Oh, the irony

Wired reports: Jerome Armstrong, an Internet strategist for the Dean campaign and Moulitsas’ partner in a political consulting firm, first encountered Yellin on MyDD, his now-mothballed blog. Armstrong is clearly impressed by Yellin and fondly recalls the teenager’s first electoral effort. “When Stephen ran for student council, he told me he had divided the school into interest groups, the jocks, the popular kids, etc., and tried to figure out where his support was and how to appeal to them,” said Armstrong. “He was applying political strategy to a high school race.” Despite his political smarts, Yellin did not win a seat. “I had a nice strategy,” said Yellin, “but I didn’t realize that the most popular people win, not the most competent.”

No doubt this kid will make a fantastic Democratic analyst, being so clueless that he lost his first school election. Oh, how I loathe these young political types! In my own dabblings in this sort of thing, I won both races I managed, one my own campaign for school vice-president in elementary school, the other for my friend who was running for senior class president his junior year of college. The key to the first was realizing that all the very popular people were running for president, so I ran for VP, won, and discovered that I hated absolutely everything about school politics and the sort of kids who think they matter. The kid who won the presidential election and is no doubt a Congressman by now won the hearts and minds of the electorate by promising longer recess. In fifth grade!

The key to the second was working to my candidate’s strength. He happened to be extraordinarily good-looking, so I arranged to get the Dean of Student’s login and password, used it to break into the university’s computer system and printed out a list of all the junior girls arranged by dorm and room number. (Mass mailings through the university’s mail system weren’t possible and he was going up against the popular three-year incumbent). We designed a little flyer that just basically said he was running underneath a big picture of him looking very handsome, all blond bangs, sculpted cheekbones and white teeth, then dropped a copy off under the doors of every junior girl on campus the night before the election. We got about ten phone numbers apiece and he won in a landslide the next afternoon.

Lesson: you can never be too attractive, or too cynical. Sometimes I miss not having a conscience.

This post brought to you courtesy of Clay Whittaker

Mailvox: Another easy one

AW writes: Since you are a Christian, how do you reconcile the idea of a literal hell with a loving God. I am not trying to provoke a debate, or anything of that nature. Rather, I am (was) a Christian myself, who is struggling heavily with my faith because of this. As I read the Bible, hell is a place of torture, and I just don’t get it. It isn’t the idea of separation from God that causes me problems, but the idea of people being tortured for eternity because of temporal crimes, or bad decisions. I realize you don’t hold yourself up as a theological teacher, but since you are a person whose opinions I respect, I was just hoping to get your take or possibly a book you can recommend that discusses this issue.

Evolution, drugs and now Hell… and here I was hoping for something more on the order of: Janet Jackson, over or under the muscle?

Anyhow, let me first state that a) I don’t actually know anything about this; b) neither does anyone else; c) there is information in the Bible, which also states that no one is capable of understanding these things clearly. Nor am I a professional theologian, then again, I actually believe in God. Keep your expectations low, as I’m flying free here. Please note that assuming many Christian postulates are required to play here; atheist friends, please save the “I don’t believe X anyhow” for another post.

First, I think it’s important to keep in mind that our opinions are utterly irrelevant. Either God and Hell exist or they do not. The truth is what it is, so even if God is a cruel, malicious psychopath who gets His rocks off by seeing humans spin their wheels, fail, die and burn forever, it is arguably in your best eternal interest to stay on His good side. Believe or don’t believe, but don’t disbelieve because you don’t like what you perceive to be the truth. That’s just stupid ostrichism unless you’re actually willing to pay that inestimable price. Given that most people behave like craven sheep when threatened by an audit, I find it very difficult to believe that anyone is seriously interested in going to the mat – or rather, the Pit, over this principle.

Now, I don’t think that’s actually the case. The deeper problem, I think, stems from the notion that a loving, all-powerful God is some sort of control freak. I’m not a Biblical scholar, but I’m reasonably well read in the Scriptures and I’ve yet to read anything to indicate that supports a broad view that God is minutely managing everything. Whereas, to the contrary, there are many examples suggesting that we and the angels have tremendous free will and power. Jesus never disputed that Satan had the power to offer him all the kingdoms of the world, and both he and Paul referred to the Prince of the World, indicating that it is not God who rules over the Earth, but Satan. This is why CS Lewis referred to the concept of the Divine Invasion, which is present in both the Chronicles of Narnia and the Space Trilogy. A winter land, a shadowed planet, taken over and ruled by evil, which God must invade in order to begin restoring his original ideal.

As spirits, we have an eternal component which has been tainted by this shadow, and without being cleansed by the blood of the Lamb, we cannot approach the presence of God. Valuing free will, God does not force us to be cleansed, but merely offers such cleansing to us. There’s a lot of theories about Hell, of course, but since I suspect that God exists outside of the space-time continuum, it is possible that our spirits will also exist outside the space-time continuum. Since we know nothing of it, it is possible that everything that is outside of God’s presence is nothing but chaos and fire, which the damned are sentenced to dwell since they cannot approach the order of God’s presence. In this case, torture is not so much punishment as it is simply an inevitable result of a bad decision. And we suffer the never-ending consequences for bad decisions all the time. The mother who leaves her baby in the bathtub for ‘just a second”, the father who shoots at a flicker of movement that he thinks is a deer, the teenager who turns around to talk to his friend while he’s driving… I see nothing out of what appears to be the natural order in that concept.

I am not saying that any of this is the case, you understand, only that it is certainly possible to conceive of a reasonable scenario which permits the simultaneous existence of a loving God and an eternal Hell. But in any case, as I mentioned before, I don’t think it actually matters from our point of view, except perhaps to assuage our feelings. It’s very clear from the Bible that our task is not to understand God – which at any rate is as impossible for us as it is for the characters in a video game to understand the intentions of the designer – but to obey Him.

Staying off the doggy list

John Adler of NRO isn’t afraid to take on a Republican administration: It should be no surprise that the long-coddled sugar industry — and its hangers on — are pulling out all the stops to derail trade agreements that could loosen import restrictions on foreign sugar. But it is nothing short of outrageous that the Bush Administration appears to be capitulating, as noted in yesterday’s print WSJ. Under the proposed Central American Free Trade Agreement, a small trickle of foreign sugar will be allowed in, and the Administration is apologizing to the sugar industry for it…. Americans (including all kinds of American companies that use sugar) will pay more for sweeteners, all to protect one well-connected industry. It’s enough to make a free trader sick.

Another republican principle sold down the river by Republicans? Say it isn’t so! Not George Delano! Slowly, conservatives begin to wake up. Slowly, but surely. Notice that these Free Trade Agreements are always anything but? There’s no need for massive encyclopedic tomes, all you need is a one-page document saying: Congress shall make no law….. Of course, neither Democrats nor Republicans pay any attention to that sort of thing.

The Constitution Party on drugs

Contrary to a reader’s comment, the Constitution Party does not support the War on Drugs. Their actual stance is as follows:

The Constitution Party will uphold the right of states and localities to restrict access to drugs and to enforce such restrictions in appropriate cases with application of the death penalty. We support legislation to stop the flow of illegal drugs into the United States from foreign sources. As a matter of self-defense, retaliatory policies including embargoes, sanctions, and tariffs, should be considered. At the same time, we will take care to prevent violations of the Constitutional and civil rights of American citizens. Searches without probable cause and seizures without due process must be prohibited, and the presumption of innocence must be preserved.

It is not identical to the very conservative Libertarian position, which seeks to return the situation to that of the period between 1789-1914, when drug use was a matter of individual choice. Of course, they didn’t have opium or cocaine or marijuana back then…. In any event, the Constitution Party is clearly opposed to the anti-constitutional Federal Drug War. I lean towards the Libertarian position myself, but I regard the Constitutional’s position to be very worthy of merit except for the bit about the death penalty, which I oppose on the basis of putting up every possible obstacle to the State being permitted to kill its citizens. The bit about the illegal drug flow is redundant, as the Constitution clearly gives the Federal government the power to regulate imports, legal or otherwise.

Republican whore doggies: the list

Whore Doggy: definition: 1. [n] a self-styled conservative columnist who publicly sacrifices his previously-held principles in the interest of furthering the election prospects of the Republican Party. 2. [n] a columnist who sacrifices his principles in the interest of defending a specific politician. 3. [n] a conservative columnist who has been wholly suckered by fraudulent conservative rhetoric.

Gary Aldrich, Townhall

Some might ask, “Where is the Conservative agenda we voted for? Isn’t there one good example of a Conservative agenda item in one single federal agency?” …I hope we’ve had enough of the failed Clinton concepts for protecting our homeland. Bush should be reelected for that reason alone – and if he is not, I wonder if the Super Bowl half-time show is not a fair representation of what we have become as a people.

Dennis Prager, WorldNetDaily

I believe that this man [George Delano Bush] is changing history for the better, that he is the dam holding back the waters of chaos, that he saved this country at a time when Democrats would have failed it, and that he is both kind and strong, real and decent, powerful and humble…. Unless he is a faker — and I believe that I can sense a faker a mile away — it was clear that the president was moved…. I realize that I open myself to ridicule by saying that everything I had suspected about the man was reinforced in a little over a minute….

George Will, Washington Post

Some conservatives believe government strength is inherently inimical to conservative aspirations. This belief mistakenly assumes that all government action is merely coercive, hence a subtraction from freedom. But government can act strongly to make itself less controlling and intrusive, enacting laws that offer opportunities and incentives for individuals to become more self-sufficient…. Bush’s presidency, which seals his party’s coming-to-terms with the need to put strong government in the service of conservative values, is neither a surrender to the liberal agenda nor an armistice in the struggle over whether social policy should emphasize equality or freedom. Rather, it liberates Republicans to adopt reforms in the provision of education, health care and pensions.

Michael Potemra, National Review

I’M HEARTENED BY CONSERVATIVES… and how they are responding to the Bush NEA announcement. Jonah says that most of the e-mail he’s getting-by something like a three-to-one margin-gives Bush a pass on this issue. This is a very important signal, because it shows a certain maturity of outlook on the part of conservatives: a dogged insistence on focusing on the Big Picture.

And to think George Will was once one of my heroes…. There will surely be more. If anyone has some good nominees, email them to me accompanied by a supporting quote. Conservatives, I may not be one of you anymore, as I am a Christian libertarian, but I’m telling you, I’m much closer your side than most of your so-called leaders are.

Collateral damage

Okay, conservative friends and Drug Warriors, let’s see if we can pull you out of your nightmarish hypotheses long enough to take a look at the actual facts of the collateral damage issue:




Now, does anyone believe that legalizing drugs that tens of millions of people are already using is going to octuple the number of people ODing? Because clearly, we’re quite willing to accept 40,000 annual deaths in the interest of easy transportation. How much more should we accept in the defense of the Constitution? And the fallacy of arguing that it should be illegal because of the possibility of more people driving under the influence should be obvious to everyone: such driving is already illegal. It’s also easy to argue that drug warriors have actually worsened the collateral damage. In Oregon, deaths from illegal drug overdose more than doubled, from 70 to 183, after ten years of drug war.

There is only one serious case for the War on Drugs. It is an excellent way to get large numbers of easily frightened people who otherwise believe in liberty and the Constitution to accept massive Federal intrusions on both. It is impossible for any conservative supporter of small government to support the Drug War without some serious cognitive dissonance. I understand that these days that it is a good Republican position, but then, so is Mars, amnesty for aliens, increased funding for the NEA and the Medicare drug entitlement. Are you buying into those too?

Do try to remember, conservatives, that central government is no friend to freedom. And no conservative philosopher has ever argued that freedom comes without cost.

*clearly I was guilty of exaggeration in writing 100,000 annual highway deaths before.

** this almost surely includes many suicides. No one knows how many, but I’d estimate about 75 percent based on the fact that 11,340 of the annual 21,000 gun deaths are suicides. I also suspect that many car fatalities are suicides, but it’s impossible to say how many.