That Was the Week That Was

thobamaSo, it’s been quite a week, hasn’t it? And we haven’t even got to the ‘Government by Blog Post’ Friday document dump yet. So we’ll see what else can go wrong.

I don’t ever tell people how to vote but if I was a Mississippian, I would not vote for Cochran, this kind of despicable conduct has no business in America, let alone in a so-called principled party. And yes, that does mean that I have no use at all for the national republican party. I think it to be no more than the sort-of right facing part of the party of government, and not an iota different from the democratic party. Here’s a couple of stories about it:

Here’s The Worst Part of Thad Cochran’s Victory

MASSIVE VOTER FRAUD UNCOVERED IN MISSISSIPPI GOP RUNOFF ELECTION

Then there is the Mexican (used to be) border

AS THE SOUTHERN BORDER BURNS, THE DEMOCRATS FIDDLE

Then there is the piece of the world formerly known as Iraq. It hard to see how there could have been a worse foreign policy debacle, short, I suppose, of surrendering to the Soviet Union. It’s bad, it’s going to get worse, and I don’t have a clear idea of what, if anything we should do.

Why an Isis caliphate is no more than a pipe dream

That’s sort of reassuring, isn’t it? Then there is this:

The Mouse that roared

I frankly don’t know which of them is right, if either but. If I had to bet, I’d bet on an American Marine before I bet on any sort of reporter. If he’s right, we are in for a very long and bleak few years, and if I was a European, I would think very strongly about whether I wanted to place my entire defense in the hands of the American led (sort-of) NATO. Because by the time we get ourselves sorted out again, Europe is very likely to look like it did in late 1941, except the Turk is far more bloodthirsty than Hitler ever was. Of course, it probably doesn’t really matter since Europe is committing suicide by abortion anyway.

Then there is the Veteran’s Administration

VA Flags “Disgruntled” Vets

Obamacare anyone, or would you prefer the NHS?

And the Internal Revenue Service

Lies, Damned Lies, and the IRS

And that is pretty much the news from ‘Chicago on the Potomac’

The Age of Mafia Government

Pretty depressing round-up isn’t it? But you know this is still America, and we (most of us, anyway) are still Americans who remember a free country. So let us join with Bill Whittle to

He’s right you know, we built it, with sweat, and blood, and tears, and we can damned well rebuild it as well, and laugh at the losers while we do.

Since you hung around through all that crap they’re throwing at us, you deserve a treat. How about this.

And a hat tip to Big Fur Hat at I Own the World for reminding me that we need some cowbell in our life.

 

Managing for Results Against the Employees Interests

The Battle of Terheide (1657), commemorating t...

The Battle of Terheide (1657), commemorating the Battle of Scheveningen on 10 August 1653 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ok, yesterday we talked about the abysmal mismanagement and non-leadership Obama has provided, and how our system got the way it is. I’m not going to review it again today, it’s too depressing, especially since we extended his contract in 2012.

Then we featured an Article from Ace of Spades that told you a lot about bureaucracy and what their goals are. Hint: It ain’t customer service. Ace says these are their goals:

  1. Protect our phony-baloney jobs.
  2. Protect the Phony-Baloney Jobs of Our Fellow Government Workers.
  3. Do as little work as possible.
  4. Expand turf, power, and responsibilities.

I see nothing to argue with there, and I note that in all cases the priorities are directly in line with human nature


I also note that the Civil Service Act, as amended (or not) does absolutely nothing to counteract these tendencies, in fact, I think it reinforces them. But then it was passed in the beginning of that time when we thought human nature was an uplifting moral force who would work its fingers to the bone for others advantage. We should have looked back to an earlier age, like the enlightenment and especially the writers of the Constitution, who knew perfectly well than men would be avaricious, lazy and seek power, and sought to write a document to keep that from happening. It worked too, as long as we ran the country according to it.

But there was an organization, 200 hundred years ago it was the largest in the world, that took the attributes of mankind, and designed a system that made men work for the organizations goals, even to the detriment of theirs. What was that organization? The Royal Navy in the age of sail.

Think about this, if you were the captain of one His Majesty’s ships in 1814, once you got out of sight of land, you became essentially God. You could fight your ship, or not, if you did, you could pick your targets, you could just about do anything you wanted, and still get paid. So how did the First Sea Lord maintain discipline, when his ships were out of reach.

Naval officers were paid a salary, in fact a fairly good one, when they were at sea. They served for the duration of the mission and then the ship was paid off. And here is one of the clues.

There were always more Captains and Admirals in the RN than there were berths at sea. If you weren’t attached to a ship, you got half-pay, which is exactly what it sounds like. Kind of like unemployment compensation. But here’s a kicker, in 1812 there were 1017 ships and vessels in the Royal Navy but there were 1531 commanders, captains, and admirals. The surplus were on half-pay. And the RN could use any captain it chose, although seniority had some weight, but in truth, if the admiralty distrusted you, likely you would be on half-pay for life.

And that further meant you would never figure in on the wealth making part of the service: prizes.

And that was what motivated everybody from the powder monkey to the admiral commanding. Why? Because you could get rich. A merchantman might be worth £300,000, of which the Admiral would get ¼, the Captain would get ¼, the officers would get ¼, and the crew the rest. (These numbers weren’t cast in stone, sometimes the admiral commanding, or the captain would alter them, but this is close usually. And remember this is the old uninflated, worth its weight in silver, pound sterling. A prize could set you up for life.

But that’s not the answer either, the privateers, that were common in all wars in the age of sail could do commerce raiding as well, maybe better, than the RN could, and they did without expense to the crown. Pure private enterprise. The navy needed to blockade ports, fight warships and all the other things that navies did, and still do. The British did. Why?

First the Fighting Instructions. In 1652 Blake was defeated by the Dutch under Tromp, although Blake was outnumbered he blamed his captains for not engaging. This led to several things bearing on our inquiry. First because it was very easy in a meleé atmosphere, which was the common naval tactics at the time, for a captain to hang back and not closely engage, and thus reduce his personal danger, which was considerable. the solution was the line-of-battle, and that solution persisted as long as there were battleships. The other thing was the Admiral commanding was stationed in the middle of the line, and often there were subordinate admirals stationed in the van and rear. Obviously if a ship gets out of line it is fairly easy to notice by the admiral, and will not redound to the captains credit, to be court martialed for cowardice. And it happened too, about twice as many captains and above were court-martialed as killed in battle.

The other part of that was that the Fighting Instructions required the British to seek the weather gage, that is to start the battle upwind of the enemy, this made it very difficult for the captain to non obviously avoid combat, and so the problem was more or less solved. Parenthetically, only the British and Americans sought the weather gage, not incidentally, both were and are offensive minded. Although it was solved in a manner that made the fleet fight in a suboptimal formation much of the time .

British Captains were also required to attack any enemy ship that they crossed paths with. They were not too likely to be censured for not attacking a ship of the line with a 30 gun frigate, but they routinely attacked anything up to twice their own size, if fact,

The fateful meeting between the British Guerriére and the USS Constitution on August 19, 1812, demonstrates this reputation. Though the Guerriére was smaller (38 18-pound guns to 44 24-pounders, 1092 tons to 1533, 244 men to 460), in need of refitting, leaking, and recently hit by lightning, its Captain Dacres engaged rather than flee, with the inevitable result of defeat. In England the loss, the first of five ship-to-ship defeats against the Americans and the first loss in 9 years, caused massive media attention and the calling for heads.

The British public was as shocked at the news of the loss of the Guerriére as the American public was delighted. . . . The Press displayed uncalculating annoyance and dismay. There was even a hint of condemnation for Dacres because he had surrendered and had not gone down fighting. . . . Even the more sober press was startled and disappointed. The measure of the public interest is displayed in the amount of editorial comment devoted to this one frigate action at a moment when events of immense importance were happening elsewhere.
(Forester, 1960, pp. 56–57)¹

Which is all well and good, but how was the admiralty going to find out? A couple of ways, if you remember reading Hornblower when you were young, you know something about how the promotion system worked. When a boy was 12-15 years old he would sign on with a captain, who was usually a family friend, patronage is important all through this story, by the way. After five or six years, if all went well, the captain would let him sit for the Lieutenants exam, if he passed he would become (I think the term was) a passed midshipmen, and when his number came up, or he distinguished himself he would become a lieutenant. Then in something like 3-6 years he would be qualified to promotion to Post Captain. But there are two things about being a lieutenant, first the captain could not, unlike the other lower officers remove him from the ship, and second, he could spend the rest of his career as a lieutenant, further promotion was not automatic. In addition there had to be an opening, so one of the methods was “fleeting up” where your superior officers were killed or removed from command in one way or another. Once one was promoted Post Captain, if you lived long enough you would “rule the Queen’s Navee” promotion above captain was automatic.

And that’s important to the story as well. because in the age of sail almost anything at sea could be blamed on the wind, and nobody who wasn’t there could really disprove what you said.

But the lieutenants were charged by the Admiralty with maintaining a signed log of their own and turning it in at the end of the cruise. They were required to report all the details of the cruise for themselves and especially the first lieutenant who the captain was charged with taking completely into his confidence. Obviously, it would be difficult to maintain a conspiracy to defame the captain and so gain promotion, particularly since the master, who was usually close to the end of his career, had little to gain from it, and one can imagine how hard it would be to be promoted if you were caught trying to unfairly remove the captain, because he had a lot of influence on one’s promotion at all times.

And so the Admiralty designed a system that forced officers to work against their normal best interests, in the King’s best interest, while leaving them more than enough chance for improving their fortune to make sure that they worked diligently.

I probably should add that the penalty for almost any violation of regulations in this period was “death”, often without any choice.

He asked who the stout man was who had just been so ceremoniously disposed of. “He was an admiral,” they told him. “But why execute this admiral?” he enquired. “Because he had not enough dead men to his credit,” was the reply; “he joined battle with a French admiral, and it has been established that their ships were not close enough to engage.” “But surely,” exclaimed Candide, “the French admiral must have been just as far from the English as the English admiral was from the French!” “True enough,” was the answer; “but in this country we find it pays to shoot an admiral from time to time to encourage the others.”

Voltaire

Admiral Byng understood

Admiral Byng understood

And so now the question becomes how do we devise a system that just as efficiently forces an unaccountable bureaucracy such as the Veteran’s Administration to do our will, instead of following Aces’s ‘rules of bureaucracies’; because truly that is the trouble, and just firing political appointees is shuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic. We need a systemic solution, or we need to put these functions back in the private sector, where they truly belong, even if we merely have an open bid for coverage with private insurers’ every few years. That would, I think, be the ideal solution.

¹ And most of the information as well, in this article derived from “The British Navy Rules: Monitoring and Incompatible Incentives in the Age of Fighting Sail” (PDF) by Douglas W. Allen.

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Cliven Bundy and The Rural Way

I said yesterday we were going to look at the confrontation between Cliven Bundy and the BLM today, and we are. But first I want you to read Victor Davis Hanson on it, so here it is:

Works and Days » Cliven Bundy and The Rural Way

I’m sure that Cliven Bundy probably could have cut a deal with the Bureau of Land Management and should have. Of course, it’s never wise to let a federal court order hang over your head. And certainly we cannot have a world of Cliven Bundys if a legal system is to function.

[...]

So Mr. Bundy must realize that in about 1990 we decided to focus on the misdemeanor of the law-abiding citizen and to ignore the felony of the lawbreaker. The former gave law enforcement respect; the latter ignored their authority. The first made or at least did not cost enforcers money; arresting the second began a money-losing odyssey of incarceration, trials, lawyers, appeals, and all the rest.

Mr. Bundy knows that the bullies of the BLM would much rather send a SWAT team after him than after 50 illegal aliens being smuggled by a gun-toting cartel across the southwestern desert. How strange, then, at this late postmodern date, for someone like Bundy on his horse still to be playing the law-breaking maverick Jack Burns (Kirk Douglas) in (the David Miller, Dalton Trumbo, Edward Abbey effort) Lonely Are the Brave.

But the interest in Mr. Bundy’s case is not about legal strategies in revolving fiscal disagreements with the federal government.

Instead, we all have followed Mr. Bundy for three reasons.

One, he called attention to the frightening fact that the federal government owns 83% of the land in Nevada. Note that “federal” and “government” are the key words and yet are abstractions. Rather, a few thousands unelected employees — in the BLM, EPA, Defense Department, and other alphabet soup agencies — can pretty much do what they want on the land they control. And note, this is not quite the case in Silicon Valley or Manhattan or Laguna Beach. The danger can be summed up by a scene I see about once a month on a Fresno freeway: a decrepit truck stopped by the California Highway Patrol for having inadequate tarps on a trailer of green clippings, just as a new city garbage truck speeds by, with wet garbage flying over the median. Who will police the police?

Two, this administration has a long record of not following the law — picking and choosing when and how to enforce immigration statutes, depending on the particular dynamics of the next election; picking and choosing which elements of Obamacare  to enforce, again depending on perceived political advantage; and picking and choosing when to go after coal companies, or when not to enforce the Defense of Marriage Act, or when to reverse the order of the Chrysler creditors, or when to allow Lois Lerner to destroy the credibility of the IRS for partisan advantage.

In other words, the Obama administration regularly breaks the law as it sees fit. So we wonder why a federal agency sends out swarms of armed security agents to the empty desert on behalf of a tortoise, when it could just as easily storm Jay Carney’s press conference and demand that the president promise to enforce the Affordable Care Act. Or start apprehending those who are not just violating immigration law, but also serially signing false federal affidavits or providing employers with fraudulent identities.

via Works and Days » Cliven Bundy and The Rural Way.

And that’s the real story here, isn’t it? Cliven Bundy is the old American ideal, doing what he has to do to earn a living in a hard world, asking neither for our help nor tolerating our intrusion. He may be wrong legally (by all accounts he is) but by Anglo-American history he is very nearly the ideal. A man who completely understands what Augustine of Hippo meant when he said, “An unjust law is no law at all”. I can’t speak for you, but I was raised to be a moral, upright, and just man, and so was Cliven Bundy. Crusty and hard to get along with he may be but, he is a real man, as we have understood it since at least the time of Henry VIII.

Now let’s talk about the BLM and Bundy.

I’m not sure that I have heard anyone claim that Bundy is in the right, in court he’s going to lose, and badly but that is not why he got so much sympathy. He got that sympathy mostly from people who believe deeply in the Rule of Law and he got it because the government badly overstepped it proper role. Just like Parliament did in the run up to the revolution.

First, I’m old enough that I remember when we referred to the police as “peace officers,” their role was to protect the peace and fight crime, and to do it legally within the constitution, and they did it superlatively. In that context, the government would have gotten an order from the court and the sheriff would have gone out and done what was necessary, whether it was seizing the land and cattle, or arresting Mr. Bundy. It might have come down to an armed confrontation, or it might not have, either way it would be a local story and almost instantly forgotten.

But now, what we saw was a paramilitary federal force invading like an occupying power with armored vehicles, air support, snipers, and all the appurtenances of modern war, to effect a civil settlement. The means were far beyond the object, and people reacted as Americans always do, against the overreach of arbitrary government power, and so like in Lexington, 239 years before almost to the day, an opposition gathered. And like that day, the government caved, at least for the moment. I also suspect more than a few BLM agents wondered what they were doing there but, that’s another story. And parenthetically, so did the British Regulars on that day.

That’s one thing that must always be remembered, American are very jealous of our freedom, and even the appearance of infringing it brings an immediate reaction. I found it quite telling to see the pictures of the opposition, with not only the national colors flying but, also the colors of every armed service of the country. These were men that know what it is to fight for freedom, and are far better trained than paramilitary federal forces. In the old phrase that has come down from the Civil War, “They have seen the elephant”.

I have said before that America is very tense, right now, and it is. It feels very much like the prairie does before a big thunderstorm. If the government is wise, it will do whatever it must to reduce those tensions. Given the isolation of the government from the people, which is hardly less than that of Parliament was from the colonies, I have little hope of that.

And thus after a long detour we come back to Sen. Reid’s comment. I and many like me see Mr. Bundy as wrong on the issue but right to resist. In truth, we see the government as acting like an occupying power, and are beginning to think of the government as the enemy of the people.

It is hurtful to the peace of the realm when government officials attempt to make us “the other” because that status (and we know this) removes any liability for anything done to us, it also works in reverse, and that is inimical to peace.

What we really have here is the clash of cultures. One is the old traditional do-it-your-way, mostly rural America, where men are men, and not interested in your forced government charity. The other is the progressive nanny state, which looks a lot like France. This is the baseline battle in our culture, and on it depends the future of America, the free world, and liberty itself.

The real endangered specie here is not some tortoise,

it’s the American.

[Update: Dan Miller has some very good thought on this as well, here.

and Kevin D. Williamson has a very good article at NRO on it as well]

 

 

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The Rhymes of History

This is going to be a two or three-part series, and it’s not going to have many laughs in it. What we are going to talk about is the manifest overreach of the federal government, in especially the last few years. We are also going to dispassionately (mostly) compare it to a similar time some 240 years ago, in the 1770s. We’ll start this morning with some discussion about what the Founders were thinking in those days. So, let’s begin.

And so, Sen. Harry Reid thinks that Cliven Bundy and those with him the other week are domestic terrorists. I suppose he is entitled to his opinion, and we’ll come back to that.

It seems to me that we are starting to tread on ground that we haven’t covered in about 240 years. Yes it may be that serious. And so we need to review the basics. America was founded above all to reclaim the liberties afforded to all freeborn Englishmen, and because of when the settlement happened, we inherited them at their zenith. In fact, in 1775, Edmund Burke said this:

Let the colonies always keep the idea of their civil rights associated with your government-they will cling and grapple to you, and no force under heaven will be of power to tear them from their allegiance. But let it be once understood that your government may be one thing and their privileges another, that these two things may exist without any mutual relation – the cement is gone, the cohesion is loosened, and everything hastens to decay and dissolution. As long as you have the wisdom to keep the sovereign authority of this country as the sanctuary of liberty, the sacred temple consecrated to our common faith, wherever the chosen race and sons of England worship freedom, they will turn their faces towards you. The more they multiply, the more friends you will have, the more ardently they love liberty, the more perfect will be their obedience. Slavery they can have anywhere. It is a weed that grows in every soil. They may have it from Spain, they may have it from Prussia. But until you become lost to all feeling of your true interest and your natural dignity, freedom they can have from none but you. This is the commodity of price, of which you have the monopoly. This is the true Act of Navigation, which binds to you the commerce of the -colonies, and through them secures to you the wealth of the world. Deny them this participation of freedom, and you break that sole bond which originally made, and must still preserve, the unity of the empire. Do not entertain so weak an imagination as that your registers and your bonds, your affidavits and your sufferances, your cockets and your clearances, are what form the great securities of your commerce. Do not dream that your Letters of office, and your instructions, and your suspending clauses are the things that hold together the great contexture of this mysterious whole. These things do not make your government. Dead instruments, passive tools as they are, it is the spirit of the English communion that gives all their life and efficacy to them. It is the spirit of the English constitution which, infused through the mighty mass, pervades, feeds, unites, invigorates, vivffles every part of the empire, even down to the minutest member.

And it seems that history does at least rhyme, because we may have come again to that point.

And so, we find ourselves doing the same things as the founders did, studying the writing of the great philosophers of antiquity as we attempt to discern the way forward. And inevitable after watching the confrontation in the Nevada desert, we gravitate to St. Thomas Aquinas, and his just war theory, in Summa Theologica, he writes of the just causes of war, to wit.

  • First, war must occur for a good and just purpose rather than the pursuit of wealth or power.

  • Second, just war must be waged by a properly instituted authority such as the state.

  • Third, peace must be a central motive even in the midst of violence.

Which is all very well, but leaves us with the conundrum of the “properly instituted authority, such as the state”.

The School of Salamanca expanded on his work in this area thusly:

  • In self-defense, as long as there is a reasonable possibility of success. If failure is a foregone conclusion, then it is just a wasteful spilling of blood.

  • Preventive war against a tyrant who is about to attack.

  • War to punish a guilty enemy.

Which sheds a bit more light, with the introduction the term tyrant.

We often have trouble when arguing in the English-speaking world when we work from sources connected with the Catholic church, for all their learning which is immense and very useful, there is also a dichotomy. The Church is properly called The Roman Catholic Church, and it is no misnomer. That is in no way meant to be a disparagement of the church, but since the empire itself, Roman law has always had the principle that the state is the giver, the top of the pyramid, if you will.

In the English-speaking world, which developed from the old north German tribes (Angles, Saxons, Jutes, and others) who migrated to England after the Roman period and never owed allegiance to the empire we have another model. In our history the government has always been the creation of the people, and the government, the servant of the people. This is the thread of which we have spoken so many times that runs from King Alfred’s Charter to, Magna Charta, on to the English Civil War and the Glorious Revolution and the English Bill of Rights, and continued on this side of the Atlantic with the American Revolution (which many see as a reprise of the English Civil War) and finally the Constitution and its attendant Bill of Rights.

That is a very long way of saying that the people are sovereign and may set up their government as they please. And that gives us the properly instituted authority, that Aquinas demands, the people are the highest authority, in our world.

Even the law codes reflect this, in the Roman world we hear such terms as the Justinian Code and the Code Napoleon, which signify law written from scratch by the ruler and imposed on the populace. But in our world we have the Law of the Land, by which we usually mean the Common Law, and it reflects what we have said, instead of being imposed by the ruler, it has been built one case at a time over the centuries, by the people themselves, and their needs.

The clearest manifestation of the difference is in this. In most of Europe it is assumed that you can do most anything if you get the permission of the government. In the UK and even more in America it is assumed you can do anything you please unless it is specifically prohibited by law. It is a very big difference, isn’t it?

That’s all fine and good, but do we have the individual right to resist the government. In some ways that is a question that you have to answer for yourself, but if we go back to St. Augustine we’ll find that while he considered self-defense to be a bit sub-optimal, he did recognize it and further recognized a right to defend the weak and/or defenseless. He recognized that one could be faithful to God and still be a soldier, although it could at times present a decided dichotomy between obedience to God and obedience to the state. In the last analysis, you’re going to have to talk it over with God.

That’s the general background that supported the Revolution, and would have to be satisfied to justify another one. Echoing everyone who ever thought about this Thomas Jefferson said this in the Declaration of Independence:

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security..

So we need to think long and hard before doing anything like that, and make sure we can’t do it peacefully. But of course, it’s not entirely up to us either.“

In our next post, we will analyze the confrontation between Cliven Bundy and the BLM.

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Cooked Books and Corrupt Government

English: Three-quarter length portrait of Rudy...

English: Three-quarter length portrait of Rudyard Kipling, photographic postcard, by Bourne & Shepherd. Image courtesy of the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Yale University.http://beinecke.library.yale.edu/dl_crosscollex/brbldl/oneITEM.asp?pid=2022961&iid=1088883&srchtype=VCG (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And so, as I imagine most of you know, the administration has decided to cook the census books to get ‘better’ numbers for Obamacare. I wasn’t particularly surprised, they’ve cooked all the other books, why not these? Apparently, Megan McCardle was surprised. She had this to say:

I’m speechless. Shocked. Stunned. Horrified. Befuddled. Aghast, appalled, thunderstruck, perplexed, baffled, bewildered and dumbfounded. It’s not that I am opposed to the changes: Everyone understands that the census reports probably overstate the true number of the uninsured, because the number they report is supposed to be “people who lacked insurance for the entire previous year,” but people tend to answer with their insurance status right now.

But why, dear God, oh, why, would you change it in the one year in the entire history of the republic that it is most important for policy makers, researchers and voters to be able to compare the number of uninsured to those in prior years? The answers would seem to range from “total incompetence on the part of every level of this administration” to something worse

But I fail to see why we would expect anything else, we passed beyond the “Rule of Law” sometime late in the Bush presidency, or early in Obama’s, it hardly matters anymore. And if you’d like to know why there is no inflation, it’s mostly because we don’t count food, and fuel, anymore. Been to the grocery store lately? As usual Kipling said it best:

As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man
There are only four things certain since Social Progress began.
That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
And the burnt Fool’s bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire;

It’s all a sham, the corrupt books passed cooked to the apathetic. Nobody knows what is going on because the reports are, quite simply, lies. Nobody knows, not even the corrupt kleptocrats who perpetrated it. Why can’t anything be saved? Because the laws don’t work, especially the corporate bankruptcy laws, anymore. The housing bubble and the GM and Chrysler bailouts ruined all confidence in the market. Why do we have illegal aliens? Because unless you can afford the disguised bribes, or you work for an employer that wants cheap labor, you cannot immigrate legally.

But that’s all water over the dam, it simply doesn’t matter anymore. Why? because a huge majority of the citizens simply don’t give a damn, haven’t in years. They don’t care if they earn a living. Eat the Rich! What they’ll do when there are no rich except their masters in Washington never enters their minds.

That’s too much like cause and effect for their simple minds, so never mind.

And so Kipling again applies:

Recessional

God of our fathers, known of old,

   Lord of our far-flung battle-line,

Beneath whose awful Hand we hold

   Dominion over palm and pine—

Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,

Lest we forget—lest we forget!

The tumult and the shouting dies;

   The Captains and the Kings depart:

Still stands Thine ancient sacrifice,

   An humble and a contrite heart.

Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,

Lest we forget—lest we forget!

Far-called, our navies melt away;

   On dune and headland sinks the fire:

Lo, all our pomp of yesterday

   Is one with Nineveh and Tyre!

Judge of the Nations, spare us yet,

Lest we forget—lest we forget!

If, drunk with sight of power, we loose

   Wild tongues that have not Thee in awe,

Such boastings as the Gentiles use,

   Or lesser breeds without the Law—

Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,

Lest we forget—lest we forget!

For heathen heart that puts her trust

   In reeking tube and iron shard,

All valiant dust that builds on dust,

   And guarding, calls not Thee to guard,

For frantic boast and foolish word—

Thy mercy on Thy People, Lord!

 

Well, you know what,it’sMaundy Thursday, and it’s my birthday, another year closer to getting worthless (by then) Social Security. In my lifetime, I’ve watched my country consistently hold the line on freedom, and win the cold war, and then gone from that triumph, on to become a lawless, rogue regime, that couldn’t find enough leadership to lead a horse to water. And so, I’ve nothing particularly important to do today, so I think I’ll go find a bottle of whisky, and get drunk as a lord.


After all, Who is John Galt?

 

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Meanwhile, Back in America . . . Peggy Noonan

ED-AR787_noonan_D_20140130184209In many ways, it seemed like Peggy Noonan, after Reagan’s Presidency, went to the bubble of Manhattan and never looked out again. She used to know us well, as the speech at Ponte du Hoc showed. Who will ever forget that imagery of American Rangers, climbing the cliffs to free a continent. It spoke to us all, even more because of the heroism and truth of the words, and the sight of those very same Rangers, right there in the front row. She, like Reagan, was one of us. Over the intervening years it seemed she wasn’t any more, but in the reign of Obama, she seems to be coming to visit us more again. Increasingly she turns her formidable writing talents to saying what we feel, and getting it right. Her column last Friday in the WSJ (Warning: paywall, but permeable) was another example of it. So let’s look at it a bit.

The State of the Union was a spectacle of delusion and self-congratulation in which a Congress nobody likes rose to cheer a president nobody really likes. It marked the continued degeneration of a great and useful tradition. Viewership was down, to the lowest level since 2000. This year’s innovation was the Parade of Hacks. It used to be the networks only showed the president walking down the aisle after his presence was dramatically announced. Now every cabinet-level officeholder marches in, shaking hands and high-fiving with breathless congressmen. And why not? No matter how bland and banal they may look, they do have the power to destroy your life—to declare the house you just built as in violation of EPA wetland regulations, to pull your kid’s school placement, to define your medical coverage out of existence. So by all means attention must be paid and faces seen.

I watched at home and thought: They hate it. They being the people, whom we’re now supposed to refer to as the folks. But you look at the polls at how people view Washington—one, in October, had almost 9 in 10 disapproving—and you watch a Kabuki-like event like this and you know the distance, the psychic, emotional and experiential distance, between Washington and America, between the people and their federal government, is not only real but, actually, carries dangers. History will make more of the distance than we do. Someday in the future we will see it most vividly when a truly bad thing happens and the people suddenly need to trust what Washington says, and will not, to everyone’s loss.

In the country, the president’s popularity is underwater. In the District of Columbia itself, as Gallup notes, it’s at 81%.

[...]

Supposedly people feel great rage about this, and I imagine many do. But the other night I wondered if what they’re feeling isn’t something else.

***
As the president made his jaunty claims and the senators and congressmen responded semirapturously I kept thinking of four words: Meanwhile, back in America . . .

Meanwhile, back in America, the Little Sisters of the Poor were preparing their legal briefs. The Roman Catholic order of nuns first came to America in 1868 and were welcomed in every city they entered. They now run about 30 homes for the needy across the country. They have, quite cruelly, been told they must comply with the ObamaCare mandate that all insurance coverage include contraceptives, sterilization procedures, morning-after pills. If they don’t—and of course they can’t, being Catholic, and nuns—they will face ruinous fines.

[...]

Everyone who says that would never have happened in the past is correct. It never, ever would have under normal American political leadership, Republican or Democratic. No one would’ve defied religious liberty like this.

The president has taken to saying he isn’t ideological but this mandate—his mandate—is purely ideological.

It also is a violation of traditional civic courtesy, sympathy and spaciousness. The state doesn’t tell serious religious groups to do it their way or they’ll be ruined. You don’t make the Little Sisters bow down to you.

This is the great political failure of progressivism: They always go too far. They always try to rub your face in it.

Meanwhile, back in America, disadvantaged parents in Louisiana—people who could never afford to live in places like McLean, Va., or Chevy Chase, Md.—continue to wait to see what will happen with the state’s successful school voucher program. It lets poor kids get out of failed public schools and go to private schools on state scholarships. What a great thing. But the Obama Justice Department filed suit in August: The voucher system might violate civil rights law by worsening racial imbalance in the public schools.

[...]

Meanwhile, back in America, conservatives targeted and harassed by the Internal Revenue Service still await answers on their years-long requests for tax-exempt status. When news of the IRS targeting broke last spring, agency officials lied about it, and one took the Fifth. The president said he was outraged, had no idea, read about it in the papers, boy was he going to get to the bottom of it. An investigation was announced but somehow never quite materialized.

[...]

In the past five years many Americans have come to understand that an agency that maintained a pretty impressive record for a very long time has been turned, at least in part, into a political operation.

***
All these things—the pushing around of nuns, the limiting of freedoms that were helping kids get a start in life, the targeting of conservative groups—all these things have the effect of breaking bonds of trust between government and the people. They make citizens see Washington as an alien and hostile power.

Washington sees the disaffection. They read the polls, they know.

They call it rage. But it feels more like grief. Like the loss of something you never thought you’d lose, your sense of your country and your place in it, your rights in it.

(emphasis mine)

In her very first (guest) post here, Jessica reminded us of one of her favorite poems G.K. Chesterton’s Ballad of the White Horse, and I still say our situation isn’t quite as desperate as King Alfred’s was, although it may get worse yet. Here’s Jess:

I tell you naught for your comfort,
Yea, naught for your desire,
Save that the sky grows darker yet
And the sea rises higher

The lines are repeated in a different context toward the end as Alfred gathers the Saxons for what will prove the last and successful battle

“And this is the word of Mary,
The word of the world’s desire
`No more of comfort shall ye get,
Save that the sky grows darker yet
And the sea rises higher.’ 

Now it proves the flint against which the iron of resolve is sharpened, and the Saxons rally and they win, even though all had seemed lost. Alfred was not the most charismatic or dramatic of leaders, but he won, and this is why:

And this was the might of Alfred,
At the ending of the way;
That of such smiters, wise or wild,
He was least distant from the child,
Piling the stones all day.

Alfred has faith and he had patience, and he had resilience; he lacked the capacity to despair. In short, he possessed all the Christian virtues. He listened to Our Lady and he understood her advice, and so, at the height of the battle:

The King looked up, and what he saw
Was a great light like death,
For Our Lady stood on the standards rent,
As lonely and as innocent
As when between white walls she went
And the lilies of Nazareth.

And so, through many a sorrow and woe, the steadfast faith of Alfred proved victorious where the charismatic personalities of men with less character failed.

Here there is a lesson for us all – if we will read it.

 

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