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Among the Unbelievers

Shared agnosticism in the age of Obama. Hillary on her last legs. Tax holidays. A sixties liberal who's just a kid. Plus more.

5.8.08

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KEEP THE FAITH
Re: Sean Higgins' The Audacity of What?:

Sean Higgins makes some interesting points. To attempt to bolster his thesis, I would note that as Rev. Wright made his media presentations last week, he seemed to pointedly refer to Jesus as a Prophet (as opposed to the Son of God, the Redeemer, the Savior, who takes away the sins of the World, who through his resurrection brings about the triumph over death, and the resurrection of all mankind, the only path to the Father, One with the Father, the foundation of Christianity, whose kingdom is not of this world), Rev. Wright seems to accord Jesus the same status afforded to Him in Islam, the same status as Mohammed. (Hence the affinity of Wright and Farrakhan?) Black Liberation Theology seems to be Old Testament based, with Christ seen as the Political Liberator rather than the Divine Redeemer. Which raises the question: Is Reverend Wright a Christian in the usual sense of the term? From what I can gather, he is not. Christianity for him seems to be Marxist Black Supremacy/Separatism disguised as religion (for tax purposes?) -- the flip side of the Black Muslim coin, without significant difference.

I would add the notion that perhaps the reason Obama seems to enjoy the support of the liberal intellectual elite and the media is that he is (correctly?) perceived by them to share their agnosticism/atheism, or at least a sort of reflex antipathy to religion, as reflected in his San Francisco statement on God and guns, in dramatic contradistinction to George Bush's religious orientation, not to mention the religious right, which the left cannot abide. Obama's seeming antipathy may actually be mostly an indifference to religion per se, the anthropologist's perspective that Mr. Higgins describes, with religion appropriated for reasons of social and political activism and opportunism from his far left position in Chicago. That seems to concord with the United Church of Christ's general tenor, as the Church includes as ministers even those who are atheists, as the Rev. Barry Lind, who simultaneously is the head of Americans United for Separation of Church and State which principally attempts to suppress religious expression (ironic, as the origins of the UCC are in the religious institutions that provided the basis for the American Founding, which bars any state restriction on religious expression, whereas the UCC now appears dedicated to over-turning the American Founding -- again the apparent goal of the Far Left, the Progressives, those such as Chomsky, Soros, etc., and their surrogates, a considerable portion of the Democratic Party!).

Finally, this illustrates, I believe, why Obama didn't think he needed to distance himself from Rev. Wright (e.g., his constituency of liberal elites understood his luke-warm attitude toward religion already, and believed that he didn't really take Rev. Wright seriously except from a political standpoint -- exactly what his San Francisco comments communicated, while his constituency in the Black Church would celebrate his affiliation with Wright), why he stayed in Trinity Church for 20 years (the politics were advantageous, with the religion more political than religious, which fit Obama's religious perspective, or lack thereof), and why the Rev. Wright interlude hasn't particularly affected his base, or the North Carolina or Indiana primary outcomes, despite his shifting statements on Wright.

For Martin Luther King, his political and civil rights activities grew out of his religious faith, his faith in the American Founding, and his faith in the American People. For Barack Obama, his Religious Faith, such as it is, seems to be a convenient appendage to his political ambitions, he appears to have no regard for the American Founding, and his Faith in the American People seems to focus on their gullibility and willingness to accept pure cant as a political message of salvation, and their growing antipathy to the American Founding in favor of a completely centralized socialist form of government. No one should be surprised if he succeeds based on this cynical agnostic anti-Americanism. Unfortunately, this is what America has become -- a cynical, self-loathing, self-destructive, agnostic nation. The World is turning Upside Down again. But, as Dennis Miller is wont to say, these are just my opinions; I could be wrong.
-- Kent Lyon
College Station, Texas

"One doesn't expect a nudist to argue with his tailor."

In fact, one might actually expect a nudist to deny that there was any empirical evidence that there existed such a thing as a tailor. It would all hinge on whether he had ever left the nudist colony where he was born and reared...

Although, considering that we are all born "nude" -- perhaps the nudist may in fact be worshipping the Tailor who made his Birthday Suit.
-- Kate Shaw
Not a Nudist
Toronto, Canada

I have been trying to slog my way through The Audacity of Hope, and, as Gertrude Stein once said: "There is no there there."
-- Gretchen L. Chellson
Alexandria, Virginia

NOT SO FAST, PHIL
Re: Philip Klein's Game Over, Hillary:

Mr. Klein makes many good arguments for why Hillary is dead in the water. Even Slate, home of such stalwart Lefties as Christopher Hitchens and Michael Kinsley, has Madame Clinton's chances at a historic low of 2.5%. Her campaign is hemorrhaging cash and not too many donors look to be stepping up to offer comfort or lucre. Old time FOB/FOH are jumping ship like rats off the Lusitania. Yes, things look dire for the Billary campaign, but Hillary no more knows the word quit than the Boy President knows the meaning of "is."

Madam Senator is fully cognizant that her soldiering on hurts the Democratic Party, despite what Terry McAuliffe and her other talking heads may say. (Again, see it depends what is is.) A conspiracy theory fills the air: Hillary is looking to weaken Obama so she can run against the GOP candidate in 2012. Conspiracies are often foolish words carried on idiot winds, but with the Clintons, can anyone be too cynical? Ms. Clinton has figured out the price and value of continuing on. If our junior Senator of New York figures she can damage Obama without paying too high a price, she will stay in this race. No matter what the odd, always bet that Hillary will do what is on her favor. After all, she is Mrs. Comeback Kid.
-- Ira M. Kessel
Rochester, New York

Game over for Hillary? Where has Mr. Klein been? It ain't over until the super-delegates say it's over. And the bet here is that when they sit back and realize the biggest states -- with the most Electoral College votes -- have been lost by Obama, they might come to the conclusion that beating McCain is more important than temporarily placating their base.

Clinton may be on the respirator, but reports of her death are greatly exaggerated.
-- Arnold Ahlert
Boca Raton, Florida

I get sick to my stomach pondering the certainty that Obama, Hillary, or even McCain will one day be the Leader of the Free World. Why O' why can't we just declare Dr. Thomas Sowell the President by proclamation and save not only the so-called Free World but the whole world?

In the middle of the night when I sometimes question my visceral rejection of Obama and everything about him I realize it has nothing to do with race because I would vote for Dr. Sowell and other Black conservatives in a heart beat. But Dr. Sowell soars above the crowd.
-- Jack Wheatley
Royal Oak, Michigan

GORE-ISTS FOR THE TREES
Re: Lisa Fabrizio's It's Either Too Hot or Too Cold:

Al Gore just was quoted saying, to paraphrase, "The cyclone in Burma was an example of increasingly powerful storms due to global warming." Never mind that many actual meteorologists, climatologists and scientists have said that the intensity and frequency of these storms have no relationship to global warming. Forget that new and re-examined data reveal that the earth is in a cooling period that may last 30 years and that ocean and atmospheric temperatures are falling.

Al Gore persists and is aided and abetted by the media in his quackery. He barely got through school to get a degree and yet he is quoted as if he actually has advanced degrees as a climatologist. In fact he is a glorified fortune teller who has been proven wrong in his predictions repeatedly. The worst is that he wants us all to pay for his dreams in the form of a carbon tax to be administered by the United Nations perhaps. Naturally the UN will have the Al Gore Carbon Credit Extravaganza as one of its prime contractors. Al Gore could teach P.T. Barnum a lesson or two.
-- Howard Lohmuller
Seabrook,Texas

THE LAX MAN
Re: Marco DeSena's McCain Goes on Tax Holiday:

The McCain Tax Holiday would not help anyone in Tennessee because our legislature has already passed a law that raises the state tax a penny for every penny the federal tax might be reduced. States already views the federal gas tax, or at least 92 percent of it, as their money anyway, it just has a lot of strings attached to it. Some states will have to borrow funds or cancel projects to maintain their basic maintenance if this is passed. After going through last summer worrying about bridges falling because of a lack of road infrastructure dollars, it now seems incredible that putting even more pressure on road construction money seems to not only a good thing but some sort of secondary stimulus.

The McCain plan to end the federal gas tax for the summer would surely kill both the House and the Senate versions of the Transportation Authorization Bill. It is doubtful that either version could fund their respective provisions with the array of taxes proposed even if there was no summer gas tax holiday. Federal Pay-Go rules would certainly shrink the estimated cost of each with a tax holiday. No consensus on the House and Senate versions means continuing resolutions at a lower rate of expenditure. I don't think either party wants to have the trust fund go broke before the 2008 election.

The federal gas tax has not been raised since 1997 and in my state, the state gas tax has not been raised since 1987. Inflation is giving the driver a tax break every year. At the same time the costs of financing and insuring a vehicle are rising above the Consumer Price Index. From 1990 to 2005, the average new vehicle cost went from $16350 to $24,275. This increase is below the background inflation rate and represents a savings of $1364 in 2005. The national ratio of population per lane mile of road has increased from 28.6 to 35.1 from 1980 to 2004. It is no coincidence that this fraction is rising during a period of increasing awareness of congestion and its impact on productivity. As transportation productivity declines, any hope of a stimulus from a momentary abatement of taxes is unlikely.

One of the better states in the union, when it comes to highway department efficiency, is South Carolina. It a perpetual donor state and struggles to build its own infrastructure plus helping more affluent states like Connecticut and Massachusetts. The Tax Holiday would force some states to become more efficient but would punish those doing the right thing.
-- Danny L. Newton
Cookeville, Tennessee

Pandering by any other name is still pandering, which is exactly what a "gas tax holiday" is all about. And let's not forget, Americans are already pandered to in the form of $300-$1200 "stimulus" checks, which should really be called "incumbency protection" checks.

Even shamelessness has its limits.
-- Arnold Ahlert
Boca Raton, Florida

SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL INCUMBENT
Re: Ilya Shapiro's Buckley's Revenge:

I'm not sure this subject is worth any ink at all.

Who would not fight, cheat and steal among America's career criminal class (politicians) to keep the world's best part time job? Let's take a second to analyze this job situation.

Qualifications: ego as big as all the outdoors. Pay: whatever you can steal and legislate, such as unlimited car payments, a pension plan that makes you a millionaire and free medical care at only the best medical institutions.

Let us balance these perquisites with the job expectations.

Expectations: None. A very proud and long lasting tradition requires congress people do zilch, nada, zero, nothing for anyone but themselves.
-- Jay W. Molyneaux
North Carolina

KEYBOARD JOCKEY
Re: Matthew Omolesky's Mischaracterizing Mugabe:

I am frequently amazed when American and European commentators take on (African) Colonialism, without apparently ever having lived or set foot in Africa. Matthew Omolesky appears to be such a commentator, judging from his article "Mischaracterizing Mugabe." The historical and political picture painted by Mr. Omolesky is unfortunately not accurate. There never was an "apartheid state of Rhodesia" simply because Rhodesia never implemented apartheid policies (this was done in South Africa). Mr. Omolesky's stridency does not stop here, however. He cannot write "Rhodesia" without prepending "apartheid" throughout the article. I have to wonder what kind of agenda he is proposing in this missive. If he is campaigning against Rhodesia, then he is some decades too late. If he wants to paint a historically accurate picture, then his historical perspectives are all wrong. In either way, the reader is misled, and apparently so quite deliberately. Placing blame on Smith and Rhodesia for Mugabe's failures is to stretch a point, after 28 years. Mugabe, after all, took over a country with infrastructure, and a working economy, and he proceeded to govern it to pieces. For all his short-comings and colonial baggage, Ian Smith had nothing to do with that.

Imbuing post-colonial events such as the killings in Matabeleland and land restitution in Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe with colonial motives, or at least roots, or drawing a confluence between colonial mythology (as in."... land is not property, it is something you use for a time and then abandon.") and Robert Mugabe's legacy, is not only misleading, but is the manufacturing of history, to abuse a Chomskyan notion. By the way, the colonial mythology is correct in at least the following sense: There were no commercial farms in Zimbabwe in 1850, and the first such farms were established in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Farming land in Southern Africa in general were obtained and settled by whites as commercial farms in exactly the same way that Australian and North-American settlers obtained their land, via mixtures of treaties and colonial imposition. Pretending that these commercial ventures extinguished a thriving pre-existing farming economy may sound good in these Orwellian days, but saying it so just do not make it so.

Nor is Mr. Omolesky accurate when he claims that "wealth is what attracted white settlers." Even this is not necessarily the case, as even a cursory look at Southern African history show. In those days (the 1800s) people could not just embark on ships to sail in large numbers to settle in (thoroughly undeveloped) land in Zimbabwe, braving tropical diseases and large African animals
-- Buks van Rensberg
Ontario, Canada

DOWN TO SOCIALISM
Re: Louis Gruber's letter (under "Up from Conservatism") and other letters in Reader Mail's Grease and Oil:

Some really, really interesting missives in the reader mail this morning!

CA is absolutely right that confronting the real enemy on oil prices would be confronting ourselves. The so-called oil cartel would be its historic ineffective, cheating self without the support of some 35 years of eco-nonsense right here in the good 'ol US of A. Free American entrepreneurs to drill, dig, build and develop all plausible forms of energy (oil, coal, nuclear), and the Middle East nutcases, deprived of high priced oil revenues (from the vast increases in supply, or even the prospect of vast increases in supply), would be forced to either reform their wacko societies or to accept reversion to tent cities. We can all yell "yahoo!" at calls to take over the Middle East oil fields, which is never going to happen, or we can dedicate ourselves to convincing a propagandized American public that windmills belong in novels about would-be knights errant during the Renaissance, that corn belongs in the stomachs of people and animals, and that solar has some real limitations in the geographic sections of the country that need the most energy. Oh, and that the polar bears are not leaving the animal kingdom any time soon.

Of course, we might be more successful in our efforts if we were not supporting a Presidential candidate who acknowledges his economic illiteracy as he wins cheers from the usual suspects for his "independent" views on the environment, which mirror all that eco-nonsense. Or if a well-known Republican Speaker of the House was not cutting ads with Nancy Pelosi supporting the so-called green agenda. (Don't tell me he has different solutions. All that most Americans know is that he has signed on to the greening of America through government solutions.) What has really amazed me is that $100+ oil has not had the impact of $30+ oil in the 70's. America responded at least a little bit back then by drilling in Alaska. This time, all we hear is how evil the oil companies are, with no solutions for the generation of additional supplies.

It is little wonder to me that children of prominent conservatives are turning left. Why wouldn't they? After spending their K-12 and college years hearing nothing other than socialist propaganda, it would take a lot more kitchen table conversation than busy parents are likely to provide to overcome "the message." Of course, there is no rule that says that American education has to tilt (maybe, a better term would be "heavily lean") left. It is the touching faith of conservatives that junior or missy will eventually learn the "real world" as they go into the work force that causes inattention to the education diet of their children.

Conservatives rarely take on the local public education radicals, and spend tens of thousands of dollars to send children to institutions that teach socialism in every class, whether "social science" or not. Conservatives, your children may do a lot of harm to our Republic before they come to understand the errors of what they have been taught, if they ever understand them. A light-hearted clucking equation of "idealism" with socialism is absolutely the wrong message to send. There is nothing "idealistic" about collectivism. Collectivism is the worst of social diseases. It eventually ends in widespread poverty and even killing fields.

With all this in mind, I found Louis Gruber's letter quite interesting. He really believes that prosperity was created by the New Deal (instead of elongation of the Great Depression), by the Great Society (rather than the set-up for the stagflation of the 70's and the dependency creation/family failures in our cities), and by the Clinton Years (when the Republican ascendancy in Congress overcame the economic nonsense of the first two Clinton years). Louis was right about one thing as he observed that "you guys blew it." We sent forth Republicans as reformers, and they eventually governed as the worst kind of political insiders. It was not the war that cost Republicans the Congress. It was the corruption of incumbency.

In our Republic, we get the government we deserve. We deserve the choice we have among Clinton, Obama, and McCain. We have not taken the actions we need to take to keep the limited government ideal of our founding fathers. We fund our enemies, and overlook our friends. Reagan rescued us in 1980. The Contract with America rescued us in 1994. But, in neither case, was anything done about the rotting infrastructure of our institutions. Who will rescue us now? Given our playful insouciance, who would want to rescue people who are unwilling to even try to rescue themselves?
-- Stephan Zierak
St. Louis, Missouri

I must say that few letters from your readers have gotten me as angry as the likes of Mr. Louis Graber's commentary on what Conservatives have wrought wrong with the U.S.

It is clear by his statement that he is indeed a true liberal: He expects "someone" to take care of his neighbor, and that someone is not him, or his friends, or his family. No, it is the government's role (some faceless bureaucrat) to take of faceless, nameless "people" (the proletariat in Mr. Graber's world) who need "help." Like so many young people today who espouse liberalism, Mr. Graber rejects the concept of true personal responsibility, wherein one is personally and actively doing what must be done, at the local level, in ones neighborhood, to help those who have legitimate needs (those who need as opposed to those who want). This is a Conservative view of helping one's fellow American. Liberals, on the other hand, prefer local agitators (community organizers a la Hillary and Barack) to get the government to do more, and by this they mean take money from those who have succeeded (i.e. Capitalist swine).

The likes of Mr. Graber also reject the belief that the fruits of ones labor are ones own to be used as one sees fit, guided by ones values (either one uses ones gifts for good or for evil, and not relative evil and relative good but the old fashioned black and white good and evil). The fruits of one's labor are not the government's. They are the laborer's fruits. Owning the fruits of one's labor is liberty and the pursuit (not the assured outcome) of happiness; this is freedom; this is the concept of our Declaration of Independence and the entire premise of our American culture. Our government is also -- at least it was -- a manifestation of our labor, our voting. Government was not a permanent job for life, but a temporary duty to help one's neighbor and home state.

One other point, if one sits in the desert and complains about the lack of rain, one can either continue to complain, stop complaining, or move to an area where it rains. I believe Mr. Gruber and his fellow young liberals would expect the government to bring water in the desert and expect others to pay for it. I suggest that if the part of Pennsylvania in which he lives has no jobs that he and his unemployed friends desire, he and they might think of moving or seeking other employment. Moving to new areas of the country to seek out new opportunities is as old as America itself. My own daughters have moved to five states to seek out new jobs, better jobs. The idea of sitting in one state and expecting jobs to come to them never crossed their minds.

And finally, he was not even a thought in anyone's minds at the time of our last great Democrat government (Congress and the President were Democrats), namely Jimmy "the Peanut brain" Carter, so I guess he doesn't know this fact. Clinton was a liberal who had to work with a Republican Congress, a Congress that had a "Contract with America." If anything forced a positive change in the economy, it was the constraint the Conservatives had on William Jefferson Clinton's socialist desires.
-- P. Moody
Gainesville, Virginia

Wow! Where to begin? First of all, rather than conservatism being "responsible for the mess we are in now," conservatism's suppression is, in reality, the culprit. Blaming conservatism for the near bankrupt, inefficient, corrupt, incompetent, and confiscatory government whose thumb we are living under is like blaming the shooting victim for bleeding. I, too, live in that "vast space between our coasts" inhabited by Mr. Gruber, and what I see is the remains of an America that once paid its own way, worked hard to rise up the success ladder, educated its children, taught them morals and values, and believed that the responsibilities of citizenship always counterweighted the rights and privileges of living here. If prices and costs (not the same thing by the way) have risen so much that 18,000 thousand dollars per year will not support a family, perhaps Mr. Gruber should look at the entitlements funded by taxes that encumber the country as a result of The Great Society, The War on Poverty, The New Deal, and the Clinton years. If GDP has grown, how much of it has been inflationary, and how much of it has been real. If NAFTA has really driven the jobs in rural Pennsylvania overseas, whose baby do you think that was? Reagan's, or Clinton's?

As far as taxes, Reagan gave us the largest tax rate decrease in history, while Clinton gave us the largest increase. Oh, and by the way, who leads the charge in congress to eliminate the Bush tax cuts? Certainly not conservative Republicans. Which of the present candidates for president want to "take from some of us" in order to give to others? And which group, liberals or conservatives, refuses to make drilling for domestic oil and building new and more efficient refineries possible? Mr. Gruber should ask some of those 18,000 thousand dollar per year Pennsylvanians how they like paying $3.60 a gallon for gas because a gang of socialists masquerading as ecologically concerned citizens want to control the economy and tell the hoi polloi how to live. And are those folks conservatives? No!

I'm glad that Mr. Gruber is thinking about these problems, even if his world is mostly inhabited by the Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus, and the Easter Bunny. Creeping socialism is NOT the solution to what ails us, rather, it is the CAUSE. And while I'm still white hot from reading an analysis as fatuous as Mr. Gruber's, let me add that if he isn't old enough to remember the last time a generation to get out of the way because "it's our turn now," I am. It was the 60s and the 70s. Right! That generation really got things going in the right direction. Downhill, that is.
-- Joseph Baum
Garrettsville, Ohio

As I recall from my youthful excursions into My Weekly Reader, the Great Depression did not come to an end until the Empire of the Sun and Adolf Hitler shoved the wolf aside from our door and began knocking on it for themselves. Convert commercial industry to rapidly ramping up war production. Put a couple of millions of men in uniform. Yup! Period of prosperity alright. Look at the casualty figures from those years. "Prosperity" was pretty pricy.

The Great Society? Aren't we still paying for that one? Besides, I seem to remember a little dustup called Vietnam. A lot of people home-side made some money off that. Social upheaval. Race riots. Cities in flames. Assassinations. The "Generation Gap." Too bad we can't have more times like those.

Oh, yes, The Clinton Years. I forgot how old Bill took the Reagan Culture of Greed and transformed it into the best economy the world has ever-ever seen simply by setting his rump down in the Oval Office. He was as cheater in more ways than one. Aren't we now paying for his foreign policy neglect and failures along with his symbolic victories? Besides, I can point to a whole bunch of people whose hard earned retirement money declined during the best economy the world has ever-ever seen. I also seem to remember much of the Clinton prosperity kind a went away when the Dot.Com bust revealed that people had been pushing stock prices up chasing after the dividends of high tech companies which had no business plains -- or assets.

Yeah, I can see why having liberals at the helm is a big "win-win" for everybody.
-- Michael Dooley

IMMINENT EMINENT DOMAIN
Re: Roger Kaplan's The Candidates and Oil:

Finally someone who asks the question that most Americans are thinking...why not seize the oil fields? At the very least seize the fields belonging to Iraq. American's freed the people, lost their lives and continues to give money all the while getting little in return. A seizure would be condemned by most of the world who hates us anyway so why care. If the mandate of government is to protect its citizens then seizing the oil fields makes a great deal of sense. But our current leader is weak, one presidential candidate is a communist, one a socialist and the last one will be a weak leader. The Congress, led by Democrats, cares only about the people who contribute little to the wealth and well-being of the country and the Republicans are in bed with the oil companies. The people don't stand a chance now or in the future.
-- Dan Mittelman

One day in 1974, my dad and I were waiting in a gas line at the local Chevron station. My dad said: " I hope you realize that one day we'll just have to go over there and take it away from them."

He was, of course, referring to the oil fields and to the Arabs.
-- Paul Kotik
Plantation, Florida

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