Monday, September 29, 2008

And here are the financial arsonists: Congressional Democrats

The excerpts from Congressional committee hearings from 2004 that Rush Limbaugh played today, without El Rushbo's commentary, but with explanatory titles:

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Burning Down the House

A rapid little video from YouTube which lays out with documention the connection between Democrat social policies and the current financial crisis. (You can pause it and Google items to verify all of the claims.)

It ends with a little home-made McCain/Palin ad, and has a nice rock sound-track, including a bit of the Talking Heads track from which its evocative title comes.

For anyone angry about the current financial crisis, or about the potential baleout, understand that electing Obama is like putting the fox in charge of the hen-house. The subprime mortgage crisis is the natural consequence of 'community organizing' run rampant.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Different activities, different virtues

The recent remarks of former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, asserting that none of the major party candidates for President or Vice President could run a major corporation, prompt me to set forth some thoughts I regard as fundamental to a true conservative understanding of the world.

One of the hallmarks of conservatism according to Russell Kirk is its respect for the particular. Sadly too many so-called conservatives at the turn of the 21st century fail to embrace the respect of the particular. Just as those on the left seem to think that all human activities can and should be reduced to a collection of social service programs, too many on the right seem to think that all human activity can be reduced to commerce. Hence, the offense taken by many erstwhile conservatives not only at the Obama campaign's out-of-context use of Fiorina's remarks as applied to McCain and Palin, but at the remarks themselves.

Among the particularities for which conservatives should have a visceral respect, and should lead our society to respect, are the different virtues necessary for different realms of human activities.

The virtues needed in a head of state, what Aristotle called 'the ruling virtues', are not the same as the virtues needed to run a profit-making commercial enterprise, and both are in turn different from the virtues needed to be a holy priest, and all these are distinct from the virtues needed to be a successful academician (which in turn, to some degree vary from field to field), and these differ from those needed in a general, a physician, an actor, and on and on.

Ronald Reagan was a B-movie actor, and quite frankly had only a minimally adequate share of the virtues needed in an actor (as he, in one of his charming self-deprecating jokes, put it "I was never an actor, and I've got 38 movies to prove it."). I do not think that Reagan would have made a good priest, a good professor, or a good corporate CEO. He did, however, have a lion's share of the ruling virtues, which, directed rightly, allowed him to lead the West to victory in the Cold War and remove enough of the government impediments to commerce through taxation and regulation to allow the market to launch the longest economic expansion of the 20th century.

This is one reason why not merely generic executive experience, but executive experience in government, ideally in a position where 'the buck stops', is an important consideration in selecting a President. Curiously, among the major party candidates, only the GOP Vice Presidential candidate, Sarah Palin, has this kind of experience. For all the sneers directed her way, her brief tenure as Governor of Alaska has shown that she, like Reagan, has a fair share of the ruling virtues: she could not have accomplished a major clean-up of government largely against interests within her own party, moved measures through a legislature with bipartisan support, and negotiated against entrenched commercial interests without a good dose of the same virtues Reagan exhibited.

A President with the virtues needed to be a corporate CEO, but lacking the ruling virtues, will either be a miserable failure, or will try to remake government in the image of commerce, a project which would prove as baleful as did the remaking of the mortgage industry in the image of a social project under the stewardship of erstwhile Clinton administration figures now clustered in Obama's economic team.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

A Fundamental Absence of Empathy

We must also engage, however, in the more difficult task of understanding the sources of such madness. The essence of this tragedy, it seems to me, derives from a fundamental absence of empathy on the part of the attackers: an inability to imagine, or connect with, the humanity and suffering of others. Such a failure of empathy, such numbness to the pain of a child or the desperation of a parent, is not innate; nor, history tells us, is it unique to a particular culture, religion, or ethnicity. It may find expression in a particular brand of violence, and may be channeled by particular demagogues or fanatics. Most often, though, it grows out of a climate of poverty and ignorance, helplessness and despair.

--Sen. Barack Hussein Obama (19 Sept. 2001)

It is doubtless clear that Ortho Opinions opposes the election of Sen. Obama to the Presidency (while unwilling to endorse Sen. McCain on account of his evident Slavophobia). Readers may wonder then why this year's anniversary meditation on the occasion of the 9/11 attacks begins with a moderately extended quotation form the most leftward member of the U.S. Senate.

The Senator's remarks have been much derided on the political right. In truth, except for his remarks misattributing this lack of empathy to 'poverty and ignorance', the comments show a psychological perceptiveness that might well guide American policy in dealing with Islamofascism. The Senator ought not be derided for his insight, but for his failure to understand its policy consequences.

Absence of empathy, issuing forth in antisocial behavior--violence, lying and the like--is the chief characteristic of the sociopath. Consider the diagnostic criteria for the Dissocial Personality Disorder (one of the attempts by psychologists and psychiatrists to operationalize sociopathy) as set forth in ICD-10:

  • Callous unconcern for the feelings of others and lack of the capacity for empathy.
  • Gross and persistent attitude of irresponsibility and disregard for social norms, rules, and obligations.
  • Incapacity to maintain enduring relationships.
  • Very low tolerance to frustration and a low threshold for discharge of aggression, including violence.
  • Incapacity to experience guilt and to profit from experience, particularly punishment.
  • Marked proneness to blame others or to offer plausible rationalizations for the behavior bringing the subject into conflict.
  • Persistent irritability.

A person who behaved as modern politicized Islam has behaved as a movement would readily be diagnosed as suffering from this disorder: Jews and Christians are equated with pigs and moneys; non-Muslims are not to be befriended; the norms of the Geneva convention--carrying weapons openly, not targetting civilians and the like--are wantonly ignored; there are no peace treaties, only hudnas, and even Muslims who sided with them are declared to be infidels the moment they step out of line; cartoons or criticism are sufficient cause for violence; the wretched state of Muslim countries is the West's fault; and everything conceivable is seen as a slight to Islam.

Persons suffering from sociopathy are notoriously difficult to dissuade from criminal behavior. Indeed generally only life-long incarceration or (if they have committed a capital crime) execution offers the public protection from the actions that flow from their "fundamental absence of empathy".

Fortuantely the case of sociopathic mass politico-religious movements seems to be more hopeful. The Imperial cult of Imperial Japan showed the same symptoms of sociopathy as the post-Qutb politicization of Islam, right down to the use of suicide attacks. In that case a cure proved possible, though it involved a prolonged war, two atomic bombs, and the imposition of a pacifist constitution.

The world really must hope and pray that the milder treatment, that of planting parliamentary democracies in the heart of the Muslim world, attempted by the Bush Administration proves successful in the case of Islamofascism, and that a cure on the Japanese model will not needed hereafter.