Friday, January 02, 2015

2014 book breakdown

It seems that getting engaged, planning a wedding, getting married, travelling to half a dozen other weddings, and dutifully supporting one's wife through the sickness which accompanies pregnancy reduces the number of books one reads.  But joy is more than ample recompense for books not read.

I read a scant forty-five books this year.  If I remain on the right edge of the bell curve for our mostly illiterate nation, still, this is less than impressive for me.  Actually, it's truer to say that this is a harbinger of things to come.  I am informed that one does not read serious literature to infants, though perhaps exceptionally precocious toddlers will pine for that pleasure.

Now, onto the recommendations:

An Anxious Age - Joseph Bottum: I reviewed it here.  His book helps us to understand that which is rotten in America.  Hint to the secular sociologists: the matter is a spiritual one.

The Quest for Community - Robert Nisbet: something of a conservative classic, Nisbet notes that human beings long for community while the State undermines this desire.  We have come a long way from the country Tocqueville observed.

The Guns of August - Barbara Tuchman: beautiful book.  I read a lot of history, so much that I forget that historians aren't always very good at writing.  Her prose is gorgeous and her theme is well-chosen.  The Great War was human drama par excellence before it devolved into years of futile trench warfare.

The Ballad of the White Horse - G. K. Chesterton: wonderful poem.  We read too little poetry.  We read even less of the epic sort.  Such is life in the age of Twitter.  Taken in parts, even a computer programmer should be able to appreciate this type of greatness.

2015 Reading List

Currently Reading
That Hideous Strength - C. S. Lewis
Capital in the Twenty-First Century - Thomas Piketty
Front Porch Tales - Philip Gulley

Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives - Pope Benedict XVI

* Denotes reread

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Thoughts on the torture report

One of the biggest news stories from this week was the release of the Senate Intelligence Committee's report on CIA torture.  Since the entire 6,000 page report is classified, reporting has focused on the 525 portion of the executive summary.  For a good overview see the Wiki or Andrew Sullivan.

Two quick points before we get to the heart of the matter.

1) One of the objections to the report has been that none of the participants were interviewed.  Given the cost--$40 million--and the time involved--5 years--this is an oversight, though not one which invalidates the report's findings.  The documented evidence is damning enough.

2) The committee ought to have tried to placate Republican concerns to so as to ensure that the report was bipartisan.  Failure to do so has allowed this to become yet another partisan issue.

Now, onto the report itself.  When Osama Bin Laden was finally found and killed, we were told that the only reason we were able to discover his whereabouts was because of torture--or, rather, enhanced interrogation, that Orwellian neologism preferred by proponents of the procedure.  This turned out to be a lie.

In addition to correcting various falsehoods of the Bush Administration, the CIA and many media pawns, the report considers the efficacy of torture: "The CIA's use of its enhanced interrogation techniques was not an effective means of acquiring intelligence or gaining cooperation from detainees."

This should be rather obvious.  As I pointed out in my reflection on the death of OBL: "The problem--from a practical point of view, and setting aside the moral trepidation we should feel toward the procedure--is that there is no way to distinguish between good and bad information when it is extracted via torture."  This was confirmed by the report.

But while the efficacy of torture is important, it's troubling that so little attention is being paid to the ethical aspect.  This is representative of the manner in which we discuss most moral issues; lacking a coherent moral framework, we are reduced to consequentialism.  So torture is bad, not because it is a violation of the human dignity of the person, but because it is not useful. 

As the Catechism puts it: "Terrorism threatens, wounds, and kills indiscriminately; it is gravely against justice and charity. Torture which uses physical or moral violence to extract confessions, punish the guilty, frighten opponents, or satisfy hatred is contrary to respect for the person and for human dignity."

Terrorism and torture are condemned in the same point because they stem from the same immorality: failing to see people as worthy of respect in and of themselves, seeing them only as means to an end.  The people in the World Trade Center were only pawns to be sacrificed to achieve the end goal: embroiling the United States in a war until it became bankrupt.  The "terrorists" are a source of information, nothing more; anything we can do to them so as to extract knowledge is valid.  I use quotes not to scare, but for precision: as the report notes, we killed a man only to later conclude that he was not who we thought he was.

The report makes harrowing reading, specifically the examples of torture and abuse of prisoners. I can only compare it to the Gulag Archipelago, chronicled by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.  To be clear, the Soviet torture regime was much more extensive than our own system, and to conflate the two would be an injustice.  Still, reading examples from the report, one realizes that similar ones could have been furnished from Solzhenitsyn's books.

There is a distinct difference between a good nation and a self-righteous one.  The former is so concerned with the good that is clings to it, even when the consequences might bring it harm.  The latter is so convinced of its own goodness that it readily justifies any action it wishes to take.

The report's revelations of injustice are deeply disturbing.  Perhaps more disturbing still is that these justices are being passionately defended.  The rebuttal seems to be: we didn't torture, but if we did, the terrorists deserved it--and we saved lives. 

We are a deeply self-righteous nation. 

Monday, November 10, 2014

A particular agenda

"Whenever there is an adjective added to an important value-based noun, there's an agenda." - Dennis Prager

Social justice is to justice as gay marriage is to marriage.  In normal speech, the adjective only modifies the noun; in these instances, it obliterates it. 

Aristotle defines justice as giving someone his proper due.  It is just to hold a door for a stranger who is trying to escape the rain.  But it is also just to punish a robber for his crimes.  Social justice, on the other hand, is only a levelling. 

The possessions of the rich are an injustice, not because he accumulated wealth in an unjust manner, but simply because he possesses it.  He may have made his fortune selling his cure for cancer; he may have made it by being bailed out by taxpayers as the head of an investment bank.  To the social justice warrior, the means are unimportant, only the end matters. 

Which is to say, justice is unimportant, only equality of wealth matters.  Even here, it is unlikely that the social justice warrior will sell his belongings and give them to a less fortunate denizen of the third world.  His ire is directed ever upward, never inward. 

The matter is similar with gay marriage.  Now, marriage has a plain definition: a man and a woman, pledge to be faithful to one another until death parts them.  They are, moreover, to care for any children with which they are blessed. 

Gay marriage is nothing of the kind.  The two men or the two women pretend to take on the role of the husband and wife, but it is a sham display because no children can ever come of such a union.  They can only pretend to be married; they can only have children that are not their own.  

And, of course, there is simply nothing to prevent other marginalized groups from concocting their own peculiar arrangements which, with the help of an adjective, they can call a marriage.  There may be little appetite for three people getting married, but there is nothing illogical about it, once grant gays their definition.  And so the affair becomes one uniting any number of people based on mere feelings of affection. 

There is some good news: just as the promotion of social justice cannot remove the idea of justice, so the promotion of gay marriage cannot remove the idea of marriage.  These ideals exist even if society succeeds in marginalizing them.  But it would certainly be better if the State did not work against justice and against marriage.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

On the synod

Three months ago, I got married.  While still engaged, my then fiancee and I found ourselves explaining our living arrangements to curious parties.  No, we were not living together.  No, we were not planning on living together before we were married.  In fact, with my fiancee's lease up two weeks before our wedding, she was going to move in, while I would be kicked out to live with a friend.

The reactions to such an explanation were revealing.  Conservative Christians, both Catholic and non-Catholic alike, seemed to understand implicitly.  But those who did not share our philosophy about sex and marriage seemed befuddled. 

It's important to note here that living together before marriage is not, absolutely speaking, sinful.  Fornication is sinful; living together is a good example of a near occasion of sin since, though fornication need not take place, it increases the likelihood that it will. 

There is another reason living together is imprudent.  It gives rise to scandal.  Here we refer, not to the tabloid sense of the word, but to its Catholic meaning: an attitude or behavior which leads another to do evil.  If a younger sibling sees an older sibling living with his fiancee, he will see this as morally acceptable. 

In point of fact, by youngest brother assumed that we would be living together before marriage.  He thought that this "premarital preparation" was a necessary step in the process, a matter which was swiftly corrected.  Even the young are skilled in neologism.

I bring all this up in light of the 2014 Synod of Bishops which is presently taking place in Rome.  The subject matter is marriage and the family.  Reports on the synod have diverged wildly.  Rather than seek to reconcile the reports, I want to clarify a matter of some confusion.

There is a notion that every Church pronouncement is a matter of doctrine.  So if a Pope gives a speech about how the welfare state must respect the dignity of the poor, this is seen as proof that Catholics must accept the welfare state, and in whatever forms it may take. This is to conflate doctrine, which does not change, and policy, which, because it seeks to work out the good in the midst of human frailty, can.  In this case, there are any number of arrangements which respect the human dignity of the poor, and a great many more that do not.  There is no one Catholic way to address this issue.

The synod concerns itself with policy.  Speculation that the Church will drop Her opposition to homosexual relations can be easily dismissed.  This doctrine cannot and will not be altered, neither in this synod, nor in any subsequent council.  However, the Church can make alterations to policy recommendations for pastors who must deal with laity who do not have the same sense of sin as that taught by the Catechism.

If a couple comes to a priest for instruction prior to marriage, it would be easy for him to dismiss them for cohabiting.  But this would mean he would miss an opportunity for catechesis.  If the couple is obdurate, and intends to remain in sin, I do not see how the priest can marry them, but if they are receptive to reconciliation and reform, he has a chance to prepare them for a sacrament of much grace, grace that will be indispensable throughout their married lives.

Other cases are trickier.  What does the Church do with homosexual couples who are "married"?  What about those who are divorced and have not obtained annulments?  Like the cohabiting couple, we can simply exclude them, but the Church should seek to bring these lost sheep back into the fold.  These are important questions in the west, where the divorce rate hovers around fifty percent and gay marriage is increasingly accepted by the secular legal system. 

One last point: it is very easy for those of us who live in the west to forget that these aspects of marriage and family life, though important, are not the be all and end all of the matter.  The Church is catholic, and thus must concern itself with the laity everywhere.  The family is as important in Europe and North America as it is in Africa, or Asia, or South America.  Hopefully, the synod will reflect that reality when it issues its report.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Rotten fruit

The fruits of bad philosophy are rotten to the core.  This is not to say that all problems stem from bad philosophy, only that if the core principles which undergird a philosophical system are rotten, so too will be the fruits. 

We may approach the problem from either direction; which is to say, we can discover erroneous philosophical principles, and from them find our way to absurd positions on moral issues; or we may start with the latter and trace our way back to the former.

For instance, the Evil League of Reactionaries has recently been vanquished, and the metaphysical absurdity known as gay marriage has been accepted by the culture.  The legal system will no doubt follow.  In the meantime, the Forces of Progressivism have moved on to win "rights" for the transgendered. 

Note first that the term transgendered is a neologism of the Orwellian sort we have been discussing.  So long as people talked of sex, we resided in the realm of Science.  A male human was one who possessed both an X and a Y chromosome, while a female human possessed two X chromosomes. 

Hence the shift to gender which is, to repeat the cultural Marxist mantra, "a social construct".  Sex is determined biologically: it applies to the body of human being; gender is determined psychologically: it applies to the mind.  By ignoring sex and focusing on gender, a man could claim to feel like a woman inside and that claim was expected to override his biology. 

In other words, we've split the human being into two and allowed the mind of man to reign over his body.  This is the rotten philosophical core of modern progressivism.  The ostensible argument was that gender was a social construct; the actual argument was that the real social construct was biology.

This is rank nonsense of the highest order.  A man can no more cease to be male than he can jettison his humanity and become a bird.  Both his maleness and his humanness are fundamental to his nature.  Sure, quack scientists can shoot him up with hormones; they may even treat him as a walking laboratory in which to implant a human child.  But they can't even pretend to alter his genetic structure so that he no longer possesses the dreaded Y chromosome which threatens to call him back to reality.  He cannot become a woman; he can only become a sad freak, upon whom we may look with pity.

If we accept the fiction that the body is only a prison for the mind, there is no end to the silliness which we can assert.  Not only sex, but age, race, ability, all attributes of the body, can be substituted at will.  No longer am I an evil white cismale--the idiotic modifier cis implies that I do not suffer from mental illness, only bad prose--I am actually a gay black trans grandmother.  Please address me accordingly.

Of course, no one is ready to take that sort of nonsense seriously, even though it follows logically from this mind body split.  Sex is held to be amorphous because it further undermines the natural law and healthy human relations.  Sexual autonomy is a goal in a way that racial autonomy simply isn't.  Anything that furthers the illusion of sexual autonomy--for, after all, one can never completely separate sex from procreation--is desirable.

It follows, then, that while it is beneficial to point out the contradictions inherent in what passes for progressive metaphysics, we should not be too troubled when our criticisms are brushed off.  For bad metaphysics are only a means to an end.  We preach to the indifferent, and to the convinced who do not yet realize what is at stake.

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Choosing birth prevention

"An evil action cannot be justified by reference to a good intention." - St. Thomas Aquinas

We live in age of moral confusion. Sometimes, we justify our actions based purely on intent: if a policy was enacted with the goal of reducing poverty, that it makes it, per se, good, irrespective of the results of that policy. Other times, we justify our actions based purely on results: if someone is suffering, it is our duty to reduce that suffering, regardless of the means which we utilize to achieve that end.

The problem with such thinking is not just that it is blatantly contradictory and therefore incoherent; the problem is that is is bad philosophy. Pureness of intention does not absolve one from acting in a way that will lead to a bad end. Likewise, achieving a good end does not grant one license to use any means at one's disposable. Ethics must consider the intent of the action, as well as the means and end.

This brings us to an article in Slate magazine: How Choice Can Stop Abortions. Therein, the writer argues that since stopping abortions is desirable, any means to achieve this end must be considered a good.

Before we get to the substance of the article, the headline merits investigation.

There is a sense in which choice could stop abortions. Namely, people could stop choosing to have abortions. All that is necessary to stop abortions is to stop abortions. We need not worry overmuch about the means; what is required to not do an action is to not do it. End of article.

Alas, for Slate, things are much more complicated. The subtitle of the piece reads: Long-acting reversible contraceptives can cut the teen abortion rate by 75 percent. In other words, it is not choice that stops abortions, but choosing a specific set of items, namely, long-acting reversible contraceptives.

It makes no sense to idolize choice in isolation from the thing chosen. Choice employs an end, or, rather, any number of ends. Some of them are good, some are not, and the validity of the choice depends on whether or not the end is good. It is meaningless to insist that one is pro-choice when it comes to drinking and driving unless one is ready to recommend drunk driving. If we extol choice in this area, we mean to extol drunk driving. Otherwise, we would not commend choice, but rather, choosing not to drive drunk.

The Slate piece, in other words, is arguing for the moral goodness of birth control, which is to say, birth prevention. They would make matters much clearer if they simply stated as much.

The author of the piece notes:

More than 1,400 teenage girls in the St. Louis area were offered a range of free contraceptives. Seventy percent chose LARCs. The beauty of LARCs is that they bypass the problem of inconsistent use. Once the implant or IUD is inserted, you don’t have to think about it every time you have sex.

After three years, researchers counted the pregnancies. For hormonal IUDs and injections, the annual failure rate was five per 1,000 women. For hormonal implants and copper IUDs, the failure rate was zero. These methods wildly outperformed contraceptive rings (52 failures per 1,000), pills (57 per 1,000), and patches (61 per 1,000).

This finding makes sense. One of the problems—practical, as opposed to moral—with, say, condoms and birth prevention pills, is that people forget to use them. Implanting an IUD removes the element of human error.

This fact is itself interesting because implanting a contraceptive device reduces the range of choice. Once the device is implanted, and so long as the device is working properly, one cannot choose to become pregnant. One must first schedule an appointment with one's doctor, and then, once the device is removed, one may try to become pregnant. Should one change one's mind, or simply decide at a later date to try to prevent pregnancy, a like device must be reinserted.

This may be called many things, but insofar is removes the responsibility of controlling pregnancy from the woman and her partner, and places it in the hands of the medical authorities, I do not see how we can argue that this is especially conducive to choice.

On the contrary, the Catholic school of thought maintains that sex leads to pregnancy. As such, sex should only be engaged in when one is willing to achieve the end to which that act is naturally ordered, that is, children. That, moreover, since children require a good deal of love and attention, prospective parents should be willing to care for the child as long as they can manage. Which is to say, that they have pledged their faithfulness to each other in front of witnesses in the act of marriage.

This places the choice firmly in the hands of the husband and wife. True, they may turn to medical authorities for assistance, but the choice of whether to try to have a child is theirs alone. If we truly wish to glorify choice, this argues in favor of the Catholic position. It also requires us to study human fertility so as to understand it, instead of treating it as if it were an unfortunate medical condition. But that is a topic for another day.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Orwell today

"War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength." - George Orwell, 1984

Such were the slogans which adorned the outside walls of the aptly named Ministry of Truth in the famous dystopian novel. To a large extent, we live in Orwell's world. True, there is not yet a boot stomping on the human face, forever. But when the peace prize winning President is off bombing another country the citizens cannot find on a map; when we pride ourselves on how free we are, as we dutifully submit to a groping at an airport; when the news ignores all complexity to hammer home a grossly simplified version of events: it's hard not to think of 1984.

Orwell feared that truth would be hidden by false narratives. Because speaking truthfully--and even thinking truthfully--was forbidden, man would be compelled to endure falsehood. Worse, he would depend on it, and, therefore, love it. In our society, no single organization possesses a monopoly on information, so it is always possible to seek out alternatives, usually on the Internet. Still, the mass media consistently upholds various Narratives, rendering slight the influence of alternative sources.

To take but one example, consider the topic of abortion. Ostensibly, the media presents two sides: the feminist left, which insists that women have the right to reproductive choice; on the other, the right, motivated by religious principles, which insists that abortion is murder and therefore should not be allowed.

Let's try to tease apart some of the terms used in the abortion debate between the pro-choice and the pro-life parties. Pro-choice is a neologism, though perhaps not quite an Orwellian one. The problem with the term is its ambiguity; choice implies an end chosen, but this end goes unmentioned. The pro-lifers are also pro-choice; they think the woman should have the right to choose whether the child is kept by his mother, or given up for adoption. Pro-choicers add another option, namely, abortion, but they refrain from using this term too readily because they do not wish to draw too much attention to their actual program. Choice is always good; abortion is on more dubious ground.

The pro-choicers would also insist that this is because they wish to emphasize that they want women to be given a choice as to the fate of their children. But so, too, do the pro-lifers. The distinction is not concerning choice per se but its accepted range. The debate concerns whether abortion ought to be legal in at least some circumstances. And that is the end of it. The media's Narrative only serves to obscure the matter.

I learned another neologism while listening to pro-life speaker Abby Johnson yesterday at a fundraiser for the Guiding Star Project. Some years ago, Abby ran one of Planned Parenthood's abortion clinics. She shared her story with us yesterday, but as it is explained in her book, Unplanned, I'll not recount it here.

Anyway, Abby told us that at her clinic, they referred to fetuses as products of conception. Pro-choicers usually use the term fetus, which is technically correct. But a fetus is an unborn human baby, so while the term conceals the connection, it remains hidden only insofar as we remain ignorant of the dictionary definition.

The term products of conception, however, is starkly Orwellian in the manner in which it seeks to hide the truth. The term is coldly clinical, like describing a tumor as a product of cancer, or a breast as a mammalian outgrowth. There are times when such terminology can be helpful; if it sheds light on an aspect of the item in question, a more precise term is often called for. But in this case, the verbosity only serves to obscure—as intended.

The following is left as an exercise for the reader: why would those who provide abortions wish to be less than truthful about the nature of the service they are providing?  

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

A challenge

Over at a certain ubiquitous and intrusive social networking site, a good friend has laid down the gauntlet.  I am to provide a list of 10 books which are important to me/had an impact.

In no particular order.

1) Orthodoxy - G. K. Chesterton - This book was the catalyst for my reversion.  Too many years of Catholic education had left me unconvinced of the truth of the Faith I was too ignorant to comprehend.  Reading the book didn't bring me back, not completely, but it forever disabused be of the notion that the Church offered claims to be taken lightly.

2) The Divine Comedy - Dante Alighieri - How does one praise the greatest poem ever written?  Dante offers us a complete education.  He is a great moralist, an aesthete, and a sage.  No matter how well we think we may know him, he is always there to offer us more.

3) A Mencken Chrestomathy - H. L. Mencken - As David Bentley Hart recently put it:
"My affection for H. L. Mencken verges on the idolatrous."  Except for Chesterton, no one has influenced my writing more than this joyful cynic. 

Democracy in America - Alexis de Tocqueville - No one has ever described another country quite so well.  While Mencken lambasted democracy for its idiocies, Toqueville praised it for its virtues.  But he was also keenly aware of its vices.

5) Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh.  I read non-fiction primarily, but this novel comes close to perfection.  Describing the conversion of the head is accomplishment enough.  Here, Waugh captures the heart of the matter.

6) Amusing Ourselves to Death - Neil Postman - At long last, an explanation for why television, and now, the Internet, seem to make us so stupid.

The Closing of the American Mind - Allan Bloom - To many extents, a very frustrating read, but all the more so rewarding because of it.  The book is probably irredeemably political, but it would be better to see here a real professor wrestling with some of the world's greatest thinkers.

8) The Bonfire of the Vanities - Tom Wolfe - The style can be grating at times, but the novel is prophetic.  To quote Judge Richard Posner:
"American legal justice today seems often to be found at a bizarre intersection of race, money, and violence, an intersection nowhere better depicted than in The Bonfire of the Vanities even though the book was written before the intersection had come into view."

9) The Story of Civilization - Will and Ariel Durant - I'm cheating here, since this is a whole series, but these books provided me the liberal arts education I didn't receive while studying engineering.  Yes, they're long, but they'll cost much less than that math class you slept through.

10) The Everlasting Man - G. K. Chesterton - In many ways, Chesterton's best book.  Here is the Catholic account of history, the human drama in which we play but a small part.  Here is the Faith.

Concering the DHS

One of the many disappointing aspects of the Ferguson affair was the way in which the media insisted that this was only further evidence of the irredeemable racism of white America, just another example of a white cop gunning down a sainted black boy.

I say disappointing because there was another aspect of the story that was of considerable interest, but got less attention than it merited.  As Trevor Timm notes in the Guardian:

For three weeks and counting, America has raged against the appalling behavior of the local police in Ferguson, Missouri, and for good reason: automatic rifles pointed at protesters, tank-like armored trucks blocking marches, the teargassing and arresting of reporters, tactics unfit even for war zones – it was all enough to make you wonder whether this was America at all. But as Congress returns to Washington this week, the ire of a nation should also be focused on the federal government agency that has enabled the rise of military police, and so much more: the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

The 240,000-employee, Bush-invented bureaucratic behemoth that didn’t even exist 15 years ago has been the primary arms dealer for out-of-control local cops in Ferguson and beyond, handing out tens of billions of dollars in grants for military equipment in the last decade with little to no oversight and even less training on how to use it.

We might call this extraordinary but for the fact that this so often seems to be the nature of the beast.  The Department of Energy was created by Jimmy Carter.  It's budget is $30 billion a year and it employs over 100,000 people, most of them contractors.  It was created with the goal of reducing our dependency on foreign oil.  Having failed spectacularly, it continues to receive funding, in the meantime, arrogating to itself a slew of unrelated special projects.

Or consider the Department of Agriculture.  Its budget is $132 billion a year and it also employs roughly 100,000 people, 1 bureaucrat for every 22 farms

But the Department of Homeland Security is arguably the worst bureaucracy of them all.  September 11th, was, among other things, a stupendous failure of the national security apparatus.  In a sensible world, the President would have, at a minimum, ordered a review of the NSA to determine how such a colossal mistake could have been made.  Going further, failing to notice and properly classify such a security threat could be seen as evidence of the impossible nature of the tasks that agency is expected to accomplish.  As such, it should have been abolished.

Instead, Bush--a Republican President we hasten to remind the reader--worked to expand the Federal Government.  With the rubble still smoldering, a crisis was at hand, and it would do no good to let a crisis go to waste.  The Department of Homeland Security was created; its mission, to succeed where other agencies had failed.  In a decade and a half, it has grown until it employs almost as many citizens as live in the city of St. Paul.

The TSA, one of its many tentacles, does an admirable job fondling the citizenry, with reckless disregard for due process.  Meanwhile, if it fails to detect the plot of the Boston bombers, why, that only demonstrates, not how useless it is, but how badly we are in need of its many services. 

It has also, like any good bureaucracy, added to its powers.  It has militarized the police--against whom, it is not mentioned.  This, more so than the tired spectre of racism, was the truly ugly face of Ferguson.  The police do not see us as innocents they are to serve and protect.  They see us as the enemy, against whom they must be armed and vigilant.

One last point.  Every bureaucrat must be paid by the free citizens.  Often, this is innocuous enough.  We must be taxed so that the Post Office can do a middling job of delivering the mail.  These sorts of affairs are annoying, but they are hardly tyrannical.  A free republic can stomach an army of postmen.

This is not the case with the brown shirts of the DHS.  We are remunerating them, handsomely one suspects, to violate our right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty by a jury of our peers.  When we fly, we must demonstrate that we are not terrorists by submitting to be patted down or else scanned with cancer machines so that a stranger may view us naked.  And we pay for this privilege. 

Ferguson says a lot about the Feds, but it says a good deal about us, too.