Friday, November 25, 2011

Why Civilizations Die

How Civilizations Die is perhaps the most important book I've read this year. It changed my mind about an important issue in American national security on which I thought I would never be moved. More about this later.

Mr. Goldman writes under the nom de plume "Spengler" after Oswald Spengler, the German author of the 1917 book The Decline of the West, an influential foundation for the social cycle theory. The book is structured around his italicized "Spengler's Universal Laws" sprinkled throughout the text which serve as something like thematic headings, as for instance:
Spengler's Universal Law #1--a man or a nation at the brink of death does not have a 'rational self-interest.'
It's also broken into three parts, one, The Decline of the East, two, Theopolitics, and three, Why it won't be a post-American World.

In part one, The Decline of the East, he makes the startling assertion (well documented by UN demographic data and other sources) that many predominantly Muslim countries, among them Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Turkey, and Iran, are experiencing a decline in birthrate with a rapidity never seen before in human history such that they are heading, perhaps within our lifetimes, for economic collapse and eventually their extinction as nations. Consider this astonishing and counter-intuitive claim: Iran has become one of the least religious countries in the world. His supporting data is that on any given Friday in Iran only a little over 1% of the Iranian population attend a Mosque for prayer, less than church attendance in the most secularized post-Christian nation in Europe. I had read about the death-spiral decline in birthrate in Europe and Japan in Mark Steyn's America Alone and the demographic time bomb in China with the massive imbalance between men and women created as a product of their "one child" policy, but everything I had read or seen about the Middle East seemed to indicate their birthrates were high and that Muslim births were such in European countries that they threatened to "take over" many of those countries in a few decades. So it was a shock to read Mr. Goldman's case for the "closing of the Muslim womb" as he put it.

In part two, Theopolitics, he makes the case that these birthrate declines are nothing new, but have in fact been repeated many times in history. Indeed in the second chapter of part two he chronicles 3 great extinctions in history: 1, the Mycenae (prehistoric Greek), the Hittite, and the Egyptian empires; 2, the Hellenistic empire (historical Greece); and 3, the Roman empire. But more importantly he gives reasons why such die-offs occur. Consider this short example, an account by Aristotle of the defeat of Sparta by a second-rate Greek power:
Sparta once had 10,000 citizens, but by the middle of the 4th century B.C., Aristotle reports, the number had shrunk to only 1,000. …It is the first report in history of depopulation due to a reluctance to raise children. They concentrated wealth in the hands of an ever-narrower oligarchy, which raised fewer children the better to concentrate wealth in family hands.

Earlier in the book he explains that when a society or culture realizes it is doomed it responds in one of 3 ways: 1, it commits suicide, 2, it quits having children (historically by abortion or infanticide) and whiles away the remaining time in hedonism, and 3, it fights to the death to take as many as it can to the grave with them. The suicide response can be seen contemporarily in pre-industrial tribal cultures who are exposed to Western culture, such as New Guinea and Amazonian tribes whose youth, after seeing the wealth and opulence of the West and realizing they will never obtain this, commit suicide at an appalling rate. The childless hedonism we see in the post-Christian European countries and in Japan. But the 3rd alternative is the threat of Muslim Jihadism.

The heart of the book for me is found in the final part where he explains Augustine's rejection of Cicero's definition of society as a community of interests--a definition with economics at its core--to a people bound together by a common agreement as the the objects of their love. So, in short, civilizations die because they love the wrong things. In Theopolitical terms, this means they love a god who fails:
Pagans worship their own image in the person of gods who are like them, only better. Pagan faith is everywhere and always fragile, according to Spengler's Universal Law #15: When we worship ourselves, eventually we become the god that failed. The function of pagan gods in not to redeem us from death, but to bring us success. Pagan gods do not love men and women, although they may occasionally lust after them. Absent success, pagan societies lose their faith; the religion of the ancient world is a carnival-parade of new gods introduced by winners to replace the failed gods of the losers, as defeated tribes were absorbed into their conquerors. …Athens could not be assimilated; it could only perish of disappointment and disgust. Loss of faith sooner or later sapped them of the will to live. As Sophocles wrote, under such conditions it is better to die, and better yet never to have been born.

In the last half of part 2 he makes the case that Europe actually abandoned Christianity in the 17th century:
Two rival versions of Christianity fought to the death in the Thirty Years' War: the Catholic concept of universal empire, and the obsession of the French that they, among all the nations of Christendom, were chosen by god as his proxy on earth. Both of these were religious passions, and thus the Thirty Years' Was was a religious war. But it was not the Catholic-Protestant war about which he have all been taught. It was a war between Christianity and neo-pagan national idolatry, and Christianity lost.
He credits Cardinal Richelieu as the master manipulator of the war, prolonging the horror, slaughter, and death by starvation for the express purpose of weakening all the European nations involved--including fellow Catholic Spain and Austria--so that France could rise to ascendancy over all of Europe and rein as God's proxy on earth. This is proven by the fact that he maneuvered to support the Protestant resisters after they had been defeated:
By 1635, Austria--at terrible cost--had crushed the Protestant resistance once again. But then Richelieu sent two hundred thousand troops into Germany to fight on the Protestant side. Spain responded with it own forces, and the second half of the Thirty Years' War turned into a war of attrition between Catholic Spain and France, fought mainly on German soil.

In the final section of the book Goldman makes the case that America will not go the way of Europe, Japan, and the Muslim Middle East because she loved the right right things, central among those is God. The first colonists were Christians who selected themselves from out of the paganized nationalism that had come to be called Christianity in the European nations in an effort to create a new society based on Biblical Christianity, the election of the individual through personal conversion, and adoption into God's spiritual commonwealth, Israel.
The Protestant radicals could flourish only by creating for themselves a new kind of country, on whose citizens would select themselves out of the world's nations. The European tribes, whom the Church had nurtured into nationhood, wanted to become the New Israel in their own tribal skin; the Protestant radicals sought rather to adopt individuals into a new chosen people in a new promised land. ...The Europeans were not content with adoption into Israel; they wanted to replace Israel. And they themselves became the god that failed. The Americans chose to build a City on the Hill that would select--in parallel to the Christian idea of conversion--individuals who wished to become part of it.
Europe, in loving their idolatry of nation descended into a kind of paganism, and that paganism, as all pagan gods do, failed. They have lost faith in their vision, and indeed in themselves, and they are dying--through indifference, concentration on frivolousness, and unwillingness to raise children.

This brings me to the crucial issue for which Goldman, through his brilliant arguments, has changed my mind: that of the nation-building efforts on the part of the United States and our battle against Islamic terrorism and its patronage states. Since the beginning, I've always rejected the argument that Iraq and Afghanistan were incapable of democracy. During the post World War II project in which the United States engaged in democratizing Germany and Japan, opponents had argued that they too were incapable of democracy, but men whose work and opinion I respected, such as Natan Sharansky and Fouad Ajami, pointed out that those projects had succeeded and there was no reason these would not succeed as well. Yet, the real question, from Goldman's perspective, is not whether they can become democracies, but whether they can adopt the American model of democracy, for as he says:
It seems pointless to argue whether the American political model is better or worse than any other. It's the world's only successful model.
Germany and Japan may have adopted a form of democracy and become peaceful allies, but they rejected the core of the American model:
America destroyed the German and Japanese delusions of racial superiority and their hopes of empire, and offered them instead a modest position in the world under the wing of American power. It appears that Germans and Japanese don't breed in captivity. Having lost their Christianity to nationalism, and lost their nationalism to losing, the Europeans do not appear to want to be much of anything…humiliated cultures turn sterile and pass out of memory.
The point is, they may have taken on democracy, but they are nevertheless doomed to self-extinction. And the same fate awaits the Islamic nations to which we have committed so much of American treasure.

Where Germany and Japan had worshiped a "god who failed" in the form nationalism and dreams of empire predicated on racial superiority, it is the character of the Islamic god which presents an insurmountable barrier to the American model:
In the American founding, the biblical concept of Covenant undergirds individual rights, for these are granted irrevocably to every member of society by a God who limits his own power as an act of grace…Muslim theology leads to a radically different concept, for an absolutely transcendent God leaves no room at all for the individual.

So what does Goldman advocate we do in dealing with these doomed states and the non-state jihadist entities, and our foreign policy overall? He starts off this way:
America should seek alliances with states that in some way approximate its own exceptional character--in other words, that love what we love--employing our good offices to help them succeed after our fashion. And we should isolate and contain the maleficent influences of states that, repudiating our principles, love other things.
He goes on to clarify this strategy in 6 ways: 1, cut our losses and remove the bulk of our forces in Iraq and Afghanistan with the exception of deterring Iran's encroachment on Iraqi oil fields and special forces to assist friendly local forces. 2, prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons--at all costs. 3, deploy our ground forces to neutralize threats to our security--destroy our enemies, not build the societies of other countries. 4, abandon balance-of-power politics in south Asia in favor of building strong alliances with our natural allies, such as India (not Pakistan). 5, engage China in rivalry without hostility. 6, Russia, he sees as a particularly difficult case with its move to once again obtain control over its former Soviet rein of influence. America's attempts at supporting freedom movements within Kyrgyzstan and the Ukraine have failed, but it's essential that we make clear to Russia that "Poland is a Western nation that must remain secure under the wing of American friendship, and that no form of intimidation will be tolerated."

What do I take away from this? I believe our military actions in Afghanistan and Iraq were absolutely necessary for the punishment and containment of these terrorist-supporting states in the wake of the 9-11 attack, but I now see the folly of our nation-building enterprise--in the long view it is doomed and a tragic waste of blood and treasure. So in this respect I have moved a long way toward the view held by John Derbyshire and, toward the end of his life, William Buckley Jr.

To those who are intrigued by these arguments, as well as those who remain skeptical, I urge you to read this important book and evaluate Mr. Goldman's full case as I'm sure my synopsis of them are sadly inadequate in doing them justice.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Wordsmithing, part 9

justice 1. Moral rightness; equity. 2. Honor; fairness. 3. Good reason. 4. Fair handling; due reward or treatment. 5. The administration and procedure of the law.

It has become fashionable, on the part of the political left and within elements of liberal Christianity over the last few decades to use the word justice with two different modifiers in front of it: social justice, and now with increasing frequency (especially in the statements of the "Occupy Wall Street" mob and their apologists in the press), economic justice. This is leading to a fundamental--and drastic--change in the meaning of the word. This is closely tied to the transition occurring in the meaning of the word equality in popular usage (more on this later).

The traditional sense of fairness or equity embedded in the word justice can be clearly illustrated in the symbol of justice that decorates courthouses across this country: lady justice, standing with a set of scales in one hand to measure the issue in question, and a sword in her other hand with which to dispense punishment; but most notably, and the key to its concept of fairness, she is blindfolded. She cannot see those who petition her. Are they old or young, male or female, beautiful or ugly, rich or poor? She cannot see, and therefore she cannot allow partiality due to those attributes and conditions to influence her decision. This was the central, and indeed indispensable characteristic of justice that has informed the system of law in the United States since its founding. It has a long pedigree; we can find its origins in the Torah:
You shall do no injustice in court. You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor. (Leviticus 19:15 ESV)
To understand how this is changing in much of the popular consciousness one only has to see that the two modifiers that are being used make the word justice effectively function as a euphemism for equality of result. Seen in this light the endless complaints by the left about the "gap" between the highest and lowest income quintiles in the US become clear: it's the fact of unequal result between the rich and poor that they are labeling "unjust".

To whatever degree that the left decries unequal processes in society or economics, I and--I believe most other conservatives--agree with them, for that is the traditional understanding of justice--equality of process. For instance, the one topic on which the Occupy Wall Street crowd and the TEA Partiers (and I as well) agree is on the subject of crony Capitalism. I believe passionately in free markets, but I would argue that crony Capitalism is not free markets and indeed not Capitalism at all, but rather an exercise of government control over markets, a condition of government deciding (rather than the buyer and seller) who shall win and who shall lose in the market place. As I told my best friend on the phone yesterday in discussing this, we have a word for this: it's called Fascism.

Unfortunately, I hear little more than lip service from the left on the subject of crony Capitalism as evidenced by to whom they complain and to whom they focus their vitriol. Crony Capitalism can only exist through the ascent and active participation of government, therefore all--that is 100%--of the demand for its end should be directed to government. And yet it's not. Typically all of the left's bile and criticism is directed toward business and the banking and investment industries. Capitalism itself becomes the villain in the story they tell. And rather than calling for less government interference and manipulation, they demand ever more, apparently viewing government as the agent by which they can achieve the equality of result for which they yearn.

And this brings me to the redefinition of the word equality occurring in tandem with justice. Equality, as an American value, always meant equality of process. Obviously when Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence that "...all men are created equal," he did not mean that all men are the same height and have the same physical strength, but that the law would regard them as though they did. This governing principle ruled in American thought, just as in the Torah, that the American government would not "be partial to the poor or defer to the great" but treat everyone, regardless of their gifts or deficiencies...equally. But now, through the efforts of the left, many are changing their understanding of both justice and equality to mean--in varying degrees--equality of result. The tragedy of this is that it undermines the heart of the American value system, which principle value, I would argue, is liberty. For the only way that government can achieve even a measure of equality of result is to violate both the traditional concepts of liberty and also the traditional concept of equality by treating different classes of people--young and old, male and female, racial minorities and majorities, rich and poor--differently. The two concepts of these words are mutually exclusive and require the polar opposite of government actions. Traditional justice and equality required an equal standard and an equal process regardless of race, class, or sex. Equality of result requires differing standards and processes by government in an effort to level the outcome.

If the left wins this battle of words, if they are successful in redefining these concepts at the core of the American way, we may find ourselves no longer "the land of the free and home of the brave" but may instead be known as the "land of the fair and home of the same."

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Inevitable ad hominem

The picture above, posted on a friends Facebook wall, became the subject of a debate between a few of us middle-aged conservatives and a young woman who is participating in the "Occupy" Portland group. I thought it might be interesting to share the debate with everyone in this more permanent forum. Here's how it went:

Frances Smith Entitlement attitude is so engrained in so many in this country anymore it's bleeding the U.S. to death. Couple that with so many with minds unwilling/unable to THINK their way out of a paper bag, it's a deadly combination. Whatever happened to pride in oneself? My dad, his generation and those before them, were so fiercely independent the ideas of handouts was nearly foreign, completely unacceptable. Then LBJ and the Great Society...................​......we sure wound up with a great society.

Val Renata Occupy Wall Street isn't about handouts. It's about stopping the Elite from bribing politicians. It's about economic injustices that are committed against the people in a multitude of ways. IT'S NOT JUST ABOUT WELFARE! What's bleeding this country dry are the wars and a corrupt government. Our country doesn't need anymore opposition. We need to join together and fight for what's right. If helping poor people get medical and food is wrong then I wanna be wrong. If helping disabled people get an education then ditto, If helping Seniors with living expenses and medical, ditto.If helping kids get an education when that's all they got? Ditto. I will NEVER agree to ANYMORE CORPORATE WELFARE. This world is so backwards that they think that giving money to banks is going to help the poor!!??? WTF? How backwards is that?

Me I, as a conservative, agree completely that corporate welfare needs to stop. However, the TARP bailout was not a gift to the banks, it was a loan, almost all of which has been paid back in full, with interest. TARP was an emergency effort to keep the entire financial industry from collapsing, and it--arguably--succeeded in that regard. The 900 billion dollar stimulus, however, was pure giant government folly and political favoritism. The lion's share of the stimulus went to state and big city governments as political payoffs to help fill the massive budget shortfalls they were experiencing and forstall public employee layoffs. The role of American government, as conceived by its founders (and enumerated in the preamble of the Constitution), was limited to law, law enforcement, defense, and general welfare--which means only things that benefit ALL citizens (such as roads, libraries, parks, etc.), not classes or subsets of citizens (such as the elderly or racial minorities). Government perverts the market economy, the banking system, and the education system in almost every aspect that it intrudes in those systems. Higher education has become as expensive as it has *because* of government money flowing to it: tuition has raised dollar for government supplied dollar, for instance. The mortgage industry's collapse is due to government regulation, not the lack of it. Subprime loans were invented by the industry as a way of satisfying government requirements to give loans to borrowers who could not meet traditional lending criteria, and the tacit understanding that the quasi-government institutions of Fanny Mae and Freddy Mac would cover catastrophic losses encouraged the lenders (with very real approval of federal regulators and congressmen like Barney Frank and Chris Dodd) to take greater and great risks and leverage at higher and higher levels. So I find it fatuously absurd that the OCWS crowd, who purport themselves to be anarchists (in other words, those who should want little to no government) are demanding a completely government take-over of massively more of our lives: our education, our banking, our health care, our businesses, our very market economy--all to be completely and utterly controlled by...GOVERNMENT.

Val Renata It didn't work to bail out the banks because they did NOTHING to help the economy. I don't want to argue with you but please look beyond your conservative agenda and do the research in areas that are not controlled by the right wing media. Thank you. btw, the mortgage industry collapsed due to unregulated banking practices. do the research, please...

Timothy Ley Actually Dodd and Schumer (Dem Congressmen) put through a "fairness" act that made the banks loan to people that didn't meet the standard requirements. Not enough "people of color" and minorities could qualify for loans. Once the requirements were lifted, yes, LOTS of people and banks took advantage of the new laws. Look to where it started! I have the research. Prepare yourself to provide a valuable service. Get paid to do quality work. Save and save. Buy a house with money that you EARNED. No problems. It is not about "fairness", it is about equal opportunity and sound business principles.

Val Renata Actually it IS about fairness. We are fighting ECONOMIC INJUSTICE. Banks should never be allowed to commit fraud and illegally foreclose on people. They were bailed out primarily to help the Real Estate crash. You know the HAMP program? But they didn't help. They didn't do loan modifications as they said they would. Only 4% of the people underwater on their mortgages got help from HAMP. Now they are demolishing the homes that they foreclosed on. How did that help anyone? In fact the banks only hurt their bottom line by being so ruthless. They lied to and cheated all of us. There are millions of people that have lost their homes and millions more to come. They are not losers or bad people. Nor are they sucking off the government teat. They lost their jobs after the crash. The crash that was due to the banks and their illegal practices on Wall Street. I suggest that you go here and do a little research. http://livinglies.wordpres​ and herehttp://www.democracynow.or​g/ And kill your television which feeds you the Fox News propaganda cyanide, before it's too late.

Me ‎1. It most certainly helped the economy to make the TARP loans to the banks. The equation is as follows: without banks there is no money to loan to businesses=without money loaned to businesses there are no businesses=without businesses there are no jobs. ‎2. My *conservative agenda* is to renew and preserve the United States government conceived and created by its founders: a government that secures the rights given by God, that protects private property, that administrates equality of process--not equality of result (the two are mutually exclusive), that is limited in the spirit of Thomas Jefferson when he said, "government governs best which governs least." ...what is your agenda? 3. What fraud and illegal foreclosure are you talking about? When a borrower fails to pay back the money secured against a property, the lender has the legal right to foreclose. You say the banks lied and cheated: how? I'll grant you that they made a lot of stupid loans based on a business model doomed to fail. But they didn't think it was going to fail, and obviously the federal regulators didn't think it was going to fail either because they sanctioned their goofy leverage ratios, mortgage-backed securities, and default swaps that were supposed to dilute the risk. When loan officers told borrowers they could take these ridiculous 110%, no-down, sub-prime and interest only loans with no worries because in 2 or 3 years they could just refinance to a conventional loan on the appreciated value of the property, they weren't lying. That actually worked, over and over again, for several years...until one day it didn't work anymore. But it wasn't a lie, it was just stupid; and it was a stupidity that almost the entire world economy bought into. 4. I rarely if ever watch Fox news, or any TV news for that matter. And I certainly don't read flame-throwing blogs that make wild assertions unsupported by any hard data or attributions. I read. I read books. I read books on economics, monetary theory, history, philosophy, political science, etc., such as Basic Economics, Applied Economics, Knowledge and Decisions, Economic Fact and Fallacies, Cosmic Justice (by Thomas Sowell), Free To Choose (by Milton Friedman), The Forgotten Man (a history of the Great Depression by Amity Schlaes), Slouching Toward Gomorrah (by Robert Bork), Liberal Fascism (by Jonah Goldberg), and Wealth and Poverty (by George Gilder). Cheers.

Val Renata​m/2009/11/20/tarp-saved-ba​nking-system-but-failed-at​-everything-else-expert/

Me Val, the article you linked was written almost 2 years ago. Here's something a little more current:​/2011/03/16/treasury-99-of​-tarp-paid-back. The additional goals, such as forestalling house foreclosures, etc., were always--I would contend--rhetorical devices to help sell the thing to congress, never the original intent by its architects, Geitner & Paulson. TARP was a hideous desperate act of government to prevent the complete collapse of our economy. I hated it then, and I hate it now. It goes against everything I understand about economic and monetary policy--but it was probably necessary as a government fix to a problem created by government: not a lack of regulation as so many like to say, but rather the *wrong* regulation. (If it was a lack of regulation then why did so many countries in Europe, where there is much more banking regulation than in the US, fall into the same trap?) And there are economists whom I greatly respect--principle among them Thomas Sowell--who argue that TARP was completely unnecessary. I hope he's right and we never make such a government intervention again. But it's something of a moot point now. It's done. It's paid back. As for the housing market, there is only one solution. Prices must adjust to a real market value. Housing all over the country had vastly inflated due to a constellation of reasons: a frenzy of turnover, over building, rising land costs from policies such as urban growth boundaries, but most of all due to the perversion of the entire economy due to the Federal Reserve keeping interest rates ridiculously low--for *years*. No one could make money on money anymore. The only thing going up was property, so financial instruments like mortgaged-backed securities were created, and everybody bought into them--including countries (see Iceland, and the Eastern European states). As these prices adjust to reality, everybody hurts. But there's no hope for it. I ought to know. I lost a house I had lived in and sank my money and sweat into for 15 years. I lost, but the bank lost too. The only thing that saved me from bankruptcy was a last minute short-sale in which the second lender had to write-off a substantial amount of the loan. Government money can put it off for a while, but it's only prolonging the inevitable. Eventually the piper must be paid: prices must adjust to the real market. Treasury: 99% of TARP investments paid back « HousingWire

Randall Elliott (my friend who made the post that started the debate) THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for keeping this debate civil! It is good to see you folks bring your data to the table for evaluation. This is the way it is suppose to be done and I commend you, specifically Tim, Val and Don since you come from different angles. Keep it up! If nothing else, we can get better clarity on the issues, even if all we can do in the end is have a clearer direction to vote and better questions to ask our reps at the Town Hall meetings.

Timothy Ley ll parties participated in. It is a huge minority of homeowners that are loosing their house due to job loss. Many took iss advised adjustable (fully legal) loans and re-fis. It is actually moral if they are in trouble due to their own actions that they cannot perform. Tragic for many, but moral. I personally counselled many to NOT take those loans for these very reasons, yert nearly all did. And I am well aware of the modifications that haven't taken place. A huge part of that is not the banks fault- read the studies associated there....

Val Renata You are sadly misinformed sheep. READ THE LAW: Contract law and International Accounting law. What Wall Street and the Bankers did was illegal. If you know so much then you should've read about this and been outraged. So there is no sense in talking any further to you because you are not digging deep enough into what they've done and you are obviously a cold, selfish person who doesn't stand for the truth. End of conversation.

Me And...there we go. I suspected this would happen eventually. When someone can no longer argue an issue, he or she will often recourse to ad hominem: attacking and impuning the character or motives of his or her adversary. Notice the formulation: "I don't need to defend my position to you because you are a bad person." Also notice that Val fails to actually cite any statutes or law, but commands us to read contract law and (sic) *international accounting law*. Despite the fact that pundits of leftist orientation often use the term "international law", there is in reality, no such thing. Laws are created by law-making bodies--legislatures--and until the nations of the earth abdicate their national sovereignty to a world government, no such *international* law-making body exists. What gets dubbed as international law is in reality treaties between countries. I've never heard of an accounting treaty. Considering that so many on the left actually start their arguments against conservatives by condemning us as bad people, I suppose I should be grateful that it took Val this long...and yet I'm not.

Timothy Ley I see that only 1/2 of my last comment made it on-sorry! Bottom line, Both the banks and borrowers let greed get the best of them. Banks made ill advised loans (prompted by Dodd and Schumer). Profits were huge and overrode their business sense. Borrowers refinanced out of greed, getting more than their homes were worth- and they knew it! And then bought boats, 2nd homes, huge remodels... Val- the banks mostly lost their butts in this and many are now gone! Borrowers also lost because they took loans that there was no way they could repay. When you don't pay on your loan, you loose your collateral AND what you bought. You would do the same if you were the lender. Personal responsibility matters. Consequences to bad behavior matters. And this cold, selfish sheep has spent his lifetime helping people reclaim and restore after bad situations.

Val Renata I recognize your desire to be right. I've been there. I also recognize the plight of millions of people who are suffering not because they could afford their mortgages. The very people that are foreclosing on them are the ones who rigged the game they got caught up in. Until you stand up for what's right YOU ARE THE PROBLEM! You are obviously sittin; pretty. And sorry I don't believe you when you say you help people. It just doesn't ring true. If you cared you would have joined the Occupations. To quote a very GREAT MAN: "If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor " - Desmond Tutu.

Randall Elliott Well, it was fun while it lasted (dammit). Val, you do not know anything about Tim or Don, and you are dead wrong about them both sitting pretty. Therefore: "Liberal" resorts to an ad hominem attack and looses this round. Point goes to "Conservative". Sorry, cuz. Try again when you can present your data and not your prejudice.

Here are some further thoughts on this short debate:
1. Ms. Renata seldom actually addressed points made by myself or the other writers, but relied on blanket or categorical statements:"It's not just about welfare!", " is about fairness. We are fighting economic injustice.", "The crash that was due to the banks and their illegal practices on Wall Street.", etc.
2. Even at the beginning of the discussion, she verged on personal accusation: "Our country doesn't need anymore opposition. We need to join together and fight for what's right.", "...please look beyond your conservative agenda and do the research in areas that are not controlled by the right wing media."
3. She made references that were completely irrelevant to the discussion: "...kill your television which feeds you the Fox News propaganda cyanide, before it's too late.", "I recognize your desire to be right. I've been there."

I've written before about the lefts' propensity for vilification and straw-man argument instead of honest debate or even disagreement, but this was instructive to see it in action on a personal level. But I admit to being disheartened by the experience, and left wondering how we can ever hope to even clarify what our disagreements are if one side simply refuses to argue their case in lieu of sloganeering, condemnation, and self-righteous dismissal.