Thursday, November 29, 2007

Fred comes to Camille

No, it's not polite to use first names to refer to better thinkers than oneself, but in land of the ubiquitous dude references, first names are almost formal. Anyway, Fred finds himself agreeing with Paglia's point that: “Great art can be made out of love for religion as well as rebellion against it. But a totally secularized society with contempt for religion sinks into materialism and self-absorption and gradually goes slack, without leaving an artistic legacy.” He writes:

Writing a Wagnerian score requires (I think) a sense of the transcendent. To write The Lord of the Rings or to paint Leda and the swan, one need not believe in Norse gods raging in battle against chill skies, or a muscled Zeus throwing thunderbolts, or Pan leering from darkling forests. You need a mind that doesn’t smell of electrical insulation. This, few now have. The sciences are remorselessly literal. They do not admit of transcendence, wonder, or magnificence. People today drink this terrible narrowness with their mother’s milk and seldom get beyond it. They do not know what they have lost.

I hesitate to fall back on the pragmatic in defending religion, but it is a fact not easily disparaged. The irreligious society is not only darker, but it is more dull. Patrons of the arts should be wary of casting out all religion. We've only been around a little while, but, at the very least, the post-modern, post-pagan society has demonstrated an inability to create good art. Things bode badly for us.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Why the decline?

Troutsky writes:

I would be curious as to your views on WHAT is causing the decline and WHY? To me, it is no accident or natural trend.

It's not an easy question, and I'm not overly optimistic that I'll be able to give a sufficient answer, but I'll try to post a couple of thoughts anyway.

I guess we can start with the issue of decadence. Pat Buchanan has been proclaiming "The Death of the West" for several years now, and while he's been early to jump on the bandwagon if one considers popular commentators, the signs of our demise have been present for much longer than this.

Fortunately, a growing segment of the population is waking up to the fact that there is something severely wrong with our country and our culture. Witness the Ron Paul campaign. I'm not exactly sure how this fits; a truly decadent culture wouldn't have any reformers because no one would have any hope of change. Then again, I'm not sure how far Paul will be able to go. It would be very decadent of us to ignore his warnings.

I recently picked up an excellent book titled From Dawn to Decadence. I'm only about a quarter in, but I heartily recommend it. Therein, the author, Jacques Barzun writes: “When people accept futility and the absurd as normal, the culture is decadent. The term is not a slur; it is a technical label.”

That about sums it up. I started writing a piece for the paper, attempting to show how our war on terror is decadent. It was a harder piece to write than I imagined it would be, simply because the whole war on terror is so blatantly absurd--and futile. If you swallow the party line, and rehearse the Sean Hannity talking points, it will probably escape you, but the second you begin to rationally examine the principles of preemptive war, the whole absurdity becomes clear.

For instance, it's absurd to attack countries in the Middle East who haven't threatened us just because they might some day get a bomb and use it on us. Hypotheticals are dangerous pretexts with which to engage in extraordinary measures. Hypothetically, anything could happen. We could just nuke the Middle East to prevent anything unseemly from happening, but most rational people realize that mass murder is the height of immorality. As a country, our prudence is wanting. Our foreign policy is not that of a republic of rational individuals; it is that of a despot, frightened lest his power be threatened.

Or again, it is idiotic to attack the Middle East while leaving the border insecure. Troutsky gets a bit flabbergasted every time I mention the border, but he needn't do so. Whether or not massive migration is good for this country can be debated; so too can the extent of the threat posed by the terrorists. The point here, is that if the terrorists are a threat to our way of life, leaving the border insecure is the height of absurdity. But this policy goes unquestioned, not only by the elites--who have ulterior motives--but by those who support the futile war on terror. Yes, I know that the conservative commentariat clamors about border control, but that won't stop them from supporting an open-borders candidate to attempt to prevent Hillary, another open-borders candidate, from taking power.

The culture is decadent, and in other ways too. But I'm supposed to examine the reasons behind the decadence, so we'll move onto that.

One reason, I would say, is the inability of most people to live rationally. I don't think that thinking has ever been held in such disregard as it is at present. As I noted in today's paper, people don't read books; those who do, often read only garbage. What passes for a logical argument these days is embarrassing. Bill O'Reilly and the conservative clowns make so many groundless assertions that it's impossible to keep up; things aren't any better amongst so-called liberals.

The war on terror is a perfect example of inanities passed along as self-evident, but there is more to the tragedy than the foreign policy of Americans. In fact, the war on terror is a sign of our inability to think; it is not its cause.

Put another way, the acceptance of outrageous principles by a large segment of our population reveals an inability to think properly. Notice, too, that many of those who have changed their minds concerning the validity of the Iraq invasion have done so for strange reasons. Some charge that the war was poorly run, which, though true, is utterly beside the point. The problem, as I have written before, is that the war was immoral because it was an unprovoked act of aggression.

Morality has seeped into the discussion, and it is part of our lapse into decadence. It, too, is tied to the proper use of reason. The just war doctrine, a subset of the natural law theory, is a good example or right reason leading to right action. For man is, above all, a rational creature; when he fails to use his higher faculties, he inevitably goes wrong.

The natural law theory helps us identify what went wrong. As a Catholic, it should come as no surprise when I say that I think that the greatest tragedy of all-time was the reformation. The society of the Middle Ages had, alas, become decadent, and it was unable to reform itself in time. Christendom was cloven, and the modern world is a result of that shipwreck. Hence Barzun starts his book with Luther's theses.

One of the unintended consequences of the Reformation has been the collapse of the higher faculties. It is ironic, perhaps, that the champions of reason have seen their god thrown out the window by their ancestors--here we see Hegel's dialectic at work--but it was almost inevitable. By proclaiming that man, and not the Church, was arbiter of truth, the idea of objective truth became a tenuous one. The Protestant faction saw internal reformations, as sect after sect emerged with the "real" truth. Fast forward, and we have the post-modern society, where not only truth, but reality itself, is relative: mere subjective perception.

The reformers didn't intend for this to happen. Revolutionaries seldom foresee all that will come of their actions; Marx didn't envision the Gulag Archipelago, Rousseau couldn't see the Terror. But happen it did. We are left with the decadent excesses of a revolution gone wrong.

This is where the Church enters in. Whether or not She is right--I contend that She is--She is consistent and authoritative in ways no other aspect of society pretends to be. We ultimately fell into decadence because of rejection of the Church, and the conception of objective Truth which She alone purports to hold. We can no longer think because we have rejected the only Institution which dares to contain Truth; we can only get back to a better society if we return to Her. When people begin to think right, they will start to act right. So long as our thinking is flawed, we haven't a prayer at escaping certain cultural ruin.

The Church has come under fire--no pun intended--for burning heretics. The excesses of the Inquisition have been over-stated--see Henry Kamen's book for an objective account of the Spanish version--but excesses they were. Nonetheless, the Church was right in thinking that heretics are dangerous. Get a wrong idea into a man's head, and he will begin to live immorally. Allowing a man to think that preemptive war is acceptable might cause him to launch wars, willy-nilly, against his neighbors.

With this, I bring my somewhat long-winded, and fairly scattered piece to a close. In brief summation, the world has gone wrong because it cannot think; the Church is the guardian of thought and truth, and a return to Her will allow mankind to think again. Since man is rational, right ordered thought is necessary for right action. If we are to restore our civilization, we must learn to think again, and for that, I present to the reader the Roman Catholic Church.

You really didn't expect anything different, did you?

Who you calling extreme?

Today's first article:

"Where the extreme left and the extreme right meet, you'll find Ron Paul" - Merle Black

One should be careful in taking political commentators literally. As used in this context, extreme has nothing to do with the dictionary definition. Instead, it is merely a pejorative term, used to discredit anyone associated with it—in this case, Dr. Paul.

The ten term representative from Texas is attacked, not because of his views per se, but because such views are, ispo facto, extreme. Tantamount to the ad hominen attack, branding someone as extreme is a useful way to discredit a political opponent, and it is of especial value to the neocons and their cronies. The Paul campaign highlights many things; no doubt his insistence on a “humble foreign policy” sits well with the growing majority of Americans tired of playing Empire. But Paul's consistently conservative fiscal policy hammers home another point: the Republican Party no longer cares for limited government. Dick Cheney once remarked that “deficits don't matter”, and the republican candidates for Presidency—Paul excepted—believe him. Many of the talking heads insist that we must find “the next Reagan”. It bears mentioning that if he did not always deliver on his promises, at least Ronald Reagan believed in small government conservatism. There will be no more Ronald Reagans in a party which has forsaken his ideas.

Castigating Paul as an extremist allows pundits to deflect criticism from their dereliction of duty to the true conservative cause: shrinking the size and scope of the government. Ignoring—for the moment—Paul's foreign policy of non-interventionism, it remains to be seen why fighting the Islamo-bad-guys in the Middle East should preclude trimming the size of the government behemoth. Not for nothing did Randolph Bourne conclude that “war is the health of the state”; still, if defense appropriations must increase, why must discretionary spending? Waging aggressive wars does not—or should not—depend on bridges to nowhere, educational bills to further the enstupidation of the nation's children, or general governmental generosity with the taxpayer's money. Ron Paul's fiscal policies reveal the republican field of presidential candidates to be fake conservatives; hence he must be maligned.

There are alternatives to the extreme theme. Any pejorative adjective will do; the point of the exercise is not to point out the flaws in Paul's reasoning: it is to defame him so that reasoning becomes unnecessary. Listen to Mona Charen of National Review: “Ron Paul is unserious. Suggesting that you will eliminate the IRS, the CIA, the FBI and other government agencies within weeks of taking office is ridiculous. These are bumper stickers, not serious reform proposals.” Instead, we must tolerate serious candidates like Rudy Giuliani, who propose to do nothing about the size of the government, but do swear to win the War on Terror. How eminently serious of him to promise to defeat an idea!

Speaking of Giuliani, the game works well in regards to foreign policy, too. Promising that one will not tolerate a nuclear Iran is a sign of seriousness, and, apparently, moderation. The fact that technological monopoly is impossible to retain in perpetuity is, evidently, a thought best left to unserious minds. Meanwhile, advocating a return to the foreign policy of the Founders, saying that we ought to mind our own business—this is extreme. Refusing to remove the nuclear option from the table is a sign of moderation; promising restraint, a sign of extremism.

Ron Paul and his growing band of supporters—he's polling at eight percent in New Hampshire—disagree. Bankrupting the country through aggressive wars, suspending habeas corpus, running massive deficits and ruining the currency, threatening countries which haven't attacked us—these are signs of extremism. But in the Orwellian world we now live in, black is white, up is down, extreme is the new moderate; and warmongers are more fit for the presidency than kindly pediatricians with the sorts of unserious ideas that just might save this country from total disaster.

As English Lay Dying

Today's second article:

Although he is a sometimes a bit of a crank, Fred Reed is a wonderful writer. In a column bemoaning the decline of the English language, he remarks, “Good English… depends on a cultivated elite to preserve it. A pride in language is needed to prevent degradation from seeping upward from the lower classes, and only careful schooling instills the fine distinctions that make the difference between the literate and those who recognize words vaguely, like half-forgotten relatives.”

Few of us receive such schooling. We at Tech do not even have an English department. The dearth of good writing, especially on this campus, isn’t exactly news. With this in mind, a friend and I decided to spend this semester discussing The Lode on our weekly radio show. For those interested—shameless plug—our show runs from 12-2pm on Fridays on 91.9 WMTU FM Houghton.

We discovered that if you lowered your standards, the campus paper isn’t so bad. There’s nothing really resembling good writing, but most articles manage to express themselves in something akin to English. Sure, subjects and verbs don’t always match up, and prepositions are occasionally AWOL, but how much can really be demanded from a bunch of college students in present day America? One in four adults didn’t read a single book last year. Judging from the rubbish atop the New York Times bestseller’s list, those of us who do manage to stumble through a book or two have terrible taste.

There's really no excuse for such intellectual indifference. Never before in human history have we had such tremendous access to information. Most works that have been out of print for seventy years or more—stupid, draconian copyright laws—are available for free on the Internet. Classics are readily available for a few dollars at any used bookstore.

It would be an overstatement to conclude that I am a good writer, but I am a competent one. During my waning weeks at Tech, the only advice I can offer to my fellow scribblers is to do what I have done. First, voraciously devour books of all kinds, especially the classics. Second, write often, revise, and write some more. To paraphrase Hunter S. Thompson completely out of context, this has always worked for me.

But this may not be enough. The will to write is not always concomitant with the ability to do so. While almost everyone wants to write, most people can’t. Meanwhile, the degradation of the language continues apace. Writers who delve deep to discover the true meanings of words, so as to use them correctly, will find that the populace is incapable of appreciating such subtleties. A slouching toward Idiocracy we go.

It is at once a relief and a disappointment that the problems faced by expand beyond the Keweenaw. On one hand, how can a handful of students, mired in a culture whose language is in precipitous decline, be expected to speak and write like their ancestors? On the other, if The Lode is representative of the best Tech can offer in the way of writers, how long until the newspaper succumbs to post-literate society and ceases to be entirely?

I don’t offer any solutions. Lowering one’s standards only perpetuates the problem, but there doesn’t seem to be an alternative. How can one write well if one cannot differentiate between good and bad writing?

The meanings of words in a dead language are forever fixed, and the unwashed masses can do nothing to degenerate them. Worse than dead, English is dying. It had a good run.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Back to the Dark Ages

I've never found the hysteria about global warming to be convincing. But if the science is sketchy, the methods to reverse the trends are doubly so. And, of course, such methods are idiotic, which means only the government would be stupid enough to insist upon enacting them.

The scare over global warming, and our politicians' response to it, is becoming ever more bizarre. On the one hand we have the United Nation's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change coming up with yet another of its notoriously politicised reports, hyping up the scare by claiming that world surface temperatures have been higher in 11 of the past 12 years (1995-2006) than ever previously recorded.

This carefully ignores the latest US satellite figures showing temperatures having fallen since 1998, declining in 2007 to a 1983 level - not to mention the newly revised figures for US surface temperatures showing that the 1930s had four of the 10 warmest years of the past century, with the hottest year of all being not 1998, as was previously claimed, but 1934.

I keep hearing that the science has settled this: the globe is warming. No one, I am told, doubts the facts; we only differ in what drastic actions we must take to prevent certain doom. Then I read something like the above, and wonder if the so-called scientists have their so-called facts straight.

Look, for all I know, the above data could be rubbish. But so could all of the data that the global warming crowd likes to cite. I'm agnostic about whether or not the the earth is warming; but I'm downright skeptical when I'm told that the internal combustion engine--and by extension human beings, especially those darn Westerners--which has been around for about a century, has caused chaos on a four and a half billion year old planet.

As always, my libertarian blood begins to boil when the government gets involved. The EU, the prototype for the North American Union, is enacting some downright draconian measures. If all goes well, the economy will grind to a halt, and all the human beings will starve to death. After all, humans are bad for the planet.

Few people have yet really taken on board the mind-blowing scale of all the "planet-saving" measures to which we are now committed by the European Union.

By 2020 we will have to generate 20 per cent of our electricity from "renewables". At present the figure is four per cent (most of it generated by hydro-electric schemes and methane gas from landfill)...

Another EU directive commits us to deriving 10 per cent of our transport fuel from "biofuels" by 2020. This would take up pretty well all the farmland we currently use to grow food (at a time when world grain prices have doubled in six months and we are already face a global food shortage).

Then by 2009, thanks to a mad gesture by Mr Blair and his EU colleagues last March, we also face the prospect of a total ban on incandescent light bulbs.

The author, Christopher Booker, concludes:

This year will be remembered for two things.

First, it was the year when the scientific data showed that the cosmic scare over global warming may well turn out to be just that - yet another vastly inflated scare.

Second, it was the year when the hysteria generated by all the bogus science behind this scare finally drove those who rule over us, including Gordon "Plastic Bags" Brown, wholly out of their wits.

Ideally, we would sit back and watch the EU. If these measures somehow don't manage to drive their economy into the ground, we can let one or two of our crazy states follow. Of course, since we haven't managed to learn anything from their senseless immigration policies and their embrace of feminism and the culture of death--or at least no more babies--it's unlikely we'll learn anything here. If anyone writes the Decline and Fall of the American Republic, I hope they highlight all of the times we willingly brought about our own death.

Have you heard of Harry?

My blogging had fallen a bit by the wayside as of late. I've noticed that my interest in writing about current events goes in cycles. Sometimes, I'd rather read history books than spit out a couple of paragraphs on a topic I've discussed before. There is, after all, a limit to the number of Ron Paul posts my readers will stomach.

I've also spent more time working on my columns. I don't know if the quality has increased; I like to think that it has, but I'm not exactly an unbiased observer. Anyway, that's another reason for the limited output. I only have a few weeks of school left. When I no longer have weekly columns to write, my output will probably change. Until then, you get more apologies per post than ever before.

On point, I get regular emails from Amazon recommending me books based on purchases I have made. Most of the recommendations are helpful, if less than insightful. A paraphrased example: you like G. K. Chesterton, have you also read this book written by him?

But sometimes the email makes me chuckle for the inanity of the recommendation. For instance:

We recommend: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Book 7) by J. K. Rowling ...

Recommended because you purchased or rated:
* The Divine Comedy

What on earth does Dante have to do with Dumbledore? I read the first Harry Potter book, found it mildly amusing--way better than that stupid Golden Compass book they've made a movie about--but decided to skip the rest of the series for better things--like The Divine Comedy.

Does Amazon really need to sell more copies of the Harry Potter series? I'm fairly certain that everyone who is going to read the series has heard about it. Still, I found it amusing.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Pat is pessimistic

Buchanan that is. He's one of the few conservatives who has seen through the neocon nonsense from the get-go, and while he encouraged people to vote for Bush in '04, such encouragement stemmed out of loyalty to the party rather than affinity for the anti-conservative President. It will be interesting to see if Pat embraces the lesser evil if the Republicans nominate Rudy.

Anyway, Mr. Buchanan has a new book which is coming out shortly. Therein, he is less than optimistic about the prospects of American survival. Fans of his work will realize that this is, in many ways, merely an extension of the principles elucidated in The Death of the West. Such is what comes from ignoring the man.

The full article is over at Drudge, and deserves a full read. Here follow a few of my, um, favorites:

"America is coming apart, decomposing, and...the likelihood of her survival as one improbable -- and impossible if America continues on her current course," declares Pat Buchanan. "For we are on a path to national suicide."

Now, for some good news. Oh wait.

Specifically, Buchanan contends:

Pax Americana, the era of U.S. global dominance, is over. A struggle for global hegemony has begun among the United States, China, a resurgent Russia and radical Islam...

As U.S. wages are stagnant, corporate CEOs are raking in rising pay and benefits 400 to 500 times that of their workers

The Third World invasion through Mexico is a graver threat to our survival as one nation than anything happening in Afghanistan or Iraq

European-Americans, 89% of the nation when JFK took the oath, are now 66% and sinking. Before 2050, America is a Third World nation...

He then goes on to make some suggestions, which, unless Ron Paul wins, will be completely ignored. Oh well. The Empire thing: it's been fun.

Friday, November 23, 2007

How's this for traditionalism?

In which Pope Benedict XVI makes conservative Catholics quite happy:

After reintroducing the Latin Tridentine Mass, the Pope wants to widen the use of Gregorian chant and baroque sacred music.

In an address to the bishops and priests of St Peter's Basilica, he said that there needed to be "continuity with tradition" in their prayers and music.

He referred pointedly to "the time of St Gregory the Great", the pope who gave his name to Gregorian chant.

Gregorian chant has been reinstituted as the primary form of singing by the new choir director of St Peter's, Father Pierre Paul.

I guess it's a little weird that someone who enjoys both punk and metal would welcome this move, but as a firm traditionalist, I loudly applaud the Pope's efforts. Removing Latin from the Mass has been disastrous; the holy sacrifice of the mass now looks a Protestant communion service. Any move to remove Rome from the world is a good one; these latest two are doubly so as they also allow the Church to draw from Her reservoirs of tradition.

Both Christ and his Church are "beauty, ever ancient, ever new", in St. Augustine's wonderful phrase. While some of the new developments, the Theology of the Body for instance, call to mind an institution which is not out of touch with the times--whatever that means--others, like the Church's insistence on fighting a war on just grounds, demonstrate that this ancient institution has much in they way of wisdom from centuries past.

Three cheers for Benedict's reforms! May God grant the Church a much needed rebirth.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Go Ron, go!

He's doubled his poll numbers in New Hampshire:

Meanwhile, the percentage of support for Paul grew from 4 percent to 8 percent, putting him fourth among the GOP contenders in the Granite State...

The numbers come out to be:

Romney 33%

McCain 18

Giuliani 16

Paul 8

Huckabee 5

Thompson 4

While it's refreshing to see that Paul's support continues to grow, it's also good to see that no one is buying into the Huckster or Fred. Remember, the only reason Fred is in the race is because Rudy McRomney isn't ready to play road kill to the Lizard Queen. Meanwhile, Huck's support is strictly an Iowan phenomenon; once the social conservatives wake up and realize he's not one of them, the Huckster should fade.

As long as the party can't find someone to support to get beat by Hillary, Paul has a shot. Here's hoping he doubles his numbers again in the coming month.

Romney on abortion

Mitt Romney can't seem to convince pro-lifers that he really means it when he says that he's had a conversion on the abortion issue:

[Mitt Romney] ran as a strongly pro-choice Republican in 1994, when he unsuccessfully challenged Sen. Ted Kennedy in Massachusetts, and again in 2002, when he successfully ran for governor. Then, in late 2004, in the midst of a debate in the Massachusetts legislature over stem-cell research, he changed his mind on abortion, and later, in 2005, wrote an op-ed in the Boston Globe explaining that he is now pro-life. Since those changes occurred so recently, and since they came at the same time Romney was beginning to explore a run for president — his political action committee, Commonwealth PAC, was formed in July 2004, a few months before his stem-cell decision — a number of pro-life voters view his conversion with some suspicion.

Count me in with the doubters. Abortion really isn't that hard of an issue to understand. Either the fetus is a human person, which means that killing one is murder; or the fetus isn't a human person--one wonders what else it may be--which means that killing one is utterly inconsequential, and abortion no more tragic than swatting a mosquito; or else one doesn't know, which means it's tremendously imprudent to kill that which has its personhood in limbo.

Romney's move appears to be one of sheer political expediency. As one who supports principled candidates, this attempt at political pragmaticism is revolting. We pro-lifers are going to have enough trouble getting Roe v. Wade overturned without nominating candidates who are, at best, not bothered by the abortion holocaust.

But suppose we take Romney at his word, though, just why we would do that with a politician is beyond me. What if the conversion is genuine? If it is, this bespeaks an intellectual and philosophical sluggishness. What does it say about a man who waits until he is over fifty years old to take a serious look at abortion? Was he really so busy running Massachusetts that he couldn't take the time to read up on one of the most important issues of the day? Forget, for a moment, that he was a governor. Any citizen who waits until after fifty to examine an issue of this nature is immediately suspect.

Romney is either a political hack who will say anything to get elected, or he is a lazy coward, too unconcerned to study important issues and then take a convicted stand on them. In many respects, the latter is tantamount to the former. Romney, like most of the other candidates, is plainly unworthy to lead.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Fred... not quite pro-life

A good friend of mine wants to know about Fred Thompson. Ask and ye shall receive.

When Rudy Giuliani, John McCain, and Mitt Romney all failed to excite the republican base, the party turned to Fred Thompson, an ostensible Reaganite who would unite the base, in the hopes, certainly not of winning the election, but at least of keeping the race close enough so that Hillary's win didn't seem to be a foregone conclusion. In other words, Fred was to be Bob Dole 2.0.

There was a fair amount of enthusiasm for Thompson, but upon entering the race, he proved even less exciting that Rudy McRomney. Joe Carter of The Evangelical Outpost, and the founder of Blogs For Fred, yanked his support of Thompson--good--only to support Huckabee--worse.

(Huckabee is a different topic for another day; for some reason, his campaign is doing okay. I still hold that he'll be given the V.P. in order to attract members of the religious right who tend to forget that mere belief in Christ is not concomitant with governing according to Christian principles.)

Ann Coulter, whose incendiary ravings border on the sophistical, but who is nonetheless one of the few conservative commentators who isn't buying into the "anybody but Hillary" nonsense, was similarly unimpressed. She writes:

Conservatives unhappy with our Republican presidential candidates seem to be drifting aimlessly toward Fred Thompson and Mike Huckabee in the misguided belief that these candidates are more conservative than Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney. This is like breaking up with Bobby Brown so you can date Phil Spector...

In 1999, Sen. Fred Thompson joined legal giants like Sens. Jim Jeffords, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins to vote against removing Bill Clinton from office for perjury.

Thompson, whom President Nixon once called "dumb as hell," claimed to have carefully studied the Constitution and determined that perjury by the president of the United States did not constitute "high crimes and misdemeanors." He must have been looking at one of those living, breathing Constitutions we've heard so much about.

Fred's big thing is "federalism". Much like George W. Bush's "compassionate conservatism", "federalism" is a term which can be used in a vague way so as to ensure willfully naive conservatives that Fred is one of them. In 2000, John McCain was considered too liberal, so we went for the strange man from Texas who seemed conservative enough. Fast forward seven years, and Fred, whose Senatorial votes place him right with John McCain, is now the conservative hero. Only he's so dull he can't even pose as a viable alternative to Giuliani.

But the problems with Fred don't stop there. Earlier in the week, he received the endorsement of the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC). This move is surpassed in senselessness only by Pat Robertson's recent endorsement of Rudy Giuliani. I loathe political pragmaticism, and both of these moves demonstrate political pragmaticism of the worst kind. For Fred is not particularly pro-life; and whereas Robertson can argue--wrongly--that his guy can beat Hillary, Fred's campaign is dead in the water. Perhaps the NRLC was hoping to inject some needed momentum into a campaign which is as sluggish as the sloth who is running it; but, if that's the case, why not endorse someone who is strongly pro-life. Maybe even someone who has delivered over four thousand babies. You know, someone like Ron Paul.

It's embarrassing, too, how an organization with one goal, which is both noble and legitimate, can fail so spectacularly at picking out a candidate who firmly supports attaining that goal. Vox Day wasn't fooled by the man he calls "the Tennessee Toad", and with the easy access of information provided by the Internet, it's not that hard to conclude, with Vox, that Fred isn't a man pro-lifers can support:

Consider the way in which Sean Hannity intervened to prevent the senator from committing a gaffe that would have betrayed his true views on abortion to pro-life Republicans on Hannity's show:

[Sean speaking in the next paragraph. How does one embed italics within italics?]

After asserting he "always thought Roe v. Wade was a wrong decision," the actor-politician said: "I would not be, and never have been, for a law that says, on the state level, if I were back in Tennessee voting on this, for example, that, if they chose to criminalize a young woman, and ..." Co-host Sean Hannity then interrupted: "So, states rights for you?" Thompson replied: "Essentially, federalism. It's in the Constitution."

[Vox again:]

In other words, while Thompson believes, quite properly, that Roe v. Wade infringes upon states rights, he still opposes the criminalization of abortion on a state level. This means he is pro-choice; he is simply not rabidly pro-choice like feminists and other Democrats who are perfectly happy to use the Constitution as toilet paper if that will allow them to murder just one more unborn child.

I'm a firm believer that the Republican Party doesn't want to do anything about abortion; after all, maintaining the status quo helps keep pro-lifers voting for candidates who, wonder of wonders, never manage to do anything about the abortion holocaust. We're assured that the judges they appoint will one day reverse Roe, and, at the very least, return the case to the states, where the decision should be rightfully made. And yet, with seven of nine justices on SCOTUS appointed by republican presidents, Roe is alive and well. You may doubt my cynicism, but when major newspapers like the Washington Post, not known for controversial subjects, are questioning the judgment of the NRLC, you know something might be remiss when it comes to Fred's "pro-life" views:

Recently, Mr. Thompson refused to support a constitutional amendment that would protect innocent life by restricting the availability of abortions. The sanctity-of-life amendment was a core plank in the Republican Party's 2004 election platform, and yet Mr. Thompson said he could not support it, saying his objection stems from his federalist views.

However, in 1995 he voted for a constitutional amendment to ban flag burning. If he were concerned about states rights he would have let them issue their own laws on the matter. Also, if Mr. Thompson were concerned about cluttering the constitution with superfluous amendments, he would not have supported a 1997 constitutional amendment requiring a balanced budget.

These are some of the facts showing why we think it is interesting that the nation's premier pro-life organization would back a candidate with such a checkered past and present on abortion.

Pro-lifers need to be careful about following in the footsteps of every nominal pro-life candidate or organization. As humans, we are all fallible, and as conservatives have been finding out during Bush's years, we are more than capable of being duped. It'd be nice if Fred experienced a genuine conversion regarding abortion, but all the evidence demonstrates that he hasn't.

It doesn't really matter if Hillary wins when the republicans running for the presidency all share her views. If Ron Paul does manage to get the nod, pro-lifers will be able to enthusiastically support him in good conscience. Barring that, we'll have to find ourselves a third-party candidate--or just stay home. It won't be the first time, and, unfortunately, it probably won't be the last. But supporting the lesser evil comes with a hefty price tag, and it's not even vaguely worth paying.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Dealing with the Devil of Pragmatism

Today's column:

Pat Robertson's recent endorsement of Rudy Giuliani has me wondering if conservatives have learned anything from the Bush years. Politics, it is said, is the art of compromise, but it is prudent to be careful about how far we take that compromise. Certain issues are—or should be—nonnegotiable; and no advancement can be made on any issues which have been compromised. Just what Robertson hopes to get out of a Giuliani presidency is utterly beyond me. As I have done so before, I hesitate to list the litany of sins of America's mayor; suffice it to say that, by any stretch of the imagination, Rudy is neither a conservative, nor a good man. Yes, he supports the War, as do many conservatives, but this actually proves the point. Wars increase the size of the Government, and aggressive wars are immoral; like Rudy, they are neither good, nor conservative in nature.

It is high time for conservatives to reexamine their priorities, and ask themselves important questions. How important is the War on Terror—the War on Iraq being a component thereof? Is a politician who holds otherwise impeccable conservative credentials worthy of support, or is the War so important that it it worth supporting a man whose views are diametrically opposed to traditional conservative ideas—so long as he is Tough on Terror?

Socrates famously intoned that “the unexamined life is not worth living”. If I may modify his maxim slightly: the unexamined policy is not worth holding. Still basking in the horrors of 9/11 some six years after the event, many republicans have failed to examine the policy which has been hoisted upon them and their party by the nefarious neocons. For if radical Islam is a threat to the American way of life—I don't believe it is—the President has certainly chosen a bizarre way to fight it. An open border, a war on a country that wasn't a threat to us, barbaric methods of torture for dubious ends, and the suspension of civil liberties at home, are high prices to pay in our war against global extremism. Worse, these methodologies are almost wholly ineffective—though they do serve to increase the size of the federal Government.

Staunch republicans who are still unconvinced of the folly of interventionism, should note that supporting pseudo-conservatives can backfire tremendously. It wasn't so long ago that conservatives were assisting Arnold Schwarzenegger in his quest to become Governor of the state of California. Britain's telegraph now places the Governator eighth in a list of influential liberals. Far from marking an indication of a transformation, this is the inevitable result of electing a wolf in sheep's clothing. In a column beseeching conservatives to refrain from supporting Arnold, Vox Day presciently observed: “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.” With Rudy, we'll be faced with “deja-vu all over again”, to quote the sage, Yogi Berra.

I'm with Pat Buchanan: “Rudy offers the right the ultimate Faustian bargain: retention of power at the price of one's soul”. It is deeply tragic that a religious conservative like Robertson would be the first to trade his soul for political power. The tragedy is compounded since attainment of power has demonstrated itself to be all but useless when it requires the abdication of one's principles. My knowledge is inexact, but I believe it was St. Thomas Becket who, before his martyrdom, quoted Christ: “For what doth it profit a man, if he gain the whole world and suffer the loss of his own soul?” Beckett then asked his executioners why they would make such a sacrifice for paltry Canterbury. Conservatives need to ask themselves if they, like Robertson, would sell their souls for a senseless shot at four more years of the presidency.

UPDATE: The Saint was Thomas More, and it was Wales, not Canterbury. My apologies. Even Chesterton wasn't this loose with his references.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

It's hard to care

...when it doesn't really help.

A fellow college student, he with one year of service in Iraq under his belt, bemoans the apathy emanating from the college campus:

People on campus don't think about the war very much. It rarely comes up in conversation, either inside or outside the classroom. Some professors have encouraged me to share my experiences, and some students have expressed interest in my past. Last semester, one wrote an article about another Iraq veteran and me for the campus newspaper. And this semester I dedicated about 250 words of a 900-word paper to the problem of sectarian violence in Iraq for a class on international relations. But that was the first time in my three semesters here that I was asked to formally consider the war for a class...

I find it frustrating that Facebook is a bigger part of most students' lives than the war. After my first semester, I decided to rejoin the Army by signing up with the ROTC. I felt a bit guilty for having done only one tour in Iraq while friends of mine have done two or three. And I didn't want to forget the war. I may be prejudiced, but many of my college peers seem self-absorbed. I didn't want to end up like that.

I spend a decent amount of time thinking about the war, but even I find it hard to dwell on the situation since I can't do anything to change it. I can write an essay every day about why the war is wrong, and it won't make any real difference. I might change a mind or two here or there, and to that end, my endeavors are important, but I'm not really influential by any conception of the term.

The same applies to most college students. I think the reason for the apathy is similar to my own, save when that apathy applies to everything, as it does for many in the post-modern post-adolescent culture of the average college student.

Some students do follow politics, and are concerned with issues not related to celebrities, but it's hard to get fired up about the War in Iraq. It's not like we're gearing up for the invasion of Normandy; most of the "news" is essentially irrelevant. People died, and certain areas were secured, but it's mostly a load of crap to convince the people who still care about Bush's immoral war that "we're winning". Whatever.

Bring our boys home! When someone takes this rally cry seriously, I'll pay more attention. Until then, I'm not going to dwell on Iraq. I support the troops insofar as I want them the heck out of harm's way and back home along our border. If this is evidence of insufficient patriotism, or apathy, so be it. I have nothing more to say, and I'm certainly not going to think about it. That would only add to a post which is already too long.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

The Downplaying of Democracy

This was going to be a column, but I already have another one written for next week, so it goes on the old blog as is.

"America, by decision and destiny, promotes political freedom — and gains the most when democracy advances." - George W. Bush

As Hans Christian Anderson's fairy tale instructs, it is difficult for the masses to admit to being completely duped. Of course, it is always easiest to prophesy after the fact, but Governor Bush's quote implies heavily that while dethroning the despot Saddam and ridding him of the weapons of mass destruction he didn't have provided the reason for the invasion, at least insofar as the American people were concerned, the high churchmen of the "Global Democratic Revolution" were always anxious to spread the evils of their particular form of government.

I can claim absolutely no affinity for our present political system, and have long found it suspicious that Bush and Co. have staked their legacy—to say nothing of the longterm wellbeing of the United States—on the fortunes of democracy in a region of the world which has never known it. Even supposing that democracy were to take root in the Middle East, it doesn't take a rocket surgeon to realize that allowing a group of people, who do not like America or her policies, to choose their government will form one which doesn't place a priority on American interests.

Fortunately, the neocon revolutionaries are starting to rethink their blind allegiance to democracy. Recently, President Gen. Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan declared a state of emergency, suspending the constitution and invoking martial law in the process. Quoting (Emperor) Lincoln, who knew a thing or two about running roughshod over a constitution, Musharraf compelled the Bush administration to choose between loyalty to an American ally, and paying respects to his god, Democracy. In so doing, he has thus far prevented a takeover by forces hostile, not only to Musharraf, but also to the United States.

I am by no means an expert on Pakistan, but the little background information which I can provide may prove valuable. Unlike Iran, which is still years away from acquiring a nuclear weapon, Pakistan already has them. Further, Pakistan, Musharraf included, has been a valuable ally in the War on Terror. Justin Raimondo notes, "[The Pakistani government] has captured more al-Qaeda leaders than all the Western intelligence agencies combined... has stood by the U.S. since Day One of the post-9/11 era... [and] is now being swamped by growing anti-American sentiment and religious fervor." Contrary to the delusions of the insensible optimists, the surge isn't working and things are still going very badly in the region. In short, we need a pro-American Pakistan far more than we need a pro-democracy Musharraf.

For once, reason has won out. The administration has expressed its disappointment, but the aid to Pakistan will continue. This doesn't represent a break with U.S. policy—American presidents dealt with Stalin and Mao, two of the most evil men who have ever lived. This is nonetheless big news for the Bush administration. Musharraf is not a terrorist, and he is hardly even a dictator—yet. But his present rule is antithetical to the primary goal of Bush's revolution, and Bush's toleration is indicative of a much welcome, albeit slight, tempering of hubris.

Democracy has been given far too much good press. Its failure at home is readily apparent; all the important decisions are made by unelected Judges, and the two parties are so near-aligned as to be all but indistinguishable. Meanwhile, purple fingers aside, democracy has not spread like wildfire in the Middle East. Idealism has its merits, provided the ideals are good; but the spread of democracy is not always concomitant with, nor should it be more esteemed than American interests. At least in this case, autocratic rule is to be preferred to that of the mob.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

The Myth of Keynes

UPDATE: I guess this wasn't published at all, as we had an influx of letters to the editor and my trip downstate prevented me from submitting this article until late Monday night. It's just as well.

I've never been accused of being overly topical. This week, I want to take a look at the false prophet John Maynard Keynes. In 1936, his book The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money was published. Therein, Keynes advocates high taxes and extensive governmental involvement as a solution to economic crises. Divorcing himself from overt Socialism, Keynes proposed a happy medium between laissez-faire capitalism, and the colder, more barbaric, Communist system of total government control. Since the United States was still stuck in the rut of a global recession, and since FDR was an interventionist, Keynes is often credited with improving the economy and ending the Great Depression. As always, it is worth examining the validity of the popular account.

As historian Paul Johnson notes in his book, A History of the American People: "One of the myths of the inter-war years is that laissez-faire capitalism made a mess of things until Keynes, with his great book, The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money (1936), introduced 'Keynesianism'—another word for government interference—and saved the world. In fact Keynes' Tract [on Monetary Reform (1923)], advocating 'managed currency' and a stabilized price-level, both involving constant government interference, coordinated internationally, was part of the problem... For most of the Twenties... domestically and internationally, [Benjamin Strong and Montague Norman] constantly pumped more money into the system, and whenever the economy showed signs of flagging they increased the dose."

President Hoover is often portrayed as a slick capitalist, wining and dining in the White House while the country starved. Yet this is patently false, mere propaganda meant to contrast Hoover with FDR, so as to allow the latter to achieve iconic status. It was not laissez-faire economics which caused the Depression; rather, Keynesian style interference, antedating his magnus opus by some years, caused inflation, decreased the power of the currency, and brought about the Great Depression. Hoover, like FDR, had no problem using the newly created Federal Reserve to inflate the money supply. In the words of Paul Johnson, “It is likely that the efforts of both merely served to prolong the crisis.”

And again, “"The real recovery from the boom atmosphere of the 1920s came only on the Monday after the Labor Day weekend of September 1939 [ten years into the depression and seven years into FDR's presidency], when news of war in Europe plunged the New York Stock Exchange into a joyful confusion which finally wiped out the traces (though not the memory) of October 1929. Two years later, with America on the brink of war itself, the dollar value of production finally passed the 1929 levels for good. If interventionism worked, it took nine years and a world war to demonstrate the fact.”

Insofar as Keynesian thought had anything to do with the Great Depression, his school served to aid in its perpetuation. Unfortunately, both the Republicans and the Democrats have since enrolled therein. Today's arguments revolve around the intensity of the flow of government money into the economy. Turning off the spigot entirely cannot be considered. This isn't because people believe interventionism works—history tells us that it doesn't. The reason, as usual, is because it allows the feds a greater hand in our own lives. Meanwhile, the people, most of whom remain ignorant of the myth, continue to show a willingness to support those who promise to use the government to help them. It's too bad that government help is largely a contradiction in terms.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Can't be faded

In which my boy raises more than 4.2 million dollars in a single day:

Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul, aided by an extraordinary outpouring of Internet support Monday, hauled in more than $4.2 million in nearly 24 hours.

Paul, the Texas congressman with a libertarian tilt and an out-of-Iraq pitch, entered heady fundraising territory with a surge of Web-based giving tied to the commemoration of Guy Fawkes Day...

Paul's total deposed Mitt Romney as the single-day fundraising record holder in the Republican presidential field. When it comes to sums amassed in one day, Paul now ranks only behind Democrats Hillary Rodham Clinton, who raised nearly $6.2 million on June 30, and Barack Obama.

Two things are worth mentioning. First, these are small donations from numerous people. These aren't corporate donations, or lobbyist payouts; the money is coming from average Americans who are sick of the war, sick of the way the Government handles our money, sick of the way the feds handle--or don't handle--immigration, and so forth.

Second, because this money was raised on the Internet, the Paul campaign didn't need to spend money to make money. This mean almost all of that 4.2 million is going to be used to support Paul's campaign, through advertisements and the like.

With the Republican race still wide open, there's no reason to count Paul out just yet. Rudy is still a hard sell, and Huckabee hasn't taken off like he was supposed to, so Paul is very much in this race. It'd be nice to see an endorsement from a member of the religious right, someone like Dr. James Dobson perhaps. It may be just this once, but Christians have a chance to vote for a candidate who is both anti-abortion and anti-war.