State of the Union

The Death of Moral Community

“The opponents (of same-sex marriage) have no case other than ignorance and misconception and prejudice.”

So writes Richard Cohen in his celebratory column about Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s role in legalizing gay marriage in New York state.

Now, given that no nation in 20 centuries of Christendom legalized homosexual marriage, and, in this century, majorities in all 31 states where it has been on the ballot have rejected it, Cohen is pretty much saying that, since the time of Christ, Western history has been an endless Dark Age dominated by moral ignoramuses and bigots.

For the belief that homosexuality is unnatural and immoral and same-sex marriage an Orwellian absurdity has always been part of the moral code of Christianity. Gen. George Washington ordered active homosexuals drummed out of his army. Thomas Jefferson equated homosexuality with rape. Not until 2003 did the Supreme Court declare homosexual acts a protected right.

What is the moral basis of the argument that homosexuality is normal, natural and healthy? In recent years, it has been associated with high levels of AIDS and enteric diseases, and from obits in gay newspapers, early death. Where is the successful society where homosexual marriage was normal? Read More…

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Liberal Tim Pawlenty

In September 2009, President Barack Obama asked his fellow Americans to rise to the occasion and help pass national healthcare legislation. Said Obama of what he thought was an historic moment: “We did not come to fear the future. We came here to shape it. I still believe we can act even when it’s hard… I still believe we can do great things, and that here and now we will meet history’s test.”

Conservatives uniformly opposed what came to be known as ObamaCare, because they believed there are constitutional, financial and even moral limits to the functions and reach of government power. Conservatives understood that there were serious problems with healthcare costs, but rightly feared government intervention would only make those problems worse. Government must have limits, said conservatives, and ObamaCare was certainly outside of them.

In June 2011, former Minnesota Governor and 2012 GOP presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty asked his fellow Americans and his party to rise to the occasion and help support the growth of democracy throughout the Middle East, in Libya, Syria and beyond. Said Pawlenty of what he thought was an historic moment: “Now is not the time to retreat from freedom’s rise… We have been presented with a challenge as great as any we have faced in recent decades. And we must get it right. The question is, are we up to the challenge?” Read More…

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Lennon’s Right Turn

Looks like TAC‘s Jordan Michael Smith got it right — news today that John Lennon’s last assistant, Fred Seaman, says in a documentary, “John, basically, made it very clear that if he were an American he would vote for Reagan because he was really sour on (Democrat) Jimmy Carter” backs up Smith’s take on ex-Beatle’s changing politics:

In fact, Lennon died as something of an individualist. “Produce your own dream,” he advised in lieu of getting involved in politics. “If you want to save Peru, go save Peru. It’s quite possible to do anything, but not if you put it on the leaders and the parking meters. Don’t expect Carter or Reagan or John Lennon or Yoko Ono or Bob Dylan or Jesus Christ to come and do it for you. You have to do it yourself.”

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Shoot First Diplomacy

It is difficult to imagine what might produce a longing for the good old days of George W. Bush, but the Obama Administration is certainly approaching that tip point.  First there was National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair spelling out a policy of assassination of American citizens overseas based on suspicion and secret evidence and then there was last week’s revelation that the Justice Department guidelines for the FBI now permit relatively free searches of all sorts of personal information that once was regarded as private.  The searches are without judicial oversight and there does not have to be any evidence that the suspect has committed a crime.

Now we have Hillary Clinton and company opening up the latest free fire zone against other American citizens who have done nothing wrong.  The State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland, who is married to one of the ubiquitous Kagans, announced that “Groups that seek to break Israel’s maritime blockade of Gaza are taking irresponsible and provocative actions that risk the safety of their passengers.” Please note: per Nuland/Clinton the passengers on the unarmed vessels in international waters, all of whom have signed a pledge of non-violence, are risking their own safety if they get shot by the Israeli military.

Nuland added that Gaza is governed by Hamas, “a designated foreign terrorist organization,” and that aiding such a group “could violate U.S. civil and criminal statutes and could lead to fines and incarceration.”  This means that giving a loaf of bread to a child in Gaza is indictable as support of a terrorist organization, since the government is run by Hamas.

Once upon a time the Secretary of State was supposed to protect Americans overseas, particularly when the Americans are not doing anything illegal.  But that was before Israel and its Lobby decided what American citizens can and cannot do.  A good friend of mine Ray McGovern, who is on the American vessel, is a deeply religious former CIA senior analyst.  He has friends on the National Security Council who informed him last week that the US government would let the Israelis do whatever they want to the flotilla and would, in fact, approve of any action taken.  In the aftermath, the State Department would do nothing to help any US citizen killed, injured, or arrested.  Except possibly have them arrested a second time.

However one feels about the Israel-imposed blockade of Gaza, it is important to remember that the Americans and others involved in the flotilla are doing nothing illegal under international law.  Their ships have been inspected and have only relief supplies on board. No one is armed. Their objection is to the Israeli, and American, assumption that Tel Aviv somehow has the right to punish the Gazans in perpetuity and thereby create a continuous humanitarian crisis for the local people because they elected the “wrong” party back in 2006.  The Americans and other foreigners on the flotilla have a perfect right to express that view peacefully without being excoriated by Hillary before being executed by an IDF goon.

 

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Gov. Corbett Is Making Sense

On June 3, the Sunday Harrisburg Patriot News ran a front page report by Jan Murphy noting Governor Corbett’s misplaced priorities. This was the gist of the criticism: “The governor has resisted taxing Marcellus Shale natural gas drillers and wants to slash business taxes by $300 million. At the same time, he proposed drastic cuts in money for schools and cut off a state-subsidized health insurance program for nearly 42,000 low-income adults.” Corbett made his controversial decisions to cover a 4 billion dollar shortfall.

I’m not sure what’s wrong with the health-insurance cutback, despite the uniformly bad publicity it has received on Google, and particularly on Wikipedia. Although Pennsylvania’s soon to be eliminated Adult Basic plan was intended to cover low-income workers who are not eligible for Medicaid, the 40,000 recipients who will be losing it are being made eligible for another plan, Special Care, courtesy of Blue Cross-Blue Shield. What these applicants have to do to be reinsured is indicate interest in the low-costing, alternative plan and they will be accepted with a waiver of the preexisting condition stipulation.  Of course it is hard to discover this information if one goes online, given the plethora of accusations leveled by public sector advocates against the budget-crunching Corbett. Read More…

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Barack Gorbachev: Adjusting to the Global Reality

The political leaders and the generals were continuing to debate on whether to start pulling out the troops from Afghanistan at a time when political power was being consolidated by a relatively young reformer interested in mending relations with the rest of the world and despite the growing recognition that the war there was lost.

But finally, in April 1988, Mikheil Gorbachev, the leader of the USSR, introduced a timetable for the departure of Soviet forces from Afghanistan, announcing that the withdrawal of about 100,000 troops will start in the following month. It took Gorbachev another four years to complete the withdrawal from South Asia while he was also trying to manage the gradual erosion in Soviet hegemony in Central and Eastern Europe and the broader restructuring of the global position of the Soviet Union.

Gorbachev and most of the leaders in the Kremlin “were convinced that we did not need Afghanistan and had no business being there,” a former Soviet advisor told journalist and author Michael Dobbs. “We would have lost the war anyway,” he explained. “We should have learned from the British that Afghanistan is a country that cannot be conquered.” Read More…

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Ronald Reagan: Isolationist

In his ongoing mission to declare Republicans who dare question America’s foreign policy “isolationist,” Sen. John McCain asked recently concerning Libya: “I wonder what Ronald Reagan would be saying today.”

Columnist George Will answered McCain: “Wondering is speculation; we know this: When a terrorist attack that killed 241 Marines and other troops taught Reagan the folly of deploying them at Beirut airport with a vague mission and dangerous rules of engagement, he was strong enough to reverse this intervention in a civil war.”

Will added: “Would that he had heeded a freshman congressman from Arizona who opposed the House resolution endorsing the intervention. But, then, the McCain of 1983 was, by the standards of the McCain of 2011, an isolationist.”

McCain’s definition of who’s an “isolationist” seems to be anyone who believes permanent war is not in America’s interest. For McCain, any decision not to intervene militarily overseas is tantamount to erecting a brick wall around the US. The actuality of McCain’s foreign policy continues to demonstrate its absurdity—as now 72% of Americans say the U.S. is “involved in too many foreign conflicts” according to a recent Pulse Opinion Research poll. Read More…

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Say Goodbye to Los Angeles

Centuries before William James coined the phrase, men have sought a “moral equivalent of war,” some human endeavor to satisfy the jingoistic lust of man, without the carnage of war.

For some, the modern Olympic Games have served the purpose, with the Cold War rivalry for medals between the United States and the Soviet Union, and, lately, between America and China.

But the Olympic Games, most of which involve individual athletes competing against each other, have never aroused the passions of soccer, where teams serve as surrogates for the tribe or nation.

Perhaps the most intense rivalry today is between Real Madrid and F.C. Barcelona, teams representing Spain’s largest cities, with the former a stand-in for nationalism and centralism and “Barca” a surrogate for Catalan separatism. During the Civil War, when Catalonia was a bastion of loyalist resistance, the head of F.C. Barcelona was executed by troops loyal to Gen. Franco. Read More…

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Another Dispatch from the Shady Comforts of the Fringe

Stephen Metcalf has responded to the critics of his Robert Nozick piece, and while he doesn’t address me by name, it is implied that I am “accustomed to the shady comforts of the fringe.” I readily admit to living on the political fringe, but it is neither shady nor comfortable. I am constantly asked to defend my worldview by friends and associates. I’ve had people come to my presentations just to yell at me. And I spend a great deal of my free time grappling with criticisms of my beliefs from people such as…Stephen Metcalf. I grant that libertarians and others with outre political beliefs can cut themselves off from criticism and preach only to the choir, but that’s not the path I have chosen. I try to engage the mainstream of American political culture, but it is still largely hostile to libertarianism.

And that undermines Metcalf’s rationale for the original article, which he now explains:

…[I]magine the country had swung to the left over the past 30 years, as far as it has now swung to the right. An entire news network devotes itself around the clock to keeping the left’s Communist fringe in a state of permanent arousal. Its talking heads nightly pound their respective tables with copies of The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte; its anchors routinely quote St. Simone and Fourier. The message is unrelenting: A libertarian menace awaits us—a world of vast inequalities, poor health care, and slow, chronically delayed passenger trains—should we lower taxes even a fraction…

Reversing ideological polarities, I hope, better measures the extent to which a climate of extremism has become our new normal, while pointing up how willfully distractive, not to say silly, many responses to my piece have been. My interest in Nozick is not pedantic; it is informed by a general reality that I find, to put it mildly, alarming.

Metcalf is correct that libertarianism is growing in political influence, but this idea that we now live in a land ruled by the philosophy of Robert Nozick is just silly. Fox News may be on the right (I know there are people who would contend that point), but with few exceptions, they are not libertarians. They have adopted more libertarian rhetoric as of late, but that’s only because libertarianism is friend only to the party out of power.

Moreover, if libertarianism is such a powerful force in American politics these days, why is it that federal spending as a percentage of GDP has risen from a bit over 18% of GDP in 2001 to 24% this year and is set to climb to nearly 34% by 2035? Why is any attempt at meaningful entitlement reform equated with throwing old, wheelchair-bound women off a cliff? Why hasn’t the defense budget been cut? Why are there still agricultural subsidies? I could go on forever, but it’s clear that government policy is not moving in a libertarian direction–quite the opposite.  The fact that Stephen Metcalf looks around and sees the sinister influence everywhere in contemporary American politics says far more about him than any potential dangers of libertarian philosophy.

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A War the Neocons Lost

In deciding to pull all of the 30,000 troops from the surge out of Afghanistan, six weeks before Election Day 2012, but only 10,000 by year’s end, President Obama has satisfied neither the generals nor the doves.

He has, however, well served his political interests.

A larger drawdown would have risked the gains made in Kandahar and Helmand and invited a revolt of the generals, some of whom might resign and denounce Obama for denying them the forces to prevail.

Sen. John McCain, citing some generals, is already saying that, with fewer troops and more missions per unit, U.S. casualties will rise.

A smaller drawdown would have enraged the left, whose support is indispensable to Obama’s winning a second term.

So, our president did what comes naturally: cut the baby in half.

Strategically, removal of 30,000 troops in 15 months means that Obama has given up all hope of victory over the Taliban. Gen. MacArthur’s dictum — “In war, there is no substitute for victory” — is inoperative in yet another American war.

Obama’s strategic goal now is the avoidance of defeat, until the election of 2012 is behind him. And by retaining 70,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan during the fighting season and political season of 2012, he has an insurance policy against a Taliban Tet-style offensive or major U.S. military reversal as voters begin to fill out absentee ballots.

In the post-speech analysis, there was much chatter about a “political solution” — a peace conference including Pakistan, India, Russia, China and Iran that would bring the moderate Taliban and Karzai government together to iron out their differences.

This is self-delusion, born of hope not rational analysis. Read More…

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