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Getting My Dose of AA: Virtue and Liberty Redux

August 27th, 2009 4 comments
Rest Stop for a Sunny Day

Rest Stop for a Sunny Day

It’s probably not as clever as I’d hoped. The title of my post takes a direct stab at Obama’s campaign to unify America. There has been A Slobbering Love Affair for Obama in the media generally, and an obvious lack of holding our newest president to account for his actions or lack of action. The media tended to be all over any misstep on the part of the last administration (much of it deserved by my lights), and completely ignores similar behavior on the part of the new administration. We need our journalists back, we need our news agencies back, as a nation we once relied on news sources to provide some much needed perspective – instead, we’ve a whole new crop of advocacy “journalists” who seem to be busy servicing everything but the public interest.

Bush promised to be a unifier also, just like Obama promised… it seems Obama’s doing an even less effective job than Bush. The biggest difference (follow the link, it is a slobber-fest) is that the failure to unify the electorate was all Bush’s fault – not the left-wing rabble rousers. Currently, it IS the right-wing rabble rousers that are the reason for Obama’s failure to unify the electorate. I got tired of hearing left wingers say, “He’s not MY president.” I can’t stand hearing right-wingers say it now, but I, well throw up a little, when I hear left wingers chide right wingers for the same actions. Moreover, when Bush was president, left wingers were “right” to call the administration and others down for saying dissent was not patriotic or un-American… and yet that is precisely what is being done now. The DNC is running ads that are deliberately divisive, and Obama is joining in the derision of those who oppose his policies. Our country is tanking, and it’s tanking because we’re forgetting our AA.

There are several left wing writers trying to call on all citizens to pay attention to the arguments of our founders, and though I don’t generally agree with their political views, I do agree with some things that are fundamentally more important. Howard Fineman wrote an excellent book where I got the title for my post. My “AA” is an abbreviation for part of his title – The Thirteen American Arguments: Enduring Debates that Define and Inspire our Country. Though I believe Fineman was a part of the slobbering love affair, I also believe he has a compelling argument for us, the electorate, to not forget our roots.

Why mention Fineman if I find him too far to the left? Because despite his anecdotal bits and pieces he uses to illustrate these foundational arguments (and his obvious slant when discussing the enduring debates), he is right about the nature of our American nature. The first two paragraphs of his introduction entitled For the Sake of Argument make the point:

First, I owe you a definition, then an explanation. You will see the word “argument” throughout this book. By “argument” I mean something besides shouting or name calling, though both often are part of the transaction. I mean a clash between at least two people (or regions, political parties, candidates, or economic interests) over facts and ideas in the search for answers – in this case, answers to questions about the future and fate of America. The gist (the “argument,” if you will) of this book is:

We are the Arguing Country, born in, and born to, debate. The habit of doing so – the urgent, almost neurotic need to do so – makes us unique and gives us our freedom, creativity, and strength. By my count, there are thirteen foundational arguments that comprise our public life – hence the title of this book. Rather than argue too much, which is the conventional wisdom’s critique, we in fact do not argue enough, about the fundamentals. If we fail to draw strength from our argumentative nature, we risk losing what made us great and gives us hope. Our disputes are not a burden, but a blessing.

Pick up the book, give it a look, and argue boldly for what you believe. Engage in the public debate. It’s very American. Get your dose of AA today, the enduring American Arguments.

 

Cheers.

P.S. The picture is from the Oregon Gardens, I called it Rest Stop for a Sunny Day. It is a place to cool off, get quiet, and then re-engage in our country’s great debates. While shooting pictures in the Gardens, my brother and I engaged in the discussion of chapter three: The Role of Faith.

Categories: Culture, Government, Philosophy, Politics, Virtues Tags:

Family Visit

August 20th, 2009 No comments

Sorry there’s no post this week, but I’ve family visiting from the wrong coast 😉 Though I must confess to a love of New Hampshire and Maine. See you soon!

Cheers all!!

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

Another Tidbit Before Work

August 17th, 2009 2 comments

If you remember a video I posted/embeded concerning the “Whitehouse Snitch Line,” it’s been removed… Hat Tip to Politico:

Following a furor over how the data would be used, the White House has shut down an electronic tip box — flag@whitehouse.gov — that was set up to receive information on “fishy” claims about President Barack Obama’s health plan.

Read the article – it’s a good read 😉 I’ve heard rumor that another line has been set up at a brand new website here… have fun.

Cheers

Categories: Culture, Government, Politics, Tidbits Tags:

Of Virtue and Liberty

August 13th, 2009 4 comments

Once upon a time religions were categorized or classified as either Apollonian or Dionysian. The Apollonian faiths were more cerebral, focused on knowledge, poetry, and the arts. Dionysian faiths were more earthy and visceral, focusing praise, celebration, fellowship. Think in terms of Episcopalians and any of the many Charismatic churches. In a variety of ways, western systems of government can be classified in just such a fashion.

Today, it is commonly believed that our government is patterned on the democratic Greek city states. The Greeks were the Apollonians of government. This is cerebral man, theoretical government. Think in terms of the polis, policy, police, and of course, our word politics. We too often forget the very real impact of the Romans on our system of government. From Rome we get civility, citizen, civilization – being civic minded. Central to Roman government was our visceral man – love of country forged a Roman’s perspective on citizenship. “Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori” – It is sweet and fitting to die for one’s country. One can see the root for our word patriot in that Latin sentence.

Perhaps the most fascinating and one of the more important features of the Roman Republic was its notion of the auctoritas. Almost ancestor worship, its body of “something more than advice but less than law” was foundational to the moral base of Rome’s august body known as the Senate. For so many in the West throughout our history since Rome, it was Rome’s moral anchor, its virtue that made such wide spread freedom possible. Our founding fathers managed to make a splendid blend of both practices. Whether it is in the terms of gods or governments, leaving out either the mind or emotion leads to an imbalance in practice.

Long way round to the topic of virtue, but I wanted to tie cerebral man to visceral man. Leaving gods and governments aside for the moment, the kind of virtues I want to talk about are the natural or cardinal virtues. Before enumerating these, a moderately simple definition of virtue is in order. Merriam Webster’s definition of virtue:

1 a : conformity to a standard of right : morality b : a particular moral excellence
2 pl: an order of angels see celestial hierarchy
3 : a beneficial quality or power of a thing
4 : manly strength or courage : valor
5 : a commendable quality or trait : merit
6 : a capacity to act : potency
7 : chastity esp. in a woman

Though all of these definitions are useful, the first is obviously the one I want to tinker with when it comes to the cardinal virtues of prudence, temperance, fortitude, and justice. First, according to Britannica, the word cardinal is from a Latin word meaning “hinge,” because on these four virtues “all lesser attitudes hinge.” Second, it would be easy to spend pages on each of these four virtues, but I’ll leave that to you 😉 What I’m interested in here is a reasonable and concise definition of each of these cardinal or secular virtues. Again from Merriam Webster’s:

Prudence:

1: the ability to govern and discipline oneself by the use of reason
2: sagacity or shrewdness in the management of affairs
3: skill and good judgment in the use of resources
4: caution or circumspection as to danger or risk

Temperance:

1: moderation in action, thought, or feeling: restraint
2: habitual moderation in the indulgence of the appetites or passions

Fortitude:

strength of mind that enables a person to encounter danger or bear pain or adversity with courage

Justice:

1 a : the maintenance or administration of what is just esp. by the impartial adjustment of conflicting claims or the assignment of merited rewards or punishments b : judge c : the administration of law ; esp.: the establishment or determination of rights according to the rules of law or equity
2 a : the quality of being just b  (1): the principle or ideal of just dealing or right action (2): conformity to this principle or ideal : righteousness c : the quality of conforming to law
3 : conformity to truth, fact, or reason : correctness

As citizens, I believe it’s easy to see the value in each of these virtues to our right action, to our beliefs, to our shared responsibilities. These are the primary elements in a moral suspension that provides our liberty. I believe the failure of these virtues results in a tyranny of some sort. I ran across a quote by Abraham Lincoln in a short speech he gave in Baltimore, Maryland in 1864. The entire speech is definitely worth the read because it speaks directly to slavery and the analogy of the wolf and sheep is a sound one. I’m going to include a little more in my rendering than did Mark Levin on the dust jacket of his new book Liberty and Tyranny. So then, in closing:

The world has never had a good definition of the word liberty, and the American people, just now, are much in want of one. We all declare for liberty; but in using the same word we do not all mean the same thing. With some the word liberty may mean for each man to do as he pleases with himself, and the product of his labor; while with others the same word may mean for some men to do as they please with other men, and the product of other men’s labor. Here are two, not only different, but incompatible things, called by the same name – liberty. And it follows that each of the things is, by the respective parties, called by two different and incompatible names – liberty and tyranny.

update – The second and third paragraphs contain a collection of ideas expressed in Politics: A Very Short Introduction and verified in a few other text books from college. As for the linked book, I think it’s an excellent little essay by Kenneth Minogue and well worth the read! It’s been awhile since I’ve read either the book or texts from college – but I’ve pretty decent  notes.

Cheers!

Powder the Proud

August 12th, 2009 6 comments
Powder and Grrr

Powder and Grrr

He lived a hearty fourteen years. I found him in the dumpster outside the Benedictine Nursing Center in Mt. Angel. It’s been a very fun life to watch play out in the span of my own, and one that touched me daily – so I figure a small eulogy is in order.

Powder was the quintessential hunter, and as demonstrated by the photos (he is of course the one that nearly blends into the white of the wall), of all our cats, he was the most tolerant of new comers (and of course old timers). He is the only cat I know that has taken a raven on the wing. No mean feat! The raven was dive bombing all the cats (both ours and the neighborhood visitors) sunning in our back yard, and Powder watched with interest from the shrubs. On about the tenth or eleventh pass of the raven, Powder performed a five and a half foot vertical leap (at least), wrapped all four paws around the bird that seemed nearly as big as him, and broke its neck on the way down… and calmly walked away from the trophy. Looking smug. No, really.
Powder and Lladro

Powder and Lladro

The doc said that “leapers” like Powder tend to have their hips fall apart on them, and certainly, by the end of his life he was hobbling around the best he could. My incredible wife carefully switched his diet from crunchy to soft as he started losing his teeth, we had a bit in common Powder and I… Today, partly because of an infected scratch, but mostly because he was getting to the point that it was difficult to eat and drink, we took him to the vet and put him down. My wife, my youngest daughter (now almost 21), and myself watched as the vet used anesthesia to put him to sleep, to drift off to he-man cat Valhalla. We all cried like school girls… which is ok for my wife and daughter, they were once school girls. Couldn’t help it, I hated to see him go. Though he didn’t die in battle, he was quite the warrior… and he was mine.

Categories: Creative Writing, Culture, Manhood, Prose Tags:

“The Me-First… Crowd”

August 11th, 2009 2 comments

My friend John and I had an exchange in the comments section of a video I embedded, and he used a phrase that resembled something I’ve heard on line a few times: “‘I got mine, screw everyone else’ types.” The discussion is about health care, and the comments are already on record, but I remembered seeing that phrase either in the newspaper or online. As it turns out, it was both. David Sirota over at the HuffPo wrote an article entitled “The Me-First: Screw-Everyone-Else Crowd.” Since the whole “tea-baggers” and “Screw Everyone Else” meme doesn’t fly well in other media, he edited the worst of the “offensive” commentary and published his little gem all over the place. Although it seems that there’s a huge reaction to the “me-first” crowd, it’s actually the same article reposted ad nauseam at online outlets.

Since Sirota is lumping the “tea-baggers” and “anti-tax” guys (apparently a group of “rich folks” groupies) in with his “me-first” crowd (apparently a group of “rich folks”) and conservatives in general, I don’t think I’ll waste too much time on his straw men. Not only do a majority of conservatives want substantive health care reform, many believe that increasing taxes to tackle OUR NATIONAL DEBT is in our country’s own best interest.

I think the thing I find most repugnant here is his (and the left’s version of the) constant claim that:

What you’ve discovered is that the me-first, screw-everyone-else crowd isn’t interested in fairness, empiricism or morality.

With 22,000 of their fellow countrymen dying annually for lack of health insurance and with Warren Buffett paying a lower effective tax rate than his secretary, the me-first, screw-everyone-else crowd is merely using the argot of fairness, empiricism and morality to hide its real motive: selfish greed.

No argument, however rational, is going to cure these narcissists of that grotesque disease.

This consistent claim to the moral high ground is laughable. So too are the claims to superior passion for fairness and empiricism. The entire notion that a dissenting opinion is somehow morally inferior is errant nonsense, and ascribing the “real motive: selfish greed” to his opponents is nothing more than childish projection… kind of like saying that Sirota’s real motive is “if you won’t be charitable on my terms, then I’ll take your damn money and force you to behave the way I want.”

One small quote from the research he derives his 22K from:

More broadly, these estimates should be viewed as reasonable indicators of the general magnitude of excess mortality that results from lack of insurance, not as precise “body counts.” The true number of deaths resulting from uninsurance may be somewhat higher or lower than the estimates in this paper, but that number is surely significant.

Throwing around a statistic as though it was a “precise body count” is worse than disingenuous, it’s deliberately misleading for the sake of an ideology rather than constructive discourse.

Despite these complaints, I agree with him concerning “some” of the people out there who are anti-tax simply to be anti-tax. I also happen to agree with much of his reporting on the actual tax facts he lists in his “guide to navigating the conversation.” What I find repulsive is the way he sinks to the lowest common denominator – and behaves precisely like those he loathes. The common tactic on BOTH the right and the left of claiming certain words are “code” for something morally offensive (“lazy” is a classic code word for “minorities” according to Sirota) is ridiculous. Lazy people are a minority – I believe the lion’s share of Americans is more than willing to work for their daily bread – and reasonably priced healthcare.

Sorry about the rant, but I decided I wanted to vent a little. I’m just tired of both sides using virtually the same tactics and crying foul. It’s dishonest and absurd. My great thanks to John for the always great counterpoint!

Ok, now I’ll head back toward where I want to be… posts headed toward the subject of Virtue and Freedom.

Cheers!

And Another

August 7th, 2009 4 comments

Take a look at this pdf of Sen. John Cornyn’s letter to the president concerning this snitch line. It’s only a page long and worth the read. I wonder if there will actually be a response? If you’ve the time, I’d urge you to do a little snooping around yourself. This deliberate attack on first ammendment rights is worth investigating… just a little, hey?

Cheers all.

Categories: Culture, Government, Politics, Tidbits Tags:

Here’s a Video Worth Watching

August 7th, 2009 5 comments

I found this while searching out the flag@whitehouse.gov address, an address provided by Linda Douglass, the communications director for the White House’s Health Reform Office… yet another unchecked partisan czar.

Categories: Culture, Government, Healthcare, Politics, Tidbits Tags:

Tidbit Before Work

August 6th, 2009 No comments

The Weekly Standard Blog has a nifty little email… The MSM, DNC, and both Pelosi and Obama have accused the people showing up at town hall meetings of being “fake.” This isn’t a grass roots movement, it’s astroturf – paid for by righwing interests, insurance companies, ad nauseam. Take a trip over to The Weekly Standard and check out the email they’ve posted.

Cheers!

Categories: Culture, Government, Politics, Tidbits Tags:

Restored!!

August 5th, 2009 No comments

Hooray! Ain’t techsupport wonderful? I’ve had a wonderful experience with my hosting service’s techsupport – KUDOs to Bluehost!

Since my new days off are Wednesday and Thursday, I’m going to have to rethink my plans for weekly updates. I will be back within few days… if not sooner 😉

Cheers!

Categories: Technology Tags:
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