Political Differences

Conservatives and liberals obviously see things differently, but lately I’m impressed by how their differences reflect preferences for opposing sides of the same coin. On issues from Obamacare to no-fault divorce, from abortion to welfare, our reporting and commentary reflect a choice of one value over another.

For example, conservatives see the social changes of the last half century or so and focus on how there is less cohesion, less community and stability than there was before. Their priority might be the success of the group, not the safety of the individual. “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one.”

(Ironically, conservatives seek to ensure the success of the group by preserving the freedom of the individual.)

Liberals will look at the same issues and focus on how some old problems have been at least partially alleviated for some people by the same changes. Their priority might be the safety of the individual, not the success of the group. “The needs of the one outweigh the needs of the many.”

(Ironically, liberals seek to ensure the safety of the individual by engineering wholesale change in the group.)

Perhaps this is why conservative media is more likely to report on big-picture stories of societal decline and abuse of systems, whereas liberal media is more likely to report on intimate stories of individuals being abused, but ostensibly being helped by institutional evolution.

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Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party

  • There is, of course, a major strain of thought that connects the Occupy Wall Street crowd and the Tea Party.  Though largely representing opposing sides of the political spectrum, they each have at their core an aversion to corporatism–not necessarily corporations themselves (any OWS protestor who says otherwise is likely a hypocrite), but the political culture of favors, bailouts, pork deals, corporate welfare, etc.  I’d like to see more of a conversation building on this common ground.


  • The biggest superficial difference between the two movements seems to be the penchant for violent rhetoric among OWS.  I’m not aware of any actual instances of violence, verbal or otherwise, at tea party rallies, but umpteen such cases have been recorded and broadcasted at OWS protests.  Despite the reputation that the tea party has been stereotyped with in much of the mainstream media as being full of racists and militia-types, one must remember how many would-be infiltrators have been caught and exposed as purposely trying to create that impression (remember the Oregon middle school teacher who foolishly admitted online that he was planning one such act).  I don’t know if OWS has any similar problem, but certainly I haven’t heard of any, and no rowdy hooligans at these rallies seem to be getting alienated by the rest of the crowd, as they were at Tea Party rallies.  Pictures like these, including one of an OWS protester defecating on a police car (warning: graphic), appear pretty authentic, unfortunately.  Those who are complaining about all the arrests accompanying OWS protests might do well to admit that some of these protesters simply aren’t living up to the non-violent heritage of civil disobedience. 


You Voted For Harry Reid

I have a bone to pick, but not with the many people who voted for Harry Reid because they agree with his principles.  That’s a choice of conscience, and I respect that.  Rather, I wish to criticize those who might have voted for Sharron Angle—probably even would have—but were swayed by Reid’s negative campaigning. 

Are you happy now?  Since November, Reid’s two biggest missions have been starting a crusade against rural brothels, and using his platform in the Senate to champion federal funding for cowboy poetry.  Always good to see real leaders, men with their priorities straight. 

And why is our time being wasted on such embarrassing trivia? 

Because you voted for Harry Reid. 

Reid had some of the lowest approval ratings of anyone, ever.  Angle had very high poll numbers.  But as the campaign drew to a close, the Reid machine launched an all-out professional assault on Angle’s character.  And you bought it.

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“See What’s Really There”

I’m helping teach one of my young children to read, and it’s interesting to see her make the same mistake that the older children made.  Just as many children naturally write letters backwards, they also seem inclined to read the first letter or two of a word, and then assume it’s a similar word they’re already familiar with, so they just say that word instead of reading the rest of what it actually is.  A child may see the word “became” and, after puzzling through the first two letters, find it close enough to “begin” or “belong” or whatever other word they’re comfortable with; they’ll then confidently pronounce that word and move on. 

When this happens, I repeat the patient mantra they’ve each come to expect: “Read the word that’s there, not the one you want to be there.” 

That’s not just good advice for phonics, it’s good advice for life. 

How often do we tend to skim through the superficial aspects of something and then pronounce ourselves experts, and act accordingly?  How often do we look for the few comfortable things in a complicated issue, and then link it to a familiar pattern, congratulating ourselves on another success?

Consider Head Start.  Continue reading

The Atlas Shrugged Quote Book

Recently I talked with someone who would love Ayn Rand’s prophetic dystopian classic, Atlas Shrugged, but she was daunted by its immense size.  That’s unfortunate, and it made me want to do this as a teaser to invite people in.  By no means is this a “condensed” summary of the novel, but it is a collection of my favorite, representative quotes. 

I went through my copy of the book, and I typed up the passages I’d marked which were short and especially relevant.  I had to skip ones that were long (though I did include one whole paragraph below), and items that were simply examples of excellent writing.  My choices focus on the life-affirming aspects of the text, its insistence on patriotism and how Rand’s vision brings joy to life.  Most of the quotes about music, education, and political criticism had to be left out–I wanted my collection to be no more than three pages long, and that’s what it is.  This collection represents about a quarter of what I have marked in my copy. 

The page numbers refer to the mass market paperback edition, which I believe is still the current edition in print. 

Enjoy this introduction to the awesome world of Atlas Shrugged


“We who hold the love and the secret of joy, to what punishment have we been sentenced for it, and by whom?” (69)

“The reason my family has lasted for such a long time is that none of us has ever been permitted to think he is born a d’Anconia. We are expected to become one.” (89)

“Francisco, what’s the most depraved type of human being?”

“The man without a purpose.” (98)

“One is not supposed to be intellectual at a ball. One is simply supposed to be gay.”

“How? By being stupid?” (102)

“Then why do you want to struggle for years, squeezing out your gains in the form of pennies per ton–rather than accept a fortune for Rearden Metal? Why?”

“Because it’s mine.” (172)

“Contradictions do not exist. Whenever you think you are facing a contradiction, check your premises. You will find that one of them is wrong.” (188)

“He’s the looter who thinks that his end justifies his seizure of my means.” (189, first appearance of term “looter” in text)

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The Problem With Throwing Money at Problems

There’s a dangerous floodgate opened when liberals say that throwing money at a problem will solve it.  If liberals say that spending more money on something–like health, education, or the economy–will improve it, then it follows that you should spend as much money on it as possible.

After all, if graduation rates or test scores would go up 10% if a state spends $50 million more on education, then why not spend $100 million and get even better results?  Why not spend a billion dollars—a trillion!—and get a whole nation of guaranteed geniuses? 

If a spending proponent would say that such an exaggeration is silly, I’d ask to see what evidence they have that their claims of money-based progress have noted any limits or diminishing returns.  In the absence of such, if they believe what they say they believe, it would only be reasonable to spend as much as absolutely possible on these priorities. 

This is the same problem liberals run into with things like the minimum wage.  If it’s possible to artificially demand that everybody get paid at least a certain amount so their standard of living will be adequate, why stop at just $5 or $10 dollars an hour?  Isn’t that just arbitrarily putting a ceiling on the quality of life that the working class can enjoy?  Why not make it $100 an hour?  Wouldn’t that automatically make everyone rich? 

The next time someone says that we need to spend X millions of dollars to solve a problem, my reply will be, “Only X?  If X will make it better, then we need to spend at least ten times that much—more, if we can!  Anything less would rob our precious friends of their rights!  Why don’t you care about that?  What’s wrong with your cold, evil heart?”

Egypt: Obama’s Rock and Hard Place

A lot of the media–on both sides of the aisle–are suggesting that Obama’s either doing something wrong in regard to Egypt, not doing anything, or that he should be doing something different, but never specifying what that is.  This is one case where I genuinely feel bad for him, because he’s absolutely trapped–there is no right answer here, is there? 

Mubarak has been a trusted ally for decades.  On the other hand, the voice of the people is being heard.  Obama’s response has been to diplomatically encourage the change that the protestors are agitating for; though some on the right have criticized him for it, isn’t this the essence of the Bush Doctrine in action? 

But, poor Obama; no matter what he does, everybody will be able to justify saying he’s wrong.  He can either side with the people and betray a close and old ally, or he can stand by our ally and betray democracy and the will of a people.  There’s just no way for him to win this game.

Report: State of the Union Bingo

My bingo card did very well.  I got at least 13 of the 24 terms I put down–over half! 

President Obama didn’t refer to Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell by name, but he did make a clear reference to it.  During the first half of the speech, I regretted putting “tax the rich” on my card, figuring he would never actually say it, and even though he didn’t use those three words together like that, boy did he ever come out and say that he wanted to tax the rich!

Of the ones I didn’t check off, I could probably justify at least four.  The closest he came to his phrase “Let me be clear” was “Let us be clear.”  That’s pretty dang close.  If I’d written down Tuscon instead of Arizona, I could have had bingo within the first ten minutes of the speech.  He talked about new energy sources a lot, but instead of “green,” he called it “clean.”  Close, but no cigar for me, maybe.  He also referred to the vice president, but didn’t call him by his first name.  And while he certainly addressed recovery, environment, and civility, he didn’t use those words, and it didn’t seem right to check those off.  (He discussed “cooperation” between parties, but that’s not really the same thing as civility.) 

So, here’s my final bingo card for the 2011 State of the Union:


2011 State of the Union Bingo!

That’s right, boys and girls, it’s that time of year again: time for what comedian Dennis Miller used to call “The Everything’s Going Great” Speech. 

Be sure to get your bingo card ready before President Obama gives his State of the Union speech this Tuesday night.  There are plenty of terms to put on your card and look for in the speech, and plenty of Obama bingo card generators online, but I just put this one together:


“Let me be clear”






Wall Street










     Sonya Sotomayor












Rep. Gabrielle Giffords








tax the rich




Refers to Vice President as “Joe”


health care reform






don’t ask, don’t tell

Political Baloney Detector

In The Demon Haunted World, scientist Carl Sagan described a “baloney detection kit” that he would have liked to see taught in school, with such tools as skepticism and logical fallacies to help people keep from being suckered.  It’s a great idea, and I’ve employed something similar in my readings of current events in politics.

I won’t succumb to the pressure to declare myself “independent” or “moderate,” those new buzzwords that constitute the cool meme in the political mainstream; I’m a conservative through and through.  That being said, though, that hardly means that all people or parties calling themselves that are always correct.  As I employ my Political Baloney Detector, I can spot cheap shots and see many public statements and actions for the transparent pandering they are. 

Here’s how it works: whenever a politician criticizes someone with a differing view, I ask myself how authentic the complaint would sound if the roles were reversed.  By this method, I can almost always see the playacting, and the smoke and mirrors, and not get distracted from real issues by these silly tricks.

Don’t get me wrong–many things of substance get said in our public realm, by both sides of the aisle, but they also each spew enough manure that it’s useful to be able to discount it quickly.  If a statement addresses a legitimate issue, then it needs to be analyzed and discussed on its merits, measured against principles (and that’s what our conversations should really be about–the political principles that we give priority; that’s where our disagreements come from), and I think that such a focus is important enough and demands enough energy that we owe it to our principles, if we’re serious about them, not to let ourselves be taken by the cheap tricks along the way. 

Two examples:

In December, Democrats in Congress said they’d be willing to work on Christmas to finish their work.  Continue reading

Anti-Sharron Angle Ad Ideas

Harry Reid has spent millions on slick TV and radio ads this election season, and they mostly have the same format: have a regular-Joe kind of person tell a sob story that makes a Sharron Angle position look heartless, then call her crazy and flash a heroic looking picture of Reid.  With that template in mind, here are a few more ideas Reid is free to use:


Sharron Angle voted against the Give Everybody Everything They Want All the Time Bill. All seven thousand state lawmakers except her voted for it, so it’s obvious she must be wrong. Very, very wrong.

She doesn’t want to let everybody get everything they want all the time. Sharron Angle. Dangerous ideas that are just too extreme.

I’m Harry Reid and I approve this message.


Harry Reid has repeatedly gone on record that he supports being nice to kittens and grandmas. Sharron Angle [sinister music here] has made no such declaration. Sharron Angle wants to kill kitties and nanas.

Killing kitties and nanas. And probably eating babies. Sharron Angle. Dangerous ideas that are just too extreme.

I’m Harry Reid and I approve this message.


Sharron Angle has said that government should have limits on power and spending. Isn’t that crazy? Harry Reid uses government power and spending to do all kinds of neat stuff for lots of people! Not you, but, you know, other people. People who deserve it, you can be sure of that.

Sharron Angle is worried that government power and spending should be constitutional, like the Founders intended. Clearly, she’s some kind of insane psycho. Only morons care about stuff like that.

Sharron Angle. A drooling, raving lunatic who should probably be locked up for her own good.

Paid for by the Committee of Real Super Patriots Who Actually Care About America, So Take That, You Awful Conservative Losers.


Good luck at tonight’s debate, Sharron!

Political Perspective

This blog makes no secret that my politics are very conservative.  However, it bothers me that there is so much partisanship today, not so much in party affiliation as in the right/left dichotomy itself.  People on either side in our country are deeply steeped in heaping invective on the other side, treating them like monolithic stereotypes and indulging in harsh personal judgments against them.  I admit, I do some of this too, though I’ve tried to be better. 

Last month I read The Federalist Papers, and while it definitely did strengthen my conviction of conservative principles, one passage stood out as a warning against this cultural civil war between halves of the spectrum. 

In Federalist #50, James Madison refers to a contentious political gathering to examine government workings that had occurred a few years before.  In his analysis of it and its lessons for the new Constitution, he notes that “When men exercise their reason cooly and freely, on a variety of distinct questions, they invariably fall into different opinions, on some of them.”

Perhaps the political spectrum on the 1780’s wasn’t quite as wide or diverse as ours is now, but it’s always worth reminding ourselves that those who disagree with our positions aren’t trying to subvert democracy, destroy America, establish a dictatorship, or any other such thing.  We’re all trying to do the best we can to help America, in the best ways we know how.  Our ideas may conflict, but we don’t have to.

Clark County Primary Election Endorsements

I’ve long considered myself primarily a libertarian politically, but several years ago I registered as a Republican in order to vote in primary elections for offices I otherwise wouldn’t be able to.  For instance, in November, I’ll probably vote for whichever Republican makes it through the primary to oppose Harry Reid in the Senate.  But which contender will it be?  Unless I’m registered as a Republican, I wouldn’t have a say.  So that’s pretty much why I’m a Republican. 

Early voting for our primary election started today, and I’ve spent the last week doing my homework.  Two lessons here:

  1. If you’re running for office and someone googles you just days before voting starts, and nothing comes up about you–not an interview, not a newspaper article, not a web ste, nothing, as if you aren’t even running, as if you don’t even exist–I will assume you’re not serious and will not consider you. 
  2. If you flout endorsements, make sure the organizations themselves have a useful online presence.  One seemingly worthy group giving endorsements in this primary also brings up nothing via google, and when I called the office number given on the letter reproduced on the web site of some candidates, a secretary told me there was no material to send me, and no regular meetings of their group.  Also, it looks bad if you advertise inconsistent endorsements: so a constitutional conservative group endorses you, and the SEIU?  I’m not sure what to make of that.

And here is the final list of offices open and candidates to be voted on in my county.

And here are the people I recommend:


I just wrote a post recently defending Sue Lowden, and I definitely do like her, but one person in this race definitely stands head and shoulders above the rest.  Sharron Angle’s experience, the long list of quality endorsements she can credit herself with, and the fact that her ideas are the most consistently conservative all convinced me to go with her.  Even after that, yesterday on the way home from work I heard her on the Jerry Doyle show when he asked how she would bring to Nevada the kind of influence and special favors that Harry Reid can get with his authority.

“I won’t,” Angle said in effect, explaining that Nevadans don’t want pork and earmarks for themselves; they just want to keep their money, and have the laws enforced and borders protected.  Awesome. 

Vote for: Sharron Angle


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Now You Get Mad?

Last week I saw a popular wall post on Facebook that caught my attention.  It’s a diatribe consisting of a list of perceived failures of George Bush, phrased to suggest that people should be angry about him, not at President Obama’s health care plan.  (The beginning and closing references to people being angry now make this look like it’s aimed at tea parties.)  All of these points needed clarification and some, frankly, were so off target that they begged for outright refutation.  My notes on each are below:

YOU WANT TO GET MAD? We had eight years of Bush and Cheney, but now you get mad!

1.       You didn’t get mad …when the Supreme Court stopped a legal recount and appointed a President.  The Supreme Court did not “appoint” a president; the U.S. Supreme Court merely stopped the Florida state Supreme Court from ordering an illegal recount after they had already illegally extended the deadline for a previous recount.  Gore lost all of those recounts, anyway. 

2.       You didn’t get mad when Cheney allowed Energy company officials to dictate energy policy.  Allowing experts in a field to give input is now “dictating policy?”  When did the administration copy and paste any company’s plan into law?  Liberals are supposed to love “following the money”; where are the sudden surges in energy company profits because of these alleged shady deals? 

3.       You didn’t get mad when a covert CIA operative got ousted.   Valerie Plame Wilson’s identity was revealed by anti-Iraq war State department official Richard Armitage, who was not a member of Bush’s inner circle and who resigned when Colin Powell did, who told a reporter about it as part of a conversation about her husband’s visit to Africa.  Even the Obama administration has rejected the Wilson’s attempt to sue Armitage and others for damages. 

4.       You didn’t get mad when the Patriot Act got passed.  Continue reading

Political Ecumenism

I’ve seen plenty of ecumenical books where people of different religions write explanations of their beliefs and then respond to each other with courtesy and respect, but never one for people with different political beliefs.  Both political extremes in America demonize and insult each other (and I’ve been guilty of that before, too, and need to change), but I’d love to be part of a series of essays where someone on the left and I explain where we’re coming from and discuss each other’s views.  Who thinks this is a good idea?  Who could work with me on this? 

Would there be a market for such a work, though, in our poisonous political climate, where so much of the media on both sides are heavily invested in hateful hyperbole?

And is there a political synonym for ecumenical?