Morris & Schiff

Earlier today, political commentator and former Clinton consultant Dick Morris briefly appeared on Peter Schiff’s radio program.  Before I make a couple of brief comments, you should listen to the exchange.  I think you’ll find it interesting.

First of all, I find it strange that Mr. Morris doesn’t want to discuss the issue that Mr. Schiff brings up.  Instead, his only concern seems to be peddling his newest book.  Now why is the world would you be interested in reading his book about Obama’s supposed socialism if the author is unwilling to talk about the facets of this issue?

Second, Dick Morris makes a rather startling suggestion.  “We should drug test every high school student”?  Unlike the libertarians, I don’t believe that the solution to the drug problem in this country is to legalize every drug; however, I do strongly believe that such issues should be left to the states, not the bureaucrats in Washington.  Nevertheless, like Schiff, I don’t believe that drug testing every student is a policy that is responsible, cost effective, constitutional, or conservative.

Now some people make the claim that “if you’ve done nothing wrong then you’ve got nothing to hide”, but such an attitude is harmful to the liberty of the citizenry.  After all, I’m proud to say that I never took drugs while in high school.  However, even though I was clean and thus “had nothing to hide”, a school testing every student without probable cause is a gross violation of the privacy of the student.  Although I have heard that some people engage in these activities in the bathrooms, is installing cameras in these bathrooms a suitable response?  Yes, I’m sure it would cut down on illicit actions, but is it worth this “big brother” style invasion?  I’d like to think most rational people would say no.

So what is Dick Morris’ agenda?  As far as I can tell, it is only about making money through his books and getting more appearances on TV and radio to promote himself and his work.  It is hypocrisy to call Obama a socialist in one breath while you advocate a troubling big government solution just a few moments before.  Are the only two options left a big and intrusive government run by the Democrats (socialism) or a big and intrusive government run by the Republicans (fascism)?  Fortunately, there are a growing number of activists, libertarians and conservatives alike, who are working to purge the GOP of this Dick Morris style mindset.

Apparently I’ve got it all wrong.  Maybe if I just pretend to be a conservative and spend time with prostitutes I too will get a gig on TV.  Hey, it worked for Morris.

Thanks to Chris for alerting me to this video.

Avatar: A Political Review

Earlier this week, I watched the new movie, Avatar, and I wanted to share my thoughts about the work.  Originally the title struck me as a bit odd.  I think the first time I heard the word “avatar” was in a class in Hinduism.  In Hindu theology, from time to time the gods take mortal forms and walk about the Earth.  They engage in all sorts of behavior such as: imparting wisdom, participating in battles, getting into fights, and even partaking in lewd and potentially immoral acts.  Perhaps the most celebrated avatar was Krishna, an avatar of the god Vishnu who you can find in the great Indian epic story, the Mahabharata.  Nevertheless, it is important to note that while the avatar can die, the god remains.  The reason I mention this tidbit of information was that it was the only insight I had about this movie beforehand.  I read no spoilers and I saw no trailers and so went into the theater not really knowing what to expect.

But back to the film…the basic storyline is as follows:  On a planet called Pandora live a species of bluish humanoids called the Na’vi.  Also on this world is a rare and extremely valuable substance ironically named unobtainium.  Although we are never told the uses for this mineral, we discover that the largest deposit lies beneath the Na’vi settlements.  As a way to gain access to the natives, and reap their rich natural resources, a mining corporation creates Na’vi/human hybrids that are controlled remotely through a form of mental link.  These creatures are a Na’vi-looking embodiment of the humans that operate them.  Although radically different physically, they share the same thoughts, experiences, and emotions, with their human consciousness hence, like in the Hindu stories, they are avatars.

Visually Avatar is a very rich experience.  There is an abundance of vibrant colors, lush and exotic scenery, and even the 3-D experience was well done, though I did have a bit of a headache to show for it.  Although certainly alien, the Na’vi physically, thematically, and styles of dress appeared to be some sort of cross between cats, Native Americans, and African tribesmen.  For what it is worth, they were fairly attractive, with the notable exception of Sigourney Weaver.  Although I would argue that she looks pretty good for a woman of 60, her avatar was quite unappealing.

Unlike traditional movie reviews, my central interest was in Avatar’s underlying political message(s).  It examines the plight of the naturalistic natives against the technologically advanced invaders, a page ripped from history:  Native Americans versus the United States, Indians versus the British Empire, Germanic tribes versus Rome, just to name a few.  Given the Na’vi’s Native American traits, throughout the movie I couldn’t help but think about the events leading up to Custer’s last stand.  It strikes an anti-imperialistic chord, which I can appreciate, as well as nativist, environmentalist, and anti-militaristic tones.  I’m going to delve a bit further into the plot, so if you haven’t seen the movie yet and don’t want me to give it away, I suggest skipping ahead to the final paragraph.

Still with me then?  Very well.  So, as stated earlier, these avatars are physical copies of the Na’vi, but with a human mind.  The scientists create these beings in order to gain a better understanding of this species and also to begin meaningful diplomacy.  At the same time, however, the hired muscle seeks to use the avatars merely as a tool to spy upon the Na’vi and learn how to best conquer them.  Both the commander and the soldiers in the film are portrayed in a generally negative light, as most treat the native population as mere savages unworthy of discourse, their land, or even their very lives.  The corporation, that finances and heads up this operation, is driven solely by its profit margin.  As we learn more about the Na’vi, peaceful talks seem increasingly fruitless as the Na’vi view their homeland as sacred and have no interest in bartering away their land.  They reject the supposedly superior goods and education offered to them in favor of their own traditional ways.  And so, motivated by money, the corporation resorts to plan B, sending their paramilitary army to claim the land by force.  Thus, in a not-so-subtle fashion, the film simultaneously warns against the dangers of the military-industrial complex, corporate greed, consumerism, and even neo-conservatism.

Avatar was persistent in its environmental message.  The natives appear to live in near perfect harmony with the planet in much the same way that we are told that the Native Americans did and supposedly still do.  They seem to go out of their way to preserve both plant and animal life, their structures blend with the natural surroundings, and they spiritually bond with both nature and the planet.  I’m not looking to get into an argument over this point, but I don’t think such a way of life is either practical or religiously correct.  Nevertheless, should a society choose to organize in such a fashion, I would not advocate changing their lifestyle or relocating them through force.  The greatest problem lies when they compel their neighbors to act likewise through a heavy-handed government.  Oh wait…the Na’vi don’t act that way in the movie, but modern American environmentalists certainly do.  The horror!  The horror!  Anyway, the movie then seems to go out of its way to validate these beliefs through the supposed scientific findings of the head researcher just as many environmentalists do in our society.  If you need more proof of the pro-green message, in the final battle sequence all of the creatures of the jungle rally in defense of the Na’vi as if guided by the will of nature itself.  After the humans lose, a vast majority of the wicked and thoughtless human race is exiled.  To top it off, the main character casts off his human body to become one of the Na’vi.  Therefore, we are led to believe that only by rejecting our humanity can we save the planet.  Lastly, one of the final lines in the film, when the main character mentioned that humans had previously destroyed the environment on Earth, smacked of rhetoric worthy of Al Gore himself.

How is the film nativist?  Although I couldn’t real see any difference, the Na’vi could easily differentiate between themselves and the lab created avatars.  At first, everyone in their encampment treated the main character as an interloper who neither understood their culture, nor appreciated their lifestyle.  In addition, they feared he would try to infiltrate them, which is exactly what he ended up doing by revealing weaknesses in their defenses to the Colonel.  Both the Na’vi and the humans were, for the most part, ethnocentric.  Neither cared really to learn about the other, thought of themselves and their ways as superior, and both viewed the other with distrust and great suspicion.  At the end of the day, one has to wonder what would have happened if the Na’vi never accepted Jake, the main character, as one of their own and maintained their xenophobic ways.  Would the first military attack have been successful if not for the intel that he gave them?  Would the lost of life been far less?  Or would the humans, pressured by the tremendous costs of maintaining their presence, simply have given up and left?  Who can say?  Then again, if both sides had viewed each other with respect, perhaps the corporation could have extracted the unobtainium without disrupting the lives and homes of the natives.

Apparently Avatar had at least one conservative message too.  Although I didn’t see it, after discussing the film with my cousin, he pointed it out with the plight of the main character.  You see, Jake is a wheelchair-bound former marine.  Not only does the desire to regain his mobility serve as a motivation, it also fuels his rugged self-reliance.  Despite his physical limitations, he displays a high level of personal responsibility.  He never gives up, never insists on others to help him, and never expects handouts or special favors from his associates.  Rather than stay at home and collect disability from a nanny state government, he instead chooses to live life to the fullest and explore life on a new world.

Overall, I enjoyed the Avatar experience and I would recommend the film.  Sure, the movie has some awkward and questionable dialogue and yes, the plot twists are easily predictable. Nevertheless, you shouldn’t pass up the opportunity to learn about the fascinating, colorful, and bioluminescent world of Pandora and it’s inhabitants.  A word of warning to you impressionable folks…although some misguided people tend to take cues from movies on how to think, act, and even live their lives (the Jedi Church anyone?), one should value this movie for its storyline and amazing visual scenery and effects.  Be mindful of the liberal politics, of course, and don’t use them as a motivating tool for action.  Otherwise you’ll likely find yourself hugging trees, dancing in the woods with a loincloth, singing kumbaya, and worshiping Eywa…I mean “mother Earth”.

The Lustful Hope of Equality

One fairly easy method to differentiate conservatives from liberals is simply one of terminology choice.  For example while conservatives and libertarians prefer the concept of liberty, liberals and socialists work for equality.  Need proof?  Fair enough.  For example, if one were to look through all the posts on this site through today, you would find that the word liberty shows up 17 times while the word equality appears only twice and both are in reference to the notion of state equality.

At some level, all of us, besides those who express open hostility toward a certain socioeconomic, ethnic, religious, or cultural group desire equality.  The equality of which I speak is equality under the law.  Everyone, be they man or woman, white or black, Christian or Hindu, rich or poor, should be constrained by the same agreed upon rules and regulations.  Despite the claims of Senator Stephens, even our leaders must abide by the same restrictions that bind the common man.  Ideally this same equality would apply to many facets of life: e.g. employment opportunities, college acceptance, our commercial dealings, equal work for equal pay, etc.  Merit would be the sole determining factor between two otherwise fairly equally qualified individuals.

The Equality of Race
Liberals however do not like the idea of merit determining equality.  After all, they say, some groups are disadvantaged.  Now it is certain that certain groups have been discriminated against in the past.  One of the most notable groups is the blacks.  After the abolition of slavery, black people were subjugated to a number of laws that not only dehumanized them, but always prevented them from enjoying the same rights and opportunities that white people had.  Fortunately, due to the efforts of the civil rights crusaders, black people achieved equal rights.  Liberals, however, were not satisfied.  They argued that as a result of past discrimination, in order to have true equality, we must create extra opportunities for minorities and thus affirmative action was born.  Of all attempts to create an equal society, affirmative action is one of the most ill-conceived and unfair programs ever introduced.  They clamor for equality among the races and then they offer a system that sharply divides us based upon race.  If you are an employer, you cannot necessarily hire the best-qualified candidate due to racial quotas.  If you are looking for either education or employment despite your merit you may be denied simply based upon the color of your skin.  And if you are a minority and received your position solely as a result of your merit, how do you quell your coworkers’ spoken or unspoken thoughts of mere racial promotion?  Does this system cause resentment? Does this system promote racial equality or does it hinder it?

The Equality of Income
When it comes to income levels, liberals, unlike conservatives, do not trust the free market to distribute wealth fairly.  Everyone, they argue, should receive a “living wage” from their employment.  Unfortunately, there is no hard and fast definition of a “living wage”.   Is $15,000 a living wage? How about $20,000?  What about $40,000?  $120,000?  In order to achieve greater economic equality, liberals promote policies of welfare and a progressive income tax where your tax rate is based upon your level of income.  Now why would liberals act in such a fashion?  Why should they punish those who prosper?  Often times, super wealthy liberals feel guilty for their success and therefore feel better by forcing themselves and their neighbors to offer some of their wealth to the lower classes.  Certainly those who make their wealth through illegal or unscrupulous means should suffer guilt, but those who achieve honestly should harbor no such remorse.  Other liberals, who do not enjoy material success resent the successes of their fellow man.  After all, shouldn’t his or her labor be of equal value to anyone else’s?  It should make no difference if the marketplace holds some work in higher regard.

Although I believe it is strange to the conservative’s mindset, equality often comes to the forefront of a liberal’s mind.  Most liberals, I would argue, push for this lustful hope of equality merely to further their own notion of fairness in the same way conservatives push for liberty out of fairness.  Therefore their goal is laudable, though misguided.  Unfortunately, their efforts over-inflate the worth of some work, they upset the established social and religious norms, they create new discrimination, and worst of all, they further bloat the power of the government.  Seeking to right some perceived wrong, they cling to the skirt of government, like children looking to have their nanny/parent solve all their problems.  By doing so, they forfeit not only their own liberty and responsibility, but also, the liberties and responsibilities of all their fellow citizens and, slowly but surely, all traces of freedom.  Thus, the more dangerous liberals use race and class under the guise of equality to sharpen the distinctions among us.  Divided, confused, and resentful, they make us their pawns to achieving their goal of absolute and unquestioned power.  But, if we return to my earlier point, in order have true equality in this country, we must arrive at a system whereby we are all treated the same under the law and in the marketplace irrespective of the color of one’s skin or the coins in one’s pocket.  We have seen the so-called equality of welfare, discrimination, and dependency created by the liberal acts of the federal government.  Is this legislated equality the kind of equality you desire?