Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Ron Paul in Hot Water

Not that it matters much, but it looks like Ron Paul has done himself in. The New Republic has unearthed ten years worth of newsletters put out under Paul's name in which sentiments are expressed which, if not exactly racist, are certainly not flattering to blacks (or gays). However one chooses to characterize these opinions, Paul evidently feels guilty enough about them to try to disavow them:

The quotations in The New Republic article are not mine and do not represent what I believe or have ever believed. I have never uttered such words and denounce such small-minded thoughts....When I was out of Congress and practicing medicine full-time, a newsletter was published under my name that I did not edit. Several writers contributed to the product. For over a decade, I have publically taken moral responsibility for not paying closer attention to what went out under my name.

Be that as it may, John Podhoretz thinks Paul's protestations pretty much irrelevant:

Ah, so the Ron Paul Political Report featured articles expressing views a man named Ron Paul found abhorrent, did it? This is reminiscent of the hilarious denunciation by Charles Barkley of his own ghostwritten autobiography. The only difference is that Charles Barkley was a basketball player at the time, while Ron Paul is a sitting member of Congress and a candidate for president of the United States. If he did know about what was published under his name and he's lying about it now, he's a blackguard as well as a disgusting public figure. If he didn't know, he's a pathetic buffoon who sold his own name to racists and intellectual thugs. Not sure which is better.

Despite his ability to raise money, Ron Paul has been pretty much a marginal figure in this primary season. After the TNR revelations he'll probably decide that he doesn't want to have to answer questions about these 15 year-old newsletters everywhere he goes and just drop out of the race.


Ayaan Hirsi Ali on Modernity

Ayaan Hirsi Ali has written a fine review of a new book (Suicide of Reason) by Lee Harris on the threat to civilization posed by radical Islam. Both Harris and Ali say many things worth reading, including this graph by Ali in response to Harris' pessimism about the prospect of Muslims moderating their extremism:

I was not born in the West. I was raised with the code of Islam, and from birth I was indoctrinated into a tribal mind-set. Yet I have changed, I have adopted the values of the Enlightenment, and as a result I have to live with the rejection of my native clan as well as the Islamic tribe. Why have I done so? Because in a tribal society, life is cruel and terrible. And I am not alone. Muslims have been migrating to the West in droves for decades now. They are in search of a better life. Yet their tribal and cultural constraints have traveled with them. And the multiculturalism and moral relativism that reign in the West have accommodated this.

Unfortunately, she also misfires at least once in her essay. She condemns the moral relativism that cripples Western thought and impedes intellectuals from condemning radical Islam, while at the same praising the Enlightenment which produced modernity. What she seems to miss is that the relativism she deprecates is a logical consequence of the modernity she extols. When modernity banished transcendent morality and subjectivized ethics modern man was left with few places to which he could turn other than to relativism.

Ali, who is an atheist, also blames religion for being an enemy of reason, but this, too, is a misunderstanding of the role religion, at least the Christian religion, has played in the rise of reason in the West. She writes:

Harris is correct, I believe, that many Western leaders are terribly confused about the Islamic world. They are woefully uninformed and often unwilling to confront the tribal nature of Islam. The problem, however, is not too much reason but too little. Harris also fails to address the enemies of reason within the West: religion and the Romantic movement. It is out of rejection of religion that the Enlightenment emerged; Romanticism was a revolt against reason. Both the Romantic movement and organized religion have contributed a great deal to the arts and to the spirituality of the Western mind, but they share a hostility to modernity.

No doubt they do, but that's not a bad thing, necessarily. There's lots about modernity toward which one should be hostile. It was, after all, the exercise of reason in the 19th century that gave us Marx and ultimately Stalin. It was the exercise of reason in the modern era that gave us the eugenics movement in the late 19th century which led eventually to the Nazis' Final Solution. The Cambodian Killing Fields came to us courtesy of people instituting the perfectly "reasonable" principles of Plato's Republic. Modernity has had, morally speaking, its ups and downs and has certainly been something less than an unalloyed boon to human civilization.

The problem is that modernity (or the Enlightenment)unhitched reason from its roots in Christian belief. An untethered reason was thus free to run in any direction unchecked by any transcendent moral norms and this led to evils just as horrific as the irrationalities that plague Ali's native religion. Reason is a wonderful blessing, like oxygen, but an atmosphere of pure oxygen, undiluted by other gases, would be hellish. Reason, likewise, needs to be compounded with the moral guidance provided by Christian theism or else, like pure oxygen, it is incendiary and toxic to human existence.



One cannot listen to the current candidates for president from either party talk for three minutes without hearing them mention the need for "change" at least a half dozen times. Every time I hear the word I'm reminded of a post we did about a year ago that went something like this:

  • The stock market, despite its current dip, has been hovering near all-time highs and America's 401K's are back.
  • Unemployment is at 25 year lows.
  • Taxes are at 20 year lows.
  • Federal tax revenues are at all-time highs.
  • The Federal deficit is trending down.
  • Inflation is in check, hovering at 20 year lows.

Bear in mind that all of the above occurred in the face of the 1999 tech crash, the epidemic of corporate scandals throughout the 90's, and the 9/11/01 terrorist attacks on NYC which collectively sucked 24 trillion dollars and 7.8 million jobs out of the US economy even before G. W. Bush had time to unpack his suitcases in the White House. It has also occured despite the recent spike in oil prices and the sub-prime mortgage crisis.

  • Not a single terrorist attack has struck U.S. soil since 9/11/01.
  • Osama bin Laden is living in a cave, unable to surface for more than a few hours at a time, while most of al Qaeda's leadership is either dead or in custody and cooperating with U.S. intelligence services.
  • Several major terrorist attacks have been thwarted in the last couple of years by US and British intelligence agencies, including a planned attack involving 10 Jumbo Jets being exploded in mid-air over major U.S. cities in order to celebrate the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
  • Iraq appears to be on the road to peace and stability. Afghanistan has been liberated from the Taliban. Some of the luster of Islamo-fascism has faded among Muslims around the world.
  • Several nations have decided to forego the pursuit of nuclear weapons. Others are cracking down on the movements of terrorists within their borders.
  • Illegal border crossings into the U.S. have dropped sharply in the past year and continue to drop.
  • The Supreme Court has seen the addition of two outstanding jurists to the bench in the last couple of years.

What on the above list do the "agents of change" currently running for the presidency propose to undo or alter? What, exactly, do they think should be different?

The use of the word "change" as a political slogan is both puerile and an insult to the intelligence of every thoughtful voter. Change is not an intrinsic good and to make it a political mantra displays a regrettable shallowness of mind on the part of the candidate. What we as voters need to be told is, what specific changes the candidate has in mind and how, precisely, he or she intends to bring them about.

The first candidate who announces that he (only a Republican might do this) is not really all that enthusiastic about "change" but is instead pretty sanguine about the general direction the country is moving and doesn't so much want to change that direction but maybe just tweak it a little bit will certainly get my consideration as a voter. He will have demonstrated a seriousness that hasn't been otherwise much in evidence so far in this campaign.

Meanwhile, Ramirez offers us his two cents about change: