"To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public." -- Theodore Roosevelt


One of Salem Oregon's Unofficial Top 1000 Conservative Political Bloggers!!!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Links for the Week!

I had a rather eventful week. I had a wisdom tooth removed (presumably making me more foolish) and then immediately came down with the flu-- probably not the pork-the-other-white-meat variety but apparently the symptoms are exactly the same so... But I also managed to finish up chapter one of my first draft, so it wasn't a complete loss.

Anyway here are some links I found interesting:

Jordan over at Generation Patriot had this history and rumination on North Korea. Check it out.

William A. Jacobson at Legal Insurrection sheds a little light on the mysterious Supreme Court nominee Sotomayor.

Quite Rightly at Bread upon the Waters has a follow up on the pirates of Somalia, and the trial of Abduwali Abdukhadir Muse (the surviving pirate in the Maersk Alabama incident) in New York. I haven't heard much about this in the MSM, after reading this I can see why. It could become a farce.

Pat at And so it Goes in Shreveport... is out of school and writing about Florida Senate candidate Marco Rubio.

Snaggletoothie has his usual wonderful assortment of vidclips and articles, but this one with Victor Davis Hanson was really interesting. Check it out.

And last, but certainly not least, Caroline Glick provides a fascinating take on North Korea and the international implications of Pyongyang's ICBM and nuclear tests.

I will link some more. And, hopefully, will get a post up next week (if I can shake this flu). Have a great weekend!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Personal Announcement

I have not been posting as often as I had been, as those of you who are semi-regular visitors to this blog may have noticed. This is because, after several months of research, I have begun writing the initial draft of my newest novel.

Once I get involved in the actual work of writing, my sense of time gets a bit screwy and I am up at all hours, asleep at odd times, etc. I also tend to become rather narrowly focused on the project at hand, which exorcises my interests in politics, narrative theory, philosophy, and other subjects having to do with this blog.

While this focus is not so dramatic that I will be dead-to-the-world while immersed in a narrative stupor (perhaps emerging into a brave new world of DMV health care, outrageous energy prices, and brownouts), I will not be posting for the next 3 or 4 months as often as I have in the past. I still intend to post the second part of my criticism of existentialism somewhat soon and occasionally other posts that I find interesting (I'm hoping to post more often than once a week, but I refuse to impose a schedule on myself while I write). Once the initial draft of the book is finished and the editing begins, I will be back my old, unfocused self and be posting more than once a day.

So, I'm not exactly going anywhere and I will not be abandoning this blog by any means. I will just be less prolific for the next few months and will not be engaging trolls for most of that time (sorry Pat, but I gotta eat...). Wish me luck on my latest work, and I will be posting again soon.

Thanks!
Yukio Ngaby

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Obama Administration Playing with Economics: Impose $1300 Car Tax

Check out this post by Michelle Malkin here.

Per Malkin: "Nobody in the White House is going to call the president’s “mileage and pollution” plan what it is.

"It’s a $1,300 car tax. On the working class. On the middle class. On everyone who has responded to the government’s consumption-mania incentives — loosened credit, tax deductions — and bought/planned to buy a new car without taking into account these unanticipated costs:"

Obama is intent upon unnecessary meddling that will have unexpected consequences. Foolish, arrogant and short-sided-- not the best combination of personality traits for a leader. But hey... let's increase the cost of an item (requiring people to borrow more for the car) even as the government is busily devaluing the dollar and spending unprecedented amounts of money for windmills and unicorns. Brilliant.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Gerald Warner on Obama and Abortion

Gerald Warner doesn't mince words in a piece on Obama's pro-abortion visit to Notre Dame. Check it out.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Title Flap on Search Engine

Apparently, at dogpile.com if you run a search for Gerald Warner my blog pops up reading:

"Critical Narrative: New Blog Added! Gerald Warner of the UK Apr 25, 2009 ... Gerald Warner of the UK ? "Obama is Hip!" Claims Obama Cronies ... Obama in Blackface ? Iran Charges Journalist Roxana Saberi With Espiona. ... "

"Obama in Blackface?" *sigh* This is from my short and minor April 9th post titled "Turkish Anchor Reports on Obama in Blackface" I learned a lesson. What I meant by this was, as is mentioned in the first sentence of the post, "A Turkish news anchor reported on Obama's visit while [emphasis mine] in blackface."

I didn't think carelessly skipping the word "while" would give me so much grief... I will be more careful and use longer titles from now on. And thanks to everyone who mentioned this to me and accused me of being racist.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Reduction of Roxana Saberi to a Symbol of a Moderate Iran

Roxana Saberi: a human being


Anxious to prove Obama's diplomatic naivety is more effective than statecraft, the media is now portraying the freeing of reporter Roxana Saberi, convicted in a one hour trial, as an opening for the opportunity (tenuous sounding, isn't it?) to improve US relations with Iran. The LA Times is following the predicted line admirably. Article here by way of freeroxana.net.

From the article:

"[A] letter from President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad calling for a careful review of the case helped secure her swift release Monday, another of her lawyers said, in an appellate court ruling that surprised Iran watchers and removed a stumbling block in the effort to improve U.S.-Iranian relations."

And later:

"Analysts say Saberi's case carries implications for the Obama administration as it seeks to improve relations with Tehran and resolve long-standing grievances over Iran's nuclear program and support for militant anti-Israeli organizations.

"Saberi's arrest demonstrated the unpredictability of Iran's fragmented, multilayered political and security system, where dissidents, politicians and journalists are sometimes arrested for transgressing undefined ideological and national security rules, such as by having contact with the West.

"But Saberi's release also showed a system capable of flexibility, pragmatism and even damage control. Calls by some senior Iranian officials to review the case suggest that at least some of them were well aware of the harm Saberi's continued imprisonment was doing to the country's image and opted to do away with the distraction rather than satisfy hard-liners.

"'If we assume that this was due to infighting in the government between those who wanted to undermine diplomacy and those who want to give it a chance, I would conclude that the latter group has been able to succeed in a rather swift and impressive way,' said Trita Parsi, president of the Washington-based National Iranian American Council and author of 'Treacherous Alliances,' about relations between Iran, the United States and Israel.

"'The amount of political will and maneuvering it takes to reduce an eight-year sentence to two years and then commute the last two years and release her on the spot is far greater than having a one-day kangaroo court and sentencing her in the first place,' he said."

I love the language employed in this article. "militant anti-Israel organizations." Cute. You may know these "militant anti-Israel organizations" as Hamas and Hezbollah and other terrorist organizations.

The word militant is defined in my Oxford American Dictionary as "1. prepared to take aggressive action in support of a cause." I'm sorry but I think that organizations that target civilian populations for the purpose of causing panic, who use suicide bombers that target crowded areas such as public buses and restaurants, exceed the term militant. You know you're dealing with quite a group when the term "militant" is a euphemism.

Nowhere in the article is there any reference to the upcoming Iranian elections (less than one month away now on June 12), nor any mention of hardliner President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's desire to appeal to more moderate voting elements in Iran. There is however repeated credit heaped upon Ahmadinejad: "But a letter from President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad calling for a careful review of the case helped secure her swift release Monday, another of her lawyers said, in an appellate court ruling that surprised Iran watchers and removed a stumbling block in the effort to improve U.S.-Iranian relations." And later restated: "Khorramshahi told the Islamic Republic News Agency that Ahmadinejad's letter helped secure Saberi's release. " I hope the LA Times understands their backing of Ahmadinejad's reelection campaign.

Good job LA Times! Oh, how their crackerjack reporting makes me pine for my earlier days in Southern California...

The NY Times has a string of opinions that can be found here in the aptly titled piece "Why Iran Freed Roxana Saberi." (these op-eds also through freeroxana.net)

Robin Wright, a policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars writes, "Roxana Saberi’s release may remove a major obstacle to U.S. efforts at rapprochement with Iran after 30 years of diplomatic tensions. If her eight-year sentence had been upheld by the appeals court, President Obama would surely have faced serious questions about whether Washington can really deal with Tehran."

Hmm. Saberi's imprisonment was a major obstacle? Yes, the imprisonment of Saberi was wrong and given, at best, cool Western media attention (that was until she was released-- now the media is breaking their arms patting themselves on the back as these op-eds amply demonstrate), but there are plenty more political prisoners languishing in Evin prison. Perhaps there could be even more obstacles that Wright doesn't bother to bring up.

Once again, I must restate that the government of Iran regularly hangs men for the crime of homosexuality, regularly stones men and women to death for the crime of adultery, regularly beats hundreds of government protesters, regularly arrests and beats members of the press and bloggers. Recently Iranian aircraft attacked Iraqi villages. Iran is blatantly anti-Semitic and president Ahmadinejad has famously and publicly denied the Nazi holocaust (this same article mentions the often stated official Iranian conviction that "Israel should be 'wiped off the map'"). Or are these no longer obstacles to the US normalizing relations with Iran? How deep are willing to sink the term moderate?

To be fair, Wright, after making this nonsensical removing major obstacle statement, goes on to say that the chances for changing foreign relations with Iran are dim. Amazingly (for the NYT, not for her), the blame is not levelled exclusively against the US and actually touches upon the complexity of the factors involved in the Iran/US relationship.

She writes, "But Ms. Saberi’s arrest on 'espionage' charges and her one-day trial [one hour actually] –- without legal defense — also underscore Iran’s ongoing suspicions about U.S. policy and the intense internal differences concerning the new U.S. administration. The election of Barack Hussein Obama –- Hussein is one of two central figures in Shiite Islam –- has not eased the fears of many hard-line theocrats in predominantly Shiite Iran.

"For the past two years, Iran has detained several Iranian-American dual nationals because of suspected links to a U.S.-orchestrated velvet revolution' to undermine theocratic rule. The detentions signaled anger about American policy. None of the detainees is believed to have acted against the regime. One scholar advised a government ministry; others were visiting family.

"But Ms. Saberi’s arrest went further than any previous case. And the espionage charges and trial happened after President Obama’s overture to Iran on its new year, March 21.

"In the end, the Iranian-Americans were released after apparent intervention from higher up, in some cases including the office of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. The regime, in the end, understands the broader stakes.

"Yet neither side appears ready to take the big steps -– in tangible ways, beyond words –- to forge a different relationship. Washington’s Iran policy is based on carrots-and-sticks, an approach Iranians disdain as a way to treat donkeys. And Iran’s stick-and-carrot approach in turn alienates Americans who see it as an unacceptable way to treat humans."

I understand that Wright is trying to be neutral in her language but characterizing the stoning and and beating, and the levelling of death contracts on authors (Salman Rushdie author of The Satanic Verses), and the hanging homosexuals as an Iranian "stick and carrot" approach is a little much. Is open support for Hezbollah terrorists and the conviction that Israel should be "wiped off the map" part of the stick?

Parnaz Azima, a reporter for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, writes, "Roxanna Saberi’s release from prison comes as a relief to those of us who have been following her case and hoping for a thaw in relations between Iran and the United States. The fact that her appeal and release happened so quickly reinforces my belief that this was a political case and not a legal one.

"I credit the pressure the international community brought on Iran for the decision to reduce her eight-year prison sentence to a two-year suspended sentence. Iran’s leaders realized that the case was escalating tensions with the U.S. at the very moment that President Obama was showing a willingness to engage with Tehran and begin a process of rapprochement. Radio Farda listeners in Iran are echoing this, saying that Ms. Saberi’s release is an attempt to reduce strain with Washington.

"Iran has a history of trying to use Iranian-Americans like me and Ms. Saberi to put pressure on the United States. In almost every case, however, the strategy backfires. It’s a wonder they keep trying it."

I'm rather interested in the last paragraph of Azima's opinion. She presupposes that the purpose of "trying to use" Iranian-Americans is to "put pressure on the United States." Is that really true? Could there not be a domestic purpose for such uses? The government of Iran has consistently asserted its official position that the US is the devil (or its agent). By harassing, arresting, and placing a sampling of people remotely affiliated with their enemy in either public display showcases or private kangaroo trials, Iran's government is sending a very loud and clear warning to those considering any association with their enemies in the West. Harassing Iranian-Americans may be an attempt to put pressure on the US, but it also serves as a tool for domestic control-- and it is effective. I don't wonder why they keep doing it.

Pretty much every time I wrote a sizable post about Roxana Saberi, I tried to mention the fact that Saberi's case was not an isolated one. I did this for two reasons. First, while Roxana Saberi's case was unjust and wrong, I did not want to suggest that a person who is an American, a woman, a beauty queen, and a reporter was somehow deserving of greater attention than other nameless political prisoners (almost all of whom are completely Iranian) incarcerated by the government of Iran. While I am personally happy (and a bit surprised) that Saberi is free, I do not believe that the rest of these prisoners should now be written off and forgotten by everyone except Amnesty International.

Secondly, I did not want to reduce the woman that is Roxana Saberi into being merely a symbol. She is a living person who was unjustly jailed by the Iranian government. We should not allow her to become an emblem, a face of the victims of Iran's tyranny. It is unfair and dehumanizing to her. It is likewise unfair to those who suffered even greater loss of life, property, and freedom under the Iranian government's yoke. Saberi's release, though a cause for joyful celebration to her family and friends, is meaningless to them. Her release is not symbolic of a major change in Iranian policy. A change in Iranian policy must be demonstrated, not merely symbolized by token actions of political expediency.

Given the notoriety the Saberi case generated (especially her release), I realize that it is impossible for her case to not take on undue meaning. Appeals to stop this symbolizing are largely pointless. The media, grasping desperately at the hope to normalize relations with a racist, sexist, aggressively expansionist, terrorist sponsoring, tyrannical theocracy, have cut out pictures of Roxana Saberi's attractive face and then pasted it onto that hope. Arguing against this practice would be as futile as arguing against an earthquake.

So the loud speculations begin. The hopes that a moderate Iran will magically emerge from beneath the current oppressive theocracy start. America will be both blamed and credited. Obama supporters will lavish praise upon him and his happy nowruz speech. Ahmadinejad will present himself as a moderate for a short time, while the government he presides over sends money and arms to Hamas, Hezbollah, Somali pirates and warlords, and terrorist organizations in Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon and others Middle Eastern countries Iran wishes to destabilize.

But in a few weeks from now, when the speculations will have died down, the media will have hooked onto another story, the bloggers will have moved onto the next fad, Roxana Saberi will be largely forgotten-- but home safe with her family and her loved ones. Scores more of Iran's political prisoners will not be enjoying these simple comforts.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

More Obama Action Figure Pics

Back by popular demand... More Action Obama Pictures! (click to enlarge)

Thrill as he cuts his way through those racist Tea Party protesters!


Swoon as he stands idly and watches Iran develop nuclear weapons!


Laugh as he hosts Rus Simmons Def Comedy Jam!


Cower as he threatens talk radio with a shotgun and the Fairness Doctrine!


And cheer as he shows Wanda Sykes how he'd like to deal with that pesky Rush Limbaugh!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Iran's Government is not Moderate

And so it begins...

Check out this article from the AP: "Analysis: Hint of moderation in American's release."

From the article:

"The judicial reversal that led to the release of an Iranian-American from prison in Tehran on Monday could now offer hints of moderation by Iran's ruling Islamic clerics — making room for possible overtures by the Obama administration."

And later:

"It [Roxana Saberi's release] appears to signal to Washington a sense of stability and willingness to move forward on possible exchanges after the elections — and perhaps seek ways to ease Iran's standoff with the West over its nuclear program.

"White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said the Obama administration insists that Saberi was wrongly accused, 'but we welcome this humanitarian gesture.'

"The decision also gives Ahmadinejad a chance to soften his image before facing reformist challengers at the polls."

Fortunately the article does mention some of Ahmadinejad's pragmatic reasons for releasing Saberi. "The release of Roxana Saberi may also seek to boost hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's goodwill credentials before next month's re-election challenge from reformers." But that's not what the headline says, nor is it what the Obama Administration wants to hear. So we're going to hear a lot about the beginnings of openness and trust with Iran, while of course giving all the credit possible to Obama.

As I've said previously, before we start talking about our newest and bestest friends in the government of Iran, let's not forget a few facts. The government of Iran regularly hangs men for the crime of homosexuality, regularly stones men and women to death for the crime of adultery, regularly beats hundreds of government protesters, regularly arrests and beats members of the press and bloggers. Recently Iranian aircraft attacked Iraqi villages. The government of Iran has vowed to wipe Israel from the face of the earth, actively supports terrorist organizations (including, but not limited to, Hizbullah and the pirates of Somalia) and is currently developing nuclear weapons.

The pressures brought to bear (with little mainstream enthusiasm by the Western media) to release Saberi coincided with Iranian government's desire to seek concessions from the West. Want to lay odds on if that was coincidence or opportunism?

While we are relieved at the release of Roxana Saberi, but the fact remains that she was unjustly arrested, accused, and convicted in a kangaroo court to begin all this. And the fact remains that Evin prison continues to be populated by political prisoners, almost all of whom are not fortunate enough to be recognized by the international press.

The release of Roxana Saberi should garner the Iranian government nothing. The release of Saberi is nothing more than the hollow atonement of one, solitary trespass-- a drop in the literal ocean of misdeeds the government of Iran has committed in the past and continues to perpetrate now. It should gain them no concessions, and should earn them no credibility. Only when the Iranian government ceases to bully and undermine both its Islamic neighbors and the country of Israel, only when the government of Iran stops the repression of its own people, will it deserve cooperation and recognition.

Yes, every journey begins with one step, but the release of Roxana Saberi is not the first step of Iran's reformation.

Roxana Saberi Free


BBC News is reporting that Roxana Saberi has been released from prison. Story here.

From the article:

"The US-Iranian journalist jailed in Iran, Roxana Saberi, has been freed from prison after having her sentence for spying reduced.

"Lawyers for the 31-year-old, whose imprisoning sparked a global outcry, said she left Tehran's Evin jail hours after her eight-year term was cut.

"She will be able to leave the country but has been banned from working as a journalist in Iran for five years."

And later:

"The BBC's Jon Leyne, outside Evin prison, says no-one has seen Ms Saberi leave the jail. However, she is thought to be heading with her father to an undisclosed location in Tehran.

"The AFP news agency quoted Ms Saberi as saying: 'I'm OK. I don't want to make any comments but I am OK.'"

This is great news, but before we begin to swoon about how "fair and open" Iran is, let's not forget that Saberi was convicted in a one hour, closed-door trial and that the appeals court's ruling has only reduced her sentence and, perhaps, changed the charge that she was unjustly convicted of. Most importantly let us not forget those others who still languish in Evin prison, convicted of standing against Iran's oppressive and violent government.

Iranian Court Hears Saberi's Appeal

Roxana Saberi, the journalist dubiously jailed by Iran for espionage, has had her case heard by the Iranian court of appeals. CNN story here.

From the article: "The lawyer for imprisoned Iranian-American journalist Roxana Saberi said Sunday that the court will issue its verdict on her appeal next week.

"Lawyer Abdolsamad Khorramshahi spoke after the court of appeals completed a five-hour session on the case. The Iranian week begins on Saturday."

This five-hour session was four hours longer than her actual trial. According to NYT via The Grand Forks Herald "Ms. Saberi’s father, Reza Saberi, who came to Tehran two weeks ago from Fargo, N.D., to secure her release, said Sunday that neither she nor her lawyer was aware that the trial was taking place last Monday until after it was under way.'

"'The lawyer was only told to go meet Roxana last Monday,’ he said in a telephone interview. 'No one knew that they were trying her. Roxana found out 15 minutes into the session that she was being tried.

“‘None of them, neither Roxana nor the lawyer, were ready to defend her.'"

UPDATE: Reuters is reporting (h/t to Pat at "And So it Goes in Shreveport") that Roxana Saberi has been released from jail.

"Iranian-American journalist Roxana Saberi has been released from Tehran's Evin jail, an Iranian judiciary source said on Monday.

"The source, who declined to be named, told Reuters Saberi had left the prison after an appeals court reduced her eight-year jail sentence for espionage to a two-year suspended term."

I'm looking for other confirmations. We'll see. I'm hoping.

Ugh! I accidentally erased my speculation that the Iranian court would only shave off a few years from her sentence. I'll be very happy to be wrong about that.

UPDATE 2: The NYT is reporting the same news (but still using Reuters as its source). More details in there though. Looks promising!

FreeRoxana.net is reporting her father is waiting outside Evin prison.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Existentialism Part 1: Faith and the Unproven Theorem that Existence Precedes Essence

Existentialism is often defined under the auspice that existence precedes essence. The implication of such a sweeping statement is that humans are born into this world, nature-less of course, and that we assign the most basic values to the world outside of us. We label, give these items names and a sort of hierarchical essence, assigning essential value to the universe around us. In that sense one could say that name precedes the essence of others-- perhaps one of the reasons that existentialists and postmodernists pay lavish, though often quiet, attention to linguistics. Existentialists argue what this ultimately means is that there is no rational order to existence.

As an example, Jean-Paul Sartre writes in his novel Nausea "They made it [a seat in a streetcar] purposely for people to sit on, they took leather, springs, and cloth, they went to work with the idea of making a seat and when they finished, that was what they had made."

Yet later: "I murmur: it's a seat... but the word stays on my lips: it refuses to go and put itself on the thing. It stays what it is. with its red plush, thousands of little red paws in the air, all still, little dead paws. This enormous belly, turned upward, bleeding, inflated--- bloated with all its dead paws, this belly floating in this car, in this grey sky, is not a seat. It could as well be a dead donkey tossed into the water... and I could be sitting on the donkey's belly, my feet dangling in the clear water."

This small quotation encapsulates a great deal of existentialist and some postmodernist tenets including the importance of language in defining reality, the coddled fixation upon angst, the self-awareness and self-importance it champions and more. But the the power it holds and illustrates is the dislocation of reality when divorced from the rational. Reality abruptly becomes the world through the looking-glass, an odd distortion beyond the realm to identify and, for the existentialist, control.

When I was a sixteen-year-old and read that excerpt for the first time, I remember experiencing a profound sense of vertigo. While sitting on a concrete bench in the park by my high school, I felt the world pitching and rolling, my stomach dropping and yawning empty, as if on a boat in languidly rough seas. It was a curious feeling, one that I have never forgotten. Those words, beyond the dead paws and bloated donkey imagery, terrified me in a way that I thought at the time was most profound. It was as if the awesome nature of reality had finally been revealed to me, and the absurdity (another existentialists' handy go to word) of it all was horrifying.

Of course, that was precisely the reaction Sartre had carefully planned for the reader. Naive, arrogant, rebellious, losing faith in my religion, near the very beginning of my philosophical trek and looking for quick answers, well-convinced of my own unique genius and smugly self-assured in the integrity of my quest for truth, I was the near-perfect audience for Sartre's work. Like many people, I was enthralled by this glimmer of unabashed "truth."

Unfortunately, I had taken the generally insincere "question authority" quip far too earnestly. Instead of accepting Sartre's presumptions and philosophies, allowing it to internalize and imprint themselves indelibly into my thoughts and writing (which probably would have resulted in a much easier and more agreeable college life), I questioned the logic of Sartre, examined the presumptions, scrutinized the chains of thought and logic that his theories entail.

To deny the power of existentialism is foolish. Even reaching beyond the vogue and trendy adulation of career savvy academicians, the ideas themselves hold a great, dark appeal. It's not unlike the attractiveness of slasher films-- being compelled by what is supposed to be repugnant, being attracted by what is supposed to be repellent. These feelings give an illusion of freedom. By defying the expectations of what we are "supposed to do" and confronting or even embracing that which we feel (for whatever reasons) obliged to avoid, we feel the thrill of rebellious autonomy.

note: I an not using postmodernist and existentialist interchangeably. I argue from the perspective, though I offer no evidence here, that existentialism falls under the vast umbrella of postmodernist thought-- while existentialism is a postmodernist philosophy, postmodernism does not necessarily mean existentialist-- therefore an existentialist is necessarily postmodernist. One can argue endlessly about the exact relationship between existentialism and postmodernism, but it is both foolish and inauthentic to deny the closeness of the debated relationship.

Yet, does existentialism actually offer any genuine, revealing and great truths in itself? The answer is no.

Existentialism has become synonymous with what it purports to hate-- religion. It has also become a shill for Marxist oppression, rather ironic considering the postmodernist preoccupation with oppression, but that is for a different post. It is religious in the sense that it takes its tenets based upon faith rather than logic or proof.

Take for instance the existentialists' defining assertion that man is without essence, a wholly faith-based assertion. It it important to understand that the essence that the existentialist addresses is not necessarily based in mainstream religious faith, nor even in religion at all. Essence can be fairly accurately translated as nature. A philosophy espousing or decrying humanity's return to nature (in whatever way) must embrace first a belief in the existence of a nature (which the existentialist denies) and second the belief that nature is either good (e.g. Charles Dickens' work and humanist philosophies) or evil (e.g. Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness"). However such a philosophy is not necessarily based in a religion. The ethical concepts of good and evil, or watered down right and wrong, that allow for a moral definition of human nature need not be based in religious belief or doctrine. They need only some sort of value system to provide a structure to allow ethical judgement.

So with this in mind, let us examine Sartre's argument that existence precedes essence. Famously, Sartre used the example of the paper-knife to illustrate his point. Paraphrasing Sartre, the paper-knife is an instrument designed with a function in mind. Its shape, form, appearance, and judgement of functionality (whether it is a good paper-knife or not) is based upon the the purpose that the paper-knife was to perform-- its essence. In that way, the paper-knife's essence preceded its existence. Sartre then says man is not like this and then simply allows this assertion to lie. He does not offer an analogy as to what man is like.

Probably one of the reasons that Sartre does this is because it is would be impossible to find an example of something that has no essence as he himself defines it. Any man-made object would be excluded by definition. A natural object such as an oak tree exists in the form that we perceive because of evolved responses to its environment and one could argue that its essence is either likewise a result of this evolution, or that its essence is shown in this form as survival. A non-living entity, such as a rock, exists because of various dynamic factors that shapes its form, such as weathering, pressure, heat, or any myriad of other natural forces. In this way, a rock's form is determined by outside pressures (although they may be utterly indifferent and unconscious) and does not present a good sense of analogy to the concept of an essence-less human being.

note: This argument has nothing to do with the levels of consciousness spelled out in Sartre's Being and Nothingness. It is instead an attempt to show the impossibility of an essence-less existence.

By saying that an item is not something, doesn't indicate what the item is. Knowing that a table is not a pound of air does not tell us what a table is-- it only excludes from what the table can be. Likewise proving the truth of an abstract concept cannot be done through negation, unless you negate everything-- not merely the concept's antithesis.

What we are left with is an empty analogy. The paper-knife metaphor tells us nothing about essence-less existence, nor does it disprove the existence of essence (which was not its original intention but becomes a requirement). All it does is narrow the definition of human essence to the criteria Sartre defines and then denies that anything with such criteria exists. Sartre then proceeds as if he has in fact denied the full range of meanings bound to the concept of human essence. This is a common trick of a rhetorician, often employed [though by no means exclusively] by Obama.

What Sartre is actually trying to do is to deny the basis of any structure of a morality being tied into nature, e.g. Aristotle's conviction that man's purpose is to function as he is naturally intended. For Sartre's "nausea" to have any significant meaning beyond the simple dislocation of man's metaphysical place in the world (old hat by the time of Sartre), he must present the entire world as "nauseous," i.e. the world outside the conscious being must be dislocated. The only way this universal dislocation can truly be realized is by means of an empty arbitrary universe. And this can only be accomplished according to tenets of religious faith.

There is no proof of an empty, arbitrary universe, nor can there be (for if truth were divulged through a revelation of some sort this would nullify the emptiness), only supposition rendered and interpreted by the self. Simple faith then becomes requisite to the proposition-- in this case faith that the self's nausea and fear (regardless of its genuineness) is correct. In this sense, existentialism becomes a supremely humanist religion.

After constructing for so long the helplessness, powerlessness, and foolishness of man, it seems rather abrupt for existentialism to suddenly invest in man the sole means to truth. But this is what existentialism is. What might be more shocking, at least to me, is the fact that it purports to accomplish this without a scrap of either evidence or cohesive logic-- that comes later as existentialism builds its great cathedrals of absurdity and nausea. For now it is simple faith, invested in man, that claims that truth can be arrived at and definitively interpreted. This faith is a central tenet, and the foundation of existential thought.

UPDATE: Check out Jordan's post "Everything Means Nothing: My Existentialist Journey" over at Generation Patriot.

Friday, May 8, 2009

The NRO Reports on Roxana Saberi

Check out this article from the National Review Online by Clifford D. May.

Although he says little that is new, May does touch on the general antipathy that the Western Press feels regarding Saberi's imprisonment via a kangaroo court. It is also nice to see a major publication giving it some more press.

The question that begs to be asked is why the media has allied itself with Iran? Is it the sexism, the racism, the anti-Semitism, the violent homophobia, political repression, avid support of terrorism, or aggressive and violent foreign policy that the Western media finds appealing?

Honestly, I think it's cowardice. It's so much easier to close your eyes and just pretend the bully's not there. Besides we have windmills to make and carbon footprints to fret over. Who has time for these misunderstood mullahs and their vicious repressions?

Thursday, May 7, 2009

US Media Ignoring Chinese/US Ship Clashes

Check out this article from the Times Online by Jane Macartney.

From the article: "China demonstrated its growing naval confidence again in the latest standoff between American and Chinese ships.

"The fifth such incident in two months occurred on Friday in the Yellow Sea when a US Navy surveillance ship turned its fire hoses on two Chinese fishing vessels.

"A spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry said that the American ship was operating in China’s exclusive economic zone without permission and had violated Chinese and international laws. 'We express our concern about this and demand the US side take effective measures to ensure a similar incident does not happen again,' he said.

"The USNS Victorious, an ocean surveillance ship designed for anti-submarine warfare and underwater mapping, was conducting what the Pentagon called routine operations in the waters between China and the Korean peninsula. The Chinese vessels came within 100ft (30 metres) of the vessel."

The fifth such incident? I remember one being reported in the US media. Well, they're not reporting on Iranian attacks on Iraqi villages, but I know how much Michelle Obama's ugly sneakers cost. What is wrong with this?

Hey, but I'm sure Obama can send an arrogant and empty "happy Chinese New Year" message to them in about 2/3 of a year from now and that will make everything great again. Obama's brand of diplomacy in action.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Obama Bullies American Investors

Check out this article By John Carney from businessinsider.com (h/t Anne Leary at Backyard Conservative whose posting was via Hot Air). "Creditors to Chrysler describe negotiations with the company and the Obama administration as 'a farce,' saying the administration was bent on forcing their hands using hardball tactics and threats.

"Conversations with administration officials left them expecting that they would be politically targeted, two participants in the negotiations said.

"Although the focus has so been on allegations that the White House threatened Perella Weinberg, sources familiar with the matter say that other firms felt they were threatened as well. None of the sources would agree to speak except on the condition of anonymity, citing fear of political repercussions."

Then check out this article on hedge funds by Clifford S. Asness. You remember the hedge funds. "The President has just harshly castigated hedge fund managers for being unwilling to take his administration’s bid for their Chrysler bonds. He called them 'speculators' who were 'refusing to sacrifice like everyone else' and who wanted 'to hold out for the prospect of an unjustified taxpayer-funded bailout.'"

This talk of sacrifice is bothering me more and more. When Obama first began preaching sacrifice at the inauguration, I felt uneasy. His starry-eyed cheerleaders in the media rooted in him onward. Howard Fineman of Newsweek was gently critical of Obama for "The failure to call for genuine sacrifice on the part of all Americans, despite the rhetorical claim that everyone would have to 'give up' something."-- I addressed Fineman in a post here. The problem is that people envision sacrifice stopping at the neighbors' front door. While Michelle Obama is publicly wearing ugly $540 Lanvin sneakers (what did she "give up" to wear these-- aside from good taste), her husband is his telling the American people to sacrifice. It's difficult to find a better illustration of a sacrifice for "thee and not me" than the arrogant and elitist Obamas.

Obama has already declared open season on the free market (as noted in a previous post) back in early March. Ousting GM CEO Rick Wangoner was just a beginning of the administration's strong arm tactics. Thomas Lauria's claims will soon simply be another notch in Obama's belt.

Obama displays the classic traits of a bully. Unwilling and afraid to address actual enemies abroad, aside from wishing everyone in Iran a "happy nowruz" and occasionally describing Iran as "unhelpful," Obama focuses his ire on the people he supposedly represents. With the full might of federal government juggernaut behind him, Obama's administration calls out critics personally, ousts CEOs personally, and threatens hedge funds and bankers.

British columnist Gerald Warner, among many others, observed that Obama's enemies are not terrorists trying to kill Americans and bring down the US but Americans themselves. Warner writes "Obama's problem is that he does not know who the enemy is. To him, the enemy does not squat in caves in Waziristan, clutching automatic weapons and reciting the more militant verses from the Koran: instead, it sits around at tea parties in Kentucky quoting from the US Constitution. Obama is not at war with terrorists, but with his Republican fellow citizens." Later he writes "His [Obama's] only enemies are fellow Americans. Which prompts the question: why does President Pantywaist hate America so badly?"

Perhaps the answer to this question is simple and direct. It's because he has the most power over them. Iran can fight back... leave them alone. But when you have the media firmly in your side pocket, what are the odds that legal challenges to Obama's dictates will be successful? After all these years of "community organizing" now he has The Man right where he wants him.

Added New Link! Generation Patriot Blog

I've added a new link to the blog list. Check out the Generation Patriot blog by Jordan, Michelle and Nikeela.

Jordan just posted a thoughtful write up on the purpose of the Supreme Court and the need for judicial reserve. Give it a reading.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Iranian Aircraft Attack Iraqi Villages

Iran is apparently flexing its military muscle. Story here (h/t Instapundit). Haven't heard a peep about this in the MSM yet, and Obama is remaining silent on the subject. My bet is that he's thinking that if he closes his eyes, wishes everyone a "happy nowruz" again, then it will all just go away.

Americans Do Not Believe that Government and UAW Will Run GM and Chrysler Well

Check out this report from Rasmussen (h/t Instapundit).

Some highlights: "Just 18% of Americans think the United Auto Workers union and the federal government will do a good job running Chrysler and General Motors... Forty-seven percent (47%) believe the union and the government will do a bad job, while 35% are not sure. "

"Seventy percent (70%) continue to oppose any additional bailout funding for GM and Chrysler, while 13% think it’s a good idea. Just two weeks ago, 60% said the bailout loans already given to the auto companies were a bad idea, although the Political Class disagreed."

"A potential problem for Chrysler is that just 25% of Americans say they would buy a car from a bankrupt company."

Hmm... Do you think people enthusiasm for Obama's fantasy economics might be waning? Or do these people simply need a little reeducation by the One?

Obama Proposes to Raise Taxes on Overseas Profits (And Great Comedy Ensues)

Check out this AP article via Yahoo. It's another way to increase the price of consumer products, so that companies can pass on the expense to you the consumer. Alternatively they could simply relocate out of the US altogether to a more tax friendly nation. That'll create jobs and greater income to pay for the stimulus and universal health care...

Aside from this, Obama announced this great snorter "'Nobody likes paying taxes, particularly in times of economic stress,' he [Obama] said. 'But most Americans meet their responsibilities because they understand that it's an obligation of citizenship, necessary to pay the costs of our common defense and our mutual well-being.'"

Good one! Why not tell that to your cabinet... You remember your Tax Cheat Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, and Kathleen Soblius' and her husband, and Ron Kirk, and Tom Daschle, and Hilda Solis and her husband, Nancy Killefer, shall I go on...

I guess the Democrat elite and Obama sycophants aren't like most people. It seems like every time Obama opens his mouth lies, that are at best ironic, come rolling out. Audacity indeed...

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Modern Conservatism and the Need for Definition

A few days ago, I was reading through Suzanna Logan's insert clever s.logan here blog. Logan had written a post describing her dislike for Eric Ulrich, a Republican New York City councilman. Check out the posting here. While there I was perusing the comments section of her post and got into a minor exchange with another commenter on the nature of conservatism. You can read it at the above link to see what I mean.

This exchange brought to mind, the need for definition of certain complicated terms that are oftentimes taken for granted. In this case the term being conservative. According to this commenter, my value system lauding individual freedom and liberty, small government respectful of its citizenry and ideally responsive to its constituency's morals and values, is not truly conservative.

I wrote: "One of the most important aspects of conservatism, for me, is the inclusiveness of it. A person is judged by their own actions, their beliefs, and not their handy race or 'type.' It champions leaving people alone to allow them to develop themselves the way they wish. Liberty and freedom are far more important than tradition."

Apparently such remarks are "liberal," and, in a way, that is true. They are indeed classically liberal. Yet, liberalism-- as the word is used today-- is not in any way classically liberal. The term liberalism has been corrupted, and shifted its meaning to being synonymous with the current Left, i.e. socialism. Being progressive has been defined as necessarily "progressing" toward Marx's Communist utopia-- an inevitable utopia according to Marxists (Hegel's influence evident). In fact classical liberalism, as a term, is as dead as the Liberal Party of Great Britain.

My 1980 Oxford American Dictionary defines liberal (way down at definition 6) as "favoring democratic reform and individual liberty, moderately progressive." Does that honestly coincide with the modern idea of liberal? When the media and others use liberal to describe political positions that imposes taxes on cigarettes to pay for government medical services, or institutionalizing political correctness, or nationalizing banking and auto industries, or just generally enlarging government at the expense of citizens' freedoms and income, do they refer to this definition? When Nancy Pelosi, Charles Schummer, Phil Donahue, or Michael Moore describe themselves as liberal, are they referencing this definition?

The source of this confusion is probably mostly due to the current and prevalent Hegelian idea that the world is chiefly made up of binary opposition-- the idea of a thesis confronted with an antithesis e.g. the Left vs the Right, theists vs atheists, Conservative vs Liberal, Democrat vs Republican, etc.--that results into synthesis and "progress." This is a position encouraged by the Left as it reinforces the Marxist's Hegelian tenants upon which Karl Marx based his theories. The fact that this naively simplistic model is demonstrably untrue (Hegel seemed to believe that the Prussian monarch Frederick William III was the eventual end of this thesis/antithesis/synthesis chain, and Marx's apocalyptic predictions have not been proven to be in any way accurate [communism was supposed to be an antithesis to the industrial revolution and the tyranny it inflicted]) has not seemed to stop the vast majority of academicians and the general public to give it great amounts of credence. Perhaps this is because of the superficial similarities between the Hegelian model and the scientific notion of progress towards truth-- but perhaps that is the topic for another post.

Another reason for confusion is the notion that political ideas and stances are largely intractable and have remained mostly unchanged over the years. While at first it seems extraordinarily foolhardy for people to believe this (when has a politician himself remained unchanged?), it is an intensely popular view. I used to believe that Republicans and Democrats could be easily traced back to their origins, and that, although ideas may change, the basic tenants of their policies are intractable.

It is a belief that both political parties reinforce. Republicans love to trace their heritage back to Lincoln and herald Theodore Roosevelt, and likewise Democrats love to tie their pedigree to Thomas Jefferson (although a more realistic tracing would be to Andrew Jackson) and celebrate John F. Kennedy and Franklin D. Roosevelt. The implication being that the tenants that these people derived their popularity from remains largely unchanged today, or at the very least today's parties are directly evolved from policies, values and beliefs espoused by these great past names. Indeed, even the Constitution has been reworked in our minds to be something almost religiously continual-- not merely principles that guide our political thought, but guiding principles that have continued unabated for over 200 years.

Yet in reality, political parties and their positions, like all human endeavors, are finite and changeable things. While some may argue that principles may be universal and absolute truths, human translations of them (if possible) are, by definition, flawed, interpretive, and dynamic. The current relevance of the Constitution is derived from the recognition of this fact. The Magna Carta, while an extraordinarily important event in Western history, deals mostly in feudal rights and has relatively little direct bearing in contemporary political or legal thought. The Ten Commandments, while seemingly permanent, are supported by both ardent religious belief and literally millennia of theological study which has resulted in subtle adaption.

For the modern definition of conservative, one must begin in the years following World War II. This is at the nexus of three defining moments in 20th century American history: the Great Depression, World War II, and the beginnings of the Cold War. The Great Depression ushered in Roosevelt's New Deal, a fundamental shift in both government and political thought, not simply to the Left but toward the Socialist Left. World War II ended up positioning the US as one of two global superpowers, while the resulting Cold War instituted a prolonged competitive stare down of different ideologies.

Old conservatism is typified, not by by the great names of Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt (both 19th century progressives), but rather by presidents Coolidge and Hoover. Old conservatism tended to lean toward international isolationism and laissez-faire economics. The Old Right (a phrase coined later with the advent of the New Right) formed itself in opposition to Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal. Like most reactionary political movements it tended to be amorphous and disorganized, being without clear political principles. Generally they could be said to be strongly isolationist and anti-socialist, but mostly they defined themselves according to what Roosevelt did and as such added little to the political spectrum except to offer largely token resistance to socialist movements.

With the shadow of communism in the form of both the Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China looming, conservatism was redefined, in a very real sense under the gun, in the post World War II era. Convinced of the success of the New Deal, many on the Right considered laissez-faire economics to be a thing of the past, and the main conservative debates were to what limits federal government interventions should run economic theory. And still the GOP saw themselves as Democratic foils rather than a cohesively principled political party. While the conservative reorganization that followed was complicated and involved a wide variety of people, for the sake of brevity I will focus on the two major influences of Russell Kirk and William F. Buckley.

Russell Kirk (1918 - 1994) was heavily influenced by Edmund Burke an 18th Century British politician, philosopher, and political theorist. Kirk's work The Conservative Mind: From Burke to Eliot, published in 1953, laid down the groundwork for what would eventually become Traditional Conservatism, a subset (although it eventually separated itself) of the New Right. Kirk's influential writings and views helped form the New Right from the chaotic scramble following Roosevelt's unprecedented expansion of the federal government and World War II. A reactionary at heart, Kirk's Six Canons of Conservatism lay down the groundwork for his viewpoint (from wikipedia):

"1) A belief in a transcendent order, which Kirk described variously as based in tradition, divine revelation, or natural law;
2) An affection for the 'variety and mystery' of human existence;
3) A conviction that society requires orders and classes that emphasize 'natural' distinctions;
4) A belief that property and freedom are closely linked;
5) A faith in custom, convention, and prescription, and
6) A recognition that innovation must be tied to existing traditions and customs, which entails a respect for the political value of prudence."

These Six Canons were much later (1993) expanded into The Ten Conservative Principles currently espoused by The Russell Kirk Center for Cultural Renewal. Not pretending to be self-contained like the Six Canons, they are titled:

"1) First, the conservative believes that there exists an enduring moral order.
2) Second, the conservative adheres to custom, convention, and continuity.
3) Third, conservatives believe in what may be called the principle of prescription.
4) Fourth, conservatives are guided by their principle of prudence.
5) Fifth, conservatives pay attention to the principle of variety.
6) Sixth, conservatives are chastened by their principle of imperfectability.
7) Seventh, conservatives are persuaded that freedom and property are closely linked.
8) Eighth, conservatives uphold voluntary community, quite as they oppose involuntary collectivism.
9) Ninth, the conservative perceives the need for prudent restraints upon power and upon human passions.
10) Tenth, the thinking conservative understands that permanence and change must be recognized and reconciled in a vigorous society."

With William F. Buckley and others, Russell Kirk helped found The National Review in 1955, and then founded the quarterly Modern Age himself in 1957. Modern Age reflects far more Traditional Conservative policies than The National Review.

As previously noted, William F. Buckley (1925 - 2008) founded The National Review, and used the publication to further refine conservative beliefs, and moved away from the big government Republicans of the time (Eisenhower, a centrist of the time, supported most of the New Deal policies). Indeed most tenants that mainstream society considers conservative (supply side economics, reduced size in government, anti-socialistic tendencies, etc.) were reinvigorated out of this New Right movement championed by the magazine. The television commercial's image of William F. Buckley, dressed smartly in a suit and sitting by a blazing fireplace while dryly extolling The National Review is an indelible image of modern conservatism.

Yet, it was out of the 1960s that modern conservatism was truly formed. The counter-culture's unmistakably Marxist beliefs saturated popular culture, while the Civil Rights Movement called into question the moral authority (as Shelby Steele succinctly points out in his essay "Why the GOP Can't Win With Minorities") of both Left and Right American values (and created strange bedfellows in the mission to eradicate racial segregation). When the socialism (often opportunistically tied to the hot topic and moral imperative of racial politics) contained within the now mainstream counter-culture was adopted into the Democratic Party, the term "liberal," already politically redefined (perhaps intentionally) during Roosevelt and the New Deal, jumped the tracks further becoming synonymous with Socialist progressiveness.

This move toward socialism also created the opportunity for fusion within the conservative movement, combining American political conservatism, libertarianism, classical liberalism (and with it much of historic progressiveness), laissez-faire economic theory, and strident anti-communism that abandoned isolationism. Alienated moderate Democrats were redefined or moved to the right and joined in the GOP. Fear of socialism swelled the ranks of libertarians, Traditional Conservatives, and social conservatives.

This occurrence of fusionism, already having been openly encouraged by The National Review and William F. Buckley, is what has shaped the New Right into the mainstream conservative of the modern day. Kirk, grounded in tradition and with only a passing interest in economics, was highly critical of this fusion and the Traditional Conservatives became largely excluded from the New Right. Ronald Reagan is often used to illustrate the New Right and the results of fusionism. This also illuminates why so many of John F. Kennedy's policies closely mirror conservative ideals, while Eisenhower's seem somewhat foreign.

I will not go into neoconservatism nor paleoconservatism mainly because I don't feel enough time has passed to see the full structure, history and precepts of the movements. This is especially true as battle lines are currently being formed to oppose the far-Left policies of Obama. Likewise Ayn Rand's Objectivism is absent being rejected early on (mostly likely because of its atheism) by what would become the more mainstream New Right.

I hope this quickie review of the last fifty years of conservative thought was helpful. This is by no means an exhaustive history and analysis, nor is it meant to do anything other than give a a very general overview of the recent evolution of conservative theory. Hopefully, it also, in a small way, illustrates the inadequacy of Hegel's synthesizing chain and how ideas organically evolve rather than collide in presupposed opposition. Yes, I know Hegel was talking in great, sweeping generalities, but I'm addressing more of the modern Marxist conviction that world history is made up of collisions between progressives and conservatives. A political science professor I knew back in California taught his courses that way and it drove me nuts.

People now talk of the GOP being in disarray (as people so often do when a party loses an election) and that Republicans need to pull back to their ideological roots. It should be realized though that conservatism's roots are actually quite complicated and a fusion of various political outlooks. Rather than regression and fracture, perhaps a better strategy would be to reinvigorate the enthusiasm for the principles that created modern conservatism. Perhaps it would be best to clearly articulate and celebrate the doctrines that won the Cold War, that ushered in an era of historic prosperity and economic growth, that incorporates individual liberty as one of its cornerstones. Can the Left lay claim to any of that?

Friday, May 1, 2009

Obama Imagery vs. Obama Reality


Yeah... Not so much the light-bringer with that pick there. Don't you hate it when ugly reality intrudes?