Liberalism Requires Atheism?

From the suburbs of Chicago, ironically Obama’s dooryard, comes a frighteningly ignorant editorial piece asserting that next week’s election is really a national choice between faith and atheism. While I’m sure that the author, David Caldarola, is not part of the media elite, he is likely a Joe Six-Pack—and for all I know, a plumber to boot. The frightening part is that he is likely not a lone voice, but rather is reflective of a non-trivial group of people with seriously askew views of politics, and I would claim, their religion as well.

Mr. Caldarola’s first revelation is:

Liberalism is socialism-Communism-Marxism; all of which require atheism.

It’s hard to get that many completely erroneous conflations into one sentence. Communism is not Marxism. Marxism is communist, but not necessarily the other way around. Marxism advocates atheism, but not because it is philosophically inconsistent with theism. Rather, Marx recognized that religion competes with political forces for control of the hearts and minds of the people. Further, there’s no evidence that socialism is a gateway political structure to communism. Western aligned European nations (e.g. Sweden) have very socialist economic and political structures, but do not seem to feel the urge to slip into communism, much less Marxist tyranny. Several Marxist nations self-advertise as socialist, but most of them came to Marxism through revolution. Cuba and China (to pick a couple) were never socialist societies who evolved Marxism. The ties between liberalism and socialism are even more tenuous. That relationship seems to mostly be a manufactured product of the 11th-hour McCain campaign strategy to make Obama appear dangerous.

But the larger and more unbelievable assertion in Mr. Caldarola’s essay is that theism (presumably Christianity) is consistent with capitalism. So much for the monastic traditions of Christianity. Jesus was apparently big on keeping what you earned. Let the poor starve. They are only starving because they’re too lazy to get a job. No wealth spreading would be tolerated in his world. Charity is for namby-pamby wussy boys. If you’re successful, it’s a blessing from God. If God wanted that blessing shared, he’d have done it himself.

But wait, don’t order your new revised Christianity yet. First, check your message of peace and love at the door. Apparently Jesus was a bad-ass who wouldn’t have thought twice about waterboarding a prisoner. Arguably, crucifixion was a Roman analog to waterboarding. Further, as the legal government at the time, the Romans considered Jesus a subversive with terrorist tendencies. After all, he created quite a ruckus outside the temple with the money changers. So I’m sure that Jesus would have agreed that he got what he deserved.

How ever did the message of Christianity get this perverted? Historically, Jesus was politically liberal in shades that would make Ted Kennedy look pale. He advocated poverty and charity. He advocated giving of yourself for the greater good. If Jesus did come back today, there might be arguments about how he might align with the GOP on abortion, but in broad philosophy, do we really think Jesus would align with the hardcore capitalism and social Darwinist policies of the Republicans? I personally think he’d find the Democrats a might bit too conservative for his tastes. Unfortunately it wouldn’t matter. I’m pretty sure if Jesus did come back today, he’d be locked up in Guantanamo by now.

In an amazing turnabout, Marx feared religion because he recognized it as an influential opiate that could organize people against the political power structure. The modern GOP has figured how to use that same opiate to cloud and control a group of people into fierce loyalty to the political power structure. While the GOP tries to paint itself as the ideological antithesis to Marxism, I have no doubt that Marx would be proud, even envious, of what they have accomplished.

Army is All aTwitter

It seems that Army intelligence analysts fear that Twitter (a micro-blogging service), cell phones, and GPS utilities are of concern because they could be exploited by terrorists to coordinate an attack. This is on the heels of earlier concerns that virtual worlds (e.g. Second Life) and social networking services (e.g. Facebook) could be used by terrorists as well.

I do think it’s good that our analysts are creating scenarios that leverage widely available technology, but I don’t think this is any reason to be concerned about these technologies, much less to put any special measures in place to regulate them. After all, you can use a screwdriver to build a bomb or even to stab somebody. But I don’t think that’s any reason to put a 7-day waiting period on the purchase of a #2 Phillips head.

The Scent of Health

They say that cranky old ladies live forever, now apparently stinky old guys do as well. It turns out that a natural by-product of a cellular process that controls blood pressure is hydrogen sulfide—the stuff that makes your farts stink. All that H2S has to get out of your system somehow, and it does… one toot at a time.

So the next time your loved one cuts the cheese under the covers, try to make those watering eyes tears of happiness. After all, they are just showing you how healthy they are. And you want them to be healthy, right?

Supreme Confusion

A discussion came up at lunch the other day about the election of NYS Supreme Court Justices. The concern was that if certain federal issues fall to the state (e.g. abortion or gay marriage), as advocated by some of the Presidential candidates, that in New York the decision would then fall to the NYS Supreme Court to decide. The thinking was that this possibility sh0uld be a factor in deciding which judicial candidates to vote for.

This didn’t sound quite right to me, but I wasn’t as certain of the NYS court structure as I would have preferred, so I didn’t object at that point. But now I’ve done some homework, and I do think that basing NYS Supreme Court Judge selection based on their opportunity to opine on key social issues is not reasonable.

The understandable confusion comes from the use of the term “Supreme Court.” There’s a reasonable supposition that NYS Supreme Court would act and work like the Federal Supreme Court with which we are most familiar. But that’s not the case. In NY, the Supreme Court is primarily a trial court of general jurisdiction, which exists in each county. It handles felony cases, large civil disputes, and (for some reason) all matrimonial actions. If you’re not happy with NYS Supreme Court rulings they may be appealed to the court’s Appellate Division, and from there to the NYS Court of Appeals. Court of Appeals judges are appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the State Senate, more similar to Federal Supreme Court appointments by the President.

All this ironically means that the so-called Supreme Court is not so very supreme. It also means that if you’re concerned about who are the top judges in NYS, you should be careful of who you vote in as Governor and State Senator.

Cognitive Dissonance

This morning’s paper contains a picture on the front of the Local section showing a family standing behind their McCain-Palin lawn poster. The picture is captioned, “Ron Frear, with wife Karen, Ron Jr. and Shannon, believes in small government.”

It’s hard to argue with that sentiment. I too, believe that government should be no bigger than it absolutely needs to be. The G.O.P. has always hung their hat on smaller government as a fundamental party tenet. They sell this as something they will deliver to their supporters, and conversely position the Democrats as champions of pseudo-Socialism who will usher in a bloated government with excessive and wasteful spending. This is a Republican sales strategy which is clearly resonating with people like Mr. Frear.

The only trouble is, it doesn’t match with reality. Witness a Brookings Institute paper which looks at the number of direct and indirect federal employees from 1990-2002. Look at the table on page 4. It clearly shows that government shrunk under Clinton while expanding under both Bush Sr. and Jr. It’s continued to grow since then.

So Mr. Frear is right that smaller is better when it comes to government, and I encourage him to vote this year for the party that is most likely to bring that to fruition. It’s just that the data would strongly suggest that he’s standing behind the wrong sign.