Sunday, November 30, 2008

Love of Country and Defending Liberty

Okay. The holidays are over. No more fun.

This guy is the stuff of which victorious fighting forces are made. He is a Navy SEAL, wounded in Iraq and eager to return to duty. This comes from "Backfive," an interesting outfit.

My question for you is this. What kind of society produces this kind of man? (Just an aside: the placard doesn't explicitly say, but this is clearly a man. No woman would say these things. SEALS are necessarily men.) What are we preserving in our society that encourages this sort of courage, self-discipline, love of country, and self-denial? Or are we only spreading the sort of soil that produces people who stampede over Wal-Mart employees, killing them in our attempts to be first at the deeply discounted flat screen televisions?

In a chaotic world, liberty demands that some brave, patriotic souls sacrifice themselves for others. Men like that do not spring from nothing. Notice that this patriot does what he does because his heart has been formed in a certain way. He has particular "loves." He loves his job. Fine. Soldiers love to fight. Be he goes on. "The wounds I received I got in a job I love, doing it for people I love, supporting the freedom of a country I deeply love." It's not Iraq that he loves. He loves the United States of America. Of course, he loves his family ("people I love"), but he also loves his country, not just because it is his but because it is a land of liberty. It is a country uniquely committed to the self-evident truths "that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, [and] that among these are the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." No doubt he has a sober appreciation for this land. Surely he loves America "on balance," despite her vices and shortcomings. After all, he grew up here and, when he's not fighting, he lives here. But mature love is like that.

The question for us as the citizens whose liberty he is defending is this. How long can a country remain free when, from the public schools to our elite universities and from the movies to the news media, we are despising our country, its moral foundations, its most noble founders, and its greatest accomplishments? What happens to a country that no longer believes in itself?

This question becomes practical when citizens are called upon to elect school boards and Presidents. As for the current President-elect, let's hope that what he learned in church didn't stick with him, or that his religion doesn't affect the way he governs, or that he doesn't actually hate his country the way his wife Michelle does.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Holiday Fun

More holiday fun. This time from John Guido.
Do you think this is funny? I do.

Hoodwinked At Hooters

What would Solomon do? What would Obama do? What will Obama do?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

President Reagan's First Thanksgiving Proclamation

Proclamation 4883. November 12, 1981
America has much for which to be thankful. The unequaled freedom enjoyed by our citizens has provided a harvest of plenty to this nation throughout its history. In keeping with America’s heritage, one day each year is set aside for giving thanks to god for all of His blessings.

On this day of thanksgiving, it is appropriate that we recall the first thanksgiving, celebrated in the autumn of 1621. After surviving a bitter winter, the Pilgrims planted and harvested a bountiful crop. After the harvest they gathered their families together and joined in celebration and prayer with the native Americans who had taught them so much. Clearly our forefathers were thankful not only for the material well-being of their harvest but for this abundance of goodwill as well.

In this spirit, Thanksgiving has become a day when Americans extend a helping hand to the less fortunate. Long before there was a government welfare program, this spirit of voluntary giving was ingrained in the American character. Americans have always understand that, truly, one must give in order to receive. This should be a day of giving as well as a day of thanks.

As we celebrate Thanksgiving in 1981, we should reflect on the full meaning of this day as we enjoy the fellowship that is so much a part of the holiday festivities. Searching our hearts, we should ask what we can do as individuals to demonstrate our gratitude to God for all He has done. Such reflection can only add to the significance of this precious day of remembrance.
Let us recommit ourselves to that devotion to God and family that has played such an important role in making this a great Nation, and which will be needed as a source of strength if we are to remain a great people.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, RONALD REAGAN, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim Thursday, November 26, 1981, as Thanksgiving Day.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twelfth day of November, in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and eighty-one, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and sixth.



Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Health Plan Is Slow Motion Catastrophe

I recently reflected on Daniel Henninger's "Mad Max and the Meltdown," his theory on the moral and religious meltdown that preceded the financial one ("We Need More Than A Little Christmas"). In Henninger's essay, however, he mentions the comparable crises looming in Social Security and Medicare.

Amid all these downward-pushing pressures, occurring in plain sight, hardly anyone or anything stepped up to brake the fall. What happened? The answer echoing through the marble hallways of Congress and Europe's ministries is: regulation failed. In short, throw plaster at cracked walls. Trusting the public sector to protect us from financial catastrophe is a bad idea. When the Social Security and Medicare meltdowns arrive, as precisely foretold by their trustees, will we ask again: What were they thinking?

In the same paper, the Journal's editors describe the coming implosion of those entitlement programs as a "slow motion catastrophe." We've seen this approaching for some time now, but there is insufficient love of country among our lawmakers to do anything about it. What is new, however, is that the incoming administration has plans to make the situation considerably worse.

In "The Obama Health Plan Emerges" (Nov. 20, 2008), the Journal reports:

Today, health entitlements account for 4% of GDP but will rise to 7% in 2025 and about 15% in 2062. Not that the current level of benefits will ever be paid. According to the Medicare trustees, the program's excess costs over the next 75 years -- that is, the difference between expected outlays and revenues -- is more than $36 trillion, which even they acknowledge is several trillion too low given current trends. Even if Congress doubled all individual and corporate tax rates, it still wouldn't raise enough revenue to pay for Medicare and Medicaid.

The Obama-Baucus solution to this slow-motion catastrophe is to add tens of millions more people to the federal balance sheet. Because the public option will enjoy taxpayer sponsorship, it will offer generous packages to consumers that no private company could ever afford or justify. And because federal officials will run not only the new plan but also the "market" in which it "competes" with private programs -- like playing both umpire and one of the teams on the field -- they will crowd out private alternatives and gradually assume a health-care monopoly.

Obama's goal is to expand a system that is headed for bankruptcy so that it encompasses vastly more people and makes the problem vastly bigger and fiscally more deadly than it is now.

That's change, all right.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Clintons We Can Believe In

Bad news for the far left is good news for the rest of us. Kirsten Powers tells us what's driving the blogoleft crazy in "Left At The Altar" (New York Post, Nov. 23, 2008).

Shocked that the man who ran as a post-partisan candidate seeking the middle ground is being post-partisan and seeking middle ground, these people are blasting Barack Obama's early, centrist decisions.

I have no doubt that Obama is planning a radical agenda of some sort--abortion, "harvesting" human stem cells, slow government take-over of the health care system, etc.--but so far the promised "change" is looking like government as usual. Who would have thought the Clinton team would ever be a sight for sore conservative eyes?

David Bobb at Hillsdale College refuses to draw comfort from this. WORLD magazine reports:

Instead of Clinton-style Third Wayism or hard leftism, Bobb said Obama's choices to date signal Progressivism: "Obama lately has paid tribute to Abraham Lincoln, who held that the principles affirmed by the founding generation were immutably true. The Progressives held that the only thing that is constant is change . . . so the really interesting questions aren't about the Clinton retreads but rather the fundamental beliefs our president-elect has about America and the principles upon which it is founded," such as natural rights, natural law, and a static, rather than "living," Constitution. "The evidence suggests that President-elect Obama . . . should keep reading [his] Lincoln, and add to it Madison, Jefferson, Hamilton, and Washington," Bobb said.

Of course, he's right, and I was wrong to lower my guard. Even with just 58 or 59 Democratic Senators, we can expect a radicalization of the Supreme Court, and with that the Constitution with fade into the mist of time.

The cartoon comes from Sean Rubin at The Daily Princetonian.

We Need More Than A Little Christmas

We and our journalists, when faced with a crisis, have a tendency to focus on its immediate causes, and then tinker with them while attempting to affix blame in the partisan debate. Thus, in what may become known as the Financial Crisis of 2008, we focus on better regulation and troublesome government intrusion into the market while mustering arguments for the culpability of either the Bush years or the ideological and self-serving liberal Democratic Congress. Of course, there is helpful truth to be found in those investigations. But there are more important truths, and ultimately more helpful ones, to be found in pulling back to look at the bigger human picture and see the deeper problems embedded in our souls, or if you will, the contemporary American character.

Daniel Henninger takes this broader approach in his little newspaper essay, "Mad Max and the Meltdown" (Wall Street Journal, Nov. 20, 2008). He states his thesis metaphorically, saying, "A nation whose people can't say "Merry Christmas" is a nation capable of ruining its own economy."

Skipping his step by step summary of how this crisis unfolded, we come to his conclusion. The problem has been fundamentally not one of inadequate regulation, though there certainly was that. The problem was one of inadequate moral restraint on the part of many of the people involved, from the greatest to the least of them. This widespread moral wandering was made possible by a larger society that is aggressively discouraging religion among its citizens.

What really went missing through the subprime mortgage years were the three Rs: responsibility, restraint and remorse. They are the ballast that stabilizes two better-known Rs from the world of free markets: risk and reward. Responsibility and restraint are moral sentiments. Remorse is a product of conscience. None of these grow on trees. Each must be learned, taught, passed down. And so we come back to the disappearance of "Merry Christmas." It has been my view that the steady secularizing and insistent effort at dereligioning America has been dangerous. ... Northerners and atheists who vilify Southern evangelicals are throwing out nurturers of useful virtue with the bathwater of obnoxious political opinions.

John Adams tells us, "Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other." He said this not because he lived in a religious society and was so immersed in that point of view that he could not imagine the liberating possibilities of atheistic secularism. Late eighteenth century moral, political, and religious thought gave him a vivid awareness of the alternative. His claim on this point is based instead on his understanding of liberty and the human soul. Our constitution oversees a system of political and economic liberty. That system is not self-sufficient. It cannot govern what Immanuel Kant called "a nation of devils." Such a people, unable to govern themselves from within, would need a very powerful, active, and omnipresent state to restrain them.

C.S. Lewis saw this problem in his day. In The Abolition of Man, he argues that the Enlightenment project to refound all knowledge on an amoral, or "value-neutral," scientific basis, together with its philosophic collapse into nihilism or what we are calling post-modernism, have landed us in an inhuman and unsustainable situation by debunking the very means by which we make moral judgments or even recognize their possibility. "In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and we expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful" (Harper edition, p.26).

People want to be free of religion, especially Christianity, but they want to retain the morality that derives from and requires that religion for it to make any sense and to give it force in the human heart.

We see this vain hope expressed in a recent atheist ad campaign in London that has migrated to Washington DC in time for the Christmas season. It asks, "Why believe in a god? Just be good for goodness' sake." It is yet another effort not only to take Christ out of Christmas, but also to remove Christ from Christian character.

Mere exhortations of this sort are notoriously ineffective, however, because people, left to themselves, are incorrigibily self-centered. They must be governed from above by the looming consequences of violating the divinely established moral order. It was the irreligious Thomas Jefferson who confessed, "I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that His justice cannot sleep forever."

Even better, however, is when people are governed from within by a heart transforming spiritual grace that restrains selfishness and inclines the heart in charity toward not only one's family and neighbors, but also to strangers--both seen and unseen--and, yes, even to one's enemies. If we sow the wind, we can expect to reap the whirlwind (Hosea 8:7).

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Just Say No

This election, 2008, really is going to turn out to be a watershed event. Either we as a country will turn back the most serious run at overturning our presumptive reliance on free, open markets and self government; or we will take the fatal steps over the point of no return and walk into the narcoleptic dream world of a Euro-welfare state.

With our economy in crisis, there are so many temptations for the average citizen to go soft and turn to government for aid and solace. The age cohort that overwhelmingly supported the Obama-phenom, 18-29, has never seen a deep recession, and has the idea that robust growth with little inflation is the default position. The connection with lower taxes and less onerous regulation with the sterling economic performance we have had over the last two decades and more has been conceptually severed in the minds of most Americans. Thus, talk of the salutary effects of "tax cuts for the rich" and laying conclusive blame for the mortgage debacle on "lack of regulation" have become settled consensus views.

In light of the sudden and momentous--even world-historical--move by the Bush administration to socialize wide swaths of the banking and insurance industries, many voters are now ready to accept huge government intrusions and outright takeovers in the midst of this slow motion catastrophe. In the formulation of history as first tragedy and then farce, we will witness, in all likelihood, a farcical reenactment of the very sorts of government solutions FDR shoved into the American way of life, and which Amity Shlaes shows conclusively actually made the depression of the 1930's worse. Obama's solution for the looming unemployment right around the corner? Not aid to the private sector in the form of tax cuts and favorable monetary policy, but the ramping up of huge CCC and WPA style public works projects, financed with public debt, along with the takeover of the auto industry. "We owe it to ourselves" was an old Rooseveltian/Keynsian justification for government spending what it does not have.

I suspect that a lot of the free capital being shaken loose in the profit-taking sell-offs on these market run-ups will be fleeing to better climes. Hong Kong and Singapore, to mention just two, are set to reap an investment boom as tax friendly jurisdictions benefit from the follies sure to flow from a Democrat choke hold on all three branches of government. Our only hope is that this hard left turn runs us immediately into the ditch; if it takes too long for the reality to become apparent, we are doomed to a future where we're all Europeans. (See Randall Hoven's excellent "3 Scenarios for the Obama Years: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly")

But, as a very old saying has it, "who's going to pull the wagon when we all want to ride?" Without the enormous engine of economic growth that America uniquely provides, with our free economy and faith in capitalism, the socialist hammocks of Europe cannot be paid for, nor can the defense umbrella we provide the whole world. Witness the pathetic response to these Somali pirates in the Gulf; in the absence of American power and will, what's to stop them from franchising across the globe?

We are going to be a lot poorer and a lot more threatened than we ever imagined possible, unless enough people come to their senses quickly enough. The narcotics of leftism are being pushed at vulnerable people with little will to resist, and we are at risk of becoming a nation of addicts, willing to sell anything or anyone to maintain the sleepy cocoon our would-be overmasters have designed for us. Weak and soft, with no conception of self-reliance, looking to government for guidance and sustenance: imagine what the stout-hearted revolutionaries of 1776 who spilled their blood over the loss of their rights as Englishmen would say if they could see the decadent, slouching, addict-like mien of modern Americans.

We owe it to our forebears, and our posterity, to stop the sleepwalk into the narcotic oblivion the socialist drug dealers of the New New Deal have laid out for us. Just say no.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Celebrate the Coming of Dear Leader

Check out the new metro cards Washington DC is issuing to commemorate Inauguration Day. Put this with the hagiographies passing as news pieces put out by Time, Newsweek, and NBC; the commemorative coin sets private "mints" are rushing out; the school text books already including large chapters on the wondrous works of the One; and the sure-to-be-omnipresent Barack channel on YouTube which will pass off propaganda as public information, and you have, at the very least, an unprecedented display of love and devotion to an untried leader. This is only one aspect of the "change" Obama is bringing, to the presidency as an institution, and to the political culture of the nation.

What do you think so far?


Innes: Let me quote from a comment below by Mr. Khan, one of our readers: "I think fawning in general is deplorable as a response to any political figure. The best response any mortal should hope for is a sort of manly admiration, but this is customarily awarded at the end of the race. No Olympian claims gold for winning a spot on the roster."

This brings to mind a story I once heard of a young preacher (Was it John Perkins or E.V. Hill? I can't recall.) who went springing full of confidence up into the pulpit for his first sermon. As he struggled through it, it became clear to him and to everyone in the congregation that he was unprepared for the work that morning. Greatly humbled by the experience, he descended slowly from the pulpit at the end of the service and brought himself to the back of the church where he greeted people as they left. An old woman took his hand and said, "Preacher, if you'd gone up into the pulpit the way you came down, you would have come down the way you went up."

Mr. Khan's remark reminds me more directly of King Ahab's advice to Ben-Hadad, the king of Aram: "One who puts on his armor should not boast like one who takes it off" (1 Kings 20:11).

Thursday, November 20, 2008

New Dimensions of Our Divided Union

This comes from John Guido

Bailout or Survival

On the Big Three "Bailout," I found these two articles explained everything clearly, yet briefly.

Michael Levine, "Why Bankruptcy is the Best Option for GM" (Wall Street Journal, Nov. 17, 2008).

Mitt Romney, "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt" (New York Times, Nov. 18, 2008).

GM would not disappear, nor would the American auto industry. GM would reorganize under chapter 11 bankruptcy, throw off a lot of the baggage that's dragging them down (way too many dealerships that are protected by state laws from being closed, buildings and plants they are not using but which they are having to carry because of tax breaks they received to build them in the first place, etc.). They would become a rationally organized company for their market share and actually make a profit.

What the American automakers are requesting from Congress is not a bailout, which would suggest actually getting them out of something bad. The "bailout" would kill them, or rather it would prolong their suicide. Sinking is their only hope of survival, ironically.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Socialists Anonymous for the Right

Are conservatives in America serious about facing what we have become and about rethinking what we need to be if we are to help foster what is best in this free republic?

George Will throws a bucket of cold water on anyone who is still baffled and whining within the movement ("The Hyperbole of a Conservative").

Conservatism's current intellectual chaos reverberated in the Republican ticket's end-of-campaign crescendo of surreal warnings that big government -- verily, "socialism" -- would impend were Democrats elected. John McCain and Sarah Palin experienced this epiphany when Barack Obama told a Toledo plumber that he would "spread the wealth around."

America can't have that, exclaimed the Republican ticket while Republicans -- whose prescription drug entitlement is the largest expansion of the welfare state since President Lyndon Johnson's Great Society gave birth to Medicare in 1965; a majority of whom in Congress supported a lavish farm bill at a time of record profits for the less than 2 percent of the American people-cum-corporations who farm -- and their administration were partially nationalizing the banking system, putting Detroit on the dole and looking around to see if some bit of what is smilingly called "the private sector" has been inadvertently left off the ever-expanding list of entities eligible for a bailout from the $1 trillion or so that is to be "spread around."

The seepage of government into everywhere is, we are assured, to be temporary and nonpolitical. Well. ...

He goes on to cite "temporary" programs that started with the Depression and WWII, but which, alas, are still with us. It is the nature of most public officials that once they get their claws into a source of revenue or a sphere of control, they never let go. Why should the banks, the automakers, and the occasional trillion dollars of public "emergency" spending be exceptions to this natural law?

Will drives home his point here:

Hyperbole is not harmless; careless language bewitches the speaker's intelligence. ... In America, socialism is un-American. Instead, Americans merely do rent-seeking -- bending government for the benefit of private factions. The difference is in degree, including the degree of candor. The rehabilitation of conservatism cannot begin until conservatives are candid about their complicity in what government has become.

Conservatives need to face what they have become under George W. Bush, and then confess "Hi, my name's _______, and I'm a socialist," repent, re-study the Founding, the Constitution, the basic principles of political and economic liberty, and I would add the disgrace and dignity of man in the gospel of Christ, and then study how prudence would apply these lessons to the present shambles of which we are co-architects.

For background on W-conservatism, read Fred Barnes, "Big-Government Conservatism," The Weekly Standard, Aug. 18, 2003.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Obama's Universal Civilian Service Program

Barack Obama has caused a stir among conservatives with his allusion in a speech back in July to creating "a civilian national security force that's just as powerful, just as strong, just as well-funded" as the the military. As I have shown, these words surely do not foreshadow a fascist, brown-shirt brigade of partisan political intimidation. They do signify, however, a looming government initiative of great significance.

Rahm Emanuel, President-elect Obama's choice for chief-of-staff, perhaps gives us insight into what his boss has in mind for us. In The Plan: Big Ideas for America (Public Affairs, 2006), he writes,

It's time for a real Patriot Act that brings out the patriot in all of us. We propose universal civilian service for every young American. Under this plan, all Americans between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five will be asked to serve their country by going through three months of basic training, civil defense preparation and community service. ... Here's how it would work. Young people will know that between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five, the nation will enlist them for three months of civilian service. They'll be asked to report for three months of basic civil defense training in their state or community, where they will learn what to do in the event of biochemical, nuclear or conventional attack; how to assist others in an evacuation; how to respond when a levee breaks or we're hit by a natural disaster. These young people will be available to address their communities' most pressing needs (pp.61-62).

I would not dismiss this idea out of hand. Americans face few demands of citizenship, if any. We live in a dangerous world, but we rely upon a few volunteers to make the world safe for our soft complacency. A little civil defense training might be a good thing.

But as for the humanitarian service, asks these questions:

Obama's service plan is just as troubling. He wants to mandate 50 hours of community service per year for middle and high school students. And he's offering a $4,000 federal-funded tuition credit in exchange for 100 hours per year from college students. For most students, the latter will become a mandatory part of getting a degree, as colleges will merely raise their tuition to compensate for the vouchers. So who gets to decide what constitutes "community service"? Who gets to decide which causes and organizations will be credit-worthy, and which ones won't? Something tells me that you'd be more likely to get one of Obama's vouchers by going door to door for one of ACORN's living wage campaigns than, say, volunteering for a libertarian nonprofit organization that advocates against things like government-mandated community service.

I would hope than service through one's church, or through a para-church organization like Youth With A Mission or Campus Crusade for Christ, a summer mission trip for example, would fulfill the requirement. But I suppose we'll be talking about that.

The summer between high school and college is a good time to get the obligation out of the way. Most graduating high school seniors need a maturing experience before college anyway. The $4,000 tuition credit makes up for the lost income the student would have made if he or she had worked all summer. If this were a full time commitment of thirty-five hours a week for twelve weeks, $4,000 works out to about $9.50 an hour. That's reasonable. But if the commitment is only for a total of 50 hours distributed over three months, as indicates, that works out to $80 an hour, a handsome wage indeed, leaving students lots of time to do what they would normally do for summer earnings.

Under such terms, the program is a universal college tuition give-away with a token amount of civic-minded service required in exchange. This is perhaps the link between Emanuel's goals of universal civilian service and universal access to college education regardless of one's ability or the suitability of college education to what one wants to do in life. Granted, $4k will not carry you through a degree program, not even at a public university. But it's another step in the direction of transforming college education into what high school education once was and is supposed to be. Where is the gain in that? Instead of fixing education at the high school level, universal access to college education merely extends the problem into the post-secondary academic world, flooding the college system with unmotivated illiterates even more than it is already.

Do I have it all wrong? I'm working from indirect glimpses into the new administration. In his July speech on Colorado Springs, Obama himself spoke only of volunteerism, expanding AmeriCorps from 75,000 spots to 250,000, doubling the size of the Peace Corps, and expanding USA Freedom Corps. We elected Barack Obama to the White House, not Rahm Emanuel. But as eternal vigilance is the price of liberty, it will be wise for citizens to keep this range of ideas in view, and the larger issues they involve, as they emerge from the new administration and take legislative form.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

What Are Principalities and Powers?

I notice that a regular flow of visitors to this blog arrive here by googling the question, "What are principalities and powers?" Up until now they have been disappointed by what they have found, at least as far as the answer to that question is concerned. Seekers from the four corners of the worldwide web, here is the answer (or the beginnings of it).

There are two different uses of the terms, the one is primary and political, whereas the other is secondary, or derived, and spiritual.

In Ephesians 1:20-21, it is above every authority, starting with political ones, that Jesus is exalted. "He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come" (NKJV).

He is "seated," indicating sovereign rule. That seat of authority is at the right hand of God the Father. So his rule is a divine government that does not merely closely rival earthly government, but is "far above" it. His power does not rise and later fall like the kingdoms of men, but is everlasting.

Because Jesus reigns with utterly unassailable power from heaven over every principality and power on earth, Paul can tell the followers of Jesus to obey those earthly principalities and powers. He tells Titus to teach the Christians in his church, "to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men" (Titus 3:1) Because Christ is in control from heaven and is able work all our sufferings on earth for our good, we can obey even pagan governments as though they were Christ himself, unless they command us to sin.

In his commentary on the Bible, John Charles Ellicott (1819-1905, Bishop of Gloucester), tells us this:

The Greek words translated "principalities and powers" are better rendered here by "rulers and authorities," as the word "principalites" is used occasionally in the English version for an "order of angels." The terms include all constituted governors and officials, Roman and otherwise, in the island [Crete] (comment on Titus 3:1).

George Eldon Ladd says this in A Theology of the New Testament, rev. ed. (Eerdmans, 1993) in his section on spiritual powers:

A prominent element in Paul's thinking about the nature of the old age is the conviction that it is in the grip of evil supernatural powers. Paul conceives of both good and evil spirits. Angels are viewed as spiritual beings engaged in the service of God. ... The archenemy of God, however, is an evil spirit who is sometimes called the devil (Eph. 4:27; 6:11; 1 Tim. 3:7), but usually Satan. ... Satan's main objective is to frustrate the redemptive purposes of God....

Paul refers not only to good and bad angels, to Satan and to demons; he uses another group of words to designate ranks of angelic spirits. The terminology is as follows: [rules, authorities, powers, thrones, lordships, etc.]. That this terminology designates spiritual beings is quite clear from Eph. 6:11ff., where the believer's struggle is against the devil and against principalities, authorities, world rulers of this present darkness, spiritual hosts of wickedness. Usually they are conceived as being evil and opposing the Kingdom of God. Sometimes, however, these spiritual powers are not cast in an evil light but are represented as created beings who apparently exist to serve the divine glory (Col. 1:16). Christ is the head of all such rule and authority (Col. 2:10); the divine purpose will display to these principalities and powers in the heavenly places the manifold wisdom of God through the church (Eph. 3:10) (pp. 440-441).
He argues that Paul used this symbolic language, "to assert that all evil powers, whatever they may be, whether personal or impersonal, have been brought into subordination by the death and exaltation of Christ and will eventually be destroyed through his messianic reign" (p. 442).

I contend, however, that Paul can use terms such as principalities, powers, thrones and dominions to refer metaphorically to supernatural powers like angels and demons only because what he is saying is primarily true of those earthly powers to which the terms most literally refer.

So, in the New Testament use of the terms, sometimes principalities and powers are earthly political authorities, sometimes they are angelic beings, and sometimes they are specifically fallen angelic beings, viz., demons, depending on the context.

Ladd recommends that we read G. H. C. MacGregor, "Principalities and Powers," in New Testament Studies 1 (1954); H. Schlier, Principalities and Powers in the New Testament (1961); and G. B. Caird, Principalities and Powers (1956).

(Not So) Distant Early Warning

How will our new totally Democrat government "rule" (to use a little of their own fascistic lingo.)? Here's a heads up from J.G. Thayer over at Commentary magazine's blogsite. Three events unfolding simultaneously, under direct Democrat party management are once again telegraphing what the hard left thinks of the liberties and rights our country was founded with. Actually these are illustrative of the difference between "governing" and "ruling", where the regime is based on the liberal values of openness, transparency, respect for individual rights against government, and consent of the governed--principles not shared by the hard Left. Here is Thayer's list, which I'm afraid will only lengthen as this presidency unfolds:

  • The so-called "Employee Free Choice Act", which is actually intended to discourage free choice in voting in union representation by discarding secret ballots; Democrats are for this? Oh wait, we're talking about the Stalinist wing of the party here...but as Thayer says, "Thank heavens that unions have no history of violence, intimidation, corruption, or deception. Because if they did, the potential for the abuse of this system would be instantly realized"

  • Proposition 8 in California, where for the second time, those bigoted, hard core conservative Californians voted to preserve the ancient definition of marriage under their Constitution. Prominent supporters are being targeted now for revenge--with what we have been instructed are hate crimes when done unto homosexuals and other favored groups. Interestingly too, in this Alice in Wonderland world abuilding, the "n" word is absolutely justified when spewed by gay rights advocates. The people of California who dared to exercise this particular opinion must be made to pay, and be made an example of for any future move not to the liking of the newly ascendant "rulers."

  • The Norm Coleman/Al Franken Senate election, being stolen right out in the open for all to see. Al Franken? What are you people thinking? Democrats, in the wake of the elections of 2000 and 2004 have worked to capture as many Secretary of State offices as possible--these are the officials, like Catherine Harris in Florida, who certify the votes and decide discrepancies. The massive fraud we already know about in this case makes it hard to believe this is happening in America, but there is only more of the same brown shirt shredding of state and the federal constitutions in store for us.

The New New Left is constrained, it appears, only by the limits of their own audacity, because as it happens, way too many state and federal benches are held by radical sympathizers for there to be much of a judicial backstop for the rule of law-our law. So, as the rule of law goes by the boards, the rule of the Rulers oozes into its place, and we will see what a government paid for with hundreds of Soros millions looks like.

As Bob Dylan saw in a moment of twilight clarity, It's not dark yet, but it's getting there.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Obama's National Civilian Security Force

When I heard that Obama was proposing a national civilian security force that was to be "just as powerful, just as strong, just as well-funded" as our military, I couldn't believe my ears. It sounded like something between a Praetorian Guard and the groundwork for a civil war. But then I heard the man himself announcing it:

He says: "We cannot continue to rely only on our military in order to achieve the national security objectives that we've set. We've got to have a civilian national security force that's just as powerful, just as strong, just as well-funded." But if he is planning the overthrow of the constitution in this way, then...

(1) why would he announce it in a campaign speech,

(2) why wouldn't the press pick up on it (sorry, that's a stupid question), and

(3) why would he not just use the courts as liberals have been doing for years?

The answer to all these questions is that he is not actually planning a para-military organization, and, if he is, he hasn't told us.

Here is the twenty-four minute context missing from the seemingly incriminating clip that you just viewed. He is talking about a specifically non-military civilian service. His idea is that our national security depends not only on military might but also on serving one another at home, international goodwill in response to kindnesses rendered abroad, and some nonsense about saving the planet.

Colorado Springs, CO; July 2, 2008: [As] president I will expand AmeriCorps to 250,000 slots [from 75,000] and make that increased service a vehicle to meet national goals, like providing health care and education, saving our planet and restoring our standing in the world, so that citizens see their effort connected to a common purpose.

People of all ages, stations and skills will be asked to serve. Because when it comes to the challenges we face, the American people are not the problem – they are the answer. So we are going to send more college graduates to teach and mentor our young people. We'll call on Americans to join an energy corps, to conduct renewable energy and environmental clean-up projects in their neighborhoods all across the country.

We will enlist our veterans to find jobs and support for other vets, and to be there for our military families.
And we're going to grow our Foreign Service, open consulates that have been shuttered and double the size of the Peace Corps by 2011 to renew our diplomacy. We cannot continue to rely only on our military in order to achieve the national security objectives that we've set.

We've got to have a civilian national security force that's just as powerful, just as strong, just as well-funded. We need to use technology to connect people to service. We'll expand USA Freedom Corps to create online networks where American can browse opportunities to volunteer. You'll be able to search by category, time commitment and skill sets. You'll be able to rate service opportunities, build service networks, and create your own service pages to track your hours and activities.

This will empower more Americans to craft their own service agenda and make their own change from the bottom up. (

For those who have the time, here is the twenty-four minute clip of Obama's speech.

Having cleared that up, however, there are rumors that Obama plans to establish a mandatory national service program, something like a draft, or what in Britain they called National Service. Under the British program (do they still do this? is it just for men?), people had to complete a particular period of military training. I have pictures of my dad in Scotland, all skinny and precious in his uniform with a gun over his shoulder. They do the same thing in Israel and Switzerland, except much more seriously, for obvious reasons.

We're looking into it.

Friday, November 14, 2008

A Bulgarian Economic Model for America

Ideologues are in charge of Congress. Our fear is that Barack Obama may govern ideologically along with them and take us over the cliff into poverty, oppression, social breakdown and perhaps even attack from abroad. The definition of an ideologue is someone who holds to his theories despite all the evidence to the contrary from experience.

Well, when Congress comes to consider President Obama's 2009 tax bill, and when at the same time the voting public considers Congress, we would all do well to consider the recent experience in Bulgaria with a flat tax. Richard Rahn explains it in "Lessons From Abroad" (Washington Times, October 8, 2008).

Can you name a country that has a flat 10 percent income tax on both personal and corporate income, and that is also running a budget surplus of 8 percent of gross domestic product (the equivalent of the United States running a budget surplus of more than $1 trillion)? The surprising answer is Bulgaria, formerly one of Europe's most backward countries. Most of the former communist countries of Eastern and Central Europe have instituted flat-rate income tax systems. Estonia was the first, and Bulgaria is one of the most recent, having only moved to the 10 percent flat rate at the beginning of this year.

Rahn reports on the Bulgarian banking system as well as on how the Bulgarians are weening themselves off their highly inefficient government health care system. (Having said "government system, did I need to say "highly inefficient?")

"This year, the Bulgarian economy will grow about 4 times faster than the average of the European Union (of which Bulgaria is a member)."

Richard W. Rahn is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and chairman of the Institute for Global Economic Growth. It was my colleagues in economics at the King's College, Alex Tokarev, a Bulagrian ex-pat, who brought this news to my attention.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Friends Don't Let Friends Air Quote

As part of the rigorous training we give our students here at The King's College in the use of the written and spoken word, I forbid my students to use "air quotes." I hasten to point out that air quotes have their place if one knows how to use them on select occasions for dramatic effect. But their overuse is annoying and lame.

Worse still is the tortured formation of air quotes. Some people air quote in a way that resembles the useless little arms of a Tyrannosaurus Rex. It's really quite embarrassing.

Here is a tutorial that you or a friend might find helpful.

While we're on the subject, here is funny scene from Friends in which Joey embarrasses himself on account of his air quote ignorance.

Don't let this happen to you.

And of course I have a post brewing on "like."

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Out of the Wilderness

Did the 2008 elections show that America has become a center left country? The winners seem determined to govern Americans as if it had, as if we were Europeans. Meanwhile Republican leaders remain preoccupied with their red and blue maps, and with refining the tactics that so richly earned them being chased into the wilderness yet once more. The American people however have no desire to be remade in the image of Europe or according to the imagination of our haughty, self-serving, incompetent ruling class. If and when conservative leaders worthy of the name arise, they will not lack followers.

What would it take to lead the American people out of the dark woods, to take power from those who now prepare to dictate our lifestyles as no American government ever imagined it had a right to do? Whoever would lead us out of this mess had better be very sure of how we got in it. Wise hunters use landmarks to find their way out of the wilderness and wisdom in general comes from retracing, backward, the paths that led to error.

Our landmarks, our warning signs are written in victories that paved the way for defeats. In our greatest victory, 28 years ago, Ronald Reagan overcame the me-too crowd within his Party, took center stage and made the love of political, economic, and religious liberty popular again; he spoke American to Americans. Landslide elections followed. Unfortunately, Reagan handed over the seemingly mundane task of governance to the best connected in his Party—a group whose hearts were warmed by the fact that his popularity increased their access to power, prestige, and wealth. And so Bush I so squandered the Reagan legacy with tax increases and granting of the Left’s premises – to him we owe environmentalism’s chokehold on us – that he got only 38% of the vote in 1992 and gave us eight years of Clinton.

Then in 1994 Americans signed up for another American revolution. Republicans offered a Contract With America and again spoke American to Americans. But they turned out to be more concerned with who got the credit, got on meet the press, and got on Air Force One.

And if one ever doubted how American Americans are, note their patience with George Bush II, a leader who spoke American to Americans without understanding what he was saying. While attempting to celebrate America’s virtues, he misunderstood them and handed America’s business to the most incompetent administration in recent American history.

To lead is to gain the trust of those whom you would lead. Good credit in politics is built just like good credit in any other field. It requires understanding what is the right thing to do and then making sure that it is done. At a minimum it means doing what you say you’re going to do. If you say you’re going to cut taxes, regulation, and spending, cut taxes, regulation and spending. If you say you’re going to leave Washington in 6 years, leave Washington in 6 years. Even the most earnest and understanding American stops doing business after the second, third, or fourth bad check. This is pretty elementary.

Keeping hold of this elementary morality is difficult because, as the greatest wilderness survival story of all time teaches us, it is all too human to fall for the temptation to get something for nothing - to turn stones into bread. And for earthly princes, it is even more tempting to pretend to God-like power, and to want power to satisfy their limitless thirst for primacy.

Our first settlers rightly understood that the best way to turn a desolate wilderness into a promised land is to be mindful of these temptations. Our Founders rightly understood that the best way to turn a promised land into a Republic of Virtue was to do the same. And ever since, America has been at its best when its people reject these temptations and demand its leaders do the same.

Conservatives have recently made the mistake of confusing support for Republican leaders who have given themselves over to such temptation with what is right, and good for America. Today's Republican establishment is rotten. The way out of the wilderness requires that we leave it to rot with it’s red, blue, and purple election maps, and recognize that America is still made up of Americans yearning to be spoken to and led in their mother tongue.

-- David Corbin writes as a guest today on Principalities and Powers. He is assistant professor of politics at The King's College in New York City.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

In the Political Calm, the Blessings of Tea

I'm still catching my breath from the intensity of the last two years' political contest. I'm feeling a calm as one feels after a terrible storm. But I suspect it's more like the eye of the hurricane. The storm will continue, fiercer and more deadly than it has raged up to now. Perhaps the Bushes and the Obamas felt the same calm as they chummed around the White House today. Perhaps they shared tea.

So as we enjoy calm--or attempt to cultivate it while we can--let turn our own thoughts to the blessings of tea. I am republishing my post on the subject, as I plan to do every year around this time if I can remember to do so. You see, I'm really busy.

In 1995, someone wrote a letter to Upton Tea Imports, saying: "Only a pervert is capable of drinking the revolting liquid which is obtained by steeping little bags of toilet paper in hot water." Of course, Upton Tea Imports--a merchant of the highest distinction--sells only loose tea. Thankfully, I am not so burdened with this enthusiast's refined tastes, but I respect his appreciation for a good cuppie o' tea (as they say in my ancestral land). In honor of that best of brews in all its variety, I share Robert Service's ought-to-be-classic poem from Rhymes of a Red Cross Man (1916), "A Cup of Tea." (The context is the trenches of World War I.)

You make it in your mess-tin by the brazier's rosy gleam;

You watch it cloud, then settle amber clear;

You lift it with your bay'nit, & you sniff the fragrant steam,

The very breath of it is ripe with cheer.

You're awful cold and dirty, and a-cursing of your lot;

You scoff the blushin' 'alf of it, so rich and ripping hot;

It bucks you up like anythink, just seems to touch the spot:

God bless the man that first discovered Tea.

Since I came out to fight in France (which ain't the other day),
I think I've drunk enough to float a barge;

All kinds of fancy foreign dope, from caffy and doo lay,

To rum they serves you out before a charge;

In back rooms of estaminays I've gurgled pints of cham;

I've swilled down mugs of cider till I've felt a bloomin' dam;

But s'truth! they all ain't in it with the vintage of Assam;

God bless the man that first invented Tea.

I think them lazy lumps o' gods wot kips on asphodel

Swigs nectar that's a flavour of Oolong;

I only wish them son's o' guns a grillin' down in 'ell

Could have their daily ration of Suchong.

Hurrah! I'm off the battle, which is 'ell and 'eaven too;

And if I don't give some poor bloke a sexton's job to do,

To-night by Fritz's campfire won't I 'ave a gorgeous brew,

(For fightin' mustn't interfere with Tea).

To-night we'll all be telling of the Boches that we slew,

As we drink the giddy victory in Tea.

Try How to Brew a Great Cuppa.

Interesting tea website: where I found this sketch of Pushkin at tea.

Perhaps another time, I will post on Service's "The Haggis of Private McPhee." Ah, the golden cadence of poesy!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Into the Deep End

When I was a kid, about 15, and in high school, part of the PE curriculum was a semester of swimming. I hated swimming because I was afraid of water. Plus, I hated the idea of my scrawny, POW-looking body out there in the open for everyone to see. I dreaded the swim semester as it approached; but that's all I could do because there was no getting out of it. The swim teacher was the swim team coach--a grizzled old Drill Sergeant kind of coach who had no interest in anybody not working for the glory of his team. So I and other ne'er-do-wells in gym class could easily do the minimum amount to pass the various tests as they came around--dog-paddling, floating, swim the width, etc. These were all easy, even for me. But the biggest thing came at the end of the semester. Everyone had to dive off the board into the deep end. That was the stuff of sleepless nights and continuously-running angst.

Maybe I thought that by ignoring it it would somehow not happen, but all the days we were supposed to be practicing for the final test--diving in with the whole class and the coach with whistle and clip board watching--I spent sitting on the bleachers trying to look like I was not terrified. But the day did come, and my dive for the grade, with everyone watching, was going to be my first. I had no idea how to do it. But I had a plan. Since I was such a lousy swimmer, I thought the less deep I went in, the less distance back to the surface and a substance I was meant to be in. So I planned, immediately upon hitting the water, to begin breaking my descent into the ten feet of water with every motion of every limb. So that's what I did. After an eternity staring down at the pool like some cliff diver down in Mexico, I sort of half stepped-half jumped off the edge to fall the eight feet or so and slapped the surface. In I went, but all my plan got for me was to slow my descent, as to my horror I went to the very bottom anyway. And then I found I had no momentum to get back up. And I had no oxygen left, since I used it all in the struggle to fight the laws of nature all the way down. I think that was the longest two minutes of my life, as all the strength I had left was barely enough to propel me upward.

That scene occurred to me the other day as I was thinking about the steps being taken to avoid a deep recession, or even a depression. Instead of letting bad loans go south, and the firms that invested in them with such outlandish abandon go bankrupt; instead of letting it all shoot straight to the bottom, where, as any experienced diver knows, you can push off the bottom after a fast descent, and come shooting out of the depths in the minimum time; instead of this, we are fighting the descent with everything we've got. And we're still sinking. And we will continue to sink until the market, which we think we can over rule, tells us we are at the bottom and can rise again. We are going to be holding our breath for a long time as one flailing move after the next fails to stop our downward motion. And its going to be a long painful rise before we get our heads above water where we can breathe again.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Obama Victory Means Joy and Vigilance

Albert Mohler offers a godly and astute Christian response to the results of the presidential election. I am sure he would not mind me reprinting it in its entirety.

America Has Chosen a President

Posted: Wednesday, November 05, 2008 at 5:04 am ET

The election of Sen. Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States came as a bang, not a whimper. The tremors had been perceptible for days, maybe even weeks. On Tuesday, America experienced nothing less than a political and cultural earthquake.

The margin of victory for the Democratic ticket was clear. Americans voted in record numbers and with tangible enthusiasm. By the end of the day, it was clear that Barack Obama would be elected with a majority of the popular vote and a near landslide in the Electoral College. When President-Elect Obama greeted the throngs of his supporters in Chicago's Grant Park, he basked in the glory of electoral energy.

For many of us, the end of the night brought disappointment. In this case, the disappointment is compounded by the sense that the issues that did not allow us to support Sen. Obama are matters of life and death -- not just political issues of heated debate. Furthermore, the margin of victory and sense of a shift in the political landscape point to greater disappointments ahead. We all knew that so much was at stake.

For others, the night was magical and momentous. Young and old cried tears of amazement and victory as America elected its first African-American President -- and elected him overwhelmingly. Just forty years after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, an African-American stood to claim victory as President-Elect of the nation. As Sen. Obama assured the crowd in Chicago and the watching nation, "We will get there. We will get there." No one hearing those words could fail to hear the refrain of plaintive words spoken in Memphis four decades ago. President-Elect Obama would stand upon the mountaintop that Dr. King had foreseen.

That victory is a hallmark moment in history for all Americans -- not just for those who voted for Sen. Obama. As a nation, we will never think of ourselves the same way again. Americans rich and poor, black and white, old and young, will look to an African-American man and know him as President of the United States. The President. The only President. The elected President. Our President.

Every American should be moved by the sight of young African-Americans who -- for the first time -- now believe that they have a purchase in American democracy. Old men and old women, grandsons and granddaughters of slaves and slaveholders, will look to an African-American as President.

Regardless of politics, could anyone remain unmoved by the sight of Jesse Jackson crying alone amidst the crowd in Chicago? This dimension of Election Day transcends politics and touches the heart of the American people.

Yet, the issues and the politics remain. Given the scale of the Democratic victory, the political landscape will be completely reshaped. The fight for the dignity and sanctity of unborn human beings has been set back by a great loss, and by the election of a President who has announced his intention to sign the Freedom of Choice Act into law. The struggle to protect marriage against its destruction by redefinition is now complicated by the election of a President who has declared his aim to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act. On issue after issue, we face a longer, harder, and more protracted struggle than ever before.

Still, we must press on as advocates for the unborn, for the elderly, for the infirm, and for the vulnerable. We must redouble our efforts to defend marriage and the integrity of the family. We must be vigilant to protect religious liberty and the freedom of the pulpit. We face awesome battles ahead.

At the same time, we must be honest and recognize that the political maps are being redrawn before our eyes. Will the Republican Party decide that conservative Christians are just too troublesome for the party and see the pro-life movement as a liability? There is the real danger that the Republicans, stung by this defeat, will adopt a libertarian approach to divisive moral issues and show conservative Christians the door.

Others will declare these struggles over, arguing that the election of Sen. Obama means that Americans in general -- and many younger Evangelicals in particular -- are ready to "move on" to other issues. This is no time for surrender or the abandonment of our core principles. We face a much harder struggle ahead, but we have no right to abandon the struggle.

We should look for opportunities to work with the new President and his administration where we can. We must hope that he will lead and govern as the bridge-builder he claimed to be in his campaign. We must confront and oppose the Obama administration where conscience demands, but work together where conscience allows.

Evangelical Christians face another challenge with the election of Sen. Obama, and a failure to rise to this challenge will bring disrepute upon the Gospel, as well as upon ourselves. There must be absolutely no denial of the legitimacy of President-Elect Obama's election and no failure to accord this new President the respect and honor due to anyone elected to that high office. Failure in this responsibility is disobedience to a clear biblical command.

Beyond this, we must commit ourselves to pray for this new President, for his wife and family, for his administration, and for the nation. We are commanded to pray for rulers, and this new President faces challenges that are not only daunting but potentially disastrous. May God grant him wisdom. He and his family will face new challenges and the pressures of this office. May God protect them, give them joy in their family life, and hold them close together.

We must pray that God will protect this nation even as the new President settles into his role as Commander in Chief, and that God will grant peace as he leads the nation through times of trial and international conflict and tension.

We must pray that God would change President-Elect Obama's mind and heart on issues of our crucial concern. May God change his heart and open his eyes to see abortion as the murder of the innocent unborn, to see marriage as an institution to be defended, and to see a host of issues in a new light. We must pray this from this day until the day he leaves office. God is sovereign, after all.

Without doubt, we face hard days ahead. Realistically, we must expect to be frustrated and disappointed. We may find ourselves to be defeated and discouraged. We must keep ever in mind that it is God who raises up nations and pulls them down, and who judges both nations and rulers. We must not act or think as unbelievers, or as those who do not trust God.

America has chosen a President. President-Elect Barack Obama is that choice, and he faces a breathtaking array of challenges and choices in days ahead. This is the time for Christians to begin praying in earnest for our new President. There is no time to lose.

You may read more from Albert Mohler at

Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr. is president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary where he is also professor of theology.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

The Simplistic Notion of Liberty

It is interesting when people on the political left in American politics say explicitly the deplorably unjust things they actually believe. We saw this during the campaign when Michelle Obama said that the popular support for her husband made her proud of her country for the first time in her adult life. Or when Barack Obama told Joe the Plumber that the government needs to use the tax system to spread the wealth around.

Here is Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA) sharing what is a common notion among the Democrats:

Now in the last seven years we have had the highest corporate profit ever in American history. Highest corporate profit! We’ve had the highest productivity! The American worker has produced more per person at any time, but it hasn’t been shared, and that’s the problem because we have been guided by a Republican administration who believes in this simplistic notion that people who have wealth are entitled to keep it and they have an antipathy towards the means of redistributing wealth.

Is it a "simplistic" notion that people should be secure in their property, and that one of the fundamental purposes of government is to provide that security? To state it more pointedly, is it a simplistic notion that government should protect us against robbers, and not become itself a robber? What is government-enforced redistribution of wealth but the less wealthy majority pillaging the more wealthy minority through the coercive power of the state?

Take it to the next level. Is it a simplistic notion that people who have lives should be able to keep them? Given President-elect Barack Obama's and the Democratic Party's stand and record on abortion, infanticide, the "harvesting" of prenatal human life for medical research--and who knows what else?--it is obvious that the Democrats see that as a "simplistic notion" as well. (This post only begins to summarize Obama's radical commitment to killing the unborn under every imaginable circumstance.)

Consider also the enthusiasm among Democrats for the so-called Fairness Doctrine by which private broadcasters exercising their political free speech in the public square would have to balance conservative expressions with liberal ones. (For background, read this 1993 summary of the issue from the Heritage Foundation.) Is it "simplistic" to think that people who have opinions are entitled to express them? To the Democrats, apparently not. (Hear it from the very powerful New York Senator, Charles Schumer, in The Hill, Nov. 4, 2008.)

It appears that in the ruling Democratic view, it is a simplistic notion that those who have liberty should be entitled to exercise it and live securely in it.

Today's Quote

Far-seeing P.J. O'Rourke nails it with this one:

"What will destroy our country and us is not the financial crisis but the fact that liberals think the free market is some kind of sect or cult, which conservatives have asked Americans to take on faith. That's not what the free market is. The free market is just a measurement, a device to tell us what people are willing to pay for any given thing at any given moment. The free market is a bathroom scale. You may hate what you see when you step on the scale. "Jeeze, 230 pounds!" But you can't pass a law making yourself weigh 185. Liberals think you can. And voters--all the voters, right up to the tippy-top corner office of Goldman Sachs--think so too."

Friday, November 7, 2008

Public Reverence East and West

I am re-posting this from a couple of weeks back because I suspect that it got lost in the excitement leading up to the election.

A South African drive-time disc jockey in Dubai has been fired for imitating God as part of his morning banter. (AP story here.)

He was not fired for violating Sharia Law. Dubai, one of the principal cities and one of several semi-autonomous states in the United Arab Emirates, is a diverse international community. He was fired because his irreverence, that is, his careless treatment of this divine subject matter, offended the religious sensibilities of the people who live in Dubai. He was responding to someone's failed attempt to sue God in a U.S. court. (See my post on that: "The Audacity of Suing God.") "He intended to be funny, not to offend anybody," said Arabian Radio Network Chief Operating Officer Steve Smith. "However, what he did was highly offensive to the Muslim and Christian community in the UAE."

No doubt this shocks many American readers who see it as an example of religious fundamentalism in the benighted Arab world.

But this was our world not so long ago, and I think that in that respect it was a better world. People were more self-controlled and respectful of one another when we inhabited that world.

In 1966, John Lennon had to apologize publicly, or at least to give an account of himself, for saying that the Beatles were "more popular than Jesus." The remark made no impression on the British when it was first published in London's Evening Standard. But when DATEbook published the Maureen Cleave interview in America it was a huge scandal.

Lennon's full statement from the interview was this:

'Christianity will go,' he said. 'It will vanish and shrink. I needn't argue about that; I'm right and I will be proved right. We're more popular than Jesus now; I don't know which will go first-rock 'n' roll or Christianity. Jesus was all right but his disciples were thick and ordinary. It's them twisting it that ruins it for me.'

Here Lennon does not apologize, but explains how he was misunderstood.

Here is another press conference video, though not the same one, and again no one actually apologizes.

In some ways, of course, we are a better society now than we were. We're more accepting of racial differences among us, for example. But that improvement has not grown out of our rejection of God. Indeed, the civil rights movement was, in significant measure, motivated by Christian faith.

When people turn away from God and focus on themselves, they actually dehumanize themselves and each other.

Consider this post from November 7, 2007: "An Atheist Ally of Religion? Sounds Reasonable."

Dalrymple, noting the rarity of religiously motivated cruelty, draws attention to the decency that the eternal perspective engenders in by far most people who genuinely embrace it. After quoting from a meditation by Bishop Joseph Hall (1574-1656) on contentment and self-control, Dalrymple concludes that, “moderation comes more naturally to the man who believes in something not merely higher than himself, but higher than mankind. After all, the greatest enjoyment of the usages of this world, even to excess, might seem rational when the usages of this world are all that there is.” It is at least arguable that unsentimental, atheistic rationalism leads logically to debauchery and ultimately to tyranny.

He drives home this connection between piety and moderation by comparing the genuine fruit of Christian faith with what these grumpy anti-theists have to offer:

“Let us compare Hall’s meditation “Upon the Sight of a Harlot Carted” with Harris’s statement that some people ought perhaps to be killed for their beliefs:

With what noise, and tumult, and zeal of solemn justice, is this sin punished! The streets are not more full of beholders, than clamours. Every one strives to express his detestation of the fact, by some token of revenge: one casts mire, another water, another rotten eggs, upon the miserable offender. Neither, indeed, is she worthy of less: but, in the mean time, no man looks home to himself. It is no uncharity to say, that too many insult in this just punishment, who have deserved more. . . . Public sins have more shame; private may have more guilt. If the world cannot charge me of those, it is enough, that I can charge my soul of worse. Let others rejoice, in these public executions: let me pity the sins of others, and be humbled under the sense of my own.

“Who sounds more charitable, more generous, more just, more profound, more honest, more humane: Sam Harris or Joseph Hall, D.D., late lord bishop of Exeter and of Norwich?”

Harold adds:

This sensitivity issue raises a question in my mind. Odd, is it not, that the most hyper-sensitive "culture'"to come along--the post-modern "politically correct" species that got itself planted on college campuses and then spread relentlessly outward, sits cheek-by-jowl with this rough, uncivil assault on Christians, white southerners, conservatives, males, Walmart shoppers, etc. No protection for these groups from the Sensitivity Police. "Sensitivity", like "tolerance", is one of those personality characteristics which, good in themselves, make lousy principles in their own right. There will always be a more basic principle which must govern whose feelings and whose beliefs will be tolerated or deemed worthy of sensitive treatment. For Christians and a few other religions, respect for people as individuals equal before God is that principle which instructs tolerance and respect. For atheism, no such equality exists, since there is no god. Derision of those beneath them then is no vice ,and may be a virtue. Theists are grounded on the will of God; atheists are grounded in their own will, and as Nietzsche understood perfectly, that will is only and always the Will to Power.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Teach Your Children Well

We have heard the common sense question of Joe the plumber, equating Obama’s “spreading the wealth” taxation policies with socialism. True to form, the democrats—led by Obama himself—have been busy trying to swat away all association with the label “socialist”, even as they continue to abjure “liberal” as a descriptive term. “Progressive” is what most have hit on—possibly because the dim recognition in people’s minds of Teddy Roosevelt’s flirtation with early 20th century progressivism gives it a patina of respectability, and possibly for the generic sound of the word itself—who in America could be against progress?

It is clear however that the left is not only influenced by socialism, but in many parts is indistinguishable. The increasing antipathy of leading Democrats toward capitalism and the distrust of the market is too well known for disavowal. Congressman Jim Moran, for example, enlarges on those who "believe in this simplistic notion that people who have wealth are entitled to keep it and [who] have an antipathy towards the means of redistributing wealth.” A brief reminder of where such distrust—even hatred—for capitalism and markets got its start will perhaps clarify, for the younger readers especially, the jaundiced view some of their elders have of the Obama phenomenon. I mention younger readers because you, as a group, seem to have all by yourselves made Obama’s margin of victory. You should know something about what you helped push across the finish line.

Communism, briefly, views capitalism as more a social relation than an economic relation. In other words, Marxist thought considers, uniquely, that the entrance of capitalism into the world changed the way the classes relate to each other—and it has not been for the good. Thus the competition and greed that capitalism fosters are not the worst evils; the worst evils are those that distort the consciousness of the working class and their social relations—the essential element of man as a “species being”. There are no truly human social relations possible with capitalism still in existence—anywhere in the world; thus, world-wide socialism is necessary. The United States is the last hold out in the West. The industrial working class, now called the proletariat—has been alienated from the land and the means of production, and hence their own selves. They are wage-slaves. The profit the capitalist takes he takes out of the mouths of the workers. This creates the conditions for the inevitable rise of the workers against their overmasters. Where hard-core communism has nothing against a violent revolution, socialists are content with gradual, incremental steps toward the same goals. Call them Progressive, if you like. But the rise of the proletariat has not happened in America; thus “community organization” is needed to bring about the redistributive fairness that Barack Obama has promised.

With that brief preface, let us review some of Frederick Engels’s Principles of Communism, from the helpful website of Youth For International Socialism. Engels was the English promoter of Marxism, working tirelessly with old carbuncle Karl.

I have abbreviated Engels’s response to the following question, and interspersed comments in italics:

Q: What will be the course of this revolution?

A: Above all, it will establish a democratic constitution and thereby directly or indirectly the political rule of the proletariat...Democracy would be quite valueless to the proletariat if it were not immediately used as a means for putting through measures directed against private property...

Perhaps Kelo v City of New London rings a bell; the Supreme Court’s ruling clears the way for any taking any government deems necessary or useful—see O’Connor’s and Thomas’s dissents.

The main measures, emerging as the necessary result of existing relations, are the following:

Limitation of private property through progressive taxation, heavy inheritance taxes, abolition of inheritance through collateral lines (brothers, nephews, etc.), forced loans, and so forth.

All these taxes have long been democrat policy, and all will rise with an Obama administration—mainly from the principle of “fairness”. Wealth will not be allowed to accumulate in non-government hands.

Gradual expropriation of land owners, factory owners, railway and shipping magnates, partly through competition by state industry, partly directly through compensation in the form of bonds.

Gradual expropriation” today is in the form of crisis-driven government takeovers, like those just witnessed in the banking industry. Also, Congress is mulling a plan to take private 401k retirement plans in exchange for-- government bonds at 3%, which puts hundreds of billions of private capital into government hands, and leaves everyone dependent on government promises to pay—which is all a bond is.

Confiscation of the possessions of all émigrés and rebels against the majority of the people.
"Emigrés" here means Jews, who might try to get out of the country with their ill-gotten gains; and “rebels” are anyone resisting the “gradual expropriation” of property. Like those with Swiss bank accounts, who are finding the IRS shutting down this method of moving cash out of the country.

An equal obligation on all members of society to work until such time as private property has been completely abolished. Formation of industrial armies, especially for agriculture.
Perhaps you’ve heard of Obama’s Civilian National Security Force; Engels’s nineteenth century categories are easily adapted and expanded to include all parts of the modern economy, as the Obama team is well aware.

Centralization of the credit and monetary systems in the hands of the state through a national bank operating with state capital, and the suppression of all private banks bankers.
Recall the unseemly rush to nationalize the banking industry through bailouts and government stock takeovers. Oddly, by the Bush administration; this only makes the further crisis-driven takeovers the more acceptable.

Education of all children, from the moment they can leave their mothers' care, in national establishments at national cost.

Obama has proposed universal Pre-K provided by the government—paid for out of NASA funding.

It is impossible, of course, to carry out all these measures at once. But one will always bring others in its wake. Once the first radical attack upon private property has been launched, the proletariat will find itself forced to go ever further, to concentrate increasingly in the hands of the state all capital, all agriculture, all industry, all transport, all commerce. All the foregoing measures are directed to this end; and they will become feasible and their centralizing effects will develop in the same proportion as that in which the productive forces of the country are multiplied through the labour of the proletariat. Finally, when all capital, all production, and all exchange have been brought together in the hands of the nation, private property will disappear of its own accord, money will become superfluous, and production will have so increased and men will have so changed that the last forms of the old social relations will also be sloughed off.

And there you have it—prosperity through expropriation, attained gradually, incrementally, progressively. Watch as the new Obama administration pushes measures aimed at removing wealth in all its forms out of private hands and into government coffers, for redistribution to selected beneficiaries through giant government bureaucracies and agencies created to minister to the needs of the dependent class. Oh, and to enrich the well-heeled and well-connected elites whose raison d’etre is to rule you. I wouldn't put a lot of stock in that "men will have so changed" stuff though.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Goodbye Liberalism: Hello Socialism

Theodore Lowi, in his far-seeing The End of Liberalism: The Second Republic of the United States, (1969) lays out the case that the long development of the policy intrusions of FDR's New Deal and LBJ's Great Society presented the liberal basis of the republic with a crisis. Ten years later, in a second edition, he declared we had had the crisis, and not survived it. "Fundamental changes in policies and institutions could readily be observed and have been widely accepted as inevitable or good or both. These changes turned out to be a series of adjustments our political system was making to a still more fundamental change of government and the basis of rule. Through these adjustments we had actually remade ourselves, politically speaking, to such an extent that I have called the results the Second Republic."

We know the "change" that Obama rode all the way to the White House is going to involve even more constitutional change of the sort Lowi discerned forty years ago, since the moral and constitutional slackness of the intervening years have made even a 700 billion dollar bail out, and the pushing into ownership of numerous banks, seem an afterthought--even under a Republican president. In Obama's own words, not even the Warren Court could “break free from the essential constraints that were placed by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution." There are very few such constraints left my friends, but even these it seems are too confining for an archon like Barry.

Though the Constitution of the Second Republic is unwritten, here is Lowi's "sketch" of its essential outlines.


PREAMBLE. There ought to be a national presence in every aspect of the lives of American citizens. National power is no longer a necessary evil; it is a positive virtue.

Article I. It is the primary purpose of this national government to provide domestic tranquility by reducing risk. This risk may be physical or it may be fiscal. In order to fulfill this sacred obligation, the national government shall be deemed to have sufficient power to eliminate threats from the environment through regulation, and to eliminate threats from economic uncertainty through insurance.

Article II. The separation of powers to the contrary notwithstanding, the center of this national government is the presidency. Said office is authorized to use any powers, real or imagined, to set our nation to rights making any rules or regulations the president deems appropriate; the president may delegate this authority to any other official or agency. The right to make all such rules and regulations is based on the assumption in this constitution that the office of the presidency embodies the will of the real majority of the American nation.

Article III. Congress exists, but only as a consensual body. Congress possesses all legislative authority but should limit itself to the delegation of broad grants of unstructured authority to the president. Congress must take care never to draft a careful and precise statute because this would interfere with the judgment of the president and his professional and full time administrators.

Article IV. There exists a separate administrative branch composed of persons whose right to govern is based on two principles: (1), the delegations of power flowing from Congress; and (2), the authority inherent in professional training and promotion through an administrative hierarchy. Congress and the courts may provide for administrative procedures and have the power to review agencies for their observance of these procedures; but in no instance should Congress or the courts attempt to displace the judgment of the administrators with their own.

Article V. The Judicial branch is responsible for two functions: (1), to preserve the procedural rights of citizens before all federal courts, state and local courts, and administrative agencies; and (2), to apply the Fourteenth Amendment of the 1787 Constitution as a natural-law defense of all substantive and procedural rights. The appellate courts shall exercise vigorous judicial review of all state and local government and court decisions, but in no instance shall the courts review the constitutionality of Congress’s grants of authority to the president or to the federal administrative agencies.

Article VI. The public interest shall be defined by the satisfaction of the voters in their constituencies. The test of public interest is reelection.

Article VII. The public interest to the contrary notwithstanding, actual policy making will not come from voter preferences or congressional enactments but form a process of tripartite bargaining between specialized administrators, relevant members of Congress, and the representatives of self-selected organized interests.