Thursday, December 30, 2010

Race, Tyranny, and Christian Politics

None of these columns made Worldmag's top 20 of the year, but they're pretty darn good, even if I do say so myself. I roll out my schtick on race, I state what tyranny is and apply it to public service unions and Charlie Rangel, and I lay out sources of the Colbert-O'Reilly fisticuffs over whether Jesus would identify with the current politics of the Democratic or Republican Party.

"[W]hat we call “race” is a vague and thus questionable basis for identifying people. A race is, after all, only an extended family that reaches far beyond one’s immediate family, community, or clan. As descendents of Adam, we are all part of the same universal family, and thus one “human race.” The census calls me “white,” but for the Census Bureau that category includes everyone from Swedes to Southern Italians, and even Arabs. But I am a Scot, so I am racially Celtic (as are the Irish, the Welsh, and the Bretons of northern France). We are racially distinct from the English, the French, and the Germans. The same significant distinctions exist among Africans, Asians, and people of other regions."
"Our Puzzling Race Problem," December 29, 2010.

"No one asks about the politics of Muhammad. They are perfectly plain in the Sharia Law of Islam and the autocracies of the Middle East. Nor are the politics of Moses in doubt. The Law he gave Israel contained not only moral and ceremonial elements, but also a complete civil law. But Jesus is remarkably different. While having fundamentally transformed the world—and continuing to transform it—He did not come with a primarily political agenda. But what He did and what He taught (and what His apostles and prophets taught) has profound implications for political life as they do for all of life."
"Would Jesus Register Republican?," December 22, 2010.

After quoting Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, David Brooks, and Gov. Tim Pawlenty on the destructive record and nature of government worker unions, I add...

"We political theorists have a technical term for people in government using public authority for private advantage instead of public service. We call it “tyranny.” These unions are organized not to help their members serve the public better but to maximize pay and benefits while minimizing work. Taxpayers want just the opposite (within the bounds of decency, of course). Essentially, government unions are public enemies. Insofar as they control our government (and they do), they have institutionalized tyranny from within our public administration."
"The Tyranny of Government Unions," December 15, 2010.

I applied the same principle to New York Congressman Charles Rangle who has made himself a very wealthy man in time he has been in office (40 years!), though the people he represents are as poor and miserable as they've ever been.

"If most people in a district live in public housing, their representative should also live in public housing. If most people in a district are served by appallingly bad public schools, their representative should have his or her children (if there are any) in those same schools. Finding this unacceptable, congressmen would soon start supporting effective ways for opening up economic opportunities for their neighbors to better themselves. Otherwise, politicians have that much less incentive to do what they legitimately can to improve their people’s overall quality of life. They become, one might say, political farmers instead of political representatives, bilking the people instead of benefiting them, standing on their backs rather than 'having their backs,' as we say."
"Prince Charlie and the People," December 8, 2010.

Happy new year.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Best Worldmag columns 2010

I have been busy grading for most of the month...oh, and then there was Christmas. But I see that I have not posted all month. But I have still been active over at And it seems that I got three of the top 20 commentaries of the year, as did my friend and colleague Anthony Bradley as well.

1. Farewell emerging church, 1989-2010 by Anthony Bradley

2. Proclaiming Christ on Fox News by D.C. Innes

3. To brainwash a parent by Megan Dunham

4. ‘Hallelujah’ for Macy’s by Marcia Segelstein

5. We’re doomed by D.C. Innes

6. Why black liberation theology fails by Anthony Bradley

7. Mishandling twentysomethings by Anthony Bradley

8. Sneak peek: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader trailer by Megan Basham

9. Sultans of snoot by Marvin Olasky

10. The Episcopal Church, Wiccans, and the Divine Feminine by Marcia Segelstein

11. Leaving out God by Ken Blackwell

12. A Palin skeptic takes a second look by D.C. Innes

13. Genuine revival by Cal Thomas

14. So, you want to date my daughter? by Amy Henry

15. Those pesky homeschoolers by Megan Dunham

16. Homosexuality healed by Marcia Segelstein

17. The Fourth on the Fifth by Lee Wishing

18. Marketing the ‘religion of peace’ by Tony Woodlief

19. Whoopi, Joy, and Barbara do theology by Janie B. Cheaney

20. Yes, Virginia, there is a Jesus! by Ken Blackwell

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Extemism in the Defense of Security

In my Worldmag column today, "What We Lose When We Fly This Year," I close with this reductio ad absurdum extension of the TSA logic.

Perhaps we should hold our breath, grit our teeth, and just get through those dreadful pre-flight moments for the sake of safe skies. But why should we expect it will end with air travel? When it comes to terrorism, we can’t remain simply reactive. Shouldn’t we consider what terrorists might think of doing next? What about trains, and even commuter trains? Expect an increase in rush hour motor traffic. But an underwear bomber could target a bridge or a tunnel! We’ll need personally invasive pat-downs for everyone entering or leaving Manhattan, even carpoolers. And what about the possibility of an underwear bomber in a public school? Get ready for personal frisking of the kids before the school day begins. Oh, and principals and teachers, too. We have to be fair. By the way, is it possible for a terrorist to conceal explosives in his or her body cavities? Now there’s an interesting search.

Well, Christopher Hitchens went there already in Slate.

Consider: The decision to make us all take off our shoes was the official response to the scrofulous "shoe bomber" Richard Reid. The ban on liquids and precisely specified quantities of gel was the best we could do by way of post-facto thwarting of a London-based scheme to mix liquids in-flight and cause a mid-air detonation. The decision to inquire more closely into our undergarments was the official response to the "underwear bomber" Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. The more recent decision (this was a specifically British touch of genius) to forbid the shipping by air of any print toner weighing more than 500 grams was made after some tampered-with toner cartridges were intercepted on international cargo flights leaving Yemen a few weeks ago. (Fear not, by the way, you can't have these hard-to-find items in your carry-on bags or checked luggage, either.)

In the more recent instances, the explosive substance involved was a fairly simple one known as PETN. Now consider again: Late last August, the Saudi Arabian deputy minister of the interior, Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, was injured in the city of Jeddah by a suicide bomber named Abdullah Hassan Al Aseery. The deceased assailant was the brother of Khalid Ibrahim Al Aseery, the suspected bomb-specialist of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula and the man sought in connection with the underpants and toner attempts. In the Jeddah case, the lethal charge of PETN was concealed in the would-be assassin's rectum.

Perhaps you can begin to see where, as they say, I am going with this. In order for us to take them even remotely seriously, our Homeland Security officials should by now have had no alternative but to announce a series of random body-cavity searches some months ago. At least that might have had a deterrent effect and broken the long tradition of waiting for the enemy to dictate all the terms, all the time. It is a certainty that this deadly back-passage tactic will be tried. It is equally a certainty that it will find us even more defenseless than before.

Read more in "Don't Be an Ass About Airport Security."

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

An Unwelcome Hand from the Government

It is ironic that just a few days before what is arguably the Tea Party election in which country rebelled against government overreach, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) instituted a new practice of "patting-down" air travellers in their private places to make sure they are not concealing any explosives.

Government’s chief function is to secure us in our persons and property against murder, molestation, and theft. We expressed this understanding in the fourth amendment to the Constitution, which reads:

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

In my column, "Government Overreach at the Airport," I argue that Congressman John Boehner, who reportedly bypasses these screening methods, should take up this cause in a defense of our liberty.
Tomorrow, I will chime in again on the subject, and then perhaps I will have got everything out of my system.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Philosopher Presidents are Not for Us

Plato and Aristotle

A recent book by Harvard historian James T. Kloppenberg, Reading Obama, argues that the president is philosophically driven, coming from the tradition of American pragmatism. In other words, we have a philosopher president, the closest thing we can have in America to a philosopher king. Whether or not, he certainly does the royal aloofness thing well, and the I-can-run-your-life-better-than-you-can part of the job.

A couple of weeks back, I posted "Philosopher Kings and Our Republic" on I argue that the notion of a philosopher king, a person so outstanding in wisdom and moral virtue that he should simply have authority over everything, is fundamentally antithetical to republican government. "Because of his unparalleled wisdom and public-spiritedness, he would, of course, govern without the restraint of law."

Regardless of what Prof. Kloppenberg says in his book, it is remarkable what an emphasis President Obama has placed on the rule of science in his administration. (Modern science is the only form of philosophy that we recognize as having any legitimacy these days.) He first signaled this in his inaugural address:
“We’ll restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology’s wonders to raise health care’s quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. All this we will do.”
Then, just before the election, he looked with pity on the poor benighted and angry voters for being so hostile to science in their hostility to his administration:
“Part of the reason that our politics seems so tough right now and facts and science and argument does [sic.] not seem to be winning the day all the time is because we’re hardwired not to always think clearly when we’re scared. And the country’s scared.”
Then there are all those big initiatives by which he has tried to centralize large chunks of American life, viz. health care, home financing, college loans, the auto industry, the financial sector. Central administration is the mark of a scientific society.

I conclude that he has been working (albeit unwittingly) from the wrong model: Plato, instead of Aristotle.

"In The Politics, Aristotle holds that, for a free people, i.e., a law-abiding people who are capable of participating in government intelligently and responsibly, the best form of government combines a strong executive, a selection of the best citizens, and an active role for the people at large. Under those circumstances, the benevolent but autocratic rule of a philosopher king would be unjust because it would deny capable citizens the chance to govern themselves."

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

It's OK. I Work for the Government.

I don't know what these people are saying about airport body scans, but it looks funny, and some of the gags are visual. Here is the link.

Anthony Bradley has a good column on the subject in, "Saying ‘no’ to airport body scans."

When I recently flew out of Charlotte, N.C., I opted out and found myself being touched in ways that had me wondering if I had somehow accidentally wandered into my doctor’s office for a complete physical exam.

He reports this:

[T]hese new measures have no proven success in increasing airport security, according to Rafi Sela, an Israeli security expert. Sela recently testified before the Canadian government that these full-body X-rays are “useless.” “I can overcome the body scanners with enough explosives to bring down a Boeing 747,” he said. As such, the Israeli government does not use body scans in the Tel Aviv airport. Maybe our government could learn a lesson from the Israelis?

This is all an excellent argument for two things. (1) The federal government screws up everything it touches. (2) High speed rail.

I will not be flying until this stops.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Two Wasted Years

This election has been, as expected, a dramatic public rebuke to the president, his party, and the way they have spent most of their time since the 2008 election. Their two chief legislative accomplishments, the economic stimulus package in February 2009 and the ObamaCare earlier this year, were supposed to have saved the nation both economically and morally, but instead they have infuriated the nation. The $787 billion stimulus produced the Tea Party movement and ObamaCare gave Democrats a record to flee and a topic to avoid. More than half the country wants it repealed.

It's a strange way to campaign. "Vote for me. I have nothing to say."

In January, President Obama said, "I'd rather be a really good one-term president than a mediocre two-term president."

If he sticks to what he thinks is good, but which a majority of the people he serves clearly doesn’t want, then, in 2012, president and people may well arrive at a mutually agreeable arrangement.

Of course, this should be an occasion for humble self-examination on the president's part. But I don't think he has it in him. He is very much like his predecessor in that regard. No self-doubt, not even where it is obviously merited.

As this dark day of doom approached, starting in January with the election of Republican Scott Brown in liberal Massachusetts to the seat ted Kennedy vacated, Obama explained this political unhappiness by his failure to explain his policies and accomplishments well enough. (That is, the voters are thick headed.) He later said that the people are just scared, and so they are not thinking rationally. (The voters frightened animals.) Those are not words of political prudence.

In January 1985, after Ronald Reagan won re-election over Walter Mondale, Joshua Muravchik wrote in Commentary, “Why the Democrats Lost.” In 1989, he followed up with “Why the Democrats Lost Again,” after George Bush beat Michael Dukakis. Then in 1993, Bill Clinton’s first big year, he completed the trilogy with “Why the Democrats Finally Won.” There is usually a good reason why the electorate, on balance, chooses one party or one candidate over another. As long as politicians and parties explain their defeats by faulting the voters, the consign themselves to political Palookaville. For Barack Obama, that may be the next stop after Washington.
For my full reflection on Obama's disasterous and obnoxious record that has put him in this position, read "Midterm Smackdown" at

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Lost Art of Going Negative

I think this is a golden age of political civility. But I'm living in the past.

It was a time of great speeches, great letters, and even greater personal invective.

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Political Class Meets the People

2010 is indisputably "the Tea Party election." Who they are and why they've been able to turn politics on its head  has received many answers. I have offered a few myself.

In this column, "Bringing Down the Political Class," I summarize the point that pollsters Scott Rasmussen and Douglas Schoen make in their book Mad As Hell: How the Tea Party Movement Is Fundamentally Remaking Our Two Party System

According to the authors, the Tea Party has been a spontaneous, principled, and yet passionate response to a politically unhealthy divide in the country. That divide is not fundamentally between Democrats and Republicans or between liberals and conservatives but between what they call the American mainstream and the political class. ...Fundamentally, Tea Partiers are moved by the view that “the federal government has become a special-interest group that looks out primarily for its own interests.”

The Republican establishment opposed Ronald Reagan in 1980 because he was an outsider. Despite having been governor of California, he was not part of the political class, and by conviction as well as temperament would never be. Reagan was not an Ivy Leaguer. He went to Eureka College in Illinois. (Notice that you have to say “in Illinois.”) The establishment in general hates Sarah Palin for the same reason. The authors observe that, "the mainstream media and the political class seemed not even to attempt to understand what her appeal might be.” Instead, she “set off a trip wire within the political class regarding access to power: she didn’t meet their standards and they felt threatened by her” (p.98).

Rasmussen and Schoen explore many aspects of this divide, including the shrinking middle class and thus the growing gap between the rich-and-getting-richer and the poor-and-getting-poorer in this country, something that Republicans don't like to talk about, and that Democrats can't talk about without calling in the government to punish.

Shelby Steele has an interesting take on the Tea Party toward the end of his Wall Street Journal op-ed yesterday, "A Referendum on the Redeemer."

When bad faith is your framework (Michelle Obama never being proud of her country until it supported her husband), then you become more a national scold than a real leader. You lead out of a feeling that your opposition is really only the latest incarnation of that old characterological evil that you always knew was there. Thus the tea party—despite all the evidence to the contrary—is seen as racist and bigoted.

But isn't the tea party, on some level, a reaction to a president who seems not to fully trust the fundamental decency of the American people? Doesn't the tea party fill a void left open by Mr. Obama's ethos of bad faith? Aren't tea partiers, and their many fellow travelers, simply saying that American exceptionalism isn't racism? And if the mainstream media see tea partiers as bumpkins and racists, isn't this just more bad faith—characterizing people as ignorant or evil so as to dismiss them?

Peggy Noonan has had a couple of good columns too: "Why It's Time for the Tea Party" and "Tea Party to the Rescue." I'm sorry, but I have found all the critics on the left (Krugman, Rich, Friedman, Wallis) to be hysterical and just blind. Chuck Colson's criticism in "Channeling the Populist Rage" is neither hysterical nor blind but misplaced just the same, I think.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Our Wise and Gentle President

Our president is deeply concerned for the country, especially for ordinary Americans. So it should not surprise us that, at this time when unemployment and uncertainty are high and the country is going through fundamental changes, he has his gentle and benevolent finger on the pulse of the people. He hears us and he knows us. He may even know us better than we know ourselves. But that's why we trust him.

He recently told us* why we are so upset going into this midterm election. (His heart! His fatherly heart!)

Part of the reason that our politics seems so tough right now and facts and science and argument does [sic.] not seem to be winning the day all the time is because we're hardwired not to always think clearly when we're scared. And the country's scared.

I felt that his words were like a presidential hug. I was both warmed and calmed by them.

He then offered this poem. (Any resemblance between this and Robbie Burns' "To a Mouse" is entirely coincidental.)

"To the Voter" -- by Barack Obama

Wee, sleekit, cowrin, tim'rous beastie,
O, what a panic's in thy breastie!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty
Wi' Tea Party combustion!
But I wad be loath to rin an' chase thee,
Wi' humble contrition.

I'm truly sorry Bush's dominion
Has broken America's social union,
An' justifies that ill opinion
Which makes thee startle
At me, to come who was the One
and seems immortal!

We're unworthy! We're unworthy!

*Carol E. Lee, "President Obama: 'Fear and Frustration' Drive Voters,", October 16, 2010.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Purify Politics. Depoliticize the Economy

Democrats and John McCain like to crow about all the money in politics, and its corrupting influence. But is it really so much money? George Will's research staff puts it in perspective for us ("The Democratic Vision of Big Brother," Washington Post, Oct. 17, 2010).

Total spending, by all parties, campaigns and issue-advocacy groups, concerning every office from county clerks to U.S. senators, may reach a record $4.2 billion in this two-year cycle. That is about what Americans spend in one year on yogurt but less than they spend on candy in two Halloween seasons. Procter & Gamble spent $8.6 billion on advertising in its most recent fiscal year.

Those who are determined to reduce the quantity of political speech to what they consider the proper amount are the sort of people who know exactly how much water should come through our shower heads (no more than 2.5 gallons per minute, as stipulated by a 1992 law). Is it, however, really worrisome that Americans spend on political advocacy -- on determining who should make and administer the laws -- much less than they spend on potato chips ($7.1 billion a year)? 

But with government driving its tentacles every more deeply into the economy and the business of business, who can blame corporations and the Chamber of Commerce investing in the outcome of national elections? If you want to get money out of politics, get politics out of money!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Local Political Rot and Stench

There is no corruption like the corruption of local politicians. It's like the mold in your basement in a damp summer. Uncleanness thrives where sunlight never reaches. And there is little media attention given to the self-service that is rife among the life-long parasites that are local civic leaders.

Antony Niro, a Toronto high school friend with whom I have recently reconnected, has been running an innovative campaign to oust the conspiracy to fleece the public that is the Vaughn City Council. The city of Vaughn is a suburb just north of Toronto. At least one politician is suing him, and so he made this video in response. He would have my vote.

Here is a local news article on the campaign. Notice that the Mayor, Linda Jackson, boasts of having been involved with Vaughn politics since 1974. That's thirty-six years of cultivating cozy relationships for personal nest feathering. Notice also that she complains the ads are "hurtful." Poor, leathery thing. I don't know this woman, but I know human nature and I know politics. Without knowing anything else, I would put her out to pasture.

Look at the TimeForChangeVaughn website.

Here is a story from the Toronto Star. Notice that people are afraid of reprisal from these local politicolords. As Niro says, that's a bad sign.

This article in the Toronto Sun, the city's tabloid, provides a deeper look at the history, the litigation, and Vaughn's reputation for corruption.

Perhaps if federal government would restrict itself to its legitimate business, it would not absorb our attention so completely. Then we could pay attention to matters that are closer to us, and keep the politicians who are closer at hand under closer scrutiny.


October 31 post-election update:
Good news from Vaughn, Ontario! Voters ousted 4 of the 5 councilmen, including the 3 of the worst. Victory for Vaughan, but at a large personal and financial cost to the citizen-combatants. Exercising your democratic liberties should not be this costly. One source who was deeply involved in the struggle reports, "The mood in the city changed overnight."

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Professors Against Drunk Voting

Some of us are prone to excessive and blinding political passions. Politics does that to you. Those in political philosophy, like me, have to balance the sober study of politics with the active life of a citizen who loves (yes, loves) justice. Love engages the passions, and the passions cloud the mind. You see the problem.

Because politics, unlike mathematics, necessarily involves profoundly important moral questions, political passions are both necessary and dangerous. God made us to love righteousness, but not to idolize a well ordered life in this world.

In this week's Worldmag column, "Victory and Idolatry," I reflect upon the forms that excessive and misplaced political hopes often take: millenarian enthusiasm and disgusted withdrawal. I intend this as a tonic especially for Republicans and Tea Partiers as we approach the November election. But not a paralyzing one.

Constitutionally Expressed Anger

Mad As Hell. The title of Scott Rasmussen and Douglas Schoen's book on the Tea Party movement nicely summarizes the theme of this year's midterm elections. I expect that it will be the dominant theme for the next couple of years as well.

In last week's Worldmag column, "Republicanism at Work," I point out that when that popular angry expresses itself at the polls on November 2, it is not "democracy at work" that we will see, but the republican system of government doing what it was designed to do.

With the people as angry as they are with the political class, it would be reasonable to expect a complete change in government. In 1993, Canadian voters were so upset with the Progressive Conservative Party, one of the country’s two major parties, that they reduced the Tory’s 169-seat majority in Parliament to a mere two seats, with even the prime minister herself failing to win reelection in her district. That is what voter anger can do in a democracy. But you will not see that in November. ...

[I]t was the intentional design of our Founders to protect our political life from the instability of democracy and its potential for tyranny, or what Alexis de Tocqueville called “democratic despotism.” Our constitution attempts, quite successfully I think, to institutionalize the people’s better judgment while at the same time giving vent to their passing opinions and passions.

Of course American government is "democratic," if by that we means that it is, as Lincoln said, government of the people, by the people, and for the people. The board mass of the population is the fount of political authority, as of course it ought to be. But simply democracy, as a form of government, is far more volatile than a modern republic. I explain how.

We should thank the Lord for the wisdom of our Founders, and be vigilant when a pol tries to justify something on the basis of its being more "democratic."

Friday, October 8, 2010

A Bad Earworm

When a German has a song in his head that keeps playing and playing, and will not stop, he calls it an Ohrwurm, an earworm. That expresses the problem well.

At the moment I have Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance" running around up top, and it's taking up valuable mental real estate. But there is good reason for its being there.

I am not equipped to analyze Bad Romance articulately. But emotionally it is a remarkably arresting song. Her soaring vocals and pathetic tones complementing the pathetic theme, the alteration back and forth between Berlin cabaret and Broadway tragedy, and even some classy French at one point to cleanse the listener's ear before returning us to the singer's unhealthy involvement with her lover's "ugly" and "disease" confront us with an immediate awareness that nothing like this has happened in pop music since Michael Jackson released Thriller in 1982 and U2 came out with War in 1983, or possibly since Nirvana's Nevermind showed up in 1991.

But I have not been following popular music closely the way I did when I was 18, and what do I know anyway? That's why I'm going public with these thoughts.

I won't post her video because it is vile, but consider this stunning performance of the song.

It brings to mind this earlier classic of dance and song.

It is true, we are living in a golden age of creativity. I can hardly keep up with it.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

How Must I Help You?

Beggar in Tehran, Antoine-Khan Sevruguin, 1880

It is healthy for all of us that the Evangelical left has provoked the rest of us into a more careful and conscientious consideration of our moral obligations to the poor among us. But while they tend to think that what those moral obligations demand of us is obvious (perhaps just the most vocal among them), it strikes me as considerably more complex, like the human relationships and human souls that the question involves.

I briefly address this question in "The Least of These,", October 6, 2010.

They are people for whom it is a challenge each day simply to feed themselves and their families. The Bible typically presents them as the widow, the orphan, and sometimes the sojourner. These are people who have lost their natural protectors and have little or no means of providing for themselves. They are exposed to the wolves of society, powerful and unscrupulous people of means who would devour them for selfish gain.

How people are to help such people depends on one's relationship to them, and position of authority. I don't have the same moral responsibility for people across town, much less across the world, as I do more people in my own community, or even my next door neighbor. This is not to say I have no responsibility, which of course increases with the development of technology that makes the world a smaller place.

I have heightened responsibility for brothers and sisters in Christ, and yet again for for own family.

There is also a giving that is inappropriate. If I were struggling to keep my family fed and clothed, and a wealthy person in my church took pleasure in decking out my children and wife in nice clothes, I would resent this. I would return the gifts, because he is supplanting me as provider. It's not his place to give these things, or at least not in that way.

Government welfare supplants in the same way. When it steps in and gives what private charity and family are supposed to give, while providing for real material needs it destroys or at least slackens important relationships in the process. This should come as no surprise because it is not government's place to provide this good. God appointed government to praise what is good, not do the good itself (Romans 3:1-7; 2 Peter 2:14).

Christians have no disagreement over the moral necessity of kindness to the poor. Our point of debate is what the legitimate and most beneficial means are for accomplishing this. But it is sheer political fantasy that in Matthew 25 Jesus was mandating a government engineered transfer of wealth from the rich to the poor in the form of direct payments and a broad array of social services and economic subsidies.

I don't mean to suggest that the Evangelical left discovered the poor and the moral obligation of mercy. Marvin Olasky has been encouraging the compassionate dimension of the Christian life at least since he published The Tragedy of American Compassion in 1992. But the history of Christian charity is a long one, and no generation has been without its chapter.

Monday, October 4, 2010

We Have Been Warning You

I know that some of what we have written on these pages has seemed to some of our readers overwrought, perhaps especially my entries. It is a paradox of evil and evil doers that their depravity can a times so exceed the normal person's imagination or sense of reality that accurate reporting of what is actually true seems like delusion to those hearing of it for the first time. Have I seemed over the top on occasion? Naively cutting corners, extrapolating wildly, blowing out of proportion things explicable under more reasonable parameters? I cannot claim 100% truth content in the opinions I hold, nor the information I pass along here. But I do know a couple of things, and the more I read and see the more confirmed I am in my opinions. I can't think of anything published here that I would retract as over-stated or untrue.

Accordingly, the following video from an outfit calling themselves "10/10" , calling on everyone to reduce their carbon footprint by 10% in 2010, which has been belatedly pulled from all their own sites and media placements, shows just what is lurking behind the happy face progressivism so in vogue these days.

I must warn you about this video however; it is shocking and sickening beyond anything David and I could have ever prepared you for, and goes well beyond anything warned of on this blog. But it does follow quite easily from the sort of radicalism of William Ayers and the Weather Underground, for example, or the Baader-Mienhof gang, the Red Army Faction, the Black Panther Party, and any of dozens of eco-terrorist groups like Earth First! or Earth Liberation Front, operating now. Like all these 60's era revolutionaries, the people behind this 10/10 thing countenance political murder along the exact lines explicated by Albert Camus in The Rebel. (Camus was close to converting to Catholicism just prior to his death in 1959--he had had it with the international left, and his book is another instance of a barely credible indictment of evil).

Professor Ernst Sternberg of the University of Buffalo, State University of New York, has an equally ghastly appraisal of what the international Left is up to here: The enemies of the new order must be destroyed, as the pleasant and rational school teacher in the video understands.

Here is the abstract:

Abstract: The past decade has seen the coalescence of a new ideology that envisions social movements in a cataclysmic struggle against global capitalist "Empire". Controlled by U.S. militarism and multinational corporations, in cahoots with Zionism, "Empire" contaminates environments and destroys cultures. Its defeat will bring about a new era of social justice and sustainable development, in which the diverse cultures harmoniously share the earth. Is this a totalitarian ideology? From fascist and communist precedents, we learn that lovers of renewed humanity are not sufficiently motivated by abstract ideals. They must also identify humanity’s enemy, the cause of all suffering. Equipped with a scapegoat, diverse communities can achieve solidarity through shared execration.


Innes adds: As to the video, it speaks volumes about these people (a) that they think this is funny, (b) that they think the general public would think this is funny or even remotely acceptable, and (c) that it made it's way all the way through the planning and production process without anyone saying, "Are you insane?" Did this make its way onto British television before someone finally sounded an alarm? If so, same questions.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Tom Friedman to the Rescue

Thomas Friedman today in the New York Times tells us that there are two Tea Party movements in American : one is ultimately insignificant but drawing a lot of press attention; the other is ignored and leaderless, but will transform the country if anyone picks up on it. Former is what we call the Tea Party movement and the latter is the true Tea Party. ("The Tea Kettle Movement," September 28, 2010.)

Hey, Tom! The first step is obvious to everyone in the TPM. Stop spending! The best way to do that at this point is: vote the Democrats out of office. Stop the Obama addiction to zeros. Yes, the Republicans under George W. Bush's leadership had public money flowing like water from a ghetto hydrant. But Barack Obama broke the dam, and the Tea Party movement took off. It is what my fellow blogger, Harold Kildow, has pointed out, it's "the trouble with trillions."

In my column today, "The Tea Party: More Than Steam," I look at the Tea Party agenda, such as it is, and how is does indeed promise to accomplish what Friedman says it can't: restore America to its vigor and preeminence.

Friedman says the real groundswell of popular unrest is unsettled by a different set of issues that go more the heart of our problems.

The issues that upset the Tea Kettle movement — debt and bloated government — are actually symptoms of our real problem, not causes. They are symptoms of a country in a state of incremental decline and losing its competitive edge, because our politics has become just another form of sports entertainment, our Congress a forum for legalized bribery and our main lawmaking institutions divided by toxic partisanship to the point of paralysis.

This true Tea Party Movement which, unlike the commonly identified but false one, has a substantive agenda that focuses on "America’s core competency and strategic advantage," which is "our ability to attract, develop and unleash creative talent. That means men and women who invent, build and sell more goods and services that make people’s lives more productive, healthy, comfortable, secure and entertained than any other country."

It's obvious that the people who make up this popular movement have spent a long time thinking through the details of what they want from government in response to our crisis.

Leadership today is about how the U.S. government attracts and educates more of that talent and then enacts the laws, regulations and budgets that empower that talent to take its products and services to scale, sell them around the world — and create good jobs here in the process. Without that, we can’t afford the health care or defense we need. This is the plan the real Tea Party wants from its president (emphasis added).
The Friedman gives us more details:

To implement it would require us to actually raise some taxes — on, say, gasoline — and cut others — like payroll taxes and corporate taxes. It would require us to overhaul our immigration laws so we can better control our borders, let in more knowledge workers and retain those skilled foreigners going to college here. And it would require us to reduce some services — like Social Security — while expanding others, like education and research for a 21st-century economy. 
Wow. This is a popular movement that only an ivory tower liberal can imagine. There are some good ideas mixed in here, but it strains credibility to suggest that there's an angry giant of American popular opinion ready to explode out there with all these ideas on his mind. Essentially, Tom Friedman has said that it's not the Tea Party movement that's going to transform American politics and save the country. Instead it's...Tom Friedman!

We'll be waiting for that, Tom.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Congresswoman From La Raza

Representative Loretta Sanchez, apparently unaware that people outside her California (Mexifornia?) district speak Spanish, means to defend as a matter of racial right the seat she stole fair and square from "Bomber" Bob Dornan back when all Republicans could do was stand in stunned amazement when they witnessed undisguised vote fraud. Oh wait...

But anyway, this bit of video of Sanchez indignantly warning that the "Vietnamese" and Republicans are trying to steal "their" seat touches on both of her areas of expertise--vote fraud and racial politics. But sadly, those are the first tools out of the bag for most Democrat operatives and candidates in the multi-culti era we are thrown into.

Time for a better sort of immigrant, I say. No hope for a better sort of Democrat though.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Jihadist Attack Hits the US

In this week I sound off an a matter of grave concern for national honor and individual liberty, a matter that ius not getting nearly the coverage it merits. ("Jihadist Invasion in Seattle," Sept. 22, 2010).

America is under attack from Jihadist verbal predator drones. ... Young Seattle cartoonist, Molly Norris...published a cartoon declaring, “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day.” That was May 20. Then someone turned it into a Facebook page, and it took off...all the way to Yemen. There, a couple of months later, American Jihadist, Anwar al-Awlaki, issued a fatwa calling for Norris’s assassination for insulting the prophet of Islam, Fox News and the New York Times report. ...

From beyond our shores and without setting foot on our soil, the Jihadists have invaded our country and taken the life of one of our citizens. Norris is still alive, but the woman as she was known is gone. ... President Obama should call this what it is: an act of war. He should make full use of his armies and agencies to protect this woman’s life and liberty, and should defend her as he would defend our borders themselves. But he has been completely silent.
Apologize for that, Nick Kristof.

It it worth noting that al-Awlaki called not for her assassination or murder, but for her "execution" (or so it was translated). Jihadists regard Sharia as the only legitimate law for human beings this side of Mohammed. They do not view any government as legitimate apart from an Islamic government. That is why there is no such country as "Iran." It is "the Islamic Republic." It is "the" Islamic Republic. The Jihadists view the whole world as being in a sense already under Allah's Islamic reign. That is why they are enraged at Americans being Americans in Seattle, and called for Norris's "execution" for blasphemy, as though she were already living under Sharia law. As far as they are concerned, she is. And so are you.

You can see, therefore, that there is a lot of sense in Newt Gingrish's call for a federal law forbidding Sharia being enforced as law anyhwere in the country.

Some will object that this no big deal, because we have a history of giving people new identies when they enter the witness protection plan. But this is a domestic law enforcement issue. As all serious crime takes away one liberty or another, such moves are in the service of liberty by serving the successful prosecution of criminals like mobsters. Molly Norris going ghost served only to stengthen and embolden these foreign enemies of liberty.

Furthermore, we must not make Norris into a heroine. She caved. She recanted. She grovelled. And she still lost her legal life. Read here and here. The Facebook pages are also disappearing.

Also worth noting, an Arab poll found that 58% of Muslims oppose the Ground Zero "Cordoba" Mosque, Fouad Ajami reports in the Wall Street Journal reports.

Chip Bok makes a good point with his cartoon on this subject. Americans have Islamophobia. Muslims have cartoonophobia. So who has the problem?

The Wall Street Journal's James Taranto featured the story in "There Is No More Molly," (Sept. 17, 2010). Here is the Huffington Post coverage.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

War Hero, Salvatore Giunta

The New York Times has done the unexpected: reported on a war hero ("Iowa Man to Receive First Non-Posthumous Medal of Honor Since Vietnam," Tom Shanker, Sept. 10, 2010).

In the most dangerous valley of the most rugged corner of eastern Afghanistan, a small rifle team of airborne soldiers fell into an insurgent ambush, a coordinated attack from three sides.

A young Army specialist, Salvatore A. Giunta, took a bullet to the chest, but was saved by the heavy plates of his body armor. Shaking off the punch from the round, he jumped up and pulled two wounded soldiers to safety, grabbed hand grenades and ran up the trail to where his squad mates had been patrolling.

There, he saw a chilling image: Two fighters hauling one of his American comrades into the forest. Specialist Giunta hurled his grenades and emptied the clip in his automatic rifle, forcing the enemy to drop the wounded soldier. Still taking fire, he provided cover and comfort to his mortally wounded teammate until help arrived.

Sergeant Giunta has a humble hero's perspective of the matter.

“I entered the Army when I was 18, and I’m 25 now. I became a man in the Army,” he said. “That night I learned a lot — and after that night I learned even more. This respect that people are giving to me? This was one moment. In my battalion, I am mediocre at best. This shows how great the rest of them are.” 

He is from Hiawatha, Iowa. He is married and presently stationed in Italy.

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Road Less Often Taken

"When the government fears the people there is liberty; when the people fear the government there is tyranny." --Thomas Jefferson

I reproduce this from, a worthwhile site which culls the best American thought from all decades:

The path of liberty or the road to tyranny

"We are faced today with two different roads, one of which follows the path of liberty set by our Founders in the Constitution, and one of which diverges from that path and leads us down the road to tyranny. There are two different warring camps within our society, and the ongoing battle between those camps has been graphically illustrated in recent primary elections and by the vicious fight over the nationalization of our healthcare system. On one side are those of us, including the members of the Tea Party movement, who work hard to support their families, who love their country, and who understand and revere a document that has stood firm for 223 years to guide us. These ordinary, everyday Americans rightly fear the unprecedented growth in the size and power of the federal government. They are angry over the unsustainable and uncontrollable growth of federal spending and the federal deficit that will inevitably lead to financial ruin. They are appalled over the contempt shown by so many in the other camp for our governing document, the Constitution. ... That other camp is made up of politicians who recognize no limits on their power, their liberal activist allies in the judiciary, and members of the media, Hollywood, and academia, who have been stretching, bending, and chipping away at the Constitution for decades. They welcome a tyranny of elites who can govern however they see fit without being checked and limited by what they view as an 'anachronistic' document and the parochial views of the American people. After all, they know what is best for all of us. They should control our lives and our economy. ... There is a growing movement throughout America to reinvigorate the tree of liberty, a tree whose trunk is the Constitution, whose limbs are the Bill of Rights, and whose leaves are the new sons and daughters of liberty who embody the same spirit that infused our Founders. On Constitution Day, let Americans rededicate themselves to securing 'the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity' by actively working to preserve the Constitution of the United States." --former Attorney General Edwin Meese

Rhetoric 201

This man's problems go far beyond his failure to master the art of rhetoric. He seems like a good man, but he's way out of his depth. What's worse is that his son is his campaign manager, and thus evidently hasn't any more practical judgment than his father does.

He is so ridiculously entertaining that the entertainment media is passing him around like a sideshow act, but this poor man clearly doesn't understand that they are holding him up for ridicule. But, of course, if he could see that then wouldn't be running for office at all.

A note on his promise to ban "gold fringed flags." His complaint is that it adds a color to the flag without the people's consent.

As for the flag itself, he tells another interviewer that he "hates" the flag, and would like it replaced with the three bar flag. Of course, I had to research that. It appears that what he has in mind is the first Confederate flag. It's a different world down there. That's sometimes good, and sometimes not.

Here he is on Jimmy Kimmel Live.

Kimmel invited him to move to California and serve as governor there. Marceaux's response? "I'll be the governor of any state so long as I can fix it." His heart's in the right place.

Read the Washington Post story on his candidacy after it ended. It's quite a tale.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Let Christine O'Donnell Speak for Herself

I don't have a crystal ball, and I cannot see into the heart of a single person on this planet, so backing this or that candidate becomes something like co-signing for someone else's loan. It puts one's credibility on the line. But I think a little perspective is called for in the case of Delaware's l'enfant terrible, Christine O'Donnell, and I am willing to give her the benefit of any doubt generated by ill-chosen statements on peripheral matters (is masturbation really going to be a national issue?) in light of her solidly conservative policy positions that actual do matter to the life of the nation.
The most common epithets being hurled is she's crazy...gaff prone...ill prepared...she has "baggage"...not smart. She cannot win. There goes the Senate.

Crazy, gaff prone, ill prepared, laden with baggage... compared to whom? Al Franken, the Jar Jar Binks of the Senate? The sleek and well-spoken Joe Biden, whose seat she is a candidate for? Chris Coons, the Delaware Democrat who is now presumed to be the shoe-in, the self-described Marxist whose communist epiphany came as a college freshman--an epiphany from which he has never swerved or disavowed? RINO in pachyderm's clothing Mike Castle, whose communications since defeat have been not with the winner of the nomination of his own party, but with the heads of the opposition party, Obama and Biden? (what could they possible have to say to one another?)

Keep in mind Castle was one of only eight Republicans who voted for the economy killing cap and trade scheme in the House. And this was not just another vote about which people of good conscience can disagree, live and let live, and let bygones be bygones; this is another sword of Damocles hanging over the future of America like Obama Care. It is life and death, in the literal, figurative, and economic senses of the phrase. The very nature and character of the republic will be determined by the next several Congresses as they attempt to undo all the hope and change. And even if he voted against the health care monstrosity (how hard was that?) , is there any doubt he would be of the party of mend it don't end it when the grown ups get around to sorting out the mess left by ramming that outrage through on the most blatant of party line votes?

Six years, the term of the office of Senator, affords ample opportunities to either stand athwart the liberal/socialist juggernaut or wave it on through. What do you think a Senator Mike Castle would have done? What do you think he has done his whole career as Representative Mike Castle?

I don't know the actual severity of O'Donnell's past--home foreclosure, over-due student loans, failed gender discrimination lawsuit--sounds like a lot. But lets not forget the "baggage" accompanying almost all of Obama's appointees, both successful and unsuccessful. Seems most of them are cross-wise with the IRS, but in ways that are considerably more corrupt than just being unable to pay. Timmie Geithner was well able to pay the thousands he was chiseling on--same for Tom Daschle, would-be secretary of HHS. Charlie Rangel, anyone? How about the entirety of the Black Caucus in the House, so corrupt they are trying to dismantle the House Ethics committee to head off investigations? Harry Reid and his multi-million dollar land deals? Not to mention the thousands of faceless DC federal employees who owe millions in uncollected taxes. But they, like all the rest of the elite, think taxes are for the "little people" "out there".

And that is O'Donnell's biggest sin when it comes down to it--she's one of the little people, not properly or adequately credentialed, from the wrong side of the tracks, daring to barge into the upper rooms of the blessed. Government by the people? Not by people like you, honey. In a former time, attitudes like hers were called "uppity".
Listen to her in her own words here (in a conversation with Pajamas Media prior to the primary election) and ask yourself why she would not be better than a weak sister RINO or God help us, an unreconstructed Marxist, in the US Senate. Even in view of everything the Dems and their little republican helpers are serving up from her past.

Innes adds:
Harold, you make a strong argument, though you may be the only one making it. Even Palin supporter William Kristol said this at the Weekly Standard: "In the Senate, Christine O'Donnell will almost certainly lose a seat that could have been won (cf. Oliver North taking the Republican nomination in Virginia in 1994 and losing that winnable seat—Republicans still won the Senate)."

Harold adds:
All the conservative intellectuals are against O'Donnell on the basis that she cannot win the general election, and thus the seat is lost to the Democrats. A number of things come to mind.
1. None of these same people thought the Senate was actually attainable before, so why now all the angst over O'Donnell blowing the big chance?
2. Saving a RINO like Castle is not on the Tea Party agenda, nor apparently for 62% of Republican primary voters in Delaware, certainly not all of whom are Tea Partiers. Do their opinions count?
3. When, according to the Republican elites, do voters get to discipline Republicans like Castle? Ever? Every election, it seems, is too important to lose a seat to the demands for orthodoxy from the right. Castle, Bennett of Utah, Murkowski of Alaska, the weak sisters of Maine, Voinavitch of Ohio, Richard Lugar of Indiana...the list is tiresome and long. They have been of the go along to get along tribe, riding the elite consensus sentiment that any Republican is good enough. All the while aiding and abetting the long drift into socialism. Well, now the people whose lives and resources have been mortgaged beyond their grandchildren's ability to pay have had enough of it.
4. This rebellion is a long wave sort of thing. It will take decades, if ever, to turn the ship of state off the course we have been bemoaning here since the threat of the Obami hove into view. If O'Donnell and a few others like her are not in the end electable, the platform they are running on (and the public enthusiasm for it) sure does put the fear of God into the party establishment, other RINOs, and conservative-leaning democrats. It sends the unmistakable message that this uprising is real and not going away.
5. In the recent electoral context characterized by Sarah Palin, Scott Brown, Chris Cristie, Bob Donaldson, et al., the Republcian party of Delaware has only itself to blame for running an unacceptably heterodox candidate like Castle, thereby allowing or even forcing a flawed Christine O'Donnell into the race. When will heads roll at HQ over that one?
6. Sadly, even if Republicans gain control of both houses in 2010, the Obami have enough czars and regulatory control in place to move their agenda along without Congress' approval. EPA, DOJ, and HHS on the forefront, the alphabet soup of other agencies, authorities, and operating groups no one has ever heard of already putting things in place, possibly already past legislative remedy.
7. We will need people in Congress willing to talk about disbanding, defunding, and prosecutions, a la Congressman Issa, to begin the pullback. Republicans like Castle will take the administration's and the New York Times' position on all of it. Until there are enough Republicans with spines to meet the emergency--and that is what we face here--the slide away from constitutional government will continue. We do not know where the point of no return is, or if we are already past it.
8. O'Donnell is no worse than any number of Democrat "Senators"--an office which is so degraded by the intellectual giants put up by the Democrats that she is no net lowering in any case. "Senator" Barbara Boxer; "Senator" Amy Klobachar; "Senator" Al Franken; "Senator" Patty Murray; unfortunately, one could go on and on. And how would she be worse than the likely winner, Chris "I'm a bearded Marxist" Coons?

Innes adds:
Harold, in her column yesterday, "Why It's Time for the Tea Party," Peggy Noonan cites Andrea Tantaros of the New York Daily News ("Stop Mocking the Tea Party") who agrees with what you say in your post here.

The current alternative from the left is even more cuckoo to voters: higher taxes, a new health care regime, more rights for terrorists, disregard for immigration law and constant apologies to other countries. Now that's nuts. So, with mud on their faces, both sides of the aisle are trying to shred the personal credibility of the outsiders. They've blasted O'Donnell for not liking porn and blasted Paladino for liking it too much. They call O'Donnell a liar in a year when the Democratic Senate candidate from Connecticut, Richard Blumenthal, lied about serving in Vietnam, and Charlie Rangel and Maxine Waters face serious ethics charges.

It's funny how the Dems are never afraid of running a Marxist. Does the press ever lament a move like that?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Governing Without Trust

Government is about trust. This is especially true in a representative democracy, the form of government in which some people govern others only because the people have entrusted authority to them. In our democracy today, public trust is at an historic low. That means an astonishingly high percentage of the population sees an unacceptably wide gap between what the government is doing and what they would like the government to be doing in matters that are decisively important to them.

Given the trust gap, and given especially how widely and clearly the gap has been publicized, people are alarmed that the governing Democrats are proceeding with the transformative change that has brought them into such wide disfavor.

At ("The Trust Gap") I go on to show how the Democrats have proceeded not only with disregard to public outcry and plunging public trust, but with redoubled speed with the change they had in mind in 2008 as opposed to the change the public expected. I argue that while Obama, Pelosi, and Reid have the legal right to do what they're doing, even to the point of effecting a Lame Duck Revolution, with such low public support it has the character of tyranny.

Harold adds:
"Trust" is the sine qua non (without which not) for consent. The consent of the governed, the central legitimizing feature of a representative government, can only be present if both the institutional structure is trusted and the representatives are trusted. The tyrannous progressive coalition (shamefully including some Republicans) now in charge has severely damaged our institutions by running rough shod over the constitutional boundaries, but also by lying straight at us in a way that would make even George Orwell blush. They do not have the nation's consent to transform us into a euro style social democracy (and they know it)--hence the long-wave reaction that is the Tea Party. Consent is given, and it is taken away. I hope it is not too late to matter. The world's tyrants have not been overly concerned with consent, nor have they needed to be.

Innes adds:
John Fund documents the shameless comfort with which Democrats have been seriously and publicly entertaining the idea of a Lame Duck Revolution after the November electoral slaughter. "The Obama-Pelosi Lame Duck Strategy," Wall Street Journal, July 9, 2010.) Those would be conditions under which I would head for Washington to join throngs of patriots in storming the Capitol Building. I can see Nancy Pelosi's uncomprehending and morally indignant expression even now.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A Whiff of Grapeshot

In 1795 French general Paul-François-Jean-Nicolas Barras put down the rebellion of France's royalist sympathizers against the Revolution's new constitution by making the decision to fire cannons on a crowd. "Give them a whiff of grapeshot" has ever since been a phrase connoting the Machiavellian admonition to take stern action early. It was not necessary to mow down the entire mass; only the first volleys were aimed directly at street level, and only at the vanguard. The following shots were above the crowds, and the noise was sufficient to scatter them in disarray. Napoleon Bonaparte, the general's aide-de camp, immediately knew they had won not only the day, but had utterly routed the forces of reaction. "The republic is saved", he flatly asserted to his commander.

There is a revolution brewing in both the nation and the Republican party, and once again the sans-culottes are rising against their masters. The obliteration of Mike Castle in Delaware's Republican party primary race for the Senate seat of Joe Biden last night by Christine O'Donnell, is just the latest of "people's candidates" to overwhelm the will and desire of Republican party Bigs who consider their beltway insider credentials sufficient warrant to butt into local primary fights.

The non-elite quality, the rough edges and the not-slick, unprofessional mien of many these insurgent candidates, beginning with Sarah Palin, Rand Paul, Sharron Angle, et. al., is the principle sticking point with the elites. Professor Angelo Codevilla's devastating pièce de résistance "America's Ruling Class and the Perils of Revolution" is required reading for understanding the shift in the political culture under the feet and against the will of the class who arrogate to themselves control of the levers of power.

It remains to be seen what these Tea Party inspired and backed candidates will be able to do once in place. Regardless of how that plays out, the message has been sent, and it is not ambiguous. The revolution has come to the palace.
How many whiffs of grapeshot are they going to need before they get it?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Here is a Great Teacher

Harvey Mansfield is one of the great teachers of the last two generations. He is professor of government at Harvard University, translator of Machiavelli and de Tocqueville, and the author of books such as Taming the Prince, America's Constitutional Soul, and Manliness.

The five-part "Uncommon Knowledge" interview with him on NRO will give you a peek at why truth seeking young kind have been drawn to this politically incorrect provocateur.

In part 2, he says, he discusses Western civ and the great books, saying, "Western civilization is not one thing. In a way, it is divided against itself in a very interesting way, the most interesting perhaps between church and state, between theology and philosophy. And so Western civilization is not a civilization that has one answer--one authoritative answer--but it contains within itself problems and questions. So it's much more interesting and more powerful than other, non-western civilizations."

Monday, September 13, 2010

On The Road, Still

In this morning's WSJ, Arthur Brooks, president of The American Enterprise Institute, and Congressman Paul Ryan (R, Wisconsin) pose the underlying question the Obama administration and its Tea Party tormentors have pressed to the fore: Do we still want our traditional American free enterprise system, or do we prefer a European-style social democracy? ("The Size of Government and the Choice This Fall")

In combination with Michael Barone's "Gangster Government Stifles Criticism of Obamacare", the tyrannical nature of the Obami and their new wave of progressivism is inescapable, confirming in spades (can I say that?) the darkest premonitions and warnings appearing here at Principalities and Powers and innumerable other outlets of enlightened opinion and correct reasoning. A few minutes perusing the archives will show our insights were neither overwrought, as some suggested, nor misplaced. And if such a review does not persuade, or is too much work, it should be sufficient to note that both David and I are extraordinarily good looking. For a couple of academic geeks, that is.

But back to Brooks and Ryan.

Deeply embedded in both Brook's and Ryan's education, and appearing briefly in the article, is Friederich Hayek's The Road to Serfdom. Like many another young skull full of mush, the Road to Serfdom was the book that launched, some thirty years ago, my early attempts at serious political and economic thinking. After reading the WSJ piece, I went to my office bookshelves and found my battered, underlined, highlighted, marginalia-laced copy and glanced through it this morning. Like that other ur-text of conservatism, Burke's Some Reflections on the Revolution in France, nearly every sentence makes an epigram or forms the topic for extended reflections. I recall being taken with the epigrams Hayek attached to his chapters, from authors and sources I had mostly never heard of at the time, but that had the effect on me as a reader he intended--it solidified his place in a tradition of thought, and authenticated the accuracy of the critique he brought to socialism and all its works.

Accordingly, for the enlightenment of our readership, and in lieu of quoting the too-many apropos statements from the book, here are Hayek's chapter titles and the epigrams he attached--every one remaining pertinent to this era of "transformational change".

Dedication Page: To The Socialists Of All Parties
It is seldom that liberty of any kind is lost all at once--David Hume

Introduction: Few discoveries are more irritating than those which expose the pedigree of ideas--Lord Acton

Chapter I The Abandoned Road
A program whose basic thesis is, not that the system of free enterprise for profit has failed in this generation, but that it has not been tried.--F.D. Roosevelt

Chapter II The Great Utopia
What has always made the state a hell on earth has been precisely that man has tried to make it his heaven--F. Hoelderlin

Chapter III Individualism and Collectivism
The socialists believe two things which are absolutely different and perhaps even contradictory: freedom and organization.--Elie Halvevy

Chapter IV The "Inevitability" of Planning
We were the first to assert that the more complicated the forms assumed by "civilization", the more restricted the freedom of the individual must become.--Benito Mussolini

Chapter V Planning and Democracy
The statesmen who should attempt to direct private people in what they ought to employ their capitals, would not only load himself with a most unnecessary attention, but assume an authority which could safely be trusted to no council and senate whatever, and which would nowhere be so dangerous as in the hands of a man who had folly and presumption enough to fancy himself fit for the exercise--Adam Smith

Chapter VI Planning and the Rule of Law
Recent studies in the sociology of law once more confirm that the fundamental principle of formal law by which every case must be judged according to general rational principles, which have as few exceptions as possible, and are based on logical subsumptions, obtains only for the liberal competitive phase of capitalism.--Karl Mannheim

Chapter VII Economic Control and Totalitarianism
The control of the production of wealth is the control of human life itself.--Hillaire Belloc

Chapter VIII Who, Whom?
The finest opportunity ever given to the world was thrown away because the passion for equality made vain the hope for freedom.--Lord Acton

Chapter IX Security and Freedom
The whole of society will have become a single office and a single factory with the equality of work and equality of pay--Nikolai Lenin

In a country where the sole employer is the State, opposition means death by slow starvation. The old principle: who does not work shall not eat, has been replaced by a new one: who does not obey shall not eat.--Leon Trotsky

Chapter X Why the Worst Get on Top
Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.--Lord Acton

Chapter XI The End of Truth
It is significant that the nationalization of thought has preceded everywhere the nationalization of industry.--E.H. Carr

Chapter XII The Socialist Roots of Nazism
All antiliberal forces are combining against all that is liberal.--A. Moeller Van Der Bruck

Chapter XIII The Totalitarians in Our Midst
When authority presents itself in hte guise of organization, it develops charms fascinating enough to convert communities of free people into totalitarian states.--"The Times" (London)

Chapter XIV Material Conditions and Ideal Ends
Is it just or reasonable, that voices against the main end of government should enslave the less number that would be free? More just is it, doubtless, if it come to force, that a less number compel a greater to retain, which can be no wrong to them, their liberty, than that a greater number, for the pleasure of their baseness, compel a less most injuriously to be their fellow slaves. They who seek nothing but their own just liberty, have always the right to win it, whenever they have the power, be the voices never so numerous that oppose it.--John Milton

Chapter XV The Prospects of International Order
Of all checks on democracy, federation has been the most efficacious and the most congenial...The federal system limits and restrains the sovereign power by dividing it and assigning to Government only certain defined rights. It is the only method of curbing not only the majority but the power of the whole people.--Lord Acton

If you do not own this book, buy it. If you have not read it, read it. If you have read it, read it again. The answer to the question asked by Hayek and Messrs. Brooks and Ryan, whether we shall have freedom or servitude, hangs on enough people being cognizant of both the question and the possible answers.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Perfect Day For A Book Burning

One hardly knows what to think of a certain Terry Jones, the now fifteen-minutes-famous pastor of some little congregation south of here who wants to demonstrate--what precisely?--a Christian, or American, or masculine principle or other by burning a stack of Korans. He has, since announcing this pending bonfire, renounced it; I suspect the visit by the local FBI office had more to do with the suspension of the planned gaities than any supposed deal he had with the Ground Zero Imam.

A number of things attach in my memory to book burning, the combination of which perhaps makes no more sense than the good pastor's project. But hey, he started it.

1. A line in a song by the Crash Test Dummies, Afternoons and Coffeespoons, where writer Brad Roberts muses on burning tobacco and mortality:

What is it that makes me just a little bit queasy?
There's a breeze that makes my breathing not so easy

I've had my lungs checked out with X rays
I've smelled the hospital hallways

Someday I'll have a disappearing hairline
Someday I'll wear pajamas in the daytime

Times when the day is like a play by Sartre
When it seems a bookburning's in perfect order--

2. Fra Girolamo Savonarola's Bonfire of the Vanities, where he exhorted the flock in Florence, circa 1491, to unburden themselves in a very public and very final way of the things of this world, including books. His compatriot and fellow Florentine Niccolo Machiavelli watched and made a note to himself: add stupefying public spectacle to catalog of advice to would-be princes.

3. The Book of Acts, 19:16-20:

And the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, and overcame them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.
17And this was known to all the Jews and Greeks also dwelling at Ephesus; and fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified.
18And many that believed came, and confessed, and shewed their deeds.
19Many of them also which used curious arts brought their books together, and burned them before all men: and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver.
20So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed

4. David Hume, concluding his argument in his Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, riffing off of some medieval caliph or other who used this same form of argument for books other than the Koran:

"When we run over libraries, persuaded of these principles, what havoc must we make? If we take in our hand any volume; of divinity or school metaphysics for instance; let us ask, "Does it contain any abstract reasoning concerning quantity and number? No. Does it contain any experimental reasoning concerning matters of fact or existence? No. Commit it then to the flames: for it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion."

5. Fahrenheit 451, where future Americans are dissuaded by the government from thought by burning the books that might foment it.

6. Berlin, Germany, May 10, 1933:

In a symbolic act of ominous significance, on May 10, 1933, university students burned upwards of 25,000 volumes of “un-German” books, presaging an era of state censorship and control of culture. On the evening of May 10, in most university towns, right-wing students marched in torchlight parades “against the un-German spirit.” The scripted rituals called for high Nazi officials, professors, university rectors, and university student leaders to address the participants and spectators. At the meeting places, students threw the pillaged and “unwanted” books onto bonfires with great ceremony, band-playing, and so-called “fire oaths.” In Berlin, some 40,000 persons gathered in the Opernplatz to hear Joseph Goebbels deliver a fiery address: “No to decadence and moral corruption!” Goebbels enjoined the crowd. “Yes to decency and morality in family and state! I consign to the flames the writings of Heinrich Mann, Ernst Gläser, Erich Kästner.” (

Burning of things thought detestable--witches, heretics, books, city blocks, even whole cities--probably ensued shortly after humans discovered fire + meat = good.
Maybe we can convince Terry Jones and the other clerical book burners out there to repair to the backyard grill and burn some steaks--or if they want to be provocative, some pork chops--instead of books of fake revelation this weekend.


Innes adds: I was surprised to see Pat Buchanan advocating that the FBI arrest Jones for endangering our troops. Is there a law that covers that? And what if there is? There's a fundamental law that covers Jones.

Also, it was an interesting providence that this should happen at the same time as the Cordoba Mosque controversy, and that the President should comment on both of them. (Of course, on what does he not have a comment? There is a six word combination that Obama has never discovered: "That is none of my business.") Obama is all in favor of religious liberty for the Imam in Manhattan and dismissive of concerns for continuing 9/11 sensitivity. But in Florida, when it comes to burning Korans, he is all about sensitivity toward Muslim, and he entirely disregards the Rev. Jones's freedom of speech.

And he's surprised that a quarter of the country thinks he's a Muslim?