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

Friday, February 29, 2008

Remembering A Memorable Man

When I heard that William F. Buckley Jr. had departed, I thought of this oft-quoted epigram from the Talmud: “The righteous need no monuments, their words provide their memories.” Beneath that burnished truism lies an unexamined premise; namely, that one can hardly lay claim to righteousness without leaving words to edify the public, words to treasure. Mister Buckley clearly bequeathed a rich legacy of words and his memory shall not lack for laurels, for garlands or for wreaths.
Like so many others, my political consciousness was firmed up under his tutelage. I began with his columns in the New York Daily News, then I read a number of his books. Whether he was winning me over, or confirming my own intuition, is worth pondering, but the outcome was undeniable: his camp was my camp.
Buckley was many things, some of which have died with him, but the modern conservative movement, much enhanced by his ministrations, will continue to edge its way forward, if a trifle attenuated by his absence. It has been argued, sometimes by Reagan himself, that Reagan could not have become President sans Buckley, but those larger causes and effects juggle too many variables to allow for definitive assertion. This much is indisputable: that the movement that Reagan led by mood, by a nod and a wink and a grin, by a gibe and a vibe and a shrug, Buckley and his protégés ensouled with words.
Yet, if one spark of inspiration must be gleaned from his fiery cascade of ideas, I would choose this very simple idea. The idea of naming the movement “conservatism”.
Even if conservative and movement are not deemed oxymoronic in their partnership, the title would have been absurd anyway, based on its formative context. Buckley’s very first book, God and Man at Yale, was published in 1952, and it is already quite clear that liberal political thought was the regnant orthodoxy of the public square, academia most of all. He demonstrates in that work the systematized, if not quite systematic, effort by faculty to stamp out religious consciousness from the impressionable mind of the Yale undergraduate.
The movement Buckley was encouraging was the furthest thing from conservative, if that adjective is construed as preservative of a status quo. Four decades before that time, Woodrow Wilson had declared the Constitution outmoded and irrelevant, and no one thought it worth a reference except as a fig leaf to cover the prurient. Franklin Roosevelt had certainly paid it no mind in fashioning a vision of modern governance. Buckley and friends were proposing a notion that was not so much conservative as restorative, irredentist if you will, revanchist if you must.
The genius inhered in the realization that the general conservative impulse of the Middle American family man, the kind that winced at sexualization of the culture, that grimaced at the glorification of violence, could be harnessed to support this Constitutionalist drive. The person who feels that the best parts of his sensibility are the ones that are least incendiary can be shown that it is the last residue of the wisdom of our Founders that is animating his better angels.
He used all the arguments for the Constitution that clergymen use for the Bible – and that the Bible uses for itself. It is the right thing to do, it actually works better, you owe it to previous generations, you owe it to future generations. He did a tight-rope walk between the argument that enlightened self-interest produces virtue and the argument that the citizen’s spirit of altruistic philanthropy is what entitles him to be the arbiter of his own compassion. He was by turns trenchant and piquant, cerebral and playful, but he never demanded obeisance by entitlement. He forbore to work for every logical point he scored.
What the future holds for this set of ideas seems to be in abeyance, by most accounts. This is at least partially because past victories have dulled the urgency of the revolution. Stop any Democrat at random and mention ninety percent tax rates under Roosevelt, and he will be completely shocked and astounded.
There was really nothing to conserve before Buckley came, save a yellowed document and a cracked bell. William F. Buckley Jr. lives no more, but he leaves behind a Constitution that is not ‘living’ but alive, and a bell that tolls for thee and thine freedom.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Nothing Human is Alien to Him

Barack Obama is enduring some ridicule for dressing up in a silly local costume while touring a foreign country:















Not the first time a Democratic presidential candidate looked like a mook while trying out the silly customs and dress of a strange people in an unfamiliar land:
















Mississippi, I think it was. Kentucky, mebbe.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Can Something Bad Happen and It's Nobody's Fault?

Not in America, it seems. You can always sue somebody, right?

But Riegel v. Medtronic is creating quite a stir in the legal industry.

Basically, the Supreme Court decided just the other day that those huge medical-device product liability suits cannot proceed if the FDA pre-approved the medical device.

In short, what we're seeing here is that the federal government, via what's commonly called the Interstate Commerce Clause [that's in the Constitution, for those who came in late], can short-circuit state laws and state lawsuits against corporations that do business nationally.

The interesting thing is that the decision was 7-1, Justice Breyer mugwumping and only Justice Ginsburg dissenting, on grounds that states have compelling interests, etc., etc.

Now, I'm a Fred Thompson federalist---power devolved to the states---but it seems that the ICC is totally applicable here, and the best thing is that it's not another chafing, apparently partisan-ideological 5-4 decision.


Even the Supreme Court can largely agree on what the Constitution means every once in awhile. Thank God and may He continue to bless This Here Republic.


Next up: lawsuits on pharmaceuticals---Warner-Lambert v. Kent, and more here. The powerful plaintiff's bar---which at the top levels makes far more money than those grunts who defend corporations---is in quite a tizzy, running out of people to sue.

A fair reading of the constitution beats even "tort reform" anyday.

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Friday, February 08, 2008

Homnick on Darwin and Genesis

Even the greatest walking encyclopedia of the King James Version of the Bible can't begin to penetrate the mysteries of the Book of Genesis without being grounded in Judaism, and more precisely, the rabbinic tradition.

Hereabouts, we're lucky to have a fellow who is---Jay D. Homnick. Christians and atheists, creationists and Darwinians alike need to understand the Torah as it understands itself before they start spouting off about it.

Jay's essay on what Genesis really means to those who wrote it should open a lot of eyes and ears about "what the Bible says." Translating it into English---and reading that translation 400 years later---frustrates any search for truth.

Homnick's most interesting points are that The Creator doesn't go poof!, here's the world. The Seven [well, Six Working] Days of Creation show a process, and each succeeding life form [evolution?] comes from the existing material on God's Good Earth and is not plunked down ex nihilo at every stage. Life lives, grows, is fruitful and multiplies. It's permitted to find its own course, to grow and differentiate, from the trees to the grasses.

There's more there than one can do justice to with a brief tout. Read it. All I can say is that the great Jewish medieval Maimonides [b. 1138], when introduced to Aristotle and the wisdom of the Greeks (while living in Muslim Spain!) was a reasonable man.

{{{Jay D. Homnick [artist's conception]

He [Maimonides, not Homnick] wrote that if Aristotle were proven right, he'd accept the Greek view that the universe was eternal, always had been and always will be. Seemed reasonable, but in the meantime, he'd hold onto an idea, the idea, of Creation as set forth in his scriptures.

Good call, Moses Maimonides, משה בן מימון I mean, أبو عمران موسى بن ميمون بن عبد الل القرطبي الإسرائيلي. [Moshe ben Maimon, AKA Abu Imran Mussa bin Maimun ibn Abdallah al-Qurtubi al-Israili.]

Big bang. Heavens. Earth. Life. Man comes in at the end. After nearly 1000 generations of squalor, God says hello to Abraham. Read the Homnick, already, it's all there.

Ex-nun Karen Armstrong wrote a popular book called "A History of God," where man comes first and starts developing his notion of God. The Bible, in contrast, is a History of Man, told in first-person perspective---not merely an autobiography but a diary, and we see him grow in his understanding of himself and his God day by day and chapter by chapter.

That he gets many of the essential details about his origins right from the very very first, topping even the most reasonable of men in their time and for over 1000 years, the ancient Greeks, suggests to Mr. Homnick---and perhaps us all---that man's autobiography has an omniscient point of view that could only originate from Divine Inspiration.

The genesis of Genesis, if you will.

Well done and thank you, Jay. More, more!


Jay D. Homnick, most recent sketch [Courtesy: FBI]

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Idea of a Genesis

Permit me to strongly recommend my article on the Jewish understanding of Genesis, and how that reflects upon evolution and related issues. After years of reading Jewish articles on the subject, I decided to write up a basic presentation of the main building blocks in the Talmudic/Midrashic system. The others never seemed to marshal the material in a coherent way. Hopefully I will succeed in achieving that goal.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

A Great Day for the GOP

Mitt Romney dropped out, and so, he must surrender our newsticker over there on the right margin>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>.

Mitt, we hardly knew ye, but that was your fault, not ours. I wasn't the only one who noticed Mitt gave his best, most impassioned, and sincere speech of the campaign, betraying a love for America and the American ideal, and revealing that he's not made of printed circuits after all.

[Well, not entirely, anyway, although if he were hit by a stray round or a falling girder and revealed as a cyborg, it wouldn't surprise me.]

Mitt did well, and if he'd said "I'll be back" in an Austrian accent, that wouldn't have surprised me either. We're all brought up to think we should want to be president, but the reality's more than a little scary, and I think Rudy and Fred permitted overcomeable reverses to chase them off, too.

Alan Greenspan said of the seven presidents he's known, only Gerald Ford wasn't weird, and of course, Ford backed into it.

But I think Mitt's just weird enough to give it another go. Which leads us to John Insane [McInsane?]:

He gave an ace speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference, which had just been stunned by Romney announcing his withdrawal from the race. The new Republican standard-bearer, perhaps a 7 on the conservative scale, and has done it despite all the force 10s of talk radio [the toy store]. Republicans, being temperate and reasonable people, sorted out their differences with him immediately, cheering him on many points, and McCain while healing his rift with the hard-core, was already appealing to independents and "Reagan Democrats" as well.

So, after Super Tuesday confirmed the writing that was already on the wall, the GOP took all of about about 36 hours to achieve consensus.

As for where the Reagan Democrats may or may not have gone home, it could be months before anything coherent emerges. Things being what they are over there, we could inaugurate a president in 2009 and still have a court case pending about who the rightful nominee was.

It's hard to take that party's EEG right now since Hillary's a 9 and Obama's a 9 1/2 if not a perfect 10. There is little to disagree about---therefore little for the hard core to get exercised about---but the papers tell me there still could be a war for months to come, as the "superdelegates," who aren't selected in the primaries, represent 20% of the total at the convention.

I was of the opinion that Obama has risen like a tsunami, but political genius Karl Rove just said that Obama's best demographic days will be behind him after the end of February. Decisive African American majorities, and caucuses, where he does extremely well as they are attended largely by the hard core.

We shall see. Me, I like Obama too, and was at one of his rallies the other night. [Don't ask.]

I must admit I was unnerved by a messianic current [We'll change not only the nation, but the world!] that would have been out of place even at a Huckabee do, although I appreciated that they vilified neither Hillary nor the Current Occupant, except in nod-nod wink-wink code.

But since I speak Democrat as well as Republican, I understood---so well in fact, that I "passed" as one of Them. Even got a t-shirt: He's Black and I'm Proud!

McCain? I dunno. We're Lukewarm, But He's Hot!

Anyway, he, and we, had a helluva day.

Monday, February 04, 2008

It's McCain For Me

I let it go to the wire, even wasting 50 bucks on Fred Thompson's prom dress [he stayed home], but it's decision time here in California. The general election, especially if Obama's the Dem nominee, will be fought at the 8th-grade level. Hope. Inspiration. Youth. Energy. Nobody's going to hear a word about policy positions.

Mitt Romney's just too mooky---like Al Gore and John Kerry, who probably both should have smoked the weaker/vulnerable Dubya, let's face it.

Favorable ratings among even Republicans give McCain the edge 72-54. How is a guy with favorable ratings of only 54 in his own party gonna win the general? Sorry, Mitt. We can't nominate Urkel, even if he's rich.

So let's get real. John McCain is a war hero, and unlike Barack Obama, who follows almost every liberal dot [95% rating from Americans for Democratic Reform], is his own man. The GOP's only hope is that PJ O'Rourke is right, and that age and guile beat youth, innocence, and a bad haircut. Although Obama even has him on the haircut.

John McCain for President: We Could Do Worse.

Obama Solves His Latino Problem

Barack Obama's good, real good. He found the only way out of his conundrum [see post below]: the cure for identity politics is more identity politics. If there's a problem between Us and Them, find another Them to scapegoat.

On Friday, he sent demagogue extraordinaire Ted Kennedy out to California for a little race-baiting: anyone who thinks you can't wave a magic wand on illegal immigration simply by making everyone legal is a "bigot," the same as those who opposed the civil rights acts of 1964 and 1965. The problem isn't Us, it's Them, that other Them.

Obama, being far slicker, today noted that "They" hated the Ellis Island immigrants back in the day, anti-Irish, anti-Italian. Obama also noted that not all the Ellis Island folks had their papers, a "fact" he simply made up to square the circle with today's Hispanic illegal immigrants.

But what technique, showing Teddy for the piker he is: Obama narrowed "Them" down to the nativist Mayflower crowd of a century or more ago, who are dead and don't vote, not even in Chicago.

No wonder he's erased Hillary Clinton's lead in the polls here in California with the bat of an eye, a nod and a wink, and marches on to the nomination.

Dang. He's good, real good.