Thursday, November 30, 2006

Conversation with a 10 yr old (and a 5 yr old interloper), 3

Took my daughter to the eye doctor today. My son was along for the ride, as usual. After 15 minutes waiting in the lobby, and a 30 minute exam by the nurse practioner, we were told the doctor would be in to see us in a few minutes. Ten minutes later, the natives were restless and not behaving very well. My daughter makes up a song using the doctor's name:

Dr. Beggs, we beg you,
Please hurry up.

Just those two lines repeated over and over. Their attempts to entertain themselves were wearing on my nerves, but when I called a halt to it, I elicited the well known child's lament:

Her: I want the doctor to come now! There's nothing to do!

Me: Hey, I know! Why don't you fuss and complain a bunch, and entertain yourself by bugging the heck out of me? Oh wait... you're already doing that!

Him: Heeheeheehee! Wheeeeeeeeee!

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Conversations with a 10 yr old, 2

Her: Can I tell you about the book I've been reading, Esemeralda and the Enchanted Pond?

Me: (Debating whether I want to be the audience for an hour-long monologue.) Umm...

Her: I'll sum it up...

Me: Didn't you tell me about that one yesterday?

Her: I wanted to add more detail.

Me: That wouldn't be summing up, then, would it?

Her: Please...

Me: (Inwardly sighing.) Okay.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Conversations With a 5 Year Old, 2

Him: (A sudden question inserted into the middle of a long, wearying, stream of consciousness monologue concerning aliens, or transporters, or some such.) Do you want to know something?

Me: Not really. I prefer not knowing anything. Ignorance is bliss they say.

Him: (Continues dissertation as if I hadn't said a word.)

Update: Continuing on, two hours later, we have turned to the subject of bacteria and viruses, which he proceeds to tie back into the alien discussion via War of the Worlds (the old version).

Him: Why did God cause the Martians to die?

Me: God? There's no such person.

Him: You just can't see him.

Me: (Laughing too hard to explain to him what's wrong with that argument.)

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Election 2006

I haven't posted on the election this year, because my thoughts on it have been very confused. There's been a pretty intense debate on HBL regarding whether to vote Democratic or Republican. The debate centered around a recommendation made by Leonard Peikoff that Objectivists ought to vote for the Democrats, because the Republican Party represents the empowerment of a philosophical trend towards religion and theocracy. Peikoff maintains that socialism is a spent ideology, and that the Democrats lack the intellectual vitality to advance their own policies while in office. Voting Democratic is, therefore, the best way to slow down the advance of religion into the US political system.

A number of people were not impressed by Peikoff's missive, which does not develop his full argument on this subject. For that, one would have to listen to the recent lecture series that he presented at an Objectivist conference(registration required). They do not acknowledge an impending threat of theocracy from the right. Others, while recognizing the argument's accuracy in identifying the long-term trend towards theocracy, believe that the necessity of fighting the War on Terrorism, and the Democrats' thoroughly limp-wristed response to the war, trumps the danger of the religious right. They believe that, although Bush's conduct of the war has been half-hearted, it has been preferable to not fighting at all.

Those who agree with Peikoff have argued the exact opposite: that fighting half a war is worse than fighting no war at all, because it sacrifices the lives of our soldiers, uses up material resource, and wastes taxpayer dollars, and the only result is that our enemies are encouraged to believe that we will not wage an effective war against them. Whatever advantage we enjoyed by the illusion that we are a sleeping giant is erradicated by seeing the giant wake up, and fight like a wimp. Further, in domestic policy, Bush has advanced the cause of statism far more than any Democrat would have been allowed, with his Prescription Drug Plan, No Child Left Behind, and the Faith-Based Initiative.

The problem with the Republicans, as both sides agree, is that they are mired in the morality of altruism. They say they favor capitalism, but they are morally incapable of supporting "selfishness", i.e., the right of an individual to exist for his own sake, and pursue his own ends. They say they want to defend the US, but not if it means ignoring the disapproval of the international community by fighting purely for our own self-defense. That is why the War on Terror must be re-envisioned as the Forward Strategy of Freedom--an altruistic scheme by which American lives are sacrificed to bring freedom to the benighted parts of the globe in the hope that the people living there will suddenly transform into liberalized freedom-lovers. That is why we are rebuilding Iraq and turning its defense over to a popularly elected government without having first achieved victory in the war there. Like all self-sacrificing schemes, it is ultimately suicidal.

One of the leading proponents of voting Republican, Robert Tracinski, understands all of the above, but believes that victory can be achieved under less than optimal circumstances. That our leaders lack the moral courage to pursue victory without compunction is evident, but our enemy has its problems as well, and he believes that the US can muddle its way to victory. He also believes that it is vital for us to win the war.

Those arguing against voting Republican see zero chance that Bush will alter his tactics to win the war, or do anything to stop Iran's nuclear buildup. The only possibility they see under Bush's leadership is an eventual withdrawal from Iraq that will provide the jihadis with a moral victory, and strengthen Iran's power in the region. Most of them argue that the moral thing to do, given that fact, is withdraw sooner rather than later. They do not believe we should sacrifice anymore soldiers in an effort to stave off the inevitable.

I hope I have summarized the two positions accurately. I invite anyone who has followed the debate to provide a better summary.

My problem has been that I think both arguments have merit, and I have had an extremely difficult time choosing between them. I have begun to lean towards the anti-Republican position, although I find it hard to accept that I should vote against all Republicans on the basis that some have a theocratic agenda.

Fortunately, the choice in my own Congressional race was easy enough to make. The House seat was not up for re-election this year, so I did not have to make a choice there. In the Senate Race, it was Bill Nelson, a fairly innocuous conservative Southern Democrat vs. Katherine "the Separation Between Church and State Is a Lie" Harris. That was a no-brainer. I also voted for the Democrat candidate for Governor, Jim Davis, over the Republican, Charlie Crist. Crist will surely win, though, in as much as Jesus has already declared it so. So have the polls, which place Crist well ahead of Davis, but Jesus said it first. Anti-Crist that I am, I couldn't help but vote for the other guy.