Friday, December 19, 2008

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The death of compassionate conservatism

Michael Gerson tackles his critics in yesterday's column.
Far from being a vague, weepy tenderness, compassionate conservatism has a rigorous definition. It teaches that the pursuit of the common good is a moral goal. It asserts that this goal is best achieved through strong families, volunteer groups and communities that all deserve legal deference and respect. But it also accepts that when local institutions fail — a child is betrayed by a consistently failing school, a state passes a Jim Crow law, a nation is helpless to tackle a treatable disease — the federal government has a responsibility to intervene.

Instead of being a "romantic cult,” compassionate conservatism is often motivated by an ancient orthodoxy: that God is somehow found especially incarnate in the poor and weak. Instead of being a "sentiment,” it is a conviction: that government can be a noble enterprise when it applies creative conservative and free-market ideas to the task of helping those in need.

This, of course, implies a critique of traditional or libertarian conservatism. Tradition often contains stores of hidden wisdom — but in the absence of moral vision, it can become warped and oppressive. The free market is the best way to distribute goods and services — but its triumph is not always identical to justice. Conservatism is essential — and incomplete.

The moral commitments that underlie compassionate conservatism will not fade with the passing of a political figure, party or ideology, because these beliefs stand in eternal judgment of all ideologies, including conservatism. And no matter how hard you try, you cannot bury what cannot die.
"The moral commitments that underlie compassionate conservatism" - in other words, altruism - are directly responsible for the federal government ballooning out of control under Democratics and Republicans alike - including Bush - over the past 8 years. They are directly responsible for the current economic crisis and appear likely to be continued - well, at least the "compassionate" part - by Obama.

This situation would not have resulted under a federal government strictly limited to the protection of individual rights, as demanded by Objectivism's morality of rational self-interest.

Gerson does not mention it, but I have to wonder if he actually approves of this growth of government.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

If Nature has Rights . . .

. . . It also has Responsibilities!

And just what might those be?

Check out the (hilarious) comments to an unnerving post on NoodleFood:
Nature Gets Legal Rights in Ecuador
Terrific intellectual ammunition, too!

An Oklahoman gets it

Here's a terrific letter in today's The Oklahoman. Mr. Harding just made my day!

It’s a mental illness

The Environmental Protection Agency is kicking around the idea of taxing cattle at $175 per head, due to concerns that methane gas produced by cows contributes to global warming. U.S. Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York says the idea stinks. No pun intended I’m sure.

Estonia has already passed such a tax. New Zealand kicked around the idea a year after joining the Kyoto protocol fiasco. The good news is that 650 dissenting International scientists from around the globe are set to challenge the climate change claims made by Al Gore and others. One of these scientists, a former Nobel Prize winner for physics, Ivar Giaever, states, "I am a skeptic ... Global warming has become a new religion.”

It’s not a new religion. It’s a mental illness that anti-capitalism socialists have seized upon. They’ve skillfully exploited those who are eager to believe humans (especially Americans), and now cattle, are to blame for climate change no matter how ridiculous the claims are. We’ve already seen the cost of goods and services driven up needlessly by unproven science.

It’s indeed time for change: Let’s get back to science based on facts, not opinions by those with political agendas.

David Harding, Moore

Friday, December 12, 2008

Wedge Strategy and the FCC

I would like to direct your attention to two posts from Adam Reed at Born To Identify:

First is Part Four of his series on Wedge Strategy. It's the final installment & I should have posted about it sooner - it's been up since Monday.

Second is a brand new post exploring implications of the FCC's "free" Internet proposal & why it might not be free at all.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

No sale?

Indications I've seen point to continued opposition to bailouts on the part of the American people - which Congress continues to ignore.

One thing which occured to me as I read Walter Williams' op-ed on the subject this morning: if Congress bails out Detroit despite American opposition, what makes them think Americans will want to buy their cars? If Americans are opposed to the bailout, might that opposition lead them to reject Detroit's products?

If GM, Ford and Chrysler's sales tank as a result, what was the point of the bailout?

Monday, December 8, 2008

Whole Foods build healthy spines

A company is actually standing up to the government:
Whole Foods sues FTC, says agency violated rights

WASHINGTON (AP) — Natural grocer Whole Foods is suing the Federal Trade Commission, saying the regulator violated its due process rights in an antitrust dispute.

Whole Foods Markets Inc. acquired Wild Oats Markets in 2007 but has been in legal battle with the FTC since then over the deal. An administrative hearing on the case was scheduled to be held in February.

Whole Foods says in a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court Monday that the FTC is pre-judging the facts and rushing the case to trial.

Lawyers for Whole Foods say it is the first case of its kind against the FTC in nearly 50 years.

Morality and politics

I received an email this morning that got me a little exercised. It contained the text of a letter to the editor that makes some points that I can agree with.

What I DO NOT agree with is the title:

Gay marriage not a moral issue

To the editor:

I am writing in response to recent letters to the editor that have questioned the rights of gay men and women in our country. Gay marriage is a civil liberties issue, a constitutional issue. It is not a question of who feels comfortable with homosexuality.

It is not a question about whether you are a tolerant person. It is not a question for churches to debate, nor is it a question of whether you think being gay is right or wrong, a choice or not, good or bad. Gay marriage is about granting human beings equality before the law. And equality in a democracy is supposed to be a given.

If Lyndon Johnson had put the Civil Rights Act to a public vote, it would have failed. Potentially, we would still live in a racially segregated world. My anger with the outcome of Prop. 8 is that the question of equality before the law was left to the public to decide.

The federal government, acting under the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment, needs to take the lead and pass the kind of legislation that Johnson did, legislation that was controversial in the same states where gay marriage is controversial but that no one today would question.

People in this country are free to think that those who are gay are somehow inferior to them. They can carry that hatred to their graves if they wish. What they can’t do is limit the rights of other citizens — the right to file joint tax returns, the right to name beneficiaries in their wills without question, the right to take leave from work when a partner is sick or dies, the right to be happy.

The issue is a legal one, not a moral one, and to be against gay marriage is to disenfranchise a large number of people in the same way women and African Americans were denied their rights for centuries. Someday we will look back on this era and feel ashamed for our stance. My hope is that that day comes soon.

Jennifer Sinor
Here is what I wrote in response (to the person who sent me the email):

Gay marriage is a moral issue - and it must be fought for on that basis as a pre-condition of any political progress.

Is it moral for two people of the same gender who fall in love and decide they are going to spend the rest of their lives with each other to desire marriage?


If it is not moral for two people of the same gender to marry, it is not moral for them to love each other - meaning it is not moral for them to be homosexual.

Is it immoral for anyone to seek to prevent two people of the same gender who love each other from getting married?


The person who would deny Gays and Lesbians their rights as individual human beings would deny any one else their rights. Such a person sees rights as conditional, not absolute - as privileges subject to society's whim, not requirements of survival demanded by human nature and the nature of reality.

If Gay marriage is to succeed as a political crusade, it MUST be upheld and defended by a moral crusade - which MUST be based on the recognition that HOMOSEXUALITY IS MORAL!

Rob Abiera

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Oklahoma's Republicans

The national Republican Party suffered the consequences of former chair Ed Gillespie's declaration that "The Republican Party no longer stands for small government." Under the guise of "compassionate conservatism", the federal government under Bush expanded at an unprecedented rate. They thought they could have their cake and eat it, too - which resulted in disaster on Election Day.

If the Republican Party in Oklahoma goes down this same path, they will ultimately be forced to choose between smaller government and moral bureaucracy. They cannot have both. If they truly desire smaller government, they must give up their desire to impose their religious morality by force, which they cannot do without the additional bureaucracy required by moral police. If they truly desire moral bureaucracy, they must give up any thought of controlling the growth of government.

If the Republicans allow Oklahoma's government to expand out of control, they will suffer the same fate as the national Republican Party.

Republicans and religion in Oklahoma

While voters across the nation rejected the Republican Party in this year's election, Republicans in Oklahoma swept to a majority in both houses of the state's legislature. Emboldened by their victories, Oklahoma's Republicans have set their sights on the governor's mansion - now occupied by Democrat Brad Henry, whose second term ends in 2010. Among those Republicans reportedly interested in campaigning for the governorship are Mick Cornett and Ernest Istook.

While Cornett has done some Bible-thumping in the past, he has shown definite tendencies toward pragmatism: first as a city council person and then as Mayor of Oklahoma City. The most telling incident in this regard would be his willingness to appear on television with openly-lesbian Ellen Degeneres to talk about his anti-obesity campaign. However, it is assumed by some that in 2010, in order to win the Republican primary and the election, Cornett will have to do some serious courting of Oklahoma's Religious Right.

Ernest Istook's religious credentials are not in question: Istook has a long history of pushing his fundamentalism in the form of various bills which took the effort of a great many people to keep from getting passed.

Republican theocrats are not waiting for a new governor: bills are already being filed for the next session of the legislature, and - as we have already seen - Sally Kern has wasted no time in reviving the stealth creationism bill that Henry vetoed earlier this year.

And now comes word of a new movement afoot to pack the board of the Oklahoma County Library System with fundamentalists who would do everything they could to rid Oklahoma City's libraries of everything they found offensive. I'm sure these people could make Sarah Palin look like a piker if they were allowed to have their way.

It is evident to me that perhaps the most important question that can be asked since the election is: how far will the Religious Right go to attain the power of government to force their views on Oklahoma?

And what will it take to stop them?

Monday, December 1, 2008

Here we go again

Victor Hutchison, Oklahoma's evolution activist par excellence, emailed the latest edition of his OK Evolution newsletter today. It contains the news that Sally Kern is going to try to push her 'Religious Viewpoints Antidiscrimination Act' through the next session of the legislature again.

Unfortunately, she may succeed this time, given that both houses of the legislature are now under Republican control, making them veto-proof.

Here's what Vic says in his newsletter:
. . . Oklahoma moved even further to the right of the political spectrum with every county voting for the Republican candidate for President. For the first time in State history the Republicans now control both houses of the Legislature. In the past few years the Senate controlled by Democrats often was able to stop all but one of the bad bills that would have pushed religion into the public school curriculum. The one bill that did get through last year was Rep. Sally Kern's amendment to HB 2633 that would have established the 'Religious Viewpoints Antidiscrimination Act.'

This bill would have allowed the intrusion of religion into public schools, including creationism in science classes. Kern's original bill (HB 2211) was sent by the Senate leadership to the Rules Committee to die. However, on the Senate floor the amendment (modified somewhat from the original HB 2211) was moved. Before a vote could be taken, a non-debatable motion to move the original HB 2633 forward (thus stopping the amendment) was tied 24 to 24, strictly along partisan lines. The Lt. Governor, Jari Askins, could have broken the tie, but she was not called to do so. Thus the amended HB 2211 passed and went to the Governor.

Fortunately, Governor Henry vetoed the HB 2633. He could have waited a day and gotten a ''pocket vet' but decided to kill it outright, sending a strong message. Opposition to the original bill and the amended one was strong with Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education (OESE) playing a leading role. Press releases, messages, and statements to legislators and to the Governor came from many individuals and organizations, both State and National, including Oklahoma Academy of Science, Oklahoma Science Teachers Association, OESE, Tulsa and Oklahoma Interfaith Alliances, Oklahoma Mainstream Baptists, American Association for Advancement of Science, American Institute of Biological Sciences, Americans United for Separation of Church and State (Oklahoma and National Office), National Association of Biology Teachers, and others. The main reasons the bill should have been defeated stated by these organizations were the same as those cited by the Governor in his veto message.

So, what can be expected this session? The Republican leadership has listed tort reform, changes in workers' compensation, and a 'pro-family agenda' as primary goals. Under the pro-family category we know what to expect – items on abortion, gay rights, religious initiatives such as Rep. Kerns' earlier bills with an antievolution, procreation slant that would further attack the separation of church and state.

Well, it has already happened. Oklahoma City Republican legislators Sally Kern and Mike Reynolds have filed House Bill 1001, 'Religious Viewpoints Antidiscrimination Act,' essentially the same bill with the same title that was vetoed by the Governor after the last session.

In the Kansas dust-up over creationism in their State School Board over the past few years, Governor Sebelius pointed out that the bad publicity for the State ('What's Wrong with Kansas' comes to mind) was hurting the recruitment of scientists and high-teach industry to the State. Presidents of Kansas public colleges also came out to warn of the dangers. This point should be emphasized to legislators in Oklahoma.

All the individuals and organizations that have risen to the challenge in the past to stop the religious based attacks on good science in public schools will need to mobilize again, but with a stronger effort. We will post information on bills as they are introduced and proceed through the legislative process. Remember, NUMBERS DO COUNT in influencing actions on legislative bills. Individuals can have an impact.
Looks like those of us who care about Reason in Oklahoma have our work cut out for us.

Wedge Strategy, Part 3

How do you know when a wedge strategy is being used?

Secular Arguments against Gay Marriage

And you thought you only had to worry about the religious ones. Impressive research by Flibbertigibbet.
Secular Arguments against Gay Marriage, part 1

Secular Arguments against Gay Marriage, part 2

Secular Arguments against Gay Marriage, part 3

Secular Arguments against Gay Marriage, part 4
And here's a post on another issue involving something a marriage contract apparently doesn't cover -
Spousal Evidentiary Privilege