How Leo Tolstoy Exposed Donald Trump in War and Peace

War and Peace came out nearly 150 years ago, in 1869, but some of it–one chapter in particular–resonates with current events.

A man without convictions, without habits, without traditions, without a name, and not even a Frenchman, emerges- by what seem the strangest chances- from among all the seething French parties, and without joining any one of them is borne forward to a prominent position.

The ignorance of his colleagues, the weakness and insignificance of his opponents, the frankness of his falsehoods, and the dazzling and self-confident limitations of this man raise him to the head…his opponents’ reluctance to fight, and his own childish audacity and self-confidence secure him military fame. Innumerable so-called chances accompany him everywhere.

UntitledTolstoy wrote these lines, near the end of his great book, about Napoleon, but when I read them last night, I thought of Donald Trump. Only small changes are needed–just replace “French” and “Frenchman” in the excerpts in this post with “Republican,” for example, and you pretty much have cutting-edge commentary for today’s op-ed page.

This ideal of glory and grandeur- which consists not merely in considering nothing wrong that one does but in priding oneself on every crime one commits, ascribing to it an incomprehensible supernatural significance- that ideal, destined to guide this man and his associates, had scope for its development….

He had no plan, he was afraid of everything, but the parties snatched at him and demanded his participation….his insane self-adulation, his boldness in crime and frankness in lying- he alone could justify what had to be done.

*

He pretends to fall into a swoon and says senseless things that should have ruined him. But the once proud and shrewd rulers of France, feeling that their part is played out, are even more bewildered than he, and do not say the words they should have said to destroy him and retain their power….One after another they hasten to display their insignificance before him.

Really, just read the whole chapter. The whole thing is basically about Trump. Not only that, but the failures of the GOP leadership are also laid bare here. Was Tolstoy a prophet? Are we doomed to see another 1812 in the not-too-distant future?

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Social and Political NOTES, January 2014

  • National Review post called “Dear Hysterical Liberals: Hectoring Hurts Science” says this: “But conservatives (including Christian conservatives) aren’t anti-science as much as they’re anti-hectoring and unpersuaded by naked appeals to authority delivered with maximum condescension.”  No joke.  Early in college, my religious and political beliefs developed largely for the same reasons: because I saw solid, irrefutable results in one way of thought and not in the opposite way, and because the advocates of those opposite views typically relied more on belittling the character of others than on engaging in serious argument.  I noticed that anti-Mormons (and anti-Christians in general) as well as secular leftists tended to ridicule others rather than refute their points, or even support their own.  I saw so much bandwagon elitism from those allied corners that it just added a deep layer of comfortable relief to the more objective conclusions I had otherwise reached about politics and religion.
  • If aliens from another planet came and observed America, they would determine that the purpose of our public school system is to make girls and minorities feel good about themselves.  After all, where does the balance of our energy and resources go?  What are our most sacred values there?  What agendas permeate the system top to bottom more than any other?  Based on the evidence, what else could those extraterrestrial visitors possibly conclude?   Continue reading

How Good Are Democrats at Helping Cities?

Consider the chart below:

 

 City

Has had only Democratic mayors since

Last time a Republican was mayor

Detroit

1962

1962

Washington, D.C.

1961

1883

New Orleans

1936

1872

 

Of course these examples are cherry picked, but they certainly do demonstrate some dangerous myopia.  One could argue that there are plenty of cities historically run by Democrats that have always had stable success, and I would agree.  Colorado and New England, for example, are full of such places.

But that’s not my point.  It’s not enough to show that strong populations can be primarily liberal.  Since the Democratic platform–and definitely the popular appeal it tries to campaign on–is that their policies are good for the poor, the “disenfranchised,” the lower class, isn’t it fair to check that track record?  Shouldn’t places run exclusively by Democrats be able to maintain prior success, or turn around problems those cities have had?  If things have gotten bad–awful–after 50-100 years of solid rule, shouldn’t this say something critical of liberal ideas?

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Why Liberals Should Like the Tea Party

There is a difference between policy and principle.  People of bright minds and good faith can disagree about policies, but principles are usually pretty universal.  Nobody is really anti-liberty, or anti-charity, but between policy and principle is priority, and that affects how the latter is realized as the former.  That’s where people on the political spectrum differ.  Focusing on foundational principles, though, will help us build on common ground. 

A good example might be what seem to be the most disparate groups in American politics today: the Democratic Party and the Tea Party.  Since the emergence of the Tea Party about three years ago, liberals and their friends in the media have often and openly vilified these conservatives, and largely acted kinder towards the mainstream Republicans that they had previously contested with in the court of public opinion.  Maybe it’s an “enemy of my enemy is my friend” thing. 

This is unfortunate.  The Tea Party and many liberals have something in common here.  Why does the Tea Party exist?  Because they feel that the mainstream Republican Party has failed them.  (Consider how many mainstream Republicans have jumped on the anti-Tea Party propaganda bandwagon so the kids at the cool table will like them.)  They needed a homemade outlet to protest the betrayal of conservative ideals in exchange for political success. 

So some of their principles might include empowering citizens in their right to petition for redress, and calling for an end to waste and corruption by those in power, by demanding accountability from leaders.  Aren’t these things good people of all political stripes can get behind?  Yes, we can and should debate each other vigorously about fiscal policy, and all kinds of policy, but can we at least recognize when there are underlying principles that we share?

Political Baloney Detector

In The Demon Haunted World, scientist Carl Sagan described a “baloney detection kit” that he would have liked to see taught in school, with such tools as skepticism and logical fallacies to help people keep from being suckered.  It’s a great idea, and I’ve employed something similar in my readings of current events in politics.

I won’t succumb to the pressure to declare myself “independent” or “moderate,” those new buzzwords that constitute the cool meme in the political mainstream; I’m a conservative through and through.  That being said, though, that hardly means that all people or parties calling themselves that are always correct.  As I employ my Political Baloney Detector, I can spot cheap shots and see many public statements and actions for the transparent pandering they are. 

Here’s how it works: whenever a politician criticizes someone with a differing view, I ask myself how authentic the complaint would sound if the roles were reversed.  By this method, I can almost always see the playacting, and the smoke and mirrors, and not get distracted from real issues by these silly tricks.

Don’t get me wrong–many things of substance get said in our public realm, by both sides of the aisle, but they also each spew enough manure that it’s useful to be able to discount it quickly.  If a statement addresses a legitimate issue, then it needs to be analyzed and discussed on its merits, measured against principles (and that’s what our conversations should really be about–the political principles that we give priority; that’s where our disagreements come from), and I think that such a focus is important enough and demands enough energy that we owe it to our principles, if we’re serious about them, not to let ourselves be taken by the cheap tricks along the way. 

Two examples:

In December, Democrats in Congress said they’d be willing to work on Christmas to finish their work.  Continue reading

Clark County / Nevada Election Endorsements

My research for this relied heavily on the endorsements offered by the Las Vegas Review-Journal and the Las Vegas Sun, both of which I studied in detail.  I also checked out some other organizations, such as Nevada Concerned Citizens‘ endorsements, my own comments from the primaries, and, of course, I googled each candidate and reviewed their web sites.  Here’s what I came up with. 

Ballot questions will be handled in another post. 

SENATE

I won’t repeat everything I’ve already said here many times about this race, but suffice it to say…

Vote for: Sharron Angle

CONGRESS, DISTRICT 1

Kenneth Wegner has not campaigned aggressively, nor has the party supported him sufficiently.  I love his signs, but that’s hardly enough to be taken seriously.  At the same time, Democratic incumbent Shelley Berkley is strong.  I saw a billboard for her last week that simply said something like, “Honesty.  Integrity.  Hard Work.”  Know what?  I can’t deny that.  She’s clean of scandals and has a good reputation. 

Basically, this race is pointless.  She’ll win by about a zillion percent. 

Still, Berkley voted for the stimulus and ObamaCare.  So…

Vote for: Kenneth Wegner

Incidentally, even though it’s not in my district, I hope people for Joe Heck instead of Dina Titus for the other Congressional seat up for grabs this year.  Titus is just as liberal as Berkley, and has run a foul, dishonest campaign against Heck.  Dr. Heck, on the other hand, is a consistently conservative leader with the dedication we need to help our state.

GOVERNOR

Meanwhile, Brian Sandoval actually is ahead of Rory Reid by about a zillion points, so this one’s pointless, too!

By the way, if all of the conservatives who oppose illegal immigration are doing it because we hate Hispanics so much, why are we giving one a landslide victory in the election for our governor?  Hmmm, maybe the left’s convenient assumptions about us aren’t accurate after all…

Vote for: Brian Sandoval

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