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Saturday, April 12, 2003
Pity the Left
I almost feel sorry for leftists these days. Almost.
I think I really am beginning to understand their frustration.
Put yourself in their place. First they had to live through 12 years of Ronald Reagan and Bush I from 1980 through 1992. These two (primarily Reagan) brought about the downfall of the left's shining workers paradise on a hill: the USSR. Think of this as the left-wing version of Original Sin.
In 1992, though, thanks to the ineptitude and spinelessness of Bush I, the left finally got one of its own elected President. In 1993, the Democrats owned both houses of Congress and the White House. Their dreams of conquest were about to come to fruition. They had all the power. Or so they thought.
Actually, they DID have all the power for a few months there in 1993 and 1994. And they did two things of note with it. They raised taxes and they attempted to nationalize health care. That attempt, though, was unsuccessful thanks primarily to the vastly underappreciated efforts of Senator Phil Gramm, who was the first to stand and say an uniquivocal "NO" when Bob Dole and his ilk were busily crafting compromises of the Dime Store New Deal variety.
When the nation saw what Democrats did - and tried to do - with their hands on the levers of power, they ripped it away in the historic election of 1994. Control of the House of Representatives, held by the Democrats for 40 years, was lost. The most notable accomplishments of the remaining years of the Clinton administration were ones primarily supported and advanced by Congressional Republicans: NAFTA and welfare reform.
The only real progress on the left's agenda for the years from 1995 through 2000 came in the form of Clinton's ongoing appointment of left-wing judges. Otherwise, having learned his lesson from the health-care debacle, Clinton's efforts to expand the federal government were pretty much limited to what damage he could do via executive order: confiscating land in the west, eviscerating the CIA, etc..
Then in 2000, Bush II was elected. This in and of itself was a rejection of leftism not fully appreciated by most. Gore's slight edge in the popular vote notwithstanding, his loss in the electoral college was almost inexplicable. Not only did he have the monolithically leftist mainstream media keeping wind beneath his wings; but the nation was at peace and the precarious state of the economy was apparent only in the form of the stock market crater that began in March of 2000. Combine a superficially good economy with the relentless efforts of the media to paint Bush as a simpleton and a frat boy, and Gore should have won by a mile. But he didn't.
The election was, however, very close. And once they recovered and reconciled themselves to the fact that Bush would be President, the leftists comforted themselves with the knowledge that the electorate was closely divided. This, they concluded (again, with significant prompting from their media allies), would mean that Bush would have to govern as a "centrist."
Wrong again. He passed a massive tax cut (albeit one that doesn't really take effect for a few years) almost identical to the one on which he campaigned.
Then came 9/11 and Bush's masterful handling of that tragedy, including a war against Afghanistan (opposed by the left), and dramatic domestic security measures (also opposed by the left).
"That's ok," they told themselves. "We'll take back Congress in 2002!" First term Presidents ALWAYS lose seats in off-year elections. Plus the economy's bad.
Oops. Snookered again.
Then came Iraq. The left mobilized all its big guns: Michael Moore, Peter Jennings, Jacques Chirac, CNN. They warned of disaster, quagmire, and world war. "You must heed the word of the UN!" they cried. And again Bush acted. And again their side lost.
Don't just take my word for it though. Do you want to see a glimpse of the depths and source of their frustration? Listen to the words of Enron consultant and leftist flack Paul Krugman (found via Poor and Stupid):
"One has to admit that the Bush people are very good at conquest, military and political. They focus all their attention on an issue; they pull out all the stops; they don't worry about breaking the rules. This technique brought them victory in the Florida recount battle, the passage of the 2001 tax cut, the fall of Kabul, victory in the midterm elections, and the fall of Baghdad."
How painful must it be for them to be trounced over and over by this man they so despise? To have come so close to their goal of making us all wards of the state only to have it snatched away from them by an electorate too stupid to see the wisdom of their vision? An electorate so wrongheaded that it would put a stupid frat boy in charge of the government.
They're angry and they're bitter. And their only weapons are second-guessing and nitpicking.
A coalition of 60 countries is formed and they call it "unilateral action."
A war against a well-armed enemy is concluded in three weeks with minimal loss of life and they criticize the battle plan.
Iraqis greet coalition troops with cheers and kisses and they complain about how the troops aren't focused enough on looters.
On and on they go. They have no choice. Well, they do have one.
I understand Iraq is looking for a new Information Minister.
The ability to discern fact from fiction isn't part of the job description.
Tuesday, April 08, 2003
Hollywood, Baghdad and Havana: The Bemusement Triangle
Remember when actor David Clennon compared America under President Bush to Hitler's Germany?
Remember when Buddhist bobo Richard Gere criticized Bush while in Germany and said the war against Iraq was "entirely without the backing of the American people?"
Remember when alleged comedienne Janeane Garofalo said Bush was just as dangerous as Saddam Hussein?
Do you also remember when I wrote about the countless hosannas that have been tossed in the direction of Fidel Castro by various celebrity dimwits, including Jack Nicholson, Steven Spielberg and Saul Landau?
Well in light of the above, it will be interesting to see if a single celebrity who has fretted publically about our impending police state will be able to find a few minutes to offer criticism of Fidel Castro's latest affront to human rights, freedom of thought and basic decency. Peaceful advocates of political and economic change in Cuba have been sentenced to up to 27 years in prison. The crimes of these people consisted of writing articles published on exile web sites.
David? Richard? Janeane? Susan Sarandon? Ed Asner? Any of them? Do you think we'll hear them objecting to the persecution and imprisonment of political opposition by a country 90 miles from our own?
How about Peter Boyle, the actor who claimed that he didn't want to say anything about the war because he's afraid of Bush. Or any of the others who voiced equally laughably claims of fearing a "blacklist" of those who oppose the war? Do you suspect that any of these crusaders for freedom of expression will voice their solidarity with the oppressed dissidents of Fidel's Cuba?
Or, rather, do you suspect that this whole crowd is just a bunch of ill-informed, half-baked leftist ideologues motivated by little more than boredom, mindless impotent rage and the desire to spout views that will keep them in good standing with their fellow Hollywood simpletons?
The Virtue of Profligacy
I have had a philosophical epiphany.
While I've always been bothered by "waste not, want not" scolds, I must admit that I've never really understood why. In the back of my mind I think I just chalked it up to by general dislike of nags and buttinskys. I now realize, though, that it is much deeper than this.
The ethos of conservation - at least its most recent manifestation - is largely a product of the Great Depression. It was an ethos of necessity: there was little to go around, and what one had, one had to make go a long way. Interestingly, this ethos was one of the few elements of bourgeois thought not explicitly rejected by the Baby Boom generation. Religious, sexual and social mores were all declared outdated by the opinion leaders of the last half of the twentieth century, but the moral value of conservation and frugality remained entirely unchallenged.
I’m here to tell you that they threw out the baby, kept the bathwater, and intend to make us all drink it.
Which is not to say that conservation, in the strict sense of individuals making judicious use of the resources available to them, isn't prudent. It is, although it is morally neutral.
My epiphany, though, comes in the form of this realization:
It is the capacity to waste - to produce and consume more than is necessary to meet the basic needs of life - that is the essence of humanity.
A world without waste would be a dreary place indeed. A world without waste is a world in which every basic need is met but every transcendent desire unfulfilled. A world of rationing, sameness and depression-inducing monotony. A world run by the kids who VOLUNTEERED to be hall monitors in school. You remember them, don’t you? The snitches, tattletales and teachers-pets? The types that ran the USSR.
Only humans can be wasteful; and more powerful evidence in support of the proposition that we have an exalted and noble purpose I cannot imagine. We aren’t constrained by our nature to build nests just big enough for survival of our species. We can imagine and aspire to owning mansions with dozens of rooms. If there is a higher power, why would it burden us with the capacity to dream such dreams if it thought them wrong? And if there isn’t, what gives the hall monitors the moral authority to set the limits of our aspirations?
Ayn Rand said that America’s greatest achievement was the fact that it coined the phrase “to make money.” Wealth, she wrote (speaking through Francisco D'Anconia) had always been thought a static commodity to steal or otherwise acquire by force. America invented the notion of creating - as opposed to appropriating - wealth. And this, Rand argued, should be America’s greatest source of pride.
But I say this. The most powerful testimony to America’s greatness lies in the fact that it is the most wasteful nation the earth has ever produced. Our restaurants throw away hundreds of tons of food a day because it is of unsuitable quality or, more likely, just too much to sell on a given day. We produce too much of everything and employ salesmen whose job it is to sell it all. We drive great big cars because they’re comfortable and safe and....well just because we LIKE them. What is the point of being human, after all, if one can’t aspire to that which only the human mind can conceive: comfort, whimsy, excess?
The ethos of conservation is the ethos of limits. The conservationist says: “save it so it will last longer.” The Noble Profligate says “find a way to make more.” Which way sounds to you like the path to progress, growth, and the advancement of human comfort?
“Waste not, want not?”
I say: “Waste a lot, make some more.”