Archive for September, 2008

The Party of Adults

September 30, 2008

Democrats often complain the Press climbs all over them, yet cuts Republicans slack over every issue.  It seems true to me, but I don’t think it s a Red vs. Blue mindset at cause, but rather a subtler form of bias.  The press, in general, expects Democrats to behave as adults, and judges them that way, but measure Republicans as precocious children.  So when Nancy Pelosi delivers exactly what she promised, jeopardizing twice the Democratic seats as the Republicans were willing to, and the Republicans come up 15 votes short in their already meager allowance, the Press is willing to blame the Democrats because, hey, we all know the GOP needs special attention.  In much the same way that we (correctly) blame the adults in a room when the eight year olds are running wild, the Press blames the Democrats when the Republicans act out.

The Bailout

September 30, 2008

These Republicans strike me as the kind of guys who shoot holes in the bottom of their lifeboat because they can’t stand to see the other guys dry.

Religion and Science

September 27, 2008

On October 22, 1844 thousands of people sat in their armchairs, waiting for the end of the world.  William Miller declared Jesus Christ would return that very day, bringing about final judgement.  He convinced his ever expanding flock that the absolute word of God was revealed to him in the bible.  And so those thousands put their affairs in order and sat down to welcome their fate.  But October 22 came, then the 23rd and, as you have probably guessed, the world didn’t end.  Those disappointed thousands, and the untold millions around them, observed another sunrise, and then another.

It would seem this is one of the few cases where we can use the expression “Science versus Religion” because someone made a testable Religion based prediction, and it was shown to be false.  Since all science consists of observing and measuring what is happening all around us, if someone makes a prediction that can be tested, scientists, or indeed any one of us, can evaluate its validity.  We haven’t really proven religion false, but rather one man’s interpretation of it.  Perhaps we could go so far as to say that Miller’s religion was shown to be false, but Miller’s religion is not all of religion.

It is a short step from trying to understand God’s will to wanting to be the worldly authority on how God acts.  What actually happened in 1844 was that those who wanted to dictate to God what he must do, had been found wanting.

Obama vs. McCain: Best Case/Worst Case

September 20, 2008

I recently saw a piece of spam that said the following about an Obama quote:

You are suggesting a Marxist in a Blue tie is less risky? Visit Obama’s website and his video invitation contains the following:

‘We believe in what this Country can be.’

‘In the face of war, we believe there can be peace.’

‘In the face of despair, we believe there can be hope.’

‘…America can be one people reaching for what’s possible.’

Obama indeed seems to be offering a people’s government solution to all human problems. He is, after all, running for President of the United States, not for a pulpit.  Substituting the state for God as provider has been the inherent common thread in all Marxist regimes.

My first reaction was confusion. Obama is a Marxist because he believes in hope and peace and that America is a great country?  The quote doesn’t even mention government, it simply reads like a fairly standard iteration of “Americans can overcome anything” rhetoric.  Which I agree with, and most Americans probably agree with, and those that don’t probably fall into the “We’re all going to h*ll in a hand basket” camp regardless of where they stand on politics.

As to the underlying theme, that Obama feels government can do more than it really can, that is a concern.  Politicians, liberal, conservative or indifferent, rarely say “you know, that is a problem, but it is not one that government can solve”.  So we end up with government initiatives to evaluate whether high school geometry teachers are teaching appropriate “values” in their class (how about teaching, I don’t know, geometry?) or imposing prayer in government run functions such as public school (if the Supreme Court ever agrees that government sponsored religious expression is appropriate in school, how long before an Atheist or Wahabist sues for their matching 2 minutes on the loudspeakers and our kids get to hear what a bunch of idiots they are for being Christians?  Maybe in school they should hear about, I don’t know, geometry?).

I am a bit concerned that Obama might support social programs that overreach what the government can or should do.  But I have to balance that against the concern about what McCain would do.  On the domestic side McCain generally falls into the post-1980 Republican philosophy of “No we can’t”.  We can’t have better schools, we can’t build dikes that hold (factoid: the dikes in the Netherlands have held for centuries and they were originally built with shovels), we can’t keep corporations from gutting pensions built up over decades, leaving only Social Security and Medicare for many of our elderly, and by the way we can’t keep Social Security and Medicare going either.  But on the foreign policy side he has a very different view of what the government is capable of.  He has been very focused on foreign relations for his whole career and seems to approach every problem with a “Let’s start a new war” approach.  Korea, Iran, Syria, and earlier, various Central American countries.  He’s right to say these issues are serious, and is some cases we may need to intervene militarily.  But that is a huge, messy, expensive commitment and should be a last resort, not an impulsive response.

So, bottom line, I weigh the consequences of what would happen if Obama was able to get a 4 or 5 billion dollar social welfare program passed through a skeptical congress, one that I thought would do no good, and may do actual harm, versus what would happen if John McCain bought us into a third simultaneous war (Iran? Korea? Pakistan?). I have to conclude that Obama, if he fulfills my worst fears for his governance, would create annoyances.  But McCain, if he fulfills my worst fears, could end up weakening the country to such an extent we may never recover.  Remember that the English, the French, the Dutch, the Portugese, the Ottomans, the Romans, the Prussians, the Egyptians, the Babylonians all had legitimate claim to being world superpowers, but all lost it through misguided wars and other foreign policy entanglements.  They all thought that their superpower status was evidence that their gods favored them above all others, and that their system was inherently better.   Some lasted for thousands of years, some lasted for centuries and some lasted only for decades.  The founding fathers understood this and tried to make it difficult for us to get involved in a war.  Unfortunately, weak congresses have run away from their oversight role to the point that a president can effectively start a war on his own.

So to me, it is clear.  Obama at his best will get FEMA and the Army Corps of Engineers and the Justice Department functioning again, with real goals and direction.  McCain at his best will do nothing constructive because he is not interested in these things. At his worst, Obama will be an annoyance.  McCain would be a disaster.