Courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities...because it is the quality which guarantees all others.—Churchill

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Esmay on Dennett

Our nascent blogbrother [anyday now, per our masthead] exposes the soft white underbelly of the New Atheism:

“Scientific” atheist thinkers like Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, and Richard Dawkins have in recent years been admitting, in sometimes sulky fashion, that it appears to be impossible to talk religious belief out of most people, finding even that most self-described atheists raised by nonreligious parents wind up interested in spiritual or supernatural ideas anyway, such as reincarnation, astrology, numerology, palmistry, tarot, telepathy, and other “occult” phenomena, even if they don’t become outright religious.
Indeed, although there are exceptions, I have met few atheists who do not at least fiddle with something occult or pseudosciencey, often loudly protesting that it’s “just harmless fun” in case someone suspect them of Science Heresy. In his excellent book, The Irrational Atheist, author Vox Day shows that most self-described atheists believe in something beyond current science, they just don’t like talking about it. Professor of Philosophy Ed Feser notes superstitious and incoherent ideas popular with even some of today’s most celebrated atheist intellectuals as well.
Be it woo, or "humanity" and "human progress," it's how we're wired, it seems.

You gotta believe in something, or all is lost. It's a human thing.

Monday, May 23, 2016

The cause of national liberty in sum

Thus was achieved another, and still more glorious triumph in the cause of national liberty, than even that, which separated us from the mother country. By it we fondly trust, that our republican institutions will grow up, and be nurtured into more mature strength and vigour; our independence be secured against foreign usurpation and aggression; our domestic blessings be widely diffused, and generally felt; and our union, as a people, be perpetuated, as our own truest glory and support, and as a proud example of a wise and beneficent government, entitled to the respect, if not to the admiration of mankind.  
- Joseph Story, Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States, book III, chapter 1 (1833).

Sunday, May 22, 2016

John Dickinson: the most important Founding Father most people have never heard of

Over at Front Porch Republic, John Wilson has written a short article on why we should pay more attention to John Dickinson (1732-1808):  Our Lost Founders.  Dickinson, as Wilson points out, was an influential force prior to the Declaration of Independence, known not just in the colonies but by the England as well.  Once independence had been declared, Dickinson was active in the Continental Congress and as a result ended up writing the first draft of our nation's first Constitution, the Articles of Confederation. Wilson notes that if Dickinson had not had the misfortune to fall ill during the Constitutional Convention of 1787, he likely would have had a larger impact on our current Constitution than he had -- although as Wilson points out in an aside, he had plenty of influence as it was, both on the text of the Constitution and on its eventual ratification. Dickinson was also a committed abolitionist.  Unlike many of the Founders, like Jefferson and Madison, who spoke against slavery while enjoying the benefits of claiming to own human property, Dickinson took decisive personal steps against the institution of chattel slavery.  Not content to merely talk the talk like Jefferson and Madison, Dickinson freed his slaves long before it was fashionable to do so.  As Wilson points out, Dickinson freed his slaves because of his commitment to the principles of the American Revolution -- that the freedom sought by the Americans was incompatible with the institution of chattel slavery.  Dickinson prophetically announced that the refusal of the Framers of the Constitution to address the problem of slavery head-on would cause nothing but trouble for the Republic.  Because the slavery issue was not settled on the side of human freedom, as Wilson summarizes Dickinson's position, the Republic was inevitably going to "have to face the consequences of our lack of courage."  

Aside from his historical importance and principled opposition to slavery, Dickinson also stands as a model of a prudent statesman -- a model well in need of revival in our own times.  As Wilson writes:
Dickinson’s first draft of the Articles included provisions for an impost, which would have given the government an income, and subtle powers for the executive functions of the legislature that together would have made the convention of 1787 unnecessary.  He signed off on the Constitution because he was convinced that a combination of the equality of the states (the Senate was his contribution to that frightful summer) and the “power of the people” would restrain what Hamilton and others hoped would become an English-style government.  He also uttered the wisest and most prudent statement of the entire constitutional debate.  On August 13, 1787, he said, “Experience must be our only guide.  Reason may mislead us.” John Dickinson lived long enough to know how right he had been.  We need to learn which of our fathers to honor.  Dickinson stands for the right combination of limited government, local loyalties, principled freedom, and the rule of law that republican government requires to survive.  We write biographies of nationalists, and pay too little attention to the men who gave us our liberty.
That quote by Dickinson is one of my favorites short quotes by any of the Founders.  It is a testament to his prudent and small-c conservative approach to politics and constitutional order.  A salutary example for our modern age!

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Another Christian Nation Wacko

"There is, moreover, another enemy at home. That enemy is the mean and petty spirit that mocks at ideals, sneers at sacrifice and pretends the American people can live by bread alone. If the spirit of God is not in us, and if we will not prepare to give all that we are to preserve Christian civilization in our own land, we shall go to destruction."

Pat Robertson?

Franklin Graham? 

Ted Cruz?




smoky mountains

Franklin D. Roosevelt, at the Dedication Ceremony of Great Smoky Mountains National Park
September 2, 1940

In the 21st century, his party would call him some sort of religio-cultural ethno-nativist bigot.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Montesquieu on Transsexual Bathrooms

The Spirit of the Laws:

Book XIX.
Of Laws in Relation to the Principles Which Form the General Spirit, Morals, and Customs of a Nation

14. What are the natural Means of changing the Manners and Customs of a Nation. We have said that the laws were the particular and precise institutions of a legislator, and manners and customs the institutions of a nation in general. Hence it follows that when these manners and customs are to be changed, it ought not to be done by laws; this would have too much the air of tyranny: it would be better to change them by introducing other manners and other customs.

Thus when a prince would make great alterations in his kingdom, he should reform by law what is established by law, and change by custom what is settled by custom; for it is very bad policy to change by law what ought to be changed by custom.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Poxing both houses isn't principled – it's stupid

“If Donald Trump becomes the Republican nominee," said Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska in February, "my expectation is that I will look for some third candidate — a conservative option, a Constitutionalist.” He got thumped by his own state's convention yesterday.

Still, it's a widely shared sentiment, appearing in various forms on blogs and social media:

In a choice between two evils, better to give neither the absolution of a vote. 

If harm befalls us, better that our hands be clean and our conscience unblemished.

Political gains are not worth sacrificing one's principles.

And so on. But this level of sanctimony when it comes to political creed is not recommended even when it comes to religious creed. The Christian church in its early years, responding to the frequent martyrdom of believers in the Roman empire, held a council in the town of Elvira, Spain in 309 AD. Discussing those Christians killed for openly defying Roman gods, the council decided against martyrdom: "If someone smashes an idol and is then punished by death, he or she may not be placed in the list of martyrs, since such action is not sanctioned by the Scriptures or by the apostles." A believer is not a kamikaze; faith demands making an effort to avoid detection when necessary. Spitting on idols isn't martyrdom – it's stupidity. 

If even the early Church made room for prudence, surely the art of the possible can do without the sackcloth and ashes. It is not necessary for party and principle to be always aligned. The shoulder on the road is there for a reason. We can, with principle intact, continue laying firmly on the horn, going nowhere. Or we can hitch a ride with the bastard in the service lane throwing off dust and flipping the bird. Just maybe, the opportunity for safe and sensible travel awaits at the next exit, if only we can arrive there.

Principled conservatives like to blame their political fortunes on losing the culture. Trump offers a part of it back. It might not be pretty, but once you've got an audience you can tinker with the programming. Who knows, maybe they'll stay tuned in. And "history shows that it is no easy matter to excite a large people into any vigorous and continued opposition to the government they have been long habituated to respect and obey....The waves do not rise till the wind blows." No Republican since Reagan has stirred up as much wind for the GOP as Trump. Principle does not provide its own opportunity. And while opportunity sometimes knocks, it seldom nags. Spitting on Trump isn't principle it's stupidity.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Tom Paine, Infidel?

Thomas Paine published Age of Reason in 1794, advancing a decidedly unProvidential and therefore unChristian God---remote to the point of disconnectedness---and attacking the Bible as fable and fantasy. He received almost universal condemnation from the new American nation, including from Samuel Adams, erstwhile brewer, semi-"key Founder," and of course, cousin of the 2nd president.

Sam wrote to Paine in 1802:

"[W]hen I heard that you had turned your mind to a defense of infidelity, I felt myself much astonished and more grieved that you had attempted a measure so injurious to the feelings and so repugnant to the true interest of so great a part of the citizens of the United States."

How Paine tried to save the French Revolution from atheism and more over at American Creation

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The Demagogue-in-chief takes on the Flint Water Scandal

[BUMPED.  See LATE ADD below.]

How will he turn the failures of the Democrat Flint city council and his own Environmental Protection Agency against the Republicans, I wondered, for surely as the sun rose today, just as if you let go of a hammer on a planet that has a positive gravity and you need not see it fall to know that it has in fact fallen, Barack Obama would.
"And this is not the place to sort out every screw-up that resulted in contaminated water. But I do think there is a larger issue that we have to acknowledge, because I do think that part of what contributed to this crisis was a broader mindset, a bigger attitude, a corrosive attitude that exists in our politics and exists in too many levels of our government. (Applause.)
And it's a mindset that believes that less government is the highest good no matter what. It's a mindset that says environmental rules designed to keep your water clean or your air clean are optional, or not that important, or unnecessarily burden businesses or taxpayers. It's an ideology that undervalues the common good, says we're all on our own and what's in it for me, and how do I do well, but I'm not going to invest in what we need as a community. And, as a consequence, you end up seeing an underinvestment in the things that we all share that make us safe..."
Yes, it's certainly not the place to sort out how you and your party screwed up and poisoned your own voters. Nor will there ever be one, I expect. But it is the place to excoriate Republican straw men who dig poisoned water. And the mindset is that government must pay its bills. Well, let's rewind on that one. As David French argues,
Flint’s extraordinary government spending was the reason for its near-bankruptcy. A more than billion-dollar unfunded pension liability is not a sign of municipal frugality.
Instead of standing up and doing the right thing, the city council voted 7-1 to endanger their own water supply rather than risk the wrath of their political base, public employees. This is not a question of infrastructure, which is a one-time expense, it's the result of a system that perpetuated itself by buying votes and support with money to come from generations still not yet born. Unpayable pension obligations are not "investments," they are cynical political graft.

Moral: Never attribute to fiscal responsibility what can adequately be explained by political corruption.

Flint mayor diverted water-crisis money to political PAC, suit says

 The Borgias could do better.

Monday, May 09, 2016

What war on religious freedom?

This war on religious freedom. John Inazu is a law professor at Washington University in St. Louis and the author of the forthcoming book Confident Pluralism: Surviving and Thriving through Deep Difference, who writes over at The Hedgehog Review:
Merritt accuses conservatives of pursuing legislation to solve “nonexistent” problems. But not all problems manifest initially as lawsuits. When the Solicitor General of the United States tells the Supreme Court that tax-exempt status for private religious schools with traditional views about sexuality is “going to be an issue,” it doesn’t seem all that crazy that some of those schools would pursue protective legislation. When a United States congressman tells the president of a Christian college that he is going to do everything in his power to force the college to change its views, the threat does not seem “nonexistent.”
When dozens of public and private colleges and universities expel conservative Christian student groups from their campuses, when national columnists call for the end of tax-exemptions for churches and religious groups, and when California legislators propose a bill to strip funding from most conservative religious colleges and universities, I don’t think conservatives are wrong to be concerned. The bigotry narrative perpetuated by some progressives has a clear message for conservative religious schools, ministry organizations, and social services: Change your views or be shut out of society.

The Left's fight against religious liberty is very real and very dangerous. Religion is a source of authority and power outside the direct control of the State in most western societies, and for the Left, anything outside the direct control of the State is a very bad thing. The Left's hostility to religious liberty is ramping up even further. As a result it is reasonable for religious groups and their allies to pursue protective legislation to defend their rights to association, to worship and to participate in the public square.


The ACLU’s deadly anti-Catholic vendetta

Saturday, May 07, 2016

Thank You for Not Licking

"Even the smallest pleasures," writes Mark Steyn, "have to be earned."  Your standard issue top-twenty hit needs high civilization -- it takes some level of culinary arts, however base, to produce even "My Boy Lollipop" -- and enough affluence for artists to mooch on. But more than that, it takes a people with some sense of itself to inspire them to art-making, and a willingness to discriminate bad art from good. And it takes a foil -- an awareness of other peoples, with their own cultures, competing for resources -- to arouse a sense of urgency; for in Switzerland they had brotherly love, and 500 years of democracy and peace, and produced but the cuckoo clock.

This philosophy of a people is its humanities. Without the humanities, we share ever fewer of the smaller pleasures, until eventually we no longer agree on the big questions either. Today we don't even share a philosophy why "Baby, It's Cold Outside" is not good cause for civilizational annihilation, for fear of committing the sin of "othering," or "privilege" (we don't yet know, however, whether this unfortunate condition is genetic or environmental, but science is working on it). And that puts us at a disadvantage against peoples not lacking in cultural self-confidence. All the means in the world don't matter without the will. 

Even Phil Miller, the last man on earth, has to learn the value of the humanities. Mankind depends on humanities and biology -- a reason to carry on, and the means to do it. Having neither, Phil bathes in margarita mix and moves his bowels over the swimming pool. Because who cares. Without a philosophy, rules are arbitrary. The only reason to use a toilet instead of the end of a diving board is to impress the opposite sex. It takes a woman of faith to civilize the last man.

So don't get me started on Trump's l'affaire d'taco salad. As if our disgusting culture of eating had not been degraded enough by abominations such as the "catlike activity" of licking ice-cream cones, it reaches its apotheosis in the taco salad, served in, of all things, an edible bowl, as though to say to its servingware, "relax, I got this." A man who, having means, and surveying the vast bounty of mankind's culinary offerings, and yet selects a taco salad, cannot be trusted with mankind's achievements in the science of government. 

A people must have standards. If we do not draw the line at taco salads, what are we? 

#NeverTacoSalad. My hands are clean. 

Friday, May 06, 2016

Trump: America's Scut Farkus moment

Well, certainly in the coming months we're going to hear every chapter and verse of Donald Trump's, shall we say, spirited style of rhetoric.

“If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun," said Candidate Barack Obama.

And every other word out of Candidate Hillary's mouth is "fight."

Is Trump worse?  Yes.  But a lot of Americans just got sick of being punked by the likes of Hillary and Obama, of being called racists and sexists and bitter clingers, so Trump is the sound of them snapping.

You surely remember Scut Farkus, neighborhood bully. All lived in terror of him, trying to avoid even his notice, for if he spotted you walking by, you were doomed.

But one day, Ralphie had had just enough of being pushed around, y'know? Ralphie just snapped and took Scut Farkus out with a torrent of cussin' and cursin' and smashin' and flailin' until Scut was reduced to a bloody, sobbing mess who you knew would never ever ever menace Ralphie and the neighborhood again.

One of the finest and most cathartic scenes in American cinema history.  Voting for Trump must have felt something like that.

Like so many of us did when we were kids and you lived in perpetual torment from Johnny Rogers until that one day when you just went off on him and fortunately I had a fistful of nickels because I was chasing the ice cream truck and I just really let him have it and pummeled his mutt face over and over in what were the most gratifying moments in my life to finally be free and pay him back for all the years he made my life a living

Something like that.

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

ICBMs vs. Voting the Down Ticket

Many #NeverTrump voters insist that we must at least still vote. They say that voting the down ticket is still necessary and useful. But Trump proves that won’t work. After all, Ted Cruz was the quintessential down ticket vote for the last decade, and that down-ticket vote failed. But why did it fail? To understand this, we need only consider why the MAD American policy on nuclear ICBMs works, and understand where it can fail.

MAD—Mutually Assured Destruction—worked only to the extent that our missile shield didn’t. If the enemy launches 10,000 nuclear-tipped missiles, our shield had to be 100% effective. If it were any less effective, one missile would get through, and we couldn’t know which one it would be.

Now, the missile shield was useful, in the sense that it accomplished unilateral disarmament of the other side. That is, if our shield was 50% effective, then 50% of the opposition’s weapons were functionally neutralized: the shield reduced their effective throw-weight by 50%. But, ultimately, no one launched a nuclear war because we knew we couldn’t guarantee that all of the opposing force could be stopped. If only one nuke managed to hit a high-value target, we might easily see our entire strategic position unravel in front of our eyes.

When MAD fails

This year’s Republican presidential election demonstrates the problem in spades. Of the 17 candidates running, at least fourteen were down-ticket candidates. All of the down-ticket candidates lost. ALL OF THEM. LOST. One nuke got through, and the country will now go up in flames. That one missile got through because American citizens wanted it to get through.

It doesn't matter how many good down-ticket candidates are placed into office when no one is paying attention. When Americans do pay attention, they choose the nuke. they will nuke those down-ticket candidates. Constantly. Mercilessly. Until one of their nukes gets through. And one of their nukes will always get through. As soon as the public focuses its attention, the person in the down-ticket office dies or is neutralized (Kim Davis, this means you). When the nuke they deliver is the Presidency, as it was with Obama, as it will be with Trump/Hillary, we will watch our strategic position evaporate before our eyes.

Today, it is clear that Obama and the liberals have won the culture wars. Yes, he won. Yes, they won. Many people argue that since we survived eight years of Obama, we can survive another four or eight of Hillary or Trump. But this statement assumes a falsehood. We didn’t survive eight years of Obama. We died. I will say it again: Obama and the liberals won.

Let me explain.

What we were

We think of America as a single country, a mature entity, a rock-ribbed, unchanging reality. That isn’t true. America has been many different countries in the last 200 years.

At its founding in 1789, America was 90% agrarian in population. Dueling in the streets was legal, ordinary and expected. Slavery was legal in every state, states had religious tests for holding office, the tax burden was nearly non-existent. While we had mercantile tendencies, we were still essentially an honor-based society.

Fifty years later, (1830s) we were a different country. Half the states had outlawed slavery, dueling still happened, but was dying out, industrialization had begun, urban populations had already begun a century-long increase. There were still no federal taxes that directly affected the individual. Geographically, the nation had more than doubled in size, permanently changing our self-image.

Fifty years after (1880s), we were a different country again. Only 43% of the population was agrarian, but 15% were involved in the new industrial processes, mostly as small artisan shops on farms. The federal tax burden was increasing. 3.4% of the population now lived in cities over 1 million in size. The West was nearly completely settled, but Alaska had just been purchased. The last duel was fought in the streets of Fort Worth, TX (1887), slavery was gone, religious tests were gone, abortion was affirmatively outlawed, there was still almost no mandatory schools for children. Immigration from central Europe had caused a population spike.

Fifty years later, (1930s) we had changed again. Now we were a fully industrialized country, only 20% agrarian, while fully 20% was involved in manufacturing. All states required mandatory schooling for children, about 30% of the population graduated high school, and high schools had gun clubs, some with WWI-era machine guns to use on the high school rifle range. Abortion was a heinous crime against humanity. Dueling was outlawed everywhere, Massive immigration from the Mediterranean regions had caused an urban population explosion.

Today, we are 80% urban, perhaps 8.8% of the population are engaged in manufacturing, only 2.6% agrarian, producing more food and products than ever before in the history of the country. Abortion is now not only not a crime, but affirmatively a right and sometimes a social duty. The sale of the corpses of aborted children and their organs is tacitly accepted. Automation steadily eats away jobs in virtually every economic sector. Immigration from Central and South America is causing a population spike. Nibbling a pop-tart into the shape of a gun is grounds for expulsion. The national attention is focused on people who don't even know what sex they are or what bathroom they should use.

What we have become

This is the new America. May 3, 2016 marked a demarcation line, a sea-change. By choosing Hillary and the Donald as our nominees, we have broken the last bonds with an honor-based society, we have broken with being men and women of integrity. Trump and Hillary make no pretense of having honor, allow us to carry no illusion that they have integrity, or even that they have a policy that can be articulated. The country that elected Obama twice has now demonstrated that his election was no aberration. We will be ruled by increasingly narcissistic despots from here on out.

We have deliberately nominated two people who are proven and demonstrable liars, even supporters of rape (when it pays them). Yes, today you can laugh at a child who has been raped, you can call a convicted rapist a “real man”, and still gain the nomination to be President. We have nominated two people who boldly and nakedly pursue nothing but money, power and their own self-interest, celebrities who hold up, as examples, other celebrities who have successfully performed the ultimate acts of self-interest (rape and abortion).

Now, many of us have not surrendered our principles. Many of us refuse to support either of these nominees. But we are now clearly in the minority, and an extreme minority at that. In the past, Americans chose to be ruled by Christian principles, even if we did not always live by them. By nominating these two, the vast majority of Americans demonstrate they no longer wish their principles to be even nominally Christian. This current crop of Americans has successfully redefined the culture to the point where most are comfortable with naked narcissism. The country we once belonged to no longer exists.

America has once again changed, become a new country, and the Constitution is no longer fit to be our founding document. It is too good for us. We need a document fitted for the servile crudity that we have become. If you need further proof, contemplate this: Trump supporters say that he is the superior candidate because “nobody knows what Trump will do.” That is, Trump supporters argue that America-at-large has become the Democrat Congress it elected in 2008. That is, we have become a people who no longer debate issues, rather, we pass a bill, elect a President, in order to find out what is in it.

But even that is a lie. We know what Trump will do. We just comfort ourselves by telling ourselves this lie, pretending to ourselves that we are ignorant of what comes next. We know. We know what comes next.

What does it mean to be an American? With this last clearly defined change, this last clearly defined choice, we can look back at the last eight years and look forward to the coming eight years, perhaps even the span of a full generation, and we now clearly see what it means to be an American, as the Frenchmen of the Vendée looked towards 1789 Paris and saw what was coming. What it means is the Deluge. What it means is Obama, Bernie, Hillary and Trump. It means the narcissism of rape and child murder, celebrated every day. It means "the greatest happiness is to scatter your enemy, to drive him before you, to see his cities reduced to ashes, to see those who love him shrouded in tears, and to gather into your bosom his wives and daughters."

As a citizen of the Vendée might have said about France, so I am today sad to say, I am no longer an American. I am a man without a country. America was a great country while it lasted. I forlornly hope it doesn't kill too many others while it goes through its death throes.

As a country, America is finished.