Saturday, May 30, 2009

Canadian Conservativism

A friend from High School took an online quiz, and was surprised to find the political leader she most identified with was Ronald Reagan. She is not someone who would vote for a conservative political candidate and yet, if the quiz is accurate, is more conservative than she realizes. I’ve been thinking about this for a while, and would like to put this in the context of Canadian politics.

Conservatives come in many genres. There are philosophical conservatives, theological conservatives, social conservatives and fiscal conservatives. But my friend doesn’t necessarily fall into any of these categories. So where does that place her? I would like to argue that there is a fifth type of conservativism which is often ignored, which I will term the “hearth and home conservative”.

A philosophical conservative is one who has immersed himself in conservative political theory. He has read the major authors on conservative theory, and is comfortable debating the ideas of major philosophers throughout the last couple millennia. Unlike fiscal conservatives (and to a lesser degree, social conservatives) he sees political ideas more in terms of right and wrong than in terms of effective or ineffective. For example, it doesn’t matter to him whether the country can afford to spend $60+ billion in economic stimulus; for the philosophical conservative it’s still wrong due to the long term affect on people’s attitudes.

Philosophical conservatives will tend to vote for the Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) for want of a better option. Better options would include various “fringe parties”. Philosophical conservatives are relatively rare and so deliver a smaller number of votes and manpower to assist in elections. The amount of money that they would deliver to a campaign would be smaller still due to the wide range of conservative causes to support, and due to an attitude of “I’ll give my vote for a lack of a better option, but I’m not happy and I won’t give my money.” Pragmatically speaking, there is little point in the CPC courting philosophical conservatives; they are too few in number and adopting their program would alienate huge numbers of voters in the center. Still, every party should have a philosophical foundation.

Theological conservatives are largely represented by self-identified Christians (including evangelical Christians and observant Roman Catholics), though devout Muslims, Jews and Hindus could someday be considered part of this category. Theological conservatives have a philosophical basis for their conservativism, which would be referred to as “special revelation”. Special revelation refers to a divinely given revelation, typically codified in a book. Theological conservatives have several significant differences from philosophical conservatives. First, their conservativism is based on the acceptance of their book, rather than on a philosophical consideration of major schools of thought. Theological conservatives also make up one of the larger voting blocks in the country. For example, a Macleans poll on religion suggested that 7% of Canadians are “born again Christians”. While this represents about half the percentage of born again Christians as the United States, it is still a large potential block of support.

One can argue that the CPC has been effective in mobilizing theological conservatives. Within evangelical churches, a surprising number of members have become CPC members. They may not talk about politics, but they have become more politically active in recent years and are providing their votes, their money and their time to the CPC. The challenge for the CPC will be to make sure that these supporters do not walk away. Theological conservatives in Canada are surprising politically mature. They do not expect an unimpeded march towards theocracy, and indeed the vast majority of them do not want theocracy. They believe in a division between church and state, but as Richard John Neuhaus once said, they “do not believe in mutual ignorance.” Theological conservatives believe they have ideas which will benefit their society as a whole. I would argue that if the theological conservatives go away, the CPC will not be able to win elections. The bad news is theological conservatives feel the CPC has not delivered much on their agenda. The good news is that this situation could be easily turned around. And even better news is that devout Jews (who have historically voted Liberal), Muslims, and Hindus could be added to the ranks of CPC supporters.

Social conservatives fall into a different category than theological conservatives. Though many of their ideas overlap, they must be considered separately. Social conservatives have conservative ideas about how society should be structured, but have less of a philosophical basis than others. They are more concerned with what works effectively, rather than philosophical right and wrong. While they may pronounce on matters of moral right and wrong, there is no overall foundational basis for their beliefs. One result is that each issue must be decided on a case by case basis, though in practice social conservatives can adopt a block of issues that they and their friends support.

Because social conservatives decide issues on a case by case basis, the CPC runs less chance to losing all of them (or gaining all of them) dramatically. For theological conservatives, it is much easier to make an all or nothing decision to back the CPC or ignore politics altogether. For social conservatives there is a wider range of opinion.

Fiscal conservatives form the backbone of most conservative movements. This is because it is easier to subscribe to fiscal conservativism rather than the others I have mentioned. Likewise, fiscal conservativism is an easier sell than the others. In practice this means that a pragmatic political party will often act in a fiscally conservative and socially liberal manner, so as to obtain more votes from the center. The other types of conservatives are left consoling themselves that things will get better, but feeling like they are ignored and used.

Fiscal conservatives can also be a shifting base of support for the CPC, because it is well known that the Liberal Party of Canada tends to campaign from the left and rule to the right. Essentially this means that the fiscal conservatives and social liberals tend to get along well in Liberal circles. It also means that fiscal conservatives who are left learning on social issues (a.k.a. Red Tories) can feel comfortable swinging their vote to the Liberals.

So that is an analysis of the traditional types of conservatives. But now we come to a type of conservative which has been historically ignored. This is the “hearth and home conservative”. The H&H conservative does not self-identify with any of the previous categories, and indeed may vote for any of the major political parties. But in their personal decisions, the H&H conservative aligns their life with the traditional types of conservativism. While distaining any attempt to suggest a course of action for others, the H&H conservative chooses to make very conservative decisions on a personal basis.

How is this lived out in a practical way? The H&H conservative may not respond well to a traditional “law and order” platform, but personally be very supportive of having additional police patrolling the neighbourhood. Likewise, H&H conservatives may reject doctrinaire defenses of “traditional families” but will respond well to specific policies which they can see as being family friendly. So the key to reaching this audience in a campaign is to avoid making doctrinaire statements, but to propose a series of practical policies that ring true in their gut. The good news is that there are a lot of H&H conservatives out there. Even better, most of them are swing voters, whose support the CPC could pick up. And many are women, in a demographic that the CPC has had a hard time winning over in a sustainable way. It should be noted however that the H&H conservatives will provide votes, but will be unlikely to provide money or manpower to help in a campaign.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Isaiah 53

I've been thinking about Isaiah 53 this week, and what it meant for Christ, what it meant for the Father and what it means for us. I'm finding it helpful to go through it with one audience in mind and pick out the individual words that are applicable to each audience.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Wireless Networks

To say that I have had bad luck with wireless networks in an understatement. I had a Linksys Wireless-G network, but it bounced up and down. I laid out major cash to move to a Dlink Wireless-N network, but continued to have problems (continual deauthentication messages on my DIR-625). Even my youngest children would complain that it was time to start the router, and she can't even read.

Anyway, my ISP is replacing their DSL modems with a new unit that has built in Wireless-G. It is a step down, but I thought I would try it. And it is now rock solid. And the cost is the same as my rental on my old modem. Maybe it was the old modem that was causing the problem, but the problem seems to be solved.

Now if only I could solve the problem of my iPod Touch losing contact with YouTube in mid-video, and my Dell laptop that loses track of its wireless card until I shutdown, physically remove it, reboot, shutdown, reinstall the card, reboot and ask Windows to search for new hardware!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

What Does the Future Hold

I make no claim to having a gift of prophecy. But I try to keep my eyes open. Here's some suggestions for events which are possible in the near future:

25% chance - Pakistan is taken over by Islamic extremists in the next 6 months. Which would lead to an almost certain invasion by India.

50% chance - regardless of what happens in Pakistan, continuing instability leads Taliban supporters to claim that they now have possession of one of Pakistan's nuclear bombs. It doesn't matter if this is true. It doesn't need to be true. It is enough for them to make sure a claim.

33% chance - Israel takes out Iran's nuclear weapons program. Everyone knows Iran is building the bomb. Nobody wants Iran to have the bomb. Everyone will be secretly relieved that Israel did the dirty work. And Israel will be blamed, punished, etc.

2% chance - Obama uses a speech in Egypt in June as an opportunity to declare that he is a Muslim. Currently he would deny it, and even if he said he was, most people would not believe him (assuming that he is just saying it for political advantage). But his policies have been too consistently anti-Israel to be coincidence. Still, I would say this is unlikely.

5% chance - serious evidence is presented that Obama was born outside the United States, and thus is not constitutionally allowed to hold the office of President. Yes, this is another outside chance. However if it did happen, a vast majority of Americans would be in favour of forgetting what the consititution says about this matter.

75% chance - barring world instability (as above), the economy recovers much faster than expected. The Left takes credit for the stimulus spending, when in fact most of the stimulus spending is still working it's way through the government approvals process and stimulated nothing.

Joe Biden

Type the following into Google, "Secret VP Bunker" and you will need to come to the conclusion that U.S. Vice President Joe Biden is some sort of village idiot. He's just given away the location of a secret bunker designed to protect HIM during a national emergency. Way to go Joe! Well, at least he can still smile about it.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Would you use a medicine developed through stem cell research?

The "killer question" (in any debate) is the question that is deemed so powerful that it is irrefutable and ends the debate. In the debate over the use of embryonic stem cells for medical research, I sometimes hear someone from the Left trotting out their "killer question". So the question goes, "If there was a medicine developed through stem cell research, would you deny it to your sick child?" And if you say "no, I wouldn't deny my child" they can try to pretend that you are a supporter of their position or a hypocrite. And if you say "yes, I would deny my child" you are some sort of insane child abuser.

Unfortunately most people think of answering this question in terms of yes and no, when in fact it is a question that makes no real sense. It is as if I asked you if you would use the autobahn in Germany and then declare you to be a supporter of Hitler. The autobahn is there and I would use it. But given a choice of a world with autobahns and with Hitler, or a world without the autobahns and without Hitler, I would choose without.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Playing with Sharp Tools

I was sewing up my track pants this afternoon. I managed to do it and only pick myself a little bit. Sharp tools seem to be among our most useful tools, but they are sharp and they will hurt you if you aren't careful. In fact, tools that are powerful and sharp are even more useful and more dangerous. Think of a circular saw. Lots of power. Lots of blade. And if you aren't careful, off go the fingers.

But this got me to thinking. I'm no fan of President Obama. I think he's out of his league*. I think he's naive. And I think by his behaviour he demonstrates that he is firmly in the socialist and secularist camps.

So what does this have to do with sharp tools? Just this. President Obama recently gave a speech in which he said that low level employees of the CIA would not be prosecuted for waterboarding America's enemies. And then he proceeded to reveal details of America's interrogation techniques. Each of us has our own opinions about "enhanced interrogation techniques". But I wonder how many people understand the significance of Obama's speech?

The CIA is an intelligence agency. It is also a place where people work, have careers, and look forward to retiring from. And Obama has just made sure that nobody in the CIA will want to work on the anti-terrorism file. Far safer to track independence movements in some forgotten corner of the world.

But Obama's speech also makes it clear that the more senior members of the CIA need to worry. Obama will not only make sure their careers will end, but he'll be happy to pass them off to some international court if it will help the populist masses continue to feel good about Obama.

And so we get to the convergence of the danger of sharp tools and Obama's speech. Because while the CIA is a government agency, it is also a sharp tool. A powerful, sharp tool. And for all the worrying of the Left about Right-wing conspiracies, most Left-wing politicians have no clue as to handle a sharp powerful tool like an intelligence agency. The Left assumes that because their man got the vote, every government agency will fall into line. Including the intelligence agency that is now demoralized, shocked and under the threat of legal prosecution.

So there are a couple of ways that this could play out. Maybe the CIA will roll over and play dead. Or maybe this is just to first step towards Obama trying to get control of the intelligence services (the Left already controls the media, the courts and the education system). Or maybe some very intelligent people in the CIA will decide that their careers would be protected from Obama**, and their nation would be protected from terrorism, by ending Obama's presidency. No, I am definitely not talking about assassination. That would touch off a racial powder keg. I'm talking about character assassination. The right words said to a reporter who wants the next Pulitzer, and their goal is accomplished.

I don't like the way the world works, but I'm not naive. I would prefer to see the democratic principles of government honoured. But I think Obama is naive if he thinks he can play carelessly with a circular saw and never get cut.

* and lest I inevitably get called a racist for saying I don't like Obama, let me say that I can think of two black politicians (Powell and Rice) who would not be playing out of their league. Though I suspect I am more conservative that either of these, I would have been delighted to see people with their experience running for President.

** the latest version of Firefox flags "Obama" as a spelling error. This is probably due to the vast powers of the right-wing.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Dell Studio One 19

I got an email from Dell about their new Studio One 19. Looks cool. Until you see the keyboard they ship with it. Why, why why?