Another example of “depends on what your definition of the word “is” is” (orig. published in “the battlefield”)   Leave a comment

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A seasoned, professional,and philosophically astute analyst can, like few others, recognize the goals and the outcomes of political policy.  At the least, barring that, he can ask the correct questions.  In doing so, these thinkers can help us understand the actions of government and its policy makers.  An astute analyst can provide, with his thoughtful and probing questions, the tools we need to grapple with the world we live in.

Those tools were provided this week by no less a gifted intellectual and seasoned analyst than Comedy Central’s comedian cum wannabe journalist Jon Stewart.

I am no fan of Jon Stewart as pundit.  His political “thinking” is of such a nature that one can become equally informed by gleaming wisdom and insight from teen created video blogs and Facebook discussions.  This week, however, Stewart asked by sheer common sense inquisitiveness, and by the grace of the law of averages, the precise  questions that lead to much needed answers.

Conflict in the Middle East is at a fever pitch.  Our domestic economy is  puttering towards an apocalyptic meltdown with no apparent barriers ahead to stop Washington’s lemmings who are dragging us towards that cliff.  Our civil discourse has devolved into a one upmanship game of “who can scream “racist” or “socialist” the loudest.  Few would claim that our leadership are providing a clear vision for the road ahead.

The right questions — and the answers to those questions — determine a cultures future.  Crucial questions to ask of one’s own leaders and about one’s culture are “what is our goal?” and  “how do we get there?”

With the help of an intellectually and  morally bankrupt Congress this President has, like his predecessers during their tenures,  spent the past year and a half evading at all costs his responsibility to answer those questions.

At first blush it appears that he is protecting his agenda from deep scrutiny. This perspective on Obama’s actions is often suggested by members of the Tea Party.  These Tea Party members may partially be correct, in that President Obama frequently offers conflicting  justifications for particular policies.  The contradictions in Obama’s rhetoric are not, however, simply a matter of disingenuous comments  or misdirect.

Another explanation offered for the President’s slipshod governance is basic  ineptitude.  Many believe he is simply incompetent to govern.  This may be partially true as well.  Like President’s before him, however,  he surrounds himself with people far more experienced in policy.  Again, we have only a partial explanation.

The President’s evasions about his motives, and suggestions of possible incompetence, do not answer the  questions of “why are we doing such and such” in regards to specific actions and “what is the end game”.

For evasiveness and incompetence to fully explain Washington’s disjointed public policy one must necessarily assume that President Obama and Congress have a vision for the future and that they have articulated it to themselves for the sake of  their own clarity of purpose.

As has been the case for many, many decades of American governance, this is sadly not the case.

There are no plans, no visions, no thoughts from this President and this Congress.  Our leaders are philosophically adrift.  They are playing things by ear. We are paying the price in sacrificed wealth and sacrificed lives.

One need look no further for evidence of this drift than Obama’s choice for deputy director of his Office of Management and Budget, his plan to cut back on oil imports, and his decision to engage our military in Libya.

On March 26, 1961,  during her first Ford Hall Forum lecture (published  in The Voice of Reason: Essays in Objectivist Thought), Philosopher Ayn Rand discussed what she called “The Intellectual Bankruptcy of Our Age”.

Speaking to what was likely a predominantly liberal crowd Rand bemoaned the fact that the “entire culture is guilty of evasion on so enormous a scale”.  Rand observed that the ideas, policies, goals, intents, rationalizations, doublespeak, and excuses dribbling out of both major political parties demonstrated full scale  “intellectual disintegration”.

40 years later, in the arguments and in the policy of our current government, we see the same out of focus, out of options, out of time intellectual bankruptcy.

What else but a Party (in the form of their sitting President) with ideas  bereft of intellectual or moral justifications can explain the embrace of a potential  deputy budget director with zero experience in running a business, accounting, or management?

Not to fear, however.  The candidate herself, Heather Higginbottom, slated to be the number two official in charge of Obama’s 3.7 trillion dollar budget, argues that “her experience in policy making [is] a qualification for the job”.

In her words she is “not an accountant. But the president’s budget is an articulation of his policy agenda”.

So we are to accept as a logical and viable argument that the ability to articulate political policy is the same (in practical terms) with managing a budget for a nation in bankruptcy? Were Ms. Higginbottom in consideration to become a spokesperson for Obama’s budget team, one might make the case for her qualification, given her experience in articulating policy.

One cannot, with any degree of intellectual honesty or rigor, make the case that this candidate is qualified to implement such crucial and complicated policy.  How well can the case be made to accept such an unqualified candidate when the nation faces bankruptcy; how much less so when the government is soon to shut down because, thanks to failed leadership, the nation has no budget whatever?

Why such blatant incoherence and irrationality from this White House?

Perhaps we should look further.  We also have President Obama’s declaration that he will cut domestic oil imports and will tighten the stranglehold on automakers with ever stricter efficiency standards.  This at a time when there has been  a 27.9% increase in the cost of, say gasoline, since last year.  This when there is  escalating violence and insurrection in the Middle East that threatens all oil imports, and thus could dramatically increase costs  of almost everything to every citizen.  Why?

How does one justify deliberately incurring escalating consumer costs, for no apparent logical purpose,  when most are struggling to balance their own budgets?

Finally, to understand the goals, the rationale, and the path for the nation as demonstrated by this President, we come to the crisis (there’s always one with this White House and Congress) in Libya.

We have committed the talents and the lives of American soldiers to a third battle overseas — in the heart of lands on fire with racial and religious rage —  in the words of a NATO spokesman:  “to protect the people of Libya”.  This, according to the President himself, for “humanitarian” purposes.

So we are placing in harms way the lives of young soldiers to protect the “people of Libya” who welcomed home the terrorist (released from prison just last year for “humanitarian” reasons) responsible for the murders of 270 people, including 189 Americans?  Why?

Officials offer various summaries for the goals and the justifications of  the Libyan theater.  Last week, when asked about our capacity to remove Kadaffi, White House spokesman Jay Carney responded: “Does the United States have the capacity to unilaterally with military force produce regime change in Libya or another country? It probably does. We probably do” — Probably? Would not the risk to American lives, especially if done for such “noble” or “humanitarian” purposes, require a better prediction for success than “probably”?

As to our future role in the region, as it relates to “helping” the Libyan  rebels, an intelligence analyst offers that we may be “advising on how to target the adversary, how to use the weapons they have, reconnaissance and counter surveillance.”

In other words: teaching incompetents to use weapons — incompetents who just a year ago celebrated the return of the terrorist who killed 189 of us.  Why?

Would not humanitarianism be better served by keeping ourselves out of harms way and not rewarding acts of terror?

Offering a long term outlook for Libya, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said last week that : “you could have a situation in which you achieve the military goal but do not achieve the political goal.” And that military goal is?

Summing up his take on the Libyan mess, one Republican in Congress called it: “just the most muddled definition of an operation probably in U.S. military history.”

You said it, brother.

Incompetence does not explain this behavior.  Evasiveness about motives does not.  Deceit does not.

Intellectual bankruptcy, however, does.

What is the common denominator linking these three seemingly unconnected concretes?  Each require planning, application of knowledge to a defined and rational goal, and each demand — were an average person to face a comparable situation in their own life — justification for particular decisons.

Comparable situations on a much smaller scale would be creating a budget for one’s home or business, cutting back on one’s supermarket purchases, and deciding whether to communicate dissatisfaction when learning that a  coworker who has always been miserable to you is passed over by management for a promotion.  In each case, one must make decisions that have long term consequences and each decision must be weighed against what one already knows.

These decisions require that one’s standard of reference must be self interest and one’s current financial and personal state of affairs, as well as one’s breath of awareness of all consequences.

Would a wife approach her husband and tell him “I’ve decided that our budget this month will be run by your barber, he always knows exactly what you like, and he describes those hairstyles on the phone so well?  Not if they want someone running their budget who has run a budget and knows their own financial interests real well. Not if their long term goal is that their home or business stays afloat

If a family welcomed new born twins a few months ago, as well as a college student returning home for winter break, would they cut back on the family’s supermarket purchases, saying “Why don’t we find a few decent restaurants for all of us to eat at instead, it’ll be much more fun to eat out?  Not if their long term goal was to reap savings, since they know that eating out is far more expensive than cooking at home.

Would an individual complain to management that their coworker was unfairly denied a promotion when that coworker never finishes her work, but has more experience by the calendar; he frequently complains about everyone in  the office, and often shows up late for crucial meetings? Not if the individual contemplating that their coworker might have been treated unfairly has a shred of self interest and a sense of justice.

In each of these situations, like the one’s facing the nation, making such absurd decisions would demonstrate a lack of forethought, a denial and betrayal of one’s own interest, a refusal to see reality for what it is, and an inability to know how or why one ought to seek alternatives.  Intellectual bankruptcy.

I understood this about our leadership in Washington when I watched Jon Stewart bemoaning the actions of the President and Congress.

Comedian cum wannabe journalist Jon Stewart seemed befuddled by the actions of his President.  Stewart, like most in the media, appears to be  a committed Progressive and Leftist. “Why, Mr. President, why are we doing this? We’re Progressives, we don’t do war”, he seemed to want to say.

Stewart’s befuddlement is likely genuine.

He wants to know why we would bother ourselves in Libya, of all places.  Why help incompetents who — for instance –shoot rockets in the opposite direction of the intended target?  Why help an insurrection that includes members of Al Queda?  Stewart, like most of us, wants to know why.

Progressives don’t start wars, right Jon?  Progressives excel in economics, and are determined to help the little guy, right Jon? Progressives are humanitarians and would never get in bed with killers, right Jon?

Stewart, like most of us, wants to understand just what is going on.

What is the plan, what are our goals, what is our purpose? Why?

Mr. Stewart, like much of the nation, assumes that their is a plan, that we have articulated goals for ourselves, and that these actions by government serve some logical and self interested national purpose.

He does not yet grasp what many of us have for quite some time.  Both the Left and the traditional Right are intellectually bankrupt.  They, as  pragmatists must, are acting on range of the moment expediency.  They are doing this on principle,   simply reacting and responding, acting with neither Reason, purpose nor conviction.

Bankruptcy comes with a price.  we are paying it.

Posted April 7, 2011 by cchashadenough in Uncategorized

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