Ron Paul’s Revenge

Don’t invite Ron Paul to your party, unless you want him to tear it apart. Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was going to pull a fast one at the DNC, and do something devious to undermine the rival whom the party picked over her. But she didn’t. She endorsed Obama fully and wholeheartedly, doing her best to reunite a party torn asunder by their bitter rivalry. Would that Ron Paul had such grace. But, like a spoiled child, if he can’t be the nominee, he’ll take his marbles and go hold his own party somewhere else, doing his best to create a distraction from the RNC, siphon off as many votes as he can, and undermine the very party of which he claims to be a member.

Ron Paul used to call himself a Libertarian. I was a Libertarian for 30 years before switching to the Republican Party a couple of months ago. I still believe in the traditional libertarian ideals of individual freedom, individual responsibility, and limited government. The reason I switched parties is because I recognize the practical need to unite with other conservatives to focus all our efforts behind electing the most fiscally conservative candidates, in the interest of reining in the growth of big government and the proliferation of socialist economic policies. In this election, that candidate is John McCain. And I anticipate that it’s going to be a very close race.

Ron Paul doesn’t have a chance, never will have a chance, and the only possible effect of his little diversion will be to divide the conservative vote and help get Obama elected. Ron Paul calls himself a Republican. His political positions are far closer to McCain’s than to Obama’s. But Ron Paul doesn’t really care who gets elected to lead our country. All he cares about is the greater glory of Ron Paul. He’s nothing but a narcissist who’s willing to sacrifice the best interests of his party, and his country, to his own personal ego.

This is not a first for him. The Libertarian Party used to be the strongest third party in the country. In 1980, Ed Clarke made a credible run for the presidency and drew a lot of positive attention to the party. The Libertarian Party was gaining momentum and support throughout the nation, until 1988 when Ron Paul single-handedly split the party in two.

The Libertarian Party has always stood for minimal government involvement in people’s private lives. Traditionally it has had a strong pro-choice contingent. But a lot of Libertarians are also pro-life. Some Libertarians uphold the individual rights of women to make their own choices regarding their own bodies and lives. Others believe we must protect the individual rights of the unborn. But the party had never made abortion the core focus of their platform, and rightly so, because there’s little any candidate can actually do about this highly emotional issue. Changing the law would require nothing less than a Constitutional amendment.

But Ron Paul decided to make it a dividing issue for the party. After being chosen as the official Libertarian candidate, he made abortion one of the top planks in his personal platform, referring to himself as a “Pro-Life Libertarian.” That split the party right down the middle. The pro-choice Libertarians felt used and undermined, so they went looking for their own candidate. The candidate they found was Russell Means. Russell Means, IMHO, was simply an opportunist who saw running for president as a good way to get a national venue to highlight his own special interests. The effect was a complete split of the previously united Libertarian Party, over an issue that had never been a dividing issue before. That was, effectively, the end of the Libertarian Party as a viable third party. It never did recover.

Ron Paul must have felt a great sense of power at having been able to divide and conquer an up-and-coming political force in the nation, all by himself. Now he’s looking to do the same thing to the Republican Party. It must be a real rush for Ron Paul to have such power. Too bad for the rest of the Republican Party but, who cares? At least Ron Paul will make a good showing and everybody will know how popular he is. He’s pathetic.

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Published in: on August 31, 2008 at 6:06 pm  Comments (35)  
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What Have Progressives Got Against Progress?

Liberals don’t want to be called liberal anymore. They prefer to be referred to as “progressive.”

Conservatives don’t mind being called conservative. In fact, most conservatives are proud to be conservative (and equally proud to be American). And why not? Starting with the vision of our founding fathers, the traditional conservative values of independence, individualism, and self-determination motivated the early settlers and pioneers and, later, the industrialists and entrepreneurs who built this country into the greatest and most powerful nation on earth.

But why are liberals suddenly ashamed of the word liberal? Why do they feel the need to redefine themselves as something else? And why have they chosen the singularly inappropriate term “progressive” to describe themselves? It almost seems as if they’re begging the question. After all, what is progress? Reviewing the history of civilization, progress has traditionally been marked by significant advances that made the cultures that developed them more efficient and productive, enabling them to prosper and to expand their territory and culture.

More advanced civilizations often used their technological sophistication to conquer less advanced civilizations and, historically, it was largely as a result of war that progress spread from culture to culture. The conquering armies have not always been the aggressors. It was Japan that attacked the U.S. in WWII. But Japan would not be the major economic power it is today if the U.S. had not defeated it, and rebuilt it as a modern industrial/technological nation.

There have been episodes in history when more advanced civilizations have been overrun by less advanced civilizations that were more focused on military progress. That’s one reason why a nation should never allow itself to become weak militarily, no matter how advanced it may be in other areas. Mr. Obama recently promised to “cut investments in unproven missile defense systems,” “slow our development of future combat systems,” and make “deep cuts in our nuclear arsenal.” Conservatives cringed, but liberals loved it.

All types of progress entail tradeoffs. As vast tracts of land are cultivated, the native species on those lands must either find new environments, adapt, or die. The extraction of raw materials from the earth causes disruption of habitats. The production of metals, plastics, paper, and the manufacture of goods all cause various forms of pollution. But without these trade-offs, civilization as we know it would not be possible.

Liberals don’t believe in trade-offs. They continually seek to enact regulations to curtail any kind of progress that impacts the environment. They want to sequester vast extents of land into national wilderness areas, preventing the extraction of natural resources like minerals, timber, or oil. They want to enact cap and trade regulations that will jack up the costs of the energy we require to live our daily lives, and which is also required to fuel all types of industrial and technological progress.

Progress is always a result of trial and error. Significant advances require significant investments in time, effort, and money, and entail enormous risks because there is no guarantee of success. Who has the kind of money to invest in making progress possible? Capitalists. Why would they be willing to take those enormous risks? Because there’s a possibility of an enormous payoff. They calculate the risk/benefit ratio and, only if the potential rewards significantly outweigh the risks, does it make sense to invest. Yet liberals don’t think anyone deserves such enormous rewards, and would tax their profits to the point where it’s no longer worth the risk to invest. Without capital investment, progress cannot occur.

Liberals like to point out that the income gap between rich and poor is getting greater all the time. But they ignore the fact that the standard of living of the poor gets greater all the time, too. The poorest people today have a higher standard of living than the vast majority of people had a hundred years ago. And the reason they do is all the industrial and technological advances made possible by capitalism. That is true progress. And it benefits the poor as well as the wealthy.

Despite what liberals believe, capitalism is not a zero sum game. When new industries evolve, new opportunities are created. The fact that some people get very rich doesn’t mean other people have to get poor. But those who don’t have the motivation to work hard, better themselves, and pursue opportunities, will always be poor. And the easier the government makes it to be poor, by subsidizing poverty, the more people will take the easy way out.

Liberal ideology is consistently opposed to progress. They continually demand regulations that stymie progress, and they want the government to take more money away from those who fuel the scientific, industrial, and technological advances that define progress. They believe that money should be redistributed to those who don’t contribute to progress, but are its beneficiaries.

Since liberals are so opposed to progress, why is it they want to be known as “progressives?”

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A Little Humor…

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Published in: on August 21, 2008 at 9:21 pm  Comments (2)  
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Sticks and Stones and All That

In response to my post on The “R” Word, some people expressed that a comparison of the “R” word to the “N” word is unfair. After all, as one person stated, “the ‘R’ word has to be earned.” When I pointed out that anybody can call anybody a racist, true or not, they responded “If that label is directed at someone who isn’t a racist, I’d argue that the word has no power at all. Sticks and stones and all that…” But doesn’t “sticks and stones and all that” apply to the “N” word as well?

I’m not defending the use of the “N” word. Nobody I know uses that word. I used to know people who used it regularly. They were black, so it was considered OK. I’m not saying there are no white people who use it. I know there are. I just don’t associate with them.

However, the “R” word is becoming so commonplace that it will eventually become meaningless. What prompted me to write The ‘R’ Word was someone who posted on my favorite local forum a couple of months ago:

“Many people are determined to hate Senator Barack Obama. But, c’mon, let’s just be honest for a change… It all has to do with the color of his skin and his self confidence.”

Wow, that’s some kind of “honesty.” The implication is that anybody who doesn’t like her candidate must be a racist, just because her candidate is black. That really got me to thinking. Since when is it racist to disagree with a black person? The term “racist” used to be reserved for true bigots, like the KKK or the Aryan Nations, — really despicable people. Now, anybody can qualify for that previously heinous label just by not supporting Obama.

When I was growing up, calling someone a racist was one of the worst things you could say about them. It had the same visceral impact as calling someone a child molester. And, like that other accusation, just the suggestion of it is enough to plant an enduring suspicion, even in the minds of those who are too “polite” to say anything, leaving the target no way to defend themselves without appearing to beg the question. Even without any justification, many people implicitly believe “where there’s smoke, there’s fire.”

Despite its recent dilution, the word still has incredible power. Today, the mere implication of racism can put a person’s job in jeopardy. Corporations are very sensitive to the potential for lawsuits by members of protected categories who allege the reason they didn’t get the promotion they wanted was because of racism or sexism. Is it true in some cases? Of course. But, in most cases, whether it’s true or not isn’t likely to ever be investigated. Corporations can’t afford to take the risk, so any suspicion of racism or sexism, justified or not, can derail a person from the management track and send their career south. The victim is never confronted with the accusation and doesn’t know what hit them, because it’s easier for management to just avoid the issue.

The word is a powerful weapon. But perhaps its cutting edge will soon be dulled through misuse by the petulant and inept, who resort to name-calling when they run short on reason. Another possibility is that its overuse may create a self-fulfilling prophecy. People who are sick of spurious accusations and demands for political correctness may start identifying with the “R” word out of defiance, just as certain blacks have adopted the “N” word to refer to themselves. Will that be a good thing? I don’t think so. But I suspect we may be headed in that direction.

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Published in: on August 14, 2008 at 5:51 pm  Comments (59)  
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The “R” Word

I’ve always been intrigued by the sheer power of language. Usually, the power of words lies in their context, and in the way they’re strung together to communicate a complex concept in a way that disposes the listener to accept or reject it. Certain words, however, have their own intrinsic power, irrespective of context. I think of those as magic words. The “F” word is a magic word because of its peculiar power to shock and offend and to stop a conversation dead in its tracks. But the power of the “F” word pales in comparison to the power of the “N” word.

The “N” word may be the most powerful word in the English language, in terms of pure visceral impact and the ability to elicit shock, anger, betrayal, humiliation, hatred, and even violence. Can you think of any other two syllables stuck together that could incite a riot? The “N” word is not just a word; it’s a weapon. It’s an incredibly ugly word because it objectifies the person at whom it’s leveled, stripping them of their individuality and casting them as an insignificant inferior.

The word “Racist” is another of those amazingly powerful words, similar to the “N” word in its capacity to evoke an emotional response. Arguably, the “R” word is even uglier than the “N” word, because what it says about the person at whom it’s leveled is uglier. It implies that they are blind to the individuality of others and are motivated by ignorant hate.

One may say the “N” word is worse because it’s based on race, a characteristic with which one is born, about which one has no choice. Presumably, if one is a racist, it’s by their own volition. But what’s more insidious about calling someone a racist is that, just because one is labeled that, doesn’t mean it’s true. Yet how does one prove what one is not? Once tarred with the brush of racism, either by accusation or implication, one cannot easily defend oneself without sounding like one is begging the question.

Spurious imputations of racism are increasingly in vogue these days among a certain set of people. It’s commonly used to shut down discussion without having to come up with a rational response, to vilify someone with whom one disagrees, and to discredit whatever it is they have to say. Unlike the “N” word, which is so politically incorrect that one can’t even spell it out without invoking imprecations of racism, the word “racist” is commonly used by those who see themselves as infallibly politically correct.

It’s ironic that, though Senator Obama sells himself as the “post-racial” candidate who will heal the racial divide in our nation, his campaign has become the focal point for racial divisiveness. Perhaps more ironic is that the most aggressive perpetrators of that racial divisiveness are not his opponents, but his supporters. While Obama himself has tiptoed around direct accusations of racism, many of his supporters are quick to fling the epithet at anyone and everyone who doesn’t support their candidate, or who disagrees with them on any number of hot button issues.

I know how it feels to be branded with the scarlet “R” for daring to speak about race without genuflecting before the altar of political correctness. But I’m not intimidated by magic words. However, I know many people who are hesitant to express legitimate opinions about subjects such as affirmative action or welfare because they don’t want to be put in the position of having to defend themselves against the inevitable intimations of racism. How are we ever going to “heal the racial divide” if we can’t talk openly and honestly about any issues that happen to touch on race? Liberals like to spout “Speak truth to power,” but they won’t abide people who speak truth to political correctness.

I’ll continue to speak my mind, and to support my opinions with logic and facts. Anybody who can refute my positions with logic and facts is welcome to convince me I’m wrong. I’ve been wrong before, and I’ll be wrong again, but I won’t shut up because I’m afraid of what somebody might call me, no matter how ugly it is.

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Affirmative Action Has Run its Course

Affirmative action, like labor unions, once served a legitimate purpose. But, as is often the case when remedial measures get institutionalized, having addressed the problems that gave rise to them, they entrench themselves in self-sustaining bureaucracies and set about creating new problems to solve. I’m not suggesting that there are no longer any inequities in pay scales or hiring practices. But inequities will be with us always. Having gotten to the point where we are today, it’s got to be up to individuals to make it the rest of the way.

Crutches are undeniably beneficial when one has a broken leg, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to rely on them permanently. Up to a point, they’re necessary to allow the injury to heal. But using them longer than necessary will eventually atrophy the very muscles that need to be strengthened to effect a full recovery. After nearly half a century, it’s natural to feel some apprehension about laying down the crutches, but the time has come to stand up and walk independently. It may be wobbly at first but, ultimately, the only way to get beyond the need for crutches is to leave the crutches behind.

In a country that’s on the verge of electing a black man as its president, it seems condescending to maintain that a qualified black man can’t get a job without affirmative action. I know a number of highly qualified black men and women in well-paid, highly technical jobs who did not get there because of affirmative action. I think it would be insulting to them to have to work alongside people who were hired because of affirmative action, and have to constantly prove that they weren’t. Affirmative action places a stigma on those who happen to be in a ‘protected’ category, hovering over them like a nagging cloud of doubt as to whether they were hired because of an accidental characteristic or because of their true qualifications.

I’m told that women still only make $.78 on the dollar, compared with men. The assumption is that women and men are always equally qualified and, therefore, should always be paid the same. I question that assumption. Clearly, for many jobs requiring certain physical skills, men will generally be better qualified than women. Notwithstanding individual exceptions, on average, men are bigger, stronger, can run faster, jump higher, etc. There are psychological differences as well, which are reflected in different inclinations, motivations, and other character traits.

There are also different types of intelligence. I know some very smart people who are terrible at math, and I know some incredibly smart engineers who can’t write a coherent sentence. Clearly, different jobs require different types of intelligence, as well as different character traits, motivations, inclinations, and skills. While any individual may possess any given traits to a greater or lesser degree than any other individual, there are fundamental differences between men and women that may impact their respective effectiveness at different types of jobs. That may account for some of the imbalance in wages. Or perhaps women, in general, aren’t as good at negotiating salaries. In that case, they need to develop that skill, not rely on the government to do it for them.

I believe every individual should be paid according to the actual value they provide to their employer. In a free market, that’s exactly what happens. If women who are just as qualified as men are generally making $.78 on the dollar, there are bargains to be had, and there will be savvy employers who are more than willing to pay $.90 on the dollar to get their pick of the most highly qualified women in the work force. Assuming the most highly qualified women really are as qualified as the most highly qualified men, that would give those employers a distinct advantage over their competition. If that isn’t happening, there must be a reason. I can’t imagine that employers would act against their own best interests just to keep women in their place.

The ultimate ideal of affirmative action seems to be to achieve demographically proportional representation in every field. I don’t believe that’s a valid goal. I believe all individuals applying for the same position should be judged by the same criteria, and that the criteria should be determined by the requirements of the position. Job qualifications should not be redefined to encourage diversity. In many cases, that’s where affirmative action leads. It encourages businesses to level the playing field by lowering the bar. That’s not right.

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