Archive for April, 2008

Faith v. Science – A Take on the Red-State/ Blue State Divisions

Posted in 2008 Presidential Election, Political Philosophy with tags , , on April 29, 2008 by plinynovo

“Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts.” Many conservative commentators are fond of using the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s quote to chastise liberals for alleged fallacious arguments.  I would caution them to be mindful of another oft-used proverb; “it is like the pot calling the kettle black.”  While I could list countless examples of conservative voters relying upon erroneous assumptions (the high percentage of Bush voters who continue to believe in Hussein’s WMDs and that Iraq participated in the 9/11 attacks come easily to mind), I wish to focus on another “fact” which is dear to many Evangelical Christians.  Since the 1980s, Evangelical Christians have been credited with assuring victories for conservative candidates in five of the seven presidential elections. Emboldened by these successes, evangelicals are seeking to flex their political muscle (to spend their political capital) and once again advance the claim that ‘creationism’ stands on equal, if not firmer, scientific ground than does evolution.  These individuals accept as fact a literal reading of the creation story told in the Book of Genesis.  These people are entitled to their own opinions, but not to their own facts.  It is fact that the earth is billions of years old, not thousands.  It is a fact that earth was not created in six earth days (which in and of itself, is a rather circular reference, because what is an earth day, before the earth was created).  A literal reading of the Adam and Eve story is not supportable.  These are facts and school children, are entitled to the facts, not to a Taliban style conservative religious indoctrination.  

 

I do not discount the sincerity of the evangelicals’ beliefs; I do, however, disagree with their attempt to force their faith upon the rest of the nation.  I am a Christian.  I believe that God created the earth; I believe that the Book of Genesis is divinely inspired and does relate certain truths.  I, however, do not believe that it imparts a scientific statement of creation.  I liken it to a common answer a parent gives his or her five-year-old child to the age-old question, “where do babies come from?”  Few parents will respond with a detailed discussion of reproductive biology, vivid descriptions of sexual acts, and even fewer will delve into the complex nature of cellular division. A five years old does not need to hear details of sexual acts and most probably could not understand them if told.  Most such parents see the question as calling for something else and will reassure the child that he or she was born out of love, was terribly wanted and is extraordinarily special.  This is what the child wants to know and needs to hear.  God, as a parent, knew what the people of Israel needed to hear, and I believe that Genesis tells that story.  As with the parent’s story, Genesis is spiritually correct, emotionally correct and an honest statement of what the faithful needed to be told and what they could understand at the time. It is not however, a statement of scientific fact, anymore than is a claim that babies are brought by storks.

 

My views of Genesis are just that, my views, my opinions.  I am entitled to them, but I am not entitled to impose them upon others of any faith, or of no faith. Nor are the Evangelicals similarly entitled.  The genius of our Constitution is that is that it separates the public sphere from that of the religious.  As we go forward, we must be ever mindful of this original intent of the framers.  I suspect that on Election Night in 2008, I will watch the electoral map light up much (if not exactly, as it did in 2004.  Then as I watched the blue and red states light up on the national map, I realized that we are two Americas, not the rich versus the middle class as John Edwards argued, not even the religious versus the secular as the media now claims, but rather one America that is comprised of people of faith and without faith who accept science and a second America of people who chose do disregard science.  As much as I would like to pretend otherwise this division is also a fact, and as I stated earlier I am not entitled to my own facts, but must rather accept this.  The question I ask myself is where do we go from here.  This requires that I recognize other facts – I am not going to be able to convince the Evangelicals that they are wrong, nor are they going to convert me.  Sadly this division will be with us for a very long time. If not checked this division will, if not literally, figuratively tear this nation apart.  We have learned that the Evangelicals will vote against their economic interest to advance their cultural aims.  I must admit that I will do the same.  Both red voters and blue voters now see that economy and even the Iraqi war are less important than what has been dubbed the “culture war.”  Neither side is prepared to give in.  This is a recipe for disaster.  One, which I fear, may come unless something changes.

 

Accepting these facts leads me to a single conclusion. The problem is that the two Americas each are, at the core of their existence, operating not with merely different philosophies or opinions based upon interpretation of the facts, but rather each America begins its analysis of the world situation with different facts.  At this point it useful ask the question, “what is a “fact.”  The Oxford English Dictionary defines “fact” as

 

[s]omething that has really occurred or is actually the case; something certainly known to be of this character; hence, a particular truth known by actual observation or authentic testimony, as opposed to what is merely inferred, or to a conjecture or fiction; a datum of experience, as distinguished from the conclusions that may be based upon it.

Facts therefore are the foundation of all discussion.  They form the basis from which opinions are formed, arguments made and conclusions reached.  Two people who agree upon the facts can, and often do, draw different conclusions, but they can talk and listen.  People who disagree upon the facts can only pull their hair out and see the other as misguided or worse.  Those of us who accept the scientific model derive our facts from observation, from inspection, from the scientific method.  We may be liberal or conservative, but we operate with a basic set of facts from which we proceed to argue.  Our disagreements may be heated, but they are capable of resolution and compromise.  Even when we loose an argument (or an election) with another possessing this worldview, we can admit defeat and go on to fight another day.  Similarly those whose worldview leads them to factual determinations based upon the revealed truth of the Bible can also, within their ranks, engage in meaningful discussion and argument.  Within each group Senator Moynihan was correct.  The problem arises, however, that the two groups cannot argue rationally with each other; they cannot compromise on issues if they cannot agree upon the facts. Between the two groups, however, there can be no meaningful discussion.  On a host of issues, this is where we find ourselves.  While we may not be entitled to our own facts, but we have them.

 

I wish that I could state as fact that I knew the solution; I cannot, but I do have an opinion. Many on the left will cringe when I mention my proposed solution, but I ask them to hear me out.  States’ Rights – yes the battle cry of the segregationist right in years past.  I propose that it is in the 10th Amendment that we find our uneasy peace. Since its inception, this nation has been divided, over slavery and race relations, over agrarian and industrial ways of live, over religion, over immigration over countless issues, there have always been two Americas.  The framers recognized this and provided for it.  They created and guaranteed a federal system of government, with State and local governments regulating the overwhelming majority of issues.  On most questions, South Carolina could go its way while Vermont went its.  Under the original framers’ intent it would be the states that dealt with marriage, education, most criminal law, torts and the countless other matters which preoccupy our daily lives.  The national government was to focus solely on a short list of truly national concerns, war/peace, international relations, the currency etc.  If we are to live together we should return to this principal.  Let Massachusetts legalize gay marriage, let California conduct stem-cell research, let other states take contrary views and get these arguments out of the national debate. These issues must be left totally to the states.  Those like myself can live happily in the Northeast and the Evangelicals can do likewise in Kansas and Oklahoma.  This is not an ideal solution and will require blue voters in red states, and visa-versa, to endure local governments making policies with which they disagree.  But it will maintain the peace and allow our future national elections to focus solely on national issues, such as the war and international policy. 

 

Thus, you may ask as I really writing on the “No” or the “Yes” side of this debate.  Maybe you will think me a bit like Hillary Clinton (speaking on driver’s licenses for undocumented aliens) but I will say that while I am strongly opposed to the teaching of creationism, I believe that it should be a local issue and believe in the end that those schools who teach science will, in the end, win out as it will be they that are able to better prepare our youth for the world they live in and the marketplace of ideas will force the correct choice.  In the mean time each of us needs to focus on more important issues.

 

 

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After Wright – Better for Obama to have been a Muslim?

Posted in 2008 Presidential Election with tags , , on April 29, 2008 by plinynovo

 

For the past few months, I have noted deranged bloggers claiming that Barack Obama is Muslim because of his middle name and because of the fact that the father that he did not know was a lapsed Muslim.  I at first laughed and then cringed, as the rumors seemed to grow, especially after Clinton’s halfhearted repudiation of such rumors, “he is not a Muslim, as far as I know.”  My discomfort came from my libertarian beliefs (I understand how deeply personal and powerful a person’s religion can be.  I absolutely support a person living and practicing any religion or no religion.  But I also, firmly believe that there shall be no religious test for public office and that the wall of separation between church and state must be vigorously defended).  Therefore, these accusations troubled me two fold, one because they were false, and secondly, and for me more importantly, they sent a message to those who are Muslims that neither they nor their children could truly participate in the American Dream.  The bloggers were in fact proving that no matter what the Constitution says, there is a religious test for holding public office.

 

Why am I writing this, because following the last three appearances of Jeremiah Wright, I found myself wishing that Obama were a Muslim.  The overwhelming majority of Muslims are good, honest people whose theology, while different than mine, is neither hostile nor divisive.  This is true of most Christians, Jews, Buddhist, Hindus and other religions.  Unfortunately it is not true of Wright’s theology.  In his speeches Wright, proved that the clips shown constantly over the past months were taken out of context, and that putting them in context was worse.  Appearing before the NAACP and the National Press Club, he belittled any Christianity other than his own; he repeated outlandish claims about HIV; he showed disdain for all that disagree with him.  And he abandoned and disowned his most famous parishioner, Barack Obama, with an under tone of hostility that to be kind, was un-Christian. 

 

While I do not agree with all of Obama’s issues, I do agree with much of his central appeal – healing the nation’s divisions (red and blue, black and white, straight and gay, urban and rural, north and south, etc), ending the war in Iraq, and changing the climate of Washington.  

 

Well now is the time for Obama to put his money where his mouth is.  He has an opportunity to begin showing how to heal our divisions.  He must call Wright what he is.  Yes he is a man, who grew up in a culture, which hated him for his skin color.  How did he deal with that horrible situation? He retreated into himself and came out turning that hate back on others – some of whom hated him, but most of whom were not born and did nothing to him.  Hate breads hate, it is true; but a true Christian does not let hate consume him. A true Christian calls hate what it is.  This is what Obama must do.  The hardest test is when demonstrating that requires a person to cast out a friend, a family member, or a pastor.  It is time for Obama to show that he is a true Christian.

Jeremiah Wright throws Obama under the bus

Posted in 2008 Presidential Election with tags , , , on April 29, 2008 by plinynovo

Jeremiah Wright played a three game series three game series this weekend.  But unlike baseball, he was playing four other teams – Obama, Clinton, McCain and the fourth team, other voices within the Black Church in the US.  And this game is on points.  Here is my score card:

 Game One (Bill Moyer) 

          Wright (+1)

         Obama (-1)

         Clinton (even)

         McCain (+1)

         Black Church (+1)

 

Game Two (NAACP)

          Wright (-3)

         Obama (-3)

         Clinton (+1)

         McCain (+3)

         Black Church (-2)

 

Game Three (National Press Club)

          Wright (-5)

         Obama (-10)

         Clinton (+3)

         McCain (+5)

         Black Church (-5)

 I know that above stats are not scientific, but they sum up my overall view of this debacle.  Wright’s motivations are unclear, but it seems as if he views himself as some martyr and is enjoying playing the role.

 As I watched the Reverend, I could only wonder if Wright wants racial reconciliation.  It has often been said that workers at the American (pick your ailment) who live off of fund raising might not truly work for a cure as if they found it, they would be out of a job.  I wonder the same about Wright.  His entire life has been spent fighting racism.  As this nation moves beyond race, he finds himself loosing power.  Only if Obama looses, can Wright be relevant.  Therefore Wright may be working for self-preservation. 

“One Nation Under CCTV”

Posted in Privacy with tags , , on April 28, 2008 by plinynovo

Found on Katsie, a U.K. artist protests the Surveillance Society.  Banksy has pulled off one of his most daring stunts to date – an enormous protest against Britain’s surveillance society painted just feet from a CCTV (Closed-circuit television) surveillance camera. Believed to be his biggest work yet in central London, the secretive graffiti artist managed to erect three storeys of scaffolding behind a security fence despite being watched by a CCTV camera.”  

After Wright’s speech, my advise to Obama – Debate

Posted in 2008 Presidential Election with tags , , , on April 28, 2008 by plinynovo

After watching Reverend Wright’s speech to the NAACP dinner in Detroit, I can give you my first reactions.  First and foremost, no matter what value or lack of value is present in Wright’s speech, we all know that the cable news networks will spend the next week discussing nothing else.  No matter what Obama says on any other issue, it will be given short shrift.  If Obama wants to regain control over the dialog between now and the upcoming primaries in North Carolina and Indiana, he must do something bold.  Hillary Clinton has demanded un-moderated debates “anywhere any time.”  Before tonight I thought he was politically wise to decline her invitation.  Now, were I a political advisor to Senator Obama, I would accept and tell Hillary that he will meet her Tuesday night.  Why? First, in an un-moderated debate one can assume that Hillary will steer clear of the ABC style issues (and if she does go there, she will likely suffer more damage than will he).  Secondly, and more importantly, the debate will get Wright off the TV screens and allow Obama to speak to his issues.  If he fails to do this, I, once again as the hypothetical political advisor, would tell the Senator, that he has lost a week of coverage, and the primaries are in 9 days.

 

I will have more to say on the content of Wright’s speech tomorrow after I have digested it a bit more.  I will say that at points I was very impressed with him and at others, I was disturbed. 

Ron Paul supporters shut down state GOP Convention

Posted in 2008 Presidential Election with tags , , on April 27, 2008 by plinynovo

Here is an interesting development from Nevada.  It appears that Ron Paul delegates to the State Convention were able to overcome John McCain and were on the verge of increasing their number of delegates to the national convention.  Rather than accept this, the Nevada Republican Party shut down the convention.  Here is the AP article.

RENO, Nev. (AP) — Outmaneuvered by raucous Ron Paul supporters, Nevada Republican Party leaders abruptly shut down their state convention and now must resume the event to complete a list of 31 delegates to the GOP national convention.

Outnumbered supporters of expected Republican presidential nominee John McCain faced off Saturday against well-organized Paul supporters. A large share of the more than 1,300 state convention delegates enabled Paul supporters to get a rule change positioning them for more national convention delegate slots than expected.

Hillarys and Huckabees

Posted in 2008 Presidential Election, Political Philosophy with tags , , , , , on April 27, 2008 by plinynovo

In his excellent op-ed piece, The Hiilarys and the Huckabees, David Boaz, lays out the dilemma  for modern American Libertarians.  The democratic establishment has become the ‘mommy party’ content to take care of citizens as if they were children, making sure they make the’ right’ decisions and the republican establishment, influenced by the religious right and the neo-cons has become the ‘daddy party’ trying to discilpine the population in order to stamp out sin.  Boaz writes:

 

The “Huckabees” want to censor cable television because they don’t think you can be trusted to decide what your family should watch. They support bans on drugs, pornography, gambling and violent video games because you just don’t know what’s good for you. They want prayer in the schools and sound science out. They want to subsidize heterosexual marriage and ban gay marriage. They want government to take the place of God and stamp out sin on earth. Former Sen. Rick Santorum, a classic Huckabee, complains about “this whole idea of personal autonomy, … this idea that people should be left alone.”

The “Hillarys,” meanwhile, want to raise taxes because they think they can spend your money more wisely than you can. They don’t believe in school choice because you don’t know how to choose a school for your children. They think they can handle your retirement savings and health care better than you can. They think, as Hillary Clinton has advocated, that the government should produce video lectures on how to burp a baby and how to brush your teeth and have them “running continuously in doctors’ offices, clinics, hospitals, motor vehicle offices, or any other place where people gather and have to wait.”

 

As a libertarian, at election time, I used to find myself choosing between three bad choices:  (1) vote third party, knowing that my vote will not count, (2) vote democratic and betray my principals of economic freedom while at least slowing the most draconian intrusions into my personal social freedoms, or (3) voting republican and betraying my social values while generally limiting intrusion into the economic sphere.  Recently however, the republicans have made that choice somewhat easier.  The current Bush administration, I would argue has become the ‘mommy and daddy’ (perhaps we should call it the ‘traditional family’) – seeking to control all aspects of my life.

 

If the John McCain of 2000 was running in 2008, I might have some hope that the Republican Party had seen the error of its ways under Bush, but the McCain we see now, promises to be a continuation of the new Republicanism.  Hillary on the other hand, is the uber-‘mommy’ seeking to force us into an ever increasing collectivization of our society. 

 

This election, I will still have a hard choice, but there will only be two options, (1) vote libertarian or (2) vote Obama.