Recognizing that there is another side to the coin

I’m reading Ann Coulter’s Godless : The Church of Liberalism. I actually didn’t intend to check it out of the library when I first saw it. I can take Ann in small doses, because I think she’s very clever, and her observations are often spot-on. I also think she’s very mean, so I always end up feeling both exhilarated and, well, dirty, after reading one of her books. (I’ve probably just described the porn movie experience, haven’t I?)

So, as I said, I wasn’t planning on reading that book, except for the fact that, immediately adjacent to it on the library shelf I saw Susan Estrich’s Soulless : Ann Coulter and the Right Wing Church of Hate. If you follow both the links I provided, you’ll see that the Estrich book is meant to look exactly like the Coulter book — same layout, same coloring, almost the same size. They’ve even dressed the brunette, pugnacious little Estrich in a blond wig and black dress, a la Coulter, and modeled her in Ann’s trademark pose.

I leafed through Estrich’s book because I do like to see what the critics have to say. The first few pages were just declarative statements about how mean and opinionated Ann is. I agree. She’s also right a lot of the time, sewing together facts — many of them that liberals would prefer to forget — to make a compelling argument. That you might not ultimately agree with her argument is entirely different from saying she’s too mean to be entitled to argue.

Anyway, I realized that the only way I could tell if Estrich’s book picked up steam and became a meaningful critique of Ann’s argument (as opposed to her argumentative style) was to read Ann’s book first. So I checked out both, and I’m reading them in order: Ann’s first.

As always, Ann makes a good point, all the while being as sarcastic and, sometimes, off-putting (as opposed to humorous) as possible. As you may have guessed from the title, and can certainly see from the reviews, Ann argues that liberalism is itself a faith, much as liberals would like to believe that it’s entirely grounded in reason, science and logic. As it happens, I used to attend the Church of Liberal and accepted its doctrine entirely. To me, it was a comprehensive universe and I, like a good medieval Catholic, could not comprehend the existence of alternative views. They were not equal, they were heretical and needed to be stamped out.

With this mindset, in the way back when, I was particularly baffled by the word “secularism,” which appeared as an Evangelical rallying phrase in the 1980s. What was this “secularism” they were all talking about? I knew that I was on the side of right, reason, logic and natural human progression; they represented everything dark. To me, secularism was a made-up concept that was simply intended to demonize everything that wasn’t fundamentalist Christianity.

And then, one day, it clicked. Sadly, I can’t remember what I read, but I do know it was a book about education. Whatever it was, reading it, I realized why the Evangelicals were so upset. I saw that, if you came from a home where the package deal was that marriage is sanctified, that abortion is wrong, that homosexual conduct is wrong, that America is a good place, that Communism is a bad thing, and that if your children were placed in a school that had as a package-deal a curriculum that didn’t just present the existence of opposing views, but that actively denigrated your views and preached a comprehensive and antithetical world view, then that school was teaching an opposing belief system. This is especially true where, as in public schools, the school system is advancing its belief system as ultimate facts, when it’s manifestly obvious that many of these facts are merely conclusions, to which believers retrofit supporting facts. As any good lawyer knows, you figure out your case first, and then find the facts to support it.

Further, if you are one of those traditionally religious people, a belief system opposing your belief system is, in fact, a religion. And since this oppositional religion slyly refuses to give itself a name, beyond pronouncing itself to be all that is right and good, you’re perfectly entitled to label it for your own convenience (perhaps selecting a name such as “secularism”), and to challenge it.

With this epiphany, the atheist (or am I an agnostic?) in me kicked in. If I’m not ready to believe in one belief system (traditional religion), why in the world am I so willing to believe wholesale in another belief system (secularism)?

Slowly, slowly, I started looking at the premises of my secular religion and not liking what I saw. I moved further and further away from it, the more I scrutinized my former unthinking faith.

Welfare as an unlimited right suddenly seemed like a pretty crude way to ensure that generations of poor people would remain poor, lacking all incentive to work. (An insight that was hastened when I learned that my Communist aunt, a believer ’til the day she died, lived in an East Berlin apartment with a broken sink for nine years, since no one had an incentive to fix it for her.)

To believe that America is a bad place importing its imperialism, as opposed to the purity of Communism, works only if one ignores the fact that Communism wherever tried has failed, not only because it fails economically, but because it can work only if people are reduced to absolute, unthinking servitude. Every one of my liberal shibboleths fell when I recognized the unthinking faith behind them, and looked beyond my faith-based blinders.

When I finally looked at the world as it was, and looked at people as they are (and as they should want to be), I didn’t want to be a liberal any more. And so I ended up amongst the conservatives, embracing their belief system, without embracing their beliefs. Funnily enough, although it should be an uneasy fit, it isn’t. This is so because one of the nicest things I’ve discovered is that, while my many conservative friends wish, for my own sake, that I could embrace faith, they don’t shun me, denigrate me, insult me, or harass me because I don’t. There’s a certain eternal patience here, as well as a willingness to accept that I’ve already made a pretty big intellectual journey in the past few years of my life.

UPDATEPatrick has been blogging about the difference between fear based view of our world and a reason driven view of it — and you’ll have to read it yourself to find out on which side traditionally religious people, and secularly religious people fall.

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Comments

  1. says

    Hi Bookworm,

    You really are gifted with words. I’m a huge Coulter fan. Yes, you’re right, she can be mean — I think that’s why I like her so much. She says what I would love to, but know better, and she is more than capable of taking the heat for everything she says. I hate the political correctness movement and I think she does a good job of spitting in the eye of that movement.

    Extremely interesting post:)

  2. says

    You’re not alone. I too, shed my Liberal faith, joined the conservatives, but am not a believer in God. My faith is in the scientific method, which has freed us from superstition, lifted us into modernity, given us modern medical knowledge, healthier, longer lives and all the the benefits of capitalism. Liberalism is a primitive faith, akin to Islam, not subject to rational refutation.

  3. Zhombre says

    I find Ann Coulter to be astute and a good writer and funny but I’ve turned her off. Her polemic IMHO have become a hustle, performance art, a form of lucha libre political discourse. What ticked me off is a dust jacket endorsement she allegedly wrote for a liberal academic named Michael Eric Dyson, a guy I’d seen on the Maher show (good friends of mine, unapologetic liberals, watch it and when at their house I’m polite) and I regard him as a shallow academic huckster. Of course, Bill Maher is not only an imbecile himself but brings out the inner imbecile in his guests too (including Christopher Hitchens, who flipped the audience the bird), so my perception of Dyson may not be entirely fair.

  4. Marguerite says

    Bookworm, what makes Estrich “pugnacious’ and Ann Coulter ‘mean?’ I find the whole leftist paradigm mean. LBJ’s ‘war on poverty’ which sounds so righteous ended up descimating black families, now that was mean. Giving single women money for having babies out of wedlock and substituting the faceless federal govt. for fathers is mean. Sitting down little children in elementary schools and filling their minds w/sexual content they are not ready for until their parents say they are ready is mean. Graduating students who can’t read but can condom a cucumber is mean. Trying to make little boys more like little girls is mean. I often find Coulter sarcastic, but so help me, I cheer because no one else nails the left and doesn’t apologize. This posting is one of your best, BW.

  5. Danny Lemieux says

    I agree with M., Book – great and insightful post. I, too, like Coulter but “turn her off”…same with some of the more frothing-at-the-mouth rightwing radio hosts like your own (S.F.’s, that is) Michael Savage. The reason is…they use the tactics of the Liberal/Left – the sneering, tearing down, ridiculing “attack the messenger” approach to discourse that demeans the attacker even as it is meant to diminish the target of their ridicule. This ultimatly diminishes us as “true” conservatives. I prefer to leave those Fascist /Saul Alinsky tactics to the Left. However, Coulter does get her facts in line and she submits her victims to pummeling rhetorical arguments that leave me cheering, as well.

  6. Danny Lemieux says

    What may be different about the Liberal/Left Secular Faith and Christian Faith is that most religious Christians recognize faith not as an end, but as a journey. It’s not like you are 100%-in or 100%-out, unlike the secularist faiths.

    Does anyone remember that last scene with Donald Sutherland in the 1978 remake of “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”? That’s the state of Liberal/Left discourse – exactly!

  7. says

    Good point Marguerite (#5). I really haven’t been exposed to Estrich’s writing. I’ve read about her, but haven’t read her. The pages I flipped through demonstrated a fighting spirit, but I didn’t get any sense of style. I used to word pugnacious mostly to describe her looks. While Ann is lanky, and almost elegant, Estrich looks like a tightly wound compact fighter.

  8. says

    Bookworm:

    I was brought up in an Orthodox Jewish home in Brooklyn. Our religion was Jewish, but our political belief was the Democratic party. My family were a bunch of unthinking drones. I voted for the Dems, like a slave on a plantation, until I started thinking on my own and saw the results of the Carter years. I voted for Ronald Reagan and have never looked back. The Democratic Party has since turned into a haven for Jew haters, enemies of Israel, enemies of free speech, enemies of America and freedom, and enablers of Jihadists.

    Many in my family still vote for the Dems and consider me a “Hollywood sell-out.” My response is very simple: I’m still a Kennedy Democrat. The party has just gone Stalinist on the rest of us.

    Love your site. Keep up the fine work.

  9. Al says

    BW, the account of your epiphany was illuminating. You are an agnostic. You do not want to be told how to think. Which of course is the view of any sentient individual.
    Unless that “individual” has the ultimate sin, the will to ultimate power.
    And that last scene in “The Invasion of the Body Snatchers” was but wrenching.
    AL

  10. Patrick O'Hannigan says

    A beautiful post, Bookworm. I enjoyed and reviewed Coulter’s “Godless,” so I’m curious to hear what you think when you’ve finished it.

    P.S. You’re not an atheist. You are, as you intuited, an agnostic. And that’s an honest position for which you need not apologize to Christians like me.

  11. highlander says

    You have chosen your nom de plume well, Bookworm, but I think you might equally well have chosen “Pilgrim”.

    Tour transparency and willingness to question your own beliefs and motives set your blog apart from the many others which exist solely to provoke outrage.

    May you and your blog live long and well.

  12. Marguerite says

    I think an agnostic is a person who thinks it is impossible to know if God exists. An atheist is one who thinks there is no God. A true agnostic probably keeps thinking on the matter, but a true atheist probably has closed the door. From your writing I’d say you were agnostic.

  13. dagon says

    book,

    “I’ve already made a pretty big intellectual journey in the past few years of my life.”

    –not nearly big enough! sorry, i couldn’t resist, but kudos on the agnosticism (which sounds like what you are). probably the only thing we’ll ever agree on but it’s a start.

    peace

  14. says

    The funny thing, wytammic, is that I’m all three. The only thing is that, I lie awake at night comforted by the fact that, a few feet away, there is a small furry thing not barking. Her silence tells me that, at least as to my immediate environment, all is well.

  15. says

    I really haven’t been exposed to Estrich’s writing. I’ve read about her, but haven’t read her.

    The only thing I know about Estrich is the times when she appears on Hannity and Colmes. And the only thing I know about Coulter is like .5% of what she wrote in op eds and 99.5% of what she says while on Fox.

    Based upon this selective amount of information, I tend to find both Estrich’s and Coulter’s method of argumentation, problematic, but for different reasons. Coulter doesn’t exactly communicate on the human level, instead she either tells you to read her book or tells you her conclusions. But she doesn’t by my recollection, explain why she is right and why her opponents are wrong, at least concerning an immediate accussation flung at her. Coulter in responding to various topics and conversation pieces on air, tend to go off on her own into subjects she chooses. She is unable or unwilling to adapt her logic and particular brand of wit, to the subject at hand. I’m assuming she has a particular brand of logic she uses, but she doesn’t use it to explore any of the subjects brought to her attention on air, in my view.

    Estrich’s problems are similar but not the same. Her problem more or less seems to be just bad logic. She can’t make a good argument, but she does try to make it relevant to the topic being discussed. It is relevant yes, but incompetently relevant. It doesn’t work, as an argument or appeal to human motivations or reason.

    She reminds me of Colmes. I keep wondering if there is a brain behind the exterior. Does she really believe what she is saying… They use the same tactics, essentially. Whenever they wish to protect some kind of behavior, they try to do a red herring and accuse the accusers of having the same behavior. This doesn’t work for the Left concerning GitMo and treating terrorists like terrorists treat other people, so why does the Left think it should work for them when they benefit? No reason at all? Mostly, yes, no reason at all.

    And that last scene in “The Invasion of the Body Snatchers” was but wrenching.
    AL

    Somebody want to describe or transcribe this particular scene? Because I didn’t watch that movie. At least not all of it.

    Book, your first paragraph was outright hilarious, even before the last sentence.

    As a last piece on Coulter, she just doesn’t do human psychology well. In the communication and propaganda sense. She doesn’t have the cult leadership charisma of telling you and making you believe it. That might be a good or bad thing depending on your perspective.

  16. says

    Book’s last paragraph is interesting. Because it highlights something I said at http://www.blackfive.net about loyalty being a two way street. Not only does it have to go both ways, meaning if the Democrats wish loyalty from Book, they should give her loyalty in the form of backing her up when she is in trouble and supporting her, instead of trying to tear down people who disagree with the Demons. I mean Demos. (Demo? Democrats) Demolitioning people that they find in their way is not a way to show loyalty, people.

    Loyalty is a two way street also because you have to take one side and I have to take the other side. It works together, as a system. If you don’t do what you’re supposed to do, don’t expect me to stay on my side. If that car goes over to my lane and he’s heading towards me, I’m going to switch lanes, to his probably if there are only two. Loyalty then, is a function of self-survival, of the self. Therefore it is a very powerful instinct, but essentially it is neither good or evil. Sometimes you have to be disloyal, if an organization is too evil to be supported. Sometimes you have to betray an organization, if that organization first betrayed you or the principles by which you believe in.

  17. BigAL says

    Bookworm.

    I agree that this was a well-written post. From my perspective, I liked it because it helped me to better understand your political point of view and how you have come to believe what you believe over time (regardless of whether I agree with your belief(s)). I, myself, feel that the most important thing for me is to stick with what I feel is right to the best of my knowledge at any given point in time. I strive to learn as much as possible about Liberal and Conservative thought and history. This is especially true if I don’t agree with what I am hearing so that I can ensure myself that the root of any disagreement I may have with something isn’t due to lack of understanding or ignorance (e.g. blogging with imperialist neo-cons at the Bookwormroom because I completely disagree with the war of choice in Iraq). That being said, in situations where I find out that my disagreement is due to ignorance or a misunderstanding of what I thought was wrong about something, I am not afraid to admit my mistakes and sincerely try to mend my ways.

    I agree with and admire many conservative principles and schools of thought. However, I also completely agree with the likes of Republican’s Joe Scarborough and Lincoln Chafee, and many other conservatives that I respect truly believe George W. Bush and the Bush administration (judging by their actions since being elected to office) are anything but conservative (other than a few issues, like never raising taxes, which is one thing I’ve always been happy about with the Bush Admin).

    I am a big fan of Ayn Rand and I feel I have a pretty good understanding of the dangers of socialism and communism. The biggest dangers of socialism and communism, in my opinion, is that a central government, rather than a free market controlled by market forces like supply and demand, decides how the money should be distributed throughout society.

    In a perfect world, the humans in control of the central government would make fair and equitable decisions about who should get the money throughout society. In the real world, the people in control of the government will make decisions about the distribution money that benefit themselves and their friends or business partners or whomever they want.

    In the real world, no matter how much we hate to admit it, spurred on by the great depression, FDR, and other factors, the United States is basically a socialist country where the central government makes many decisions about where billions and billions of the taxpayer’s money goes.

    Going from there, I am extremely frustrated with the way the Bush Administration uses taxpayer’s money to hook up their friends (like Halliburton). For example, the facts remain that Dick Cheney has been getting paid a very luxurious CEO retirement package from Halliburton during his entire time as the Vice President of the USA. And during this time, Halliburton continues to get fat government contracts (no-bid nonetheless)worth billions and billions. A huge amount of these contracts have been because of the controversial Bush Admin decisions that resulted in the Iraq invasion, occupation, war, etc. — a decision which was greatly caused by the arguments Dick Cheney expressed to the American people. To make matters worse and seem even more shady, most (if not all) of the assertions Cheney used to convince the American people and lawmakers what we should invade Iraq have turned out to be untrue. This includes assertions about the length and cost of the war and occupation that have turned out to be completely untrue. Coincidentally, the longer the war goes, and the more money we spend on the war, guess who stands to benefit? HALLIBURTON

    The example of Cheney’s relationship with Halliburton creates a serious conflict of interest for the way we conduct foreign policy in this country. It is especially frustrating when you hear of the absolute incompetence, gross abuse, and tragic mistakes (all hush hushed by the MSM) that companies like Halliburton have made in executing (or not executing) these contracts in Iraq. It makes it even scarier when you consider that none of these things were investigated by congress until recently, when the Democrats took control. http://www.iraqforsale.org

    Self-proclaimed conservatives like Cheney say they don’t like socialism, and believe in free-markets, but yet they are the ones who use socialism and beauracracy (and the smoke screens they provide) to benefit themselves and their friends. Although using socialism and beauracracy as a smoke screen for self-profit is probably more of a symptom of the Washington belt-way–not necessarily republican or democrat……..

    One wonders, if this was such an important war for the survival of the American people, why have they done such a shitty job all the way around?

    Is it because their motives were driven by profits and money more than sane and intelligent foreign policy?

    I know in my life, I sometimes make decisions because I am blinded by the financial benefits of certain decisions. And I always regret those times, for they rarely bring me happiness.
    And in the really big mistakes, no matter how many points my friends and foes make to me about how retarded my decision was, I sometimes, out of pride, stick with my delusional arguments which have usually changed 5 times by then. And my friends can only sit there and hope I’ll eventually come to my senses. I usually do eventually come to my senses, but it’s a pretty humbling experience to admit it to them after being in denial for so long. I can’t imagine how humbling it would be to admit a mistake, like the poorly planned invasion of Iraq (and the poorly fought war on terror) and the tragic results brought by those mistakes, to the entire world (especially to the Iraqi people and American troops).

    So, my point is that there seems to be a lot more to it than conservative ideology and talk about what it means to be a conservative and why it’s better than liberal thought, there’s also a thing called conservative action.

    I just don’t find the Bush Administration’s actions to be conservative. And I don’t think pro-Bush supporter’s continued defense of this terribly planned and executed war is helping anything. Good thing it’s less than 1/3rd of the country.

    I think it is a mistake for Bush-supporters to believe that to go against Bush would be to support the Democrats, it’s just not true. All you’re doing is motivating more people to give the Democrats a try.

    Nevertheless, things will take care of themselves.
    If the denial by Bush admin continues, 2008 will be a landslide no matter who the Democrats put out there (with the exception maybe (MAYBE) being Hillary, since she’s so controversial)
    But I think even Hillary would most likely win if the denial continues.

  18. Zhombre says

    I must admit I was wrong about you, BigAl. You’re quite astute. That’s not saying I concur with every thought you utter. By no means. I don’t want to burden Bookworm’s bandwidth with a lengthy post right now, just wanted to admit I misjudged.

  19. BigAL says

    Z, I appreciate that. And I must admit that I have deserved some of the criticism I have received in the past because of my urge to utter quick responses often based on my frustration with whatever issue is bothering me in the moment (or maybe feeling like no one is listening and people just picking bits of my comments to bash without seeing the big picture of the message I’m trying to get across). Bookwormroom is my first real blog experience and I hope I’m learning to be a more effective blog communicator. I have many friends and family who share similar views as you, Danny, DQ, and Bookworm—-I feel I owe it to them to really try to understand where they (and y’all) are coming from. I think everyone agrees the political climate in this country (probably largely due to the 24 hour news cycle) makes for very confusing times. I think we should all do our best to not get tunnel vision when it comes to our beliefs. If it weren’t for Bookworm’s open mind when she was younger, this could be a liberal blogsite. Anyways, sorry to ramble, and thanks again for reading my response.

  20. Zhombre says

    You’re very welcome. And yeah I agree the 24 hour news cycle has really distorted opinion — we suffer from an inflammation of the media. Stories get much wider play and more cursory analysis than in the past. I’ve also found blog communication to entail a lot of really bad writing; many blogs are performance art and personal theater and thus you get a lot of self indulgence, personal obsessions inflated to Hindenburg magnitude with flammable gases. The immediacy and anonymity of blog comments also leads to people reducing it a cerebral form of a first person shooter game. Present company excepted of course — though I confess personally to any number of bad habits and rude conduct on-line. Mea culpa.

  21. says

    Hi BigAl,

    Thank you so much for the well-thought-out comments. Would that we had more like them from people who shared your persepctive. Speaking as one who opposed the war from the beginning (in part because I fully expected it to go this badly and knew we had no idea how we are going to get out) I agree with much of what you said. However, I must quibble with your “imperialist neo-cons at the Bookwormroom” comment. One thing nearly all conservatives I know, neo or otherwise, share is an absolute aversion to imperialism. If anything, conservatives tend to be isolationist. The whole history of America (not including the take over of what is now American soil) is a history of entering into foreign affairs only to protect American interests, assist our allies or simply do some good in the world, but with no imperialist intent whatsoever.

    Consider Iraq. From the day we invaded, the entire discussion has been about how quickly we can leave. We have spent billions of dollars of American taxpayers’ money rebuilding Iraq at no cost to the Iraqis. We have not stolen their oil, as any imperialist worth his salt doubtless would have. We have not exploited them in any imperialist way. We have tried, albeit with limited success, to help them establish a just democratic government through which they can govern themselves. We have not acted as imperialists or that term is degraded beyond all meaning.

    Still, thank you so much for the thoughtful comments.

  22. Danny Lemieux says

    Well done, BigAl! I disagreed with much of your post but I could daisy-pick many points upon which we can agree and others upon which I could reflect, recognizing that we see the world through different prisms. That makes it a very good post!

  23. says

    America is the New Empire, an evolutionary branching off that allows for an Empire to exist without the need to expand or conquer new people or to force them to pay taxes to maintain the Empire. An Imperium in a sense.

    im·pe·ri·um /ɪmˈpɪəriəm/ Pronunciation Key – Show Spelled Pronunciation[im-peer-ee-uhm] Pronunciation Key – Show IPA Pronunciation
    –noun, plural -pe·ri·a /-ˈpɪəriə/ Pronunciation Key – Show Spelled Pronunciation[-peer-ee-uh] Pronunciation Key – Show IPA Pronunciation, -pe·ri·ums.
    1. command; supreme power.
    2. area of dominion; sphere of control or monopoly; empire.
    3. a nation having or exerting supreme power; superpower.
    4. Law. the right to command the force of the state in order to enforce the law.

    em·pire /ˈɛmpaɪər; for 8–10 also ɒmˈpɪər/ Pronunciation Key – Show Spelled Pronunciation[em-pahyuhr; for 8–10 also om-peer] Pronunciation Key – Show IPA Pronunciation
    –noun
    1. a group of nations or peoples ruled over by an emperor, empress, or other powerful sovereign or government: usually a territory of greater extent than a kingdom, as the former British Empire, French Empire, Russian Empire, Byzantine Empire, or Roman Empire.
    2. a government under an emperor or empress.
    3. (often initial capital letter) the historical period during which a nation is under such a government: a history of the second French empire.
    4. supreme power in governing; imperial power; sovereignty: Austria’s failure of empire in central Europe.
    5. supreme control; absolute sway: passion’s empire over the mind.
    6. a powerful and important enterprise or holding of large scope that is controlled by a single person, family, or group of associates: The family’s shipping empire was founded 50 years ago.
    7. (initial capital letter) a variety of apple somewhat resembling the McIntosh.
    –adjective
    8. (initial capital letter) characteristic of or developed during the first French Empire, 1804–15.

    These two definitions should give you a basic idea of what I mean when I use those two words.

    America is not an empire in the classical sense because we do not rule over other nations, and we certainly do not absolutely control their actions either. The dynastic succession for empires isn’t even compatible with our Presidential elections. There is no aristocratic tradition, so it is kind of hard to have an empire without it.

    The American Imperium is a much more accurate and truthful description of what is going on right now.

  24. says

    As for BigAl, I think I can sum up my views on his position basically as “his positions on politics is based upon the wrong things”. If a person has a belief that he bases upon a certain foundation, and that foundation is wrong or weak, then does it really matter if his beliefs look like the same as mine? I think it is only similar and agreeable on a superficial basis. If beliefs do not come from the same origins, then they have different identities. They cannot be the same.

    Two people who are against corruption do not have the same position, if one person only talks about Republicans and not Nancy/HarryReid, while the other talks about both Republican and Democrat corruption. Even for two people who only talk about Republican corruption, they still don’t have the same political position if one of them talks about corruption that doesn’t exist, while the other one talks about corruption that does exist.

    Intentions aren’t enough. The Left should have taught everyone that, by now.

  25. BigAL says

    DQ,

    What has been rebuilt in Iraq that is for the Iraqi people that has not been destroyed or won’t be destroyed in the future considering the state of violence in the country?

    I just honestly do not know. And was wondering what you are referring to.

    Also, I heard there is a council being set up(or already set) that will be the ultimate decider in managing Iraq’s future oil revenues and profits. I guess the idea is that since their is so much political and religious turmoil, this council will basically be an independent 3rd party that will make decisions about who gets the oil profits—- and not coincidentally, they will decide which foreign oil companies will get the contracts to run Iraq’s oil business. I’ve heard this council will be made up of western oil execs(or former execs), mostly American and European.

    How lucky for these western companies! If this is true (which I’m pretty sure it is even though I don’t have time to look up the info now) I agree we won’t be stealing oil profits from the Iraqi’s—we will be managing their entire oil business!

    Sounds like neo-colonialism to me. Which, in my opinion, is just a form of imperialism.

    As for Ymarsakar, I think I can sum up my views on his/her position basically as “his/her positions on politics is based upon the wrong things”.

  26. says

    What has been rebuilt in Iraq that is for the Iraqi people that has not been destroyed or won’t be destroyed in the future considering the state of violence in the country?

    Existence is futile, therefore the current generation need not sacrifice anything for a misbegotten and unwanted future for useless children. Right? Like I said, if you don’t come from the same place via the same place, your end destination can’t be the same.

    Another phrase that can describe Big is that when he tries to argue a point, he has to resort to using my words or simply regurgitating his own. Lack of original and critical thinking, disables a person from knowing where oil corruption really is, assuming it is perpetrated by the US in the first place.

  27. says

    Btw, in case this isn’t clear, my real problem with anarchy is not that it claims to be anti-corruption or that it is pro-liberty, and that this is all lies of one sort or another. No, my real problem is that anarchy doesn’t offer anything positive to replace what it advocates must be destroyed, decayed, and overturned. It’s not even something. It is just nothing. Nothing to replace services, systems, institutions, and guarantees of safety and rights.

    It’s one thing to decry Feinstein’s Defense contract kickbacks for her husband, but it is another thing to base your entire political identity on one issue, oil or money or corruption. Look at Pelosi if you don’t believe me. She ran her campaign on anti-Republican corruption, and then look at what she actually did. I don’t think Big’s policies construct any better situation, assuming there is one.

  28. SGT Dave says

    BigAl,
    Having been on the ground in Baghdad, I do have some disagreements with your well-written posting. The infrastructure is being rebuilt and is likely to remain after we are gone; even the insurgents have realised the dangers of attacking basic support systems in terms of popular support. The clinics and sewers are coming on line. As to the oil revenues council – this is a replacement for the previous system to determine profit-sharing and contracts, similar to other national oil companies (i.e. Citgo of Venezuela). The 24 hour news cycle has distorted and deceived many people – my wife doesn’t watch network news anymore. She found that the reports on the news were at odds with my emails and calls from Baghdad, sometimes severely. Please note that over 90% of Halliburton’s contracts were competitive bid (I don’t have the reference right here, sorry). Halliburton and KBR won contracts because they had the materials and personnel to fulfill the needs. Halliburton hired hundreds of professional soldiers (officers and NCO’s) that left during the great RIF of the Clinton years. It was an investment that paid off for them – they knew that the actions of that government would cause critical logistics shortages for the next two to three decades. Look at the number of contracts awarded for Bosnia and Kosovo by the Clinton admin – it is a similar percentage for Halliburton.
    Just giving my point of view; I went there and it is not as bad as they say. And we are winning – look at their target choices. When someone says “why can’t we catch all the bad guys in Iraq” I want to ask back “why are there hundreds of outstanding warrants in Los Angeles?” And that is with no language barrier, though the weapons are similar for the bad guys.

    SGT Dave
    “It is wrong and foolish to mourn the men who died. Rather, we should thank God almighty that such men lived.” – George S. Patton

  29. says

    Thanks for those solid facts, SGT Dave. It’s especially interesting to hear how you view Halliburton from the ground. As you’ve probably guessed from the tenor of my blog, I’ve never bought into the argument that Cheney, to increase his pension and help his friends, took down the twin towers, sent Wilson to Iraq, fed everyone false information, and started a War. Even for a man that the crazed Left views as evil incarnate, that’s a very complicated way to make a few bucks.

    And I’m with your wife. I’m aware of what the MSM nightly news says (couldn’t write a blog if I wasn’t), but I sure don’t make a point of watching it on a regular basis. The bias is so obvious when you watch the whole thing in its full, 1/2 hour clump, that I find it intolerable.

  30. says

    I’ve never bought into the argument that Cheney, to increase his pension and help his friends, took down the twin towers, sent Wilson to Iraq, fed everyone false information, and started a War. Even for a man that the crazed Left views as evil incarnate, that’s a very complicated way to make a few bucks.

    What do you mean Book? How can the Dark Lord of the Sith, not be in charge and responsible for the mayhem of this world?

    And I’m with your wife. I’m aware of what the MSM nightly news says (couldn’t write a blog if I wasn’t), but I sure don’t make a point of watching it on a regular basis.

    I don’t watch tv anymore. Ignorance is bliss in this case since even good shows I don’t bother to watch on tv anymore, inconvenient, and not going to do tivo.

    The bias is so obvious when you watch the whole thing in its full, 1/2 hour clump, that I find it intolerable.

    Most people don’t like to feel helpless and frustrated all the time. Mental defenses come to the fore if such things do occur.

    Like I said on the subject of corruption. It’s one thing to talk about corruption, but it is another thing entirely to get it right when targeting folks.

    A lot of people like Big here, think that the military industrial complex is a function of how big the federal military is. Or else they contradict themselves by both advocating a draft and advocating a decrease in the commercial industries that support the military. Because it is a function in a way, the larger the military, the more logistical support it needs from the States. Both in terms of money, manpower, and resources.

    But that’s not a simple thing, logistics is never a direct representation. The US Army for a large number of reasons, have reduced the tail to the frontline fighter ratios to as much as 3 to 1. 3 people in support, for every 1 fighter. I think it was 7 to 1 in Vietnam, and 10 to 1 before then. The Persian Army back in Thermopylae had a million+ people, but only around 100,000 fighting forces. Or even less. Don’t think they even ncluded the camp followers.

    So the point is, logistics is always necessary and relevant and important. But unless people wish for a more inefficient and pot bellied army, they should support civilian organizations like Halliburton and Blackwater. Follow George Soros’ example, and buy stock in halliburton. Just don’t be a hypocritical collaborator with a guilty conscience, at the same time.

    Without the civilian infrastructure, the Army could not maintain their 3 to 1 ratio. It would have to get bigger, but it wouldn’t get more lethal. One of the biggest problems with occupation is the front line to support ratio. You could not field a 1 million man army and have every man fighting, shooting, killing, and detaining terrorists. So whatever was left, would be the place for mistakes to be made, ambushes, attacks, and so forth. One of the biggest problems with occupations, the threat of locals attacking your forces via ambush or surprise raids, is no longer present in Iraq because our primary enemies primarily attack civilians instead.

    Nobody talks about how civilian support for the military, in the form of contracted private companies, increase the war awareness of the civilian population. While almost everybody talks about the draft and how the President needs to ask for more “sacrifice”. Primarily amongst the Left and old school people, there is this belief in a zero sum proposition. Meaning, in order to win over there, we have to lose our profits and economic growth over here. Some people believe this because they do want to win, and some people are for this because they really want us to lose or prevent winning over there by making things bad here.

  31. echeccone says

    I appreciate this blog’s commitment to a conservative viewpoint, albeit one derived by logical reasoning and empirical support. It is a refreshing change from many right-leaning websites that seem to eschew such a framework and instead base their logic on blind faith and escalating fear.

    Hence, I was somewhat surprised to find the general level of support for Coulter’s books, given this enlightened perspective. Coulter’s books have been widely criticized for poor scholarship and evidentiary support, and not just by those on the Left with an axe to grind (e.g., Al Franken) but by commentators who are as committed to reasoned and thoughtful analysis as the organizers of this blog (e.g., Reason Magazine, Skeptic Society, et. al.). To me, Coulter’s analysis is often logically flawed and driven by politics or dogma rather than empirical data or consistency (e.g., she’s for expansive states’ rights until a federal body helps put Bush in the White House). She also makes outrageous statements based on her own unsupported mythologies (e.g., Jews need to be perfected by Christianity).

    I also was curious as to why the application of rational inquiry led Bookworm to enter the intellectual company of conservatives. I have applied a similar approach and found myself in agreement with more liberal thinkers. Warren Buffet and George Soros, for example, understand free markets very well–dare I say it better than most any conservative thinker with the possible exceptions of Hayek and Friedman–and yet they champion decidedly liberal causes and are widely attacked by conservatives of all types. Personally speaking, I have struggled to understand a rational justification for a given conservative viewpoint on many topics, like global warming, evolution, tax policy, gay marriage, etc. If I lack information that would change my view, I am perfectly open to integrating that new data. But because I am committed to a rational and consistent process of arriving at a viewpoint, and because I seem to land on a more liberal side most often, I find it hard to understand how one who is similarly committed to positivistic analysis can remain conservative given the anti-science, anti-empirical nature of so many of those with right-leaning viewpoints. Just wondering…

  32. Ymarsakar says

    Warren Buffet and George Soros, for example, understand free markets very well–dare I say it better than most any conservative thinker with the possible exceptions of Hayek and Friedman

    The former’s use of their “understanding” to undermine the markets for personal gain is never as preferable to me as the latter’s use for the good of all.

  33. echeccone says

    How have Buffett and Soros undermined markets for personal gain? Buffett and Soros have warned against the risks that excessive inequality pose to the proper functioning of markets, society and democracy. Hayek and Friedman have assumed away this threat, based upon my hazy recollection of their writings. And “never” is a very strong word.

  34. Ymarsakar says

    Soros devalues foreign, American, British currency in order to make millions trading currency. That’s where his capital came from for all these special interest funded groups.

  35. echeccone says

    I was actually on a capital markets trading floor in Frankfurt when Soros made the (in)famous billion-pound-trade. Essentially, he bet that the Bank of England would not continue to prop up the pound to keep it in the range mandated by the European Union as a precondition for entry into the Common Market. The actions of the BoE were futile, a waste of capital and unsustainable, so when they stopped Soros profited handsomely. This is no different that any investor betting on a company’s results for a quarter, a year or a decade. Or, for that matter, any person investing time to enter a profession and then reaping the wages of that job over a career. Soros did not devalue the currency, but recognized the underlying forces that were causing the pound’s weakness at the time (i.e., higher inflation in the UK versus Germany and France) before others could see it. His trade did not distort the currency markets; rather, the BoE’s actions were doing just that. Conservatives do not like Soros because he attacks them politically and has the means to do it; however, Soros is actually more committed to free markets than his right-leaning targets. And the source of his wealth is proof of it.

  36. Ymarsakar says

    Soros did not devalue the currency

    Soros has done many things other than take bets from the sidelines. It’s one thing when you can get rich by lowering a nation’s currency value, but don’t have the power or resources to do so by manipulating markets and economic factors. It is quite another thing when you not only have the power to do so, but got your wealth from such manipulations of the currency market.

    There are no government regulations preventing Soros from enriching himself and he tries very hard to be in charge of any regulations that might do so.

    His trade did not distort the currency markets

    His trade is just taking advantage of a market he has already sought to manipulate. Unless you are propping up the idea that Soros is just a passive currency trader, that just waits around for opportunities to appear. I doubt he could be where he was if he just waited like that without doing anything to prime the markets.

    however, Soros is actually more committed to free markets than his right-leaning targets. And the source of his wealth is proof of it.

    The idea that an individual is more committed to free markets because he has billions in personal wealth not made through productive effort, is neither a conservative idea nor a fake liberal one.

  37. echeccone says

    Ymarkakar,

    Thanks for the response. I enjoy this dialogue. Truly.

    But I do disagree. Soros does not have the money to distort currency markets. No one does. No single institution, much less individual, has the resources to stem the tide for most any fully convertible currency. There are simply too many market actors with too much money. To put this into perspective: in comparison to the less than $10 billion exchanged in the U.S. stock markets in a single session, and the daily trading volume averages of $300 billion in the U.S. Treasury Bond market, the foreign exchange market has daily turnover of $1.2 trillion per day. If Soros deployed all of his wealth (which would be as stupid as it is unlikely), he would constitute less than 1% of one day’s worth of the total forex market; he would be less than 5% of the dollar and less than 10% of any other major currency. This vast size of the forex market is the reason why the Bank of England failed in short order, and the BoE has more resources than Soros. By the way, the U.S. Treasury quit intervening in the dollar market in the early 70’s because of this.

    Again, it was the 1bn pound trade that put Soros on the map, and you seem to not disagree with my contention that it was not manipulation that allowed his enrichment in that case. Moreover, what Soros now makes comes from a variety of investments across asset classes, and I don’t know of any returns resulting from market manipulation. In the case of his equity and bond investments, the SEC would be able and eager to prosecute him to the full extent of the law were your accusations to be true. After all, there are securities laws on the books against stock/bond manipulation that have been enforced repeatedly.

    Now, you can doubt that anyone could become that wealthy through manipulation, but you need to provide proof. Moreover, you need to explain why you single out liberal investors like Soros rather than making a more general statement about all investors who have generated that magnitude of wealth (e.g., Paulson, Simons, Buffett, Kingdon, Rajaratnam, Och, Von Mueffling, Samberg, Pickens, etc.). Pickens, for example, is a vocal Republican, so he doesn’t draw any ire even though he speculates in the same way as Soros. And it is my belief that the celebrity pundits on Fox News who are always criticizing Soros, do so not because of his profession but because of his critique of the Bush administration illiberal policies (e.g., for its secrecy, horrible fiscal discipline, blatant violations of the personal freedoms demanded in a democracy, etc.).

    Finally, I wasn’t saying that Soros’ wealth per say is proof positive of his commitment to free markets, but his method of acquiring it is, in my opinion. A person is committed to free markets if he has an interest in their persistence, which Soros clearly does, and if he is taking actions to maintain them, which I believe Soros has done. What I mean by the latter is that Soros is a proponent of building robust democratic structures that allow markets to flourish and favors open societies that facilitate the free flow of ideas, which is an important prerequisite for the proper functioning of markets. Hence, I view him as a proponent of free market systems.

    What I would ask you is what exactly your definition of “productive effort” is. Further, I might ask how a conservative, who should be reflexively against utilitarian theory, would judge what effort is more productive rather than leaving it to the market to decide. Maybe I am reading too much into it, but that comment sounds like the kind of social engineering that right-leaning folks abhor. Moreover, I would maintain that any free-marketeer (and I thought most right-wingers were that) would see the value of the speculator in creating liquidity in markets to properly price assets and fulfill the all-important asset allocation function within the economy. Under that very libertarian theory, Soros’ efforts are among the most important in a capitalist system. You’ll have to explain to me what I am missing…

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