Who's extreme?

Jonah Goldberg poses a great question: Why not Santorum? 

The right is often rebuked for being a party of uncompromising ideological zealots.  Terms like extreme right and right-wing Christian are effortlessly used by many.  And yet, the Democratic Party elected a man who is arguably one of the most leftist presidents in history who vowed to transform America.  Maybe, as suggested by Goldberg's question, right-wing extremists are fairly moderate. 

Is there such a thing as the extreme left?  Left-wing secularists?  Can anyone be too far left?


God and Science, Faith and Reason

Prager conducted an interview with Eric Weiner (author of Man Seeks God: My Flirtations with the Divine) based on Weiner's article in the NYT. Listen to it at: https://docs.google.com/open?id=0Bx5BfG19Ggh3NmNiODI5OWItNGYxMS00MzhkLThiNGQtZTkzYzM2ZGEyNmY3

Weiner presents lucid, intelligent, well thought-out critiques on God and atheism. But I was reminded of a quote by Paul Johnson while reading his article and listening to the interview:
The study of history is a powerful antidote to contemporary arrogance. It is humbling to discover how many of our glib assumptions, which seem to us novel and plausible, have been tested before, not once but many times and in innumerable guises; and discovered to be, at great human cost, wholly false.
It strikes me as a bit unaware of the larger world to assume that because some organized versions of a religion present an unyielding absolute version of God that all of the disciples are equally as puritan. Just as many atheists may wonder if something other than physics and evolution are behind the world that we see, most who believe in God are, as he stated, "a combination of conflicting, competing emotions and thoughts." Even Mother Theresa had doubts about her motives, behaviors and faith. It is inconceivable that most of those attending religious services cartoonishly march in lock-step with every edict or precept.

Since our past informs our current opinions, it appears that Weiner has seen a particularly stern strain of religion. Although Weiner has encountered many adherents that are apparently awful advertisements for a loving, caring God, I wonder how much of Weiner's antipathy for religion is a function of his dislike of standards. Many religions are necessarily collections of standards that are enforced by a judging God.

Judgment in and of itself is not a bad thing. Anybody who believes that maintaining laws and law enforcement concedes as much. And some sects are more focused on a system of standards and judgment by a God that is interested in such things. Maybe Weiner has only been proselytized by the fire and brimstone crowd. But let's not therefore do away with proselytizing. As Penn Jillette has noted,
I am a huge fan of proselytizing. I am a huge fan of speaking your mind. The only way we can share the universe...is by talking very strongly about what we believe.
In spite of Weiner's experience that suggests a God that is "constantly judging and smiting, and so are his followers," what would he prefer? (Apparently he hasn't spent time with people who appreciate such things as Jesus Laughing.) That they remain quiet on the issue? That they keep it personal and solitary? If they really believe that there is a God that has standards and that not following those standards will result in bad outcomes in the afterlife, is it not the height of love, compassion and caring to at least inform those with whom they have contact?

Again, it seems somewhat myopic for Weiner to act as though the world has only now begun to wrestle with issues of doubt. Certainly he may be wondering how he fits into the larger picture, but the vast majority of those who call themselves believers question their beliefs, faith, commitment and understanding of their chosen sect or denomination. In this he is not alone.

This is true for professing atheists as well. Just as with politics, the vast majority occupy the mushy middle. Acolytes tend to become the leaders precisely because they are passionate about the purity of the institution (e.g., ministers, scientists, politicians...)1. The rest of us muddle around on the continuum that defines the distance between the absolutism of True Believers and Angry Atheists, to use Weiner's terms. Just as there are few hair-shirted religious fanatics, there are very few actual atheists.

Weiner concludes that "I think you can be a man of reason and you can be a man of faith." I wonder if Weiner's inability to consider this previously is a function of the insularity of the American university ghetto. To note that "Its good to know that I am not the only one out there who sort of falls into this category without a name, where you consider yourself rational and reasonable but you also believe intuitively that there is more to the world than meets the eye," suggests that heretofore he has not encountered such people. However, my experience is that most "believers" fall squarely in this category. His comment probably says more about his journey than it does about the existence of rational, reasonable believers.

Getting beyond Weiner's apparent 'glib assumption' that this is a somehow a new phenomenon, it is refreshing to hear an intelligent defense of 'seeking' by a self-identified secular intellectual. He notes that the current ethos in "secular, east coast, elite liberal American tribe" is to think that it is not cool to believe in God and that the religious are narrow-minded and not as bright as the secularist.2

Weiner questions the smugness of secularism by noting that "saying now that we have science there is no need for religion, is like saying that now that we have the microwave oven we have no need for Shakespeare." This gets to the notion that many secularists are quite dogmatic and see the two concepts, science and religion, as mutually exclusive. Again, to follow Johnson's admonition, history does not bear this out. Many religious thinkers, from Newton to Einstein to Copernicus, did not share the idea that science and religion are not compatible. And it is equally as unlikely that the current perceived exclusivity is anything other than the current generation's awareness of the issues. When viewed in light of history, the science-in-place-of-religion non-sequitur has been around as long as science and religion. It is a fairly arrogant idea to think that it is only now, in this generation, that we are smart enough to contemplate the coexistence of science and religion.

Weiner went on to note that "reason makes a wonderful servant, but a poor master." He concedes that science has little to say about how to live our lives in morally significant ways. "Science doesn't help us live our life. It doesn't help us get through a nasty divorce. It doesn't help us get through an illness." Ultimately, as Prager noted, "It doesn't help us know right from wrong." "Science doesn't say 'Do not murder.' Science says survival of the fittest." Hitler may have been the ultimate example of what science may have to say about treatment of others. So one might easily conclude that science is necessary, but not sufficient.

1 This is not intended to suggest that all of those who move toward leadership of the identified groups are unyielding zealots. Again, as with the rank and file of religions or politics, the vast majority enter those pursuits for other reasons.

2 It is always easier to dismiss the worth, humanity or intellect of the opposition. It allows the accuser to dismissively look down his nose and not deal with the arguments. One does not argue with the morally or intellectually inferior. And neither side has a monopoly on this behavior. The religious and the secular left are just as likely to dismiss others out of hand.


Nobody good on the right

Nancy Pelosi had this to say about Republicans:
This is a Congress that has done such a disservice to our country,” Pelosi said. “Bless their hearts. They do what they believe, these Republicans. They do what they believe. And they do not believe in a government that has any role in clean air, clean water, food safety, public safety, public health, public education, Medicare, Medicaid.
She can't just disagree with conservatives. They have to be bad people. The theme is well established. Kind of like when Howard Dean said:
Our moral values, in contradistinction to the Republicans', is we don't think kids ought to go to bed hungry at night.

Racist Right

You are a racist if you use a moderator's first name.

You are a racist when you say that people should work a job rather than take food stamps.

You are a racist if you talk about food stamps and welfare.

You are a racist if you are against the President's policies.
You are a racist if you support a black man for president.

And if you talk about problems that afflict certain communities, you're a racist.
And if you don't talk about problems that afflict certain communities, you're a racist.
And if you use racist language, you're a racist.
And if you don't use racist language, you're using code and are a racist.
And if you don't hear the code, you are a racist.
And if you deny you are a racist, it is proof positive that you are a racist.

Is there such a thing as a racist liberal or leftist? One wonders.


Racial Reactionaries

Victor Davis Hanson addresses the race card, race baiting tactics of President Obama and others in the Democratic Party.
President Obama and his supporters insist that they deemphasize matters of race, but their record in just the last four years reveals a veritable obsession with it...
It will be an ugly campaign.  But saying that is probably racist.


Non Apology Apology

The firestorm that followed Eugene Robinson's comment about how weird the Santorum's grief for their baby culminated with Joe Scarborough confronting him on the issue.

What is remarkable about this exchange is how concisely Robinson demonstrated a couple leftwing tactics: the non-apology apology and the 'some people' ruse.

Let's review the happenings. When initially asked "Do you think you may have gone overboard a little bit in your criticisms of Santorum?", Robinson was shaking his head no.  His body language seemed to indicate that he did not think that he went overboard. Then the first words out of his mouth were, "What I actually said was I thought some people would think that was weird."

There it is. The ubiquitous 'some people' canard. This allows Robinson to play Pontius Pilate where any questioning of Santorum is concerned. This device allows him to distance himself from the comment while simultaneously inserting it into the conversation. We are to believe that he does not believe such inflammatory rhetoric, but that some may. Just as Pontius believes he is relieved of the responsibility of his action, so to Robinson can wash his hands of the responsibility for the comment.

He then goes on to explain "that obviously was not the right way to say what I was trying to express. And I certainly didn't mean to offend anybody, especially Mr. Santorum," followed by a labored, strained explanation reiterating that "some people, I think, are going to be, if not surprised by, at least want to more about" Santorum's faith.

No apology here. He only says that he did not articulate his thoughts well and then restated his original thought without using the word weird with a statement that he didn't mean to offend anybody separating the two.

If Robinson didn't think that his comments would offend, then he either A) really believes that it is 'some people' and not he who thinks Santorum's actions were weird, or B) he doesn't think calling somebody who is mourning the death of their newborn infant a weirdo is offensive. If B, he is a vulgarian.  If A, he really doesn't think he has anything to apologize for since he is not the one who believes the things he reported. He is no more responsible for others thinking Santorum is a weirdo than he is for reporting that 'some people' might think that Hitler did a good thing when gassing the Jews.

But I suspect he thinks Santorum is a weirdo.

Leftwing Love

Mark Steyn deals with the mean-spirited comments of Alan Colmes and Eugene Robinson. They felt it necessary to kick at Rick Santorum for mourning the loss of their still-born child in order to gain some political ground.

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One could weep at the inhumane viciousness. And this from those who fancy themselves to be kinder, wiser and more compassionate. As Steyn notes:

In 1996, the Santorums were told during the pregnancy that their baby had a fatal birth defect and would not survive more than a few hours outside the womb. So Gabriel was born, his parents bundled him, and held him, and baptized him. And two hours later he died. They decided to take his body back to the home he would never know. Weirdly enough, this crazy weird behavior is in line with the advice of the American Pregnancy Association, which says that “it is important for your family members to spend time with the baby” and “help them come to terms with their loss.” 
And as Peter Wehner of Commentary stated:
The second point is the casual cruelty of Robinson and those like him. Robinson seems completely comfortable lampooning a man and his wife who had experienced the worst possible nightmare for parents: the death of their child. It is one thing to say you would act differently if you were in the situation faced by Rick and Karen Santorum​; it’s quite another to deride them as “crazy” and “very weird,” which is what commentators on the left are increasingly doing, and with particular delight and glee.

These comments by Colmes and Robinson were cruel, vicious and so profoundly mean spirited that it is almost unfathomable.  But such are the times we live in.


Biofuel Bust

Ethanol is not working out so well. This WSJ piece concludes:
Congress subsidized a product that didn't exist, mandated its purchase though it still didn't exist, is punishing oil companies for not buying the product that doesn't exist, and is now doubling down on the subsidies in the hope that someday it might exist. We'd call this the march of folly, but that's unfair to fools.
And cronyism is alive and well as the Navy buys $16/gal fuels that normally sell for less than $4/gal to enrich Big Cellulose as highlighted in this article. But we should all feel good that "the Great Green Fleet Carrier Strike Force" will be protecting us.


Iowa Nice. And smart. Condescending. Smug. Intolerant. Well, you get the idea.

Scott Seipker has posted a video entitled Iowa Nice.

Along with sharing some nice Iowa accomplishments, he concludes a few things about the viewer that aren't so nice. He is clearly not addressing like-minded Democrats because after an introductory f**k you, he lets us know that Iowa isn’t a bunch of “kneejerk Republican reactionaries” because “Iowa went Democratic the last five of six presidential elections.” So knowing that his intended audience is the misinformed Neanderthal who votes Republican, what are his impressions of his audience and Iowa Republicans? Well he gives a few clues in his video:
  • Kneejerk reactionaries
  • Hillbillies
  • They look like they like to eat.
  • After asking “How tough is your job?” he quips that “You look like you could use a break.” So they are maybe fatigued by their un-tough jobs.
Scott has a lot of contempt for Republicans. He’s not alone. Democrats often paint Republicans as buffoonish, unenlightened, non-intellectual, knuckle-dragging dullards. Why is this so? If you don’t share their views you live in darkness. You are a benighted ignoramus. You are stupid, ignorant, mean spirited, war-mongering, selfish, greedy, hateful, nativist, racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic, bigoted, intolerant, fascist, misogynistic and hypocritical. And not just naively so. This all comes about because of horrible motives.

It is understandable then that the Democrat may think that the legitimate institution of intellectual debate could be sullied by allowing discussions with ugly, hate filled imbeciles. Why would an intellectual have a legitimate conversation with a reprobate? Why cast pearls before the swine? Just dismiss them and move on. And if along the way you can heap on humiliation, so much the better.

Democrats know they are finer, better, smarter, more compassionate, more civil, more decent humans than Conservatives. That is some self-esteem. Or maybe arrogance. Or maybe low self-esteem since they demean, condescend, belittle and humiliate instead of just disagree. Instead of disagreement about issues, mean-spirited smugness is brought to bear. Why? Why isn’t compassion and a soft heart used to try and lift up the lost soul? Why is ridicule the way to enlightenment? If a child does not understand the lofty prose of the learned scholar, will demeaning and humiliation lead to enlightenment? Is the condescension ennobling? Does it elevate rather than debase?

Or maybe those they disagree with have thought about the issues. And maybe they aren’t kneejerk reactionary hillbillies that look like they have slack-jawed jobs and like to eat. Maybe they are decent people who share many of the same motives but simply have some differing opinions. Maybe Scott has nothing but ridicule to enter the arena of ideas with.