Roger Morris’ Richard Milhous Nixon 16

I have two items for my blog post today on Roger Morris’ Richard Milhous Nixon: The Rise of the American Politician.  The context is Richard Nixon’s acrimonious campaign for the U.S. Senate against Democrat Helen Gahagan Douglas.

1.  On page 603, we read the following:

“In late October, along with the ads and circulars, came a stream of letters to the editor in various regions of the state, often so thoroughly prearranged that the text was accompanied by photos and capsule biographies of the writers.  Thus Mrs. Ruth Peters, secretary of the local Chamber of Commerce, typically wrote The Hemet News: ‘As for Helen Douglas I consider her a traitor for defending communists in the government, communists who have been ruthlessly murdering our helpless boys…[and] her campaign for the U.S. Senate [is] a personal threat to my security.’  Hearing a similar commentary on a Los Angeles radio station, the Douglases’ twelve-year-old daughter was in near hysteria as she greeted her mother one night: ‘Mummy, Mummy…they are saying terrible things about you!’  Soon after the letters began to appear, Douglas’s car was pelted with stones and her dress splattered with red ink at one appearance.  Now frightened, her aides insisted she travel with bodyguards through the closing days of the race.  In Visalia, in the heart of the Central Valley, she gave an impassioned speech, and a migrant worker came up to her afterward with tears in his eyes.  ‘They haven’t made you afraid, they haven’t made you afraid,’ he repeated, and she was mute with emotion.  Elsewhere in the Valley, vigilantes coerced farmers known to be Democratic supporters.  And, as in the small towns of the twelfth district for years earlier, local businessmen—-including one prominent vintner—-were threatened by the loss of vital bank loans if they backed Douglas.  ‘You wondered, is this a democratic election,’ Helen Douglas said to an interviewer years afterward, ‘or are we in a war, an undeclared war?’”

Morris presents the 1950 race as one between a progressive, Helen Gahagan Douglas, and a Republican candidate, Richard Nixon, who was receiving substantial support from wealthy special interests, and thus had more means and opportunities to get out his message.  Nixon, however, presented himself as the underdog who was standing up to certain special interests.  He liked to refer to the union support that Douglas received and the hecklers at his campaign rallies.  While many would portray Douglas as a victim of a whispering campaign that was saying that she was either a Communist or was soft on Communism, Nixon would claim that he himself was a victim of a whispering campaign, which was calling him a racist and an anti-Semite.  And Morris refers to Douglas campaign people turning over a Republican campaign car.

What I thought about as I read page 603 of Morris’ book was how much courage it would take to challenge the powers that be.  There are people who have thought that I had that sort of courage, but, believe me, I don’t.  When I spoke up, there were often people around me who would back me up.  And, even when there weren’t, I wasn’t in any danger for speaking my mind.  It would be so easy to go with the flow, to appease the powers that be and to advance their interests.  I scratch your back, you scratch mine!  But there are politicians who courageously stood up for what they believed was the good of the people, against those who could hurt them.

Nixon himself probably believed that he was this sort of politician, one who courageously stood up for what he believed was right, at risk to himself.  I doubt that he saw himself as one who was pandering to the highest bidder.  In his eyes (or so he tells us), he laid his career on the line on the notion that Alger Hiss was a Communist spy and needed to be exposed.  Irwin Gellman in The Contender talks about how Nixon as Congressman surprised people by opposing a dam that he thought would waste money, even though there were prominent interests that wanted that dam.  (Morris narrates that Nixon in his 1946 campaign talked out of both sides of his mouth when it came to the dam, basing his stance on his audience at the moment.)  Nixon himself says that a leader should not simply follow public opinion but should seek to shape public opinion.  Nixon may have had his share of courage, but my impression is that Douglas was swimming upstream a lot more than he was, since he had wealthy special interests in his corner.

I’ve been reading I Chronicles lately.  In I Chronicles 11, we read of David’s mighty men.  These were brave men, some of whom single-handedly killed vast numbers of Israel’s enemies.  I Chronicles 11 can easily encourage some of us to be courageous because the courage of these mighty men worked out well for them: they courageously stepped forward, they fought, and they won.  But that’s not a guarantee in life.  What if you courageously step forward, and you lose?  I think of Helen Douglas, or that lady who saved children during the Holocaust, and she would be in a wheelchair because of what Nazis did to her.  This lady probably still thought that her act of courage was worth it, whatever the cost to herself, for she did good.  But, unfortunately and yet understandably, many choose to go with the flow, to travel the path of least resistance.

2.  On page 620, we read the following:

“Beyond the candidates and their fate, history in a larger sense would mock the great causes of 1950.  It was not the greedy Republican landowners who undid Helen Douglas’s cherished 160-acre limitation in the Central Valley but rather a Democratic Bureau of Reclamation that soon found a way around the controversy to protect and preserve its own bureaucratic position.  If a corporation had ten or even a hundred shareholders, it would be entitled to federal irrigation for 160 acres per shareholder, the bureau soon ruled.  And an owner could legally deed out 320-acre parcels to various married relatives and children.  It might not be ‘spiritual compliance,’ the bureau chief would tell Congress, ‘but technical compliance was good enough.’  Neither Sheridan Downey not Helen Douglas, it turned out, had quite understood what or who really ruled the Valley.”

I can’t say that I understand everything that this paragraph is saying, but let me say what I do understand.  The issue with the 160-acre limitation was that Douglas supported a law limiting state-funded irrigation to farms that only had 160 acres or less, and the rationale for her position was that she wanted the small farmers to have a shot in a state where big agribusiness dominated.  Sheridan Downey was the Democratic Senator of California prior to Richard Nixon, and Douglas did not care for him because she thought that he was entrenched with wealthy special interests.  Downey opposed the 160-acre limitation, and he wrote a book (or actually it was ghostwritten for him, according to Morris), They Would Rule the Valley, which said that the Bureau of Reclamation was trying to institute totalitarian rule over the Valley, thereby destroying the free economy.  Nixon would commend Downey on account of this book.

It is hard to tell from the paragraph who exactly won in this dispute.  It looks like neither did.  But the dispute was resolved, Morris appears to narrate, not through some grand appeal to reform, nor through opposition to federal intervention, but rather through some bureaucrats stepping in and devising a technical solution.  That’s actually pretty profound, in my opinion.  I can admire those who courageously step forward and make waves, challenging the special interests, knowing that they may face peril on account of this.  It’s good to have idealists because, otherwise, we have business as usual, which tends to privilege those with power, to the disadvantage of those whose wealth, power, and influence are not as large.  But, sometimes, it’s not the grand idealist who solves the problems, but someone operating behind the scenes in a low-key manner.  There are people who are reformers, but they’re not out there on the street-corners, offending the rich and powerful.

Jerry Voorhis: The Strange Case of Richard Milhous Nixon 4

In my post today on Jerry Voorhis’ critical look at the Nixon Administration, The Strange Case of Richard Milhous Nixon (copyright 1972, 1973), I’ll focus on Voorhis’ discussion of President Richard Nixon’s environmental policies.

My conservative brother has brought up Nixon’s environmental policies when he has had political discussions with myself and my mother (who leans more to the left).  One of his arguments is that the Republican Party is not anti-environment because there have been significant environmental accomplishments during Republican Administrations: the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, etc.  I believe that there is more nuance to how Republicans address environmental issues than many leftists may tell us.  I wrote an article for the web-site Helium that talks about the positive things that President George W. Bush did for the environment (see here).  Moreover, conservative Barry Goldwater had environmentalist sentiments (see here).  At the same time, I would not be surprised if there have been times when Republicans have sought to relax environmental regulations, seeing them as a hindrance to free-enterprise and a clamp on the economy.

Voorhis acknowledges that some of President Nixon’s pro-environment policies have been unprecedented, in terms of their scale and spending.  And yet, Voorhis finds fault with Nixon’s approach to the environment.  Voorhis contends that Nixon’s spending on his environmental policies is not enough, and that Nixon’s impounds funds rather than spending what Congress has appropriated.  While Voorhis praises Nixon’s appointment of Indiana Republican William D. Ruckelshaus to head the EPA, an appointment that garnered praise from environmentalists, Voorhis narrates that Nixon, the Secretary of Commerce, and the head of the Office of Management of Budget have stood in Ruckelshaus’ way and have pressured the EPA to water down its regulations.  This, Voorhis states, is for the benefit of Nixon’s industrial campaign contributors.

According to Voorhis, Nixon has supported atomic energy, which is unclean and potentially dangerous; he has pressured Congress to support the environmentally-harmful supersonic air transport plane; he supported a nuclear blast on an Alaskan island that signaled a new weapon for the U.S., when the Council on Environmental Quality advised against it; and he proposed abolishing a 7 percent tax on the automobile, which is a great polluter.  Meanwhile, Nixon has failed to provide substantial support for clean energy, such as thermal and hydroelectric power, which are making gains in other countries (Voorhis says that Mexico is taking advantage of thermal power, as France harnesses the tides).  Nixon has proposed that federal anti-pollution standards not apply to the states if they come up with their own standards, which (according to Voorhis) “was an open invitation to the states to compete against one another for location of industries by deliberately setting their standards low” (pages 100-101).  Voorhis also states that Nixon has used environmental enforcement as a tool against political opponents, which explains the disproportionate prosecution of incidents in Maine, Edmund Muskie’s state.

Voorhis argues that the Democratic Congress has come up with noteworthy environmental legislation.  My impression is that this observation may overlap with a claim that Voorhis likes to make (or at least imply) elsewhere in his book: that Nixon is not principled in his stances on issues that are of concern to liberals (i.e., welfare, the environment), for Nixon’s main agenda is to take credit for advancements, all to serve his own political well-being, whether he fully deserves that credit or not.

It’s interesting that some of the issues that Voorhis raises are still issues today, such as alternative energy.  Voorhis does not address climate change or the greenhouse effect, however, perhaps because those were not major topics of discussion back then.  When Voorhis does say that carbon from automobiles is a problem, the reason that he gives is that CO2 weakens the heart and makes people susceptible to diseases.  For some reason, though, Voorhis criticizes air conditioners (page 97), which since the 1990′s have been blamed (at least in part) for the hole in the ozone layer.  But why did Voorhis, in his time and context, believe that air conditioners were damaging to the environment?

Published in: on April 12, 2013 at 11:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Clear and Present Dangers 6: Government Makes Matters Worse

In my latest reading of Clear and Present Dangers: A Conservative View of American Government (copyright 1975), M. Stanton Evans argues essentially that government intervention makes problems worse.  According to Evans, increasing the minimum wage discourages businesses from hiring African-American teenagers, thereby depriving them of opportunities to develop job skills.  Government mortgage insurance, super-highways, and zoning have encouraged the construction of homes in the suburbs rather than the inner-cities.  Government subsidies for part of the mortgages of lower-income people have inhibited the lower-income from being able to negotiate a lower price for their home.  Urban renewal, an attempt by the government to refurbish cities, has resulted in the demolition of poor people’s homes, as people with higher incomes move into the area.  Labor and other regulations have resulted in railroads that sit idle, and regulations have encouraged higher prices for airlines while inhibiting potential competitors from entering the airline and taxi market.

Is Evans, therefore, for no government intervention?  There are times when he seems to lean in that direction, as when he says that the marketplace can handle the housing issue and questions Congress setting wages.  At other times, however, he appears to be open to some government intervention.  For example, he says that the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) should be eliminated and safety functions should be transmitted to the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA), which indicates that he is for safety regulation, on some level.  And Evans also seems open to the idea of exempting teenagers from the minimum wage, while still allowing others to receive it.  This idea may have its strengths, but my concern is that such a policy would encourage businesses to hire teenagers rather than people offering to work a minimum-wage job to support their families, since teenagers would be cheaper to employ.

I don’t know a great deal about housing and transportation, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there were legitimacy to many of Evans’ arguments, for government becoming involved in the economy can easily privilege businesses that are able to work the system.  I’d be hesitant to go the laissez-faire route, though, for I doubt that the private marketplace would solve all problems.  In my opinion, even if government intervention made some problems worse in certain respects, the problems were around before the government interfered, which was why the government interfered in the first place.

But I am open to the government reforming how it intervenes.  I once had an economics teacher who was a moderate rather than right-wing, and he said in class that deregulation of the airline industry worked (and this particular deregulation occurred during the Presidency of Jimmy Carter), whereas it did not work in a number of other fields.  Actually, according to this article, under the 1978 Airline Deregulation Act, “The Civil Aeronautics Board’s powers of regulation were phased out, eventually allowing passengers to be exposed to market forces in the airline industry”, but “The Act…did not remove or diminish the regulatory powers of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) over all aspects of air safety.”  That’s what M. Stanton Evans proposed in 1975!

Clear and Present Dangers 3: Regulations

For my write-up today on Clear and Present Dangers: A Conservative View of America’s Government (copyright 1975), I’ll use as my starting-point something that M. Stanton Evans says on page 76, in a footnote:

“A principal horror story in this department has been written by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration—-OSHA for short.  This agency has been given sweeping powers to fine businesses and in some cases shut them down for every kind of alleged violation concerning toilet seats, guard rails, stairways, ladders, garbage cans, window shades, doorways, furnaces, air conditioners, and countless other items.  Employers are subject to surprise visits by compliance officers and may be heavily fined for alleged violations by their employe[e]s, even if these violations are concededly beyond the power of the employer to control.  In pursuit of these objections, OSHA one day in 1971 published 375,000 words of rules and regulations in the Federal Register—-laws that small businesses all over America, most of whom have never heard of the Register, are supposed to know and adhere to on pain of instant punishment.”

I’ve heard and read similar stories.  I myself support the existence of government regulations, for I think that there is a temptation among businesses to cut corners for financial gain.  Yes, employers probably recognize that an unsafe business environment could result in financial harm for the business, since a person getting injured on the job would cost the business time and money in terms of retraining the injured worker’s replacement as well as workman’s comp.  That’s why there are libertarians who believe that regulation is not necessary: they think that businesses will police themselves because the businesses have a financial motive (and other motives, such as public relations) to keep their work-environments safe.  But is that realization enough to keep businesses on the straight and narrow?  There are still businesses that try to cut corners, and this is so even though there are regulations.  Why do they do so?  Perhaps it’s because they want the short-term financial gains that come from disregarding regulations, and they don’t take seriously the possibility that an accident can occur.

But, although I believe that government regulations are necessary, I wonder if there can be a way to reform them.  If, say, a toilet seat works fine for a business and has resulted in no injuries, yet it does not accord perfectly with OSHA regulations, is it really necessary to fine that business?  And is there a way to educate small businesses about regulations?

Flexibility may have downsides, though.  After all, it’s probably easier for OSHA to define what constitutes a safe toilet seat, than it is for OSHA to tolerate a number of conceptions of what constitutes a safe toilet seat.  My hunch is that the former is more easily enforceable.  But is there a way to fashion regulations that are not as oppressive?

(UPDATE: On my blogger blog, my friend Davey left informative links to web sites that defend OSHA or stipulate what certain OSHA regulations actually are: see here and here.)


Published in: on December 26, 2012 at 11:00 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,

Robert Reich’s I’ll Be Short 4: At What Price?

I finished Robert Reich’s I’ll Be Short: Essentials for a Decent Working Society.  Reich had a profound chapter on feminism, as he talked about his wife being denied tenure, how women are not always listened to in male-dominated sayings, ways that he believes that men and women approach issues differently, and the financial struggles of many women in America today.  I especially appreciated how Reich presented himself as growing in his sensitivity to women’s issues.

What I’d like to highlight, however, is something that Reich says on page 114:

“Every city or town, every state, every region—-indeed, every nation—-really has two choices about how to attract global capital.  One choice is to become so inexpensive that global capital is lured by the low cost of doing business: Wages are rock bottom.  Workers get no health or retirement benefits.  Safety regulations don’t exist or are barely enforced.  Companies are free to pollute.  Taxes are waived.  This low-cost strategy may indeed attract global capital and create a lot of jobs.  But they’ll be lousy jobs.  Families will be condemned to a low standard of living.  The environment will be degraded.  And the entire economy will be precarious because there will always be somewhere else on the globe where the costs are even lower…The other choice is to lure global capital by becoming so productive that even though wages may be high, benefits generous, and regulations costly, capital is eager to come because workers are able to produce more and better products.  They can identify and solve new problems, create ever more efficient ways of doing things, and respond to customer needs more quickly and deftly.”

In essence, I agree with Reich on this.  Granted, there may be more than these two options.  For example, there may be other ways to get a cleaner environment than costly and onerous regulations.  And yet, in my opinion, Reich is right that there is a push to dramatically limit wages and benefits for a number of workers because of a belief that doing so would make businesses more competitive.  Yes, it could make them more competitive, but at what price?  A lower standard of living for many American families?  I can see Reich’s point that there has to be another way to make our country competitive, and education may be the way to go.

But what does that entail?  That everyone has to major in science or business rather than the humanities?  That may be good for the economy, but it’s not good for our soul—-since we should know about history and literature.  Perhaps there could be classes that would help humanities majors to apply the same critical-thinking and reasoning skills that they use in their own areas of study to other fields, such as business.

Arianna Huffington’s Third World America 5

My latest reading of Arianna Huffington’s Third World America: How Our Politicians Are Abandoning the Middle Class and Betraying the American Dream was rather discouraging, for it concerned the influence of special interests on the government.

According to Arianna, while the media may portray debates over legislation as dramatic conflicts over the public good, the sad fact is that, if legislation made it far enough to be debated, the lobbyists had their hands in it beforehand, making sure that there were enough loopholes for them to get by with what they do.  Moreover, Arianna discusses how the monetary penalties on unsafe mines and on certain polluters are far from tough, for they are not much money, in light of what the mines and the polluters make.  The problem, for Arianna, is not that there aren’t enough regulatory bureaucrats, but rather that the actual oversight is not adequate.  Arianna also talks about the chummy relationship between the government and special interests, as well as the revolving door between the government and lobbies.  And, sad to say, both Democrats and Republicans are at fault, according to Arianna.

Arianna’s discussion reminded me of something that I read not long ago.  I was watching the first Presidential debate in 1996 between Bill Clinton and Bob Dole, and both were touting the Kennedy-Kassebaum law as a significant step in reforming health care.  The law essentially allowed people to keep their health insurance if they lost or changed jobs, and it also addressed the issue of pre-existing conditions.  I wondered what happened to Kennedy-Kassebaum, for people still lose their health insurance when they lose or change their jobs, and how insurance companies treat people with pre-existing conditions was an issue even after Kennedy-Kassebaum.  According to Mike Lux’s post on OpenLeft, the law had loopholes.  Lux argues that, if the health insurance industry accepts a certain law, then that’s a fairly reliable indication that the law will not bring about reform.  True reform would make the insurance companies kick and scream! 

So is there any hope?  Some would say that we should not expect much out of this carnal political system but should wait for Jesus to come back and set things right.  But there are countries with health care systems that work, systems that are (in my opinion) more humanitarian that what the U.S. has.  Could we move towards their kind of system?  I don’t know.  The special interests are strong in the United States.  Moreover, some of these other countries got the system that they have now by necessity—-Howard Dean says that Great Britain, for example, decided to have government-funded health care in the aftermath of World War II, as people needed to be treated, and it stuck with that system ever since.  We don’t have that history, however.  Rather, in our history, Harry Truman proposed national health insurance, and it was killed.  But there have been some glimmers of hope, such as Medicare, which emerged because private health insurance companies were not sufficiently taking care of the elderly (see here).

Published in: on September 20, 2012 at 4:00 pm  Comments (1)  

Reactions to the First Night of the Republican National Convention

I just watched the first night of the Republican National Convention.  Here are some of my reactions.

1.  I can only speak for myself personally, but I thought that the Convention made quite an impression when it comes to policy.  Seeing that $15 trillion national debt on the debt-counter certainly was scary—-but I wish that the speakers had illustrated how the national debt could concretely impact Americans in a negative way.  I also thought that the speakers did a fairly decent job in explaining how President Obama’s taxes and regulations discourage job creation, as some appealed to the testimonies of entrepreneurs; moreover, a New Hampshire small businessman spoke.  Nikki Haley’s speech was pretty good, especially when she talked about how the National Labor Relations Board’s lawsuit against Boeing was inhibiting the creation of thousands of new jobs in South Carolina.  I had to read the speech online (see here), though, because I saw pundits instead of Nikki Haley as I flipped through the channels.

I did some online research to see where the Republican rhetoric was right and wrong.  A couple of people claimed that Republican-run states were better in job creation than Democratic-run ones, but this article argues that reality is more complex than that: While there are a number of states with Republican governors that have unemployment rates below the national average, there are also a number of states with Republican governors that have unemployment rates above the national average.  Moreover, according to the article, Nevada “has the second lowest tax burden in the country but tops the national unemployment list with a rate of 11.6%.”  And, while Republican John Kasich at the convention touted his record as governor of Ohio, detractors argue that jobs were being created in Ohio near the end of his Democratic predecessor’s term, that city Democratic mayors (and even President Obama) deserve some credit for Ohio’s economic upswing, and that Kasich shifted the tax burden from the state to the local governments (see here).

On regulations, the Republicans may have a point, for even an article on the Huffington Post contends that there is a sentiment among a number of small businesspeople that government regulations are problematic (see here).  I don’t want to compromise environmental and worker safety, but I think that steps should be taken to reduce red tape and perhaps streamline any bureaucracy that inhibits businesses from getting started.

I was trying to find some balanced information on the national debt, and some articles were better than others.  The national debt has indeed increased by about $5 trillion since Obama took office.  Why?  Some blame the stimulus, but that’s not entirely at fault because it was only $700 billion (approximately).  Some blamed the Bush tax cuts, the wars, and the prescription drug benefit, but then others countered that we had these things during George W. Bush’s Presidency, and the national debt did not increase as rapidly as it has under President Obama.  Probably the answer that made most sense to me is that the economy has been bad, and that means that the government’s revenue has not been adequate.  I’m not confident that the Republicans would ameliorate the problem of the national debt, though.  For one, the Republicans were powerful in Congress while the debt was going up, so how could they escape at least some of the blame for the growing national debt?  Second, it has been argued that the tax cuts proposed by Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan could exasperate the deficit.  But, on the other hand, does raising taxes on corporations really solve the problem, especially when the corporations could then move to another country to avoid the taxes?

Regarding Nikki Haley’s comments on Boeing, the National Labor Relations Board thought that Boeing was locating from Washington to South Carolina (which, if I’m not mistaken, is a right-to-work state) to punish a union in Washington.  This is a hard issue, in my opinion.  On the one hand, I think unions are good because they bring decent wages and benefits to workers, and I fear that workers are at a loss when a company can move to a right-to-work state and pay lower wages (or at least I’m assuming that wages are lower in right-to-work states).  On the other hand, South Carolina needs jobs.

2.  I wasn’t overly impressed by Ann Romney’s speech.  I thought that it was unfocused and that Ann was rather giddy.  The speech had its moments, as when Ann talked about the struggles of working women, and a woman in the audience was weeping as she applauded.  Also, Ann can be quite powerful in interviews.  But I did not feel that I knew Mitt Romney better after hearing Ann’s speech, and that was supposed to be the speech’s goal.  Ann talked a little about Mitt’s willingness to help people, but I thought that Elizabeth Dole in 1996 did a much better job in describing her husband’s reticent beneficence.  Ann perhaps should have told more stories.

Regarding Chris Christie’s speech, he called for sacrifice, and that somewhat coincided with his “speak the truth even when it’s hard” reputation.  But, as some of my more liberal acquaintances have noted, Christie acknowledged that his own father benefited from the G.I. Bill and that his grandmother took three buses (which I assume is public transportation) to work, and these are government services.  Moreover, my friends have said that Christie called for sacrifice and yet is not for the rich or corporations sharing in that sacrifice. 

“It’s On the Role of Government”

Rachel Held Evans has posted her “Ask a Christian Progressive” post, which features Progressive Tim King, of Sojourners.  I especially appreciated Tim’s response to the question “What myth about progressives would you like to debunk?”  He says:

“It’s on the role of government. Now, I believe that government can and should play a positive, active and limited role in society. But, sometimes I get the impression that others think I’m so in love with government that I spend my free time standing around in long lines at the Department of Motor Vehicles or figuring out ways to pay more taxes.

“For example, I think it is absolutely essential that the government play an active role in making sure our food is safe. But, that doesn’t mean there aren’t also problems with the regulatory system. Here’s a story about a local farm that was hosting a ‘farm to fork’ dinner when a state health inspector came by and shut the whole thing down for a series of ridiculous reasons.

“As someone who has grown up on a farm, situations like that really frustrate me. Why are they picking on the little guy? Especially when environmentally detrimental practices of large agri-business aren’t reigned in.

“Our current regulatory system is weighted to benefit big businesses that have the resources and the staff to figure it all out and it leaves a lot of small businesses with unnecessary extra costs.”

I agree with Tim.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to me that Republicans do enough to roll back that sort of regulation, as much as they like to blab on about how regulations kill jobs.  When it comes to deregulating big banks that cause financial crises, sure, they’re willing to do that (as when they joined Bill Clinton and many Democrats in tearing down Glass-Steagall).  But, even when the Republicans are in power, I still hear stories about regulations stifling and hindering innovation among the middle class.  Do the Republicans do anything about that?

Published in: on March 9, 2012 at 9:59 pm  Comments (1)  
Tags: , , , , ,

Tertullian the (Semi-)Arian?

Johannes Quasten, Patrology, vol. II: The Ante-Nicene Literature After Irenaeus (Westminster: Christian Classics, 1990) 326-327.

…Tertullian could not shake off entirely the influence of subordinationism. The old distinction between the Logos endiathetos and the Logos prophorikos, the Word internal or immanent in God and the Word emitted or uttered by God…made him regard the divine generation as taking place gradually. Although Wisdom and Word are identical names for the second person in the Trinity, Tertullian distinguishes between a prior birth as Wisdom before the creation, and a nativitas perfecta at the moment of creation, when the Logos was sent forth and Wisdom became the Word: ‘Hence it was then that the Word itself received its manifestation and its completion, namely sound and voice, when God said: Let there be light. This is the perfect birth of the Word, when it proceeds from God. It was first produced by Him for thought under the name of Wisdom, The Lord established me as the beginning of his ways (Prov. 8, 22). Then he is generated for action: When he made the heavens, I was near Him (Prov. 8, 27). Consequently, making the one of whom He is the Son to be His Father by his procession, He became the first-born, as generated before all, as only Son, as solely generated by God’ (Adv. Prax. 7). Thus the Son as such is not eternal (Hermog. 3 EP 321)…The Father is the whole substance…while the Son is only an outflow and a portion of the whole[,] as He Himself professes, Because my Father is greater than I (John 14, 28). The analogies by which Tertullian tries to explain the Godhead also indicate his subordinationist tendencies, especially when he states that the Son goes out from the Father as the beam from the sun…(Adv. Prax. 8 ANF).

Here’s how I read Quasten’s summary of Tertullian (ca.160 – ca.220 C.E.), and I welcome correction from those who are more familiar with Tertullian’s writings:

Before the creation of the world, Wisdom was born within God. But Wisdom became a “Word” (Greek, “logos”) when God said “Let there be light” (Genesis 1:3). This Word was generated from God at that point. He shared the same substance with God, and yet (in some sense) he was also a separate entity. The Word was like a ray extending from the sun, which represents God in Tertullian’s analogy. This is the Word who later became Jesus Christ. For Tertullian (as I understand him), the Word has been God since his generation, yet he is still inferior to God the Father.

Here are some thoughts:

1. Is Tertullian saying that the Word had an origin at a specific point in time? In the fourth century C.E., Arius claimed that the Word was a created being, and his slogan was “There was a time when the Word was not.” The church rejected his position as heretical, affirming instead that the Word was begotten, not made, and proceeded from the Father for all eternity. My understanding is that Arius did not believe that the Father and the Son shared the same substance, so he and Tertullian would disagree on that point. Unlike Arius (perhaps), Tertullian viewed the Word as God, for Tertullian was the first to use the term “trinitas,” plus he affirmed that Jesus Christ was both divine and human in his incarnation. But would Arius and Tertullian agree that “There was a time when the Word was not”?

2. When I was at DePauw University, I struggled with my faith, as undergraduates are expected to do, I guess. During that time, I had good conversations with my supervisor at a nursing home, where I did community service to receive a scholarship. She was an evangelical Christian who attended a mainline Protestant church. I once asked her how she viewed Genesis 1, having in my mind the theory of evolution. Her response was, “In light of John 1.”

Her point was that the creative “word” that God spoke in Genesis 1 was the Word of John 1 who became Jesus Christ. I often wondered about this. I knew that my supervisor was not an Arian, but didn’t the word of Genesis 1 have an origin? One moment, God was not speaking. The next moment, he said “Let there be light.” For Tertullian (if I am understanding him correctly), the Word came to exist as the Word once God said “Let there be light.” (Before then, he was wisdom inside of God.)

This logic may fall apart when we remember that God said a lot of other words after that point. Was God generating a new Logos-being each time he spoke? When God said “Let there be a firmament” et al., was God begetting Logos number 2? That may be why Garner Ted Armstrong translates “logos” in John 1:1 as “spokesman,” meaning that the Logos spoke for God at creation and was the one who said “Let there be light,” and God’s other words after that point.

3. In my post, Good Nimrod, Justin the Arian?, Projecting, I struggle with Proverbs 8:22-31, which states that God created or established wisdom at the beginning of his works. Arius supposedly alluded to this passage to argue that the Logos was a created being, since Arius equated the “wisdom” who was a “master worker” with God at creation with the Logos of John 1. I state in my post:

“What was God like before he made wisdom? Was he unwise? Or maybe Proverbs is saying that wisdom was an emanation from God, who already is wise. The rabbis [in Genesis Rabbah 1:1] treat wisdom as God’s plan for the universe: when an architect designs a house, he draws up a plan, and that’s what wisdom was for God. God was already wise when he drew up the plan, but the plan (wisdom) was a concrete expression of God’s intended order for the universe.”

The rabbis equated wisdom, God’s blueprint for the universe, with the Torah. Tertullian and other Christians, however, identify it as the Word who became Jesus Christ. I still wonder what the ramifications of that are. Was the Logos an expression of the order that came to underlie the universe? We know there are biblical passages (John 1; Colossians 1; Hebrews 1) affirming that Jesus was the creator of the heavens and the earth. Maybe Tertullian would say that God came up with a blueprint inside of himself for the universe, then God begot that blueprint as a divine being, the Word. The Word, an embodiment of the blueprint, then proceeded to create everything according to the rationality that was inside of him.

But would the Word always have that blueprint inside of him? Would John say that? A professor of mine once said that Jesus didn’t know calculus when he was a human being, so who knows?!

Published in: on July 2, 2009 at 12:49 am  Comments (7)  

It’s My Party Too, by Christine Todd Whitman

Last night, I finished Christine Todd Whitman’s It’s My Party Too: The Battle for the Heart of the GOP and the Future of America (New York: Penguin, 2005).

I liked Christine Todd Whitman ever since she gave the Republican response to President Clinton’s 1995 State of the Union address. She was the governor of New Jersey at the time, and she did a much better job than Bobby Jindal in 2009! Although I’d be hesitant to vote for her because she is pro-choice, I admire her intelligence, her warmth, and her clear and bold articulation of Republican principles.

The thesis of her book is that the Republican Party is too divisive because of its extreme conservatism: on abortion, guns, regulation, etc. Here are some comments on parts of her book:

1. I enjoyed her discussion of her family background. Her dad was an old-style conservative who hated Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, and her mom was more of a Rockefeller Republican, who thought the government should have a social conscience. Actually, both of her parents knew Nelson Rockefeller, since they were heavily connected in the Republican Party. And, sure enough, her dad didn’t like him on a personal level, whereas her mom did. But the point of Christine’s discussion here is that Republicans should be united regardless of their differences, since they all need one another. Before Lee Atwater popularized the phrase “big tent,” her father likened the diversity of the Republican Party to a big umbrella, which has one center but many rungs. Christine doesn’t understand those who place conservatism ahead of the Republican Party, for she thinks all Republicans should all be united behind their party and the principle of less government (the center of the umbrella).

2. Christine herself was a Rockefeller Republican, and she traces a lot of the Republican Party’s problems to Barry Goldwater’s 1964 campaign for President, which brought a lot of rude right-wing extremists into the party. She thought his carping apocalypticism was a marked contrast to Nelson Rockefeller’s sunny disposition. Eventually, Goldwater kind of grew on her, since she came to like his 1964 platform of less government better than what the religious right had to offer (e.g., anti-abortion, anti-homosexuality, etc.). Plus, she found him to be a charming guy when she met him later in life. From what Goldwater says in his autobiography, With No Apologies, I doubt he and his supporters were the only rude ones in 1964, since Rockefeller made some pretty unfounded accusations! But I enjoyed Christine’s tour through Republican history.

3. My impression is that Christine believes the GOP should drop its pro-life stance. Ironically, she cites a 2005 Gallup Poll affirming that 55 percent believe abortion “should be legal only under certain circumstances,” and 19 percent “believe it should be illegal in all circumstances” (76-77). The American public is roughly pro-life, so why does she believe abortion is a losing issue for the Republicans, especially when she thinks the GOP should base its global warming stance on polls (194)?

4. Interestingly, I found that Christine could be pretty pragmatic on the abortion issue. For example, as governor of New Jersey, she supported a ban on partial-birth abortion with an exception for the life and physical health of the mother. The part about “physical health” is important, since pro-lifers argue that a health exception can encompass just about anything and render the ban meaningless: a mother can abort her baby because she’d feel depressed giving birth, for example. I wouldn’t support a general exception for “health” on this basis, but a physical health exception strikes me as reasonable, since I wouldn’t want a woman to be paralyzed for the rest of her life on account of childbirth. According to Christine, Pat Robertson actually agrees with her on this! But the pro-life community in her state were unwilling to compromise, since they wanted either an absolute ban, or nothing at all. The result was that they got nothing, and partial-birth abortion continued in their state. But they could still exploit the issue for political purposes, which (according to Christine) was their real interest in the first place.

5. Christine does an excellent job detailing the Republicans’ positive accomplishments on race and the environment. Although she criticizes George W. Bush for reversing his plan to reduce carbon emissions, she presents his environmental record as positive and effective, better than that of his predecessors. She also refutes environmental critics who claimed she wanted to add arsenic to drinking water when she was head of the EPA. Overall, I appreciated her balanced approach to the environment, as she steered a middle ground between conservatives who oppose regulation and liberals who grade environmental records by how much the government is spending and regulating. For her, we should evaluate environmental records according to whether or not the air and water are cleaner, not by how many government bureaucrats there are. (Imagine that!) She also states that businesses should be allowed to meet environmental standards using any means that they see fit, provided they actually meet them. According to Christine, this kind of flexible approach worked in New Jersey when she was governor.

6. I enjoyed her criticism of Democratic Senator Bill Bradley. When she worked in the Ford Administration under Donald Rumsfeld, Bradley came to intern there, and he asked her to bring him some coffee when they first met. She bit her lip and politely told him where the coffee was so he could get it himself. She also thought he was a condescending jerk years later, when she ran against him for his U.S. Senate seat. Everyone thought he was unbeatable, so even the Republican National Committee didn’t help Christine’s campaign financially. But she shocked everyone when she came close to beating him.

While she portrays Bradley as a sexist, her picture of Donald Rumsfeld is different. When she was at a meeting and someone cussed, another person rebuked him for being so crass in front of a lady. Rumsfeld then said, “Oh, don’t worry about Christine. She’s one of the guys!”

7. Her discussion of women and family was interesting. She said that, when she was on the county board of freeholders, she told her colleagues she’d have to miss a meeting to attend her daughter’s soccer game. While they were initially judgmental, her act encouraged them to spend more time with their own families. All it takes is one trend-setter!

8. Christine also compares how women govern as opposed to how men govern. According to her, men tend to compete and obsess over who gets the credit, whereas women cooperate to accomplish the tasks at hand. Maybe she’s right, or maybe her picture is idealized. But maybe men should imitate her depiction of women by working together.

9. I liked her discussion of her female support network in the Bush Administration, which included Interior Secretary Gail Norton. I appreciated her giving us a glance of Gail’s human side, especially since she was so demonized by the left!

I expected this book to be a critique of pro-life conservatives, but it’s much more than that. There’s autobiography, wisdom, apologetics for the Bush Administration, reflective critiques of the Bush record, and history, all rolled up into one. It’s a good book!

Published in: on April 6, 2009 at 9:56 pm  Leave a Comment  

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 114 other followers