bogus evidence. It crafts lies and depends on eager, uncritical followers to swallow every falsehood.

Bozell may be correct, "most Americans would prefer hustling KSM to the top of the Empire State Building or the Statue of Liberty and throwing him off." But we are a nation of laws, not of mobs. Did conservatives stop believing in the rule of law?

Bozell takes offense that the article quoted David Cole without calling him a liberal. But the article also quoted Frances Fragos Townsend without calling her a conservative. So Bozell has no use for fairness. His game is called Tag All Liberals. When someone doesn't play his game and follow his rules he cries foul like a spoiled child.

Bozell ends with a whopper: "Why can't our media have enough respect for facts and for their fellow countrymen that we can all see a mass-murderer like KSM as a much greater villain than say, our naked-pyramid builders at Abu Ghraib?" But does Bozell offer a shred of evidence that either the article or our media sees our naked-pyramid builders at Abu Ghraib as greater villains than KSM? No he doesn't. He imagines what is not there. No evidence is required in his craft. He's a true propagandist. No doubt his big lies will take root in uncultivated fields.

-- Don Jindra

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Olasky's Obfuscation

Marvin Olasky predictibly asks, is there morality without God? He claims to find his answer from an "unlikely source," one Walter Sinnott-Armstrong (hereafter called WSA), "an Ivy League savant who says it's wrong to depend on the Bible."

WSA complains his Dartmouth students often use Dostoevsky's memorable line, "If God is dead, everything is permitted." Apparently WSA disagrees. So Olasky put WSA to the test. The test consisted of one written question: Is abortion wrong?

Now let's remember we have only Olasky's side of this story and he's not the most credible source. Anyone who implies a moral foundation reduces to that one question is not serious about getting at truth. But let's play anyway.

It turns out WSA didn't understand this was a true-false test, so he replied there is no "simple solution to this complex problem, .. the moral problem of abortion cannot be solved by citing religious texts or religious leaders." He went into needless elaboration: "What matters is the present and future harm to the fetus and others. This does not solve the problem, but it tells us where to focus our discussions."

That's a freshman mistake. The student obviously didn't understand the nature of a true or false test. Even if a check box is not provided the student always needs to supply what the professor expects. Conservative professors like Olasky want simplistic answers. That means true or false, sometimes multiple choice. For obvious reasons essays are forbidden. There's no point in confusing the professor.

Olasky pressed the issue. He practically gave WSA the answer by asking for clarification on how "harm to the fetus" related to other, non-fatal harms. WSA still didn't get it. He responded, "The bottom line is that I think some moral problems are insoluble.... They are just too difficult for us to figure out.... The answer, 'I do not know,' should become common."

That's a refusal to circle T or F. As a last resort Olasky asked him if people could really live with "I don't know." WSA responded, "Why not? People get used to having a belief about everything, but they do not have to. Life can be lived like an experiment where you guess but do not believe until you see how it turns out."

Olasky comes across as a patient man but this had him seeing red, as in "Stalin, Mao, Castro, and other Communists." It strikes me that these were not 'I don't know' fellows. They were certain they knew. Olasky hedges a bit by claiming we should have known "the preaching of class conflict, envy, and resentment will have ... real-life effects." The implication is clear. He blames "I don't know" for millions of deaths but clearly "I do know" was the true culprit. It wasn't shades of gray that lead to 20th century horrors. It was good old-fashioned black and white certainty. So Olasky's certainty condemns the innocent.

He justifies his bad verdict with the following: "In theory, a person might say he doesn't know what's ethical in regard to abortion. In practice, he or she has to choose. Should a college cover abortion in its health plan or not? Gotta choose. A young man calls up and says his girlfriend is pregnant. Gotta choose. A professor claims to ride the fence. Gotta choose."

Gotta set Olasky straight: I don't have to choose if my neighbor's health plan covers abortion. My neighbor gets to choose. A boyfriend doesn't have to choose childbirth for his girlfriend. It's her body, not his. She chooses. The moment he deposited his sperm into her body he gave her that right. The professor, be he liberal or conservative, has no right to use the State to make these personal choices for us. But a statist like 'compassionate' conservative Olasky demands a "moral" government that imposes itself into our most private affairs. He quotes Proverbs, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding."

Translation: "Trust in the State with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding." That's ultimately where "I know" leads.

Olasky ends by returning to Dostoevsky. But everyone who has studied history should know Dostoevsky was 180 degrees wrong. A supposed knowledge of God does not limit moral behavior. In fact, with God, everything is permitted. No crime has proven to be beyond biblical justification. Not even laws of nature are safe. A capricious God might stand the sun still or raise the dead for his own amusement.

Deep in our hearts we know, whether we admit it or not, that morality does not come from holy books. It's usually an instantaneous and overwhelming reaction. Olasky may not like it but there is no way around it. "We don't know" is a perfectly valid answer to a question which waits for no answer.

Antelope don't know why they travel in herds. Geese don't know why they mate for life. Why should we be expected to know why human cultures universally agree murder is wrong? Why is morality such a sacred question?

I don't need to know why my hand hurts when I stick it into a flame. The Bible doesn't answer the question. My body provides all the information I need and it reaches a decision fairly quickly. I yank my hand out of the flame to stop the pain. My body reaches a good decision without introspection and without God's help.

Let's say I need some sleep but my neighbor insists playing loud rap music at 2am is good for his soul. Do I consult my Bible to see if I'm being wronged? Do I look for a godly definition of "too loud?" Do I search for the proper chapter and verse which will fill my neighbor with the fear of God? No. But that's Olasky's pretension. The other, equally silly pretension is that I should consider my sleep deprivation in relativistic terms. My neighbor doesn't have the same point of view on the need for my sleep. He suggests my sleep requirements are a cultural construct. I proceed to reconstruct his nose.

I say both the certainty of an Olasky and the moral relativism he fears are wrong.

Olasky asserts God is the alternative to "I don't know." But he merely masks his own ignorance. God is an evasion. It's no answer. It finalizes nothing. God is a one-word rephrasing of WSA's answer. When Moses asked God his name, he answered, "I am that I am." More simply, "I just am." God just is, like morality just is. To base morality on God is to base it on "just is." So Olasky's answer is no more of an answer than the atheistic Dartmouth professor. God ultimately means accept this because, "I don't know."

-- Don Jindra

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Conservative Dupes -- Part 1

So let's examine how easily conservatives are duped. Of course they're not alone. All ideologues are prone to believe what their ideology says must be so. But for now I'm putting conservatives under the microscope. I'm afraid this is going to be a long series.

Cal Thomas published Communism's Enablers and Excusers which claims to show how the "liberal media were the handmaidens of one of the greatest totalitarian evils to strike the planet."

But the article is laughable. The alleged evidence is fraudulent.

First, Thomas attacks Strobe Talbott. Supposedly Talbott, "soon to be an influential member of the Clinton administration," wrote, "(Soviet leader) Gorbachev is helping the West by showing that the Soviet threat isn’t what it used to be, and what’s more, that it never was.” But a quick check of the source, Time magazine, Jan. 1, 1990, confirms Talbott, did not write that sentence. It was a teaser in the table of contents. The Time staff wrote it. If Thomas had bothered to read the article he would have learned what Talbot did write about. He characterized the Soviet Union as an "ossifying, demoralizing, brutalizing system of institutionalized inefficiency," a "stultified Soviet society, economy and culture" which was "trudging down its own dead end." Talbot assured us "the place is a hopeless mess where nothing works" and that it was history's "damning revelation" that the soviet system was "a huge mistake."

This is an "enabler?" In conservative circles this passes for excusing communism?

Thomas asks, "How is it possible to simultaneously have been a threat, but not a threat?" Of course Talbott simply argued the threat was overblown. The whole soviet system was a wreck, including the military. Militarily they were never our match. And maybe more important, ideologically they were never a serious threat.

Thomas admits as much. He's alarmed that Dan Rather said, in 1987, “Despite what many Americans think, most Soviets do not yearn for capitalism or Western-style democracy.” But for decades conservatives have warned us repeatedly and hysterically that we Americans are being turned red by covert propaganda. Apparently conservatives believe Americans are weak. We're manipulated by Hollywood's subliminal commie messages and fall under the spell of leftist professors. But those hearty Russians can tolerate 70 years of overt commie propaganda day and night and still crave capitalism. In the twisted, contradictory logic of Cal Thomas a Dan Rather becomes an "enabler" simply because he assumes what nearly every conservative assumes -- that communist propaganda works.

Still, does history not show Rather was right? Some would say Putin's popular grip on Russia looks more like Stalinism than Western democracy.

The irony is that Rather could have made those remarks about conservatives. Despite their rhetoric, many conservatives do not yearn for capitalism or Western-style democracy. In their minds, those have led to cultural decay, atheism, and weakness. Certainly neocons and theocons reject the Enlightenment principles behind Western democracy and therefore reject it at the foundational level.

Second, the article asserts a LA Times reporter touted "communism’s ‘good old days,’ when the hand of the state crushed personal freedom but ensured that people were housed, employed and had enough to eat."

But this misrepresents the LA Times report (by Carol J. Williams). The reporter's sentence was: "Living conditions are so much worse in the reform era that Bulgarians look back fondly on communism's 'good old days,' when the hand of the state crushed personal freedom but ensured that people were housed, employed and had enough to eat."

The reporter did not "tout" communism's 'good old days' at all. She merely reported that some Bulgarians did. She reported what some Bulgarians perceived as their new-found condition. Conservatives whine about liberal political correctness but when it comes right down to it conservatives want their own version. It's politically incorrect to report a transition from communism to capitalism might have a few bumps in the road. It seems conservatives want only a rosy picture. They want "and they lived happily ever-after." Anything else is "excusing" communism.

Similarly, Thomas claims a 2006 Associated Press story said, “For all its flaws, life in Cuba has its comforts. Many Cubans take pride in their free education system, high literacy rates and top-notch doctors. Ardent Castro supporters say life in the United States, in contrast, seems selfish, superficial and -- despite its riches -- ultimately unsatisfying.”

This is a botched quote. Here is more of it:

"For all its flaws, life in Castro's Cuba has its comforts, and unknown alternatives are not automatically more attractive. The idea of Cuba without 'El Comandante,' who has been in power for nearly five decades, provokes alarm and uncertainty -- and a tremendous fear they could lose their way of life.... Drew Blakeney, spokesman for the U.S. mission in Havana, acknowledged that Cubans are fearful of change. 'This is something totally new and disorienting for them,' he said. 'There seems to be a lot of fear, and a lot of worry, after 47 years of constant rule by one person.'"

Obviously this reporter is merely relaying what some Cubans think. There was a fear that Castro's ill-health would lead to change. Surely conservatives -- who fear change -- should understand this. But Thomas wants us to believe the reporter is "enabling" communism. That's clearly untrue. Thomas cannot seem to separate the messenger from the message.

Third, Thomas finds fault with John Chancellor who said in one of his many reports, “the problem isn’t communism; nobody even talked about communism this week. The problem is shortages.” But what was the context? Thomas is either too lazy or too deceptive to tell us.

So I'll tell you.

It happened on the August 21, 1991, NBC Nightly News broadcast. That was the day the Russian coup fell apart. The soviet hard-liners had tried to oust Gorbachev. But they failed. Gorbachev's dismantling of communism would now continue. Tom Brokaw opened the news with these words: "This is a day for bold print in history to be remembered and savored as the day when the power of the people in the Soviet Union proved to be greater than the power of the gray and cold blooded men who thought they could return that country to the darkness of state oppression.” Later when Chancellor was asked what was next, of course the answer was not centered on communism. That issue had just been settled. Gorbachev's pressing problem was in doing something about the shortages. On that day communism appeared to be behind them.

Only an ignorant propagandist could construe Chancellor's remarks as an "enabling" of communism. "Wait," writes Thomas, "according to the Los Angeles Times reporter, there were no shortages because everyone was housed, employed and had enough to eat? Both can’t be true." But Thomas is wallowing in his ignorance. As shown earlier, the reporter did no such thing.

Thomas accuses Time magazine of a "howler" when it described Gorbachev as “the communist pope and the Soviet Martin Luther.” Well, he was the then leader of the communist religion and he did ask at least 95 questions. That "howler" is from the "Man of the Decade" story in 1990. It describes a soviet system that "lumbered on for years in a dusk of denial." Gorbachev was faced with "the salvation of an entire society that has gone astray." He had "not found an answer to the question of how communism can be redeemed and still be communism." "He is trying to transform a government that was not just bad or inept but inherently destructive, its stupidity regularly descending into evil." And: "Despite the pretensions of Marx and Lenin, the system that bears their name is manifestly not the ordained design of history, not superior to all others, and not even the master of its own house."

Thomas may not like Time's characterization of Gorbachev, but honestly, how "enabling" is that article? Does it sound like Time wanted to run out in the streets and join a communist parade? Are they singing the praises of the system? The ideology?

Cal Thomas is not credible. He based his article on "research" by the Media Research Center. They are not credible. In fact, they are outright liars. Thomas may have been a simple dupe. He wanted to believe so bad he never bothered to check original sources. But this is no excuse. In fact, it's one of the main problems. We have ideologues like Thomas who pass on lies simply because they don't want to know the truth, or worse, don't trust the truth.

-- Don Jindra