Category Archives: Quote of the Day

Goldwater on Christianism

Andrew Sullivan quotes Barry Goldwater:

“There is no position on which people are so immovable as their religious beliefs. There is no more powerful ally one can claim in a debate than Jesus Christ, or God, or Allah, or whatever one calls this supreme being. But like any powerful weapon, the use of God’s name on one’s behalf should be used sparingly. The religious factions that are growing throughout our land are not using their religious clout with wisdom. They are trying to force government leaders into following their position 100 percent.

If you disagree with these religious groups on a particular moral issue, they complain, they threaten you with a loss of money or votes or both. I’m frankly sick and tired of the political preachers across this country telling me as a citizen that if I want to be a moral person, I must believe in ‘A,’ ‘B,’ ‘C,’ and ‘D.’ Just who do they think they are? And from where do they presume to claim the right to dictate their moral beliefs to me? And I am even more angry as a legislator who must endure the threats of every religious group who thinks it has some God-granted right to control my vote on every roll call in the Senate. I am warning them today: I will fight them every step of the way if they try to dictate their moral convictions to all Americans in the name of ‘conservatism,'” – Barry Goldwater, Congressional Record, September 16, 1981.

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President Obama and Abraham Lincoln: The Past and Future of America

Carson, as a part of his “teaching great students” series, wrote an article about Abraham Lincoln and the construction of him through history as mythic figure and as a real man. (Emphasis mine).

Abraham Lincoln was a transformative actor shaped by his destiny to will Rousseau’s’ notion of the human soul and to eradicate the concept of the noble savage. Set from the mark of statesman, Lincoln was perceived as a paradoxical figure; however, the dichotomy that defined his soul and shaped his politics were clearly antiquated by his fixed keen sense of conclusion: A boy who grew to be a man only to be characterized as a historical figure: A man that saved the union…. Thanks to popular myths designed by romantic historicists who used his achievements to create a national identity, the complex arguments of capitalism are often absent. Note that this identity was shaped more by nationalism and capitalism, and less by moral ism: This particular contention is often noted by some who contend that Lincoln would have left slavery intact if it meant national preservation; however, Richard Hofstadter shaped Lincoln as a man who was destined to complete what Thomas Jefferson did not finish: A nation of enlightened actors who would eradicate the evils of slavery now, not later. Much of my “now argument” was derived from Lincoln’s understanding of the changing economy and America’s world status.

With all the talk going on about the connections between Obama and Lincoln, it strikes me that Carson’s thesis also serves as a prescient description of the moment.  Obama is already one-part myth.   But, like Lincoln, his potential is great and he is entering upon the world stage at a critical and prudent juncture.

His presidency will shape him as much as he shapes our country.  In what directions will his transformations go?  What consequences will they have for the nation?  To what degree can Obama the man become Obama the myth?  And how will we tell the difference?

Obama the myth is already becoming quite the figure, in part, independently of Obama the man.  And his connections to Lincoln don’t stop there.

Like Lincoln, Obama has a keen understanding of the importance of the economy to the fulfillment of the American promise.  And this is an “economic time”.

Like Lincoln, Obama understands how important the status of America in the eyes of the world at large, and in the eyes of Americans themselves,  is to our security, and our interests generally.

And like Lincoln, Obama is the hope of the fulfilment of a legacy that has as yet been unfulfilled.  But, while for Lincoln that legacy was begun by Thomas Jefferson, Obama is to fulfill the legacy of Lincoln himself.

These are large and lofty expectations we place on a man who is, after all, only a man.  I’m not a very good idealist by nature.  I like hammering out pragmatic details, and find utopianism silly.  But I can sympathize with the sentiments.  I’m excited to see the future unfold.  And if the man can become even a fraction of the growing myth, we’ll be in good shape.

Aside

From a 2004 column by the economist Steven Landsburg where he makes the case that Scrooge as a good guy because of his miserly ways. Great artists are sometimes unaware of the deepest meanings in their own creations. Though Dickens … Continue reading

Joe Biden vs. Dick Cheney: Much Ado About Congress

Joe Biden (From Politico):

“The primary role of the vice president of the United States of America is to support the president of the United States of America, give that president his or her best judgment when sought, and as vice president, to preside over the Senate, only in a time when in fact there’s a tie vote,” Biden said., “The Constitution is explicit. The only authority the vice president has from the legislative standpoint is the vote, only when there is a tie vote. He has no authority relative to the Congress. The idea he’s part of the Legislative Branch is a bizarre notion invented by Cheney to aggrandize the power of a unitary executive and look where it has gotten us. It has been very dangerous.


Quote of the Day: Henry Kissinger

Ninety percent of the politicians give the other ten percent a bad reputation.
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Henry Kissinger

The Obama-Hawaii Connection

In honor of a dear long lost friend of Hawaiian origin that I have recently been reacquainted with, check this email sent to Andrew Sullivan about the connection between Obama and Hawaii and what it means for us voters.

Obama isn’t the first credible African-American candidate so much as he’s the first credible Hawaiian candidate. Everything that’s essential and appealing about him is Hawaiian in character, and reflects his years growing up there. People in Hawaii don’t fixate on race, because everyone is mixed race, individually or by marriage, and they don’t think in terms of political party, because that’s at best a secondary characteristic; and above all, they don’t think in terms of traditional left/right, red/blue polarities– those are for the mainland. Hawaii is a place where conservative evangelical Christians are Asian and Polynesian, and the secular liberals are white and not quite local; where “black” isn’t even a common category, because African-Americans are so rare; where liberal Democrats revere military service, largely because a lot of Hawaii’s political leaders are veterans of the legendary all-Japanese 442nd Infantry, starting with Medal of Honor winner Dan Inoyue. In Hawaii, ideological stances are looked at with huge skepticism, because they imply pretension and putting on airs– or as it’s said there, “Hey brah, no act!”

The key to understanding Obama isn’t race, or Kennedy, or any of that: the key is Hawaii.

No doubt, Obama is a complex guy. But, it isn’t because he’s black or from Hawaii. It’s because he’s human. It’s easier for us all to think of candidates in terms of these easy categorical terms. But, it’s a false way of understanding someone. True, there is some relevance to a small subset of category definitions. But, only a small relevance.

It is uncomfortable to think of these candidates as complex human beings who have all the deep internal contradictions and variances that you and I do. But, it’s true. And that’s what makes voting hard. If you don’t have to think of them as real people, and only as archetypes, then the decisions are easy. But, we don’t have that luxury.

This democratic primary is fast devolving into a race vs. gender war. And that is outright ridiculous. Elections are far too important for that. |The race and Gender of a candidate, what state they grew up in, have little connection with who they actually are. Some maybe, but not as much as we’ve been making it out to be.

Obama is black. Hillary is a woman. Get over it. Let’s get down to talking about what they believe in. What they can do for us. And how they’re going to do it.

For me, the jury is still out. But, I like Obama. I like Clinton too. They’re both complex and interesting people. Just like us.

Comments on Commentary: The Downward Spiral of American Culture

From the Edge:

A 1950s education in Freud, Marx, and modernism is not a sufficient qualification for a thinking person in the 1990s. Indeed, the traditional American intellectuals are, in a sense, increasingly reactionary, and quite often proudly (and perversely) ignorant of many of the truly significant intellectual accomplishments of our time. Their culture, which dismisses science, is often nonempirical. It uses its own jargon and washes its own laundry. It is chiefly characterized by comment on comments, the swelling spiral of commentary eventually reaching the point where the real world gets lost.

and further:

Given the well-documented challenges and issues we are facing as a nation, as a culture, how can it be that there are no science books (and hardly any books on ideas) on the New York Times 100 Notable Books of the Year list; no science category in the Economist Books of the Year 2007; only Oliver Sacks in the New Yorker’s list of Books From Our Pages?

In response, they have compiled their own list.  Including:

Peter D. Ward, Under a Green Sky: Global Warming, the Mass Extinctions of the Past, and What They Can Tell Us About Our Future (Hardcover), Collins (April 17, 2007)

which I haven’t read yet, but have coming to me from Amazon.  Once I’m done with it, I’ll review it here.