24 April 2008

More Elitist Drivel

We've been meaning to plug this blog for awhile (and probably already have, though we haven't searched the archives) and now seems as good a time as any.

Libertas, "a forum for conservative thought on film," (are there any others?) reviews Morgan Spurlock's latest documentary about why the Muslim world hates us. We don't know anyone who has seen it, and after reading this review and finding that Spurlock's take is beyond predictable, we think we'll pass too. There's so much of this trash out there, no one can be expected to see it all.

From the review:
Throughout his travels in the Middle East; from Morocco, to Egypt, to the West Bank, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Afghanistan and finally Pakistan, Spurlock stands quietly by and accepts without protest every evil spouted from the mouth of Arabs and Muslims about America. That‘s not creating an understanding. In fact, it’s just the opposite. What Spurlock’s doing in agreeing through his silence, and at times, verbally, is confirming everything that fuels the irrational hatred too many Arabs carry for our country.

I’m not insane, and therefore never expected Spurlock to explain that (however misguided he may feel Bush was) our mission in Iraq is to liberate 25 million people “like them” from tyranny and that we‘re doing so at a heartbreaking cost in both treasure and blood. It’s not even surprising he refused to defend our efforts in Afghanistan. But is the left so far gone that the Arab claim that, “America’s trying to eradicate Islam,” now goes unchallenged? Is there nothing anyone can say anymore that will bring the liberal to the defense of America?
We, too, have often asked ourself that last question.

Dave Berg's National Review review of Stein's Expelled.

If you're looking for a good documentary, try out Ben Stein's latest. Libertas has the review here.

Tired of reading from the 4th best conservative college blogger in the country? Why not take a look at #1 Dartblog's write-up on the recent debate between Dinesh D'Souza and atheist Walter Sinnot-Armstrong. They debated the question, "Can we be good without God?"
D’Souza argued that Christians are still held responsible for the Inquisition and the Salem Witch Trials (though he pointed out that recent studies showed that the death toll for those events was grossly overestimated), and that atheism was a central tenet to the doctrines of Marx, Stalin, Mao, and Hitler. He said that “the removal of God and search for a Godless society has led to an ocean of blood”. Referring to Pol Pot as a “mid-level atheist” who only managed to kill two million people, he proceeded to list the impressive string of well known atheists in our lifetimes who slaughtered their citizens. (emphasis in original)
We're still waiting for a Muslim Enlightenment. In the meantime, we'll continue to support efforts to shape Iraq into a democratic country. If it does join Germany and Japan, it will become just the 2nd democracy (extra credit to those who can name the other) in the middle east and perhaps moderates there will lead the aforementioned Muslim Enlightenment.

That's our audacious hope.

*UPDATE 2:37am MST: Okay, this next link isn't elitist drivel, in fact, it strikes us as being quite populist--populist in the sense that harping on CEO pay is a popular thing to do. Of course, that's the definition of populist politics, that they be popular (at least at the moment).

We don't necessarily agree with what buruboi has to say (this is a Pendulum Politics link), but this won't be the first time we disagree with something to which we link AND we think he is fair, or at least, mostly fair in his treatment of the topic. Anyway, read it because it's good writing and because it's an informed perspective.

BT, flame away.

If you have tips, questions, comments, suggestions, or requests for subscription only articles, email us at lybberty@gmail.com.


buruboi said...

I'm imagining Israel is the other democracy. Lebanon is on its way.

Thanks for link and for excluding me from the 'elitist drivel' tag. Much appreciated.

RD said...

Lebanon is indeed a democracy (it has a funny power sharing system between ethnic groups on which the Croatian model was based). So is Syria, and so is Israel. Turkey also, if you consider that Middle East (I don't). Part of it depends on how high you set your standard - but, institutionally, those are all democracies.

RD said...

In political science, the definition of "populist" is not actually popularity. That would be a broad definition indeed, including just about everything. The Iraq War was populist in 2003; now it isn't. That would mean every president we have ever elected was a populist, by definition. Words with those kind of open definitions aren't very useful in the social sciences. Because one of my pet peeves is people ruining the definitions of important words, I'm going to invite people to just use the word "popular" to describe politics that are popular.

Kirk Hawkins, a leading expert on Hugo Chavez, has stipulated that, in order to be useful, the definition of populism must be limited to certain aspects. Populism usually includes Manichean discourse and short-sighted economic policies. This would certainly include things like protectionism and rash expansion of welfare states.

If a strong argument can be made that CEO pay is going to cause real problems, it wouldn't fall under the populism definition. CEO pay has contributed to the Gini coefficient (.47 in US, one of the highest in the world). High Gini coefficients lead to all sorts of problems (chief among them being real populist politics). Therefore, failing to address the issue would be short-sighted.

Ben Treasure said...
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Matt said...

RD, it's not just a transfer of income from the poorest to the richest that increases the Gini coefficient. A shift from the bottom quintile to the next-to-bottom quintile would increase it also. This is one of the main criticisms of the Gini as a measure of income (in)equality. It is a measure, sure, but not a catch-all.

RD said...

Very true Matt. Did you say that because you have evidence that the US Gini is a product of bottom to next-to-bottom shifts, and that it is unrelated to the fact that CEOs now make over 500 times what their workers make? And is that supposed to be a response to my argument about populism? Or did you mention it to show us that you've heard of the Gini coefficient? I'm just not sure what it is you're trying to contribute.

The Gini is a complicated topic in economics. We're all aware of its flaws; however, it is still considered our best one-number measure of inequality.

Matt said...

Pointing at the Gini as the main indicator is misleading.

But you're the econoauthority, not me.

RD said...

1. What other indicator would you use?

2. Would it show a different picture of income distribution in the USA?

Spikers said...

Regarding Ben Stein's movie "Expelled": The movie is nothing more than dishonest propaganda. It is the Christian Conservative Fahrenheit 911. I am surprised you would recommend a movie that is so meritless.

I for one, would rather keep religion in the churches and science in the classroom.

derek zumstag said...

Spikers, what about the theater?

Chuck Norris said...

Read the Pendulum Politics article by buruboi, I'm finding it hard to understand how comparing a genealogy based wealth is related to a capitalistic hard-working/earned wealth? The monarchical kings had no interest in the wealthfar of their people, they would live in luxury no matter the cost, look at France. The CEO's of today at least create jobs, even jobs such as writing blogs that are antagonistic against such CEO's, and contribute to their society. Would we be better off without large companies and without highly payed and highly qualified CEO's?

RD said...

Now there's an oversimplification, Chuck. At any point in buruboi's articles, did he argue that we'd be better off without companies and CEOs? Buruboi advocates making the system more efficient, not eliminating it. Just because I sometimes criticize the actions of US leaders doesn't mean I think the US would be better off without government. Likewise, buruboi calling for reexamination of a system that many experts, including economists, have argued is inefficient is not the same as arguing that we would be better off without large companies and CEOs. This kind of oversimplification, while typical of superficial pundits and uninformed observers, makes discussion almost pointless.

buruboi said...


Your intense concentration on building up a set of the "world's strongest muscles" obviously detracted from more important ventures, like learning how to read. The comparison was regarding wealth gaps, not between economic models as you suggest.


did you go to BYU?

buruboi said...
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buruboi said...

As for Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden and its director, Morgan Spurlock: not all Muslims are evil-doers!!? No shit Spurlock (I rented this line).

I particularly liked Kyle Smith's scathing review:


Spikers said...

Yup...I graduated from BYU in 06.