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9/8/2010
FANTASIES AND OBAMANOMICS

My latest is up at FrontPage.com and in it, I compare the “Son of Stimulus” to Hollywood’s penchant for remakes, sequels, and knock offs.

A sample:

The president barnstormed the country this summer touting rising jobs numbers despite the underlying weakness of the labor market that produced few private sector jobs, and employment numbers that included hundreds of thousands of temporary census workers. Unlike moviegoers, however, American workers are unable to lose their troubles in Obama’s fantasies about how much better things are getting.

In recent years, summer for Hollywood has also meant the regurgitation of hit movies from the past in the form of the sequel (many are sequels to sequels). And when you run out of sequels, you can always steal material from comic books or old TV shows. Hence, the biggest grossing movies this summer turned out to be the third incarnation of Toy Story, a sequel to a comic book knock off (Iron Man 2), the umpteenth Shrek sequel, and the third go-around for the teenage vampire love story The Twilight Saga: Eclipse.

Add the TV retread The A-Team, the updating of the Ralph Macchio franchise The Karate Kid, and the truly awful Sex in the City 2 and you begin to get the idea that there hasn’t been a lot of creativity in Hollywood since Howard Hughes found a way around the censors to show as much of Jane Russell in The Outlaw as could be squeezed out of her ill-fitting bodice.

By: Rick Moran at 10:41 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)

9/7/2010
THE RICK MORAN SHOW: THE GOP AND THE ELECTION: a POOCH THAT CAN’T BE SCREWED

You won’t want to miss tonight’s Rick Moran Show, one of the most popular conservative talk shows on Blog Talk Radio.

Tonight, I welcome Larrey Anderson of American Thinker, Monica Showalter of IDB, and Yid with a Lid’s Jeff Dunetz as we look at the midterm elections, Koran burning, and try and place 9/11 into historical context.

The show will air from 7:00 - 8:00 PM Central time. You can access the live stream here. A podcast will be available for streaming or download shortly after the end of the broadcast.

Click on the stream below and join in on what one wag called a “Wayne’s World for adults.”

Also, if you’d like to call in and put your two cents in, you can dial (718) 664-9764.

Listen to The Rick Moran Show on internet talk radio

By: Rick Moran at 4:08 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)

WHY NOT HOLD A TEA PARTY PROTEST AGAINST KORAN BURNING?

Tea party folk become outraged at just about anything that President Obama and the Democrats try to accomplish these days. I do too.

Now it’s time to step up and defend America and our Constitution against a different foe; the preacher who is planning to burn Korans on September 11 of this year.

As bad as Obama has been, there is nothing more destructive of the Constitution’s spirit and letter than burning the Koran - or any book for that matter. What this Reverend Jones is planning on doing is so antithetical to Americanism that any red-blooded tea party patriot should be steaming at the very thought that this glory-seeking preacher wants to besmirch our most sacred values by imitating Nazi brownshirts at their worst who piled high books by Jewish authors at Nuremberg and set fire to them.

There is no difference - none - between the 50 or so members of the Dove World Outreach Center and mindless Nazi drones if they carry through with this plan. This is really a no brainer for the tea party groups who have shown brilliance in organizing demonstrations against the president and his party. Why not head down to Gainesville, FL where this bunch of drooling mountebanks are about ready to spit on the Constitution, and demonstrate to protect the Koran?

I am absolutely, 100% dead serious about advocating this, despite the fact that such a demonstration will never, ever take place. If tea party groups are so all-fired, hell-bent-for-leather eager to protest against Obama’s questionable and extra-constitutional excesses, why not turn that notion into a crusade to demonstrate the idea that book burning is a slap in the face to our Founders and radically against the very idea of the First Amendment?

Ah, but don’t the inbred Teutons down in Florida have the same First Amendment right to purchase a book with their own money and burn it on private property? Of course they do - just as those who profess a reverence for the Constitution have a duty to protest against their sacrilege. What’s so hard to figure there?

To my mind, using the fact that Jones and his infantile followers have a right to burn a book as an excuse not to show America that the tea party is consistent in their love of the Constitution is hypocritical. Are tea party groups only in love with some of the Constitution? Do they wish only to protect certain sections of it?

And if you’re not going to protest against Nazi book burnings because it violates the spirit of the First Amendment, why not do it for the boys and girls serving in Afghanistan?

“It could endanger troops and it could endanger the overall effort,” Gen. Petraeus said in an interview. “It is precisely the kind of action the Taliban uses and could cause significant problems. Not just here, but everywhere in the world we are engaged with the Islamic community.”

Hundreds of Afghans attended a demonstration in Kabul on Monday to protest the plans of Florida pastor Terry Jones, who has said he will burn copies of Islam’s holy book to mark the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Afghan protesters chanted “death to America,” and speakers called on the U.S. to withdraw its troops. Some protesters threw rocks at a passing military convoy.

Military officials fear the protests will likely spread to other Afghan cities, especially if the event is broadcast or ends up on Internet video.

This fellow Jones obviously doesn’t get it:

Mr. Jones, head of the 50-member Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Fla., said in a statement that “We understand the General’s concerns. We are sure that his concerns are legitimate.” Nonetheless, he added, “We must send a clear message to the radical element of Islam. We will no longer be controlled and dominated by their fears and threats.”

I would say you are being totally “dominated by their fears and threats” to the point that you would forget what country you live in and channel Adolf Hitler to make your point.

I don’t care what the rabid savages in Muslim countries will do if we burn Korans. If it wasn’t Koran burning, their holy men would find something else to stir up the primitive emotions of the uneducated rabble who can always be counted on to riot and shed blood in the name of Islam when they feel that their juvenile pride has been nicked.

My sole concern is with protecting the legacy of free expression in the United States - a legacy that would be damaged if we burn any book for any reason. Why stop at burning the Koran. Why not move on to 1001 Arabian Nights? Or the diaries of T.E. Laurence? There are dozens of books that deal with the Koran and the Muslim faith, both fiction and non-fiction. If you want to make a symbolic gesture about Islam, why not torch those volumes too?

Peter Wehner is a lot more under control than I am about this:

If he carries through on his plan, then, the actions by Jones may undermine our mission in Afghanistan and threaten the lives of those serving in that theater. People with standing in Jones’s life need to stop him, in part because his actions are deeply antithetical to our founding principles. The Third Reich burned books; those who are citizens of the United States should not.

Jones’s actions would also be an offense against the Christian faith. From what we know, Jesus not only wasn’t an advocate of book-burning; he was a lover of them, most especially the Hebrew Bible, which he often quoted. Beyond that, Christianity is premised on evangelism, on spreading what the faithful believe to be truth about God, history, and the human person. There is nothing that would lead one to embrace coercion or to stoke (literally) the flames of hatred.

Whatever differences the Christian faith has with Islam, they are ones that followers of Jesus need to articulate with reason, with measured words, and with a spirit of grace and understanding. And whatever purpose Jones thinks he’s serving, it is not the purpose of the Prince of Peace. It is, in fact, very nearly its antithesis. We can only hope that this deeply misguided pastor is stopped before he does significant damage to his country, its gallant warriors, and the faith Jones claims as his own.

Jones might not be stopped. But a clear signal of society’s disapproval can be made if tea party folks show up en masse in Gainesville to tell this charlatan that he doesn’t speak for those who love the Constitution and defend it from all besmirchers.

By: Rick Moran at 9:16 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)

9/3/2010
WHY IS THE IDEA OF A UNIVERSE WITHOUT A GOD SO UNSETTLING?
CATEGORY: Ethics, Science

Stephen Hawking was known as something of a mischievous youth, which makes me think his latest proncunciamento on the universe was deliberately calculated to raise the ire of believers of all stripes:

God did not create the universe, world-famous physicist Stephen Hawking argues in a new book that aims to banish a divine creator from physics.

Hawking says in his book “The Grand Design” that, given the existence of gravity, “the universe can and will create itself from nothing,” according to an excerpt published Thursday in The Times of London.

“Spontaneous creation is the reason why there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist,” he writes in the excerpt.

“It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper [fuse] and set the universe going,” he writes.

His book — as the title suggests — is an attempt to answer “the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything,” he writes, quoting Douglas Adams’ cult science fiction romp, “The Hitch-hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.”

Believers come back with the argument that there could be a God somewhere in all that mess and you can’t prove otherwise. Indeed, such reductio ad absurdum arguments made by believers have been basic to the thesis that God exists at least since Thomas Aquinas; You must accept the existence of a Supreme Being because not to do so makes the existence of the universe impossible.

And now, here comes Stephen Hawking with his puckish notion that it was not necessary for the Big Bang to occur at God’s direction, that the state of the universe at it’s beginning could account for the laws of physics - and life - all by itself. We’ll see. The Hadron Collider might have a thing or two to say about that if it ever gets up and running at full speed.

It is expected that some of the fundamental particles that will be discovered by the high energy collisions of atoms at Cern will answer some questions we have been tantalizingly close to discovering already; how did the universe get started? Currently, we’ve proved experimentally what happened a couple of millionths of a second after the expansion of the universe began. But prior to that, there is a gap in our knowledge. Hawking is convinced that the distance to discovering the origin of the universe can be bridged without resorting to supernatural explanations.

And, as this Anglican priest and scientist points out, even if Hawking is correct, that isn’t the end of God:

Fraser Watts, an Anglican priest and Cambridge expert in the history of science, said that it’s not the existence of the universe that proves the existence of God.

But, he said, “a creator God provides a reasonable and credible explanation of why there is a universe, and … it is somewhat more likely that there is a God than that there is not. That view is not undermined by what Hawking has said.”

What is undermined is the kind of Supreme Being worshiped by most of the world; an all powerful, all seeing entity that butts into everyone’s life and will send you to hell if you fantasize about Rene Pignataro being almost naked, as my 8th grade nun used to warn us boys about.

The kind of God still possible under Hawking’s theories is a static God whose benign presence can be construed by a belief in predestination or, what some philosophers say is a “universal intelligence.” I don’t buy either theory simply because using a reductive argument, you still end up needing faith to make that last leap of illogic in order to “prove” God’s existence.

Some would say that’s the idea; that humanity’s belief in a Supreme Being is the essence of that part of our mind that bridges reality with dreams, or the perception of what’s real with the knowledge of what isn’t. Somewhere in that muddle, there must be room for faith or life simply has no meaning beyond being born, experiencing consciousness for a while, and then facing eternal oblivion by dying.

Most of us cannot make that leap into what is thought to be absurdist logic. Life is too special, too rare to simply end with a “lights out” finality. Hawking’s point is “Who says so?” If life could come into being as a result of forces at the beginning of the universe that randomly came together without assistance from God, why should there be purpose to anything - including life?

Atheists feel this intuitively and accept the notion that death is the end of existence. A universe that creates the conditions of what some might say is this kind of a “meaningless” life, is perfectly capable of creating itself out of the random fluctuations of forces and particles. The transience of existence is just one more hiccup in the history of time since the instant the universe came into being.

I am not one of those atheists who looks down on believers. After all, there is easily enough uncertainty for me to be spectacularly wrong. This does not mean I will have a deathbed conversion “just to be on the safe side.” Chris Hitchens, suffering with cancer, explains this:

Pursuing the prayer thread through the labyrinth of the Web, I eventually found a bizarre “Place Bets” video. This invites potential punters to put money on whether I will repudiate my atheism and embrace religion by a certain date or continue to affirm unbelief and take the hellish consequences. This isn’t, perhaps, as cheap or as nasty as it may sound. One of Christianity’s most cerebral defenders, Blaise Pascal, reduced the essentials to a wager as far back as the 17th century. Put your faith in the almighty, he proposed, and you stand to gain everything. Decline the heavenly offer and you lose everything if the coin falls the other way. (Some philosophers also call this Pascal’s Gambit.)

Ingenious though the full reasoning of his essay may be—he was one of the founders of probability theory—Pascal assumes both a cynical god and an abjectly opportunist human being. Suppose I ditch the principles I have held for a lifetime, in the hope of gaining favor at the last minute? I hope and trust that no serious person would be at all impressed by such a hucksterish choice. Meanwhile, the god who would reward cowardice and dishonesty and punish irreconcilable doubt is among the many gods in which (whom?) I do not believe. I don’t mean to be churlish about any kind intentions, but when September 20 comes, please do not trouble deaf heaven with your bootless cries. Unless, of course, it makes you feel better.

And that, in the end, is what all this God bothering is about; the very human requirement that we be comforted in the face of a universe so vast it is beyond our understanding. Rather than accept the idea that there are some things we will never know about life, the cosmos, even that pebble in our shoe, it makes us feel better to imagine there is someone, somewhere who has it all figured out and will let us in on the secret if we’re good little boys and girls and make it to the finish line in heaven when we die.

The alternative may sound cynical, but for a rationalist, there really is no other way to face the world when you get out of bed in the morning.

By: Rick Moran at 9:27 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)

9/1/2010
CONSERVATISM’S FALSE DAWN

You don’t have to be able to read tea leaves, examine entrails, or count the warts on a horny toad to know that conservatism is headed for a smashing victory in November.

Or is it? Will the coming electoral tidal wave hide deficiencies that have yet to be addressed following a long decade of decline and exhaustion?

What has changed in the intervening months? Certainly, the rising fortunes of the GOP has energized the conservative base and instilled confidence in conservative cadres. But have any of the systemic challenges that faced conservatism following the 2008 electoral debacle been addressed?

Alas, I don’t see it. Indeed, if one were to examine what is shaping up to be the Republican agenda that will be set before the American people in November, you would be excused if you felt like you had to pinch yourself in order to make sure you were not somehow magically transported back to 1980.

Tax cuts. Check. Get government “out of the way.” Check. Less regulation. Check. Cut spending. Check. Reduce the deficit. Check. Maintain a strong defense. Check.

It’s as if the smiling visage of the Gipper himself was standing along side Republican candidates as for the 15th election in a row, some variation of the above agenda is presented as conservatism’s answer to the welfare state coddling of the Democrats and liberals.

To those who might say that conservative principles are timeless and immutable, I would wholeheartedly agree. Except that tax cuts are not a “conservative principle.” Neither is reduced spending, less regulation, or any other issue that currently substitutes for substantive thought on the right.

In an article in the Wall Street Journal, Peter Berkowitz crows about the right being back on top:

In late 2008 and early 2009, in the wake of Mr. Obama’s meteoric ascent, the idea that conservatism would enjoy any sort of revival in the summer of 2009 would have seemed to demoralized conservatives too much to hope for. To leading lights on the left, it would have appeared absolutely outlandish.

In late October 2008, New Yorker staff writer George Packer reported “the complete collapse of the four-decade project that brought conservatism to power in America.” Two weeks later, the day after Mr. Obama’s election, Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne proclaimed “the end of a conservative era” that had begun with the rise of Ronald Reagan.

And in February 2009, New York Times Book Review and Week in Review editor Sam Tanenhaus, writing in The New Republic, declared that “movement conservatism is exhausted and quite possibly dead.” Mr. Tanenhaus even purported to discern in the new president “the emergence of a president who seems more thoroughly steeped in the principles of Burkean conservatism than any significant thinker or political figure on the right.”

Messrs. Packer, Dionne and Tanenhaus underestimated what the conservative tradition rightly emphasizes, which is the high degree of unpredictability in human affairs. They also conflated the flagging fortunes of George W. Bush’s Republican Party with conservatism’s popular appeal. Most importantly, they failed to grasp the imperatives that flow from conservative principles in America, and the full range of tasks connected to preserving freedom.

What Berkowitz doesn’t mention about those critiques - and many more like it on both the right and the left - is that it appeared at the time that conservatism was a hollowed out shell; that it had lost its vibrancy, it’s vim and vigor. The idea factories were still churning out papers, the intellectuals were still trying to connect history and philosophy to politics and policy, but there was a disconnect between conservative thinkers and doers.

The politicians were less interested in implementing new ideas than in trying to preserve their majorities. The activists - then as now - were more interested in giving litmus tests to candidates and politicians in order to purge those they found less than pure than in working to elect candidates who might have advanced legitimate policy alternatives to the left to deal with real world problems that had festered for decades because conservatism had failed to find a vocabulary to connect ordinary people’s concern’s with government action.

In short, conservatism had exhausted itself. The old verities were still true, and still resonated up to a point with voters. But the world had changed in the intervening 30 years between Reagan and Obama and the right was incapable of articulating how to deal with those changes both philosophically and politically.

“Small government” (and its sister battle cry “smaller government”) was no longer an adhesive that bound the movement conservatives to the libertarians because the hypocrisy of crying for cuts in the size of government when advocating massive government intervention in marriage and family matters drove many libertarians into the waiting arms of the Democrats. That, and the inability of any two conservatives to agree on how to shrink government to make it “smaller” - much less “small” - imparted an incoherence to political conservatism that people gave up trying to understand.

Libertarians are coming back to the GOP in waves because of liberal overreach in implementing Obama’s agenda, while a welcome de-emphasizing of the social issues that drove them away has taken place. Meanwhile, in the hinterlands, GOP governors have experimented with ways to apply a more pragmatic conservatism to make a difference in the lives of their citizens on issues like health care, social policy, and education - issues that heretofore were not considered “conservative” by many on the right, or at least in the way that governors like Mitch Daniels and Chris Christie were choosing to address them. And Representative Paul Ryan has stepped forward with his “Roadmap” to deal with entitlements - the first stirrings of what may be a rallying point for the “young turks” emerging as a force in the Republican party.

All of this is welcome news for the right. But the question I have for Berkowitz and other self congratulatory conservatives is what has changed in the intervening months to make anyone think there has been any kind of a “revival?” Conservative elites are not interested in governors and have been extremely cautious about Rep. Ryan’s admittedly radical ideas. The political class has resisted any kind of change, as evidenced by clinging to the Reagan agenda as if it were a talisman to be stroked and caressed so that whatever magic might be left in the mantra might rub off on them and bring them victory.

The Beck Rally as evidence of conservative revival? Spare me. It may have indicated some kind of effort at religious revival, but please don’t confuse coming back to God with politics.

Daniel Larison:

In other words, when Mormons and evangelicals are at their worst and are indulging their least admirable tendencies to idolize the country at the expense of their religious teachings, there is a chance for them to find common ground. If you think that a serious religious revival in America might have something to do with a spirit of repentance and humility rather than with an extravaganza of validation and national self-congratulation, that is really a very damning indictment of what Beck is doing. As Joe Carter correctly says, “As Moore notes, the problem isn’t really Beck. The problem is believers trading the true faith for the syncretism of Christian-flavored civic religion.”

Religion and politics is a mighty incendiary mixture, and Beck’s sermonizing at the rally evoked unflattering comparisons to Father Coughlin. If Christians want another “Great Awakening,” that’s fine, more power to them. Just don’t try and drag political conservatism along for the ride. While many conservative philosophers believe it necessary for a just moral order to include a belief in God, that does not mean that you set the old fellow alongside conservative candidates during campaigns and use him as bait to capture voters. I’m sure God has better things to do than help elect a GOP majority.

As long as conservative activists and the elites reject the idea that conservatism has an activist role to play in running government; that prudent, practical, reasonable efforts by government to regulate business, protect consumers, care for the poor, ensure access to health care, protect the environment, and carry out the other responsibilities that must be shouldered by a 21st century industrialized democratic government, there will be no “revival” of conservatism except in the overheated imaginations of its ideological adherents.

November 2010 will therefore be a “false dawn” for conservatism. For once a GOP majority takes its seats in Congress (if it does), they are going to have to address the monumental problems facing America today. Looking at what they say they will do to address many of those problems, one wonders if they fully realize how fully out of touch they seem when advocating an agenda that was new when Leonid Brezhnev was in power in the old Soviet Union.

By: Rick Moran at 9:43 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)