Sunday, April 24, 2005

Liberal Legerdemain

It's always fun to watch the liberal media in action in much the same way that it's fun to watch a card cheat pull off his amazing sleight of hand in the service of his skulduggery.

PowerLine has a fine analysis by Dafydd ab Hugh of the recent ABC report of Henry Hyde's comments about the Clinton impeachment in which Hyde is charged in the headline with saying something he clearly doesn't say. The headline reads (or did read, since it has since been modified) that Clinton impeachment was retaliation for Nixon, says retiring congressman.

Here's Dafydd's commentary on what Hyde actually said:

A transcript of a video report that appeared on an ABC affiliate makes a rather startling claim. Upon careful parsing, however, there appears to be an awful lot of gravy for so little pot roast. Here is the screaming headline:

Clinton impeachment was retaliation for Nixon, says retiring congressman by Andy Shaw.

By the time we get [to the story], an element of doubt has begun to creep in:

Republican Congressman Henry Hyde made some surprising comments Thursday on the impeachment hearings of President Bill Clinton. He now says Republicans may have gone after Clinton to retaliate for the impeachment of Richard Nixon.

Note how "was retaliation" has transubstantiated into "may have" been retaliation. Doubt and certainty are locked in an epic battle for all time (like the two guys in the Star Trek episode). But reading a bit further, doubt starts to get the upper hand:

The veteran DuPage County congressman acknowledged that Republicans went after Clinton in part to enact revenge against the Democrats for impeaching President Richard Nixon 25 years earlier.

In part? How much part? One part principle to three parts revenge? Or one part revenge to four parts sloe gin? And at last, if we persevere long enough, we finally come to the actual words that Hammerin' Hank Hyde actually used to Mr. Shaw:

Andy Shaw asked Hyde if the Clinton proceedings were payback for Nixon's impeachment.

"I can't say it wasn't, but I also thought that the Republican party should stand for something, and if we walked away from this, no matter how difficult, we could be accused of shirking our duty, our responsibility," said Hyde.

Well! It's certainly hard to imagine a stronger indictment of Republican perfidy than that! The sudden upthrust of principle after all renders utterly absurd the next paragraph... which makes it quite plain that Mr. Shaw began with his conclusion and worked backwards to his evidence, then forgot to work forward again and bring his snarky commentary into line with the best quote he could get out of old Henry:

Hyde's comments reflect what Democrats have been saying for years about the Clinton impeachment. It will be interesting to see what happens when Hyde's comments hit the national media.

Yes siree... for years and years Democrats have insisted, against an army of naysayers, that the Republican Party should stand for something and shouldn't walk away from its responsibility to impeach Bill Clinton. By golly, I think the Dems deserve a round of applause and perhaps a lump of sugar for finally proving their case!

No sermon would be complete without its homily; no symphony would seem finished without a grace note. Shaw understands the requirements of his chosen profession, so he finishes out with the following:

Hyde's style will be missed in Washington, as well as his sense of civility, even though a lot of people will not miss his rigid ideology.

PowerLine adds this observation:

Somehow I have a feeling the "rigid ideology" at work here is Andy Shaw's. Turns out he was the one that introduced the concept of "payback" for Nixon's impeachment--a mere 25 years earlier--and Hyde responded politely, while making the point that the impeachment issue was one of principle. What a scoop!

As we mentioned above, the media lefties are a real caution. They never let the facts get in the way of their prejudices nor of a good column. Having discovered that which eluded the alchemists of old, they have the uncanny ability to transmute the base metal of "I can't say that it wasn't" into the precious journalistic gold of a scandalous admission. These media David Copperfields can make juicy stories appear right out of thin air. Their skillful prestidigitation is enough to take one's breath away. You can't help but admire it.

CFN Offers Lousy Trade (Pt. III)

This is the third in our series of posts on the Center For Naturalism's (CFN) statement of beliefs as found on their web site. The previous two posts can be read here and here.

CFN makes a number of assertions which seem problematic. Let's begin with this one:

[B]ecause it discounts the existence of the soul and survival after death, naturalism increases the value we place on this, our only life, and the world we inhabit now. Such values support an environmental ethic of wise use, sustainability, and population control that will keep the earth habitable for future generations of all creatures.

The problem with this is that the metaphysical view called naturalism renders all values arbitrary. The naturalist, who believes that this life is all there is, can offer no reason why one shouldn't be a nihilist and reject all values. Nor can they offer a reason why one shouldn't embrace egoism and place one's own selfish interests and pleasures above all else. Why would either be wrong? Why not try to get as much from the earth while we can and let future generations fend for themselves? What is it about naturalism that impels us to care about our descendents? If death is final, there is no reason whatsoever why anyone should care what happens to the world after one's own demise. The only way a naturalist could gainsay this would be by referring to some objective standard of morality, but such standards do not exist if naturalism is true.

CFN also states that:

Because naturalism doubts the existence of ultimate purposes either inherent in nature or imposed by a creator, values derive from human desires and preferences, not discoverable absolutes. To the extent that there is a shared human nature, values are common across cultures, but to the extent cultures differ, so will values. There is no finally correct way to behave, nor are there finally justifiable goals, but only the desires and intentions that currently constitute us, all of which may change as human nature and cultures change. Although values do not have a foundation outside ourselves, we cannot escape having them, since they constitute us as motivated creatures.

We can't help having values just like we can't help having preferences in flavors or colors or music, but it doesn't follow that these preferences are in any way morally significant or binding on ourselves or others. All values in a naturalistic world are ultimately arbitrary and subjective. There is no right or wrong, there are only differences in how people feel about certain behaviors. CFN acknowledges here that naturalism is incompatible with any non-arbitrary morality. It, in fact, offers no basis for any morality whatsoever.

They go on to claim that:

A naturalistic understanding of the causes of criminality helps undercut retributive attitudes favoring the death penalty and punitive prison conditions, while building support for alternative sentencing and policies that address the conditions which generate crime and recidivism. Realizing that but for the luck of circumstances, any of us could be standing in the criminal's shoes, generates compassion for offenders as well as for victims.

However, consideration of the criminal's crime often generates deep contempt and a desire for retribution. Why is the feeling of compassion to be preferred to the feeling of contempt or hatred? Why does CFN arbitrarily favor mercy over retribution? In a naturalistic world there is no basis for choosing between them. If one man prefers compassion and another prefers retribution, neither is right and neither is wrong. For CFN to assume that one is good and the other evil is totally unwarranted on the basis of CFN's assumptions about the world. The folks at CFN are here simply revealing that they would like to turn their subjective preferences into universal social policy.

CFN tries hard to mask the unremitting bleakness of a naturalistic worldview by wrapping it in pretty paper, but the attempt is doomed to fail as soon as one starts to examine the package closely. Naturalism will never be able to supplant Christianity because Christianity is the source of all that makes life meaningful, beautiful, and endurable (See here).

Naturalism would take this source away and offer nothing in its place except a barren and sterile nihilism. Some trade.