"For the most part, the Republican Party is the only outlet where conservatives have a voice, so we have to use it. But it functions like a rusty knife we use only because we can't cut our steaks with a spoon."- Matthew Rathel

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Unconstitutional Constitution: Proposition 8 and the California Supreme Court

In the wake of the Nov. 4 vote to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman in the state of California, many churches and organizations have felt the wrath of the homosexual community as it has sought to fight the will of the California voters. The New York Times, the Washington Post, and USA Today have all posted daily articles about the outrage of the homosexual community, which far exceeds the coverage they gave to the proposition before it was passed with a 52% approval by the citizens of California.

But what strikes me as most peculiar is today’s article in the San Francisco Chronicle that declares, with a bit of biased glee, that the State Supreme Court will hear the case on whether the changes made by Proposition 8 are constitutional.

In California, homosexual couples enjoy the rights of a Civil Union and have much of the same access to healthcare and civil rights that heterosexual couples enjoy, but the people of California have spoken on more than one occasion and have told the government they prefer to keep the cultural implications of the word “marriage” in tact. In exit polling from the Nov. 4 election, the results show that African Americans and Hispanics voted against gay marriage by a margin far greater than that of the white citizens.

And yet, the homosexual community has targeted predominately white churches in its bid to use annoyance and force to supplant the will of the majority. The tactics these groups have employed resemble those used by the Ku Klux Klan after the end of slavery, complete with vandalism, intimidation, and in some cases violence.

But what I find the most disturbing is the argument that the judges of California’s Supreme Court have decided to hear. The case brought against the proposition calls it unconstitutional, which makes little sense to those of us who aren't lawyers. If Proposition 8 amended the Constitution of California, then the definition of marriage described in the bill has become the constitutional rule of law on the matter.

I understand that there may be complications due to what can be perceived as conflicting clauses in the state law, but it seems evident that the vote of the people of California should change the precedence of other clauses in the constitution. The people of California have spoken with their votes, and they have told the government what they want. If the judges in the California Supreme Court overturn the constitution by declaring it unconstitutional, then perhaps they should balance the California budget by cutting the jobs of all the other branches of government and do away with the costly voting process all-together.

Friday, September 19, 2008

The Politics of Faith: Fighting for Belief

Although religion and politics operate in different spheres, there are times when individuals attempt to detract from one’s political influence by attacking his or her religious affiliations, and I would like to briefly address increasingly judgmental attacks by fringe groups who openly scorn religious beliefs of conservatives in hope of discrediting their authority on other matters. While the conservative movement encompasses members from nearly every belief system on the planet including agnostics and atheists, a growing number of pseudo-intellectuals are bombarding the public with negative depictions of those who believe in supreme beings. The common argument that faith or belief in a god is not logical or intellectual pervades many cultural spheres in the United States, proving most pervasive in our universities and in our classrooms. While I will seek to avoid tangling with atheists and agnostics in the following argument, I would like to prove the simple point that the belief in a higher being is as credible as or more credible than disbelief. For those of you who will find this to be common sense, I apologize beforehand.

Picture, if you will, a woman on a street corner with a box at her feet. Imagine that she has picked three random strangers from a crowd and has asked each of them to guess what she has in the box. The box provides no indication of its contents, so Man One simply guesses that there is nothing in the box. Man Two thinks for a moment then replies that he has no way of knowing the box’s contents. Man Three is about to answer “cheese” when a parrot lands on his shoulder and says “Raaw, a rock, raaw.” Rationalizing that it makes little difference, the man guesses that the woman has a rock. Now faulty reason would suggest that Man Two is correct since he vocalized a truthful statement: he really has no way of knowing what is in the box. However, when the woman opens the box, there is a 0% chance that it will contain his answer. All things being equal, Man Three’s guess is equal to or greater than Man One’s since “a rock” and “nothing” are two out of billions of possibilities.

Next, imagine that the woman asks the following question: “We all know that the universe contains matter, but where did it come from?” Man One replies, “it has always been there.” Man Two thinks for a moment and then says, “Based on all scientific data available, no one can answer that question.” Man Three begins to answer when an albatross drops a religious text into his arms. He then pauses for 5 minutes to read the opening passages, and when he has finished he replies, “It was created by a higher being.” Again, faulty logic would suggest that Man Two has supplied the best answer, but if the woman were to attain definitive proof of the universe’s origins, he would have a 0% chance of being correct. All things being equal, Man Three has an equal or greater chance of being correct when compared to Man One.

If I were defter at philosophical premises, I would attempt to prove that Man Three, using circumstantial evidence given to him by the parrot and the albatross, has the highest probability of giving the correct answer. After all, the answer “nothing” provides an example of a complete guess in the first scenario whereas Man Three’s answer is supplemented by the slim chance that the parrot knows what is in the box. Likewise, there can never, by virtue of its own premise, be proof that matter has always existed; but Man Three’s guess that a deity created the universe is backed by the circumstantial evidence of the religious text. In any case, these points are moot, as all I have intended to do is prove that belief is at least equal to disbelief.

Given that men have been studying theological questions for thousands of years, I would be surprised if my argument is the first of its kind, yet I must say that I do have grand illusions of having created “Rathel’s Box.” But whatever religion one adheres to, he or she should not be persuaded that his or her belief system is intellectually or logically indefensible. Many arguments used against Deism contain far more holes than arguments for the existence of a supreme being.

Personally, I like to think that faith is an emotion much the same as love in that it translates poorly into language, but I find that reason arises from faith even though it is unnecessary. Those who criticize Theists tend to characterize faith as the lack of reason when, for many of us, it is the only solid basis of rational thought.

P.S. If anyone sees a hole in my argument, I would love to hear it.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Media attacks Palin over "Bush Doctrine"

Much has been made of Sarah Palin’s interview with Charles Gibson on ABC and how it reflects her ability to hold the position of Vice President, but the media appears to be stretching itself thin in hopes of finding a gaffe in what most partisans would call an uneventful exchange. At the center of the faux controversy is Palin’s insistence that Gibson clarify his inquiry into the “Bush Doctrine,” and liberal columnists and commentators are attempting to start a field day with a main event that stinks of petty partisan competition.

In Jay Bookman’s September 12th article printed in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Bookman asserts that Palin’s interview with Gibson makes “Dan Quayle Look Good,” and goes on to say “The Bush Doctrine was the justification the president cited that led us into the war in Iraq, and that some cite now as justification for attacking Iran.” as if there were one distinct definition of the term “Bush Doctrine.” But should Palin be expected to know what Gibson was discussing when he introduced the term?

As the final year of Bush’s term winds away, the American people are faced with two conflicting notions of the President’s policy: the one they supported after 9-11 and reaffirmed in the 2004 election and the one they have been coached to disdain by a power-hungry Democratic Party that won the elections of 2006. Gibson’s assumption that Palin would be able to answer an open-ended question about the “Bush Doctrine” shows how many in the media have come to believe that their version of the “Bush Doctrine” on foreign policy is the only way a rational American can regard the waning Presidency and its effect on the world.

Bush himself never called his reasoning for invading Iraq his “doctrine,” and in the course of a presidency that changed the US’s policies on taxation, education, foreign policy, and emergency response programs; one has a clear reason to believe that his doctrine, his legacy, and his impact on history have yet to be viewed from the correct historical frame of reference. While we should not ignore his shortcomings and clear mistakes, we likewise can not expect Governor Palin to regard them as his “doctrine.”

Thursday, September 4, 2008

A Portrait of the Journalist as a Man

The Journalist is a man or woman who fights to tell the American people the stories they need to hear. He or she is the modern medicine man, the 21st Century Homer, blind yet vivid in description, bellowing truth from the depths of a soul that is inherently deeper than those of the public. He or she has morals, ethics, and an understanding of the world that has been sharpened by the whetstone of higher education and has blossomed into something extraordinary and beyond even his or her own power of description. In every word that flows from his or her fingertips lie the answers to society’s problems, the story that must be told, and the omniscient cynicism that arises in the few but must be imparted to the masses. Objectivity isn’t a skill that is learned, it is a birthright, a brain function available only to the gifted, the chosen, the Journalist.

Either that, or the journalist is a mere mortal with ordinary limitations. He or she may approach each story with a predetermined tone, direction, even (heaven forbid) conclusion. When his or her fingers are on the keyboard, his or her mind might be flipping back and forth between college lessons on objectivity and his or her own impression of the person or event he or she wishes to put onto paper. And it would even be possible that the college courses might lose a few battles. Of course this journalist doesn’t exist; the other description is much, much more realistic. But if this were the case, he or she may betray his or her feelings by putting undue weight on negative aspects of topics he or she disagrees with or undue praise for issues he or she supports. In this fictitious scenario, the controlling editors of the major news networks might even cover a trip to Iraq by Obama more than one by McCain at a ratio of 200-1. But that wouldn’t happen; this journalist, these journalists, could not exist.

If I had to choose between which scenario were more apparent in the recent coverage of Governor Sarah Palin, I don’t think anyone could blame me for casting the myth of the Journalist aside. Suddenly, against years of journalistic tradition, the question of whether a mother can adequately hold public office has become a valid campaign issue. Sally Quinn, a journalist (notice the lower-case “j”) writing for the Washington Post blog, published an article on September 3rd suggesting that a Southern Baptist woman should not be President if she believes that the Bible discourages females from becoming priests and pastors, and Quinn asserts that one can link the spiritual and political beliefs of a candidate so long as they are conservative. She faults Palin for not thinking of her pregnant, unwed daughter before accepting the bid for McCain’s VP. She pushes back the rights and values that feminists have been fighting for since the dawn of the 20th century, and she is not alone.

The questions came from every major network, and the New York Times, CNN, and the Washington Post all published pointed articles about Bristol Palin and her teenage pregnancy. Even those journalists who attempted to stay clear of the family’s personal issues published articles like those seen in The Boston Globe, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Kansas City Star that questioned the “vetting process” of the McCain campaign to avoid the talking about the pregnancy by talking about how much McCain knew about it before hand (which forced them to dedicate a large portion of these articles to background information on Bristol Palin.)

If the media would like to discredit claims of bias, perhaps they should do their own investigation into the percentage of favorable stories they give Republicans and Democrats. In an election where the majority of the voting public views both candidate favorably, how can networks like NBC justify running favorable stories of Obama at a 6/1 ratio and not do the same for McCain? If the Journalists would like to discredit reports from organizations such as the Media Research Counsel, I would like to see their own numbers. Until then, I find questions of their journalistic integrity to be just as pressing as questions of Palin’s parenting skills.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Sisterhood of Multi-Culturalism

After watching “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2,” I have come to a few conclusions about how political correctness has taken a firm grasp of the movie industry and the area of aesthetics as a whole. While I only saw the movie because my girlfriend deserved to see something that caters to her, I think that it is the perfect example of how politically-minded value systems control the entire movie industry. When once feminist and multi-cultural criticism once focused on stylistic and structural concepts of artistic works, they now appear as a large monster that dictates the way plotlines take shape.

In the new Sisterhood movie, I quickly noticed one key issue that the structure of the movie takes for granted: not a single one of the 4 girls who wear the magic pants dates a white male from the United States. The girl of Grecian descent dates a boy from Greece and an African American male. The gothic girl dates an Asian boy. The Hispanic girl dates a white boy from the United Kingdom. The blonde girl dates no one, but she forms a strong bond with a female mentor of Middle Eastern descent. While the movie never brings attention to the race or ethnicity of the boyfriends, I find it impossible to believe that these plot devices happen by accident. In fact, I would go as far as to say that the movie goes out of its way to include as many cultures as is possible. The only problem in doing so is that the integrity of the story becomes compromised by the creator’s attempt to push a theme of multiculturalism. In a country where Caucasians make up nearly 70% of the population, one has to move beyond statistical probability to believe that 0 of 4 19-year-old girls would date a white American male.

Across the country one can walk into the English department of any University and hear a professor claim that a certain novel falls short of reaching his or her aesthetic ideals based on its plot structure. African Americans will claim that a novel with an all-white cast fails to address real problems with race relations. Feminists will claim that a novel about an old man and the sea depicts a misogynistic mindset due to its lack of female characters. Yet others will push the idea that the Western novel is provincial because of its very existence. But the truth is that a story doesn’t have to be multicultural to be good.

Now I would like to give an example of how absurd these arguments are. Across the United States, there will be millions of instances tomorrow where a white man walks through a room full of white people then leaves. It is unfair and aesthetically improper that anyone suggest that this event should not take place in a novel because no other races and cultures are involved. When one follows the political agenda of multi-cultural critics, he or she has no choice but to write a story about a part-black, part-Native American woman in a man’s body who walks through the halls of the United Nations, and the sad truth is that we can’t learn anything about the human experience by focusing on populations rather than individuals.

Monday, July 21, 2008

McCain Campaign Expects Equal Treatment, Gets What it Deserves

In the New York Time’s response to why they printed and Op-Ed piece by Obama but rejected the one submitted by McCain one can clearly see how the conservative agenda fails to meet the Time’s idea of news. The Times claims that Obama’s piece was news because he was clearly stating a plan to pull troops out of Iraq whereas McCain’s piece did not meet the standards because he holds to the position that troop reductions must be based on the situation on the ground. The conservative line on the war in Iraq maintains that troops must stay in the region until the proper moment for reduction presents itself. But to the liberal journalist, that fails to meet the definition of a position.

If you have ever wondered why the cries of liberal bias from conservatives never make their way to the general public though major media outlets, you have never sat down to a beer with a journalism student. If you find yourself in such a position, ask him or her to tell you why claims of bias are unfounded, but make sure you clear your schedule for three hours. This student will lambaste you with 3 years of indoctrination, the delicately memorized words of the ultralibs who control the Peabody Awards, and then you will be faced with the horrible prospect of giving your own unpracticed dissertation or letting him or her believe he or she has won. Conservatives face a theoretical mountain when speaking to liberal elites not only because our belief system resists ideology but also because our opposition has had hundreds of years to make its guiding principles the only acceptable terms for discourse. In essence, a conservative can’t win an argument on the media because the majority of those in the industry reject the very structure of our arguments.

Without getting too technical, I will try to explain the core of the argument. Conservatism, while often presented as “clinging to the past,” is actually more accurately described as a doctrine that rejects the jump towards physical action in response conceptual problems. In other words, the conservative line suggests that reaction to stimuli tends to be more destructive than non-action. It is a doctrine of phenomenology that pushes the main argument against the “grass is always greener” mentality in life and politics. Of course this quick-fix definition doesn’t do justice to the movement as a whole, but it does apply to the Iraq situation. McCain’s opposition to attempts to end the war based on factors unrelated to the war itself presents a simple conservative argument. In this case, the situation on the ground becomes the metaphorical constitution and the pressure to leave the region constitutes the liberal position that quick action can bring an end to negative aspects of the conflict. But this doesn’t strike our liberal friends as reasonable.

In the end conservatives must admit that we have been outplayed by the liberals in terms of education and journalism (which are empirically intertwined.) In nearly every journalism school across the country one will find that the ethical values in journalism conflict with the ethical values of the conservative movement. Obama can argue all he wishes that the war needs to end and quickly, and the Times will print every piece. Any conservative rebuttal will slam against the brick wall of liberal (or “progressive”, depending on how honest the outlet is willing to be with itself) ideology. To the Times “news” is only “news” if it is new in both a temporal and an ideological sense. If conservative are to make a place in journalism for ourselves, we must attack our opponents at every pass and push to use our limited media influence to make sure that our stances are heard. McCain should have learned in February that the NYT was not his friend, but now he has been bitten twice and I am still not sure whether or not he is shy.

Fox News is number one in cable news for a reason: for 50 years people were forced to accept the concept that liberalism and pessimism ARE news. Since its conception Fox has given the other side of news that CNN has ignored, and it has proven refreshing to conservatives and liberals alike. The truth is that objective journalism would probably reside in the exact political center between Fox and CNN, but to liberals in the media this idea would seem preposterous. To the average journalist Fox isn’t news because: it ignores the liberal guidelines they spent 3 years studying; it often sides against ideas of social justice; it presents inaction as a viable response to stimuli, and it gives interpretations that don’t adhere to the principle rule that all interpretations are valid except for those who don’t agree that all are valid. To the liberal elite at the NYT, the entire McCain campaign isn’t news and never will be.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Al Gore: Senator, Vice President, Magician.

an article in today’s Boston Globe , Al Gore outlined his plan to change energy sources and wean the US off of fossil fuels. While the reporter goes out of his way to describe the speech at “non-partisan,” I find it difficult to believe that Mr. Gore’s interest transcends party lines. The truth is that Gore and others on the left have a major stock in alternative fuels and possible government control over energy sources. In fact, Gore literally holds stock in bio-fuels. But what strikes me as most noticeable about the Globe article is the vague explanation of how the transition will take place:

“‘The survival of the United States of America as we know it is at risk,’ Gore declared. " ‘....The answer is to end our reliance on carbon-based fuels.’"
“Instead, Gore called for vastly expanding the use of wind and solar power and other renewable sources to generate 100 percent of US electricity needs. ‘This goal is achievable,’ he said.”

Here we see how Gore plans to end our reliance on fossil fuels, but Gore gives us only the end result and not the method of getting there. If he were to have said that the government would buy large tracts of land in Southern Illinois then lease them to companies who would be willing to supply and maintain electric wind mills, I would say he were on to something. But the truth is that leftists like Gore are not worried so much about supplying energy as they are about hurting the companies that currently supply energy. Time after time environmentalists have shown that their concern ends at degrading the evil oil companies and that what happens once they are gone pales in comparison to the actual removal.

No matter what he claims or what the media makes him out to be, Al Gore is not a miracle man. The process of switching Americans over from oil to alternative fuels will be long and it will be costly. But Gore and other leftist millionaires seem to neglect the cost in hope of achieving their dream society where big business doesn’t control energy supplies. McCain and Bush both seem to understand that the economy can not afford to bear the burden of the transition and must be given compensation in the form of cheap oil until a viable alternative arises. By drilling American oil reserves on the continental shelves and at ANWR, we can effectively reduce the amount of oil imported from the Middle East and lower fuel costs until the transition is complete. Even if we were to have an all electric society in 10 years, it will be much longer than that before Americans can afford to buy cars that don’t run on oil. In the mean time, Gore’s plan would have us driving cars on Obama’s idea of hope.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Terrorists, Habaes Corpus, and You

Much has been made in recent months over the prison camps at Guantanamo Bay Cuba and the right of foreign combatants to be held without due process of law. With the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision (Kennedy siding with the majority) that the camps deprive suspected terrorists of the right to a fair trial, one has to ask himself or herself exactly how far Americans must go to accommodate those who illegally wage war against our armies and our citizens. To the conservative, the answer is simple and clear: we are not obligated to provide non-citizens with the same criminal trials afforded to our own people.

While the Geneva Convention covered extensively the need for protecting prisoners of war and enemy combatants (yes, there is a difference) the Supreme Court decision leaves one to believe that the sovereignty of the U.S. often finds itself trumped by the importance of world opinion. In other words, many of the left and the left side of the court tend to err on the side of appearance even when our own safety is at risk. Under article 4 of the Geneva Convention, foreign combatants are not given POW status because they fight for an unrecognized government. The Geneva standards present us with one ultimate goal: to make sure that countries at war conduct themselves in a humane manner. However, how one country chooses to handle those who do not fall into the jurisdiction of the Geneva Code falls largely to the acting party.

In the United States, we are often called to set an example for the rest of the world, however unfair that might seem. To the politicians on the left, this means that we should sometimes forgo the rights of a sovereign nation and adhere to world opinion. To the conservative, this unfair obligation pales in comparison to the threat of terrorism. I will not go so far as to assert that liberals don’t have our best interest at hand, as that kind of demonizing turns discourse away from the true issues; rather, I will state that the focus on the left often shifts away from the American towards the American Brand. In the case of the Gitmo detainees, the Court has sided with the American Brand.

In the case of 200+ prisoners in Cuba, the Court has been fairly open with its criticism of the Bush plan but has not offered a viable alternative. My conservative partners and I contend that giving civil trials to terrorists and enemy combatants affords illegal soldiers more civil rights than American soldiers would receive under our current system. I can only imagine a situation where captured Al Qaeda terrorists are released because an American soldier in a war zone forgets to administer Miranda Rights. Now I agree that holding a prisoner for 6 years without any sort of trial doesn’t exhibit the picture of due process, but I think that a variation of the Gitmo camps mingled with an expedient military tribunal meets the ethical standards set forth by the Geneva Code.

In truth, I feel that the need for a new system of detaining combatants appears eminent. What I do fear, however, is that in the search for this new system the opinions of our European and African brothers and sisters will play a larger role than intellectual reason.



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