Posts Tagged ‘obama’

McCain, Obama And The Philosophy of Lies

Tuesday, September 16th, 2008

“False words are not only evil in themselves, but they infect the soul with evil,” Socrates

According to the American Heritage Dictionary, a lie is 1. A false statement deliberately presented as being true, or 2. Something meant to deceive or give a wrong impression. This, ironically, makes lies a lot more concrete than the truth, philosophically speaking, which is a much harder quantity to pin down.

McCain Campaign Lies

McCain Campaign Lies

Why has John McCain, the self-annointed “straight talker,” resorted to lying? It’s a simple question and one that’s impossible to answer without some inside information. But if we’re to have any hope of understanding McCain and guessing his future actions it’s worth trying to figure it out.

If you’re interested in knowing what McCain is accused of lying about, the Democratic Party has established “Count the Lies” a chronicle of “independent, nonpartisan” fact checks “debunking John McCain’s lies and distortions.” Even some conservatives have tutted at McCain’s recent stoops. Even Karl Rove (!!), as reported in the Christian Science Monitor, of all places, has said that “McCain has gone, in some of his ads, similarly one step too far in sort of attributing to Obama things that are, you know, beyond the 100 percent truth test.” If you’re a Republican presidential candidate and Karl Rove is accusing you of distorting the truth, you know you’re a big fat liar… or a pawn in another one of Rove’s despicable schemes.

John McCain with President Bush

John McCain with President Bush

(This is a bit of a digression, but the Salon published a very interesting piece back in January asking why in all of the election coverage of John McCain’s losing primary bid in 2000 no journalist had mentioned who it was that smeared John McCain so successfully that he lost. The answer, of course, George Bush and Karl Rove…)

Perhaps we can find in our children the unadulterated origin of the impulse to lie. My son, now 4-years old, has just begun to lie. His reasons are transparent: He lies either to get something he wants (usually cookies, candy, or toys), or to avoid something he doesn’t want (typically to take responsibility for a transgression). McCain’s lies seem to fall squarely in the first category. As a “maverick, outsider” it suited him to talk straight. But as an establishment insider, it’s much more effective for him to lie. He’s always wanted power and success, and now that lying seems to offer the best path to victory, he’s adopted it with the same zeal he once reserved for honesty. The tactic is all the more successful because, in Obama, he seems to be up against a candidate who has some genuine integrity — a terrible handicap against smear tactics.

What does this tell us about the kind of president McCain would make?

Politicians the world over resort to lies, many of them relatively successful leaders. Lying in itself isn’t a guarantee of poor government and lousy leadership. Although Bush has overused and abused this privilege, the security of a country, for instance, relies to some extent on the ability of its government to keep secrets from its enemies, which also means keeping secrets from its people.

In order to understand the degree of concern we should have about McCain’s lies, we really need to consider what his goals will be as president. We can then assume that he will lie to achieve them.

And given that McCain has dropped most if not all of his firmly held political beliefs in order to gain the highest office, one can only assume that his primary goal as president will be to consolidate his power and popularity — in other words, he’ll lie in order to keep the conservative political base as happy as possible. That’s a scary thought.

Footnote - What about Palin?

What about Palin? She’s a big fat liar, too, and a scary character in her own right. The Times has an extensive piece on her political MO. Not a pretty picture. Here’s a quote from Laura Chase who was Palin’s campaign manager during her first bid for mayor:

“I’m still proud of Sarah,” she says, “but she scares the bejeebers out of me.”

Related posts from around the web:

McCain Lies Again - But McCain is still airing ads telling the same lie. He has also still not retracted his lie on The View when he point blank said that Palin has refused all earmarks as governor. I cannot remember a candidate for president telling such …

Romney: McCain Lies - So Rove has declared McCain’s campaign overly harsh and Romney has declared it deceitful. I honestly have no idea how that sort of criticism from those people is possible to recover from.

Obama Campaign Launches Ad Hitting McCain’s Lies As “Dishonorable” - We’ve been waiting for it, and here it is: The Obama campaign launches its first ad hitting McCain for his lying and his mendacious adver-sleazements and slamming his campaign as “disgraceful” and “dishonorable”: …

McCain Lies About Obama’s Health Plan- JUST THE FACTS! - In our ongoing efforts to expose Senator McCain’s lies about Senator Obama’s policies, we need to look at the McCain campaigns lies and then provide some “straight talk” about the facts. McCain claimed that Obama’s health care plan … (more…)

Conservative Versus Liberal Philosophy

Friday, March 28th, 2008

On cell phones for Cubans and bailouts for homeowners.

Philosophy blog: talking on cell phone whil crossing streetAs I walked through Manhattan this morning I watched as some buffoon on a cell phone began to cross the street just as the “don’t walk” sign blinked from flashing to solid. He didn’t realize that he was blocking traffic until he was half way across the street. With his phone still glued to his ear he first stopped in his tracks, then loped ahead to the far corner without so much as looking back.

Oh, to live in a world without cell phones! Even Cuba, my last hope of refuge from the cursed devices, has relented to the cell phone tide. Raul Castro — Raul The Reformer, we may as well call him — has declared that ordinary Cubans will be permitted to get cell phone contracts going forward (a privilege previously reserved for key state employees or workers for foreign firms). But since the cell phone contracts will be too expensive for most Cubans, who earn an average of a little less than $20 per month, perhaps it will take a while until cell phones cause traffic accidents in Havana.

Philosophy blog: Fidel and Raul Castro cell phones now allowed in cubaBut this snippet of communist party friction (Raul’s brother Fidel had held fast to the no cell phone policy for years) got me wondering about whether Raul should be classified as a liberal, allowing for progressive ideas, and Fidel a conservative. And if Fidel is a conservative how does that jive with him being one of the foremost and staunchest communist leaders of all time? Could Fidel Castro and his nemesis George Bush perhaps be sitting on the same side of an ideological fence? And if so, how?

As the current presidential hopefuls put forward their proposals (an odd phenomenon, this, since they’re just running for something, not running something) on fixing or mitigating the mortgage crisis, the stark differences in approach provide a lens through which to examine Democratic ideology versus Republican ideology.

Philosophy blog: liberals conservatives obama clinton mccain differ on bailout of homeownersThis is a subject that fascinates me. For there to be such a clear division along political lines on so many issues, it seems that the roots of these divisions must live in a fundamental philosophical difference of perspective.

With some differences Obama and Clinton endorse proposals that would provide help to homeowners facing forclosure. McCain (and Bush) oppose any plan for homeowner bailout.

To paraphrase the liberal perspective “let’s help people stand on their own two feet.”

To paraphrase the conservative perspective “let people stand on their own two feet.”

As ideologies, both are rational and consistent. Where and why do they differ?

McCain has made it clear that he believes that homeowners deserve some blame if they’ve bought themselves into an unaffordable mortgage. His perspective is founded on personal responsibility, the freedom to succeed comes with the freedom to screw up. You make your choice and live with it. This same perspective underpins the conservative view on all manner of subjects, such as gun ownership and the death penalty (by all means get a gun, but if you shoot someone you shouldn’t you’ll pay for it with your life).

The conservative philosophy rests on the concept that the individual should have more control over his life and that government should not meddle.

The liberal philosophy rests on the concept that for the good of society, and the good of the individual, government should be ready to step in and provide protection or support.

Obama believes that homeowners need protection from banks eager to foreclose to stem their loses, for instance. While some may get help when they don’t deserve it. Many unwitting victims will be spared. And on gun control, a liberal may say that having the right to bear arms is all well and good unless innocent people are getting hurt by that right.

Is this just a difference of perspective without any deeper significance? I think not.

philosophy blog: egyptian sphinx civilization human beings as social creaturesThe roots are evolutionary: As social animals, human beings developed an awareness that while acting for themselves could lead to short term gains, acting for the good of all could lead to long term gains. Sharing your food might make you less well fed in the short term, but when you’re short of food, you’ll be happy for someone to share his food with you.

This is all very rational and common sensical, but even thoughtful people in a well ordered society still feel the pull of self preservation and self-satisfaction. We all experience impulses that lead us to want to act for ourselves, and we all experience impulses that lead us to want to help others. Whether we come out liberal or conservative hinges on the degree to which we believe it’s right and feel the rightness of balancing our own needs with those of others.

(For those who are interested, LIFE! Why We Exist… And What We Must Do To Survive explores a deeper philosophical basis for this line of reasoning by working from the principles of space and time.)

But what about Fidel and Raul?

Fidel Castro exhibited a deep conflict between his personal feelings about individualism — in which he was a conservative (how could a man who led a revolution and took firm control of a country not be convinced of the power and independence of his individual spirit?) — and his intellectual conviction of the benefits of a collaborative, equalized society, communism after all is liberalism on steroids.

This is perhaps why so many of us have a soft spot for the old guy (Fidel) despite his serious flaws and failings, despite his human rights abuses. We empathize with his internal conflict. We see the numbskull stopping traffic while he gabs on his cell phone and we want him to be delivered a comeuppance not a helping hand. But presented with the intellectual idea of helping those who took on too much mortgage debt (numbskulls, most likely, some of them) we easily fall on the side of assistance.

LIFE Why We Exist and What We Must Do To Survive Rational Science-Based Book About Meaning and Purpose of ExistenceFor more rational, science-based explanations of life’s meaning and purpose, please refer to my book: LIFE! Why We Exist… And What We Must Do To Survive. (more…)


Wednesday, February 6th, 2008

On testing in.

lower voting age to 16 sixteen and require a civics testAnya Kamenetz today makes a case for lowering the voting age to 16. This initially struck me as a ridiculous idea. But that was before Anya set out the details of her plan: “16-year-olds who want to start voting should be able to obtain an “early voting permit” from their high schools upon passing a simple civics course similar to the citizenship test.” She likens this to a driving permit granted to a young person after they’ve demonstrated that they are qualified.

In this season of political fervour, my daughter’s high school engaged the children in a voting exercise: The result? All (100%) of the children voted Democrat, and the vast majority chose Obama over Clinton. So, while my heart wants me to embrace Anya’s proposal, bless those little idealists, my head says that 16 is too young for the vote, even after getting a passing grade on a civics test.

Britney Spears driving while holding babyOn the other hand, requiring that voters are qualified to vote strikes me as a wonderful idea. (It reminds me of the conviction of a particularly misanthropic friend of mine that only after passing a parenting test should people be allowed to have children.) To purloin Anya’s parallel, people of all ages need to pass a driving test if they’re going to drive, so why not a voting test if they’re going to vote?  Yes, yes, I know it goes against the very premise of a democratic society, but can you argue with the logic?

The Times Editorial today makes the reverse argument. The editorial complains that the current political contest isn’t helping fix the country’s state of polarization. Obama fans are saying they won’t bother voting if he doesn’t win the nomination. Republicans miffed at McCain’s unamerican brand of conservatism are saying that they’d rather see a Democrat in the White House than see McCain there. “That is not the way democracy is supposed to work,” the Times laments.

Frankly, if Obama fans aren’t engaged enough to vote for Clinton, let them stay at home. It’s the job of the Democratic party to convince them to come out and vote (which is I think one of the points the editorial is trying to make). If Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter want a candidate who passes all their litmus tests, let them want. I for one won’t be unhappy if Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter and their ilk are disenfranchised. Democracy as it exists in America today is a ramshackle, unfair, unrepresentative, incredibly flawed system for selecting leaders. If fewer people vote but those who do are less passionately partisan and better-informed, it can only improve matters.

Democratic primary results maprepublican primaries results mapAt the risk of being helpful, I noticed something about yesterday’s voting maps. (Democratic map to the left with Obama in green; Republican map to the right with McCain in orange.) The support for Obama is pretty much the mirror image of the support for McCain. Here’s my theory: McCain will likely win the Republican nomination. Ironically, McCain’s support is strongest in traditionally Democratic strongholds (the east and west coasts) and weakest in traditionally Conservative strongholds (the middle and lower states). I would assume that Obama could hold off McCain in the Democratic strongholds if he edged out Clinton for the nomination. And he has a much better chance of picking up votes in the middle states than Clinton does. Judged by the demographics of the primary support so far, Obama then has a better chance than Clinton does of beating McCain.

Of course, if you’re a Republican you can apply the reverse logic and determine that the best way to beat Obama would be to vote for Romney. In which case, I guess you’re pretty much screwed…



Wednesday, October 10th, 2007

Lou Dobbs’ strongly worded commentary on today begins with the words “lunacy among our public figures.” He’s referring to the likes of Katie Couric, Barak Obama, and Bill Moyers who have all expressed discomfort with the prevailing symbolism of the American flag.

art.LOU.DOBBS.CNN.jpgBarack Obama has stopped wearing his American flag lapel pin, for instance.

Lou’s thoughts on the subject (if you can call them that) are so coarsely grained that I would have been inclined to shake my head and move on, but his knee jerk patriotism must be widely felt, and that makes it worthy of some analysis. After all, which of us hasn’t felt the tug of a strong, arbitrary allegiance at some point in our lives?

Patriotism reflects an identification with the nation of one’s birth or adoption. The idea of patriotism expresses the impulse or feeling that our nation should prevail over or is better than others. By saying: “I am American” or “I am Iranian” or “I am [fill in the blank]” we are also saying: “I am not anything else.” It seems simple enough, but the feeling of patriotism emerges from a complex and overlapping set of responses:

Fear of other people and other cultures, fear of the unknown, fear of threats to the nation real or imagined. Pride in one’s nation, its culture, habits, principles, laws, history. Familiarity with one’s surroundings — the weather, the habitat, the geography.

If we parse out these various complexities we start to see a pattern. Some of the impulses for our sense of patriotism are completely arbitrary and subjective such that arguing about it becomes a ridiculous matter (weather or geography or success at a particular kind of sport, for instance). And some we may logically defend — the extent to which a country upholds basic human freedoms, for instance, is not a subjective matter, and has led more than one person to change his or her nationality.

So, patriotism can be divided into two distinct concepts — an identification with the idea of one’s nation, or an identification with the ideals of one’s nation.

Dobbs clearly argues for the idea of America, regardless of its record on matters of such grave importance as human rights, war-waging, and international diplomacy. Couric, Obama, and Moyers on the other hand clearly want to make a point about the ideals of the nation, and the degree to which they support the way that those ideals are being upheld by the current administration, or not. (more…)