Saturday, December 31, 2011

2012: A "Happy" New Year, or The Same As It Ever Was?

I was mulling over a few ideas for either an end-of-year "Auld Lang Syne" post or a "Happy New Year" one when I fell upon these three pieces appearing in NRO at the same time

First, for some wry commentary about the "phoniness" of 2011, enjoy Jonah Goldberg's recollections here:  "2011: You Can't Win for Losing".

Next, for dry witticisms about our penchant for denying the same, try Mark Steyn's "Happy New Year?"

Flowing from the pens of Goldberg and Steyn, both pieces are reliably amusing. But in this instance, they're a bit depressing as well.

So, finally, for an important call to action of sorts, turn then to Charles Krauthammer's "Are We Alone in the Universe?" 

At the end of an otherwise sobering article, Krauthammer digresses with this:
Rather than despair, however, let’s put the most hopeful face on the cosmic silence and on humanity’s own short, already baleful history with its new Promethean powers: Intelligence is a capacity so godlike, so protean that it must be contained and disciplined. This is the work of politics — understood as the ordering of society and the regulation of power to permit human flourishing while simultaneously restraining the most Hobbesian human instincts. 
There could be no greater irony: For all the sublimity of art, physics, music, mathematics, and other manifestations of human genius, everything depends on the mundane, frustrating, often debased vocation known as politics (and its most exacting subspecialty — statecraft). Because if we don’t get politics right, everything else risks extinction. 
We grow justly weary of our politics. But we must remember this: Politics — in all its grubby, grasping, corrupt, contemptible manifestations — is sovereign in human affairs. Everything ultimately rests upon it. 
Fairly or not, politics is the driver of history. It will determine whether we will live long enough to be heard one day. Out there. By them, the few — the only — who got it right.
You're probably familiar with the old adage, usually attributed to Edmund Burke, that "all that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing."  I have a theory that the good men of America, the best men, are only very rarely motivated to become actively engaged in politics.  When our society is functioning properly, that is, when it's operating according to the original plan, the stuff that makes for day-to-day politics is for the most part minimized and marginalized.  During such times, good men and women are preoccupied with minding their own business, i.e., making a buck, inventing a better mouse trap, raising a family, volunteering to coach Little League or lead a Girl Scout Troop, etc.  It's only when confronted with genuine crises that such people are roused to action.  Regrettably, we now live in a time of genuine crises and all that is necessary for evil to triumph is, well, you know the rest.

Therefore, good men and women of America, if you're not already politically involved, in 2012 resolve to become so.  At the very least, resolve to encourage, to press even, the good men and women whom you know to become so.  The normally "silent majority" of good Americans has not yet been heard.  When they finally are, I remain confident that things will change...and for the better.

Happy New Year everyone!  

Friday, December 30, 2011

Cracking Up

Health authorities in Vancouver, British Columbia have introduced the distribution of free (i.e., tax payer funded) crack cocaine pipes in their determination to improve their city's public health.  This latest health-care initiative, a product of the most advanced progressive thought, joins ongoing efforts that already include the distribution of "free" hypodermic syringes and "free" condoms in cities across both Canada and the US.

Above and Beyond

Or should that be aloof and remote?  The New York Time's Helene Cooper profiles President Obama's apparent distaste for the "glad-handing, ego-stroking" aspects of the political art and while her piece is clearly sympathetic, she does point out the potential costs to a politician who eschews politics.

I argue about this often with my wife and with many friends as well, but I actually think I could like Barack Obama personally, the un-Bill Clinton, if it weren't for his unalloyed Leftism.  At the risk of indicting myself for the same crime, Obama doesn't like playing politics for the same reason I don't:  He knows he's right and he knows you're wrong.

As it happens, my positions are consistent with the Founding, with maximal liberty, with keeping alive the distinction between the personal and the political, and are buttressed by a mountain of empirical evidence about delivering the goods the Left can never, ever, hope to match.  His positions are the exact opposite in each particular and as for supporting evidence, well, there's little to none. 

Charge each of us with arrogance if you like, but who would you rather trust? The guy who wants your liberty along with your property or the guy who doesn't?  

Friday, December 23, 2011

Giving Thanks for the Incarnation

My last post was a little heavy for the Christmas season.  Probably should have saved it for the New Year, an encouragement to a resolution of sorts.

Anyway, like many of you I'm on my way home just now, full of anticipation over the repatriation of my children, eager to enjoy their company along with that of my larger family in the days to follow.  I am truly blessed and truly thankful for it.

So blessed and thankful and eager for it in fact, that I fear this Christmas Day may pass as so many others have without my considering seriously, as they say, the reason for the season, the Incarnation of the Holy One.

I don't know abou you, but as a Christian, I've always thought the doctrine of the Trinity, as difficult as it is to grasp, intellectual child's play when compared to that of the Incarnation.  That the Messiah, the Christ, the long-awaited Savior could be, as the church testifies, fully man and fully God, is beyond comprehension.  In fact, if you are not a believer, I suspect it smacks of certifiable nonsense.

But if you are a believer, it not so much makes sense as it is received, like a gift, like the very gift it is described as in the scriptures:  "For God so loved the world, that he gave..."

If we can never unwrap the mystery of the Incarnation, may we at least unwrap anew the gift that it is this Christmas morning and for it pause to praise the God from Whom all blessings flow.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Vicarious Victimhood

Robert Zaretsky, a professor of history, has forsworn his former role as a "Holocaust expert" and in this piece he explains why.  He writes that, as a Jew, it appealed to his sense of  "self-dramatization":
It appealed to me for all sorts of awful reasons. First of all, it satisfied my desire as an acculturated and agnostic Jew for identification with the religion of my ancestors. In his intellectual memoir, The Imaginary Jew, Alain Finkielkraut, born after World War II and ignorant of anti-Semitism, described how he happily shouldered the Holocaust as a cheap yet effective form of self-identity in France, one that carried all of the metaphysical weight with none of the historical experience. Finkielkraut wrote that, thanks to the all too real tragedy of the war, he eagerly assumes the heroic leading role in his own make-believe tragedy. “The interminable list of all of these deaths,” he noted, “was my passport to nobility.”
Vicarious victimhood as a "passport to nobility."

I'm afraid this describes far too accurately much of Western culture for the past 50 years or so.  Oh to be a person of color, any color, to be a woman, to be disabled, to be a Jew, to be successfully associated with any identifiable minority.

And before you think me a bigot, please note that able-bodied white males are not free from this temptation.  My father used to joke about how every big-time country singer would wax about being reared in a log cabin, now a trailer.  Or consider for a moment how many of our politicians strive to strike an up-from-something, up-from-anything pose even if they actually come from, and obviously so, privilege.

What does it get you?  Well, in the first instance, it's an effective shield against serious criticism of any kind.  But it's also a weapon, a trump card one can play in order to win whatever is at stake in any game one is playing.  Or worse, it's a bludgeon one can wield to harm another unjustly.

Those aspects of vicarious victimhood are bad enough, but it's as a "passport to nobility" that it is most twisted.  Why?  Because it does not, because it cannot deliver.

If an under-nourished soul of nobility is present, it always ends where it ended for Professor Zaretsy:  "Dissolution", as he titles his piece.  But if such a soul is not present, it feeds instead many if not all of the pathologies that currently afflict our culture.  

Thursday, December 22, 2011

No Mas! No Mas!

As the politics of the issue were increasingly on the Democrats' side, Speaker Boehner and the House Republicans, after a stubborn, what, one-week struggle, were finally forced to wave the white flag and agree to the two-month extension of the payroll tax cut previously agreed upon in the Senate and insisted upon by the Obama White House.  (Just in case you didn't catch it, that was sarcasm.)

At this point, the details of this issue matter not at all.  What matters is this:  Why pick a battle you don't intend to fight?  Not win necessarily, or probably, or even potentially, but just fight?

The issue is fast becoming the competence of the GOP congressional leadership...and it should.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

"The poor you will have with you always"

Thus saith the Lord, and the American Left, in the name of eradicating it, ironically, wants to make damn sure it remains so forever.

And what, exactly, do we mean by "poor" in America today?  As has often been pointed out, obesity has come to be one of its surest signs.  So, to use in this country the word "poor", as in material poverty, is an insult to genuinely poor people across the globe.  Actually, the poor of whom the Left are referring are the politically poor, that is, those who have less than others and can therby be used for and to political purpose and advantage.

That purpose is of course to discredit the legacy of this great country, along with those who want to conserve that legacy, a legacy of liberty and opportunity.  Their lastest strategem toward this end is to highlight rising income inequality.  But, as the Washington Post's Charles Lane points out, their view of it is "simplistic."  He invokes the work of an otherwise obscure economist, Arthur Okun, who while sympathetic to their goal of eliminating poverty, also understood something about the effort they seem unable, or unwilling to grasp:
Okun saw free markets as a source of unparalleled human progress — and of big gaps between rich and poor. Indeed, he argued, markets are efficient partly because they distribute economic rewards unevenly. Government should try to smooth out income stratification, but such efforts risk undermining incentives to work and invest.  
Hence the “big trade-off”: channeling income from rich to poor, Okun wrote, was like trying to carry water in a leaky bucket. He wanted to move money from rich to poor without “leaking” so much economic growth that the whole process became self-defeating.
I, for one, don't think the Left's nor the Obama Administration's view is simplistic at all.  They know exactly what they are trying to do.  Radical equality is their Great White Whale and they do not care if, like Captain Ahab, they and the country along with them sinks in the mad pursuit.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

To Endorse or Not?, cont.

Andrew McCarthy was also surprised by National Review's anti-endorsement of Newt Gingrich and can give you more than one good reason why they shouldn't have done so.

By the way, I admire the editors of NR for allowing him to have his say.  He doesn't pull any punches.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Christopher Hitchens, R.I.P.

While I expected this, doomed with cancer as he was, I found I was surprised nonetheless.  Maybe because he was closer to my own age than I thought.  (He was 62, I'm 54.)  A man I never knew nor even met, what captivated me, what I admired, what I envied about Christopher Hitchens was his facility with the English language, both written and spoken.  The only other person to have a similar effect on me was William F. Buckley, Jr., and I was similarly saddened when he passed away almost four years ago.  (I'm heartened, literally, that my son finds WFB, Jr., through video on the Internet, as captivating as I did.) 

I won't try to improve--because I'm not capable--on the numerous memorials already penned and published by so many from both the political left and right. (please see   I will only say that I will miss him.  R.I.P.

The "Quarter-life Crisis"

I like the phrase.  Don't mistake it for the "mid-life crisis", only earlier.  The classic mid-life crisis comes in one's 40s or 50s and is about wearying of the duties of adulthood, of wishing life had been different, of sometimes acting on that wish, of acting foolishly and irresponsibly.  The quarter-life crisis, by contrast, is about never shouldering the duties of adulthood in the first place. 

The phrase works for me, first, because it captures something timeless about human nature.  As David Bass, its coiner, reminds us at the beginning of the piece: "Never underestimate the human proclivity for wanting more, and wanting it for free."  Truer words could not be written.  It also works because, consistent with those words, it describes something unique about our age, at least our age in the West, that is, not only the presence of, but the encouragement toward and even celebration of perpetual adolescence.  It's now OK to want more and to want it for free.

It begins as early as age 12 and ends, well, maybe never.  Like the mid-life crisis, it affects men chiefly and then women through men.  And it has consequences for our society, most of'em bad.  

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Time Is On My Side

Time magazine, that is, and it's on your side if you're a deadbeat "Occupier."

I honestly can't remember the last time I thumbed through a copy of Time, but apropos of my  earlier post about a misleading USA Today headline and story, Andrew Cline rightly takes to ask the once famous but quickly fading weekly for the absurd cover story in its annual Person of the Year edition.  This year it's "The Protester".  Here's the money quote, but do read the whole piece.
It is the willful attempt to replace reality with a fiction that the reader will then believe, causing him to act contrary to his own interests and the interests of others. And it is all done in the name of the people. So remember, the next time a protester shuts down your favorite café, loots your store, or joins with his buddies to halt trade and cost workers millions of dollars in lost wages, he's just raising his fist in solidarity with the freedom fighters risking their lives for the right to self-determination halfway around the globe. He is they, and they are him. Or something.

To Endorse or Not?

This morning the editors of National Review came out against the candidacy of Newt Gingrich.  I have to admit their anti-endorsement of the former Speaker surprised me, and concerned me as well, more than a bit.

I should say first that of all the political punditry I follow, I trust National Review (NR) more than any other.  I look to them for cues and when they announce for or against a particular policy or person in as foursquare a fashion as they did in this case, I must admit, it gets my attention.

Second, do not mistake my concern about NR's position for a back-handed endorsement on my part of Newt Gingrich.  I maintain some very real concerns about him as our president as well.  But then, I do as well about each of the other candidates in the GOP field.  Even before this winnowing process began, I decided I would deliberately withhold final judgment about each of them.  To this point, I still haven't made up my mind.  To state the obvious, they all bring strengths and weaknesses to their individual candidacies.  But, and this is very important to remember, any of them would be better than the current White House occupant.

Which leads me to my worry which is that with respect to this year's slate of GOP presidential contenders, NR, along with many other similar conservative outlets, is in danger of confusing ideology, capability, character, and temperament.  In the case of Newt Gingrich, they may in fact have conflated all four.

Maybe NR's editors find him seriously lacking in each category.  But what I think more likely is that they've allowed his somewhat mercurial temperament to overshadow their judgment about the other qualifiers.

In any case, I think also that perhaps they've fallen victim, like most of us are apt to do, of allowing the elite liberal media to set the agenda and establish the criteria by which we select acceptable candidates.  No matter what, and I can't say this loud enough or long enough, if we could nominate George Washington himself as our standard bearer, they would still make him and his idiosyncrasies the issue and not Barack Obama and his failed policies.  (I can almost hear it, "Are we ready for a president with false teeth?")

We must resist this temptation and even remain somewhat self-conscious in our resistance.  Regrettably, such is their power and our weakness.

So, my advice is to stand back and let'em fight it out. May the best, not the perfect, man win.   

Here's How It's Done

Front page headline and story in today's USA Today: "Obama Proposes Overtime Initiative"

OK, before we get to the details remember, this story is on the front page of the paper, above the fold, where the reader is supposed to be able to assume at least something like honest and objective news reporting, not agenda setting or editorializing.

Now, the details from the piece:  It seems the Obama Administration's initiative is to make home care workers, that is, "companions for the elderly and people with disabilities", qualify for federal wage and overtime protections.  As we know, the nation's over-65 population is growing quickly and therefore the need for this type of care is increasing commensurately.  While most of these workers already make above the minimum hourly wage, they still only average somewhere between $17,000 - $20,000 per year, which is below the official poverty line and thereby qualifies them for some form of public assistance.  About 40% rely on benefits like Medicaid and food stamps.  More than 90% of them are women and almost 50% of those are minorities.  The current exemption from federal protection began in 1974.  Clinton tried to change the law by lifting the exemption as well, but George Bush reversed his efforts.

Save for a brief comment from the vice president of the National Association for Home Care and Hospice which opposes the change in the law because it will lead to higher costs, no further analysis is offered.  The reasons for the exemption in the first place are not highlighted, nor those for Bush's reversal of Clinton's efforts.

At best this is sloppy reporting.  But it's more than that and we know it.

Without expending any effort at all on tediously and laboriously chasing down facts, with no more than just pausing and thinking about it for a couple minutes, I came up with this list of questions and qualifiers that had they been addressed, the story would have been much better, if not to say more honest:

One, are words like "poverty", "women", and "minorities" employed to tug at our heart strings and encourage a sense of guilt?

Two, is, as I suspect it is, this for the most part relatively unskilled labor, or at least labor that is quickly and cheaply trained, which would explain why the hourly wages are relatively low?

Three, is this for many of the workers an entry-level job as well?  That is, as they are able, as their experience grows and as their talent, coupled with hard work, allows, can we expect a good portion of them to move onward and upward?  Do we want to deny them this opportunity by making their labor more expensive, too expensive to hire in the first place?

Four, could it be that the annual wage is low because for most of the workers it's a part time job, and one they wish to keep part time?  As the lion's share of the workers are female, the job is likely a supplement to a family income that includes their husband's which combined is well above the official poverty line.  (I'm switching from posing questions to making statements.  Got tired of phrasing it the other way because I'm pretty sure I know the answer.)

Five, insofar as they qualify for or receive public benefits like Medicaid and food stamps, they actually make more than their salaries alone would indicate.  Money you don't have to spend on health care and food is money that remains in your pocket.  That is, they are already being taken care of by the rest of us.

Six, removing the exemption will by definition raise the cost of the care which will, because it has to, be passed on to the consumer.

Seven, the consumers, i.e., the elderly and infirm (a heart string that was conveniently not played in the piece), who for the most part subside on fixed incomes themselves, will find affording the care more and more difficult, if not impossible. 

Eight, or, if it is still possible, it will be because a "black market" in home care work will develop, a market that, by definition, is unregulated altogether, save by the market itself. (Which, frankly, is regulation enough for me.)

Nine, a black market will encourage even more illegal immigration in order to supply the workers who will do the work Americans, in this case, if the exemption is lifted, cannot do.  If you're going to go around the law, you may as well go all the way around it.

Ten, if it still remains impossible because it's unaffordable, it will drive more and more people to support and even demand government-provided home that free government-provided home care, which is the way the Democrats will sell it, and thereby purchase more votes as well.
Eleven, now that I think about it, that last point is really the whole point, ain't it?

It took me more time to type this than it did to think it up.  (But then I'm a slow typer, two-fingered, hunt-and-pecker.  No lame jokes, please.)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

It's All Part of the Agenda

I couldn't help but shake my head the other day when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke forcefully for the advancement of homosexual rights worldwide.  In her speech before UN delegates assembled in Geneva to mark International Human Rights Day, she said that "Some suggest that gay rights and human rights are separate and distinct, but in fact they are one and the same."

As I say, I shook my head, but I wasn't surprised.  Let me put it this way: Can you imagine Secretary Clinton or anyone from this Administration making a similar case at the same forum for the advancement of the right to religious liberty, especially Christian religious liberty?  For heaven's sake, in the name of multiculti sensitivity these people tip toe around everything that might even possibly be offensive to anyone, save, of course, a conservative American.

Anyway, I came across these two short paragraphs by S.M. Hutchens in the latest issue of Touchstone magazine.  As its subtitle says, it's "A Journal of Mere Christianity" and I highly recommend it.  (I think I've mentioned it here before.)  I'll let Hutchens' comments serve as a response of a kind to Secretary Clinton, as well as a warning to the rest of us:
What assertive homosexuality wants of Christianity is something it can never have.  The movement for rights it claims have been denied by traditionalist societies is not the deepest part of its quest, which is for approval by those who regard it as sinful--which is at root approval by God.  It cannot place high value on the approbation of "welcoming" churches, for it understands perfectly well that liberal religion, with its vaunted inclusivism, has no more moral authority to gratify it in this regard than a prostitute has to absolve her patrons.  So the public homosexual is in the impossible situation of seeking approval in places where he can only find forgiveness, among those who are obliged to tell him, "It is written...." 
This insistence fixes him in frustration and anger against those who hold to biblical religion, and may be relied upon to assure development of justifications for the punishment of the illiberal religious wherever homosexualism wins the power to do it.  Attempts to incarnate itself in society can only be destructive to its religious enemies.  It must be firmly opposed by those who do not wish it to do as it will in their culture, their governments, their schools, and their homes.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Alexander Hamilton and the EU

The latest European Union solution to the problem of making and sustaining a "European Union" is to add to its power to control the monetary policy of the member states, that of controlling their fiscal policy as well. It seems that some of those most enthusiastic about this new solution are turning in part for their justification to one of our own most important founders, Alexander Hamilton.  After all, Hamilton's arguments were crucial and ultimately successful in midwifing the birth of a new country from thirteen previously independent states, weren't they?

But, as Michael Greve points out, the Eurocrats' solution won't work precisely because it isn't Hamiltonian.  Greve makes his case by referring to Federalist 15 where Hamilton argues forcefully against a "government over governments", which is precisely what the EU is.   Instead, Hamilton insists on a constitutional government that precedes from and rules over the people of the larger union.

I'll let the experts decide whether or not Greve's interpretation of Hamilton is correct? But I think it important to point out again that whatever else Hamilton and any of his fellow founders may have argued about the formation of a larger union, they always assumed, because they safely could assume it, something much more important about its likelihood of success.

That is, we were already in 1776, and even more so in 1787, a nation. We were already a people who shared a common language, a common religion, a common culture, a common history, and more. Or, we were at least common enough for the formation of a larger union to have at least a reasonable chance of making it.

Can anyone say the same about Europe and for the European Union?

Monday, December 12, 2011

Good News

From POLITICO "An overwhelming 64 percent of people surveyed said big government was the biggest threat to the country, compared to just 26 percent who said big business is their gravest concern and 8 percent who picked big labor."

Good news indeed.

That Old Double Standard Again

Pause for a moment and think about how the liberal media and professional Democrats would treat the loss of an unmanned drone had it happened during the Bush-Cheney Administration.  Didn't have to think for very long or very hard, did you?

Then there's this from Marc Theissen at the Washington Post:
A true story: Several years ago, the CIA informed the White House counterterrorism adviser that it had located a wanted Islamic terrorist and requested White House guidance for how to proceed. The counterterrorism adviser recommended “extraordinary rendition” — snatching the terrorist in a covert operation and secretly whisking him away for interrogation in a foreign country. A White House lawyer demanded a meeting with the president to argue that this would be a violation of international law. In the Oval Office, the lawyer and the counterterrorism adviser argued their cases, when suddenly the vice president walked in. Hearing the lawyer’s objections, he said: “Of course it’s a violation of international law, that’s why it’s a covert action. The guy is a terrorist. Go grab his ass.’ ” The rendition was authorized. 
The vice president in question was not Dick Cheney, nor was the president George W. Bush. Rather, they men who decided to carry out the first extraordinary rendition of a terrorist target — over the legal objections of the White House counsel’s office — were Al Gore and Bill Clinton, according a description of the meeting by the counterterrorism adviser, Richard Clarke, in his memoir, “Against All Enemies.
I'm waiting for the same liberal media and professional Democrats to start their harangue against Clinton-Gore.

Not really.

Up Chuck

Few politicians grate like New York Senator Chuck Schumer.  Maybe Barney Frank, but, praise God, he's finally exiting stage Left.

Anyway, in an interview with POLITICO, Schumer's true to form, attacking Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell for being "petty" and weak, charging him with effectively losing control of his Republican conference.

Uh, Senator Schumer, you and your own MAJORITY Leader, Senator Harry Reid, haven't even delivered on a budget for well over two years now.  Until you do, shut the #$%@ up, would you?

Waste Land

Over at Vanity Fair, Kurt Andersen pens an interesting piece (could have been cut by half though) that begins with an also interesting observation:
Since 1992, as the technological miracles and wonders have propagated and the political economy has transformed, the world has become radically and profoundly new. (And then there’s the miraculous drop in violent crime in the United States, by half.) Here is what’s odd: during these same 20 years, the appearance of the world (computers, TVs, telephones, and music players aside) has changed hardly at all, less than it did during any 20-year period for at least a century. The past is a foreign country, but the recent past—the 00s, the 90s, even a lot of the 80s—looks almost identical to the present.
This observation rings true to me.  I've noticed, for example, that I rarely, if ever, listen to contemporary artists and their music.  Not so strange in and of itself, I'm old, after all.  But I've also noticed that my kids (mid-20s) don't listen all that much either, and really never have.  They much prefer the music of the 1970s and earlier.  Why?  Andersen's first guess:
In some large measure, I think, it’s an unconscious collective reaction to all the profound nonstop newness we’re experiencing on the tech and geopolitical and economic fronts. People have a limited capacity to embrace flux and strangeness and dissatisfaction, and right now we’re maxed out. So as the Web and artificially intelligent smartphones and the rise of China and 9/11 and the winners-take-all American economy and the Great Recession disrupt and transform our lives and hopes and dreams, we are clinging as never before to the familiar in matters of style and culture.
But he's not satisfied with this:
If this stylistic freeze is just a respite, a backward-looking counter-reaction to upheaval, then once we finally get accustomed to all the radical newness, things should return to normal—and what we’re wearing and driving and designing and producing right now will look totally démodé come 2032. Or not. Because rather than a temporary cultural glitch, these stagnant last couple of decades may be a secular rather than cyclical trend, the beginning of American civilization’s new chronic condition, a permanent loss of appetite for innovation and the shockingly new. After all, such a sensibility shift has happened again and again over the last several thousand years, that moment when all great cultures—Egyptian, Roman, Mayan, Islamic, French, Ottoman, British—slide irrevocably into an enervated late middle age.
He should have stopped there, but wanders around a bit looking for deeper reasons (villains?)--technology, Reagan, the economy--before finishing, tentatively, where he started:
We seem to have trapped ourselves in a vicious cycle—economic progress and innovation stagnated, except in information technology; which leads us to embrace the past and turn the present into a pleasantly eclectic for-profit museum; which deprives the cultures of innovation of the fuel they need to conjure genuinely new ideas and forms; which deters radical change, reinforcing the economic (and political) stagnation. I’ve been a big believer in historical pendulum swings—American sociopolitical cycles that tend to last, according to historians, about 30 years. So maybe we are coming to the end of this cultural era of the Same Old Same Old. As the baby-boomers who brought about this ice age finally shuffle off, maybe America and the rich world are on the verge of a cascade of the wildly new and insanely great. Or maybe, I worry some days, this is the way that Western civilization declines, not with a bang but with a long, nostalgic whimper. (my italics)
The diagnosis, I think, is simpler, and scarier:  The demographics of America have shifted from a relatively young to a relatively old population.

Relatively more old people means more interest in old stuff, old styles, and more interest as well in keeping them just the way they are.  (It also, by the way, means a "miraculous drop in violent crime.")  Advances in medicine extending the average life span is no doubt part of the reason for the shift, but that would only explain the phenomenon of more old people, not relatively more.  For that we would need relatively fewer young people as well, which we have.  The explanation for that, I'm convinced, is what has been called by the late Pope John Paul II, "The Culture of Death."

I'm not referring here exclusively to the practices of abortion and euthanasia, although they're most definitely part of it.  I'm also referring to the defense of, even celebration of homosexuality, along with a reproduction rate that has shrunk to a mere 1.X children per family unit.  (Not being able anymore to say "married couple" without qualification is itself telling, isn't it?)

While reading the article, I couldn't help but think of one of the most famous poems of the Twentieth Century, T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land.  If you're not familiar with it, you should be.  Be warned:  It's weird.  Long, obscure, and extremely erudite, perhaps pedantically so, it's difficult to slog through.  Published in 1922, it was Eliot's lament about the meaning and consequences of the fin de siecle culture that described the late-19th century and that culminated with the devastation's of World War I.  But maybe the poem's most significant insight was about the direction of Western Civilization: Barrenness, i.e., a waste land.

Perhaps Eliot wrote a hundred years too soon.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

California Girls

"Senator Boxer to Climate-Change Deniers: 'You are endangering humankind'"

You know, I bet if you checked you would find that their voting records in the US Senate are nearly identical.  But the difference between California senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer is huge nonetheless.  I happen to disagree with both of them on almost every issue of import, but while one carries herself at least most of the time like a serious and mature woman, the other acts more often than not like a near-hysterical sophomore coed.

And to think it's exactly the same electorate that votes'em both in.

Politics is indeed a strange business.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

"The Great Indoorsman"

Love that tag line.

You were probably all anxiously awaiting my response to President Obama's "New Nationalism" speech delivered yesterday to the teeming throngs in Osawatomie, Kansas, weren't you?  (You were, weren't you?)

Well, I didn't because I found that when it wasn't grating, it was boring, and it was mostly boring.  There's nothing new in Obama's demagogic approach or appeal; it's the same tired liberalism that got us into this mess in the first place.  Snake oil such as this simply does not work (accept perhaps politically) whether it's prescribed by liberal politicians or conservative ones.

To be honest, I was waiting first to read what the editors at NRO had to say about the president's speech and they did not disappoint, seeing it much the same as I did.  Again, the same old, same old.

But they did have great fun poking holes in his silly comparison of himself to Teddy Roosevelt.

Again, I just love that tag line.

Tom Terrific

Thomas Sowell, that is.

I've mentioned him here before and referred you, many times, to his columns.  But if you still don't really know who this national treasure is, then please read this review by Kevin Williamson of his latest book, The Thomas Sowell Reader.  At least it's supposed to be a review.  Actually, it's a delightful introduction to a man we can only wish there were millions more of in this country.

This is How They Think

So, the massacre at Fort Hood was a singular incidence of "workplace violence" and not a radical Islamist inspired act of terrorism?

While it's easy to mock this as political correctness run amok, it's more than that.  It how they think.

The they here are of course the American Left and those they effectively control and how they think is dangerous.

"In Praise of Euroskeptics"

Sure, the title piece by Robert Taylor is an "I told you so" gloat.  But it's also much more than that.  It's bedrock Political Science 101.
Europe's problems may yet spin us towards a depression, but at least they offer a sweet catharsis for "euroskeptics" -- those of us who have always thought the euro a misguided project.
Euroskeptics have been through it, both in Britain and elsewhere. The haughty laughter, the insults, the patronizing comments, like "little Englander," suggesting both stupidity and insularity. Despite the fact, or perhaps because, Margaret Thatcher was the biggest and most famous euroskeptic of the lot, "euroenthusiasts," among them Tony Blair, took every opportunity to suggest that our argument was based on emotion rather than reason.
In fact the reverse was true. Euroskeptics realized that it was crazy to have a single exchange rate and interest rate applied to somewhere as massive and diverse as the European Union. For unlike Americans we Europeans share no common loyalty to our Union. There is no sense of European nation, and therefore no intrinsic acceptance that our own countries within the Union should be prepared to accept economic hardship for the wider good. Quite the reverse; each country is in it precisely for what it can get out.
To ignore this self-evident reality was Europe's big mistake, even if it took more than a decade to show just how big. Simply, economic union requires political union. And you can't sustain that without the will of the people.
A successful political union is so much more than a successful alliance, so much more complicated, so much more mysterious (yes, mysterious) and, as a result, so much more unlikely.  When it has happened, it seems almost to have just, well, happened.  But this stubborn fact of nature has not for a minute stopped generations of technocrats and cosmopolites from confusing the two nonetheless, such is their conceit, such is their Utopian dream.

Or should that be "nightmare"?

Taylor's finish is foreboding.
Now European leaders are poised to decide whether to forge fiscal as well as monetary union. If they do so, thereby saving the euro, the world will no doubt sigh with relief as short-term catastrophe is avoided. (my emphasis)

The drive towards ever-closer union has already caused one crisis. The next could be even worse. 

Monday, December 5, 2011

Far, Far Away

"NASA Just Discovered The Most Habitable Planet Since Earth"

Habitable?  Maybe.

But if any liberal Democrats beat us to it, it'll be unlivable for sure.

Oil Slick

Please consider very seriously this headline and the accompanying story:

"US on Pace to Become Net Fuel Exporter Despite High Gasoline Prices at Home"

Everything, and I do mean everything, you ever thought you knew about the United States' dependence upon, and overuse of petroleum is bull$#!+.

The US is not now and never has been "addicted" to oil. (Oh how I winced when former President Bush,--a Texan!--employed that very word in a sop to the liberal media several years back.)  On the contrary, the US uses oil, lots of it, and ingeniously so.

An otherwise useless, sticky, unsightly, but naturally-occuring nuisance, America turns into one of the most efficient forms of energy known to man and countless other products as well.  In the process, we also generate trillions of dollars of wealth and create untold millions of jobs and job opportunities.

Remember that when you vote, would you?



I'm just hoping my wife reads this headline and story:

"Man Electrocuted While Working on Christmas Lights Display"

No other reason...just hoping.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Last Boy Scout

That's what NRO's Daniel Foster calls our current cultural lightening rod, Tim Tebow, as he explores why the Denver Bronco quarterback engenders so much disdain, eye-rolling, and concern over his unashamedly overt Christianity.  As you might have suspected, in the end it's more about us than it is Tim Tebow:
By contrast, Tebow is the last Boy Scout. A leader on the field and off who spent his college years not indulging in any of the worldly pleasures afforded to Heisman Trophy winners, but doing missionary work in Thailand; helping overworked doctors perform circumcisions in the Philippines (you read that right); and preaching at schools, churches, and even prisons. This is a young man with such a strong work ethic that, according to teammates, he can’t even be coaxed into hitting the town on a night after a Broncos win, because he is too busy preparing for the next week’s game. This is a young man who even turned the other cheek at Stephen Tulloch’s Tebowing, saying, “He was probably just having fun and was excited he made a good play and had a sack. And good for him." 
That’s way too much earnestness for the ironic. It’s way too much idealism for the cynical. And it’s way too much selflessness for the self-absorbed. In short, people aren’t upset at Tebow’s God talk. They’re upset that he might actually believe it.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Poncho Villaraigosa

With nearly 300 Occupiers arrested and 30 tons of trash still left to clean up, do you think the good citizens of Los Angeles are now ready to throw out their mayor, Democrat Antonio Villaraigosa?

Probably not.

Oh well, I was wondering nevertheless whether any of the protesters who received one from the mayor a few months back were required to return the poncho he gave them, you know, back when he was happy to see them gather in righteous solidarity against the Man.