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January 13, 2003
The Witness

I mentioned some time ago that I embarked on reading Whittaker Chambers' Witness after seeing a silly jab at it in "The Marathon Man." I'm nearing the end (it's an 800-page book), and the sections describing his early efforts to alert the Roosevelt administration about Communists and Soviet agents in their highest ranks stays with me. Some excerpts (from the Regnery edition -- I doubt there are others, for while powerful, it's not like Chambers' book could ever equal in the eyes of today's publishers, say, Cornell West's ruminations on the racism inherent in Starbucks coffee labeling):

"I saw that the New Deal was only superficially a reform movement. I had to acknowledge the truth of what its more forthright protagonists, sometimes unwarily, sometimes defiantly, averred: the New Deal was a genuine revolution, whose deepest purpose was not simply reform within existing traditions, but a basic change in the social, and, above all, the power relationships within the nation. It was not a revolution by violence. It was a revolution by bookkeeping and lawmaking . . .

Now I thought that I understood much better something that in the past had vaguely nibbled at my mind, but never nibbled to a conclusion -- namely, how it happened that so many concealed Communists were clustered in Government, and how it was possible for them to operate so freely with so little fear of detection. For as between revolutionists who only half know what they are doing and revolutionists who know exactly what they are doing the latter are in a superb maneuvering position.

At the basic point of the revolution -- the shift of power from business to government -- the two kinds of revolutionists were at one; and they shared many other views and hopes. Thus men who sincerely abhorred the word Communism, in the pursuit of common ends found that they were unable to distinguish Communists from themselves . . . For men who could not see that what they firmly believed was liberalism added up to socialism could scarcely be expected to see what added up to Communism. Any charge of Communism enraged them precisely because they could not grasp the differences between themselves and those against whom it was made." [emphasis mine].

This to me captured exactly what I observed on a much smaller scale, and with much less than Chambers had at stake (for the Truman administration was moving to imprison him, in order to protect Alger Hiss, and thereby itself), during my years of undergraduate and graduate schooling. The people on the left with whom I tangled were generally in one of two camps: those who sincerely felt for the poor and sick, and who had no understanding of how free markets are not in general a cause of such conditions; and those who were motivated by hatred and envy of the wealthy (or white, or both).

The latter are the executioners of Stalin's era -- they know little of the system they advocate, but support it because it enables them to put bullets in the brains of enemies, the list of which ever grows. The former are the busy worker bees of Socialism, many of whom, in the countries where Communists came to power, eventually found themselves at the mercy of the executioners, precisely because their strong sympathy for the downtrodden rendered them incapable of silence when it dawned on them that they served monsters rather than saviors.

Arguing with either class was generally fruitless, because neither was very interested in either the morality or the long-term physical consequences of what they advocated -- one did so to assuage guilt or pain over the plight of others, while the other did so to settle grievances. Chambers has a nice encapsulation that I'm sure will resonate with many of you who have fought the good fight:

". . . as we left the meeting, one of the non-Communist girls, a young socialite of an old and good family, and an M.A. or a Ph.D., marched upon me. She was ultra smartly gowned and booted. But her studiedly cool and intelligent face was working in lines of most unintelligent anger. 'How dare you,' she asked with the voice of Bryn Mawr but the snarl of a fishwife, 'how dare you call us Communists?' It was no use to explain to her that what I had said was, not that she and others like her were Communists, but that they were non-Communists who were letting the Communists lead them by the nose. . . Scores of her kind, just as impeccably pedigreed, socially and culturally poised, also staggering under M.A.'s and Ph.D.'s, and just exactly as witless, were to howl for my head in the Hiss Case."

Some of what Chambers wrote about the fellow travelers of his age applies with striking perspicacity to the fellow travelers of our age, namely those who make common cause with the various flaks and grievance artists who are front groups for Muslim terrorists, their suppliers, and other murderous totalitarian thugs. An excerpt:

"They were people who believed a number of things. Foremost among them was the belief that peace could be preserved, World War III could be averted only by conciliating the Soviet Union. For this no price was too high to pay, including the price of willful historical self-delusion. . . Hence like most people who have substituted the habit of delusion for reality, they became hysterical whenever the root of their delusion was touched, and reacted with a violence that completely belied the openness of mind which they prescribed for others. Let me call their peculiar condition which, sometimes had unconsciously deep, and sometimes very conscious, political motives that it would perhaps be unmannerly to pry into here -- the Popular Front mind."

Chambers, of course, wrote in an age where it was impolite to dub these folks with the title that many on the non-mainstream Internet have now aptly given them -- idiotarians. I like his term "Popular Fronters" because it captures their collectivist mentality. The term "idiotarian" is individualistic, and doesn't in itself explain what we now see, like the spectacle of Greens and liberal Manhattan Jews and the anti-Semitic French making common cause with one another to excuse Muslims strapping on shrapnel bombs to climb aboard Israeli schoolbuses. This is not merely a collection of Simpletons, but a coalition of Simpletons steeped in the very deep error that they are in fact quite thoughtful. They have merely embraced an amalgam of grievances and inconsistent rebuttals and told themselves they have a philosophy. Individually, of course, they are idiots. But collectively they are very much the Popular Front about which Chambers wrote years ago. Fortunately, we have more avenues by which to attack them, while the profound wrongheadedness of their forebears leaves their positions -- in the media, in the academy, in Hollywood -- eroded and themselves less credible.

At the same time, I think we are missing something. As Chambers observed, one cannot be a witness against something alone; one must be a witness for something. We are good at showing that the idiotarians well deserve the moniker, and we champion liberty and markets as valuable means to human ends, but I wonder if these ultimately satisfy. We still face a yawning spiritual void that was the essence of the totalitarian project from the beginning. Chambers believed that this was the real battle -- it was not between Communists and anti-Communists, but between Communists and Christians, for the soul and passion and hope of mankind. Would he put faith in himself, or in God? It is an interesting and pertinent question, I think, regardless of which one chooses.

I, of course, side with Chambers:

"The idea that man is sinful and needs redemption has been subtly changed into the idea that man is by nature good, and hence capable of indefinite perfectibility. This perfectibility is being achieved through technology, science, politics, social reform, education. Man is essentially good, says 20th-century liberalism, because he is rational, and his rationality is (if the speaker happens to be a liberal Protestant) divine, or (if he happens to be religiously unattached) at least benign. . .

Men have never been so educated, but wisdom, even as an idea, has conspicuously vanished from the world."

Posted by Woodlief on January 13, 2003 at 09:35 AM


Another excellent post.

You'd think that knowing so much about the enemy (those whose advice would end in destruction, misery, etc.) would be helpful, but mostly it just seems to reinforce my pessimism - how do you defeat someone who has decided that they are absolutely correct and has therefore closed their mind to all other posibilities?

I suppose it actually does help in that it will help us choose strategies and know whom not to try to convince (as it is impossible), but it doesn't really bolster my spirits much.

Posted by: Deoxy at January 13, 2003 11:27 AM

Thanks for another excellent post. As Christians we try to show love for our enemies, but the Communists have no compunction for trampling anyone in their way. A difficult path to enlighten the "Popular Front", but one we must take.

When you brought up the term Popular Front, it brought to mind "popular(pop) music". For most people serious about what music they listen to, pop music is usually avoided and scorned. Somehow enough people listen to it and spend money on it in order to make it popular (or is it all a big media scam?).

Somehow modern-day liberalism is puffed up and made appealing enough for the masses to buy into it (with the help of "big media"). I hope you can continue to blog against it, as well as speak out as you traverse our nation's capitol (and I hope I can be bolder and sometimes speak out like you do).

Posted by: MarcV at January 13, 2003 1:14 PM

Great post. I really liked the popular fronters meme.

What really struck me, and this post had a lot that strikes, is:

We still face a yawning spiritual void that was the essence of the totalitarian project from the beginning. Chambers believed that this was the real battle -- it was not between Communists and anti-Communists, but between Communists and Christians, for the soul and passion and hope of mankind. Would he put faith in himself, or in God? It is an interesting and pertinent question, I think, regardless of which one chooses.

I think this can be expanded. The battle is really between those who have faith (in anything metaphysical but primarily the Abrahamic God) and those who can't for whatever reason.

Doubts in a metaphysical reality became stronger as the Age of Enlightenment began to be established. What was going to fill the vacuum? Witness the ascendancy of socialism and its variants. It satisfied those who still wanted Heaven- but in the here and now or at the least just a little bit in the future, and those who had a grudge to settle.

Nietzsche has written a lot about this. He thought that this struggle would define the coming century. He also saw the rivers of blood that would be shed to grab the "soul and passion" of mankind. {note: I'm not a Nietzsche devotee- even N. must be overcome}

This post is way too long so I'll sum up:
The Age of Enlightenment rocked the foundation of faith, shattering it for many. Socialism, and its imitators, moved into the vacuum to satisfy the spiritual needs of those who could no longer put faith in the Abrahamic God. The bi-polarity of this conflict is not between Communists and Christians -although they are combatants, it's between the faithful and the faithless.

Woodlief's post has inspired me to write more so check out my blog if you want to see more.

Posted by: Levendus at January 13, 2003 2:40 PM

Perhaps you should start a book club. I for one would love to read a book like this with you and share comments back and forth. Of course I would also love to organize my email address book, build a fence in the back yard well you get my point, I hope...

We all have much to do but these are important themes which are no different today than they were 50 plus years ago.

Great post...

Posted by: Gray at January 13, 2003 5:53 PM

Excellent post. No one writes as well as a Christian with a clear mind. Your clarity is what will bring others around you to the Truth.....eventually---don't give up!

Posted by: Llana at January 13, 2003 6:02 PM

(Groan).... now every liberal including myself has to defend every single act by liberals in the history of liberalism to justify my own beliefs? Why don't conservatives have to answer for the sins of every fascist and racists past and present? There is so much to comment on, but since I don't have the time to write a book on one post, I'll do it peace meal.

From your quote of the Witness - "the New Deal was a genuine revolution, whose deepest purpose was not simply reform within existing traditions, but a basic change in the social, and, above all, the power relationships within the nation.

It's hard to for me to see exactly what you're implying but I'll do my best to interpret correctly. Sounds like you're saying that the New Deal was a Commie idea, or at least a Trojan horse for the Commies? And the non-Commies that were in favor of those programs were being manipulated by the real (but closeted) Commies?

Last time I checked quite a few nations, including much of Europe, Canada, and Japan have similar if not the same social programs that made up much of the New Deal (socialized medicine, social security, welfare, unemployment benefits, etc). And yet they didn't all morph into Hammer and Sickle Communists, running roughshod over the rest of the world - why is that?

It's been very effective strategy for conservatives to use Stalin, Mao, and their murderous partners as a way to invoke fear in this country whenever socialized programs are discussed. If any program that had any commonality with socialism (especially the ones outlined in the New Deal) were discussed on a political level all the conservatives would have to do is use this strategy and it would scare everyone away, more so the post-Roosevelt era. What they managed to do is make

(1) the prospect of almost any comprehensive social program in this country and
(2)the methods the aforementioned tyrants used in order to accomplish their communistic goals

inseparable, at least in the mind of the American public anyway. I'm not trying to downplay the very real threat of the Soviet Union before WWII, during the cold war, etc. It's just that food stamps didn't make this nation into something out of Orwell 1984.

It's funny because Hitler cursed Communism and yet pretty much employed the very same strategies as Stalin did to get his way. As did Mussolini, Tojo, and later on many others like Pinochet on Chile (with the help of Nixon) later on. That's because while we generally refer to the range of political ideas as a spectrum, it's a lot more like a horseshoe; while the extreme left and right are polar opposites in beliefs, the methods they employ are an awful lot a like.

"Some of what Chambers wrote about the fellow travelers of his age applies with striking perspicacity to the fellow travelers of our age, namely those who make common cause with the various flaks and grievance artists who are front groups for Muslim terrorists, their suppliers, and other murderous totalitarian thugs."

I know I broached this subject once before with you (can't wait for the email response!), but last time I checked;

-Saudi Arabia, Egypt, etc., among others all have, in one form or another, a repressive, abusive theocratic (and therefore undemocratic) government

-most of the liberals I know were either part of or support organizations that are strongly against these repressive, abusive theocratic (and therefore undemocratic) governments that are the norm in most of the Middle Eastern Nations, i.e. Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, NOW, etc. This was before and now after 9.11

-an awful lot of conservatives (at least most of the ones I've heard) regularly bemoan these same organizations

-the supporters of these nations, at least financially, are oil conglomerates, many of which are based right here in the US, as well as abroad

-our current President, VP and others in this administration have major business ties to the very same nations (including and especially Saudi Arabia)

-our military protects the oil fields of these nations (and as it just so happens the investments of their American business partners)

-our current President made a reach out to Muslims in the US when he was trying to get elected

I know that many, dare I say most, conservatives ooooh sooooo desperately want to link the liberal impulse to give equality/merit to every faith and culture and the rise of terrorism. But last time I checked it was Bush Sr. and Jr. who had business ties to the Saudi Royal family and the Bin Laden family, it was Reagan who approved CIA training for the Afghan Mujahadeen (one of them going by the name Osama), it was Reagan and Bush who abandoned Afghanistan after the USSR pulled out, it was the oil industry who contributed financially in record numbers to the Bush campaign, it was Dubya who authorized secret talks with the Taliban for an oil pipeline thru Afghanistan.

The list is too long for me to cover it all but I guess you'll ignore it anyway because you'd rather look at some liberal professor in academia and their embrace of diversity and their desire of non-judgment of other cultures and blame them. They may have their faults, but it wasn't hippey love and lesbains that bought the plane tickets for the 9.11 terrorists, it wasn't flower power or the ACLU that gave them training, it wasn't even a Liberal Manhattan Jew that, after 9.11, changed immigration policy for Muslim nations except for the country that gave us 15 of the 19 terrorists!!!! (by the way that very policy to my knowledge changed very recently) It was oil money, the oil industry, Cheney, Bush and many others of the GOP faithful (and I bet, if I had the time and did the research, at least a couple of Dems who have oil investments) that did plenty to set the table for 9.11, all the while making literally hundreds of billions for themselves and the terrorist supporters in the process.

And while we're going for analogies MarkV,(popular music) I've met at least just as many thoughtless/brainwashed conservatives as thoughtless/brainwashed liberals. The people who you refer to, who cease to think and just parrot whatever popular anecdotal evidence to support whatever their current position is on whatever issue is being discussed, are bountiful on both sides of the political spectrum - er, uh horseshoe. Lack of common sense, inability or unwillingness to see the truth, and outright stupidity are not exclusive traits of either political ideology.

Let the mudslinging begin!!!!!!

If it makes you feel any better, as for the French bashing please bash away, they're a bunch of f#@$ hypocrites.

Posted by: Palmer Haas at January 13, 2003 7:37 PM

No, it's not that the New Deal was a Trojan Horse for Communism, it's that the New Deal in itself constituted a revolution.

Posted by: Aaron Armitage at January 13, 2003 9:17 PM

I think Palmer has a point, but, the truth remains, that leftist ideas and ideologies have caused immense misery in many societies all over the world. And, I agree that there are the idiot "leftist-liberals" who are unlike Palmer, who are so consumed by their hatred for the USa that t hey find common cause with the Saddams and the Osamas and the Hamas/iSlamic Jihadis of this world. Hence you see groups of deluded leftists leaving cities liek Ann Arbor and Berkeley travelling to Baghdad to serve as "human-shields" for Saddam's horrible regime!!!

Posted by: sid at January 14, 2003 9:15 AM

Congratulations, Mr. Haas, you have once again shown us the light that everything is the fault of the US (especially conservatives). Nice.

As to socialized [fill in the blank] being compared to communism -

Yes, that's been done, but the comparison (other than the hair-on-fire talk about mass-murder, etc) is valid - name one country with a good socialized anything program. The point is not that mass murder necessarily follows, it's that societal rot inevitably follows. Socialism fails because there is no motivation for excellence. Many of the problems in our current medical system go back to the socialist aspects of it (well, and ridiculous lawsuits).

You (un-numbered) points:

1. complete agreement

2 & 3. Conservatives regularly bemoan these groups because these groups are completely full of crap. They talk a good game, but when it comes to actions, what do they do? They give some half-hearted condemnation of those terrible countries and then dedicate massive resources to showing the world how evil the West is, particularly the US and Israel.

4-6. When someone comes up with a real replacement for oil, let me know. Until then, blood for oil is the way the world works - imagine, for instance, if Iraq had continued there conquest and taken Saudi Arabia and several other nations in the area and we did nothing. Iraq would be sitting on most of the world's oil supply. Now tell me, honestly, that you don't think that huge amounts of blood would be spilled over that. It's not "blood for cheaper oil" - it's "blood for one of the world's most strategic assets". And if we can pay in money instead of blood, that's mostly good.

7. Uh, what's wrong with that?

You're right, multi-culti sympathies, etc, did not give rise to terrorism, but they DID (and DO) SUUPORT and DEFEND them. Multi-cultis regularyl condemn the US for "crimes" that are so far down the ladder of evil that they are hard to even prove their existance while making no mention or outright defending the complete oppression of women (and gays and Christians and ....) and the targetted killing of civilians by Muslim groups. You want RACISM?!? See HAMAS, et al - "drive the Jews into the sea". THAT is racism - and intentional genocide if successful. US "racism" gets a lot more attention for a much lesser problem.

As to the whole thing about favored immigration status for Saudi Arabia - that's the biggest pile of poo in our whole gevernmental pile of poo. Somebody really needs to get their head out. As to general friednliness to Saudi Arabia, that's a whole different issue - strategically speaking, they've got several aces (Mecca and Medina, for instance).

And I also agree with you on that whole paragraph right before the "Let the mudslinging begin" comment. Oh, and about the French - and we may soon need to add the Germans.

Posted by: Deoxy at January 14, 2003 10:41 AM

Congratulations, Mr. Haas, you have once again shown us the light that everything is the fault of the US (especially conservatives). Nice.

Humor me Deoxy, just where did I do that?

When someone comes up with a real replacement for oil, let me know. Until then, blood for oil is the way the world works - imagine, for instance, if Iraq had continued there conquest and taken Saudi Arabia and several other nations in the area and we did nothing. Iraq would be sitting on most of the world's oil supply. Now tell me, honestly, that you don't think that huge amounts of blood would be spilled over that. It's not "blood for cheaper oil" - it's "blood for one of the world's most strategic assets". And if we can pay in money instead of blood, that's mostly good.

All I want is honesty from my Government. Not disingenous excuses or heaping steaming piles of bs like Rummy or Cheney mentioning Saddam gassing the Kurds. Especially when you consider the frst Bush administration approved a loan from the US taxpayer funded Import/Export Bank that gave Saddam the funds to buy those WMD that Bush II (specifically chemical weapons) we keep clamoring about AFTER he gassed the Kurds. Another words, since this administrations shares an awful lot of personnel between Bush I & II, many of the advisors and secretaries in this current administration didn't really seem to care all that much about human rights violations until after Saddam did something that was not to our liking.

And while evidense is iffy, there is good reason to believe the companies that sold those weapons (chem and bio) to Saddam were US. By the way, just as a reminder, we got stiffed on the loan. You, the taxpayer, helped pay for the WMD that those toadies at the UN are looking for, thank you Dick Cheney, George Herbert Walker Bush, etc.

By the way - notice I didn't blame America, I blamed our lousy leaders - plenty of you did that from 1993-2000 without answering to McCarthyite tactics by the opposition by questioning your patriotism, remember?

Go ahead, ask Bush to tell America we're going to war for oil. Tell America we have to coddle the largest source of terrorists because America needs it's SUVs. That's all I ask. As far as substitutes there is;
-natural gas
-other biodiesels
-fuel cells that use petro far more efficiently, so much so that we may not have to import oil and treat SA with kid gloves
-liquid hydrogen

I may be even forgetting some, I'm not an expert on this stuff. Some of these fuel sources would be further along had we done what Nixon, Ford and Carter had recommended after the oil embargos, which is we need to be self sufficient in our energy use (hey see that? I'm saying we should have listened to what 2 GOP Presidents had to say...who wudda thunk it?).

Unfortunately as soon as the oil men retook the White House all those plans were torpedoed (see Reagan/Bush era).

7. Uh, what's wrong with that?
please clarify this one, I don't know what you're refering to.

Posted by: Palmer Haas at January 14, 2003 1:36 PM

interesting post...

Posted by: Sarge at January 14, 2003 2:19 PM

Romans 1:22.

(Different context, to a degree, but the principle stands.)

Posted by: susanna at January 14, 2003 4:26 PM

Chambers, Ralph DeToledano and the invaluable Garet Garret may yet be recognized as the seers they were.

Posted by: Francis W. Porretto at January 14, 2003 4:51 PM


Positions like yours always mystify me. On the one hand, evidence is given that our government (or possibly our system of government) is hopelessly corrupt (i.e., Bush is owned by oil money and his foreign policy is basically created by the oil companies), while at the same time the proposed solution to this mess is to have more rules from the same exact government. If your solution is implemented and govenment mandates the affordable use of fuel cells or bio-diesel or natural gas, etc. [1] why won't the bio-diesel / fuel cell companies have just as much of an incentive to nefariously influence govenment policy as the old oil companies did (more even, because they know that the government could just mandate a new industry to replace them (in this scenario, it already happened once)).

The dilemma is this: as long as government is big and active (in economic regulation, wealth redistribution, or foreign policy) it is valuable, as long as govenment is valuable there is more of an incentive for those directly affected to buy influence and more regulation only makes the problem worse.

C'mon, the big bad oil companies are ordering the US military around but a law to make hydrogen cheaper is going to stop them?

[1] This of course ignores the issue of how a federal mandate would make something possible (from an engineering perspective) that isn't currently possible when the promise of billions in profits and a patent granted monopoly on a huge new industry has failed to attract sufficient venture capital and engineering talent to create these technologies. Governments don't pay for research that results in usable technology, if the functionaries who ran the grant programs could tell what was useful they wouldn't be government functionaries, governments pay for people who spend money on things that fit their check-boxes. You get what you pay for, and when you pay for people to do research and not produce results, you get lots of research and no results.

Posted by: SJ at January 15, 2003 12:53 AM

I think I was clear that the point is not that all leftists are Communists. The point is that the New Dealers were little distinguishable from Communists, except in terms of the preferred end state. That should give you reason for pause if you think the slope is indeed slippery (and history suggests that it is).

One key point among the many you make that I want to take issue with: your subtle suggestion that leftists are to Socialists and Communists as conservatives are to Fascists and racists. It is fairly easy to show the intellectual and policy similarities between the modern Left and Socialism/Communism: socialized medicine, regulation of prices, massive government work programs, high taxation, etc. Similarities between conservatism and Fascism or racism do not exist. To be sure, you can find conservatives who are racists, but that is a very different point.

In fact, Fascism has much more in common with Socialism, and with the favored policies of the Left than it does with conservatism. Hitler too favored price regulation, big industrial plans to rationalize output and steer it towards state-mandated ends, and so on. Certainly American leftists who favor state direction of large industry are not Hitlers, but intellecutally and policy-wise they are not so far removed as they would like to think.

Likewise for racism. In the modern age, countries that have instituted racialist policies are largely Socialist (e.g., Nazi Germany). South Africa was one, India another. As they modernize and adopt more market-oriented positions, you'll notice that their state-sponsored racism diminishes.

Posted by: Tony at January 15, 2003 10:10 AM

Tony makes the good point that socialism, fascism (Mussolini was a socialist from the crib), and nazism (short for National Socialism, after all), are all of a piece.

About "Witness", it is also one of the finest works of literature ever created by an American. It opens with (from memory):

"Mine was a difficult childbirth. My mother could look out the windows to the cemetery across the street, and wonder if she would not soon be lying beneath the snow covering that ground."

Another favorite part of mine was that after Chambers appeared on Meet the Press, and was savaged by the panelists, his young son, who had accompanied him to the radio studio, asked: "Father, why do those men hate you?".

An instructive thing to do is, after reading Witness, get a copy of Alger Hiss's "In the Court of Public Opinion", and/or Hiss apologist John Chabot Smith's "Alger Hiss, the True Story". It will be obvious just from the differences in tone who is lying, and who is truthful.

Posted by: Patrick R. Sullivan at January 15, 2003 12:23 PM

Mr. Haas:

As to other energy sources, I'm not an EXPERT, but I do know a good bit (I've been following alternative fuel sources with anticipation for well over a decade). The sources you list all have lower enrgy to density ratios (I forget the technical term). For example, hydrogen is generally considered the target - the history of nergy improvement has been going from carbon to hydrogen. Hydrogen produces water vapor as "waste". But gaseous hydrogen takes up WAY too much space, and liquid hydrogen requires storage facilities (in the car) that take up WAY too much space. The other alternatives you list are either gaseous (too much space), a hybrid which still requires large amounts of gasoline (even half as much is still a lot), or unproven technolgy that MAY work out (yay!). As to them being further along... slightly, maybe, but doubtful. Many of the advances in those technologies depend on advances in other areas that have been made in recent years - pouring more money on them would not have significantly accelerated seemingly unrelated areas or research.

Gasoline is still depended on because, even with the large outlays for defense, it is still the best for the money. In terms of bang for the buck, even with large increases in gasoline prices, it will still rule the roost for years to come. Hybrid cars (electric/gasoline) will begin to help soon (I hope).

As to the the "what's wrong with that" comment, it was in reference to Bush reaching out to Muslims.

As to terrorism/Iraq (and there is AMPLE evidence that the 2 are related), unless you advocate TAKING the oil we want by force, paying for it is the only way we get it, and the money goes to the rightful owners - who use it in bad ways. Invading Iraq has nothing to do with oil, though - if we wanted cheap oil, all it would take is Bush asking the sanctions to be lifted. Saddam has offered cheap oil, the rest of the world wants to lift the sanctions. Literally, Bush could sign a piece of paper and we would get cheap Iraqi oil. It's not about oil. But as I said, EVEN IF IT WAS, that would be OK.

Also, so we supported the wrong guy, historically? So we gave him money for bad stuff? Does that mean we shouldn't do anything about it now?

As to government honesty, yeah, that would be nice.

Posted by: Deoxy at January 15, 2003 12:39 PM

I am really looking forward to responding to all your responses. Unfortunately my free time is in very short supply, so the continuation of this debate is going to have to wait at least a couple of days if not more - at least for me anyway.

Posted by: Palmer Haas at January 15, 2003 1:13 PM

While Mr. Hass is perfectly capable of defending himself, in his absence I'd like to jump in on his side.

Returning to the post, I see two principal points being made: (a) the left is composed of two camps -- ignorant do-gooders and haters; and (b) the loss of religion as a guiding moral force leads to totalitarian regimes.

To which i respond: Nuts. Unless you want to define "left" as being only the ignorant do-gooders, there are plenty of thoughtful, intelligent people who understand market forces perfectly well and who believe that various "socialist" policies serve a tremendous societal benefit. Laws protecting the environment -- such as clean air, clean water, endangered species protection, and hazardous waste cleanup -- have imposed tremendous societal costs and created tremendous societal benefits. Or do we want to return to burning rivers? The same can be said of workplace safety, automobile regulation and the like. Social security, medicare and medicaid have helped millions of elderly and poor avoid lives of utter desperation. And so forth.

I'll agree in advance that many of these laws are poorly written and unfairly enforced. But I'll challenge any of you to establish that the GOAL of these pieces of legislation was to create a communist dystopia. And even if it were, isn't that the point of the democratic process? don't we have the government we deserve?

As to religion, I think that one can attribute a tremendous body count to the effects of religion over the last 2,000 years. Faith does not make men good any more than atheism makes men evil.

Another theme of the post, and the comments, appears to focus on idiots individually and idiotarians as a movement. My response to that is to ask who here has read the "Anti-Idiotarian Manifesto" and followed the use of that epithet? There is just as much idiotic thinking on the part of those using that term as there is on the part of those at whom the epithet is directed. Like so many epithets, "idiotarian" has become an insult that terminates rational discussion.

Take a look at deoxy's first post "how do you defeat someone who has decided that they are absolutely correct and has therefore closed their mind to all other posibilities?" My response: precisely. deoxy shows the exact same close-mindedness as that he accuses of others. Instead of "defeating" your fellow citizens, try listening. And if you disagree with what they have to say, try talking.

Well, this has gone on far enough. I'll endure the slings and arrows of outrageous flaming before posting any more.

Posted by: FDL at January 15, 2003 4:57 PM

Nice post. I'll challenge a couple of points. First, I didn't say that all leftists are either ignorant do-gooders or haters. I said that most of the leftists I tangled with in college were of that variety. You are right that there are compelling cost/benefit analyses to support much environmental regulation, for example. I'll submit that most supporters of it don't use such analysis, however, as evidenced by the fact that they also support ridiculous one-size-fits-all federal mandates when greater local stakeholder control is clearly more beneficial. In other words, they tend not to do analysis, but to adopt policies for emotive reasons. This is also true of conservatives, and libertarians, and basically everyone but you and me. But that is a slightly separate matter, and your point stands.

I also want to challenge this statement:

"Faith does not make men good any more than atheism makes men evil."

Of course there is a methodological problem with your insinuation -- much evil can be done in the name of faith, for example, plus most faiths are simply wrong, and therefore evil, as opposed to the faith I described.

But there is a deeper point. I do not believe that men need faith to make them good; I believe men need faith because they are evil. That is the message of Christian redemption. Likewise, I do not believe atheism makes men evil; I believe atheism deprives men of hope.

Posted by: Tony at January 15, 2003 5:48 PM

I wonder who is being close-minded here the neo-cons or the leftists - to me it seems that Palmer and his cohorts are being disingenous at best by trying to say that they don state that the USA is the source of all problems in the world, yet they go on to say how various entities messed everything up. Regardless of whether policies of previous US administrations aided Saddam or what ever tinpot dictator in the mideast- they are a threat now, and have to be destroyed and extirpated. Sure the darling of the left - Jimmy Carter made a "deal" with the North Koreans in 1994, and now look, the North Koreans are threatning to nuke us!!! Should we just sit on our hands and sing protest songs while we wait to be nuked, or should we go to a protest rally led by a lesbian Unitarian Minister/

Posted by: Anonymous at January 15, 2003 7:54 PM


I hope to meet a beautiful women, fall in love, have children, write a good book, a good poem, paint a lovely painting, make the world a better place, travel the world... you know create something beautiful and meaningful with my life. I don't believe in God. Am I deprived of hope? Or do you mean 'hope' in a special way that assumes some religious notions (i.e., 'hope' = 'hope for salvation, eternal glory, whatever), such that that kind of special hope is meaningless to someone who doesn't already have the right commitments? I hope I have hope!

In any case, I love you, man.

Posted by: Will Wilkinson at January 16, 2003 12:32 AM

You and I are going to sit down over a few beers one day and work this whole religion thing out. (For those of you who don't know him, by the way, Will is excellent proof of FDL's point, above, that atheism does not make men evil.)

I cannot, of course, comment on your personal state of hope, or your long-term happiness, as you are the expert in these things. I can only speak from my experience, and from the experiences of those who have shared their deepest thoughts with me. It is on these that I base my claims about faith and hope and atheism. My experience has been that people with real faith -- not the convenient kind, or the social kind, but that which has been put to the test and shaped by suffering -- these people have hope both in this life and towards the one to come, because they know that they are in the hands of a Power they cannot understand, but which loves them.

Most of the people I know who are or were atheists, and who have shared these deepest thoughts with me, while they have, like most people, aspirations, do not have hope, i.e., the expectation of peace and happiness based on faith in (fill in the blank here, so long as it is not God, i.e., themselves, karma, fellow men, the state, etc.), especially in the dark night of the soul, as one writer put it.

We can set all this aside and focus on the final hours, which come often when we do not expect them. The Christian has hope, the believer in this world alone does not. I don't mean to imply, as many Christians might, that you have any choice in this, by the way. A real faith cannot be manufactured (and I think this is a mistake many Christians make -- to beat non-believers over the head as if all that need be done is analysis to reach the right conclusion).

This is an interesting theme, the nature of hope. I think of the words of Micah:

But as for me, I will watch expectantly for the LORD; I will wait for the God of my salvation. My God will hear me.

Posted by: Tony at January 16, 2003 8:34 AM

Re: hope. Atheists (and to a lesser extent agnostics) cannot have hope based on faith. That's precisely the point. Given my post-Enlightenment, upper-middle class, New England-based education (where, during high school, religion was bludgeoned into me on a regular basis), I see no reason to have faith.

Yes, I know. Reason and faith are inconsistent. But considering how well the planet was doing when we ran it on faith, and the improvements made when reason took over, I'll go with reason. (yes, i'm using reason again.)

At its simplest, when George Michaels sings, "You gotta have faith" I always ask Why? And, as best as I can understand, if you ask Why about faith, then you just don't understand.

But all this was a long detour on thanking you for your thoughtful response. But my follow-up comment at this point is: What does your original post mean? You agreed with me that the left does not have a monopoly on idiots (although they can be awfully loud and annoying) and you agreed with Will that hope can exist outside religion. So, to reiterate, what are you trying to say?

Posted by: FDL at January 16, 2003 3:30 PM

Reason and faith are not inconsistent - that's a myth.

Posted by: Deoxy at January 16, 2003 5:19 PM


You know, it tickles me to be an example of how one can be x without being evil. I know you're just saying it like it is, but that's a really nice framing device. It's as if there is a sort of presumption of evil in people who think x. By denying that people who think x must be evil, you make yourself look reasonable and charitable, while very subtly supporting the presumption. I think I will use this: "I think we should all recognize that opposing school vouchers doesn't make those people evil."

I like your idea of faith. I'm sure it's a great source of consoloation and hope to people of all sorts of creeds. And I'm glad you see that people can't just choose to believe things. Belief comes unbidden from one's background of evidence, experience, and sentiment. I can certainly argue that certain kinds of belief formation processes don't reliably track truth. But such arguments are unlikely to disolodge any beliefs that emerged from such processes, unless those beliefs are already rather fragile and peripheral to one's background network of mental states and identity. And why care anyway, if truth (as opposed to the feeling of truth) isn't what you really need?

So, yeah, let's have some beers and chat about religion. I've been more curious about the place of religious belief in people's lives, of late. I don't expect we'll have much influence on each other, and not from lack of earnest open-mindedness. The kind of cognitive input one gets from a conversation over beers generally isn't sufficient to significantly change the internal structures that fix commitment. But we'll understand each other better, which is certainly worthwhile.

Did you read my blog post about my trip to church last Sunday?

Posted by: Will Wilkinson at January 16, 2003 10:44 PM

You have caught me conflating definitions. I believe all atheists are evil in that they are at war with God. I believe all Christians do evil, but have the advantage of forgiveness, and a Savior who is the "author and finisher of faith," which presumably leads them to commit fewer violations of God's laws.

I also believe that you and many others who are evil in the God-definition sense are not evil in the worldly human sense. I used both definitions in one sentence, when I declared you an example of an atheist who is not evil. Yay you for pointing out my errant framing, boo me for being imprecise.

So, to sum up, you are good and evil, but I like you anyway, in a very heterosexual way.

Posted by: Tony Woodlief at January 17, 2003 12:28 AM

I'm not sure how to answer your question, beyond referring to the words in my essay. I clarified that they do not, in fact, mean that all idiots are leftists. But in my clarification I maintained that leftists tend not to use the logical/factual analysis you mentioned in your original rebuttal, i.e., yes, some leftist goals are justifiable on grounds of logic and cost/benefit analysis, but no, most leftist goals are not, and are in fact rest stops on the road to socialism (though not necessarily totalitarianism, as Palmer pointed out re: Europe).

On religion, I said that atheists do have temporal, this-world hope. But I also said that they do not have hope beyond this world. Nor do I believe they have the hope that can sustain them through the darkest times of grief. They can endure, to be certain, but when health, love, and motivation are gone, what remains for the atheist? Positive thoughts? That is not hope, at least not in the sense that I use the word.

Posted by: Tony Woodlief at January 17, 2003 12:34 AM

It took me a while but since this is still on the page and not in the archive here it is - although I doubt anyone is paying attention at this point now. I don't have the time to address everything but here goes nothing.....

Tony - As far as the political spectrum (or horseshoe) if fascist or racists are not at the other end of communism, then what is? I read this in a book recently, that commies were on one side and fascists were on the other.

To be totally honest, despite my bleeding heart liberal tendencies and views that are contrarian viewpoint, my biggest fault with conservatives (and many of their viewpoints) are by and large is not, I repeat not, conservative idealogy. There are exceptions of course, but I digress, let's save it for another day. My biggest is problem is the execution and follow thru on those principles.

It may very well true Tony be that free markets are the answer to racism/fascism. Please note I don't really believe that, but I'll play along. My aggravation stems from all the things that go on in this country under the guise of "Free Markets".

Example - recently our beloved President was granted that whole fast-track-free-trade agreement thing in order to negotiate deals with other nations. One of the major Reps that was on the fence about it but eventually voted for it was a Republican from NC (his name escapes me).
I find it intriuging that when structuring these "FREE TRADE" deals, certain industries are given different treatment, leading me to believe it aint all that free. Some industries are more susceptable to the competition of FREE TRADE than others.

In one of these deals our new best friend Pakistan, the domestic textile industry got some protectionist trade policy when Bush negociated it. It should be noted that Pakistan is a big textile producer, probably their biggest export industry. I find it awfully convienent that a huge portion of the US porton of the textile industry is located in North Carolina, a state that also just so happens to have gone to Bush.

There are many more examples of this kinda stuff, and I guess this is to be expected in the heaping pile of bs that is politics, and I am aware that Dems pull this stuff off too. But my gripe is the dishonesty and hypocrisy; I think that when you look at a situation like this (and others like it), most of the ordinary people who vote GOP, the "regular folk" that Bush does so well with, don't necessarily want FREE MARKETS so much as they'd rather KEEP THEY'RE JOBS. And if those jobs come at the expense of other manufacturing jobs in states that voted against Bush, no GOP or conservative will spout some lecture on how FREE MARKETS need to be for everybody.

My problem is not the FREE MARKET argument, it's that it ain't really that free. I find it more than bothersome that this kinda thing is so rapant and that so many conservatives bash the lib'ruls on the free market issue but when it comes to having a "free market" that applies to everyone equally, the actual application or enforcement is pretty damn lax if not all together non existant. And funny thing is FREE MARKETS are generally not as free in GOP territory as it is in Democratic territory.

Free Markets is not, or wasn't until recently, part of the Democratic mantra, so I find it far less hypocritical. I think it's disingenuous, even an outright lie on the part of those GOPers & conservatives to keep talking about FREE MARKETS when the states that vote conservatively don't have to be exposed to open competition, but the states that vote Dem are told that they aren't up to the task to compete in a freer world marketplace.

One only need look at a recent news report on the growing number foreign owned manufacturers in the Auto Industry in Alabama, prime GOP country. In a Mercedes Benz factory, the employees in Alabama make about half as much as say their fellow auto workers assembling comparable cars i.e. Cadillacs in Michigan. There is no union in AL either, and we all know that those unions are such a pain in the ass for business always mucking things up. Nothing makes a GOPer happer than an opportunity to wag their finger saying that these auto manufacturers can't compete because of those darn unions!

You know, this might be true 'cept for one thing - Alabama gave Mercedes Benz a $250,000,000.00 tax break (that would be a quarter of a billion dollars) to move their new manufacturing facilities to the state! How's that for a free market!

I looked for the link but could not find it (hell maybe you can help me) I remeber about a year ago seeing a map in Time or Newsweek, that showed how much each state contributed in federal taxes and how much they got in return in spending per capita. States like Illinois, Michigan, New York and all those traditionally Democratic/Liberal/Union member states pay way more in Federal Taxes than what they get in return. Just to be fair, Texas contributes more than it gets back too. On the other hand it is the reverse for states like Alabama (and Arizona, Florida, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, among others--representing the political bedrock of the Republican Party). I guess this is to be expected considering a state like Arizona and Wyoming have huge national parks and small populations relative to the other aforementioned states, but the disparity is really out of hand, especially for a place like NC with the research triangle and all those other business that have moved down their into the Sun Belt.

The case could be made that all those auto union laborers who make more because they are in the union and therefore pay more in federal taxes are in a way helping to foot the bill for Alabama to give subsides on the aforementioned jobs. This in turn hurts the union, themselves and could lead to job loss or put themselves out of business completely.

To bring this full circle I'm saying that I find this way of governance to be more economic Darwinism rather an actual FREE MARKET, and from what I know Fascism is the political philosophy of to the winner goes the spoils. I'd say that applies pretty well here. You can call it what you want, I say it's BS, not FREE MARKETS.

This is already too long, but I trust you get my point. I can't respond to eveyone, this is already too long but since Deoxy seems to find me where I mark my territory -

You're right, multi-culti sympathies, etc, did not give rise to terrorism, but they DID (and DO) SUUPORT and DEFEND them. Multi-cultis regularyl condemn the US for "crimes" that are so far down the ladder of evil that they are hard to even prove their existance while making no mention or outright defending the complete oppression of women (and gays and Christians and ....) and the targetted killing of civilians by Muslim groups. You want RACISM?!? See HAMAS, et al - "drive the Jews into the sea". THAT is racism - and intentional genocide if successful. US "racism" gets a lot more attention for a much lesser problem. - by Deoxy

Well Deoxy, I won't interfere with your right to hate Noam Chomsky and Susan Sontag, but I ask you... Support the terrorists? Those airline tickets that those terrorists bought so they could hijack the Boeings and use them to destroy the WTC, did Chomsky put those tickets on his credit card?

And all that training that Al Queada got, all those training camps they built in third world nations, did Susan Sontag give them money for those things?

Did Jello Biafra or Howard Zinn or Michael Moore give money to Al Quaeda or any of the other terrorist groups? I think not.

You can't say the same for our President and all his cohorts and cronies. They all have multiple business connections to the Middle East and especially Saudi Arabia. All of them have been overlooking the crazy crap that has been going on nations of the leaders they do business with.

I'll admit that I find it annoying that some of these groups seem to give greater priority to the problems we have here and Israel, as opposed to the repressive nations elsewhere with far more egreggious sins. But that doesn't undermine their work or their facts, it just shows that some of those people have their priorities a little wacked.

And the fact that you guys get so annoyed with the Chomskys and Sontags of the world and yet you don't say a damn thing when something like this or this or this happens, well it's hard for me not to think that your priorities are a little wacked too.

I have no time to touch on fuel density ratios and such. I'll have to save it for another time.

However I'm gonna post everything I just wrote here on my site (eventually anyway) and I just got commenting ability so you can tell me to go to hell in your own sweet way! It would mean a lot to me, and I can't even edit profanity (yet). Can't wait for my flaming response!!!!!

Posted by: Palmer Haas at January 25, 2003 8:48 PM

My goodness, I posted that last post in a hurry without realizing just how horrendous my grammar is... KEEP THEIR JOBS... among other eggregious grammar errors, and the repetition. Please forgive me. But you get my point, right?

(use of ain't was on purpose)

Posted by: Palmer Haas at January 27, 2003 11:35 AM

Just great - I practically write a book but no one is paying attention so they can rip me to shreds......

Not even Deoxy for cryin out loud!

Posted by: Palmer Haas at January 28, 2003 10:30 PM

OK, Palmer, a quick response (not much time these days - my daughter and I have been sick, which puts a hitch into almost everything).

The whole "free market" thing - no time to go into great detail, let me just sum up: I think you take the term "free" a bit to literally. In a free market, of course stuff like tax breaks happen - the place giving the tax break is trying to lure more business (jobs) to their area, which helps their economy, in the end providing more taxes and a better standard of living for every. (At least, that's the idea - it seems to work moderately well most of the time.)

"Support the terrorists? ... did Chomsky put those tickets on his credit card?"

"Support" is a lot more than just money. In non-monetary terms, Chomsky, Sontag, et al, give great support to our enemies.

As oil companies giving them money... well, they own the oil. Should we just steal it from them?

Also, sure, maybe we shouldn't do business with them (and hopefully, as time goes by, we won't, either by having better alternatives, regime change, whatever), but historically, EVERYBODY has bee ignoring that aspect of it for years. Some people have finally woken up to it in recent years - perhaps the ones who did the most business with them are the ones with enough exposure to the evil to finally recognize it for what it is? I don't know.

I'm just saying, sure, we've given them money, and that's bad, but there's a case for ignorance in the past (and plenty of blame for everybody on all sides if you don't take the ignorace argument). Today, we're saying in public that they are bad (governments, Islamism, whoever "they" is), so why are certain people STILL defending them?

Now, that rsponse is full of holes to begin with due to being too quick to make robust arguments, so please try to get the idea of what I'm trying to say and ignore the details (which are probably at least incomplete).

Posted by: Deoxy at February 4, 2003 10:07 AM