None the Wiser

"Truth gains more even by the errors of one who, with due study and preparation, thinks for himself, than by the true opinions of those who only hold them because they do not suffer themselves to think." --J.S. Mill

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?
Saturday, March 15, 2003
Get a load this (typical) Reuters headline:

Hu Elected China's President, Jiang in Shadows

It then goes on to explain that, in fact, Hu is actually an appointee. China, as anybody can tell you, does not hold elections. I really loved this:

"But, in a rare display of defiance at the largely rubber-stamp National People's Congress, 7.5 percent of lawmakers voted against him or abstained."

92.5% of the "parliament" voted to confirm this appointment, and this qualifies as a "rare display of defiance." Very nice. Actually, the article is pretty good, so go read it.

There are many things worse than an ill-considered or offensive remark. Among them is the self-serving and disingenuous apology that sometimes follows.

I direct your attention to U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D). Recently the following remarks made a lot of waves in the blogosphere and in the mainstream media:

"One could say that Osama bin Laden and these non-nation-state fighters with religious purpose are very similar to those kind of atypical revolutionaries that helped to cast off the British crown."

That's not all she said, but the context didn't really save her.

After there was a storm of outrage over the fact that Rep. Kaptur thought Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and Paul Revere were comparable in Osama bin Laden, she "clarified" her sentiment. Now she had given a speech that, according to the headline of this article [via Drudge], was intended to serve as an "apology," but actually falls more into the realm of "I'm sorry you're all such jackasses and that I have to stand here and pretend to be contrite about it."

But don't take my word for it. Consider for yourself:

"You have heard much about my earlier statements on terrorism, and I just wanted you all to know that due to the political nature of what happened with my original statements, if my remarks have hurt anyone, I’m sorry," Miss Kaptur said. "Let me also say to each of you tonight [that] I am one member of Congress who will never make politics of war. It is too deadly serious."

Alright then. She's sorry that due to the "political nature of what happened with" her idiotic remarks, someone might have been "hurt," and in that case, she's sorry that somebody did. She's not sorry she made the remarks, mind you. Just that something "political" happened with them, which is to say that they were repeated in the press because they were so fucking stupid. It's not clear, then, on whose behalf she is apologizing because she doesn't specify who do what political thing with her remarks.

And I'm comforted to hear that she will never make politics of war, like other people do when they compare their country's cultural icons to indiscriminate mass murderers with no conscience. Since you know there nothing political about war in the first place until somebody in politics decides to pick it up as a talking point and run with it. And I'm glad she's also cognizant of the seriousness of war, which explains why she was so surprised to find out how seriously people take fascile comparisons between the Founders of the Republic and its deadliest adversaries.

Then we have this graceful bit of atonement:

"Because of the raw emotion, I thought it was important to at least make a statement,"

It's good to know you felt like you had to cover your ass, at least by throwing some obligatory conciliatory statement out there right after you take a deep breath and roll your eyes at the absurdity of the entire exercise.

"What I said was twisted [by other people]. People read the twist, not what I said."

Now she's drifting toward the shores of a brand new insult, though I do have to applaud the author of the article for bracketing in that phrase in the first sentence. It actually draws attention to the ridiculous nature of what follows. What's so infuriating about it is that nobody read any "twist" at all into what she said. People just read what she said, verbatim, word for word, and it pissed them off all on its own. The idea that you would need to add some kind of clever spin in order to make her words sound worse than they were is, in this case, an obnoxious assertion.

In all, she comes off as bitter and resentful over the entire affair, and she's obviously not sorry for anything. What drives me nuts is not what she said, since people say that kind of thing all the time when they happen to be repugnant leftist morons, it's the fact that she felt as though this qualified as some sort of an act of contrition.

Thanks, but no thanks.

UPDATE: Scott Ott, as always, says it better and in fewer words.

Friday, March 14, 2003
My eternal gratitude to Tim Blair (via Dave Barry) for pointing out this page. I can't possibly explain it. Just go see for yourself. The end is surely nigh.

Tex is requesting that you send him your absolute worst airline horror stories. Bad food, turbulence, near-death experiences, everything. Send them to

OK, I'm kidding. Tex is afraid to fly (while at the same time being a sports bike nut--go figure). He's coming to the US soon, and would like some reassurance/advice. Now everybody go make fun of Tex for being such an incredible wuss, since that's what friends are for.

Light posting today. Sorry about that, but it's Spring Break for me and I'm getting drunk. I'm going to watch the indespensible Thor Halvorssen, CEO of The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, on FNC. Back later with a report.

UPDATE: OK, I saw the interview and the girl at the center of the Citrus College controversy, in which students were given extra credit for writing anti-war protest letters to be sent to the president, took about half the segment. That's ok. Gina Cantagallo is evidently a pretty brave girl and I'm glad she had the chance to personally jab a fork in the eye of Professor Kahn. I'm only sorry I didn't get to watch Thor tear it up a little more. He is, in the words of Erin Oconnor, academia's "worst nightmare." Thank the Maker for it, to.

A little bit of information was made available that I had not found in any of the other reports on the subject. First, that nine other students had refused to do the assignment on the basis of their conscience (good for them). Next, that when Gina attampted to hand in a pro-war letter she was told "This is unacceptable." And lastly, that Gina had sent out a deluge of emails to various right-wing organizations. This is significant because FIRE, a formally non-partisan group, was the first to respond and was clearly the most effective resource. This is a very good thing, not only because I wish FIRE well, but also because I would hate to see this framed up as a partisan issue.

As Thor said, "It's about liberty." Damn straight.

Thursday, March 13, 2003
Another great post from The Politburo on exactly why we have no business deferring to popular opinion on foreign affairs, so long as "popular opinion" is defined as the sudden whim of deluded and incredibly spoiled and ill-informed college students looking for something to make themselves feel like something other than the self-serving, narcissistic, half-educated parasites they typically are. And more frog-bashing too!

John Hawkins at Right Wing News has a good summary of why joining the ICC would have been an abdication of Bush's vow to protect and defend the Constitution.

Psycho Culture Watch

Not for the faint of heart, this photo courtesy of Clubbeaux is made palatable only by David's clever caption.

A Word About the Jews, and That Weird Shiver

My great aunt's got this strange mark, this inscription on her arm. It's a sickly kind of grayish-green scribble, something obviously not meant to last. Why anyone would go to these lengths to remember a phone number in this day and age of is just beyond me.

Oh, wait a second. That's not a phone number. I nearly forgot. My aunt was in Auschwitz.

The fact that I have a relative whose great misfortune it was to be a houseguest of the Nazi SS gives me no special moral credit in life. I can still be wrong, mean-spirited, stupid, cruel even. Nor does it confer any kind of authority on matters of politics, war, ethnicity, or the like. What it has bequeathed to me a something I'll just call the Shiver.

The Shiver is this little sensation I get from time to time. It's like someone spoons out my guts, and a bubble of air rises along my spine, into my chest and finally coming to settle in my jaw, leaving it quivering and weak. Lately, I've been getting it a lot.

I've always been acutely sensitive to hypocrisy. More precisely, I've always been infuriated by the blindness of a person who claims moral grounds for their disregard for human dignity. That's where the Shiver comes in. I feel it when I see that a busload of schoolchildren have been blown to shreds for the crime of occupying a particular space and breathing in particular air. I get it when I read about the massacre in the Katyn Forest, where Stalin's troops executed thousands of Polish officers, intellectuals, and clergy and proceeded to bury them in mass graves--while the West buried the story. I had it for two weeks after 9-11.

And today, whenever I hear someone talking about those duplicitous Jews and all their filthy capitalist influence wrecking America's foreign policy through secret machinations whose sole aim is to benefit their imperialist and illegitimate claims to a strip of turf smaller than North Carolina, well...forgive me, but I do Shiver. It was last semester, in an introductory college-level religion course no less, that we were discussing 9-11 and a young black girl, who sat three chairs behind me and one to my right, blurted out "Well, don't you think it was probably the Jews? That's what I heard." Those were her exact words. I remember wondering where she "heard" it.

I was gripped instantly by that horrible Shiver and was left with hands and lips shaking, unable to speak through the rage and disgust, made worse by the completely limp response it provoked in our professor. No one else spoke up. I was unable. Maybe my classmates were too, but I wonder. I really do.

My mother converted to Catholicism when she married my father. That is one of the reasons I don't know that side of the family well. Many Jewish families, particularly those who have been touched by genocide, take it seriously when one of them leaves the faith, marries a non-Jew. I can see why. But in any event, she's since been a very devout Christian, even after the divorce. She's an amateur theologian, you might say. But she would every so often tell me stories from her childhood as a secretive Jewish girl.

Back then, in her neighborhood, you sort of had to be a little secretive about things like that. And this was Florida. She recounted a story once about a friend she lost--I think she admired this girl because she could run fast. The girl told her once, "I can spot a Jew from a mile away!" My mother, stuck somewhere between being hurt and bemused, didn't unmask herself then and there. It's not clear the girl would have been ashamed anyway, and maybe today she looks back on those words, and others like them, with some embarrassment. Of course, she should. But these days, she needn't.

Whether it's coming from Pat Buchanan or Jim Moran, one hears a lot about the insidious influence of the Hebrew nation these days. I think it's terribly strange that the old prejudice has reemerged so soon after the gas chambers, but maybe that's because I'm a sucker for happy endings. On closer inspection, the years since the Holocaust offer precious little reassurance that very much has changed in this respect. Take Sartre.

Jean-Paul Sartre was a dishonest, downright dangerous philosopher. As such, the French adored him, as did the American left. He said after World War Two that it just wasn't possible to write poetry after Auschwitz. Having actually read some of his poetry, one might be inclined to agree. It was not very long, however, before the Khmer Rouge, known as Sartre's Children for their avid devotion to the ideas of this wretched little intellectual (whom most of them had never seen in the flesh, or even heard of) were busily massacring millions in the Killing Fields of Cambodia, while Noam Chumpsky (not a typo) and the editorial board of the Nation played along, denied, waffled, and finally dropped the subject and ran.

It really wasn't that much later before the PLO's charter was drawn up, and the Jews' collective right to life had to take a back seat to a new nationalism, same as the old nationalism.

And so on. In short, the world didn't change much at all. Academics kept brewing up clever reasons that some animals were more equal than others. Anti-capitalism and anti-Semitism reconverged into a bitter brew once again, a process made simpler by an actual liberal democracy that practiced capitalism and was run by Jews. I'm of the opinion that Israel was probably a pretty bad idea from the start, unless the Western powers--meaning Britain and France and the GDR--were willing to draw it up and defend it full-bore. They weren't.

But what amounts to a still-pending victory for the Jewish people has had one totally unforeseen, almost farcical side-effect. The "socialism of fools" now has a basis in geopolitical reality. There really is a super-secret sect of Jews out there--it's called the Mossad. They really have infiltrated their neighbors--it's called the Devduvan. They've got money. They've got connections. They've got weapons. They have the president's ear. And they're behind a sinister policy that threatens to ruin the Republic.

A lot of ink has been spilt over this topic. Jonah Goldberg, no doubt holed up in some velvet-pillow-strewn den of wealth and debauchery reeking of incense and sex, has penned a wonderfully entertaining defense of Jewish Americans and their supposed role in the impending Battle of Baghdad. It's a comforting read. But still, I know it's only a matter of time before I see another powder blue star of David with a bloody Swastika--or four--superimposed on it at some "peace" march in Kalifornia. And that awful Shiver will grip me again, and I won't know how to respond, and I won't know how to feel truly safe. After a certain point, what can a person do when faced with such sentiment? Beg?

The presence of this little postage stamp of a country called Israel is a terribly cumbersome and complicated burden for humanity to bear. What to do if there really is a place where the Jews rule the roost, and they have issues, and they have interests, and they have demands? Should your paths cross theirs, should you find common cause with them, should you become their champion, how do you deflect the insinuations and the vague suspicions of the stupid and the discontented? When Hollywood contracts for the Pentagon, what's a Jew to do? Some would have us alter our course, to do the wrong thing because it might be better than doing the right thing to the benefit of those cunning capitalist Jews.

I'm sure that Bush won't. He's in control of this administration, and it's admittedly a little bit amusing to hear the same people complain about his unyielding fealty to the Hebrew Illuminati while castigating him for the role his Christianity plays in his decision-making. Then the next day accusing the largest Christian church in the world of secretly conspiring against those very same Jews. It's enough to make your head spin, trying to keep up.

Maybe that little Shiver I get is a piece of the divine spark those Pilgrims were always going on about, with their funny hats. Maybe it's just a reflex, and not of any real ontological significance beyond that. Whatever the case, time has proven it to be a more reliable guide to my conscience than Howard Zinn, Norman Mailer, and Peter Singer ever could be. And here on earth, amid the cataclysm, I thank God for it, and I pray it never leaves me.

The Obligatory Post on Smoking in Bars, and Why It's Fucking Amazing That This Is an Issue at All

There is a proposal before the city of Bloomington to ban smoking in bars (they've already done so in restaurants). Here's a copy of a letter to the editor your humble Sage wrote today on the subject (actually, the editor got a condensed version). If it's worthy of the IU student paper, it's certainly worthy of NTW:

"Dear Editor:

"As a relatively new resident of the People’s Republic of Bloomington, I’d like to weigh in on the attempt to ban smoking here by responding to your story on the topic (Thursday, Mar. 13th). Several remarks in that article simply demand a response.

"Firstly, the article’s author, Micah Maidenberg, may have tipped her hand when she presented the issue as one of competing rights, a zero-sum game in which “If one side wins, the other side loses.” But this is precisely the issue at hand, and this very assertion is the thing in dispute. To take it as granted is to bolster the anti-smoking busybodies’ case. It assumes, incorrectly, that walking into a privately-owned establishment without being exposed to smoke is a “right.”

"This kind of positive right is a very, very new invention of public health zealots and moral crusaders. By the reasoning at work here, one might say a person with hair-trigger epilepsy has an inviolable right to walk into a night club without fear of exposure to strobe lights, private property be damned.

"The jaw-droppingly illogical statement quoted by one Lance Deaton (which you so dutifully took the effort to excerpt in large bold-face print in the margin) was that, “The decision to smoke is not a freedom. It’s a personal choice and should be kept to personal space.” Got that? It’s a personal choice, but not a freedom. OK. Exactly what that means in practice he doesn’t say, except that personal choices on private property with the consent of the owner are somehow not taking place on strictly personal grounds.

"He does open up by saying that smokers “push” smoke on co-workers and (of course) kids. Well, I think holding someone down and force-feeding them second-hand smoke might qualify, but smoking where someone else might happen by hardly does. Obviously, there are plenty of non-smoking sections and entire non-smoking establishments in Bloomington, either by statute or by decree of the owners. (It’s this little thing in America called “choice,” a concept that is capable of making most leftists go to the mattresses on such things as judicial nominees, incidentally.) The idea that the remaining intransigent bar and restaurant owners need to be brought into line is arbitrary and tyrannical, and any thinking person knows this.

"Interestingly, the article also notes with some relish that the smoker represents a minority--roughly 20% in Bloomington. This is thought by anti-smoking czars to diminish their case, the idea being that it is unfair for the rights of a minority to prove inconvenient to the rest (a curious position for proponents of civil rights to adopt). Quite the contrary. The beauty of a market approach such as we have in the United States is that it tends to reveal people's actual preferences, as distinct from what you or I think they ought to be.

"If the 80% non-smoking majority--a portion that can be fairly modified by the words "vast" and "overwhelming"--were really interested in the proposed ban, then it wouldn't have to be forcibly imposed on the unwilling by some nosy MD with a paternal complex. Indeed, bar and restaurant owners would long ago have faced devastating competition at the hands of non-smoking establishments, and would thereby be compelled to voluntarily change their own policies.

"By the way, the studies quoted in the article “linking” second-hand smoke to cancer and heart disease establish absolutely no causation whatsoever, only the most tenuous of statistical correlations—and it should be noted that a much larger study by the World Health Organization (which they attempted to bury when their results were not as they had hoped) showed absolutely no correlation at all. The issue is hardly settled science, and bare common sense gives one pause when considering the likelihood that the overall health risk to nonsmokers from second-hand smoke—even those making one of those hallowed “personal choices” by walking in to a bar--is at all serious.

"The heart of the issue is this: the “personal space” doctrine espoused by Mr. Deaton (and presumably Ms. Maidenberg as well) is an Orwellian sham. If second-hand smoke represents a forcible invasion of another person’s space, then even a person smoking in their own home—or a friend’s, for that matter—is guilty of assaulting another person’s health if they should happen to be a non-smoker. We have no reason to expect that this logic will not be extended to the sidewalk, the local park (which don’t even have the benefit of being private property), or the home.

"Considering that every new anti-smoking bill here and elsewhere shows a pattern of incremental diminution of the private realm—even amid indignant protestations by anti-smoking crusaders that this one really is the last effort to expand the role of the state in our decision to smoke—there is no reason at all to place hope in the good faith of those buzzkills at the fast approaching Ministry of Health.

I quit smoking about a month ago, by the way; I’m really starting to consider picking it up again, just to squeeze a few extra drops of liberty out of this embattled American ideal, while I still have the choice before me. Great job, guys."

--Sage McLaughlin

I should note for any of you not already aware of this that my wife is a graduate student at the School of Public Health here at IU (she's the brains of the family, but I'm hot on her--ok, never mind). She is that rarest of breeds, however. She's only interested in helping people who want and need her help in the first place. She understands that in spite of the name of her chosen field, all health is ultimately private, not public. And she's also one of those few with the guts to say so in an environment where conformity to the ever-shifting demands of Groupthink is not only rewarded, but implicitly demanded. Amazingly, she claims to have had fewer problems with attempts to indoctrinate her into questionable dogmas in Women's Studies than she does now in Public Health. I know, it's difficult to imagine, but that's what she says.

Remind me again how lucky I am to be attending university. Please, remind me.

Lileks has this to say about the prospect of a televised pronouncement from Saddam foreswearing WMD's:

Brussels, April 1 2004 (Reuters)“I did not make that speech,” Saddam said in his trial. “That was a double. I was in the control room crossing my fingers.” Belgian judges later ruled that the crossing of fingers would be permitted if they were crossed before the statement was made, since that established a “dialectical contradiction” whose “negation of the spoken word” essentially made the speech mean the opposite of what the speaker said. Relying on French theories regarding “the topography of meaning,” Judge Henri Spraught noted that the very duress under which the TV address was made “requires us to dig below the verdant, dung-infused topsoil of rhetoric to grasp the gnarled roots of meaning beneath.”

Sadly, he's probably not that far off the mark.

Wednesday, March 12, 2003
Oh yes. Check out Tex at Whackingday, who has an obnoxiously righteous take-down of Australian idiotarian Phillip Adams. Tex always has the goods, so add him to your bookmarks.

Today was my light posting day. Wednesdays constitute a special brand of misery for The Sage, who has to travel to Indianapolis for three classes, one of which is a nearly three-hour beast on German imperial history. So all three of you loyal readers of NTW will have to settle for a couple of links on Wednesdays, provided I actually have that many readers. Tre, you don't count. You kind of have to read, since I'll be quizzing you next week.

And while we're on the subject of quizzes, I'm happy to report that my semester is not a total disaster (yet). The mid-term I whined about last week here and elsewhere turned out beautifully. Evidently it's the first perfect score my professor has given in quite a long time on any test in any class, so my confidence is a shade improved from last week. I have to do an entire semester of symbolic logic next week, but that's not so daunting now that my major grade is fully intact.

Furthermore, I have recieved formal admittance into IU-Bloomington, so this horrible commute will be a thing of the past soon enough. Well, soon anyway. Finally got my Dean's List confirmation as well. All in all, a good day.

If you've read this far you may also be interested to know that I'll be starting a Polish language immersion class over the summer. By that time I will probably have upgraded NTW so that I can recieve email from readers. In the fantastically unlikely event someone fluent in Polish reads NTW, feel free to test my crazy mad linguistic skills by sending me a note. I'll remind you later.

OK, I'm going to finish my wine. But if you really want to read someone who is not only a history student like your humble Sage in residence, but is also sassy and eloquent, check out the one and only Rachel Lucas, "gun totin' capitalist oppressor" at large.

NOOOOOOOOO!!!!!! David has blinded me, courtesy of Steve Romeo, the bastard.

And right on cue, Serbian nationalism rears its ugly head.

{via the Corner}

Tuesday, March 11, 2003
You almost have to wonder if there isn't a method to this madness. After all, what could taste sweeter to Bush's opponents right now than a major decline in goodwill with the new Afghan government? Opponents of the war lambasting Karzai in this way just smells.

But who am I to judge the good will of Barbara Boxer?

{Link via Instapundit}

Well, my student government here at friendly IU actually voted down an anti-war resolution.

I'm not going to congratulate them, because frankly they never had any business even considering staking out an official position on such a divisive issue. It's bad enough I've got student activists in my face every time I walk through campus hectoring me for a signature or something. Now these presumptuous little self-satisfied peckerwoods presume to speak for me?

I think I'll stop looking at academic pages and blogs today, lest I get really angry and spike my own career with a few ill-considered words (which is all it takes).

Plenty of great stuff at Critical Mass, as always. In particular, check out this plug on The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education's Guides to Student Rights on Campus. Erin does as good a job promoting them as I ever could, so go check it out. I got an advance copy of their Guide to Religious Liberty, and I can vouch for the quality of these little booklets. Hopefully, we will start seeing them appear on campuses around the country soon. God willing.

I just love it when a plan comes together. Particularly when that plan entails laying the Shaolin Verbal Beat-Down on those craven, dishonest, Napoleonic little bullies at the local university's Office of Diversity, Multi-Cultural Affairs, and Thought Crime. Peter Wood puts on a clinic over at FrontPage today, and it's so good that I have to quote some of it at length:

But the illusion is an illusion. The diversiphile utopians extol the goal of all people learning peacefully from each other, but pursue policies of segregation, racial exclusion, and hair-trigger sensitivity to sleights. What the members of the "utopian" community really learn is to ache with resentment towards each other while repressing any open expression of their views. Another part of the illusion is that the little utopia is supposed to prepare people for life in the larger world. This is usually justified with the twin rationalizations that Patricia Gurin, the University of Michigan's expert witness, calls "critical thinking" and "preparation for citizenship."

The diversiphile version of critical thinking, of course, is actually its opposite: uncritical acceptance of the diversity dogma itself and determination to transform every aspect of culture into the language of that dogma. The "citizenship" diversiphiles have in mind merely means political commitment to force the dogma on everybody else. So is the campus utopia of diversity really preparation for "life"? To the contrary, it produces narrow-minded, ill-educated people full of self-conceit about their superior insight into a society they have lost touch with. It takes many of the graduates years to get re-grounded in reality and to begin to respect the good sense and decent values of their countrymen and to give up the insipid illusion that, as “liberally educated” people, they know better. The diversiphile administrations and faculty who teach this stuff have a lot to answer for. But then again, they are usually people who themselves could never thrive in the world outside their petty despotisms.

That's today's required reading, ladies and gents.

Monday, March 10, 2003
On the way home tonight I was thinking about something. It promptly vanished into the nether-reaches of my weary brain. I got home and made some dinner. Soup. I flicked on the computer and clicked my way to Clubbeaux, as is usual at this time of day. I came across his incredible post (linked below). My train of thought returned, thanks primarily to the inspiration supplied by my club-wielding companion.

Coincidentally, it happens that today I was pondering the kinds of liberty that we wrestle over in American politics. David notes in his post that there are different kinds of freedom. The Judeo-Christian view of liberty that he espouses is closely related to the view of the Stoics. That is, that the pursuit of happines is utterly divorced from the idea of hedonism--the two are in fact mutually exclusive.

To pursue happines requires first that we possess the wisdom to know what will make us happiest over the long haul. It is a matter of common experience that we are not, at bottom, hedonists. Muslims illustrate this example perfectly, by refusing to live passively among libertines. Giving people whatever they want is contradictory, since people don't really want to pursue their every transitory impulse all the time, and they most certainly don't want others to do the same. People don't want to live in an utterly hedonistic world, so any attempt to impose one on the unwilling is a self-refuting endeavor.

In short, everyone can't have what they want all the time, since what I might want--what might make me really happy over the long run--could be incompatible with my own or, just as importantly, your happiness. This is what Hobbes distinctly recognized when he envisioned the state of nature as a war of every man against every man, an intolerable condition in which everyone had a right to everything. This is an intolerable state indeed, and we enter into society precisely to counter the practical consequences of moral and (therefore) political anarchy.

On balance, I think David is on the money, but with a caveat, and this is what I was pondering during my drive: The problem with American leftists isn't that they're uninterested in moral inhibitions. The real rub is that they are in fact avidly interested in morality, but they're lying about it. They sense that society is molecular, and that all those individual wills are striving for self-actualization. It is the nature of that individual will that is the point of contention.

Leftists use the perfect, uncorrupted tabula rosa as the point of departure for society's make-up. The untainted individual is their brick and mortar. This is totally different from the Christian view that the self is flawed, capable of wickedness all on its own without entering into community with other souls. It is this difference of belief that gives rise to the perception that leftists are really "liberals"--that they think the individual left to his own devices is the best arbiter of morality. But this isn't the case at all.

Following Rousseau, leftists believe that the kaleidoscope of pure individual selves has somehow given rise to the imperfect society you see about you. Society must therefore be radically reformed, so that man will be free to be good. Greed is a product of human economy, for example. This is exactly backward, of course, but what it means in practice is that we must be forced to be free. Property must be eliminated.

Smoking must be banned from television. Speech on college campuses must be obsessively regulated. Signs of hatred must be purged through compulsory reeducation, going under the pleasant euphamism "sensitivity" workshops. And so on and so forth.

The point here is that morality is very much a part of the leftist program. To "repress" one's children in their sexual exploration is immoral, since the child's unrestrained impulses are ipso facto moral. Racism, certainly an evil belief even if not acted upon, is somehow unnatural according to the leftist; it is not a part of the human character, and ought therefore to be forcibly purged, by whatever means are necessary.

Leftism is replete with codes of thought and conduct, and the list of possible sins is absolutely dizzying. Feminists are so offended so much of the time that it is a wonder they haven't totally imploded and sued each other into bankruptcy. They're like ethical black holes. They're packed so tightly with moral indignation that no actual morality can escape into the outside world for observation. (I think this explains why there is an explicit rule among feminists never to criticize one-another no matter how obviously their ideas contradict).

The overarching struggle in American culture, then, isn't between people who have no code of conduct on the one hand, and those who do on the other. It is, very broadly speaking, between people who believe that there is a moral ideal that transcends human nature and those who believe that we are in fact the very authors of morality.

Leftists are fond of saying that the great bogey man, the Christian Right, is interested in imposing its moral will on the rest of us. In a kind of way that's true. But the difference is that the right acknowledges that it has a program containing moral content. "Social responsibility" is a slippery term that the left sometimes substitutes for "right conduct" They have others. But the common trend is that they will never admit to having a moral vision, a specific course of action that will limit people's behavior to a greater or lesser degree here or there. Horowitz once asked, "What are you people really liberal about, except sex and hard drugs?" The absence of the transcendent or spiritual only makes their moral sense totally groundless and bankrupt--it doesn't eradicate their moral sense altogether.

Libertarians, meanwhile, have a quirky idea about what constitutes right conduct, but I'll save that for another post.

Bottom line: People like Jerry Falwell and people like Nancy Pelosi have perhaps only one thing in common, but it's an imprtant one: they each have a vision for what a decent society would look like, and are chomping at the bit to see their agenda for the rest of us realized.

David's advantage is that he understands that the American idea of freedom is not founded upon rank hedonism, nor on an authoritarian but ethically "pure" state, but on something far more subtle and indirect: the liberty to choose to do what is right. Not to have what is right chosen for you, nor to deny the existence of an objective standard of right and wrong outside of yourself. Fortunately, there have been people more articulate than yours truly to put that concept into play, right here in the USA, with results that speak for themselves.

And on that long-winded note, I'm going to bed.

Everybody's favorite harp seal has just penned a phenomenal post on the distinction between liberty and license. Go read it.

UPDATE: What are you still doing here? Just check out this passage:

“Do what feels good” is not a belief system. Islam is a belief system. Belief systems conquer lazy spiritual and mental indolence ten times out of ten. As we’re seeing in Holland today. Self-gratification, the strongest belief the Dutch can muster today, is a mighty thin reed to stand up against Islam. Muslims don’t believe in self-gratification. Muslims don’t demand license. Islam thrives where there’s a belief vacuum. Something is more substantial than nothing. If you don’t stand for something…

That's gold, baby! Gold I say!

Sunday, March 09, 2003
In the Forehead-Slappingly Stupid Commercial segment today, we have a (new?) anti-marijuana ad, brought to you by the Partnership for a Drug-Free America.

Some kid is shown emptying four cigarettes into a rolling paper and smoking it. The voice-over informs us that marijuana smoke contains four times the carcinogens as cigarette smoke. Message: Smoking marijuana might give you cancer. There are so many things wrong with this approach it's hard to know where to begin.

First of all, if your target audience is anything like the kid in the commercial, then you're aiming that commercial at teenagers. Honestly, now, if you can't keep minors from smoking cigarettes in the first place, what makes you think that such an ad will steer them away from weed? Hell, most of them have already tried smoking cigarettes before they work themselves up to puffing dope anyway. Is the eventual, if extremely unlikely, threat of cancer seriously expected to be a deterrent to invincible fourteen-year-olds?

Besides all of which, it isn't as though a person's marijuana intake is even going to approach a person's nicotine intake in a given day. Somebody who smokes the equivalent of five cigarettes' worth of marijuana every single day, without exception, would then only just match the level of carciogen that your average smoker takes in daily.

I've spent a lot of time around grass-smokers. I followed the Grateful Dead a few times, and I saw some pretty reckless shit on the road. I've known plenty of people whose entire day was structured around their pot routine. I've been one of those idiots. But none of my friends in my wilder days could make a claim to smoking that much dope that consistently.

No, I think that ad was aimed directly at parents. The image of an otherwise wholesome-looking tike crawling up to the window-ledge to sneak a puff is meant to scare adults with children at or near that age; it certainly doesn't terrify the budding hellion one bit.

I'm of the opinion that a person who wastes their God-given gifts by diminishing them with drugs is a damned fool. (I say this as someone with experience, so that means me too.) But these drug war propaganda spots really do suck.

My favorite to date is the ad that warns us that marijuana really IS a dangerous drug, you see,'s illegal and you'll go to jail if you get caught and your life will be fucked.

This justifies

Mike Hendrix. Does that guy rule or what?

OK, this is just getting a little bit sad.

The real scandal here is that it provides yet MORE evidence of French cooperation with the Iraqi armed forces, as though more were needed. Obviously, they have been supplying training as well as equipment. I do sincerely hope we call them on this one.

{Via Instapundit.}