Friday, March 30, 2012

Thoughts on the impending ACA decision

Thoughts on the impending ACA decision

I spent a fair bit of time listening to the oral argument in this week's presentation of the ACA Obamacare appeal. I also read along with the transcript (Lots of mistakes there, but nothing really consequential) I have pondered the words and the voices and the nuance, and then I read all the commentary I could.

Just about everyone seems to believe that it will be a 5-4 decision, but I believe that this underestimates Chief Justice Roberts and his recent history. He is a consensus builder. The libs, especially Ginsburg, were so vociferous in their naked appeals to retain most of the bill even if the mandate is struck down, while a majority was seemingly determined (if one can divine a Justice's intentions from his questions) to strike down the mandate, that it is not impossible to foresee a decision of a greater majority striking down the mandate alone, along with dicta asking the congress to do their job, and fix what is left.

THAT would be the only non-political result, and it would make all the "pundits" look silly - again. Zero Base Thinkers know that the common knowledge is almost always wrong. This time, the left wing legal punditocracy was SO wrong that it, almost by itself, proves that all the recent studies of liberals vs. conservatives are right when they present findings that conservatives know much better what liberals believe than liberals can divine what conservatives are thinking. If they do not believe that conservatives seek justice or clean air and water, it is easier to understand why they had no clue that a majority of SCOTUS believes that the constitution is serious when it limits the central government.

If you think that this characterization is unfair, consider this: when was the last time that the conservative movement got caught as flatfooted as liberals did over the Obamacare critiques? Liberals do seem to tend to get unpleasantly surprised a lot.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Many Blacks Still Don't Get It

Many Blacks Still Don't Get It

A piece making the rounds of the web lately is written by an accomplished young black woman, Reniqua Allen. She has apparently assimilated into successful corporate life, but something within her is wired wrong. She can not take success, but is mired within a mental trap that is holding her back. For want of a better phrase, we can call it her ghetto values.

All previous generations and races and creeds that have made it into the mainstream have managed to remember who they were, even as they became Americans. This black woman, and apparently quite a few others, can not escape their mental prison. I do not know why this is so, but if survivors of the Khmer Rouge can assimilate, if holocaust survivors and genocide and famine refugees can bring unhyphenated Americans into the world, why are the blacks having such a hard time of it?

She writes:
A few weeks ago, I was standing outside a posh bar on the Lower East Side of Manhattan with my friends of almost two decades. I made an offhanded comment about the ratio of blonde-haired-blue-eyed chicks to brown girls like me. It seemed like a zillion to one.

My pals, who are white, didn’t get why I was bringing this up. “No one cares about race except you,” one said.

I tried to explain my frustration with having to always choose between an all-black experience or being the “only one,” whether at work, in grad school or even out for a night in New York. I waited for a nod of sympathy; instead, my best friend threw her hands up and said: “How can we all be racist? Look at who is president!”

I didn’t have a response.

Right now the nation has embarked on a massive conversation about race surrounding the tragic death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Florida. On Friday, President Obama weighed in. “I think all of us have to do some soul searching to figure out: How does something like this happen?” he said.
I can answer his question easily. I suspect most Americans can. Bad things happen to people all the time. The reason we even know about Trayvon Martin is the subtext of those who will not allow this incident to pass without exploiting it. The subtext of the Trayvon Martin case has nothing to do with the two people involved in that unfortunate event, it is all about race hustlers exploiting the death of that young man for their own purposes, but more important, it is about the mob mentality of those who, all evidence to the contrary, will not let this thing go.

Reniqua Allen wants to have a conversation about race, and she should have it, but this one has nothing to do with the unhyphenated Americans. It is a necessary conversation that must be had between African-Americans.

She makes many false assumptions. For example:
I have encountered many people who seem to believe, subconsciously or not, that Obama’s win is proof that America has reached the mountaintop. What more is there to say about race, they ask me, after this country so proudly and overwhelmingly elected a black president? They cite success stories as disparate as Oprah Winfrey, Jay-Z and former Time Warner chief Dick Parsons. But Oprah’s billions don’t counteract the dire poverty and unemployment rates in the black community.­

Even the most well-intentioned white people, who fundamentally understand the challenges of race in America, often can’t understand why race, as a subject to wrestle with, can never be “over.” They can’t understand what it’s like to walk down the street and have someone fear you just because of your race. Or to go to your doctor’s office after-hours to pick something up and have someone think you’re the maid. Or to have someone give you a virtual pat on the head for being “articulate.”

And they certainly won’t admit that thugged-out guys scare them. Or that if they saw a young black man in a hoodie walking in their neighborhood, like Martin was in his father’s neighborhood outside Orlando last month, they wouldn’t call 911 but they might cross the street.
Guess what Reniqua? You and yours are just not that special. We all have faced this stuff. I have been terrified by thugs of all races. In high school the Chinese boys from Chinatown were a formidable force that altered my path from the closest subway station to one further off, but in the other direction. There was some serious trouble with the Italian thugs as well. Yet, when the object is a black man, I am not supposed to notice? But that is exactly the point, Reniqua. I am not supposed to notice, and for the most part, I do not. But the point of your essay is that I must. That the black experience is somehow different, somehow special, and that your problems are mine. Well, guess what? They are not mine. I have never done anything to you or yours, and no ancestor of mine has either. My father was the first member of his family to even see a black man. When he arrived in America, he was too busy coping with his own assimilation to bother with yours.

Racial politics is a name for a weapon wielded by your side, not ours. We DID elect a black man, and his failure in that office is not protected by his race. We are treating him like a man, not like a black man. Isn't that the point? Race is so 20th century. Most Americans are over it. Some blacks are unhappy about that. This is somewhat like what happened to feminism. Feminists wanted women to be treated equally, but when they had seen that in the flesh, many still wanted a man to pick up the check, to open the door, to take charge.

Many blacks need to understand that this has moved out of the mainstream. You guys are another ethnic minority, just like most of the rest of us. If there is a problem within your ethnic culture, it is for you to discover what it is, and fix it if you can. Black kids getting killed is a problem, but almost all of them are killed by other blacks. White America can not fix that. Lord knows we tried, which is why almost half our prison population is black. The killing needs to stop, but to the extent that it is a product of black or ghetto culture, it is up to you, not me, to solve it. President Obama is in a fine position to help with that. To the extent that his performance in that regard disappoints you, join the club.

Update: Reverend C.L.Bryant hits similar notes on CNN.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Liberalism as Religion

Liberalism as Religion

If you do not receive Jonah Goldberg's weekly email missive, "The Goldberg File," you should. It comes every Friday and, no matter what else it brings, it always has a fresh take on something, always some laughs, but often it contains an exposition of a searing truth. I do not know how to describe Jonah pithily, he defies easy description, but one of the hats he wears is clearly that of political philosopher.

I often feel the impulse to link to a G-File post, but alas, they are not available online. Last Friday's email arrived hard on the heels of Andrew Breitbart's passing, and I have had a hard time with it. Maybe it is my own age, but it seems that there are more and more deaths of important people lately. The very randomness of life and death can get a man down, but then it is time to remember the dictum "Illegitimi non Carborundum," and go on.

In that spirit, and with those provisos, I quote here extensively from last Friday's G-File a riff on a favorite meme - politics as religion, as practiced by the liberal left.

by Jonah Goldberg at National Review Online-

I wrote my column today about Andrew. It tries to make the point I struggled making on Fox yesterday. Andrew's great strength was that he rejected the authority of those who didn't deserve it. He was like a mark who realizes he's been conned for years, an acolyte who wakes up and realizes he's a member of a cult. It was as if Andrew woke up one day and said, "Your magic -- i.e. your liberal guilt, your false charges of racism, your threats to deny me success in your system -- it just doesn't work on me anymore." He was free from the bad juju and had no fear of it.

It's a worldview I'm deeply sympathetic to, I hope for at least somewhat understandable reasons. It certainly explains why he loved Liberal Fascism and helped to promote it. He loved learning about how long liberals have been running some of these cons.

Anyway, enough about that for now.

On Political Religions
Speaking of Liberal Fascism, one of its core themes -- and mine -- is that modern liberalism is a political religion.

That's why I've been so intrigued and frustrated by the discussion around Rick Santorum and his various comments, including: His ham-fisted remarks about wanting to vomit after reading JFK's church-state speech, his defense of religious freedom, his insistence that Obama's environmental theology is "not a theology based on Bible. A different theology," his claim that David Axelrod is the reincarnated snake God Thulsa Doom. These have all sparked controversy, save for the last one, which I simply wish Santorum said.

I basically agree with the substance behind everything Santorum has said in this regard, even if I think his phrasing, timing, tactics, tone, tenor, and emphasis leave something to be desired. How's that for an "I agree with you in principle but . . . " statement?

The idea that liberalism is a political religion is not an obscure contention of crackpots -- even if I do hold it. As I've argued -- some would say incessantly -- the Progressives saw their political movement as a fundamentally religious one.

The 1960s have been seen by many liberal and leftist intellectuals as a religious awakening. As I wrote in LF:

The religious character of modern liberalism was never far from the surface. Indeed, the 1960s should be seen as another in a series of "great awakenings" in American history -- a widespread yearning for new meaning that gave rise to a tumultuous social and political movement. The only difference was that this awakening largely left God behind. Paul Goodman, whose 1960 Growing Up Absurd helped launch the politics of hope in the first part of the decade, came to recognize in the second half how insufficient his original diagnosis had been: "I . . . imagined that the world-wide student protest had to do with changing political and moral institutions, to which I was sympathetic, but I now saw [in 1969] that we had to do with a religious crisis of the magnitude of the Reformation in the fifteen hundreds, when not only all institutions but all learning had been corrupted by the Whore of Babylon."

And a bit later:

In 1965 Harvey Cox, an obscure Baptist minister and former Oberlin College chaplain, wrote The Secular City, which turned him into an overnight prophet. Selling more than one million copies, The Secular City argued for a kind of desacralization of Christianity in favor of a new transcendence found in the "technopolis," which was "the place of human control, of rational planning, of bureaucratic organization." Modern religion and spirituality required "the breaking of all supernatural myths and sacred symbols." Instead, we must spiritualize the material culture to perfect man and society through technology and social planning. In The Secular City "politics replaces metaphysics as the language of theology." Authentic worship was done not by kneeling in a church but by "standing in a picket line." The Secular City was an important intellectual hinge to the transition of the 1960s (though we should note that Cox recanted much of its argument twenty years later).

"Man is homo religiosus, by 'nature' religious: as much as he needs food to eat or air to breathe, he needs a faith for living," wrote the late Will Herberg.
As the Chestertonian line goes, if man stops believing in God, he won't believe in nothing he'll believe in anything. You can make a religion out of anything. That doesn't mean it won't be a stupid religion. People have worshipped all sorts of crazy stuff, including tree stumps. But just because it's stupid to worship tree stumps, doesn't mean you won't piss off tree-stump worshippers if you desecrate their stumps. And it doesn't mean the Holy Faith of Tree Stumpers won't see competing faiths as a threat to their own.

I could go on. Really. ("Please, no more about Immanentizing the Eschaton, please." -- The Couch.) I honestly think that today's liberals have little to no conception of how liberalism has become a religion unto to itself. Indeed, modern politics could be seen as "a chapter in the history of religion."

This is a huge, fundamental, first-order point about the state of contemporary life that we don't have nearly the vocabulary to discuss adequately. And that's why Rick Santorum's discussion of this stuff is so frustrating: because he's right, and yet neither he nor the rest of us have the vocabulary to discuss it easily.

If you clear the public square of what we traditionally call religion -- Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Mormonism, Buddhism etc. -- we will not have a public square free of religion. We have a public square full of religion fighting under the false flag of "secular values" -- with no opposing sources of moral authority to resist it.The utopianism, millenarianism and radical egalitarianism at the emotional core of liberalism are fundamentally religious in nature. That doesn't mean liberalism is evil or totalitarian. But it is less than totally self-aware. The nice thing about traditional religion is you know where it comes from. The unwritten faith of liberalism masquerades in the costumes of modernity, progress, social justice and the like without recognizing that liberalism requires leaps of faith, too.

Liberalism's lack of self-knowledge about its nature makes it very powerful and very dangerous. Liberals can simply claim -- without seeming like they're lying, because they actually believe it -- that they are cold, rational presenters of fact and decency. Comte's "religion of humanity" has forgotten that it is a religion at all. But forgetting something doesn't make it any less real. Wile E. Coyote forgets there's no land underneath him. His ignorance doesn't keep him aloft.

This is how the New Class of experts and helping professions become secular priests of a wholly political religion. We confuse credentials for ordinations, regression analyses for consecrations. And without a conception of a higher authority, without a more enduring and transcendent dogma to inform our consciences, we are left following the captains of rudderless ships leading us to ruin.

Ethicists for the Slaughter of Innocents
For instance, ethicists at Oxford have now declared babies -- babies! -- are "morally irrelevant" creatures that can be killed without consequence by their parents. This would be horrifying and repugnant enough, save for the fact that among the core missions of the progressive state is to supplant the role and authority of parents.

Follow the logic of secular priests as far as it will go, and you have the recipe for a modern Sparta that makes talk of death panels seem cautious and optimistic.

You can subscribe to the G-File, and a lot more, at National Review.