Saturday, June 02, 2007

Declaration of Principles

(Since the subject has been tradition lately, please permit a recap of the tradition of this particular URL:

The original Reform Club, (pictured on the sidebar to the right) was conceived as a place where worthy gentlepersons of all persuasions could convene in the spirit of inquiry into the human condition, and exchange their views before a wider audience, for the benefit and edification of all.

This blog,, is the successor to that tradition and to The Reform Club blog, founded by ST Karnick and Hunter Baker (see links to them on the sidebar at right as well).

A reposting of the below was requested by a certain Dr. Watson, and the request is timely. Here it is with minor updating:

(L to R) George Bernard Shaw, Hilaire Belloc, GK Chesterton, 1928.

It will not do to paper over the fundamentals.

Every society reaches a point where it must examine its principles and choose whether to recommit to them or toss 'em out for new ones. Although it gets clearer every day that Western Civilization has reached that point, the question of the Crisis of the West was brought into exquisite focus nearly 100 years ago by a group of British gentlemen who called themselves The Reform Club.

Orthodoxy or modernity? That's the tension lying behind almost every issue of our times, and to recognize that is the first step to understanding not only our times, but our society, our own lives, and the human condition.

Current events are a logical starting point, because we share some commonality with the particulars. But to seek genuine understanding, they must only be our starting point. To duplicate the babble (perhaps the most deeply rooted etymology in the English language: the Tower of Babel, where no one is intelligible to the other) that passes for intelligent discussion elsewhere and everywhere is insufficient to the purpose of this blog, which like that club of visionaries in the past century is dedicated to the search for foundational, not ephemeral, truths.

In 1928, the orthodox GK Chesterton debated his existential enemy, the modernist George Bernard Shaw (with Catholic radical Hilaire Belloc as moderator), on how a society should order itself economically. The transcript can be found here, and reading it is good for the soul.

The discussion was playfully and wisely entitled "Do We Agree?" To understand what they were after, presenting unique and foundational views peppered with not a little bit of wit, is to understand our aspirations for this blog.

To parrot the prevailing arguments from elsewhere serves no purpose: it's a waste of time and cyberink. We must do our homework on what's already been said elsewhere---especially on the side opposite our own---commencing with an understanding of Square One so we can move together toward Square Two.

Square Two (in the least) is our goal, if this blog is to be more than a pale copy of the rest of the internet. Quality over quantity, inquiry over debate, original voices over echo chambers.

This blog recommits itself to its principles, and that is non-negotiable. We will not and cannot gear ourselves to the lowest common denominator. It's for others to preach to the masses: Like the original Reform Club, we shall preach to those who themselves preach to the masses---to arm them not so much with answers, but with the proper fundamental questions that must be asked again and again.

The rest of our principles we shall leave open to examination, as honest inquirers and seekers of truth are honor-bound to do. We leave the doors of our modest club open to those of like mind and spirit, and rely on them to help us preserve what we are, and to help us toward what we aspire to be.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Thompson in the Race

For those of us who consider ourselves social conservatives, Rudy Giuliani’s frontrunner status for the presidential nomination is problematic. As the mainstream media and liberal pundits have been doing for months, they play up the problem this presents to the conservative coalition, and not without a certain amount of glee. They would like to think that this somehow represents some permanent rent in the fabric of the coalition that has dominated Republican politics since Reagan.

They are of course wrong, because where else would conservatives of any stripe go? The Democrat Party? That’s funny. A Third Party? A perfect recipe for irrelevance. Sit out and let Democrats win? Hardly a solution that will show the Republican Party they mean business. Be assured that if Giuliani does get the nomination some, maybe many, will sit out the election. This is what is known as sacrificing the better for the best. How anyone could imagine that Hillary Clinton would be a better choice than Giuliani is beside me.

Of course they wouldn’t actually think that. Rather it would be a “to hell with the Republican Party” move. That’s great. We get Hillary and a Democrat Congress and Senate. This would certainly show the Republican Party that alienating social conservatives is not a good move, but it would be too big a price to pay for proving a point. I would rather put my chips on Giuliani knowing that the acceptance of his social liberalism is an aberration due to our war on Islamic radicalism.

But it looks like we may have another option very soon. Fred Thompson made it known on Monday that he is going to be a candidate for the nomination. I would say that many social conservatives are very happy this will be the case. This gives us another option for a candidate who looks and sounds presidential and who is a solid conservative.

It is going to be very interesting how Thompson plays Giuliani’s social liberalism, whether he attacks it, ignores it or takes pot shots here and there. Social conservatives will be closely attuned to how he handles this. My guess is that he will make the argument against Rudy by playing up his own socially conservative bone fides, with maybe a pot shot here and there. I would further guess, that if Thompson plays his cards right Giuliani is in trouble. His 9/11 credentials are formidable and impressive, as is his standing up to liberal interest groups while he was governor. Yet his social liberalism is a huge liability in Republican primaries. Thompson brings none of the liabilities of McCain or Romney and as many or more strengths. Things are going to get very interesting.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Hippies Haight Homeless

True story.

The Summer of Love hits its 40th birthday this year and is getting damned cranky. Ex-hippies have bought into the bohemian enclave of San Francisco's legendary Haight-Ashbury district, at a cool million plus a pop for a modest Victorian. Unfortunately, "gutter punks," the addled and addicted spawn of the 60s, are taking all the cache out of being underwashed, unemployed and unsheltered.

"I'm sick of stepping over gangs of kids, only to be told 'Die, yuppie!' A lot of us were flower children, but we grew up," said Robert Shadoian, 58, a retired family therapist. "There are responsibilities in this world you have to meet. You can't be drugged out 24/7 and expect the world to take care of you."

It's a beautiful thing, karma. The reporter notes that "one ex-hippie who returns frequently for its bohemian vibe said he makes a point to hand out cash to panhandlers:"

This used to be a place where kids could come to reinvent themselves, 'Like a rolling stone, like a complete unknown, no direction home.'

Now the Haight is a grittier, less forgiving reality. But these are still our kids. You don't help them by deporting them. You do it right in your own neighborhood. If any place can do this, it's Haight-Ashbury.---Peter Coyote

Mr. Coyote lives across the bridge, in Mill Valley.