Archive for March, 2012

The Righteous Mind

March 28, 2012

Jonathan Haidt’s new book, The Righteous Mind – Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion, is extremely valuable for understanding these matters. I recommend it highly. (For a very good review in the New York Times, click here.)

Haidt is trying to explain the “we’re right, they’re wrong” attitude. I’ve noted previously a whole genre of books by left wing intellectuals diagnosing conservatism as a form of mental illness, or delusion, or selfishness. Haidt acknowledges this too, confessing that he began as a typical academic liberal thinking that way. But the intellectual journey resulting in this book brought him to a very different place.

Start from the notion that our views are the product of reasoned thought. Haidt introduces the metaphor of an elephant and rider. The rider is your conscious rational mind, which you may believe is in charge. But the elephant is your unconscious thinking, your intuition, which is far bigger and stronger. The rider is really the elephant’s servant, whose job it is to come up with rationalizations justifying the elephant’s movements.

This is particularly true in the realm of moral thinking. Again, we may think we’re reasoning. But it’s usually the elephant answering the questions, with our conscious rational minds producing explanations to fit those answers.

The British edition's cover. Which is better?

The book is mainly about the moral foundations underlying political proclivities. Haidt is a psychologist, and his research centered upon detailed questionnaires filled out by thousands. Their answers showed that our moral thinking utilizes six distinct modules that Haidt analogizes to taste receptors (sweet, sour, salty, etc.). They are: caring (versus harm); liberty (vs. oppression); fairness (vs. cheating); loyalty; respect for authority; and sanctity (vs. degradation).

Liberals focus mainly on the first two – caring and liberty. They do have a strong concern with equality, which Haidt originally thought part of “fairness.” But more careful consideration led him to parse things differently: fairness is mainly about people getting what they deserve, reaping what they sow (or “karma”). That’s a value conservatives emphasize, and is at odds with equality. So Haidt moved equality into the “liberty/oppression” module.

Liberals do also have some affinity for fairness in the karma sense, but it’s subordinate; they’re much more concerned about equality. Thus, again, liberal morality concentrates on just two of the six modules. But conservatives, in contrast, tend to utilize all six. Indeed, as to the latter three – loyalty, authority, and sanctity – many liberals actually see them negatively. (“Patriotism” being a dirty word, for example.) This makes liberals even more different from conservatives.

What makes someone liberal or conservative in the first place? Nature and nurture. Genes matter; as Haidt explains, they don’t dictate our personalities but do create predispositions. Those predispositions affect behavior, which in turn affects how other people interact with you, and that feeds back into your own further development. Life experiences combine with genetics to make the person.

Haidt perceived that while most Americans do sort out along the liberal-conservative spectrum, some don’t fit: libertarians. In some ways they resemble liberals, similarly rejecting the latter three modules, with their moral concern heavily concentrated in the liberty module. Yet libertarians tend to align with conservatives because liberals’ enthusiasm for muscular and intrusive government makes them a common enemy.

Note, importantly, that whereas liberals are down on three categories of moral concern important to conservatives, conservatives do not similarly reject any moral concerns important to liberals. To the contrary, conservatives do embrace the same moral concerns, but less single-mindedly, and tempering them with the further ones that liberals dismiss.


The labels read "Conservative" and "Liberal"

This asymmetry produced one telling result. Haidt also asked liberals to answer his questionnaire pretending to be conservatives, and vice versa. Conservatives were pretty good at guessing the answers of actual liberals, but liberals were very bad at doing the reverse. This is perhaps unsurprising, inasmuch as conservatives do actually share moral values with liberals, but liberals don’t see them that way. So liberals tended to caricature them as grotesquely uncaring and selfish. (Thus, I think that while each side engages in demonizing the other and impugning motives, the left is actually rather more guilty of refusing to see sincerity and good intentions on the other side.)

While Haidt does subscribe to a key pillar of the left – that markets and the “superorganisms” of corporations must be regulated (actually, even libertarians agree, in principle) – he faults liberals’ blindness to the great virtue of markets, indeed their outright hostility toward markets. In particular, Haidt identifies what is surely the root of America’s health care mess – that the system doesn’t work like a market in which sellers vie for business by competing on price, service, and quality. (I’m scribbling this on a cruise ship – if only the medical industry did half as much to please customers!)

Haidt also now feels liberals make a huge mistake in rejecting the moral modules of loyalty, authority, and sanctity. He invokes Emil Durkheim’s view of society, grounded not in atomistic individualism, but the human proclivity for “groupishness” and “hiving,” when we act like bees in a hive. The resulting social cohesion, which Haidt terms “moral capital,” helps stave off the anomie and dysfunction when individuals fail to see themselves as, partly at least, components of a greater whole. Liberals may indeed agree, in concept, but fail to grasp how importantly its realization depends on values of loyalty, authority, and even sanctity. That blindness leads liberals down wrong paths (like 1960s style welfarism) that undermine society’s moral capital and ultimately the very values they hold dear.

 While I found Haidt’s analysis very enlightening, I was somewhat disappointed that after establishing his premises so well, he didn’t spend much time applying them concretely to current American political and religious divisions, and hardly even tried to offer serious solutions. But maybe that would be asking too much; after all, Haidt does show how deep those divisions go.

The Corporation’s Evil Twin

March 25, 2012

A while back a commenter here seemed obsessed about “the corporations,” even labeling me a shill for them. (I’ve never even worked for one.) But many do talk as though corporations and their “greed” are the root of all evil in today’s world.

These corporate-obsessives seem oblivious to the emergence of a new beast in the industrial ecosystem: what The Economist calls state capitalism. The magazine recently took a close look at this, and didn’t like what it saw.

 State capitalism refers to governments not just intervening in the economy but owning chunks of it. Yes, it does hark back to old-time socialism, much though that tainted word is shunned. It’s true that in the 1980s much socialism was unwound with many state-run businesses privatized. But in the ensuing decades, especially in the last one, and especially in the “emerging world,” governments have crept back into business, most notably in Russia and China, where state-owned enterprises dominate their economies. In many other places, governments have found they needn’t own businesses outright, they can simply own shares, even minority stakes. Indeed, tweak the laws a bit and a government can control a company with a small minority of shares.

In today’s world, capitalism may have swept the board, but now we see there is still a battle, between two models of capitalism – between free market capitalism of the American sort, and state capitalism.

The Left is inclined to look favorably on the latter. After all, they’d say, far better that a business be controlled by a government “for the people” rather than just for private profit. A seductive trope perhaps. But let’s think it through.

The Left does indict private corporations as caring only for profits. And it’s true in the sense that they must earn profits to stay in business. But the Left fails to carry the thought further to realize how this is a strait-jacket constraining corporate power. It means a corporation can’t do whatever it wants; the only sustainable way to earn profits is to satisfy customers. A profit-seeking private corporation that doesn’t in some way serve public needs must ultimately fail, and its serving public needs is measured unforgivingly in dollars and cents.

But think how much more powerful that corporation can be if you remove the need for profit. Now it really is unrestrained in doing as it pleases. And that’s exactly what state capitalism entails – a government-run business needn’t worry about profit (many have racked up losses for decades) and, hence, about satisfying any public needs. That’s why state-run enterprises are so often cesspools of corruption, patronage, and political manipulation. Look how Hugo Chavez in Venezuela has exploited control of the state oil company and other enterprises as parts of his political machine. It’s crony capitalism at its worst.

All this, as The Economist concludes, is a bad thing. Because even without being in business, and even in democracies, governments are already over-powerful, already controlling a sizeable slice of the economic pie. While governments are supposed to be accountable to the broader public, we know that with so many billions at stake, corruption is inevitable, and that huge armies of people working for government, even when not corrupted by private interests, often serve their own interests which needn’t match the public’s. But at least a separate and vigorous private sector, of business institutions not controlled by government, provides a counterbalance, an independent locus of economic and societal power. However, when government starts taking over that sector too, the harm is obvious, and all the baneful effects of over-mighty government metastasize. Look again at Venezuela where that counter-balance has been largely destroyed.

 Those who fear corporate power ought to fear it even more when it’s married to the power of government.

I am a great believer in democracy, and that democracy is ascendant in the world. But even if democracy triumphs completely, I believe humanity’s great challenge in the 21st Century is still wrestling with the colossal power of the state.

Plus Ultra

March 16, 2012

Humankind began in Africa, but has perennially been driven to see what’s over the next hill. With one next hill after another, in time we came to inhabit most of the globe.

Partly it was the mere urge for survival; but we’ve never been satisfied with merely that. Always we’ve striven for betterment, always seeking greener pastures. Surely that’s why, perhaps 15,000 years ago, people who found themselves in the bleak terrain of eastern Siberia pushed on, across the Bering land bridge, into a new continent. Long before that, a similar land bridge may have brought humans to Australia.

Yet not even open water could stop us. Early peoples also populated many remote islands dotting the vast expanse of the Pacific.

Just imagine such a voyage. Looking out at the horizon, you saw nothing but water. You couldn’t know how far you’d have to go before finding land – if ever. Someone had to go first, after all. And your boat was surely nothing much, a ramshackle little raft or dugout. Yet, impelled by some inner force, you got in that flimsy boat, and you went.

For the people who embarked on such a voyage, it was akin to a moonshot – but without the benefit of a backup team at a Houston control center. They were totally on their own, sailing into the unknown.

No doubt many of their bones lie at the bottom of the sea. But some of them made it.

Back on the other side of the world, people knew nothing of any of this. Eventually they learned to deploy not just rafts and canoes, but sturdy seagoing vessels. Still, those were scant match for the oceans’ caprice, and such voyaging took huge courage. For a long time, people pretty much huddled along their shorelines; the Chinese crept along theirs to explore their neighborhood; the Portuguese methodically felt their way along the African coast; the Vikings hopped from Scandinavia to Iceland to Greenland and even Newfoundland.

But the Straits of Gibraltar, between the Mediterranean and the Atlantic, still represented a barrier, not a gateway. Called the “Pillars of Hercules,” they were metaphorically draped with a banner proclaiming Non Plus Ultra – nothing further beyond.

One man, however, was undeterred. And when he set out, with three ships, in 1492, the first (as far as we know) ever to attempt a straight shot out across the open Atlantic, surely this too was akin to a moonshot.

Columbus was wrong about plenty; he grossly underestimated the distance to his actual goal, and never understood what he discovered instead. And for untold millions the consequences were horrible. Still, the ultimate result was to begin the immense process of reuniting all the people who, long before, had spread out among the globe’s far-flung reaches, into one great world community.

 When the Spaniards minted coins in the New World, for three centuries they all depicted a pair of pillars, the Pillars of Hercules, but with a new and thrilling banner draped across them: Plus Ultra – there is more beyond.

“O God, your sea is so great, and my boat is so small.” This is the so-called sailor’s prayer. Yes, the sea is vast indeed, and our boats are very small. But with our eyes to the horizon, our faces to the wind, our hopes and our dreams, we set out upon our journey.

And someday shall reach the stars.

Iran, Peaceniks, and War Lovers

March 12, 2012

Do you know who the real war lovers are? Peaceniks. Without wars, what would they do with their moral sanctimony? After Vietnam they suffered a long dry spell, positively horny for a war to oppose; Iraq finally let them scratch their itch. That felt so good, but now Iraq is over and Afghanistan is winding down. So now they’re ginning up indignation about a war that hasn’t happened – and won’t.

First, regarding Iran, let’s be clear: all the “are they or aren’t they?” hand-wringing is foolish. Iran’s behavior leaves no doubt that it’s seeking nuclear weapons.

In past situations, the “give sanctions time to work” line was a feckless bleat. But in this situation, there really is no alternative. Past sanctions tended to be slaps with a wet noodle; but now the prospect of an Israeli attack on Iran seems to have frightened the civilized world more than the prospect of an Iranian bomb ever did. So that, at long last, hoping to forestall the Israelis, they’ve gotten serious and imposed a set of sanctions that will really bite (including locking Iran out of the international money transfer system).

If air strikes could actually destroy Iran’s bomb program, I’d be all for it. But they can’t. Iran’s nuclear infrastructure is too dispersed, hidden, and well-protected. At most bombing would damage it temporarily, while actually redoubling the regime’s commitment to it. And while some sensible Iranians might blame such an attack on regime recklessness, there would also be a “rally round” effect. Indeed, an attack would be a godsend to a regime struggling to sustain loyalty, seemingly proving that its propaganda invoking foreign bogeymen was not paranoid nonsense after all.

Meantime, an attack would itself be a reckless gamble, with unforeseeable but potentially terrible follow-ons. The huge risks outweigh any possible gains. I think that’s true for the Israelis as well.

Better to let sanctions grind away at the mullahs, who will certainly be blamed for the economic toll. Iran’s economy is already a shambles due to the regime’s incompetence; because of that, together with the stolen 2009 election and the bloody crackdown that followed, the mullahs know they’re skating on thin ice and can ill-afford even more economic pain. The hope is that they will be forced to give up on the bomb; or else they’ll fall.

 If neither happens, and Iran does get the bomb, that will be bad, but we’ll have to live with it. Don’t be fooled by the mullahs’ messianic religious pose. In truth this is just another gang of thugs ruling by gangster methods, for their own aggrandizement, cloaked in phony religious camouflage. It’s to secure their power that they want the bomb – not to actually use it and risk everything.

American policy makers understand all this perfectly well, and while some saber-rattling is (rightly) part of our repertoire in dealing with Iran, an actual U.S. attack (let alone a full-scale “war”) is out of the question. Except of course in the fevered minds of peaceniks thirsting for a war to be against, and who love to condemn their own country as a warmonger nation toward which they can feel morally superior.

Is Homosexuality a Choice? A Sin?

March 9, 2012

The actress Cynthia Nixon recently created a stir by coming out as a lesbian, in an eight-year relationship, having previously been married to a man. Celebrities coming out are no longer a big shock. What made this different was Nixon’s saying her lesbianism is a choice.

Bible thumpers and other gay bashers call homosexuality immoral, perverse, sinful, as though it’s something a person has control over. But most gays and their advocates have insisted this is not a choice, and they are born that way.

That view is far more consistent with observable facts. Efforts to “cure” gays never really succeed; people can suppress outward behavior, but not their minds. Further, there is some scientific evidence of brain and other physiological differences between gays and straights.

If this is biological rather than behavioral, how can it be explained evolutionarily? Obviously, gayness genes would have a hard time getting into the next generation. The answer is that it’s not genetic; it’s in embryonic development. Embryos actually start out physiologically “gender neutral,” and becoming male or female (including programming the brain with appropriate sexual instincts) is a very complex process guided by chemical signaling from hormones, etc., which have to kick in at very particular times. If it doesn’t go off flawlessly, various gender anomalies can result, hermaphroditism being an extreme example. A more common one, it seems, is same-sex attraction.

Thus, generally speaking, gays are born that way; it has nothing to do with parenting, so parents of gay children can relax. But in the realm of sexuality, there are never absolutes, and what is usually true is not invariably true.

Regarding Cynthia Nixon, there is evidence that sexual orientation is somewhat more flexible for females than males (yet another example of pervasive male-female biological difference. Men are not just like women except with penises). Thus gayness can more plausibly be a choice for a woman than for a man. This is corroborated by personal thought experiment. For me, anything sexual with another man would be, to use a technical term, yuck. But I can readily imagine two gals having a very nice time together.

Many people view homosexuality as not “normal” or natural, and different. Well, everybody is, after all, different from everybody else. As for normality and naturalness, it’s certainly natural as a part of nature, and out of any random hundred people, a certain percentage will be gay. Thus, it’s simply a normal variation – just as blue eyes are not unnatural, and out of every hundred people a certain percentage will have blue eyes.

But in the end, it doesn’t really matter whether homosexuality is a choice or biologically innate. Why shouldn’t people have a right to choose it? Whose business is it but theirs? The problem with the concept of “sin” is that it obscures why wrong behavior is wrong. Something is wrong not if it offends some imaginary being, but if it harms actual beings.

 Homosexuality harms no one.* It doesn’t harm society – surely there will always be enough straight people to produce the next generation. And, indeed, gays can actually help in that. Gay marriage makes more homes for more children. It’s all very well to say a child deserves a father and a mother, but many children get only one. Surely two fathers or two mothers are better than a single parent. And for the many orphans whom gay couples adopt, that’s surely better than no parent at all.

* Child rape does, and should be punished, whether committed by gays or straights. But gays should not be punished because you imagine they might rape children. (And most child rapes are heterosexual.)

Regulation Tribulation: The Monster Eating Our Pizza

March 5, 2012

A local pizza joint had a big audit by the State Labor Department, receiving a seal of approval, and even plaudits for excellent record keeping. Nevertheless, it was slapped with a $5,535 fine – because employees didn’t get enough fresh uniform shirts.

It seems regulations stipulate a fresh shirt every day someone works, even if only for a few hours.

As the local paper’s story makes clear, this kind of nitpicking and over-punitive regulation is actually very typical, with painstaking detail when employees wear uniforms, including different requirements for dry-clean outfits versus wash-and-wear. Of course, that’s not the only aspect of a business subject to such complex state regulations, not to mention county, city, and federal ones.

 Here’s the basic problem: we want regulation of businesses to prevent abuses. Even the most rabid free-marketeer agrees they should be barred from conduct that harms people – just as laws ban such behavior by individuals. But in the real world, business regulation has a tendency to metastasize far beyond that, into regulation for regulation’s sake.

Shouldn’t it be enough for the state to ensure pizza shops don’t poison customers or abuse employees? Do we really need government supervising such minutiae as dry-clean versus wash-and-wear uniforms?

But a basic tropism of “progressives” is that if something is desirable, it should be required. It’s a mindset that itches to make every nook and cranny of the world conform to its judgment of what’s good and proper. So if a daily fresh uniform shirt would be nice – why, let’s require it!

We see this everywhere. Progressives judge it would be nice for health insurance plans to cover contraception – so let’s require that – and much else. This makes simple basic health plans, affordable for the less affluent, unavailable. It also caused the recent kerfuffle about forcing Catholic organizations to fund practices they oppose. But lost in that debate was the more basic question: why force such detail on all health plans? Why not let people shop for themselves among divergent plans, to best meet their needs?

Similarly, innumerable housing regulations make all sorts of niceties and amenities required – thus, simple cheap rooms cannot be offered (adding to homelessness). And likewise day care facilities must meet a zillion requirements – making them unaffordable to many parents – who resort to cheaper unlicensed day care where all the high-minded regulations are simply ignored.

Recently, some pinhead in the federal Transportation Department decided it would be nicer if street signs didn’t use all capital letters. So the requirement was imposed nationwide! After an uproar about the excessive cost of needlessly replacing millions of signs, the regulation was apparently shelved, but not before huge sums were already wasted. (And the new signs in Albany I find less legible than the old ones.)

In all these examples, some do-gooder was trying to make society better but actually made it worse. Yet another case in point is the Sarbanes-Oxley law, aimed at Enron-like corporate abuses. And it may prevent a few. But meantime it imposed massive, costly paperwork requirements on all large businesses, and thus makes it a lot harder for small businesses to become large ones. Almost surely a cure worse than the disease.

Dodd & Frank

Dodd-Frank worsens this, another 848 page regulatory behemoth creating monumental compliance and paperwork costs for financial institutions and other businesses. We’re talking many many billions. Businesses can’t just eat such costs, they ultimately fall upon consumers somehow. Meantime, this regulatory overkill stifles innovation, distorts how the economy functions, and inhibits competition by handicapping new or smaller businesses unable to cope with burdens like the big boys.

Dodd-Frank’s basic thrust is to stop financial institutions from taking undue risks. But do we really want loans and business investments inhibited by concerns that they’ll be ensnared in a tangle of punitive government regulations? Isn’t risk taking integral to a vibrant economy? And it’s far from clear that the law will achieve any countervailing good; its huge complexity inevitably creates unintended loopholes that the wily can exploit to frustrate its objectives and even twist them to their advantage.

Sarbanes & Oxley

Back to our pizza joint, of course the cost to the owner is $5,535. What is the cost to society? A weaker economy – because over-regulation like this (and Sarbanes-Oxley, and Dodd-Frank, and Obamacare) makes it harder for any business to operate and eke out a profit. With today’s unemployment, we can ill-afford such regulatory excess. It’s way more important to have pizza parlors that stay in business and employ people than for them to get a fresh shirt every day.

This is serious. In a recent examination of regulation in America, The Economist concludes that it’s suffocating our economy, undermining America’s character as the land of free enterprise, and making it a less attractive place to do business. (For more detail, see this link, and this too.)

 Again, regulating businesses to prevent genuine abuses is entirely appropriate. But “progressives” don’t know when to stop – if regulation is good, more is better. And so we get the likes of Sarbanes-Toxic and Dodd-Frankenstein — a vicious regulatory monster eating all our lunches. That being the reality, we’d actually be better off with no regulation at all. Literally. Yes, some harm would occur. But the overall greater economic vitality would more than compensate.

“How many deaths will it take till he knows that too many people have died?”

March 2, 2012

Words fail for this horror of a full scale military attack on a city and its mostly unarmed men, women, and children, a deliberate wanton slaughter that recalls the rape of Nanking. And Nanking involved a foreign enemy. The attack on Homs and other Syrian cities is conducted by what purports to be their own national government.

The aim of Assad’s regime is not merely to hang on. It is to teach its people a lesson they won’t forget, to show them that opposition is hopeless and its price is unbearable.

We focus on Assad, but this isn’t just about him. He functions within a system. He actually started life as a mousy ophthalmologist, but was swallowed up by the political machine his father built, and is now probably more a captive of it than its boss. All these hard and venal men must see the alternative as not just disempowerment but death.

Can they win? Unfortunately yes. Unlike Qaddafi, who was afraid of a big army, Assad has one of the world’s biggest. And he still actually has significant support. A key reason is that the regime has made a sizeable population segment complicit in its crimes, and thus terrified of comeuppance lest the regime fall. Assad’s support is concentrated in the Alawite ethnic minority, who fear being singled out for retribution — as well they should.

Yet if they prevail in the short term, what have they really won? Rule over a destroyed country, over a traumatized population most of which hates them with a black passion. They are plunging the country into an abyss which must ultimately swallow them as well.

And while I am sickened by the depth of evil here, yet my heart soars to see the courage that, in spite of all the horror, still stands up to oppose it.

I refer, of course, to the Syrian people. Not us. Why are we doing nothing of substance to stop this? Because Russia and China shamed themselves by vetoing a UN resolution? Why has the International Criminal Court not even yet indicted Assad and company for crimes against humanity?

True, we don’t have the capability to do Assad down as we did Qaddafi. At least not without immense effort and cost. Again, Assad’s military assets are far more formidable. But that shouldn’t mean we just shrug our shoulders. What we did in Libya was a very good thing; it changed the way the world works. Assad’s gang took the wrong lesson from it: that they have to be far more bloody even than Qaddafi. If they’re allowed to do this with impunity, that will vitiate much of the salutary Libyan precedent, and encourage others among the world’s bad guys to follow the Syrian playbook.

That’s the reason we should take action in Syria even if we can’t militarily stop Assad. UN or no UN, we should send some bombers over, and obliterate some military bases and assets; and, yes, soldiers. And why not bomb the presidential palace (as we targeted Qaddafi’s compound)? This would serve to show the likes of Assad, and those who would support them, that today’s world really is different; that there’s a serious price to pay for crimes like theirs.

You want to quibble about “legality”? Rule of law means more than rulebooks. What it means most fundamentally is justice. And please don’t burble “national sovereignty” at me. No concept of national sovereignty should shield a gang of murderers ruling a country through terror.

Furthermore, acting as I urge would show the Syrian people – and people throughout the world suffering under such tyranny – that we really and truly are on their side. And on the right side of history (which the Russians and Chinese are not). And, who knows, it might encourage the Syrian opposition just enough to tip the balance of the situation against Assad. His fall would would pay us priceless geopolitical dividends (as I explained in a previous post.)

I repeat: what’s stopping us?

What Romney Should Say; What Santorum Should Not Have Said

March 1, 2012

Mitt Romney has made repeated gaffes calling attention to his wealth. The latest was mentioning his wife’s two Cadillacs.

Here’s what he should say:

“My fellow Americans. I come before you as a rich man. I have a quarter of a billion dollars. That’s billion with a B.

“I won’t hide it. I earned this money. I worked hard for it. I was very successful. I’m proud of that, and I enjoy my wealth, which gives me a lifestyle most folks can’t afford. That’s what motivates people like me to work hard and take risks. That people can succeed like this is what makes America great, and it gives us the most dynamic economy on Earth, which is good for everybody.

“The rap on being rich is that you’re out of touch with the problems of ordinary people. But look, I didn’t get rich by being stupid and not knowing what’s going on. No, I don’t personally have to struggle paying my bills, but I know that’s true for too many Americans, and as a human being I can understand perfectly well what that’s like. You know, rich people may not have money problems but they have different ones; everybody has their problems; that’s what life is about.

“It’s the job of a president to solve problems. That’s what I’ve been doing all my life, with great success, that’s how I made my money, and that’s why I believe I can be a good president. And because I want an America where everyone can be as successful as I’ve been.”

* * * *

In a previous post I explained (concerning Romney’s Mormonism) why I generally leave religion aside when casting a vote. I cited John F. Kennedy’s landmark 1960 speech to the Houston ministers, assuring them that his presidency would not be controlled by the Catholic church. I said this reflected a broad national consensus, clarifying a line that no president could cross.

Candidate Sanctorum, in a recent interview, avowed that that JFK speech made him want “to throw up.” He explained, “I don’t believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute.” Taken together these statements show he would cross the line which I said no president could. This is not an epithet I like to throw around, but I call him un-American.

Santorum doesn’t even understand what church-state separation means. He thinks it means “only people of non-faith can come into the public square and make their case.” Uh, no.

One could go on at some length enumerating the absurdities spewing from this walking Bible of a candidate. (Try here.) I’ll mention one: his pledge to resuscitate “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Before it was ended, there might have been an arguably defensible concern that there could be problems. But now that we see no such problems, what is the argument for barring gays from the military? All that’s left is a pure mean-spirited bigotry that could only emanate from Santorum’s Biblebrain.

 Apparently Sanctorum’s religion-infested ethics not only justifies gay-bashing, but it did not stop him from robocalls urging Democrats to infiltrate the Republican primary and vote against Romney because Romney opposed the auto bailouts – as did Santorum himself. This carries American political hypocrisy and dishonesty to a new low (and that’s really saying something). So much for God-given morality.

This is one candidate I oppose on grounds of religion.