Sunday, December 31, 2006

Science Comes Up Short

In a couple of weeks my column concerning the importance of Science and Religion will be printed in the Lode. In the mean time, I couldn't help but notice this piece from Craig Westover:

Science can always teach us how we might do something; it can never determine for us whether that "something" is something we ought to do. That is the realm of the liberal arts education, without which science loses most of its humanity and much of its usefulness.

Specifically, we need religion. This is a most unfortunate point for those who do not deign to draw their morality from Organized Religion and, instead, come to conclusions on their own--somehow. But as C. S. Lewis pointed out in The Abolition of Man, it is impossible to invent a "morality"; even those who reject, say, the Judeo-Christian ethics in regards to such-and-such do so by asserting some other portion of that system of morality.

For example, one could profess that murder, when undertaken for some greater good, is acceptable moral behavior. In fact, the High Priest Caiphas, used this line of thinking when he reasoned that it would be better for one man to die than that the people should perish and thus recommended that Christ be crucified.

Westover's piece, which should probably be read in full, concludes:

Science can teach us the dangers of secondhand smoke; it cannot teach us the value of liberty and freedom. Science can provide pro and con arguments for national immunization; it cannot tell us whether ignoring evidence of harm to some children is better than jeopardizing a program that is doing much good for many children. Science can indicate the world is getting warmer; it cannot value the human consequences of the myriad policy trade-offs doing "something" might entail.

Education that helps us sort through the values that make good trade-offs is as important, if not more so, as the scientific training that provides data to support our decisions. A scientist may convince us the polar ice caps are melting, but it will be a poet who makes us weep for the polar bear.

It is rare that one finds such insight in the editorial pages. I may have to become a more regular reader of Mr. Westover.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Tis Still the Season

I can’t help but believe that the world hasn’t a clue when it comes to Christmas. Ignoring the folly of substituting “season’s greetings”—whatever the deuce that may mean—or “happy holidays”—that is, a concession that the celebration belongs to those who still cling to the conception of holiness—for expressions of “Merry Christmas”, most people simply have no idea what the festivities are all about. And the best way to ascertain precisely this is to travel back to a little town called Bethlehem, as it was some two millennia ago.

I do not propose to prove that the Christ child was who He later said He was, namely, the Son of God. Instead, I ask the reader to set aside all prejudice in order to better understand the position of the shepherds, those who were first to know and worship Him. Throughout the Old Testament, one cannot fail to notice the hopeful expectation of the Israelites for the Messiah, he who would liberate them from bondage. Scholars would debate amongst themselves to discover attributes of the Promised One, but ultimately no one knew what he would be like. The birth of the child in a manger took every one by surprise. In truth, it was a double surprise.

Now, even though there was disagreement over how the Messiah would come, it was generally understood that in order to fulfill the ancient prophesies, he must be a powerful sort of man. Then, as now, no one would have expected a Prince, even a Prince of Peace, to start His life from a stable. It is not the commonly conceived springboard for revolutionaries.

But the real surprise, the true delight of the shepherds, was that this child was the Son of God. The world has eventually excepted that, on occasion, a very great man may start from the most meager of beginnings; but in a very real sense the world has never gotten over the second surprise. Whether or not Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ is a quarrel for the ages; but it is impossible to deny that His birth has echoed throughout all time.

The modern mind, enlightened as it is, will be quick to reject the thought of God deigning to become man; but the shepherds did except it. They left their flocks and worshipped. If we are ever to understand the reason for Christmas, it is important to remember two things concerning this most extraordinary event.

First, the shepherds had been waiting a long time for their Messiah. Advent, the period of hopeful expectation before Christmas day, lasted for them, not a period of weeks, but a number of generations. It is all but impossible for modern Christians to feel during a month-long yearly ritual what the shepherds, and all of Israel, felt during their entire lives. Nonetheless, this is the point and purpose of Advent.

Second, Christ was better news that they could ever have expected. True, they did not yet understand how God had sent His Son to die, thus destroying forever the bonds of sin and death. But though their knowledge was limited, it was clear that something significant had happened. The abyss between God and man had been bridged; never before had the heavens felt so near.

The shepherds eventually returned to their flocks, but it is all but inconceivable that their lives were the same. For them, the Christmas season had only begun. It is a pity that we have gotten the order so reversed.

On Christmas day, the songs ring out, proclaiming a child born long ago who would be the Savior of the world. But, once the day is over, our songs cease. Oh, how backward we have things! The prophecy has finally been fulfilled. It is now time for the joyful news to be proclaimed. Christmas day is not the end; it is only a beginning. The stores may tear down their decorations, but the season has only just begun. If we pay close enough attention, we may notice that the heavens are still very near.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Victim to Be for the Queen to Be

This from Bryan York over at National Review:

When Republicans were asked, "If the 2008 Republican caucus were held today, which of the following candidates would you vote for?" these are the results:

John McCain 27%
Rudy Giuliani 26%
Mitt Romney 9%
Newt Gingrich 7%
Condi Rice 4%
George Pataki 1%
Jeb Bush 1%
George Allen 1%
Sam Brownback 1%

Keep in mind that the leader of the pack was too liberal to earn the nomination in 2000; instead the GOP nominated the bulwark of conservatism known as George W. Bush who thereupon ran to the left. Keep in mind that the second place stooge is on his third marriage, favors gay marriage and is pro-choice--good family values, that--favors gun control

The fellow in third is Mormon, which means he's probably unelectable--though he might serve well as fodder for the Lizard Queen to devour. Newt Gingrich, in fourth, has no qualms with restricting speech rights. What a swell pack of gentlemen. I know I'm looking forward to voting for the GOP, yes sir.

The same shows Hillary doing poorly, but I see little reason to fret. Edwards and Obama are soft candidates. They are likeable, at least Obama is--I cannot understand the affinity for the slimy lawyer from North Carolina, except that anyone looks good when they stand next to John Kerry. But I really can't see Obama winning an election. To be perfectly blunt, he's too young and stupid. Oh, I know he's written a book and all that, and he's charismatic as all get-out, but can anyone really see him delivering a substantive speech? I can picture him smiling, and he could probably be trained to give powerfully good sound-bites, but I cannot fathom him articulating an interesting position, much less one genuinely controversial.

I shouldn't underestimate the power of charisma, especially in a nation so packed with imbecilles as is ours. Talk to anyone about President Clinton; nine-tenths of the comments concerning him will have nothing in the way of substance. Liberals liked him, but they cannot come up with anything he did which they liked; conservatives loathed him, but they are likewise ineffectual at discussing the reason why they loathe him so. But he was a Clinton, and he won two elections.

All of which brings me to his lizardly wife. Hillary is far too smart to let Obama get the best of her in a debate. She would carve him up and eat him for dinner. She is, for all her flaws, an intelligent woman who knows how to win.

Obama has peaked too early. If he is smart, he will gracefully step aside and get ready for 2016. Much can change by then, but by all accounts he should have a better chance when he is a bit older.

The Clintons should not be underestimated, and I stubbornly cling to my prediction. Beware the queen.

The Worthless War

In reading American history, I cannot help but be surprised that a relatively small number of casualties will cause us to sacrfice our soldiers at an alarming rate, and at numbers that far surpass the original number of casualties. One should be careful when conducting algebraic experiments in terms of human lives, but it is not entirely insignificant that more troops have died in Iraq than civilians died on September11th.

The U.S. military death toll in Iraq has reached 2,974, one more than the number of deaths in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States, according to an Associated Press count on Tuesday...

The deaths raised the number of troops killed to 2,974 since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003. The Sept. 11, 2001, attacks claimed 2,973 victims in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.

Now, the War in Iraq is a dubiously noble endeavor. The form of government is far less important than the character of the citizens, and it is thus foolish to assert that democracy will save the Iraqis from whatever ills with which they are besetted. More importantly, we cannot erect a democracy in Iraq. It may have been an honest mistake to think plausible what has since proven to be impossible, but this is no longer the case. The War in Iraq has been lost. Idiots, cowards, or some combination thereof, the politicians must spin, spin, spin to convince us otherwise. Meanwhile, the troop continue to die. Notes Fred:

One day soon people will ask aloud: How did we let 3000 GIs die for the weak ego of a pampered liar and his desperate need to prove he's half the man his father was?

The troops from now on will die for a war that they already know is over. They are dying for politicians. They are dying for nothing. By now they must know it. It happened to us, too, long ago.

The talk among pols now is about finding an “exit strategy.” This means a way of pulling out without risking too many seats in Congress. Screw the troops. We must look to the elections. Do we really want an exit strategy? A friend of mine, with two tours in heavy combat in another war, has devised a splendid exit strategy. It consists of five words: “OK. On the plane. Now.” Bring your toothbrush. Everything else stays. We’re outa here.

It is a workable exit strategy, one with teeth, and comprehensible to all. But we won’t use it. We will continue killing our men, calculatedly, cynically, for the benefit of politicians. The important thing, you see, is the place in history of Bush Puppy. Screw the troops.

Face it. The soldiers are being used. They are being suckered. This isn’t new. It happened to my generation. Long after we knew that the war in Vietnam was lost, Lyndon Johnson kept it going to fertilize his vanity, and then Nixon spoke of the need to “save face”—at two hundred dead GIs a week. But of course Johnson and Nixon weren’t among the dead, or among the GIs.

Harsh words. But the truth has been known to hurt. God help the poor troops. We're certainly not doing them a damned bit of good.

Ban Everything

The Lode website is up and running again, but for some reason all the articles are from about a month ago. Newpapers aren't terribly good at being up to date, but this is a mite ridiculous.

Anyway, this is a bit unfortunate because once again something I wrote drew a reaction from the ordinarily sleepy Tech crowd, and, without a link, I will be unable to replicate the fellow's comments in total.

Briefly, he took issue with my assertion that secondhand smoking is not to be feared and certainly not to be made illegal. The brunt of his piece highlighted various statistics which, apparently, prove that secondhand smoke is deadly and something one must avoid on pain of, well, death I suppose.

I do not doubt the validity of the statistics, though I am fairly certain that they have been manipulated in such a manner as to impress most fantastic and ominous visions upon the nervous reader. I will readily grant that, given a choice between clean air and air which is infused with cigarette smoke, only a fool would prefer the latter. The issue is not, as is commonly thought, whether or not secondhand smoke is dangerous. The questions are: How dangerous is it--and what extent of it is considered to be substantially dangerous; and is it possible to avoid this assumed danger without resorting to meddlesome laws?

Puritan proponents are hesitant to answer these questions for the same reason I am hesitant, namely, an honest ignorance of the specifics of the case at hand. But we can determine, from their behavioir and their boisterous proclamations, how they would answer these questions if pressed.

Anti-smoking zealots evidently believe: 1) secondhand smoke is so dangerous that it must be banned; 2) any amount of secondhand smoke is dangerous enough to merit the ban; and 3) secondhand smoke cannot be avoided. When put succinctly, the advocation of smoking bans becomes preposterous--which it is--and we need only examine the three implicit replies to get to the heart of the folly behind all the silly crusading aimed at doing away with secondhand smoke.

If secondhand smoke were only a nuisance, it would need not be banned. But it is so toxic, so onerous, so deadly, that bar patrons must be saved from themselves and cannot be allowed, under any circumstances, to be near anyone who smokes.

Further, we cannot assume that patrons can indulge in such paltry doses of secondhand smoke that they will suffer no harm. This is an especially curious point, but it is not in the least surprising. That it is entirely possible for a man who does not smoke and a man who does smoke to enjoy a drink together at a bar is beyond consideration. The non-smoker is suffering for every moment he spends with his deplorable companion. We must cease his suffering by making his friend suffer--whether this suffering will in turn make the non-smoker suffer is an insufferable question as it is surely impossible for a non-smoker to ever care for one who cares for tobacco.

Lastly, as is implicit in any form of puritanism, we cannot allow any men to think for themselves. No one ever says this, of course, but it can be readily inferred. If a man can prevent himself from pelting his lungs with secondhand smoke, which he assuredly can, but he will not be allowed to do so, it is only because whomever it is that makes the laws says that he can not. And as he is capable of choosing, it must be that he is too stupid to choose rightly.

But there is another point to all this nonsense about secondhand smoke. If secondhand smoke is all that we have previously said that it is--a point I am not willing to concede--what on earth are we to think of firsthand smoke? If an hour spent in a smoke filled tavern is enough to give a man cancer, a solitary cigarette, inhaled firsthand, must do all the more. And if a solitary cigarette, what of a pack, or, heaven forbid, the packs and packs a smoker may use in the course of his lifetime? In short, if secondhand smoke is so perilous, why not simply ban smoking altogether?

My rejoinder is easily concocted. Tobacco, in and of itself, is not evil; no created thing is. That it can be abused is only admitting that it exists. I do not propose that man only be allowed to use things which cannot be abused because there are, to my knowledge, no such things. And if a world were comprised of only those things which are, if not wholly good, at least unlikely to be used for ill, I would think it a terribly boring world. For one thing, it wouldn't have any people.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Merry Christmas

I hope to resume regularly scheduled semi-coherent tirades shortly. In the mean time, I hope you and yours have a truly wonderful Christmas.

And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father's only Son, full of grace and truth. - John 1:14

Friday, December 15, 2006

No Column This Wewk

In lieu of my column discussing the necessity of religion and science The Lode has printed her usual garbage. Look for the aforesaid essay to appear in the next week's edition, that is, some time mid-Janurary.

My break draws short. I know not whether I shall post at all, or how frequently; but know that eventually I shall be back.

Bonne chance mes amis!

Monday, December 11, 2006

The Smoking Ban coming to my state:

A statewide ban on smoking in bars and restaurants looks likelier than ever.

For several years the biggest obstacle to the ban has been the Republican majority in the state House of Representatives, which was swayed by the concerns of restaurant and bar owners who said the ban would hurt their business. With Democrats set to take control of the House in January, supporters believe their time has come.

For which I'm to blame, as the good Fraters point out:

And yet, the smarter-than-thou libertarians will continue to assure you that there is no difference between the two parties.

The mistake here lies in assuming that Republicans could have prevented a statewide smoking ban. True, they would have stood up to it for a limited period of time, but eventually Republicans would have lost power, whereupon the liberty-loathing Democrats would have banned smoking anyway.

As I mentioned in last week's column, there's not point to sliding gradually into tyranny. Conservatism is a failed idealogy, and the smoking ban is a perfect example of this.

I'll be lighting up my pipe this weekend in honor of the home state slipping into sheer idiocy. Since most of the bars I go to don't allow smoking and most bars frown upon pipe smoking, this won't affect me much, but it bothers my libertarian bones.

For the record, there is no difference between the two parties and I am smarter than you. So there.

Not Just Bush

The Democrats are fairly stupid, too:

Rep. Silvestre Reyes of Texas, who incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has tapped to head the Intelligence Committee when the Democrats take over in January, failed a quiz of basic questions about al Qaeda and Hezbollah, two of the key terrorist organizations the intelligence community has focused on since the September 11, 2001 attacks.

When asked by CQ National Security Editor Jeff Stein whether al Qaeda is one or the other of the two major branches of Islam -- Sunni or Shiite -- Reyes answered "they are probably both," then ventured "Predominantly -- probably Shiite."

That is wrong. Al Qaeda was founded by Osama bin Laden as a Sunni organization and views Shiites as heretics.

But remember, Democrats are Tough on Terror. And we're going to defeat Terror. And so on and so forth...

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Nominate The Diversity

and watch the democrats wiggle...

Zalmay Khalilzad, who was announced this week as leaving as U.S. ambassador to Iraq, is the leading prospect to replace John Bolton as envoy to the United Nations.

President Bush was reported by aides as looking for someone who approximates Bolton's combination of toughness and diplomatic skill and has tentatively decided on Khalilzad. A native of Afghanistan, he has served in government posts dating back to 1985 and is the highest-ranking Muslim in the Bush administration.

I can't say I'm terribly happy to see Bolton go; he just never irked me as much as many of Bush's other appointments. If we insist on remaining a part of the UN, our ambassador thereto should have our interests in mind. My objection is to Bush's policy, which is inimical to our own well-being, but I would never fault him for finding someone to promulgate that policy to that hallowd hall of international stooges.

If Bush does nominate this Muslim chap, and assuming he's similar in type to John Bolton, it will be fascinating to watch the democrats turn him out without appearing as intolerant racists or some such twaddle. Personally, I don't care about the diversity inherent in his nature, at least as we measure such in this strange country of ours; if he is turned out it should be due to his attributes, or lack thereof. I only note that the liberals in the Senate may become squeamish shortly, as they are hit, again, with the full weight of their own bankrupt principles.

Also, assuming this goes through, what are the odds Bush gets credit for nominating the first Muslim--I'm assuming--to hold this position? I'm guessing slim to none.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Nasal Spray for Those of Great Weight

For the big-boned:

Compellis Pharmaceuticals of Boston said it has been issued an initial patent for a nasal spray that aims to treat obesity by blocking the senses of smell and taste.

"It seems so simple - blocking the sense of smell and taste," company chief executive Chris Adams wrote in an e-mail. "But it has never been used to treat obesity, and it really does work. Our bodies do not crave what we cannot smell or taste."

I've a novel idea. If one were to, hypothetically understand, eat healthy and exercise, if one's calorie intake was less than the calories one burns, one wouldn't be so fat. In fact, one would begin to lose weight.

How many other preposterous schemes must we invent before we admit that, painful as it may be, the only way to lose weight and keep it off is that darned old-fashioned method. Self-discipline isn't exactly fun, but it does work.

The Market Still Works

I found this unusual ray of light this morning:

McDonald's is closing its outlet in a town known for quality food and healthy, local produce.

The fast food chain in Tavistock, Devon, simply wasn't being used enough by locals.

So after seven years struggling to make ends meet in a town that has won many accolades for the quality of its food, McDonald's will finally shut up shop on Saturday.

Yes, this is across the pond, but the market doesn't boast allegiance with any particular country. And yes, the government was involved insofar as limitations on school lunches have allegedly led to the closing of the aforesaid McDonald's.

Yet I'm still counting it as a "good thing". Instead of complaining about the crummy and unhealthy food sold at McDonald's, people simply stopped patronizing the establishment. Lo and behold, a business which couldn't make money folded; the prospect of providing burgers out of the goodness of their capitalistic little hearts was insufficient impetus to take a hit on the bottom line.

I wonder if something like this would work instead of those infernal smoking bans? I reckon it would.

State Invasiveness, Marching Ever Onward

Another Lode article here follows. I have kept the original title, and I've been unable to incorporate any of the changes which my editors made--including, strangely, removing the very last line of the piece.

I don't like editors.

“Puritanism - The haunting fear that someone, somewhere may be happy.” H.L. Mencken

Not content to prevent patrons from smoking cigarettes in restaurants and bars, USA Today is reporting that the Texas legislature has decided to ban smoking in “private places such as homes and cars when children are present.”

As usual, permit me several, possibly even related thoughts.

First, the next time someone tells me that “the slippery slope is a logical fallacy” I'm going to scream. Vox Day sums it up nicely: “From vaccines to health bans, from polygamy to proposed invasions, the "slippery slope" argument has never been more reliable as a predictive model... I remember a friend of mine from New York who loved the new smoking ban and laughed at the absurd notion that they would ever lead to food bans. And it wasn't all that long ago that the homogamy crowd was insisting that expanding the state's definition of "marriage" regarding sex was possible without expanding the number of individuals involved.”

Government is inimical to freedom. Democracy is especially so, despite our President's assurances to the contrary. Sadly, most people don't give two cents for liberty, and see no problem in letting it slip right down the drain. That is, so long as we can be safe from... terrorists, second-hand smoke, intolerance, bogeymen, etc. And since democracy pretends that dullards and imbeciles have the foggiest idea about how to run a government, the aforesaid vote for frauds that throw away freedom faster than they break campaign promises. If you don't understand this by now you need to take a closer look at recent history. Put down the TV remote and slowly back away.

Next, the abject failure of parents to insist on the right to raise their children however they choose is coming back to haunt them. It is not the duty of the state to educate the children; that responsibility belongs to the child's mother and father. Hence my ardent support for homeschooling. Indeed, the same principle applies to smoking, or any other unpleasant behavior. If the child doesn't find secondhand smoke to be enjoyable, I suggest he either thank the Good Lord that he doesn't have to live on the street or use his stores of cash to move into a smoke-free environment.

Tangentially, I feel the need to mention the hypocrisy inherent in the legal system. If a woman feels that she doesn't want to carry her child to term—heart-beating, unique DNA fetus, complete with brain-waves and cellular replication—she can head to the local abortion mill to murder the little bastard. But if she decides to have the child and wants to smoke around the kid, well, she can't do that! The poor thing might get asthma or maybe even a case of the low self esteem.

It's not hard to see where this line of “thinking” will lead us. We have established that, insofar as children are concerned, the rights of the state trump the rights of the parents when the health of the children is under attack. We need only wander down the slope to determine what constitutes “health” and an attack thereupon.

I'm somewhat surprised that the government has yet to prevent parents from stuffing their progeny full of twinkies. This is surely worse for their health, and, once the detestable Texas law finds its way into other states, it seems only a matter of time before parents of chubby children will be fined—and probably later imprisoned.

This gradual descent into tyranny is a bit tedious. I say we take the principle to its logical conclusion and mandate that the government raise children from the day they're born. Oh Brave New World!

The Inherent Flaw of Conservatism

Another Lode article here follows:

For as long as I can remember, I've been a conservative—that is, one who
clings to tradition, especially as it pertains to culture and politics.
I've never held change to be bad per se, but neither have I accepted it
as patently good. It should only be enacted if absolutely necessary.
One calls to mind Thomas Jefferson's unheeded suggestion that laws be
discussed by the legislature for a full year before being enacted. While
imperfect, it would have saved us from the Patriot Act, which, like most
of our laws, was passed before being fully read, let alone extensively
deliberated upon.

I'm not exactly sure what drew me to conservatism. I hesitate to use the
famous, though spurious, Winston Churchill quip: “If you're not a liberal
when you're 25, you have no heart. If you're not a conservative by the
time you're 35, you have no brain.” because while it accurately notes
that thinking will almost invariably lead to conservatism, it seems to
suggest, I think unfairly, that I haven't a heart.

Something of an eternal pessimist, I never doubted that liberalism had
its merits, but it always seemed extraordinarily foolish to place so much
faith in humanity. As H.L. Mencken once observed, “It is a sin to
believe in the evil of others, but it is seldom a mistake.” It would be
grand if the government could keep business in line, protect the poor,
and enforce justice. Unfortunately, it almost never does so.

In short, while liberals may achieve victories, they will never see the
fruition of their plans. This is actually rather convenient, as the
problems which liberalism has not solved can be solved by... more
liberalism, as in: if only we spent more money on public education,
students wouldn't be illiterate morons, and other nefarious lies.

But conservatism has a flaw which might be even more damning than that of
liberalism. Quite simply, conservatism does not work. I do not mean
that minimal taxes and a government which is not wholly invasive is not
desirous, or that it cannot exist. The Founding Fathers erected a
government which most conservatives still hold to be marvelous. But that
government no longer exists as such; it has grown to monstrous
proportions, and it was inevitable that it would do so.

Quite simply, the folly of conservatism lies in its defensive nature; it
can mitigate the damage done by the forces of liberalism, but it can
never prevent their longterm success. In fact, judging from recent
history, mitigate seems far too strong a word. The forces of
“conservatism” have served to facilitate its demise, as Bush and company
have continued to feed the government behemoth.

I began to realize this some time ago. It is now painfully obvious to
all but the most imbecilic of men. In fact, one seldom sees anyone
arguing that the GOP is even vaguely conservative anymore; instead one
hears that we must not surrender in the War on Terror, or that Democrats
will raise our taxes and nominate liberal judges. All of which serves to
further demonstrate the stupidity of conservatism.

If I was one of the few to realize this in time to vote, futilely, for a
third party candidate rather than to re-elect Bush, I am quite late to
the historical party. In 1915, G.K. Chesterton wrote a book called
Orthodoxy. Widely recognized as his best work, and my own personal
favorite, therein he has this to say: “[A]ll conservatism is based upon
the idea that if you leave things alone you leave them as they are. But
you do not. If you leave a thing alone you leave it to a torrent of
change. If you leave a white post alone it will soon be a black post. If
you particularly want it to be white you must be always painting it
again; that is, you must be always having a revolution. Briefly, if you
want the old white post you must have a new white post.”

Conservatives must reject their defensive strategy if they are ever to
achieve their goals. In a word, they must cease to be conservatives.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Failure From Narrow Minds

In which Buchanan again enlightens:

The Afghan and Iraqi wars Bush launched never looked more certain to end in U.S. defeats.

What is the cause of the impending collapse of the U.S. position across the Middle East? We put democratist ideology ahead of national interests. We projected our ideas of what is right, true and inevitable onto people who do not share them. We tried to impose our will with our military power, which is more effective at killing Arab enemies than winning Arab hearts.

America is failing in the Middle East because our leaders of both parties will not look at the region through Arab eyes. What Bush saw as a glorious liberation of Iraq, Arabs saw as an invasion. Where Bush sees in Israel a model of democracy, Arabs see a pampered agent of U.S. imperialism, persecuting and dispossessing the Palestinian people.

In my admittedly verly limited memory, never has a critic gotten something so right for which he has been credited so little. The left would, most of them, rather bless Bush than Buchanan, which isn't entirely surprising given the former's ability to govern like a leftist, but it is still a bit frustrating. Could it be that the maligned Mr. B. is more than just a right-wing kook?

This inability to see through another's eyes is one of the great downfalls of humanity, typified most gloriously by our current President. While clearly not brilliant, I have to admit that Bush has never struck me as a complete imbecile. Instead, I find that one of his biggest shortcomings has been his complete inability to comprehend that what he ardently believes in may be foreign to someone else. Especially foreigners.

I've been reading A Mencken Chrestomathy of late. In an essay regarding Teddy Roosevelt, H.L. Mencken notes: "Let the populace begin suddenly to swallow a new panacea or take to a new fright at a new bugaboo, and almost instantly nine-tenths of the masterminds of politics begin to believe that the panacea is a sure-cure for all the malaises of the Republic, and the bugaboo an immediate an unbearable menace to all law, order and domestic tranquility."

Obvious we can see that in our time democracy was treated as panacea and terrorism as the new fright. I don't fault Bush for failing to understand the lone tenth who thinks democracy nothing more than a joke, and terrorism to be just another threat that comes with dangerous existence. Were he to understand from whence we come, he may become one of us, and that would leave him in the unenviable position of trying to convert the rest of the wrong-headed mob.

But I do fault him for ignoring the segment of the population in its entirety, and failing to realize that, if anti-democratic Americans are a bizarre lot, they may be, and in fact are, the norm over in the Middle East. In short, Iraq and Afghanistan are not America. Having failed to realize this very simple fact, we have failed spectacularily.

Since I haven't the slightest faith that we've learned a thing, better luck to us next time.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Oh Thank Goodness for SCOTUS

North to Alaska we tread:

The Supreme Court stepped into a dispute over free speech Friday involving a suspended high school student and his banner that proclaimed "Bong Hits 4 Jesus."

The justices agreed to hear the appeal by the Juneau, Alaska, school board and principal Deborah Morse of a lower court ruling that allowed the student's civil rights lawsuit to proceed. The school board hired former Whitewater prosecutor Kenneth Starr to argue its case to the high court.

Morse suspended Frederick after he displayed the banner, with its reference to marijuana use, when the Olympic torch passed through Juneau in 2002 on its way to the Winter Games in Salt Lake City.

Boy, I'm really glad we elected Bush. That way he could nominate good judges, presumably Alito and Roberts, who will fight for traditional values. I guess that means no more bong hits for Jesus.

The school board upheld the suspension, and a federal judge initially dismissed Frederick's lawsuit. The 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals said the banner was vague and nonsensical and Frederick's civil rights had been violated.

I'm completely suprised that the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals is involved. I hereby propose a new law. Any time that court comes up with a decision it is automatically reversed by the Supreme Court. That way the High Court can concentrate on doing that which the founders intended it to do.

I'm trying to remember what that was exactly.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Iran in Iraq

"With four guys on horses, and violent red visions, famine and death and pestilence and war.
I'm pretty sure I heard this one before. " - The Hold Steady, The Cattle and the Creeping Things

This from the folks at ABCNews:

U.S. officials say they have found smoking-gun evidence of Iranian support for terrorists in Iraq: brand-new weapons fresh from Iranian factories. According to a senior defense official, coalition forces have recently seized Iranian-made weapons and munitions that bear manufacturing dates in 2006.

This suggests, say the sources, that the material is going directly from Iranian factories to Shia militias, rather than taking a roundabout path through the black market. "There is no way this could be done without (Iranian) government approval," says a senior official.

I can't say this is a surprise. WND has been reporting this sort of thing for months, if not years; that they lacked a "smoking-gun" is irrelevant, as it wasn't hard to see why their assertion would be valid. The Iranians do not benefit from a U.S. presence in Iraq--of course, neither do the Iraqis, but that's a different story--thus they have attempted to remove that presence. They're doing a good job.

It remains to be seen whether Bush tries to clamor support for an invasion of Iran. I can't say I'd bet on it, but it's not beyond the pale either. The other option, of course, is simply to withdraw. Any day now...

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

In Defense of Smokers

This is a full-length column which may or may not have appeared in today's paper.

[T]he new Paganism will tend, not to punish, but to restrain with fetters; to prevent action, to impose coercive bonds.” - Hilaire Belloc

To illustrate Belloc's point: in many states the right of patrons to smoke in bars and restaurants has been abolished. Obviously this move is inimical to the constitutional right to pursue happiness—that is, property—upon which this country was founded. It is the right of the owner of a particular establishment to determine what his patrons may do therein; if a customer is repulsed by smoking, he should find alternative arrangements for dinner and drinks.

Again, this is readily apparent, and I need hardly mention the foolishness of trading liberty for pleasantries. Applying this principle into perpetuity, anti-smoking puritans should warmly embrace a totalitarian regime which would remove all annoyances—save that of freedom, which they do not esteem.

In an effort to fully disclose my own biases to the reader, I must confess that I have an affinity for tobacco. I am not dependent on it, and can go for weeks at a time without enjoying it. The prohibition of smoking within certain establishments which I frequent would be a mild nuisance, insufficient to cause me to make alternative arrangements.

My allegiance to smokers is twofold. First, as a libertarian, I loathe the protrusion of governmental hands wherein they have no place. I was philosophically opposed to smoking bans even before I became a casual smoker. Second, I have friends and acquaintances who smoke; I feel their designation as pariahs to be repulsive. Smokers are not criminals; nor should they be treated as such.

The myth of the danger of secondhand smoking has been debunked by no less than the World Health Organization. Yet time and again smokers are chastised for their behavior. The irony is particularly delicious when the screed bellows from the gut of one especially rotund. For while smoking is certainly not good for one's health, neither is a steady diet of chocolate chip cookies and soda pop. Indeed, 2001 data suggests that a full 21 percent of our nation is obese, making America, to quote Lewis Black, “the fattest group of f___s on the planet.”

Nor is the threat of secondhand obesity insignificant. Anyone who has watched someone waddle down the street has doubts about the reaction time of that big-boned body. Excessively fat people make worse drivers than their slimmer siblings, even if they aren't eating Big Macs whilst attempting to navigate the roads.

My point is not to lambast fat people, though if smokers merit ire for falling prey to an addictive product, surely that ire should be doubled for those who cannot blame nicotine for their “addiction”. I merely note that we have a tendency to insufficiently point fingers at all behavior which may be partially self-destructive by instead creating scape goats of the smoking crowd.

If I may return to Belloc's original point, our increasingly Pagan society seems to have lost the grasp between behaviors which are unpleasant and those which are immoral. The smoking of a cigarette—or a cigar, if one prefers—is no more immoral per se than eating a cookie for dessert—that it becomes so when abused is irrelevant. Should we similarily ban burgers and shakes so that they are not likewise abused?

It is always good practice to refrain from unnecessarily annoying other people, but righteous indignation should be saved for those who deserve it. Instead of scowling, try smiling at a passing smoker. Maybe even go so far as to bum a smoke. I promise you that one won't kill you.

On Video Games

Another mediocre PCP here follows. I don't know why I even write these things anymore:

My esteemed colleague, Mr. Fox, has claimed that console game is dying due to the various gimmicks employed to get us to buy the things as well as what he perceives as a drop in the quality of the games available. But the use of gimmicks is not intrinsically tied to the loss of popularity of a particular product, or even the fears thereof. If one believed as much, one would glean that American Idol, Pepsi and the NFL were likewise suffering from a drop in popularity. So long as our economic system places no limits upon the baseness of human greed, corporations will go to extraordinary lengths so as to ensure the sales of whatever pathetic product they are attempting to peddle. The degrading quality of advertisements is not confined to console gaming; and it is an indictment, not of corporations for possessing so mean a character—for it has always been thus—but of the gullibility of the American people, that is, another topic for another day.

As to the quality of the games, I haven't the foggiest idea as to whether we are in the midst of a decline in quality—less than surprising, given the pejorative state of human affairs—or if we are approaching the dawning of the new metaphorical video gaming of Ancient Rome. Little known fact: Nero actually played Fiddle Hero whilst his city burned. But it occurs to me that while my video game prowess is less than salutary, especially given the nerd-saturated environment in which I presently dwell, my relationship toward the favorite past time of a number of my colleagues might be, not inaccurately, construed as normal.

In short, I have failed to notice anything which would serve to confirm any of Mr. Fox's fears. After all, people didn't line up for days merely to get shot at. A PS3 was most definitely involved.

I have a meeting with my editors tonight. It should be a barrel of chuckles.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

More on Homeschooling

In which Troutsky asks some questions and I attempt to answer.

About homeschooling, which i missed earlier,what sorts of checks and balances do you propose so that these kids aren't used by private Hitlers and lennins?

In a word, none. The threat to turn children into dicators is always present, but I think it very unlikely. The more probable failing of homeschooling is that it could, under certain circumstances, create, not well-rounded adults, but androids, slaves to whatever idealogy with which their heads have been filled.

While this threat is real--see Jesus Camp; the movie made me rethink, but not change, my position on homeschooling--there is nothing that can be done about it for two reasons. First, the State is just as likely to create mindless cretins, and already does so at an alarming rate. I am often embarrassed about my lack of knowledge concerning certain topics, but ignorance, even that which far surpasses my own, is the rule, not the exception. Remember, the goal of "education" is proper socialization. Fools make solid citizens in a consumerist culture.

Second, the reason homeschooling is to be preferred is not because it provides a better education, though there are some exceptions; though this is certainly true. Simply put, children belong to their family, not the State, and it is the duty of the former and not the perogative of the latter to raise and educate them. Mandating that children spend seven hours a day, five days a week, for nine months a year, away from their parents is tryannical. That parents may do an insufficient job in eduating their children is irrelevant; the responsibility still lies with them and not with the State.

What kind of accountability substitutes for school boards, community, state (we the People) or parent oversight?

Barring incidents of abuse, in which case the government would be compelled to step in, there can be no legal oversight, morally speaking. Of course, homeschoolers may wish to allow some governmental oversight so as to establish the proper paperwork--for diplomas and the like--but one must remember that over-zealous oversight may have been the impetus for homeschooling to begin with.

How do our universities remain so filled with public school kids?

Numerical superiority mainly. As an attendee of the university, I don't particularily find them to be that valuable. There are exceptions of course--most degrees in the hard sciences and engineering are rigorous; whether or not they are economically advantageous is another matter--but many people who go to college are not receiving anything akin to a good education; nor do they mind. At times they do not know how badly they are being cheated; other times they do not care.

Also, many homeschoolers come from conservative homes and environments. Rather than spend a boatload of money on a mediocre education via the Ivy Leagues, wherein they will be made excrutiatingly uncomfortable for holding many of their more traditional viewpoints, they often enroll in smaller, sometimes private, colleges. This places them off the radar, but most homeschooled children are far more adequately prepared to enroll in college--and to succeed therein.

How will racial, ethnic equality remain if white(and educated,wealthy) folk pull out of public system?

It won't. But I think most, if not all, people should homeschool. I think the chrisitan churches could and should take up slack to help out people who come from homes wherein homeschooling is not a practical option. No one has a duty to remain in a failing school--pardon the redundancy. If racial and ethnic equality--which doesn't exist anyway--is exacerbated by the homeschooling movement, perhaps the politicians will do something about the schools.

I'd recommend burning them to the ground.

As always, thanks for the questions. I need to do some more research on this topic. Look for more posts to follow.

Free Speech: Casualty of Fear

What with break and the closest thing to writer's block I've experienced in some time, it's been quite awhile since I updated this thing. Allow me a few quick thoughts on Newt Gingrich's latest attempt to remove any remaining shred of respectability he may once have had.

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich yesterday said the country will be forced to reexamine freedom of speech to meet the threat of terrorism.

Gingrich, speaking at a Manchester awards banquet, said a "different set of rules" may be needed to reduce terrorists' ability to use the Internet and free speech to recruit and get out their message.

My views on liberty notwithstanding, so long as the reduction forever mutes former heads of state and ex-congressmen from speaking, I could consider getting behind that.

Is this man serious? Was he really the Speaker of the Republican House? Just how on earth is this line of thinking even vaguely defensible, especially if one views government to be but a necessary evil?

"We need to get ahead of the curve before we actually lose a city, which I think could happen in the next decade," said Gingrich, a Republican who helped engineer the GOP's takeover of Congress in 1994.

The possibility of "losing a city" is always present. But a reduction in liberties cannot increase safety; in fact, it will only lead to a reduction therein as citizen's of the twentieth century and onward possess a higher likelihood of being murdered by their own government than by either foreign invaders or one's own citizens. But we must give government the power to keep us safe. Can someone show me one historical example of when this actually worked?

Giving government power is always a terrible idea. They will abuse it; and never will they return it to its rightful owner. Liberty, once forfeited, is good as gone. Sort of like the republic.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

A Well Deserved Defeat

On the other hand, this turned out reasonably well:

The American public served a resounding “F-You!” to the Republicans on November 7th. While my affinity for the average, that is to say unprincipled, Democrat is comparable to my desire to concoct the Ebola virus, I get no small amount of joy in seeing Bush's “mandate” fall apart like the house of cards it always was. Additionally, like many Americans, sick of the rule of the party of Douche—to borrow from Trey Parker and Matt Stone—I consider the rise of the Turd Sandwiches to hold the prospect for amusement.

With the Democrats holding a fairly substantial lead in the House, and a similar though smaller advantage in the Senate, Bush will have a harder time finding that rubber stamp which Congress had been in the habit of giving to his agenda. He may in fact begin to veto the occasional spending bill, a hitherto singular event. Ironically then, the conservatives cannot be entirely displeased with a Democratic victory; deadlock is notoriously antithetical to the pecuniary desires of a less than thrifty Congress.

But all this shall come in due time. For now, I concern myself with discerning why the GOP suffered ignominious defeat. First, but not necessarily foremost, is the War in Iraq. Most Americans thought it a good idea to topple Saddam's regime; yet few had the will to make a longterm commitment to building a new democratic regime. For, despite our power, in some sense unprecedented in its scope and extent since perhaps the early Roman Empire, Americans, almost to a one, abhor the notion of empire.

In his book Colossus, Niall Ferguson highlights “three fundamental deficits that together explain why the United States has been a less effective empire than its British predecessor... the most serious of the three... [is] its attention deficit.” Ignoring the great many logistical problems which would prevent the re-building of Iraq to the tune of glorious democracy, the single biggest reason why the mission in Iraq will fail is simply that the American people do not have the will to “stay the course” and finish the job. They have now let Congress and by extension President Bush know this.

But while the War in Iraq was an important issue to the electorate, its influence is likely to be exaggerated. As one who occasionally reads what passes for conservative commentary these days, the one issue that the pundits continued to come back to was the War on Terror, the War on Iraq being a larger component thereof. And while the Malkins and Shapiros of the world are almost embarrassingly lacking in not only historical insight but also basic reasoning skills, it would be strange if someone did not find their cliché-strewn imbecilic columns to be of some value.

For Malkin and Shapiro, as well as all those other unfortunate “conservatives” who have felt compelled to support both Mr. Bush and his runaway Congress, have few weapons with which to defend. Aside from a mediocre tax cut—which, divorced from spending cuts, is merely a future tax on the nation's children—Bush has yet to enact a single “conservative” reform. Instead, he has spent more than even LBJ. And while the War on Iraq is not the least bit “conservative”, as I have previously discussed, grasping this point takes some degree of intelligence, an attribute severely lacking in those who continue to support the policies of their President.

This election then, was also a moratorium on the faux-conservatism of the neo-cons. Besides being bored with nation-building, many conservatives were sick of Bush's fiscal irresponsibility and embarrassed by his failure to take their concerns to heart. Bring on the Turds!

Concerning the Ostensible Lull in the Music Industry

This is the real PCP for the week, and I think it confirms my earlier thoughts on the issue. I'm never happy with the way these things turn out. And for some reason I used sufficient or a variation thereof about five times in three hundred words. Unbelievable.

One of the distinct advantages of living in the UP is its cultural isolation, though, now that I think about it, this may have more to do with my tendency to shun the world so as to stay in my room reading various books. The reality, of course, is that the American culture has little to offer in the substance department, as evidenced by its vacuous television programming, seen-it-before blockbusters, or, worst of them all, cookie-cutter bands who lack not only creativity—that is, the mark of an artist—but anything vaguely resembling talent.

I cannot recall the last time I listened to a radio station that was neither WMTU nor on the AM dial, but a trip to Yahoo's music video section ensured me that while it had been a substantial period of time since I had bathed in the cesspool that is popular music—who in the devil is Akon, and why does he feel the need to “Smack That”?—I had not been missing much.

Yet this is nothing new. The moment when popular music ceased to be of substantial value cannot be precisely determined, but their was sufficient impetus for The Dead Kennedys to break musical barriers with their 1980 debut, Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables. Certainly good records still appeared, especially from established bands—witness Bruce Springsteen's 1984 Born in the U.S.A. —but gradually good music all but disappeared from corporate hands, though the underground boomed.

So long as “My Humps” is deemed sufficient for those who enjoy music primarily for its booty-shaking potential, the industry will have no reason to seek out good musicians, assuming it has the ability to do so.

There is still plenty of good music out there, if one is sufficiently ambitious to look for it.

Interestingly enough, I'm actually listening to some new music right now. The Hold Steady's Boys and Girls in America is, like their previous two releases, phenomenal. Check it out.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Point Lacks a Point

Another PCP That Never Were (Was?)

Whether or not I've ever managed to express it explicitly, I think it's clear that I feel that my weekly PCP columns are lackluster, at least in comparison to my full length articles--whether or not the latter are of substantial quality themselves is another matter. Anyway, my new editor was none too pleased with my recent submission. I'm all for starting off on the right foot:

Like the prevent defense and universal suffrage, PCP is a laudable concept, even if its implementation leaves much to be desired. Our deadline for these things is Monday at noon; thus I email Joel on Sunday night and ask him if he has any ideas for PCP. He seldom does, whereupon I dig through that which masquerades as news to find a topic upon which we can disagree. I almost invariably fail, and one of us is left to wage war half-heartedly in arguing something we care little about.

This makes for embarrassingly bad reading, even by Lode standards. To write a good opinion piece, one must necessarily combine right thinking with effective elucidation, composition of which is largely dependent on one’s audience. But to make for an entertaining read all that one requires is the ability to write tolerably well with a large shot of pathos.

Now it could be argued that no one cares about the other articles I write. This is entirely possible, but ultimately of no concern to me. I can’t pretend to occupy my mind with trivialities which tend to clog lesser minds, but I can suggest that my passion for whatever bizarre topic I choose to discuss makes for an interesting read.

Hence it is paramount that the writer cares about the topic on which he writes. Therein lies the present problem with PCP. If Joel and I were passionate about the same topics, perhaps PCP would work, but as it stands, it seems to me to fail miserably.

Lastly, supposing we do find a topic upon which we vigorously disagree—I think it may have happened once—we are confined to a miserly three hundred words. Such space is scarcely enough to properly conduct an argument. Ironically, this poor attempt at arguing against PCP may be my most successful.

I've been doing these PCP columns for a year, and, to be honest, they've always been far more of a chore than I've ever wanted writing to be. As the sheer volume of the posts, if not quality thereof, will attest to, I have little trouble writing. True, I may hit the same several themes over and over--and over and over--but one must remember that, first, so far as I know, no one who reads the Lode is familiar with this little blog of mine. Second, while the variety of my topics has been less than impressive, it has not been wholly pathetic either. The recent column on home-schooling was a fair example; there was the usual spiel about how government is evil and how we are all screwed, but the topic was singular, at least insofar as my Lode submissions have been concerned.

Thing is, I just can't seem to get over the continual increase in governmental authority. If I saw things differently, I would write about them, but I have always been an infernal pessimist and the facts only seem to deepen the rut from which lay and write. Reading H.L. Mencken and Hilaire Belloc isn't helping.

I guess I'm up for suggestions. What would make Thoughts and Ideas more interesting. More Chesterton? Less Chesterton?--as if. Less we-are-all-going-to-die type rants? I'm always looking to improve the quality of my writing. Whatever the fallout over my incendiary little jab at the paper which employs me--though as they don't pay me, I could argue that I am merely a volunteer--I shall continue to write. And, baring a tremendous change in either the facts or, what is more improbable, my outlook, I shall probably still be an infernal pessimist. It has always struck me that there are far worse things to be.

The Run to the Middle Begins

We shall see if the Republicans have learned anything from recent history, though my guess is that they haven't. In 2000, conservatives flocked to Bush who was less moderate than McCain, but now it looks like the honorable Senator from Arizona will be the right-wing candidate this time around.

Former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, a moderate Republican best known for his stewardship of the city after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, has taken the first step in a 2008 presidential bid.

The former mayor filed papers to create the Rudy Giuliani Presidential Exploratory Committee, Inc., establishing a New York-based panel that would allow him to raise money to explore a White House run and travel the country.

The four-page filing, obtained by The Associated Press, lists the purpose of the non-profit corporation "to conduct federal 'testing the waters' activity under the Federal Election Campaign Act for Rudy Giuliani."

One potential rival for the GOP nomination, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, said Sunday he was taking the initial step of setting up an exploratory committee.

Color me bored. In six years of Republican control, we've turned McCain from a moderate into a conservative. Gee, pragmatism seems to be working. Can you see why I'm tired of the GOP?

It's going to be hilarious watching the Evangelicals explain why we need to elect a pro-choice Republican to save us from a pro-choice Democrat. I eagerly await the reign of our new queen.

As Vox Day wrote back in 2003 and as he reiterated today:

Pragmatism in politics is self-defeating in the long run. It is a euphemism for the slow sacrifice of one's principles. The constant substitution of "electable" moderates for principled conservatives is what repeatedly kills the Republican Party and prevents it from ever realizing even a small part of its platform when it is in power.

Readily obvious stuff, really. I wish I could say I'm hopeful that those who bow down to the GOP will doubt long enough to ponder the virtue of whom they serve, but I try to avoid lying. I'm off to Adoration. Getting out of this mess is going to take something of a miracle.

The Homeschooling Threat

This from last week's Lode:

By educating the young generation along the right lines, the People's State will have to see to it that a generation of mankind is formed which will be adequate to this supreme combat that will decide the destinies of the world. - Adolf Hitler

In light of the later success of the Hitler youth in the calamitous war that soon followed, it is worth examining closely the words written by future leader of the Third Reich while imprisoned on the heels of his failed Beer Hall Putsch. For while it has become almost taboo to claim that Hitler was anything other than an inhuman monster, the aforementioned quote suggests that he was not wholly devoid of reason.

Indeed, molding the fresh minds of youth is the surest way to a revolution, as fellow humanitarian Vladimir Lenin realized when he promised, “Give me four years to teach the children and the seed I have sown will never be uprooted.” His statement is almost Biblical: Proverbs 22:6 reads, “Train a boy in the way he should go; even when he is old, he will not swerve from it.”

The education of children then is of utmost importance to the powers that be. Thus the federal education system; thus the opposition thereto by many parents; thus the homeschooling movement, which now stands at 2.5 million students nation-wide.

When homeschooling is discussed, one always hears that such students are improperly socialized. It is not a cheap shot to suggest that Hitler and Lenin felt the same way.

For the end to which modern education aims has little to do with the “three R's”. While literacy and basic computational skills are desirous qualities in students who have succeeded in becoming “educated”, these effects are actually secondary. The real purpose of school is to ensure proper socialization as defined by the State. It so happens that those who can read, write, and do simple math are more readily employable, and thus attainment of these skills serves the needs of the State, but only to a point. Those who read too much can be dangerous, especially to those who profit from stability.

There are three types of students in a class room. First there are the intelligent. These quickly realize that school moves far too slowly to be entertained thereby and either seek amusement elsewhere or become burnouts. Most become exceedingly docile; many are pumped full of Ritalin to combat symptoms of boredom or boyhood, I mean A.D.D. Many end up in cubes.

Second, are the lucky few who can learn the material at the pace at which the teacher is teaching. These are not torpid, but neither are they brilliant or motivated enough to threaten the status quo; nor will they be given material which will challenge their mind too seriously.

Third are the students who are either wholly ineducable or simply too slow to follow along. Occasionally someone may take an interest in one whose only fault is hereditary, but most of these students stumble along to nowhere, which serves the elites very nicely. There will always be burgers in need of flipping.

The value of homeschooling is its ability to allow students to dictate the pace of their learning. Bright children are not restrained; slower ones are not left behind. More importantly, by dealing with a child one-on-one, he learns the importance and the beauty of individuality. But this is dangerous to the State.

If mastering the “three R's” was the real purpose of education, home-schooling would be encouraged; nine years of home-schooling is equivalent to twelve years in the government-run monstrosities. Yet no matter how badly schools fail to educate students, they continue, not only to exist, but receive more and more funding.

As the power of the State continues to increase, we will shortly see the day when home-schooling is made illegal and those who are actually learning must be placed in schools wherein no learning can be had. After all, we'd hate to have people who aren't “socialized”.

Murder Not the Despot

From last week's Lode:

In what can hardly be a surprise, Saddam Hussein was recently sentenced to death by the Iraqis he once lorded over. Now defending Mr. Hussein is, in a word, indefensible. He was a cruel tyrant who killed many of his own people. That he was a light-weight by the dictatorial standards of the bloodbath that was the twentieth century is irrelevant; Saddam was guilty of crimes against humanity.

But does he deserve death? The short answer is an emphatic yes. By repeatedly and willfully taking the lives of his fellow human beings, Saddam's life ought to be forfeit. Yet more to the point, whatever his crimes, should he be hanged, that is to say murdered, by another human being, at the behest of the State? The question merits contemplation.

Representative of the natural law, which all rational people recognize as legitimate, the Fifth Commandment explicitly prohibits murder. The common translation, “Thou Shalt Not Kill”, is insufficient: killing is not immoral in cases of self-defense; murder is always so.

Now no one can, with any degree of intelligence or honesty, claim that Saddam will be hanged out of self-defense. There is no reason he cannot be kept behind bars for the rest of his miserable life. Hanging him may give closure and a superficial sense of justice, but the morality of such a decision resides on substantially shaky ground.

There is another reason to keep Hussein alive, which the poet John Milton captures nicely:

He that hath light within his own cleer brest
May sit i'th the center, and enjoy bright day
But he that hides a dark soul, and foul thoughts
Benighted walks under the mid-day Sun;
Himself is his own dungeon.”

Paradoxically, while it is is immoral to kill him, it is more just to keep him alive.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Buch's Thoughts on the Election

As usual, Buchanan finds a way to say something unique without making things up.

A rising spirit of nationalism is evident everywhere in this election, not simply in the economic realm. Americans are weary of sacrificing their soldier-sons for Iraqi democracy. They are weary of shelling out foreign aid to regimes that endlessly hector America at the United Nations. They are tired of sacrificing the interests of American workers on the altar of an abstraction called the Global Economy. They are fed up with allies long on advice and short on assistance.

Other leaders in other lands look out for what they think is best for their nations and people. Abstractions such as globalism and free trade take a back seat when national interests are involved.

China and Japan manipulate their currencies and tax polices to promote exports, cut imports and run trade surpluses at America's expense. Europeans protect their farms and farmers. Gulf Arabs and OPEC nations run an oil cartel to keep prices high and siphon off the wealth of the West. Russians have decided to look out for Mother Russia first and erect a natural gas cartel to rival OPEC. In Latin America, Bush's Free Trade Association of the Americas is dead.

We are entered upon a new era, a nationalist era, and it will not be long before the voices of that era begin to be heard.

Truth be told, I'm torn on the issue of free trade. The libertarian stance is obvious, and while the tendency to reject messing with the market is usually sound advice--if only because it refrains from handing over power to the federal government--in practice, free trade has yielded very dubious results.

And while global laissez-faire capitalism is decidely immoral, it seems less than wise to give the federal government more power as the enactment of higher tariffs will assuredly do. Still, as an almost engineer, certain tariffs would most likely benefit me personally by disuading companies from out-sourcing American jobs. Moreover, we will tariffs should reduce the trade deficit, and may help balance the budget, though the latter provision assumes, somewhat illogically, that Congress will develop something akin to restraint.

I've finished my article for next week's Lode--my apologies on not getting the new articles up, but the website is down, and the internet does not work at my house--wherein I failed to discuss the issue of free trade, but I see no reason to steal Buchanan's point, despite its accuracy. Yet this will surely be an issue to watch. A return to protectionism will almost surely help the democrats elect the Lizard Queen.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Election Results

Yesterday, the Republicans got rocked hard, losing majorities in both the House and the Senate.

US President George W. Bush took responsibility for a "thumping" by Democrats in congressional elections, and admitted the drubbing reflected frustration over a "lack of progress" in Iraq.

"I know there's a lot of speculation on what the election means for the battle we're waging in Iraq," Bush said at a White House news conference, as his Republican party digested its defeat by Democrats.

"I recognize that many Americans voted last night to register their displeasure with the lack of progress being made there," he said.

The election was not just a moratorium on the War in Iraq. The Democrats won this election because of conservative voters who had the good sense to stay home and moderates who, sensibly seeing little difference in the governing policies of either party, voted for change.

When you abdicate the principles which got you elected, don't be surprised when your base loses interest in re-electing you. It's simple, really.

When Republicans refused to address illegal immigration in any serious manner; when they refused to balance the budget; when they spent more on pork than the Democrats ever did, and didn't curtail government spending in the least, they could not have honestly been surprised when conservatives failed to re-elect them.

"She's not going to abandon her principles and I'm not going to abandon mine. I do believe we have common ground to move forward on," he said.

Seeing how Mr. Bush has already abandoned any conservative principles, I couldn't care less what he does with Pelosi. One of two things will happen: either things will continue as before--reckless spending, failure to do anything not wholly destructive, etc.--or Bush will begin to exercise his veto power. It's about damned time.

I don't feel an ounce of pity for the Republicans, and I eagerly await the Democrats turn to prove they share equally in evil.

Expect another column on this for next week's Lode. Also, I'll make sure to post this week's columns as soon as the website is back up.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Judicial Democracy

If you don't regularily read Drudge, you need to do so today. He has no less than fifteen separate articles whose headlines suggest that fishy circumstances may surround this present election. I've not read them; I truthfully don't care who wins, and can feign no interest in the "legitimacy" of an election wherein the candidates are identical.

Still, it is fascinating to observe the inability of America, international spokesnation for Democracy, to conduct an election properly. It has been said that after Bush won Florida by the slimmest of margins no one could claim that one's vote did not matter. In reality, the 2000 fiasco demonstrately this perfectly. Pretending, for the sake of the argument, that both parties are substantially different, one still has little reason to vote for one's preferred plutocrat. If the result is a victory by wide margins, one's vote was irrelevant--or superfluous, depending--if the result was close, voting irregularities will cause the "losing" candidate to sue, whereupon the courts will decide the will of the people, as they are already in the habit of doing.

When one thinks about it, the only surprise is that it took the courts this long to exercise this power. After all, they have decided all the important issues--from abortion to affirmative action, from property rights to the use of birth control--on behalf of the American people for decades. Evidently, the courts slovenly movement to fully abolish democracy, which has yet to come to full fruition, is due, not to a lack of ambition on behalf of the courts themselves, but instead due to the paltry power of the legislative branch.

But make sure you vote.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

The Enstupidation that is a College Education

While I should probably be taking care of some homework, I felt compelled to make a quick post in light of a recent blurb I got from the Washington Times, courtesy of Vox Popoli:

The Intercollegiate Studies Institute recently tested 14,000 freshmen and seniors at 50 colleges with 60 questions on American history, government, market economies and U.S. foreign policy. The average "civic literacy" score for seniors was 53.2 percent, for freshman 54.7 percent. Failing grades all. The longer a student attends class, the dumber he gets. Students at the elite schools fared worse than students at some church and land-grant schools. The Ivy League school whose students ranked highest were those at Princeton, at No. 18. Harvard's students were 25th. The lowest scores were posted at such bastions of higher learning as Cornell, University of California at Berkeley and Johns Hopkins. Go figure, as some unhappy parents will no doubt do.

I find this less than surprising, for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the incessant anecdotal evidence offered by some of my college friends and colleagues. Recently, one of my house mates told me that he had never heard of the Divine Comedy; a quick perusal of the campus paper will confirm that if my fellow staff writers aren't wholly ignorant of history and economics, they do a marvelous job of pretending thusly. I also routinely receive comments telling me that a reader cannot make heads or tails of my columns. And while it is true that my style is less sophomoric than some of the talking heads in the punditry, I would suggest that one should be able to read writing which is more sophisticated than the incoherent babbling that is a Bill O'Reilly column, especially if one is college-educated.

The actual study reports four findings:

1. America's colleges and universities fail to increase knowledge about America's history and institutions.

2. Prestige doesn't pay off.

3. Students don't learn what colleges don't teach.

4. Greater civic learning goes hand-in-hand with more active citizenship.

I'd like to concentrate on points one and two; the latter two findings seem obvious and would render commentary trite.

America's colleges and universities fail to increase knowledge about America's history and institution for two reasons. First, an astounding portion of the faculty is wholly ignorant of the topics themselves. I can think of three professors, Noam Chomsky, Camille Paglia and Walter Williams, who seem to have a proficient grasp on the history and institutions of America. I have read too little of Chomsky to explain our differences, but whether or not he is wrong, he is not an ignoramus; thus I include him in the list.

Yet these should not be exceptions. Well, Camille Paglia is always an exception, but our institutions of higher education should regularly be producing scholars, if not of Paglian stature, scholars nonetheless. But they are not even approximately doing so. Paglia has much to say about the degradation of higher education--see "Junk Bonds and Corporate Raiders" for starters--but pseudo-intellectual hacks will never be able to produce scholars. It took Socrates to give us Plato who gave us Aristotle. Anything approaching a modern day Socrates is not likely to be found in the hallowed halls of higher ed.

Second, the object of college is not to bestow knowledge upon the students. There are simply far too many people attending college for any of this nonsense, many of them torpid fools. Since the those who are either ineducable or wish to be so cannot or will not learn, neither will the professor's pretend to teach. Those who love knowledge will seek it on their own; those who care nothing for her will prefer the modern college environment: a retirement home for the perpetual adolescents of the middle and upper classes. If college becomes a perpetual party, the pupils will be more likely to stay for five or six years, spending all kinds of mom and dad's hard earned money. Tough tests and true scholarship are sure to weed out those who neither deserve nor would be capable of appreciating a real education, and the soulless administrators are unlikely to bite off the hand that feeds them.

As for point number two, one simply needs to apply all of the previous babble to schools wherein the student body is far more likely to have a larger quantity of cash. If Yale becomes competitive, the students who do not wish to work hard shall go to Princeton--or perhaps it is the other way around; it makes precious little difference. I lost all respect for Harvard when I learned that 96% of their student body graduated with honors. I reckon that's a mighty tough place to "learn".

I applied to one school, a mid-sized, moderately priced, Midwestern engineering university. And while my time here has been mixed, I have learned a fair amount. It seems that engineers, unlike government bureaucrats, cannot be wholly incompetent. Moreover, I have learned a great deal of history, and more besides, from trips to the library or the secondhand bookstore.

A reading of de Tocqueville and Gibbon will afford one a far more extensive survey of history than a degree will now give. And the price is far less dear. While there are reasons to attend a university, an "education" is near the bottom of the list.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

The Hasty Rejection of Christianity

My editor subtitled this one: "Can man still have morals without its influence?" which is, I think, a terribly fair question, especially as it concerns post-Christian societies. Here goes:

Last week, Brian Sabol made the latest comments in a mild dispute which has been going on for some time in these very pages. Allow me to first quote him before throwing in my two cents.

“Furthermore, Mr. Lyrenmann’s comment that ‘atheists and agnostics are held to no moral code but the laws of the government’ is not only misguided and baseless, but completely wrong. Morality is not dependent on religion. The two are not mutually inclusive. Countless immoral acts have been committed in the name of religion, the Spanish Inquisition, for example.”

Mr. Sabol gives all appearances of being intelligent; nonetheless he stoops to hoist the ubiquitous canard that is the Spanish Inquisition. It is tiring to see how frequently this tactic is employed. Mr. Sabol is obviously unaware that the Inquisition was undertaken at the behest, not of the Church, but of the Spanish Crown; further, for all its perceived atrociousness, it resulted in a mere 2,000 casualties over a period of 349 years. It is a sure sign of the benevolence of Christianity that the most nefarious crime naysayers can point towards pales in comparison to the actions of any number of agnostics and atheists in the 20th century alone. This does not excuse the crimes of the Inquisition; nor does it propose to assert that Christians are, ipso facto, better than their pagan brethren. But it does serve to provide much needed perspective.

My point here is not to argue for the truth contained within Christianity, though I am wholly convinced of this and would gladly do thusly elsewhere. I concern myself instead with the utility thereof, which, though less important, is easier to gage.

But this is still somewhat difficult to do so. Agnostics will often note, as Mr. Sabol does, that they can be moral as well, and so long as he is guided by Plato I should think he would stand to do quite nicely. For paganism is not, as is commonly and completely inaccurately thought, wholly bad. Instead, paganism is the best man can do without Christ. Thus the Divine Comedy finds the noble pagans in Limbo, and Virgil is only allowed to accompany Dante through purgatory, symbolizing the limits of human reason.

Yet it is not, unfortunately, a choice between the goodness of paganism and the greater goodness of Christianity. Were that it were so! By utilizing human reason, the pagans have promulgated a system of ethics—also known as the natural law. This law has not been ignored by Christianity; instead, we find Augustine making countless references to Plotinus as well as Plato, especially in his “City of God.” Similarly, Thomas Aquinas uses Aristotle at great length in his equally monumental “Summa Theologica.”

In short, it is difficult to distinguish the natural law from the teachings of Christianity, and it is irresponsible to pretend that a rejection of the latter will lead to a more stringent regard to the former. Tearing down the walls of Christian discipline is one thing, but it is quite another to offer an alternative in its stead. Only time will tell if the gleeful revolutionaries halt rebellion long enough to consider this all-important point.

Partial rejection of the natural law aside, while it is quite possible for agnostics and atheists to be as moral as Christians, I consider the prospect somewhat dubious. All human beings, Christians and pagans alike, are bound by the same civil laws depending on their place of residence. Yet Christians are also called to task for their sins: those that did not love their neighbors as themselves risk eternal hellfire. Few people will be good simply for goodness’ sake. With all due respect to Mr. Sabol, removing the threat of damnation shall only prove disastrous.

Slop For The Swine

Here's article number one for the week:

Human beings have a terribly tendency to abuse things. Indeed, the greater the potentiality for good, the greater the propensity for abuse. Thus, while I find certain technological features which are designed to assist to be less than so, I find my colleagues bemoaning of such to be tiresome.

It is certainly true that some aspects of the Internet can be meddlesome. Amazon’s incessant recommendation of books and Google’s employment of the page rank algorithm can seem to render choice insignificant, and, by a dangerous corollary, render the masses devoid of taste. Yet this is a false assumption for two reasons.

First, Amazon and Google do not inhibit choice; they merely seem to serve to limit it. One is not forced to purchase a suggestion of the former anymore than one is compelled to click on the first link provided by the latter. If the material recommend is deemed insufficient, I would posit the alternative of going to a library, though perhaps the skeptical would balk at a suggestion from the kindly librarian.

Second, the mass of men is neither intelligent nor gifted in terms of taste, particularly in democratic ages, if Alexis De Tocqueville is to be believed. American Idol, Nickelback and Dan Brown are the products of the Internet age, but they are not direct results thereof. Instead, both stem from the same cause: a dying civilization embracing the shallow ethos of Epicureanism—though few know what it means.

Elimination of some of the aforementioned features will do little to abate the crisis. Is Amazon really to be feared more than, say, the vacuous programming of MTV? When it comes down to it, many Americans do lack good taste. Yet one shouldn’t blame Google. Even Christ had something to say about the wisdom of casting “pearls before swine.”

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Every Vote Counts

Reason number 65 to avoid voting:

A new statewide [New York] database of registered voters contains as many as 77,000 dead people on its rolls, and as many as 2,600 of them have cast votes from the grave, according to a Poughkeepsie Journal computer-assisted analysis.

Oh yes, every vote counts, so make sure you walk to the polls.

Because if you don't vote, dead people will.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

A Brief Paglian Diversion

Camille Paglia from Vamps and Tramps:

My disaffection with American Catholicism, which began during my adolescence in the late Fifties, was due partly to its strident anti-sex rhetoric and partly to its increasing self-Protestantization and suppression of its ethnic roots. Within twenty years, Catholic churches looked like airline terminals--no statues, no stained-glass windows, no shadows or mystery or grandeur. No Latin, no litanies, no goregous jeweled-garments, no candles--so that the ordinary American church now smells like baby powder. Nothing is left to appeal to the senses. The artistic education of the eye that I received as a child in church is denied to today's young Catholics.

Her disagreement with the Church's teaching on sex is fundamental, and requires a greater mind than my own to discuss, though were I given the opportunity, I would recommend to Miss Paglia the late Pope's talks on the Thelogy of the Body.

That said, I cannot agree with her more about the second reason for her disenchancement with American Catholicism. Bring back the Latin! Bring back the candles, the stained-glass
the statues!

There is little that bothers me more than a boring church--perhaps heresy from the pulpit. I do not know if anyone really enjoys the sterility of the modern churches, but I know I am not alone in clamoring for more traditional churches. People still spend hours in the churches of Europe--though seldom to worship, and less frequently are the worshippers Europeans--for good reason.

No one is going to want to visit a mega-church in fifty years, let alone five hundred. I hope God burns every one of the monstrosities when he returns. It's not as if any of them spend a lick of time talking about his Son's death and ressurection anyway.

It's back to Wise Blood for me, in which Hazel Moates founds the "Church Without Christ". Someone should have told wayward Christians that Flannery O'Connor intended sarcasm, not a plan for action.