Monday, June 30, 2008

Redefining Patriotism

Every Presidential election, the subject of patriotism is bandied about. I think it mostly comes from the Democrats, since they seem to on the defensive more than not on this subject. They always have to make the attempt to make sure everyone knows how patriotic they are.

I'm not going to comment much on Gen (ret) Wesley Clark's insults, which is really what they were. All they are trying to do is a feeble attempt to invalidate John McCain's military service. Good luck on that one. It may backfire.

But a lot of Democrats really don't like the military. Just look at their behavior over the war in Iraq (or any conflict we've been involved in during the last 50 years. For another recent comment by one of our distinguished members of Congress, check out Sen. Harkin here at Cassy Fiano's blog. (And I'm sure if you Google it, you'll find a lot more).

A lot of liberals just can't get patriotism, military service, or national security in the proper perspective.

I wrote this article in late 2006 about this subject. It's quite long, but I believe it provides some background on this subject.

Is patriotism morally dangerous?

(12/5/2006) -- Patriotism these days, as a word and concept, is brandished as both a thing to want and need, but also a thing to avoid. "I'm not questioning your patriotism," is heard a lot when one questions another's position on national security, the war on terror and other issues in the current debate. And of course, many will say, "Don't question my patriotism." These types of comments are heard often, especially during election campaigns.

This all comes to mind after the recent resignation of John Bolton, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. Is he a patriot, or the disaster for American foreign policy the left claims? It all comes down to whether you are a patriot or not, as patriot is defined by most common dictionaries.

In its simplest terms, patriotism is a "love of or devotion to one's country." Other definitions include the "willingness to sacrifice for it," and "national loyalty."

A synonym for patriotism is nationalism, defined as "devotion to the interests or culture of one's nation, the belief that nations will benefit from acting independently rather than collectively, emphasizing national rather than international goals."

Two antonyms for nationalism are multiculturalism -- the doctrine that several different cultures (rather than one national culture) can co-exist peacefully and equitably in a single country -- and internationalism -- the doctrine that nations should cooperate because their common interests are more important than their differences.

Under these definitions, John Bolton is a patriot, because he always puts America's interest first, above those of other countries or the United Nations has a whole. And yet, he earned respect from his fellow diplomats, as Reuter's AlertNet reports:

Bolton came to the job with a reputation for an abrasive style. But he defied many of his critics by being the only U.N. Security Council ambassador available to the press almost every day, answering countless questions and often delivering punchy sound bites that drowned out staid comments from Washington. "It is to me really disappointing to see Ambassador Bolton go," said Japan's U.N. Ambassador Kenzo Oshima.

"He has been an exceptionally skillful diplomat at the United Nations at a time when it faced very challenging issues like reform."

"In the Security Council John Bolton was spearheading a number of important issues," Oshima said, singling out a resolution to rein in North Korea's nuclear program, where "he really spearheaded this effort to get a Security Council resolution adopted in a very speedy manner."

Even the French and Chinese don't have a problem like the left do:

"He is serious about the American objectives here in reforming the United Nations, and he pushed hard," China's U.N. Ambassador Wang Guangya told reporters. "But of course sometimes in order to achieve the objective you have to work together with others."

"His style is different. He is hard-working," Wang said. "He knows the job."

Bolton also had difficulties with European ambassadors, who should have been his closest allies. But he worked intensively with France on a cease-fire resolution, 1701, to halt the Israeli-Hezbollah war in Lebanon this summer.

"I would say we have always respected each other and we were able to work together, especially on 1701," said France's U.N. Ambassador Jean-Marc de la Sabliere.

Many on the left claim that being truly patriotic can also be demonstrated by dissent or disagreement. If you love your country, then you should be willing to disagree and stand up for what you think is right. As John Collins puts it on his patriotism web site: "It is NOT unpatriotic to provide constructive criticism on policies that you disagree with." The key here is constructive criticism, not violence or illegal activities.

But when a majority of Americans vote, either in a popular election or through their elected representatives, for a certain course of action, if you work against attaining the desired goals of the majority then you cannot be called a patriot. You can disagree, but if you use anything other than the rule of law under the Constitution to get your way, you are not a patriot.

And yet when the New York Times publishes national secrets during wartime, it claims to do so out of patriotism. When our elite scholars -- and news media -- preach anti-Americanism and call the commander-in-chief the biggest terrorist in the world, they claim to do so out of a sense of patriotism. This claim of patriotism is incorrect. These types of beliefs and actions come from a belief in the moral superiority of identifying with humanity at large, rather than with their own country.

Samuel P. Huntington, a professor at Harvard, wrote in 2004 , "this proclivity flourished in the academic world in the 1990s. He cites professor Martha Nussbaum of the University of Chicago as denouncing "patriotic pride" as "morally dangerous," urging the ethical superiority of internationalism over patriotism, and argued that people should direct their "allegiance" to the "worldwide community of human beings." (Boston Review, 1994)

Professor Amy Gutmann, now the president of the University of Pennsylvania, argued that is was "repugnant" for American students to learn that they are, "above all, citizens of the United States." Gutmann recently posed at a Halloween party with a student dressed as a suicide bomber, though she later claimed was offensive to her. However, Gutmann believes that the "primary allegiance" of Americans "should not be to the United States or to some other politically sovereign community," but to "democratic humanism."

Professor Richard Sennet of New York University denounced "the evil of a shared national identity and judged the erosion of national identity as "basically a positive phenomenon."

And then Professor George Lipsitz of the University of California, San Diego, wrote "in recent years refuge in patriotism has been the first resort of scoundrels of all sorts."

I could continue with many more examples of our American "scholars," but be assured that this type of thinking -- and teaching to students -- is prevalent throughout our educational systems. It should be no surprise then that our national media, which are trained in our universities, should be of the same vein.

As the Media Research Center found:

The debate is not about whether reporters can challenge a president and his policies during a time of war. Of course they can. But the networks have chosen to highlight the complaints of those who paint the Bush administration as a danger equal to or greater than the terrorists themselves. Reporters could have spent the past five years challenging the administration with an agenda most Americans share, demanding that the government do everything within its lawful powers to protect the public and prevent another attack. Instead, liberal reporters have opted to join the ACLU in fretting that the War on Terror has already gone too far.

When you view the behavior of the media, such as the New York Times, or CNN, which recently aired a video of Iraqi insurgents (terrorists) killing a U.S. soldier, it is hard to defend their claim of objectivity and patriotism.

Victor Dale Hansen, a professor at Fresno State University, writing about the need for civic education, says:

"How, then, can we recreate civic education to help unite an increasingly fragmented society? We must reject the new cultural relativism, situation ethics and arrogant utopianism that have escaped from the university and circulate like an airborne toxin in the popular culture. Scholars must stop teaching nonsense like the idea that Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth, important though they were, affected American history more profoundly than John Adams or Alexander Hamilton, or that gansta rap is essentially no less musical than Beethoven. Rather than blame the United States for persistent imperfection, our educators should emphasize how far we have come in eradicating sins that seem intractable to much of humankind elsewhere."

Even liberal Richard Dreyfuss has concluded that our education system lacks civics education. When he was a child, Dreyfuss said, civics classes taught not only the checks and balances in government but also the reasons behind the creation of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

Huntington has concluded that the "prevalence of anti-patriotic attitudes among liberal intellectuals lead some of them to warn their fellow liberals of the consequences of such attitudes for the future not of America, but of American liberalism."

He quotes professor Richard Rorty, a leading liberal philosopher, as writing that these leftists "have done a great deal of good for...women, African-Americans, gay men and lesbians...But there is a problem with this left: it is unpatriotic."
For America's 1990s elite transnationals, however, nationalism was evil, national identity suspect, and patriotism passe," Huntington observed. Yet, journalists such as Strobe Talbott, then a writer for Time in 1992, looked forward to a future when "nationhood as we know it will be obsolete; all states will recognize a single global authority." Talbott then joined the Clinton administration as a top official directing foreign policy of the American nation he hoped would become obsolete.

But nationalism is alive and well. Huge majorities of Americans claim to be patriotic, with some polls putting this as high as 96 percent. (Though I assume that even those cited above would call themselves "patriotic" for political ends.)

Victor Ferkiss, a professor at Georgetown University, wrote in the early 1970s in favor of patriotism, even though he was promoting ecological humanism, part of which has a foundation in global interdependence. "The ancient virtue of patriotism needs to be remembered and fostered...A society based on the principles of ecological humanism will be a society not of egoistic individuals but of patriots -- on in which citizens are brought up to love the native land, to cherish its beauties, its past and its life processes...which gives its members their existence and identity and which sustains and enhances their life within its own."

If you truly believe the American Way of Life is exceptional -- not perfect, but a work in progress -- then you can't support elites in this country who espouse principles that are anti-American. Many do this in their own self-interest. But if America is to survive, we will not only have to live in the world as it really is, but we'll have to remain a sovereign nation, first and foremost.

Just as John Bolton has earned the respect he deserves from most of his colleagues by being true to his roots and standing quietly, yet firmly, can we begin to work together as a nation, and begin to work constructively with other nations to improve the world overall.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Sunday Commentary

According to the Washington Post, 80 percent of black voters in South Carolina voted for Barack Obama. So why do blacks generally support the Democrat Party? Is it just a question of race? These are questions that perplexe Larry Elder in his recent article, "How Can a ‘Fellow Black American’ Oppose Obama?" I highly recommend anyone not familiar with Larry's writings to give this one a read. He provides a short history of the two parties.

Bob Novak, in an editorial for the Washington Post this week, said Colin Powell will probably support Barack Obama. Arianna Huffington has a field day with this in her Sunday Roundup. I'm thinking of cancelling my Netflix subscription because they are a regular supporter of her site with popup ads. In reading some of the reader comments to her post, it seems liberals hate conservatives more than terrorists.

If you haven't checked out the web site "Reglion of Peace," I suggest you do. According to their research, Islamic terrorists have carried out nearly 12,000 attacks since 9/11.

The Washington Post reports that "a win for his Republican counterpart, John McCain, could mean a fundamental shift to a consistently conservative majority ready to take on past court rulings on abortion rights, affirmative action and other issues important to the right." As if that's a bad thing?

The war in Iraq is illegal and Bush lied (or at least mislead us into war) is still a popular talking point for the left. Norman Podhertz said that "what makes this charge so special is the amazing success it has enjoyed in getting itself established as a self-evident truth even though it has been refuted and discredited over and over again by evidence and argument alike." Read his editorial in the Wall Street Journal for the facts. Then visit The Atlantic and read Kenneth Pollard's article. Now, you'll be better armed to debate liberals (though they don't pay much attention to facts; they just get in the way).

Friday, June 27, 2008

Is Big Oil Really Gouging Us?

While driving home for lunch today, I was thinking about the Price Gouging bill that I think is still stuck in committee. Are the oil companies gouging us at the pump? The Democrats want you to think that. Those evil Big Oil companies, Bush and Cheney cronies.

Here's the facts: Oil has more than doubled in price, from $65 to today's $142 per barrel (118 percent increase) in the last year. Yet, gas prices over the same period have gone up $1.09 a gallon, an increase of 36 percent, from $2.98 to $4.07. My source is the Energy Information Agency.

If the Oil companies were charging based strictly on the price of oil, then we'd be paying over $6 a gallon.

Look, I know there are a lot of variables that goes into the pricing of the gasoline that we finally pump, but I think you get my point. We are not getting gouged. If anything, market pressures are keeping the price down further than it would without competition.

Are we tired of talking about oil and gas yet? Just go get some more. It's there for the taking.

BTW, for you liberals out there: What am I doing driving home for lunch? Well, I live in a small town, my commute is less than 10 minutes, and I drive a 2004 Buick LeSabre, which gets 28 mpg in town, and 35 mpg on the highway.

Don't Answer the Question. "Reframe" It.

Editor's note: I originally wrote this in November 2006 for another web site, but it still remains just as pertinent today.

George Lakoff, a guru of the "progressives," teaches his fellow liberals that in order to debate a conservative, it is important to "reframe" the question.

George LakoffFraming is an important concept to Lakoff. Frames are the lenses in which people construct their world view. This is basic psychology 101. We all view our world from the concepts we have developed during our lives, a type of filter so to speak, and it's important to know this in order to strive for intellectual honesty, and a firm grasp on reality. Reality as it exists, not as we wish it to be.

In a recent article, Lakoff suggests techniques on how to debate conservatives. His basic premise is: When a conservative asks a question, or makes a point, the best course is to reframe the question or concept. In other words, don't get trapped in answering the question.

Here are some examples of what he means, taken from his article:

Conservatives: Abortion is the immoral taking of innocent life. It must be banned.

Well, some conservatives support this absoulte position, but most do not go this far. What conservatives want is some restrictions, such as late-term abortions, parental notifications, etc.

The progressive response should be:

Progressives: Promoting life means ending America's huge infant mortality rate through pre- and postnatal care. It means caring for individuals throughout their lives. It means affordable universal health care to improve life and life expectancy for forty-five million uninsured Americans. It means improving the quality of the air we breathe and the water we drink. It means improving schools and parenting so that every young life has a chance to flower. It means finding ways to end the violence in our society that cuts short so many lives. It means fulfilling the promise of stem cell research, rather than destroying the hopes of millions of suffering Americans for the sake of a tiny cluster of undifferentiated cells that will otherwise be discarded.

He doesn't even answer the question. Notice how he twists and turns, talking about infant mortality rates, health-care, improving schools, and so forth. This doesn't even mention abortion. So what his is position on abortion? We just do not know.

Here's another (which is a faulty assumption to start with):

Conservatives: Patriots do not question the president or his war policies.

Oh, yea? Where has he been? Conservatives do question policies all the time. But we do not base our questions on faulty logic or a re-written history.

Progressives: The greatest testament to one's love of country is when one works to improve it. This includes principled dissent against policies one disagrees with and against leaders who promote those policies. Times of war are no exception. Our first loyalty is to the principles of our democracy that are embedded in our Constitution, not to any political leader.

This position sounds nice, but what does it really mean? Do we all not want to improve our country? And I don't know of a conservative today (except for maybe the extreme right-wing nuts, but they are no better than extremists on the left) who wouldn't support "principled dissent," even in time of war. However, I don't include providing aid and comfort to an enemy in the concept of principled dissent, which is what some on the left have done.

Basically what Lakoff is doing -- and encouraging other liberals to do -- is to "reframe" the issue, and if necessary, avoid the issue all together to further the secular progressive agenda.

In his book, Don't Think of an Elephant, Lakoff advises to "never answer a question framed from your opponent's point of view." You can see from the examples above, he does just that.

It's all word play. All politicians -- Republican and Democratic -- do it, so it takes a harder look into current issues to see just what the issues mean. But at least most conservatives can answer simple questions like "do you support abortion?" The left doesn't even use the word, hence the "pro-choice" mantra. It is faulty use of the language, and avoids the basic issue.

Don't play into the semantics of this; get informed about the real issue before you drink from the kool-aid pitcher.

If you'd like to know more about Lakoff's positions, you can find them at the Rockridge Institute.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Dear Nancy: You Just Don't Get IT!

I came across this today, while visiting the official web site of the Speaker of the House:

The Democratic-led Congress is moving America in a New Direction for Energy Independence—working for consumers to lower gas prices, make America more secure, and launch a cleaner, smarter, more cost-effective energy future that creates hundreds of thousands of green jobs and reduces global warming.

This chart may have more to say than the above paragraph.

Just thought I'd pass that on. The Dems are quick to blame the repubs, but they've had two years, and just last year a huge energy bill was passed, but had no provisions for drilling.

On Pelosi's web site, her argument is "The bottom line: America has only 1.6% of the world’s oil supply, but we use 24% — so drilling isn’t much of a solution at all."

That's like comparing apples to oranges. First of all the 1.6 percent figure is proven, tapped reserves (actually, according to Oil and Gas Journal, it's more like 1.8 percent, but let's not nit pick). However, if you include oil shale, and figure that there are more unproven reserves, the figure goes much higher. Some estimates I've read say that we have more than a trillon barrels of oil yet to be discovered. That's more oil than Saudia Arabia has.

The 24-percent figure is our consumption of world production on a daily basis. The U.S. consumes about 20 million barrels a day out of a world production of 86 billion barrels.

You just can't use the two figures in a direct line of reasoning like this. And her complaint that oil companies already have 68 million acres leased doesn't wash with me either. Leasing land doesn't mean there is oil to be drilled. First, you have to have permission to drill, then you have to go find the oil, then you have to drill.

Time to get started, don't you think?

Sen. Harry "The War is Lost" Reid

While I don't usually vote for Democrats, and while I think the Democrat-controlled Congress has been an absolute failure (I'm not alone: 12 percent approval rating), I do try to keep up with what the Democrat leaders say they stand for. So I browsed over to Senator Reid's web site the other day.

In case you've had your head in the sand, Harry Reid is the Senate Majority Leader. Remember, he's the guy who said, back in October, that the "War is lost," and then more recently, "We can't drill our way out of this," referring to high energy prices (along with Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi).

So, if you really want to know how Senator Harry Reid plans to help America, just go over to his web site and click on the Issues tab at the top of the page.

Because energy policy is on every one's mind these days, I'll quote his position on energy:

"Energy independence is one of the greatest challenges of our generation. An average family of four will spend over three thousand dollars more on gasoline this year. Heating bills are expected to rise about four-hundred dollars for homes that rely on natural gas or heating oil. America can do better."

So, Harry, what's your plan? America can do better? Is that the only thing you can come up with?

He states that the average family of four will spend more than $3,000 more on gasoline this year (let's assume he's comparing that with 2007). Is this correct? No. Not at the current national average of $4.07, which is an in increase of about $1.09 over a year ago. According to StateMaster, the average consumption per capita in the U.S. last year was 420 gallons, which translates into 1,660 gallons for a family of four. This is an increase of $1,809 -- not a small sum -- but much smaller than what Harry cites. So again, he propogates disinformation.

When he says that energy independence is one of the greatest challenges of our generation, not only is he stating the obvious, but he forgets that it has been his party that has blocked drilling and exploration, building refineries, or building nuclear power plants FOR MORE THAN 30 YEARS. (BTW, Sweden gets 90 percent of its electricity from nuclear power).

So again, the democrats really don't have a plan. They may say they have one, but they really don't. The only thing they know how to do is point the finger, lay some blame, have a hearing, tax somebody.

Maybe it's better that he stays vague on his position, because I don't believe things he says. One recent example from a press release June 25:

"Nevadans will face a clear choice in November: Barack Obama, who believes in Nevada's ability to lead the nation in a clean energy revolution that will create thousands of jobs here; or John McCain, who believes the way to solve our energy crisis is to increase Big Oil's profits."

A clean energy revolution will create thousands of jobs in Nevada? Well, maybe, if they build enough wind towers or solar farms. And John McCain wants to increase Big Oil's profits? I guess you haven't paid attention to anything McCain has said. These are liberal, type, talking points. Not an original thought to be found anywhere.

I hope the good people of Nevada wise up and vote this guy out of office, like the folks in South Dakota did when the gave the boot to Tom Daschle.

Otherwise, we're in worse trouble than we're in now.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Playing the Blame Game

Yesterday, by some fluke, I got a letter from Sen. Joe Biden, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations committee. It was addressed to "My fellow democrat."

This is funny because I've never been a registered democrat. He probably should hire a new marketing company. But what was more troubling was the fact that he wants the American voter to "throw out all the Republicans" from the U.S. Senate. They are to blame for all of our problems. (Now there is a scary thought: One party rule in the United States.)

One such problem is gas prices. It is the fault of the Republicans pandering to "Big Oil." If only Sen. Biden would look in the mirror.

Back in 1979, during our last energy "crisis," the call went out for energy independence. At the time, Jimmy Carter was in office. His plan: turn down the thermostat and wear a sweater. What we really needed was more domestic supply, as well as conservation. While conservation of our resources is always important at every level, it only goes so far.

So what has our government done in the last 30 years? Let me think. Hmmm. Nothing. Nada. Zip.

Now, the Democrats response to this "crisis" in the oil market is to investigate. Let's have a bunch of hearings on Capitol Hill. Go after the big oil companies. Tax them. Tax something, by God. Go after the speculators. Point fingers. Blame someone.

That's the plan of the Democrat-controlled Congress. Even in the short-term, it won't solve anything, except make some liberals feel good.

In the meantime, we are providing hostile regimes with billions of dollars each day. Every time you fill your gas tank, you're supporting Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Hugo Chavez, and other leaders openly hostile to the United States. Some of these oil-producing nations support terrorism. That's where your money is going.

What we need is a multi-faceted approach: Drill more, build more nuclear power plants, build more refineries, as well as finding ways to use alternative sources and reduce consumption.

Holding hearings or taxing oil companies, like back in the late 1970s, just won't work.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Bailing out idiots

Today, the Senate by a large majority voted to keep working on a $300-billion mortgage foreclosure rescue bill. As Fox News reports:
WASHINGTON — A massive foreclosure rescue bill overwhelmingly cleared a key Senate test Tuesday, drawing broad support from Democrats and Republicans alike.
As a home-owner who pays a mortgage, I'm a little bit teed-off at this comtemplated rescue by Congress of both people who bought larger mortgages than they could afford, or were sold mortgages by companies who really didn't care if the buyer could afford the payment later down the road. And for all those banks who bought risky mortgages, how do you like your stock prices now?

If the bill makes it through Congress, and the President is dumb enough to sign it, it will reward bad behavior of both homeowners and mortgage lenders. All with my tax dollars.

Again, the liberal-controlled Congress, and the weak-kneed Republicans, are spending my money to rescue people who shouldn't be rescued.

As Lewis Black said two years ago: On the one side, you have the Democrats, the party of No Ideas. And on the other side, you have the Republicans, the party of Bad Ideas.

I guess he had something there, huh?