Thursday, February 24, 2005

Do Not Fall Silent

There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance--that principle is contempt prior to investigation.
--Herbert Spencer

Twice in the last several months, people have replied to e-mails I sent them to tell me to remove them from my mailing list. These were not people I did not know. Both of them had, at one time, considered me a friend. And then I showed my true colors—I’m a liberal. Now these people want nothing to do with me. I have become a social leper.

This is not an isolated incident. Conservatives all over are guarding their minds against liberal ideas. The Young Conservatives of Texas (YCT) has created a “Hall of Dishonor” where they enshrine the worst, most abusive professors at Texas A&M University. The abuse? Disagreeing with YCT, and having the cheek to admit it.
Stewart Nusbaumer calls this phenomenon the “politics of the closed mind,” a very fitting name. If conservatives were to have a mantra, it might be something like this: There is no viewpoint but THE Viewpoint, and George Bush is His prophet. Subscribing to any other opinion makes one an infidel of the highest order.

Worse yet, they frown upon the very act of exposing university students to divergent viewpoints. This makes one wonder what exactly the point of a university education could be. The name of the institution—university—implies the presence of a broad range of ideas, but today’s conservatives have a bizarre tendency to hostility whenever they meet anyone who disagrees with them. Sadly, this tenacious refusal to countenance any idea outside the realm of conservatism stands in direct opposition to the whole purpose of a university education, which ought to broaden one’s mind.

The conservatives have heard that liberals think them narrow minded, and they take it as a compliment. They see nothing unusual about refusing to acknowledge the validity of any idea they or their conservative sages did not conceive. Sadly, their sages are angry, vengeful people whose ethical standards align with Machiavelli. Think Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter.

These luminaries of the political world are oddly immune to the idea that truth is a somewhat less than subjective phenomenon. Truth, they would have the public believe, consists of saying whatever it takes to get the job done. The end justifies the means. It is only torture if it causes organ failure. It is abusive to voice one’s opinions when they do not agree with mine.

While conservatives practice intellectual dishonesty with abandon, liberals must never allow themselves to forget that while the front man may be a dullard, many of his accomplices are demonically brilliant. Perhaps the best example might be Ann Coulter’s bestseller, Treason. In this book, she posits that liberals are a traitorous lot who attack the United States at every opportunity. She calls them traitors and claims that they have committed treason, hence her title.

Likely most liberals saw this speech as figurative, thought Henny Penny was predicting the imminent fall of the sky, and went on about their business. She did not really mean that liberals are guilty of treason. Oh yes she did! Note carefully that treason is a capital offence, of which all liberals stand accused.
The legislature has fallen asleep, largely because the liberals there will not spend political capital on anything except keeping their seats. They seem to reason that if they butt heads with the conservatives, their agendas will never see the light of day. They confirmed, as the country’s chief diplomat, a woman who argues with her questioners rather than give a straight answer about anything. Civil liberties erode daily under the aegis of “security,” and liberal lawmakers assent to the laws that destroy these very liberties that the founders crossed an ocean and fought a war to get.

About seventy years ago, a right-wing ideologue rose to power in a western country. He hated communists with a passion. He lied to his people to make them believe they were in danger. He lied to other world leaders in furtherance of his designs. He was not a particularly intelligent man, and his command of the language was weak. He wrote a book that was passed around like scripture, although no one was really sure what it was about. He did not smoke or drink. Regardless, he convinced a nation to follow him, and those who saw through him spoke weakly, or not at all. After a time, it became dangerous to speak out against government policies, and those who knew remained silent. That silence cost the world—and six million Jews—dearly.
© 2005

Thursday, February 10, 2005

A Tidbit on the State of the Union

Wednesday was Groundhog Day and the day the president delivered the State of the Union Address. It is an ironic juxtaposition: one involves a meaningless ritual in which we look to a creature of little intelligence for prognostication--and the other involves a groundhog.

Vaughn M. Bryant, College Station, Texas

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Living Within the Budget

When George W. Bush announced his budget this week, he sprang more rich-get-richer schemes on an unsuspecting public than even the most jaded observer would have suspected was coming. The president says he focused on programs’ results, cutting only those programs that are not “effective.”

Among the things the president feels we spend too much on: Community Development Block Grants. The new vision: Let American urban centers crumble and die. The rich have already sucked them dry and moved on to greener pastures. Another program that is not getting results: financial aid for vocational training. What happened to “No child left behind?” It is back that way, somewhere in the dust.

Not that the president bears any particular malice toward anyone. He just fails to see the problem with being unable to earn a crust. After all, he has gotten along just fine, and his job skills are marginal at best. Kids who have financial problems can ask dad to help out, or if times are really hard, they can pawn the family’s silver candlesticks and the Faberge eggs the ambassador sent for Christmas last year.

The new budget increases spending for Homeland Security and defense. None of the money in the budget is earmarked for military operations currently under way. Those will be handled with separate “emergency” appropriations to the tune of $80 billion. This classifying of military operations as outside of defense is certainly realistic, since those in question are most decidedly offensive.

Perhaps it is hair-splitting, but emergencies are by nature unforeseen, and this is about as unforeseen as short hair coming out of a barber shop. Ray Charles could have seen this train wreck coming, and bright man that he was, would have stepped out of the way.

The president also talks about boosting the country’s readiness for biological attack. This might be a good place to increase funds. Perhaps we should start by getting an ample supply of flu vaccine for next year. On the other hand, maybe we should let a flu epidemic solve the social security crisis by thinning out the number of our “unproductive” citizens.

Since there will be a lot of scrambling and reorganizing to live with this budget, I’d like to make a couple of suggestions about how we can give the president what he wants, and still get out of the deal with our skins.

First, bring all the soldiers overseas home. Pack them up and bring them back. The political capital to be gained from this move alone is immense. Think about the good will generated by thousands of grateful significant others whose loved ones have returned home alive—or never had to leave in the first place.

Families can pay returning veterans to care for the maimed and wounded soldiers we will turn out of VA hospitals when we cut veterans’ benefits. After that, vets can bury the dead from the famine resulting from putting half the farms in the country out of business completely when the crops they produced last season do not fetch enough to pay the bills because we suddenly cut price supports.

After big business has exported the last decent job, we will no longer need armed forces, because regular people will have been tort-reformed out of any redress against polluters and irresponsible employers (we’re also cutting the EPA), and there will not be much left to interest a foreign invader anyway, particularly when Americans begin to view cockroaches as wildlife.

Second, let’s cut the crap, and write Halliburton a check. Skip the blood and guts, the funerals, flag-waving, and crying mothers and flat-out give them the money. We can spend less than we paid them last year, because they will have incurred no expenses to pass through to us. Further savings will come from money we do not have to spend on death benefits, armor, and training more troops.

Finally, we can take all those kids who will not be learning trades in vocational schools and give them on-the-job training as rat-catchers and recycling technicians (trash pickers). After all, we will need plenty of those as our cities crumble.

© 2005

About Me

I love my country, that is why I criticize its absurdities; I love my freedom, that is why I do it publicly.