Sunday, January 17, 2010

Where's the Beef?

"Where's the beef?" asked Walter Mondale of Gary Hart, at the latter's overuse of the phrase "new ideas" during the 1984 Democratic primary campaign for President against Ronald Reagan.

For Palin fans, love conquers all, and the winning ways of their heroine more than qualifies her for President. Truth be told, she is beautiful, but beauty requires proof, at least in our American culture, that the lady has more on the ball than surface appeal.

So the question arises, "Where's the beef?" Can she discuss issues with any great ideological depth? "Common-sense conservative solutions" remains an empty platitude without evidence she has thought widely and deeply about the intellectual foundations of our constitutional republic, about natural rights philosophy, limited government, and the primacy of the individual.

Palin's debut on Fox News gave us the opportunity to see what she's been up to beyond earning some glorious and much needed profit on her best-selling book, Going Rogue, and the view has not been altogether re-assuring.

Does anyone honestly believe they would be making excuses for Ronald Reagan letting Bill O'Reilly interrupt him? Let's get real, people. Wouldn't happen and that's one--just one--of the many reasons we admire Reagan.

Palin is young, very young, and she is unseasoned. The hope has been expressed her gig on Fox would give her that seasoning and the further opportunity to develop the intellectual and rhetorical skills necessary to drop her opponent in a media-driven culture, where perception crystallizes conviction.

The ball is now in her court, she's been given a splendid opportunity, and if she drops the ball, let's not blame others as so many conservatives do at American Thinker.

The future of our country as a free, civilized society may well rest in the play. The fact our future appears to depend on the fortunes of one woman is our fault, not hers. We elected these leaders who now ride us as beasts of burden. Will we throw them off even if Palin disappoints?

Tom Anderson
January 2010

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The Promise of Sarah Palin

Thomas Lifson in a recent post at American Thinker, expresses a disappointment in Sarah Palin's lack of ideological depth as she debuted on Fox News last week, and I agree she's not ready yet for prime time, either as a candidate for President, or as a news commentator.  If I have to hear "common-sense conservative solutions" many more times I swear I'll fast-forward to the next segment on The Factor.

Having stated what I take to be an obvious truth, I want to point out to those political cognoscenti who did not grow up during the fifties, that it took Ronald Reagan a good decade to perfect his speaking and thinking skills to produce the speech he gave at the 1964 Republican Convention, one of the greatest political oratories in modern times.

While Ms. Palin gave an electrifying speech accepting the 2008 Republican nomination for Vice President, her lack of ideological depth in defense of individual rights was lost in the fellow feeling of the moment that here, at least, was a politician who understood, if only on a gut-level, the threat posed to our survival as a free society by the knavish election of that mountebank, Barack Hussein Obama, and his low compatriots in what passes today for the Democratic Party.

Fox News will offer Sarah Palin an opportunity to develop the mental toughness that comes from taking the ideological battle to the enemy, learning how to thrust, as well as to parry.  She needs that cold hard steel one saw and so much admired in Margaret Thatcher of England, who relished the title, intended as a jibe, given her by the Soviets, as "the Iron Lady." 

Sarah Palin may fail.  But as Lifson notes, through self-education, she may come not only to see through the false intellectualism of the foolish classes who only pretend to run our affairs of state, but to arrive on the other side with a wisdom purchased by hard thought about how to create a political and constitutional order founded on the protection of individual rights.

Common-sense is fine, but I am afraid Mr. Obama would have a field day slicing and dicing her candidacy.  She appears to be, however, a fast learner, and she also possesses beauty as well as brains.  The beautiful may be bold, yet Americans have a right and a duty to skepticism towards those who put themselves forward to lead, and it is always tempting to dismiss beauty for the simple reason the embodiment in one person of such perfection requires a higher bar, as if to sift out the fatal flaw.

Sarah Palin is almost too much, and that sense I suspect is what fuels the alienation so many feel for her.  We like our political leaders best when they successfully marshal through some great challenge,
proving to us they are worthy of our trust.  We have seen, and shall continue to see what happens to leadership founded on calculated deception and its supporters' willful suspension of the critical faculty.  They will now, having been so sorely disappointed, fall upon the political corpse of Obama with unseemly relish.

The folks likely to support Sarah Palin will want to see the beef, as the expression goes, and now she has a splendid opportunity on Fox News to give Americans hope our current national nightmare will end in 2012.

Do you think Sarah Palin shows true promise?  Or will she be nothing more than a sideshow, a salve to our past electoral wounds, a bridge to nowhere?

Tom Anderson
January 2010

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Where Do Individual Rights Come From?

Mark Levin's new "conservative manifesto," Liberty and Tyranny, has become a big best-seller as Americans have sought intellectual ammunition to oppose the Administration's attempt, in President Obama's own words, to "transform America."

Exactly what he wished to change, Mr. Obama never made perfectly clear in his many campaign speeches.  And while some Americans may still be a little confused about what this President intends to do, a look at the latest poll of likely voters suggests a majority of Americans have nonetheless concluded that the Obama Administration poses an existential threat to their right to make their own judgment about what doctor they wish to see, what sort of health care they want, how they wish to run their lives.

There is a reason why Tea Party protesters held up signs reading, "Leave Us Alone."

Americans understand, in short, that President Obama believes government should control the people, even if doing so means forcing upon them laws they oppose by large margins.  The President should be given credit of a sort for his moral, if not his rhetorical, consistency.

photoFor implicit in Mr. Obama's political ideology is a theory of ethics widely applauded by today's intellectual, academic, and media elites, namely, the belief that rights are a gift of society.  Thus Obama's political system subordinates an individual's "right" only to that freedom of action "society" decides he should exercise.

As there is no such entity as "society," since society is only a number of individual people, this system means, in practice, whichever political gang controls the executive and legislative powers decides what "rights" Americans get to exercise.

"Rights" are a moral concept--the concept that provides a logical transition from the principles guiding an individual's actions to the principles guiding his relationship with others.  The concept of individual rights is the means of subordinating society to moral law.

Since every political system is based on some code of ethics, the key to understanding the scope and nature of such a system lay in the degree to which individual rights are recognized and protected.

Clearly, any system that subordinates the individual to some higher authority, either mystical or social, places that higher authority outside the moral law.  "The Divine Right of Kings" summarizes the political theory of the first; "The Voice of the People is the Voice of God" summarizes the second.  The common characteristic of either code of ethics is the fact that society stands above the moral law, as an omnipotent, sovereign, arbitrary power exercised without restraint and according to the whims of whoever becomes the ruler.

Liberty and TyrannyWhen the "conservative" Mr. Levin offers, in opposition to the social theory of ethics, one founded on mysticism, he does not seem to be aware that his theory does not support the concept of inalienable individual rights, but undermines them at the most fundamental level.

So finally we come to the opening question, "Where do individual rights come from?"

The source of rights is man's nature.

While the Declaration of Independence states that men "are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights," whether one believes that man is the product of a Creator or of nature, the issue of man's origin does not change the fact that he is a being of a specific kind--a rational being--and that he cannot function successfully under coercion.  Individual rights are the necessary condition of his particular mode of survival.

The Declaration laid down the principle that "to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men."  This principle provides the only valid justification for government and defines its only valid purpose:  to protect man's rights by protecting him from physical violence.

The Founding Fathers thus changed the role of government from ruler to servant.

Government protects people from criminals; the Constitution protects people from government.  For about a hundred and fifty years the United States of America came close to achieving a civilized society, one in which physical force was banned from human relationships, in which government, acting as a policeman, used force only in retaliation and only against those who initiated its use.

Unfortunately that is no longer the case.  Everywhere we turn Americans today are fearful of their government, and alarmed by its gross incompetence in protecting them from enemies, foreign and domestic.

Americans fear that the Obama Administration seeks to become their ruler, rather than their servant.

And they have cause to be alarmed.  Very alarmed.

While the rise of the Tea Party movement suggests that radical change may lay in the near future, Americans will be able to reconstitute their government only if they work together. 

That means, above, all, they must get their ideological house in order, understand the principles of limited government, and act boldly and wisely.

Tom Anderson
January 2010

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Invitation to Defend Rights Now

Defend Rights Now supports individual rights in all areas of society, from defense of Americans on the national and international level, to the individual right to self-defense, not only against government, but against criminals.

The two areas are, of course, intimately connected. When Americans speak out about their Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms, they speak both of the people's check on the power of the federal, state, and local governments, and the people's right to defend their lives and their property against local thugs and criminals who attempt to prey upon them.

The Founders wrote the Constitution to protect the people from government, to create a political system where government became the servant of the people, not their ruler.  That effort resulted in a pattern of civilized society in which--for the brief span of some hundred and fifty years--physical force was banned from human relationships. 

The concept of individual rights gave birth to a free society, so it is with the destruction of individual rights modern enemies of freedom must begin, and they have been working hard to accomplish just this goal since the beginning of the New Deal in the 1930s.

Defend Rights Now defends and promotes individual rights within this larger political context of national politics and culture.

To violate an individual's rights means to compel him to act against his own judgment, or to expropriate his values, and basically there is only one way to do it:  by using physical force.  Potentially there are only two violators of individual rights:  the criminals and the government.  The great achievement of the United States was to distinguish between the two--by forbidding to the second the legalized version of the first.

The enemies of freedom work daily in the news media, in the political parties, in colleges and universities--in government--to corrupt this distinction ideologically and politically.  Defend Rights Now investigates this corruption and helps provide the ideological tools required to combat it.

Defend Rights Now, in guarding the individual's right to act on his or her own judgment, seeks to help people not only to protect themselves from government, but to suggest situations and techniques in which women, in particular, can protect themselves against personal assault from criminals.

Psychological studies suggest people tend to believe they are less responsible for events that occur in their lives when those events happen outside their immediate control.  Yet a person letting "things just happen" may through such bias indirectly cause those events as if she took active steps to put herself in danger.

For example, when a women pulls into a parking garage, parks, then gathers up her purse, perhaps a briefcase, her cell phone, her keys, probably the very last thing she is thinking about is the possibility of a man just hidden out of her sight, waiting for the opportunity to knock her down, steal her pocket book, her personal computer, or, even worse, assault her sexually.

When a woman trains herself to become more aware of her immediate surroundings as she goes about her daily activities, she acts to protect herself in the most effective way she can.  

If she carries with her at all times some form of non-lethal self-defense weapon, such as a Pepper Spray or Stun Gun, she greatly enhances her ability to protect herself and any children who may accompany her.

Time and time again, the use of such non-lethal devices has proven to be an effective means of self-defense against personal assault, and in the hands of police, an effective, non-lethal alternative to deadly force in many situations.

That these self-defense weapons do not use deadly force means a person doesn't face the possibility that she could actually kill another human being.

For those who wish to enhance their ability to defend themselves from criminal assault, Defend Rights Now provides links to JustStunGuns, an internet store offering the widest range of effective, but non-lethal, self-defense tools currently available, as well as information about their safe and legal use.

To help people become more aware of common situations in which they would enhance their ability to defend themselves from personal or criminal assault, Defend Rights Now links to news stories where those situations arise and explores how people might use such self-defense weapons most effectively.

Defend Rights Now welcomes reader comments, suggestions, and questions.

Tom Anderson
January 2010

American Thinker: Health Care and Our Inalienable Rights

With threats from federal officials to seize control over the health care system and further intrude into our private matters, many Americans are trying to find ways to protect their lives and liberty. Given America's dysfunctional economic situation that the federal government caused and has been making worse, government can only make the health care system go from dysfunctional to despotic. The regulations, mandates, and restrictions currently in place already violate the individual citizen's God-given, inalienable natural rights to "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness" referred to in the Declaration of Independence.