Political Narrative

Various Democratic outlets – most obnoxiously the "Barack Obama" profile on Facebook – have recently been touting the idea that Obama has turned the economy around and created jobs.  Based on what I remember of news reports, if I were a Republican politocrat, this is what I would be trying to sell as the 'real story':

Bush and Obama followed conventional wisdom in giving huge stimulus payments out (have to admit to Bush involvement, or anything you try to sell will be hammered flat by the media, never mind the Democrats; but emphasize that no one except hard-line conservatives objected) with a net result of approximately nothing, and huge overpayments of corporate bonuses and so forth.  (Drag in the recent bad investments of the Obama administration to strengthen the point.)  Obama also passed huge spending bills that went so far past the point of common sense that the American people had enough and voted the legislature full of Republicans.

With Republicans in office, they've squashed spending bills, refused to pass exorbitant budgets (and only passed enough for the government to get by).  With the market left alone, now we are on the road to recovery – and the only challenge left to overcome is the effects of the implosion of the similarly overspent European zone.  Emphasize the difference in Republican policy; emphasize the similarity between the Euro-crisis and what Obama wanted.  By all means do not pass another stimulus yourself at this point or your talking point is gone (and in all likelihood the recession extends, but that is an economic point rather than a political one).

Would this narrative hold up to a rigorous vetting?  I am honestly not quite sure, although I think it reflects broadly the actual outline of events over the past few years – and at all events it is more plausible to common sense than the Democratic or any other big government platform.  Granted, accepted "wisdom" does not match common sense on this one (spending your way out of a recession is directly opposed to the principle of not spending more money than you have).


The Stupidity of Abortion

The thing that irritates me most about the self-righteous pro-abortion crowd, who somehow want us to identify the killing of unborn children as an essential part of "women's rights", is their near-complete disregard for reality.  The average pro-abortion liberal, who plans to vote for Obama no matter what because all the Republican candidates are pro-life, takes a stand as though he recognizes in himself the second coming of Gandhi or MLK Jr., while it would be more accurate to assign him the moral and philosophical stature of the hidebound slave-owner refusing to vote for "abolitionist" Lincoln – and perhaps even less scientific credibility than that fine hundred-fifty year old gentleman.

He, after all, at least had a centuries-old belief in "inferior races", apparently borne out by the obvious superiority of his culture.  The modern advocate of "abortion rights" is forced to steadfastly ignore everything the human race has ever known about the conception and growth of children in order to make any sort of case.

Of course, I am assuming that the killing of human beings is wrong.  If that is indeed so, as we almost all believe, the case for abortion breaks down from the beginning.  Attempts to avoid the vise founder on the fact that any requirement for humanity conceivable beyond simple physical humanity depends on judgment.  When a practical authority of one group to judge another as a lesser party is established, the precedent renders a free, much less a moral, society untenable.  If, on the other hand, morality is non-existent in any kind of objective form; if the "right" to abortion really is merely a social preference, a convenience, then its supporters have no case to make against those who would rather ban the practice, except mob opinion.  A popularity contest, if you will.

Speaking of popularity contests, the presidential candidate Rick Santorum has been roundly criticized for his stance on abortion, as he is willing to deny its validity even in cases where pregnancy is a result of rape – and more controversial still, in cases where the mother's life is in danger.  Yet the absurdity of the spectacle should be obvious: people willing to kill or let be killed hundreds of thousands of children are protesting that someone might die.  Santorum at least makes it clear that he knows what he is advocating: the average abortion advocate wanting to crucify him displays a complete ignorance of the reality being debated.

We start, as I said before, with the assumption that killing another human is wrong in and of itself.  We may admit, if pressed, that certain situations may necessarily justify, or perhaps excuse, killing: self-defense, perhaps; or the punishment of a murderer or rapist.  Yet the run of the mill advocate of abortion does not even go so far as to admit that abortion involves death: facts are ignored.  The argument given is not often that the death of an infant is the lesser evil (though this argument seems at least plausible in the "mother's life" scenario – no doubt why it is the focus of the abortion activist who could clearly get no logical traction elsewhere).  No: the normal argument is that it is not our business, a defense many wife-beaters would no doubt also like to have applied to them.  Those who come closest to admitting the inherent evil still hedge, talking about how killing the child is better than forcing it to live in poverty and misery (the programs these same people tend to advocate to relieve poverty and carefully shield people from misery are apparently not applicable to babies and mothers), which brings us right back to one part of humanity deciding another part should be deprived of rights.

If the mainstream apologist for abortion would admit to the truth – that a human being is killed – and still say they considered it acceptable, we would all know what the stakes were.  Instead, they ignore the facts and the big picture, and end up looking ignorant – either deceived or self-deceived.


In Which I Become the Professor Kirke at Length

I am seeing a bothersome trend in recent conversations with liberal friends.  Today – the back-breaking straw that provoked this post – someone was expressing a desire to move to not-the-USA – a typical election year sentiment expressed by worried people – if Santorum was elected as president.  The stated reason?  He is an extremist.  The nature of extremism?  That he thinks all contraception should be illegal.  I seriously fear someone has conflated personal belief with likely legislative agenda.  The position of the Catholic church is well known; I have not heard Santorum make any motions towards trying to impose that on the USA by law.  If he has said such things, I apologize for my skepticism.

At any rate, at face value the lack of perspective embodied by that complaint is stunning.  I noted that Santorum, even if he did try to ban contraceptives, would get nowhere; the objection was dismissed.  But consider: the issue is obviously an unreality in the political climate, and I doubt he could persuade even half of the Catholic Republican congressmen to get behind such legislation.  Even bans on the most heinous forms of abortion have been fought tooth and nail: to attempt to replicate Catholic doctrine in secular law would quite likely result in an attempted impeachment on grounds of gross overreach or something.

If, as I instead suspect from conversations with others, this was nothing more than a polite way of complaining that Santorum is pro-life and against abortion, then any of the Republican candidates – except Governor Johnson, if he is still (however technically) in the running – are equally "extreme", and so are something like half the people in the United States.  Which is of course another topic, and other people have said in so many words that this is the one reason they could not vote for a Republican candidate who would, at the very least, not veto anti-abortion legislation.

The counter-attack, the fact that Obama's agenda has been on the whole quite leftist, tends also to get nowhere.  If you take that tack, then either "leftist" gets defined in global terms, and Obama's policies end up looking center-ish; or the right is labeled "extreme" and discounted... and Obama's policies end up being the only thing "legitimate" so how can they be extreme themselves?  For an example of common reasoning: Obamacare was a good thing; the Democrats lost seats because of the Tea Party; but there is nothing reasonable to complain about; therefore, the Tea Party are dangerous idiots – and in the worse cases of logic-failure, people end up thinking that the fiscal-responsibility wing of the Republican party (which is what the Tea Party, on the whole, is) can be discounted entirely in the political calculus.  These are not the worst examples of inability to add two plus two and get four that I have seen.  The connection between the passage of the (deeply flawed) healthcare bill and the almost immediate success of the Republican party is not made or ignored.  For a party that by and large professes to practice relativistic ideology, the overall tone of opinions on other parties' views is incredibly dismissive when not downright incoherent and pleased with themselves for being ignorant of their opponents' supposed ignorance.


Hate Speech Against the Death of Common Sense

There are times you just have to give up on the polite fiction of Tolerance Is the Greatest Commandment and say something.  (Not that I'm good at following this dictum anyway.)  Times when, for instance, logic and science get thrown out the window.  For those of you who gave up keeping track of the clowns trying to push sexual identity boundaries or whatever the approved phrasing is these days, apparently "transgender" is a thing, and (these days) not a thing as in "mental disorder and/or evidence parents did a terrible job of parenting" but thing as in "the (newest?) thing embraced as supposedly normal and acceptable by the bleeding-edge liberal crowd".  Which, granted, isn't much of a surprise all things considered.

Now it gets fun.  A Girl Scout troop – not the first incident – has apparently accepted a boy, because he "identifies as a girl" (whatever that means).  You'll notice this news feed identifies that as a "Good Turn of the Day", and I suppose you won't be surprised when the follow-up story – that people fed up by the absurdity are attempting to stage a cookie boycott, headlined by a 14 year old who's apparently a natural democrat (note the small d) and capitalist – got labeled as "This is All Kinds of Wrong of the Day".

Let that soak in for a minute.  The person who's getting labeled "all kinds of wrong" isn't the kid (who's confused) or his mom (who's supportive of this absurdity) or the troop (which caved on the issue), but the people pointing out that, dude, that's a guy, and at least this Girl Scout troop is off the rails.

I'm going to make a wild assumption that most of the people reading this have had at least a rudimentary high school biology course and know that biological sex is not really one of those things that leaves much room for debate.  For a boy to "identify as" a girl makes about as much sense as me "identifying as" the Emperor of the United States, and what with me not being as awesome as Joshua Norton, that would get me committed some place with padded walls.  Maybe I should have "identified as" Native American when I was looking for college scholarships?  I mean, at least I am a native American.

I could go on saying similar things for a while here, but I'll leave you with the most outrageous comment I've seen – with variations in several places – which is that this sort of thing sets a good example for the Boy Scouts, who, you know, haven't failed basic life science yet.


On Identifying as a Conservative

Chesteron once wrote, in a line which ought to be famous, that he spent a part of his life as a Socialist – this was the era of the Boer Wars – mainly because the alternative was not being a Socialist, which was worse.  Somewhat ironically, now that Socialism is the order of the day in much of the Western and Westernized world, I find myself adopting a similarly uncomfortable position politically: I call myself a conservative, because the alternative is not being a conservative.

Truth be told, my conservatism rests on two main tenets, with perhaps a third.  In the first place, I believe abortion is wrong; in the second, I believe in fiscal responsibility, which is to say I believe that governments, much like everybody else, should not spend money that they don't have; and last, I believe in the rule of law – or to be less approximate, I believe we are bound by law.

To believe abortion is wrong is not something I see any way to open to debate.  A fetus, which is to say an unborn human, is a unique human being, speaking scientifically.  Any consistent structure of human rights, whether inspired by religious or logical considerations or both, falls apart if a human being can be denied those rights without personally forfeiting them by evil action.  Even cases where there are no options, the "health of the mother" argument – these cannot be viewed as anything more than the lesser of two evils, much like a war.  I would be more open, perhaps, to other liberal arguments if there were any significant lobby of otherwise political liberals willing to denounce this murder.

The second tenet is similarly not really open to debate.  To live perpetually in debt is a recipe for disaster.  True, conservatives have been not much less culpable in the realm of government over-spending, but they have been somewhat less culpable (or perhaps liberals have been more culpable, would be a more accurate phrasing) and tend to at least pretend that it matters.  If only to satisfy their electoral bases.

Finally, I believe that laws are binding – and the basis of the United States' laws in the Constitution.  Progressive liberalism has stretched and bent and now quite often largely ignores the limits of that document, as populism turns more and more to the center for handouts, and the lower federated governments are themselves largely quite content to let such expansion go unchecked.  Even if progressive socialism were an ideal we should aim at – which I admittedly do not think is the case – it is not one that has been brought in honestly.  It would take a distortion of ideas and ideals and history to make out the Constitution as a modern progressive document.

This is not to say that I identify unreservedly with all "conservative" causes.  To take one example, I tend to think that the United States is currently overextended militarily.  Consider, for example, the quite long listing of our military bases.  But there are mitigating factors: how many of these bases date from the Cold War?  And if the US had not maintained a Western military threat then, who would have done it?  Certainly our fair share of military actions and then some were mishandled, from the Korean War on down.  Next question: how would withdrawals affect political equations across the world?  Are there threats a US presence reduces, and if so who would replace us?  It is a tricky question, although it ought to be answered.

But on the initial three factors listed, the progressive liberals seem to stand consciously against them, and for want of a better identifier, I have to say, "I am a conservative".


"Religion" is not a Useful Word in Sweden

Yesterday we had the following absurdity come to light.  A group in Sweden, preaching what seems to be the copyright equivalent of free love, has managed to get itself recognized as an official religion by at least one department of that country's government.

It is hard to say how this could get any more bizarre: the government has recognized as a "religion" a group which claims to hold law-breaking as sacred and which does not appear to have any particular religious intent as normally recognized.  Supernatural claims?  No.  Salvation?  No.  Enlightenment?  Maybe if you squint.  Morality?  Not as such.  It comes across as a lawyer's trick.

Of course, if you subscribe to current atheistic theory – religion originated as nothing more than superstition driven by a fear of death, and in our modern knowledgeable age it is no longer anything more than manufactured propaganda designed at best to bring together people with common interests and at worst to drive people to common goals through fear of (eternal) retribution – there is no particular reason to consider these Kopmaniacs as anything different, though it does become hard to tell the difference between a small church and a largish group of roleplayers.


The Great St Louis Rams Implosion of 2002

Courtesy of bitter Chicago fans over on Football Outsiders, I went on a hunt to see what the numbers said about the offensive work of one Mike Martz, Sooper Genius, over the years.  Everything I collected I left over there in the current Audibles thread if you're curious to see the "detailed" work so far.

Here's the short version: the success of the Martz's offense seems to be, on a first look-over, almost directly tied to the quality of the team's offensive line, particularly run-blocking.  It's hard to get good numbers: it's a thing measured best and perhaps only by things like FO's ALY and Advanced NFL Stats' WPA applied to the line.

This may be just a fact of football: no line, no offense.  On the other hand, teams like Green Bay and Detroit have spent this year at least trying to disprove the hypothesis.  My initial thinking is that there is enough lack of correlation in general to make the huge correlation in the case of Martz's offense, at St. Louis particularly, noteworthy.

As implied by the title of the post, 2002 seems to have been the edge of the waterfall for the Greatest Show on Turf.  From 1999-2001, no team put up better total numbers, even when evaluated by modern advanced stats.  Then in 2002, most of the advanced rankings drop the team's ranking to the 20s (out of 32), where the Rams stayed for the next three years until they fired Martz and the Lions picked him up.  Ever since then, Martz's offense has been producing more of those rankings-in-the-20s, seemingly without any regard to the quarterback involved (though possibly had Cutler stayed healthy we would have seen something different in Chicago this year).

As I mentioned, the key seems to be the offensive line, judging by ratings; but what I can't figure out is what went wrong in St Louis in 2002.  The line had only one change; the lineman lost at right tackle went on to "anchor" a mediocre Browns' line for years.  But that seems an improbable cause, by itself, of such a huge decline.  Anyway, there is a mystery here which I am tempted to research further.

(It could of course be much simpler: Martz hasn't had a stable quarterback situation since 2001 except the 2004 season which was much better; and then Chicago, though last year seems a little weird.  Anyway...)