Robert M Price and the Limits of Brilliance

Robert M Price's Deeply Considered Opinion of ObamaI’ve written a bit about the religious scholar Robert M Price’s conservative politics in the past. But it has always been in passing. While listening to a podcast or interview, he will say something ignorant. It always stands out — but not because I disagree with it. His religious scholarship is very smart and learned. His political views have always evidenced a total lack of seriousness. It really sounds like he listens to Rush Limbaugh and that is not only the extent of his opinion, but also of his knowledge of the subject. For example, there was the time that he claimed Congressional Democrats were being hypocritical for not applying Obamacare to themselves. That’s a total mischaracterization of the healthcare law — and one that people would be unlikely to come up with independently.

So I was excited to see that he had recently decided to write a whole blog post on his conservatism, Atheists for Huckabee. And it is laugh out loud funny. When it comes to politics, Price is apparently devoid of any thought except for common conservative talking points. For example, the article contained the above image of Obama. Back in 2008 and 2009, the presentation of Obama as a saint would be totally appropriate. I was as annoyed as anyone at the way that Obama was treated by many Democrats. But that’s been over for a long time — except in the minds of conservatives who don’t get out much.

The Human BibleOf course, the far worse thing is The Book of Marx that he’s holding. Really?! The claims that Obama is a socialist are only made by people who don’t know what socialism is. But Marx?! It’s just ridiculous. Obama is a neoliberal — a very conservative person when it comes to the economy. And the fact that Price doesn’t know that shows that he indeed doesn’t pay attention to politics. He lives in his world of religion and science fiction and all the rest. And that’s great! But his claims to being misunderstood are ridiculous. He doesn’t take politics seriously enough to have a well formed opinion about it nor for the rest of us to misunderstand him.

But forget economics. Price’s conservatism is not about economics. It is about foreign affairs. It is about the fact that he has bought the neoconservative line on the world completely. He uses the term “Islamo-fascism” carelessly. Apparently Obama isn’t against the Islamo-fascists, which must be whatever governments Price has been told to hate. And he refers to Obama as “President Neville Chamberlain II.” As I have discussed in the past, Neville Chamberlain Was Right. I am sick to death of conservatives using Chamberlain as a shorthand argument against any foreign policy but war. Although I will admit, Price doubles his power with that one: showing total ignorance of two important western leaders.

Mike HuckabeeBut the main thing is that Price’s article is, in fact, an apologia for supporting Mike Huckabee. He brushes aside all of Huckabee’s radical, theocratic agenda. And to offset it, there really is not anything else other than that he would “stand against PC and Islamo-fascism.” Note: PC! Yes, that’s oh so important: all those liberals with their PC; they are just bringing down America! Oh, and there’s this other benefit of a Huckabee presidency, “Huckabee would shelve Global Warming fears, which is certainly okay with me, since I strongly suspect the whole thing is yet another Progressivist scheme to control, ie, screw up, the economy.” So he’s a global warming denier too. Not that he knows enough to be one. He’s just reads George Will.

People can have whatever opinions they like. But if they are going to start ranting about them in public, the least they could do is learn a little bit. The only mentions of the economy in Price’s article is that Obama is a Marxist and that “Progressivists” want to screw up the economy by controlling it. I can’t say that Price is not a deep thinker, because he clearly is a deep thinker about some things. But when it comes to politics, he doesn’t even try. He just lets his prejudices fly. We can only hope that he won’t make a habit of writing about politics.

Accidental Scientific Discoveries

Monty Python's Flying Circus Disc 12Penguins. Yes, penguins. What relevance do penguins have to the furtherance of medical science? Well, strangely enough, quite a lot — a major breakthrough maybe. It was from such an unlikely beginning as an unwanted fungus accidentally growing on a sterile plate that Sir Alexander Fleming gave the world penicillin. James Watt watched an ordinary household kettle boiling and conceived the potentiality of steam power. Would Albert Einstein ever have hit upon the theory of relativity if he hadn’t been clever? All of these tremendous leaps forward have been taken in the dark. Would Rutherford ever have split the atom if he hadn’t tried? Could Marconi have invented the radio if he hadn’t, by pure chance, spent years working at the problem? Are these amazing breakthroughs ever achieved except by years and years of unremitting study? Of course not. What I said earlier about accidental discoveries must have been wrong. Nevertheless, scientists believe that these penguins — these comic, flightless, web-footed little bastards — may finally, unwittingly help man to fathom the uncharted depths of the human mind.

Monty Python’s Flying Circus
“A Book at Bedtime”

TPP Supporters Say We Can’t Do Anything Good

Chinese RenminbiEconomist Dean Baker is the best source for information about the Trans-Pacific Partnership, it’s problems, and how the power elite of this country are trying to cram it down our throats before anyone can really check it out. For example, a couple of weeks ago, over at FAIR, he wrote, Three Fake Myths — and Two Actual Ones — About TPP Trade Pact. But today, he wrote about something that is always much on people’s minds when we aren’t discussing trade deals, but somehow just can’t be dealt with when we are: currency manipulation. Baker framed it regarding how his favorite newspaper is covering it, Washington Post Tells Readers the Elite Will Lie, Cheat, and Steal to Pass Their Trade Deals.

A couple of years ago, I wrote an article, National Income Accounting. In it, I show that there is a basic contradiction among most people who simultaneously want a balanced federal budget and a strong dollar. This is a simple matter of arithmetic. So when it comes to trade deals, the number one most important issue for us should be getting the value of our dollar down compared to other currancies — especially the Chinese renminbi. The Chinese government keeps the renminbi artificially depressed, which means that it can export more to the United States than it could in a fair system. So Americans get cheap Chinese goods, but they don’t have jobs.

The TPP does not include China, of course. But the idea has always been that eventually China would sign on to the deal. Baker asked rhetorically, “If currency rules are not included now, is The Post’s argument that it will be easier to get them included after China has joined?” But of course, we know why currency rules are not included. It is the same reason that so much effort on this supposed free trade agreement is spent on making intellectual property laws stronger. None of this deal is about helping the American (or any other country’s) worker. It is about allowing people who already have a lot of money to make even more. If you want to know more, read my article, No Trade Deals Until Our Economy Is Fixed.

Defenders of the TPP claim that the agreement can’t do anything about currency manipulation because it is hard. The Washington Pose opined, “The problem is that it’s very difficult to establish precisely, much less in a legally binding multinational agreement, ‘correct’ valuations of major currencies or the precise intent behind any particular policy that affects currency values.” Before we get to the substance of that, consider how typical this is. I hear this same argument in the education “reform” movement. It is always the case that doing something that is actually productive would be “hard” or “politically impossible.” So instead, we do things that are easy, which just so happen to help the people least in need of help — usually making things worse for everyone else.

But regarding the substance of the claim that it is “difficult” to establish correct valuations, this is just absurd. Of course, The Post used weasel words — most especially “precise.” But we don’t have to know precisely. We can tell simply by looking at the fact that the United States has a huge trade surplus with China. We know this from the National Income Accounting I discussed above. If things were reversed, it would be different, because developed countries are supposed to be flooding developing countries with capital. But it isn’t that way and so we know.

Regardless, we are left with the great apologists’ war cry, “We must do something!” And that something just happens to make Walmart’s supply chains that much more profitable. And it makes Sony’s copyrights that much more profitable. But American workers? They are supposed to shut-up and accept their subsistence service jobs. Go team!

Global Warming Won’t Ever Hurt Republicans

Rick ScottI’m not sure what to make of Rebecca Leber’s article in New Republic, Republicans Understand Climate Change, but Only Behind Closed Doors. The story doesn’t especially back up that headline. There are only two examples given in the article. The first is regarding a trip to Greenland that some Senators took seven years ago. Well, as you may remember: seven years ago, even John McCain was talking about a cap and trade deal. The issue simply wasn’t toxic the way it is now. The second example was from 2012, but even there, all that happened was that some unnamed 2016 presidential candidate (I’m assuming Marco Rubio) admitted that there did indeed seem to be some warming — not that humans are causing it and that it will continue.

But I agree with the contention, even without the data. Republican politicians (Especially in the Senate!) are educated and sophisticated people. They at least have grave concerns about their global warming denial. And I would expect that at least half of them know that global warming is real, man made, and a big threat. These are the most vile of people: public officials putting their own personal political careers ahead of the interests of the nation and the world itself. They are traitors.

I don’t expect politicians to be altruistic. But as I said: seven years ago, this wasn’t an issue. Global warming denial has become a conservative third rail in exactly the same way that Obamacare became one: because the Republicans saw it to their advantage. It’s interesting, actually. In The Reactionary Mind, Corey Robin argues that conservatism can be defined as a reaction against liberation movements. That is certainly true historically. But the modern Republican Party seems primarily to be defined simply as being against whatever the Democrats — Obama most especially — are for. And thus, we can do nothing about global warming because liberals do what to do something about it.

One example from the article is very telling. As you may remember, about two years ago, Republicans came up with a perfect way to not talk about global warming. If a journalist asked them, they would say, “Well, I’m not a scientist.” I always thought this was curious, because it makes no sense. They may not be scientists, but that doesn’t stop them have having a scientific opinion: global warming isn’t happening. But while Rick Scott ran for re-election as governor of Florida, he used that dodge. So after he won his election (Would it be too much to ask for Democrats to run people other than ex-Republicans?!) Scott was pressured into attending a half hour meeting with people who were scientists. “Eckerd College’s David Hastings described the governor’s face as showing ‘no expression of his interest or concern,’ giving the session the air of a chore.” I think that says a lot. He knows that the data are convincing, so he just has to avoid it. The new Republican global warming dodge should be, “Well, I’m not a scientist and I don’t care to listen to what scientists know.”

For a long time, I’ve been saying that there will never come a time that will convince conservatives that global warming is real. But that may not be the case. Miami is not even two meters above sea level. If it floods, I think we might find that Rick Scott expresses some interest and concern when scientists talk. But the real problem isn’t Rick Scott. It is the voters. Rick Scott will just give a heartfelt Rick Perry, “Oops!” And the people will forgive him and elect him to whatever job he’s running for at that time.

Ultimately, all of our problems are of our own making. No one forced Fox News viewers to keep the station tuned in 24 hours a day so that the network had to animate its logo so as not to damage their television sets. No one forced the voters of California to turn against a GMO labeling proposition because Monsanto and friends dumped $50 million in advertising. The power elite have more tools than it has ever had to maintain its position and the keep the people down. They are evil. But we are stupid.

Morning Music: Elvis Costello

Blood and Chocolate - Elvis CostelloI used to be a huge Elvis Costello fan. I still love his work. I just don’t go to his concerts or run out and buy his newest albums. But the height of my obsession with him was his 1986 album, Blood & Chocolate. I was looking for the best way to characterize the album, and I think that AllMusic nailed it: “controlled viciousness.”

And here is a live version of my favorite song on the album, “I Want You” — the most hateful break up song ever written. I wish I could say that I don’t understand the song completely — that I haven’t felt exactly the same way. The song consists of the fantasies that we partake of when dumped — or on the verge of it. I especially like, “Did you call his name out as he held you down?” It is all so self-destructive — so obviously counterproductive. But it is also the way we are. Or were. Now I really don’t care, but maybe just because I can no longer imagine being in love like that.

Anniversary Post: Founding of Rome

RomeMy colleague over at The Reaction, Infidel753 took his moniker from the fabled founding year of Rome, 753 BC. And today’s date — 21 April — is said to be the very day. It sounds a bit like the Sermon on the Mount in Life of Brian, “Judea AD 33. Saturday Afternoon. About Tea Time.” Of course, this is all myth. You see there were supposedly these twins, Romulus and Remus. It’s not a very interesting myth. The brothers decide to found a city but they disagree about the location. So Romulus goes ahead and starts to build his city and constructs a wall encircling it. Remus mocks the wall, jumping over it. He dies — in the more exciting of the versions because Romulus kills him. I guess the point is that nobody better infringe upon Rome or they will die — very true for many centuries.

I’m more interested in our own founding myths. Because that is what we have — among the vast majority of people. I’m very fond of this quote spoken by John Adams in 1776, “Franklin smote the ground and out sprang George Washington, fully grown and on his horse. Franklin then electrified him with his miraculous lightning rod and the three of them — Franklin, Washington, and the horse — conducted the entire revolution by themselves.” That isn’t quite how people think of the Revolutionary War, but it isn’t far off.

Of course, the worst are the Christian conservatives who have merged the Revolutionary War, the Constitution, and the Bible into one big myth about God’s will. Pretty much written out of our country’s founding is the radicalism. I really do wonder if the war would have been won without “Common Sense.” And now Thomas Paine is almost a non-person in American history. Of course, there is the other side. A lot of the southern aristocracy wanted to get away from England because they were afraid that if they stayed, their slaves would have been taken away from them. The founding of the United States was, shall we say, complicated.

Maybe we are better of with something simple like Romulus and Remus — or Franklin and Washington. But somehow, I think the genocide of native peoples and slavery ought to be included in the story. Since this was before Nietzsche and so God was still alive, let’s just say that He didn’t give a damn. But I have an idea for a song:

And the land of the slaves…
And the home once of braves!

Play ball! And happy mythical birthday to Rome!