Saturday, April 30, 2005

Slouching Towards Gomorrah, Robert Bjork


Robert Bork, “Slouching Towards Gomorrah” has been completed and very much enjoyed. On one level, it is a much easier to read version of “Closing of the American Mind”, but one should never forgo that difficult but worthwhile classic for this book. “Gomorrah” stands on it’s own as a sweeping indictment of modern liberalism by a man that ought to have been Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, but instead became a symbol for the ACTUAL politics of personal destruction, as his name became a verb.

The key points are simple. Modern liberalism has two defining objectives:
  1. Radical egalitarianism – meaning the forced equality of outcomes rather than the equality of opportunities. Since neither humans nor anything in nature are oriented to equality of outcome (a bell shaped curve would be a more natural distribution), the “liberal” is forced to bow to the authoritarian impulse to achieve this objective.
  2. Radical individualism – the removal of limits to personal gratification. From this comes the liberal moral code … “if it feels good do it”. Since this is no code, the liberal must destroy culture, as culture is largely a values exercise in some behavior having more value than other behavior.

There would seem to be tension between these objectives, but “consistency is not an issue” allows the liberal to at least abstractly have their cake and eat it too. The egalitarian principle is called forth in areas where differential reward would be provided for differential achievement. Wages, quotas, tenure decisions, etc. Radical individualism comes into play on the personal front where nothing should stand in an individual’s way in self gratification … often in the areas of sexuality or the arts.

A lot of discussion about the origins of liberal thought centered around John Stuart Mill’s “One very simple principle”: “the sole end of which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively, in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number, is self-protection … The only part of the conduct of any one, for which he is amenable to society, is that which concerns others.

In the part which merely concerns himself, his independence is, of right, absolute.” At the time Mill wrote this little gem, he likely never really considered the idea of Godless man, seeking to be his own God of personal pleasure, but this is where we find ourselves today, “in the suburbs of Gomorrah”.
Culture, Religion, Tradition, Social Mores, Customs, and more … these COULD remain static and provide a “common understanding” and meaning to lives. 

Modern liberalism however can provide only “more liberty”, and to continue to attack any sense of standards from any source. If the point of “far enough” is ever reached (and there is very scant evidence that it ever would be), then the enterprise of liberalism would be satiated. There is however, no reason to “be concerned” that would happen … homosexual marriage for example will not be the end. It has never been tried in any culture for thousands of years, but that makes no matter, the liberal elite is intent that it be tried in this country, and since their impulses are anti-democratic, the most likely route is through the courts.

Bjork's view is that we are headed to "downtown Sodom and Gomorrah" ... and we all know how that ended! 

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

I Report, You Decide

I listen to Minnesota Public Radio nearly every day, I also usually get a chance to hear some some reporting from Fox news. I can’t imagine how any American can consider themselves informed unless they hear the news from at least two sides, and today was a great example.

MPR (NPR) reported that “A Washington Post poll shows that 66% of Americans are opposed to the removal of the filibuster for confirmations”. Fox news reported the actual question asked: “Would you support or oppose changing Senate rules to make it easier for the Republicans to confirm Bush's judicial nominees?"

Interestingly, the question never even mentioned the filibuster, and made it sound like a political stunt directed only at “Bush nominees”, so it is very difficult to get much of any idea about what the poll said about “the public opinion of nominee filibuster”. Fox is viewed as a “biased outlet” but the mainline media, NPR/MPR and the Post are “unbiased”. Is allowing people to hear what question was asked and making up their own mind “biased”? Is it possible that NPR and the Post are trying to shape public opinion rather than just report the news? It seems quite likely.

A second story which has been on NPR quite frequently is the story of Tom Delay and “ethics violations”. Amazingly, Tom seems to have officially changed his name on NPR to the EMBATTLED Tom Delay, it is reminiscent of “The Vulnerable Rod Grams” on MPR a few years back. It seems odd that public figures would change their names in such a fashion, but since I know that public radio is without bias, it must be true.

Fox news reported that Delay took $90K worth of trips funded by private or lobby groups, house members in total took $6 Million worth of trips. Harold Ford, a Democrat, took the most trips, 61, and James Sensenbrenner, a WI Republican, spent the most money on trips, $161K. They also reported on Delay’s problems, they just provided context from a paper called “The Hill” http://www.thehill.com/thehill/export/TheHill/News/Frontpage/042705/groups.html, so you could look it up.

From these examples, it is fairly easy to understand how the sides exchange the charges of bias. The “traditional media” decide what the story is and TELL you what to think about the story. “In their view”, which they will be happy to share with you, they are COMPLETELY unbiased, and so the conclusions that they give you are “correct and unbiased”.

Fox news reports exactly what the mainline media reports, but they ALSO give you the “other side”, or really in these cases, and in many of the cases I see, they just give you the CONTEXT of the mainline media story. Their motto is “we report, you decide”, and in these two stories that is precisely what they did. They reported more of the story than the other media outlets, so it was up to the consumer to decide what they wanted to think of the issues. The fact that they reported that “extra information”, which the left considers to be “misleading” (since it often lets the listener make different conclusions than what the left would like them to make) is what make them label Fox as “biased”.

Two simple stories, two radically different ways of reporting the stories. Is there any bias in the media? I’ll report, you decide.

Monday, April 25, 2005

The Vikings Rule

As a fan of the Green Bay Packers that has lived in the enemy territory of Minnesota for the past 27 years, I often get to chat with the friendly Vikings fans. Just today, as I was being informed that the Vikings have yet again roundly defeated the Pack in the NFL draft, and are having a great off-season, I realized the truth about the Vikings and their fans. The Vikings are an off-season football team, in fact, I’m thinking they may well be the greatest off-season team of all-time.

Let’s look at the team history. We know they have trouble in the post-season. That goes without saying for an O for four Super Bowl team. Modern day fans will attest to great moments like the ’98 Atlanta NFC Championship game, or the 2001 41-0 destruction by the Giants to cement the fact that the Vikings are not a post-season team.

The Purple and Gold have had some great runs during the regular season, but it is also true that they historically find a way to close out the season in a negative fashion. Vikings fans have had so many disappointments that they have a hard time enjoying anything during the regular season as well. The Vikings fans are saddled with the historical certainty of not being able to make it to the winners circle in the Super Bowl, as well as the teams propensity to follow a great winning streak with a depressing losing streak. No, it is hard for a Viking fan to get true enjoyment out of the regular season.

People that live in the climate of Minnesota are resourceful however, and they have arrived at a stealth solution. The Vikings are the kings of the off-season, there isn’t another NFL team that even comes close.

Year after year I’m regaled by their fans informing me that they have yet again smoked Green Bay in the draft. They are EXCELLENT at all mini-camps, training camps, and often even super during the pre-season. The more advanced Vikings fans have come to look at the pre-season as really being the “post off-season”. A successful pre-season is often treated with as much joy as a Lombardi Trophy would be by other teams with less capability to look on the bright side. When one realizes that a 45 degree day in Minneapolis on the 15th of March is greeted with the same relish that a Florida resident would see in an 80 degree day on that date, it is easy to understand the way the Minnesota fan's mind works.

It all makes sense now. Failure to reach the play-offs, or an early exit gives the dedicated fan more chance to enjoy a successful off-season. The NFL season is only 5 months at best, a Vikings fan has a full 7 months to be on top of the league. One can only count on this kind of genius in a state where all of the children are above average.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Boiled Frog in Clock Frame Sauce

On Monday of last week the front page of the local paper carried an article that the local Boy Scouts have “declined” to receive any further funding from the United Way. The United Way had already been steadily dropping funding from a high of over $300K a few years back, to what they offered this year, which was $31K. Given the amount of paperwork that United Way was requiring, it was going to cost the scouts about as much to do the paperwork as they were getting, so they gave the agency what they wanted and parted ways.

I spent this weekend up at Camp Ripley in North Central MN at the annual “Ripley Rendezvous” where around a thousand Scouts from around the state descend on the local Guard Camp to do the usual “Scout things” … ropes, guns, knives, archery, merit badges of all sorts, dress in uniforms, follow rules”, and learn little bits about honor, trust, reverence, bravery, and all sorts of other radical concepts.

The Bork book continues to be my main read, and the events of the week bring at least one element of the liberal agenda into stark focus. Bork points out that the liberal technique is to always take a new item on their agenda and make it a “right”. Once it is a “right”, anyone that questions it is on the defensive. What has turned the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) from being an organization accepted by nearly all Americans as being a huge positive influence in the lives of young men, into a pariah group that is no longer worthy of funding from United Way is the issue of “Gay rights”. Just the mere mention of the topic as a “right” shows the magic of the liberal phrasing.

We Americans love “rights”, so when some group is questioning the “rights” of other groups, we tend to side with the folks who are having their “rights” challenged. It doesn’t take a lot of thought before realizing that we are the victims of careful framing. The BSA is questioning if Gay men are the right choice to put in leadership positions over boys aged 11-17. The Catholic Church failed to question this issue adequately, and the results have been fairly evident.

I suspect that the Gay issue is actually just a convenient issue for liberals to use against the Scouts. There is a lot in the Scout program for a liberal to hate. While they are non-denominational, they do recognize a God. A combination of God, guns, the flag, uniforms, and a “code of conduct” is pretty much enough to send a good Blue State Liberal gagging for the exits. An NPR program that heard a while back counseled that it would be “immoral to buy popcorn from a neighborhood Scout.” The right thing to do was to confront the parents about the error of allowing their boy to take part in an organization that denied “basic rights”.

One of my earliest posts was on the book “Don’t Think of an Elephant”, which points out how supposedly Republicans have discovered “framing”. We live in a country where an organization that has been in place for over 100 years and seen as being moderate in the extreme has in less than 10 years been demonized so that it is now “radical”, and “immoral”. All the while, the conservatives are the ones that are classified as taking part in “culture wars”, and “trying to roll the clock back”.

We have been “framed”, but it isn’t by the right. The push for social change is from the left, but they are framing their arguments in such a way that when combined with the power of the media it SEEMS that positions held forever … Marriage being between a man and a woman, sending your sons out on camping trips with gay men being a bad idea … THOSE are the positions that are “radical”. “The clock” has NEVER pointed to same sex marriage nor a “right” for Gays to be Scoutmasters.

We are frogs boiling in a framed pot, we better wake up and do some clock control.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Measuring Man

The ultimate computer is now playing Half Life 2 and other games on the 50” Sony attached with DVI. While the text is disappointing, the games are quite impressive. So far, it seems to be very smooth. Mysteries remain … slow boot, some difficulties in getting some games to run, but the bag of parts has become a computer. It is always rewarding to see that happen.

In looking back at my “initial 3”, I realize that rather than produce an extended list of characteristics, I’m going to consider a set of things as derivative to those and discuss them in more depth to see if other distinctions are really required, or if the wily liberal can be defined in only three characteristics. There is some significant chance of less characteristics being required, because many branches of liberal would declare themselves to be “soulless” in the sense that they have no belief in higher power of life after death, so it would seem that there would be less complexity in a creature with no soul.

The whole “consistency issue” tends to go back to that “belief in a higher power”. While some liberals will attend a church, most will fall back on the idea that “whatever you believe is OK as long as it is sincere” (I assume that conservatism is excluded from that marvelous freedom). It is often said that a liberal doesn’t care if you believe in God, as long as it is clear that he doesn’t make any difference. He didn’t create anything, he isn’t going to pass any judgments on right and wrong, and he pretty much just loves everyone with no expectations or consequence of failing to even recognize his existence, let alone seek him.

The bottom line of this way of thought is pretty much summed up by the Greek philosopher Protagoras in the statement “Man is the measure of all things”. There may be some strict materialist scientific truth that may be “out there” even if no human is around to measure it, but on the key issues … the “life, love, death, purpose, good, evil, etc” … the kind of issues that science clearly can’t help with, since it must be “value free”, Man is the measure.

If man is the measure, then the question comes down to “which man”? Since most liberals feel there is nobody more qualified to make moral distinctions than themselves (often times their wives disagree with them), then THEY are the “moral measure”, or “individual God”. On the economic front, they are almost universally agreed that the universe has failed to be just by failing to provide each individual liberal with unlimited wealth. The ones that have unlimited wealth realize that their other fellow liberals would want to remove that wealth from that if they didn’t immediately make themselves hugely valuable by suggesting that they are “champions of the poor” and prove it by suggesting that OTHERS, with much less money, improve the situation by doing the “fair thing” and providing the funding to some vast re-distribution scheme.

Meanwhile of course, the Kennedy’s, Soro’s, Kerry’s, Gates, Dayton’s, etc need to be allowed to keep their vast wealth. The people that ought to pay are those grubbers that are TRYING to build up “fortunes” of say a million or two so they can consider not working someday. Those are the “evil ones”, and it is they who need to pay the high taxes. We need to protect our liberal elite as a great national resource.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Computers and Art

The saga of the sort of ultimate game computer continues this weekend. It began on Friday evening when the adapter for ATX to EATX was the wrong gender. Liberals are constantly telling us the gender doesn’t matter, but apparently they have been unable to legislate agreement from the engineers as of yet. After the initial shock and dismay, some more time was spent perusing the installation, because according to many net posts, “it ought to work with standard ATX unless dual processors or graphics cards are being used”. It isn’t clear exactly what the problem was, either I somehow had a MB short, OR (and this is more likely) I just did a bonehead thing and plugged the power switch into the wrong pins. I seem to have a pernicious brain problem that if I’m fixated on something like ATX vs EATX and then something doesn’t work as expected, I jump to the conclusion “that must be it”. I suspect that I’m the only person alive that does that.

While it was a bit difficult to string a lot of quality computer time together since I made another round-trip to Wisconsin with the full family this time to visit my Mom. “The End” has been predicted twice in the past two weeks, but somehow, like Bruce Willis in a Die-Hard film, she keeps recovering, and Saturday afternoon she was looking good and seemingly on the road to recovery. We will say our prayers that trend continues.

Speaking of prayers, this our Church brought in “The Jesus Painter” http://www.jesuspainter.com/index.html Mike Lewis. Garrett had seen him at the LCMS national youth gathering in Orlando in front of 35K teens, and was very impressed. He gave a little talk in the Sunday School hour and while he is not soon going to win any contests as a public speaker, the interest level of his story made up for it. He had never painted, but had a background in industrial design, and was currently in art school, when a friend asked him to get on stage and paint a big picture of Christ during a song by the friends Christian Rock band. He decided that was what God wanted him to do, it was a great experience for both him and the audience, and the rest is history. It was a fun service.

Meanwhile, the ultimate computer continued on during spare moments. The Sound Blaster Audiology II card refused all attempts at install, so return attempts will need to be made there. Fortunately the built-in sound on the MB came to life fairly easily. The connection to the 50” Sony LCD has so far been on the disappointing side. It puts S-Video to shame, but at least for text it isn’t that exciting, and there seems to a good deal of difficulty matching settings to formats that will fit on the screen. Lots of progress made though, it is always nice to see it all work together. I’m still hunting down why I’m getting two beeps on boot, and why both the BIOS and Windows XP boots are SLOW (like 5min).

Along with getting in workouts, Scouts, and a few other odds and ends, not a lot of time for reading, but I am very much enjoying “Slouching Towards Gomorrah” by Robert Bork. I owed myself something fun to read after Zinn, and this book has lifted my political spirits, so some serious reporting will soon begin.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Understanding Liberals Interlude

In reading my last post over I decided that in the unlikely event that anyone with a liberal bent ever reads this, they might get the wrong impression of my thoughts on liberals. I find that because of the bias of our media, we live in a looking glass world where many things are actually the opposite of what we are told. 

We are often told that conservatives are touchy, judgmental, closed-minded haters that would be impossible to carry on a conversation with. Most conservatives I know enjoy a good conversation with a liberal whenever they get the chance, but typically it doesn't last long and the liberal leaves in a huff.
My sense is that the greatest reason for this is because liberals have tended to “do everything right” as far as they understood during their education at the hands of union teachers through grade and secondary schools, and then under the tutelage of tenured state employees (professors) that had spent 8 years or more themselves in a state institution studying under the same sort of folks.

They read the mass media, listened to popular music, read the books assigned to them, and were told over and over how open minded they were, and how far superior their views on most everything were over folks that had achieved less education, or just “didn't understand” as they had been taught.

They have come to believe that they have the solid truth, and when faced in a discussion with a view that they are CERTAIN is easily discredited (since it always has been in the classroom or in the media they have heard), they realize that they don’t really know how to defend what they believe, and that is disconcerting. 

They believe that it is conservatives that are “orthodox”, but oddly conservatives are FORCED to be aware of liberal positions, since NBC, CBS, ABC, NPR, most major papers, and the popular culture are quick to present the liberal position. You can’t be awake in this country and not know the liberal position. While it is at least possible today to get some exposure to “the other side” via talk radio or Fox, very few liberals are willing to take that step. They enter a discussion with a conservative unaware that a reasonable, intelligent person could hold a view contrary to the liberal one ... and back it up with arguments that were hard to refute.

The issue between liberals and conservatives isn't “intelligence”, it is “models”. Liberals tend to confuse the utility of “intelligence”, and assume that the level of University degree obtained or type of job indicates intelligence. Jimmy Carter was way smart, he just didn’t know how to be President. The Unabomber was even smarter, but his “model” had some real problems. Liberals have always been told they are smarter, and thus they believe they are smarter. IQ is like MHZ on a computer running a broken program -- a fast computer just gives you a crash or a bad answer faster.
Our discussions ought to be about understanding our models, what results they create, and what works the best. Calling each other stupid is fun up through about grade school, but it doesn’t really accomplish all that much in adult discussion.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Understanding the Liberal Mind

As I live, read and study, the more I come to the conclusion that there are some basic mental model differences that make it extremely hard for liberals and conservatives to understand one another. Here are what I believe to be the top characteristics of the liberal mind:

  1. Consistency is not an issue. If you are a liberal, there is no ultimate truth, or higher power, so "truth" is always relative and situational. A liberal has no second thoughts when one day they defend Bill Clinton’s behavior with employees, and the next day they demand a corporate CEO that has a dalliance with an employee should lose their job. They like Bill Clinton, they don’t like CEOs. What is the problem?

    The concept of equal treatment doesn’t even occur to them, because CONSISTENCY IS NOT AN ISSUE. A conservative will never really fully understand this principle, because while it is true that there isn’t such a thing as a consistent human, the idea that it is a virtue as opposed to a failing is beyond their grasping.
  2. They are totalitarians. "Good" (their pick) must be mandatory, "bad" must be criminal. Whatever the issue, if liberals like it, it must be forced upon you, if they don't like it, it must be criminal. Take guns -- conservatives that like them buy them if they have the money. Liberals don't like them (because they represent individual freedom), so they make every attempt to take them away from everyone. Campaign finance? Liberals know exactly the right amount to be spent, want it provided by the state, and want to put anyone who tries to spend more in jail! ... perhaps the perfect summary of liberal thought in a single issue!
  3. They are NOT RESPONSIBLE! They believe they are “driven” by forces beyond their control, there is really nothing that they can do that they can honestly be blamed for. There is always an excuse that must be considered; bad childhood, poverty, "tendencies", other people, big business, the rich, the Devil made them do it, … the list is endless. For liberals in power, anything bad is always due to SOME conservative -- some past administration, the congress, etc Even if the Democrats have both houses of congress and the presidency, there is always "the vast right wing conspiracy", "talk radio" or "big business".
  4. Envy is a virtue; greed (in others) is a sin. A liberal can’t stand others doing better than them, and would rather have the offending “successful person” lowered to a level equivalent with the liberal, EVEN IF THE NET EFFECT OF DOING THAT REDUCED THE POSITION OF THE LIBERAL. Conservatives typically don’t even believe that people can think this way, and thus they stare in disbelief as a liberal starts down some line of class warfare reasoning. A conservative will care little how much success someone else has, in fact they often find the success of others to be wonderful, since it means it is more likely that they too can be successful.



Saturday, April 09, 2005

Lion Hunting in Socialist Computer Utopia

The attempt to create a computer system with better graphics than reality hit a snag last night on the issue of Extended ATX vs ATX power supply. Our ASUS A8N-SLI Motherboard turns out to be “EATX”, so our super cool (and super complicated) Thermaltake Xaser V500D case is lacking a couple of pins of connector power. After massive perusal of Web, we have determined that either:

1). It makes no difference if not doing dual processors or graphics, just plug and go.
2). There is a simple “converter” that works just great, now on order for $10 and shipping
3). We need to go get a REAL EATX power supply, of which there are not many.

The “build your own computer” hobby has provided a lot of fun, and occasional significant head scratching over the years. This is one of those scratching times. The ASUS web site is amazing. It seems hard to imagine that we are the first to hit this particular snag on a MB install, yet there seems to be no mention of EATX, either in the manual or on the web. We ordered most the parts from Mwave, which I generally like, but a little bit of “cross checking” about a couple things like “did you really want to order a case with ATX power and a MB with EATX?” Would have been very helpful.

Such things would be nice, but sadly, as a programmer, I also know they are far from free. The specs aren’t well structured data, they change frequently, and the only way the software acquires the knowledge to ask is by an investment in real work.

After reading Zinn though, I now understand that the reason for this is not due to any facility of the universe that makes things complex, but rather due to the wealthy 1% of the US population conspiring to confuse us! In a 687 page death march of a book, Howard finally got to the part about how to do things better. The simplicity of it makes the horror of 100s of years of wasted humanity seem even more tragic.

“The society’s levers of powers would have to be taken away from those whose drives have led to the present state – the giant corporations, the military, and their politician collaborators. We would need – by a coordinated effort of local groups all over the country – to reconstruct the economy for efficiency and justice, producing in a cooperative way what people need most.
We would start in our neighborhoods, our cities, our workplaces. Work of some kind would be needed by everyone, including people now kept out of the workforce – children, old people, “handicapped” people. Society would use the enormous energy now idle, the skills and talents now unused. Everyone would share the routine but necessary jobs for a few hours a day, and leave most of the time free for enjoyment, creativity, labors of love, and yet produce enough for an equal and ample distribution of goods. Certain basic things would be abundant enough to be taken out of our money system and be available – free – to everyone: food, housing, health care, education, and transportation.”
“The great problem would be to work out a way of accomplishing this without a centralized bureaucracy, using not the incentives of prison and punishment, but those incentives of cooperation which spring from natural human desires, which in the past have been used by the state in times of war, but also by social movements that gave hints of how people might behave in different conditions. Decisions would be made by small groups of people in their workplaces, their neighborhoods – a network of cooperatives, in communication with one another, a neighborly socialism avoiding the class hierarchies of capitalism and the harsh dictatorships that have taken the name socialist”.
There you have it. We are close enough to nirvana that if we could take the controls away from the evil corporations and military, the basic non-competitive good nature of humans would take over with only the slight complexity of a bit of communication difficulty! I’m sure a tear is crossing your cheek right now as you consider the simplicity of it all, how close we are to bliss, and yet we have been denied entry to this paradise by our corrupt American system.

Power supply mismatches are just one very small example, but it is easy to see how the right thing would happen in Zinnworld. Little engineering conclaves, much like artist conclaves, would see their socialist brothers need for better graphics in first-person shooter games. After their “few hours” of joyful group labor providing “free” food, shelter, healthcare, education, and transportation to themselves and their just society, they would no doubt gather in an earthen hall to reach instant agreement on the proper standards for all manner of connections, voltages, and software parameters. I can almost hear a little socialist hymn to the benefits of agreement and sameness arising from their smiling lips as they power up the ultimate socialist game machine – there is no doubt in my mind it would be completely friendly to the environment and be the ultimate in human factors engineering as well!

It is completely breathtaking to me that after reaching the end of what I was beginning to fear was an endless diatribe against America, the family, private property, western civilization, religion, competition, capitalism, democracy, and countless other elements of our society, that “the answer” to all this is a thinly veiled threat of revolution against the system we live in, followed by two paragraphs of pabulum on some abstract utopia that bears no resemblance to anything that ever has, does, or is ever going to exist as long as nature and humans are involved.

Has Zinn really missed that competition was not exactly “created by man”? We may argue about HOW it was created, but it seems pretty obvious that it exists in nature as well as in human society. There is ONE way to make man give up the idea of personal property, and at least reduce the competition in the masses - it isn’t like it hasn’t been done before; Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot. 

Zinn may not like the US, but it isn’t like the alternatives have exactly produced garden spots. It is too bad that Howard can’t spend some time in North Korea. The freedom to be paid by the state to criticize the state (university professor), and be the darling of “the permanent adversarial culture” (those that Howard hopes will eventually revolt) might look pretty inviting from a prison cell were he to try the same line of work there.

I suspect this book will kick me off into a few days of writing on what I consider the “fundamentals” of the left and right. While fortunately, over 50% of Americans would consider Howard’s ideas to be absurd (in the unlikely event that they submit to the torture of reading them), there is one thread through this book that should be taken seriously. Zinn is very much a cheerleader for violence from the left, and found the Vietnam years with their riots and bombings and lack of respect for American institutions to be very refreshing. 

This is a lull in politics, but guys like Zinn, and Chomsky are always out there, and not very far removed from men like Howard Dean, Dennis Kucinich, Tom Harkin, and others. If you ever doubt that threats to America from people within our borders are real, and that revolution is still being preached on our own campuses, you need read no further than Howard Zinn. Fortunately, apparently even more than 50% of the teens have a better grasp on reality than Howard.

This is how he closes the book:

“Rise like lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number!
Shake your chains to earth, like dew
Which in sleep had fallen on you-
Ye are many; they are few!


Keep the right to bear arms! If the “lions” ever get out, shoot straight, and make sure you have plenty of ammo!

Thursday, April 07, 2005

The Zinn of Oppression

The life of the blogging Moose has not been easy the last couple of days with a journey to Northern Wisconsin to visit Mom in the hospital, and then back this AM to attempt to still do justice to work.

I think I’ll refrain from more quotes from Zinn. One of the advantages of reading the blog ought to be that you can be spared such agonies. Suffice to say, the litany goes on … oppression of Indians, Blacks, Women, the poor, the young, in other words “the people”. All by evil private property owning, competitive, white men. So far Michael Jordan, Bill Cosby, Reggie Fowler (multi-millionaire black businessman trying to buy the Minnesota Vikings), Oprah, and even such folks are Theresa Heinz and Martha Stewart are spared mention. Apparently the net of oppression has a few holes.

I guess I have to put in one more quote:
 “The Constitution, then, illustrates the complexity of the American system: that it serves the interests of the wealthy elite, but also does enough for small property owners, for middle-income mechanics and farmers, to build a broad base of support. The slightly prosperous people who make up this base of support are buffers against the blacks, the Indians, the very poor whites. They enable the elite to keep control with a minimum of coercion, a maximum of law – all made palatable by the fanfare of patriotism and unity.”

 There is some liberal gene that just HATES "patriotism" ... one can see the sneer!

It seems that is what REALLY makes Howard sick. America works! If only he could have his way, we would ALL be dirt poor, except for the Politburo, and there would be no evil of “the wealthy”. Meanwhile, rather than squatting over a ditch or living in some concrete mausoleum of state housing and standing in bread lines, we “buffers” are being “exploited” by being fattened up on cruise ships, living in suburbs with SUVs, and watching big screen TVs. All so we can serve our drone-like function of keeping the even worse oppressed … the folks with only one cell phone, a 27” color TV, and a DVD player without progressive scan … away from Bill Gates and Warren Buffet. We have been duped!

If it wasn’t for America, many socialist paradises would seem, well, more like paradise, and less like 3rd world hell-holes. Howard is more up front about the basic fact that tends to bother a lot of liberals about America. It is so damned successful in spite of all the extreme flaws that they point out at any chance they get. To see such fair-minded people have such an unfair reality regularly rubbed in their faces is part of the sadness of this country. I’m sure Oprah would much rather go back to Africa, but it is likely hard to find suitable lodging for her Gulfstream in many areas, and thus she is forced to soldier on as an oppressed black woman in this unfair system.

I hope I can sleep with the guilt of our collective sins tonight.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Run Aground, Howard Zinn

Life moved from being very good to being somewhat “less than good” with the arrival of a Monday and the word that my Mother up in Northern Wisconsin was doing quite badly. The decision was reached that the right thing to do was to take the Grandsons up there to see here yesterday evening, so five hours of driving for an hour and one half of visitation with a 10:30PM arrival back home came to pass. In the world of families and relationships, Steven Covey of “7 Habits” fame admonishes us to “seek effectiveness over efficiency when dealing with people”. That seemed a good mantra for last evening, and will likely be repeated more than once for some period of time.

I fear it is time to start my book review on “The People’s History of the United States”. I have the odd intellectual curiosity that often lets me crossover from my biases and actually enjoy reading “the other side”. In many cases, a smile crosses my lips as I have “aha moments” where I realize what is behind the thought process of a given lefty. Unfortunately, Howard Zinn is not the kind for any mirth, this is a mindless slog through every mistreatment of any group that Howard could think of, with the assumption (often stated) that “nobody does it worse” than the USA

I might re-title it “All the bad news about the US that I could find … even if I had to make some if it up”. If I had any blog readership, this book would kill it … assuming it spares me! 

To his credit, Howard states right up front:

“The historians distortion is more than technical, it is ideological; it is released into a world of contending interests, where any chosen emphasis supports (whether the historian means to or not) some kind of interest, whether economic, or political, or racial, or national, or sexual.” 

He then is fairly up-front that his biases would be anarchist, communist, socialist, primitive, communal, and atheist. The book isn’t long on “alternate solutions”, but it certainly finds capitalism, the US system of government, and especially “private property” to be especially noxious to the development of “the people”.

“Class warfare” is a common theme. The idea of anarchy, destruction, riot, the killing of the “elite”, “capitalists”, the “ruling class” never simmers too far below the surface. You have to love "those brutal individual acts of desperation labeled crimes by law" -- "just deserts" in academic-ese.  

 “..even the privileged minority-must it not reconsider, with that practicality which even privilege cannot abolish, the value of it’s privileges, when they become threatened by the anger of the sacrificed, whether in organized rebellion, unorganized riot, or simply those brutal individual acts of desperation labeled crimes by law and the state?” 

He does tend to do a lot of run-on sentences; I guess everyone does something worth admiration ;-)
He calls out the evil of the family pretty well in this paragraph:

 “Societies based on private property and competition, in which monogamous families became practical units for work and socialization, found it especially useful to establish this special status of women, something akin to a house slave in the matter of intimacy and oppression, and yet requiring, because of that intimacy, and long-term connection with children, a special patronization, which on occasion, especially in the face of a show of strength, could slip over into treatment as an equal. An oppression so private would turn out hard to uproot.”

These quotes should be enough to let people know that one doesn’t read Zinn for entertainment. You have to really WANT to learn to hate America and even Natural Law to wade through the endless dreck and drivel, and it says something special about our institutions of higher learning that this is one of the most popular views of US history now presented to unsuspecting young minds.

Most rational people arrive at the basic understanding that it is a "Henny Youngman existence" ... when asked “How is your wife?”, he would reply “Compared to what?”. As Zinn lists every “transgression” of the history of the US, one wants to scream out “compared to what?” China? Russia? USSR? India? Vulcan? Name a country in Africa that you would hold up as “better”. Is primitive REALLY “better”? Does heaven exist on earth ANYWHERE? If it does, why do immigrants by the millions keep trying to get into the US?

 If they read Howard’s book, they would avoid the US simply because our system has allowed this kind of trash to be printed. I agree we ought to be well educated enough to allow that freedom and be able to 90% point out that it is garbage -- the fact that very few can do so shows the decline of our training in critical thinking. We have declined too far to remain a free people. 

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Back to Reality

We returned to the real world yesterday, and fortunately the Minnesota weather is in the high 60’s, so we don’t have to deal too much weather depression at least. I’ll have lots to write about the Howard Zinn book I suppose, I’m three quarters of the way through that, but writing about it would just add to the normal post trip blues.

We live in a wonderful country where the combination of political and economic freedom allows tens of thousands of people to be out enjoying life on the blue Caribbean on any given week. At the turn of the century, the capability barely existed, and to the extent that it did, one had to actually be rich to make use of it. Mr. Zinn feels that we live in a horrible country, laboring under a horrible capitalist system, and the world is quite dark, except for the rays of sunshine presented by anarchists, socialists, and communists. He should go check out a cruise, the sun is shining there.

There is always an aspect of emotional letdown after returning from a great trip. The standard feeling for me seems to go back to being a kid when “Christmas is over”. There are lots of good intellectualizations about “being thankful for the memories”, “lucky to have been able to go”, and “now I should be refreshed and ready to take on the world”. All are intellectually true. When I figure out how to tell my emotions to lock in perfectly on rationality with no rebellion, I will be sure share the information on the blog!

I suppose I could improve my life by converting my childish emotion of “letdown” to some “justified envy” for the “filthy rich capitalists” that cruise their lives away on such ships. (There actually seem to be some, see http://residentialvessels.com/residential_ocean_liner_site.htm) That certainly can't be “fair”. I’m not much into fairness though, I much prefer opportunity! 

Some set of folks and businesses are out there making a way that one can “retire on a cruise ship”. Will they make it affordable, and will I be able to afford it someday? No way to know the answer to that, but I’d rather be thankful that the potential is out there to dream about than to just be disgusted that some folks have achieved what sounds like a fun way to live.