Where is comfort?

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There’s no doubt, my friends, that we live in unsettling times. The ending of the Cold War was hailed by some as the ‘end of history'; we wish! We can wish we did not live in such times as we now see, but as Gandalf says in ‘Lord of the Rings’, so do all who live in them; but it is not given to us to order the days of our lives. An historical perspective soon makes us grateful: that we are not in Rome when Alaric’s armies sacked it; or in Roman Britain facing the Angles and the Saxons as they marauded; neither are we in Constantinople in 1453 when it fell to the Ottomans. But we might understand more, now, how people felt as the world with they were familiar began to seem under threat.

It isn’t simply the, as yet for us, distant threat of ISIS (though we should not think it that far when we have in our midst those who might seek to harm us), it is the dislocation of the times. It is, in some ways, more comforting to think of President Obama as some kind of Manchurian Candidate than as what he is – a well-meaning man up against the hard fact that what he believes in and the real world don’t mix. Our sense that it is a ‘plague on all their houses’ when it comes to politics, derives from a feeling that none of them have answers to the problems which face us. There is, Adam Smith once wrote, ‘a lot of ruin in a nation’ – perhaps we shall see just how much it takes?

But the eternal verities stand where they always did. If you have too much regulation and too many taxes, things don’t work – and soon people don’t either. Welfare is a Christian duty, but when there are more taking out than putting in, it won’t work. When people depend on people, it generates good morale; when they depend on Government, it generates dependency. Power still tends to corrupt, and absolute power to do so absolutely. If something seems too good to be true, it isn’t. Power without responsibility is the prerogative of the harlot down the ages, and Government is best when it sticks to doing as little as possible. JFK was right – ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for it.

When politics becomes a ‘profession’ it attracts too many of the wrong sort; term limits should be there for all elected office. Ten years is enough, not least in the pressure of modern politics. All leaders go sort of mad after too long; it’s a service to them to save them from themselves. We need to be more involved too. In the end, if we care about freedom, it will thrive; if not we can have bread and circuses, till the wheat runs out and we find ourselves in the Coliseum. Naught for our comfort then? Aye, naught but this – that we are the children of the Living God and through Jesus, we are saved. If that is so, what have we to fear save fear itself?

“We’re Americans, we act”

Iraqi Christian

In his Presidential Address President Obama said that America would do whatever needed to protect its own people, and ‘we cannot just look away .. we are Americans and we lead’, he said. This is not the time for point scoring about Benghazi or anything else. ‘There’s a country called America which cares for them too’, the President said in relation to the Yezidis; thank God for the USA, is all I can say.

There is no other country in the world which could do what needs to be done here. The President is, of course, correct, and America can’t bring a military solution to the situation in northern Iraq, but what she can do is what no one else in the world can – which is to bring relief to those who suffer, and to check, decisively, the forces of evil who would destroy them on the way to creating a universal Islamic caliphate. ISIS now control more than 17 Iraqi cities. and they control oil reserves and production worth billions of dollars; if left, they will grow. Yes, of course, you can say why did we let this happen, and what on earth are the Iraqi politicians doing? They are doing what they do best, arguing over who should have power and spoils – they will be doing it on the last ‘copter out of Baghdad is no one stops ISIS. The latter has benefitted from the way the al-Maliki government has alienated the Sunnis, and clearly, unless he either changes his ways or is removed, then the uneasy coalition that is ISIS will be buoyed up by the elixir of success and the money – and women – it brings in its.

This being so, even the most war-weary American must realise that these people hate us, and they will do whatever they can to destroy our way of life. They sought to intimidate us on 9/11 with the warning that unless we stayed out of their world, they would inflict harm on us. We can choose, a decade on, to obey that warning, or we can, as the President proposes, play a wiser game this time.

There are, on the ground in the Kurdish territories, those who, if properly armed, will fight ISIS and have shown they have the will to resist or die in the attempt. ISIS may well have been betting on America being so tired of Iraq that it would do nothing – but as the President said: ‘that is not who we are’. The President is not, whatever political polemic believes, a fool, not are those advising him. In June he sent in 800 military advisers to Iraq to try to create a ‘platform’ for action if the worst should happen; it has happened, and sooner than anyone could have predicted. Iraq stands on the brink of descending into a civil war and an ISIS triumph.

The blogger, Cranmer, has declared, in echoes of Churchill, that:

Right across the Arab-Muslim world, from the coastal plains of the Maghreb to the Himalayan peaks of Pakistan, a Quranic Curtain is descending.

We cannot, in our interests and in the interests of all civilization, allow that curtain to descend. A moment has come when the civilized world has to say ‘I am an American’ and this is not what we allow to happen. In the name of all that is good about mankind, these savages must be picked up and planted on the trash-heap of history.

[I would like to thank my blogging companion, Chalcedon 451 for his help here]

 

One Man or Woman and Leadership

forn984hYesterday, my friend, Juwannadoright, wrote on the power of the individual. She wrote in the context of the environment, and how if we picked up after ourselves rather than littering, it would make a major improvement. She also extended her point in her reply to the comment she had made, to note that our leftist/statist opponents tend to use the collective to avoid personal responsibility, much like five year olds do. I expect that most of us have scores, if not hundreds, of examples of this. Anyway, here is a piece of her article.

Recently I commented on a piece regarding “global warming/climate change” that appeared in The Huffington Post.  My response was very simple.  I offered the opinion that I didn’t know whether “climate change” was a reality or a fabrication, but I agreed that mankind does make an impact on our environment – the most obvious being in the form of litter and pollution.  I went on to explain that if one accepted that and disliked either litter on our streets or in our air, he or she should take whatever steps possible to reduce or eliminate taking actions which would result in those conditions.  Personally, I think that is a pretty non-controversial statement.  I went on to offer a simple list of ten things which each of us could do now to work to reduce both litter and pollution – until we wait for science to discover the “ultimate solution.”

Although several people checked the “Like” button, the only written response I received was from someone who apparently had a different world view.  He excoriated my naiveté, thinking that “one person could make a difference.”  Of course, he failed to recognize that I do realize that if only one person out of six billion does something positive, that will indeed be meaningless.  His statement was, of course, an expression of his belief that only through the power of government “enlightenment” would we be able to ameliorate “climate change.”  But he overlooked something far more fundamental which I pointed out in my response.

via CAN ONE PERSON MAKE A DIFFERENCE? | juwannadoright.

As is nearly always true, I completely agree with her but, it also made me think about some other things.

I, and those like me, which means traditional Americans in this context, are the culmination of a very long line. Jess said this in her article Saturday

 It is redolent of American virtues: self-reliance; a sense of personal responsibility; but a willingness to do the right thing to help others, even at personal cost. You might say these are human virtues, and I would agree; but they are exemplified by the America which, at great cost, sustained the free world during the Cold War Years, ensuring that the gains from the defeat of Fascism were not lost.

OK, she was speaking of me, and it is not for me to claim those words are true of me, that’s for others to decide. But I surely aspire for them to be, and I do believe them to be a fair assessment of what American exceptionalism is all about. That paragraph ended this way, “Other countries are countries – America is a dream.” and that is completely true.

But it didn’t start here did it.

  1. What if Martin Luther, fully expecting to be burned at the stake, had not said, “Hier ich stände, ich kann nicht anders“? Would the church still be selling indulgences to the peasantry of Europe?
  2. What about Stephan Langton, the Archbishop of Canterbury, who led and unified the barons of England, to force King John to sign Magna Charta? The basic guarantee of individual freedom wherever the common-law runs.
  3. And maybe more to the point these days, what about King John himself, a king so bad, that for nearly 800 years there has never been (and likely will never be) another? Surely an example of a negative great man.
  4. What about, Henry VIII who wanted a successor so badly, that he took England out of the Catholic Church, thus paving the way for the First British Empire?
  5. What about Oliver Cromwell, who in the name of Parliament overthrew and executed, by law, an English King?
  6. What about William of Orange, who supplanted James II, and assumed the crown under conditions that made him expressly subservient to Parliament, and committed to the rights of English freemen?
  7. How about Thomas Jefferson who wrote those rights into the heritage of Americans, or James Madison who wrote them into the law?
  8. And finally how about an obscure staff major in the American Army, nearly due for retirement in 1940, who four years later would both lead the greatest allied army of freedom ever seen, and mount the largest amphibious landing in history, and would end up the fourth ranking general in American history, after Washington, the one man who could have lost the Revolution, behind Pershing, whose insistence on keeping American forces together as American forces, has as good a claim as any for winning World War I, and behind his own boss, General Marshall, who managed to build and supply the greatest American army in history, while arming and feeding America and our allies. In 13 years that staff major would be president of the United States, and would set many of the policies that caused the collapse of the Soviet Union, and so this man, more than any other, is who Europe, from Brest to the Urals, owes their chance to be free. Well done, President Eisenhower.
  9. How about Ronald Reagan, or Maggie Thatcher, or Pope John Paul II, would the Soviet bear still stare balefully at the free part of Europe without them?

The left likes to denigrate the importance of the individual. Why? I think it is because they are afraid to think for themselves, and so they hide behind other’s skirts. I know they are afraid to be responsible for themselves or anything else. But if you look through history you will always find, from Alexander the Great on, a man (or a woman) who believes so much in something that they will bet their life, and their eternal soul on it, and those are the people who have made our world, and everything in it.

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream – and not make dreams your master,
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ‘em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings – nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!

Rudyard Kipling

But in truth you will be more, you will be qualified to be a leader of men,

not merely children to the free candy store

Three years of NEO!

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Three years ago this week Nebraskaenergyobserver made its debut on the Internet. So first, congratulations to my dearest friend Neo. Blogs are like Gibbon’s description of empires – they rise and fall and the sands of history cover them and their place knows them no more. It is, as I know myself, easy enough to start up a blog – it is the maintaining it which is the hard part. So, I think three years is something to celebrate.

Neo’s blog is a window on the world. He is part of an America which many of us admire, but which many foreigners (and quite a few Americans) never visit – the ‘fly-over States’. I spent a year in the mid-West twenty years ago, and retain a fondness for it and all it represents; this is one of the reasons I am fond of this place. It is redolent of American virtues: self-reliance; a sense of personal responsibility; but a willingness to do the right thing to help others, even at personal cost. You might say these are human virtues, and I would agree; but they are exemplified by the America which, at great cost, sustained the free world during the Cold War Years, ensuring that the gains from the defeat of Fascism were not lost. Neo, like many of his readers, has an admiration for the ‘greatest generation’ and a keen sense of patriotism. He is proud of America for what it has done and for what it represents. Other countries are countries – America is a dream.

That is why for him, and for so many, the past few years have been ones of grim realisation: realisation that, to use a Churchill quotation, our leaders have failed to ‘rise to the level of events'; we have great events and small men; nor is that a partisan political point; since Reagan and Thatcher the ‘free world’ has wanted a figure of stature.

As we look out from the prairie, the aspect is dark: the ‘Arab spring’ has given way to a winter of discontent, as the whole region is buffeted by the storms of radical Islam, a phenomenon which our secular, liberal elites fail to grasp; yes, these people really do believe women should be neither seen nor heard, they do believe in stoning homosexuals, and they will chop your head off. In Israel, the one democracy in the region is in a permanent state of siege, with only the US really supporting her; and across Europe, the complacency of a political elite is being rudely shattered by the realisation that President Putin is up to something and will not be stopped by being told he is being naughty. Super Powers may want to retire, but when they try, they may find themselves draw back from the plow.

In the meantime, America itself changes, and values which were once universal are relativised; social cohesion, always a difficult thing to achieve, is threatened; and faith in the rule of law is challenged by the rule of lawyers, in whom few place any confidence: the difference between a confidence trickster and a politician is that they both take your money, but only the latter demands you like him for it.

All of these trends Neo covers, but he also provides us with a great historical perspective, good company, good music and great movies, as well as a wry sense of humour which says that even if the world is going to hell in a handcart, it’s five o’clock somewhere – hence the clip – so join me in raising a glass to our friend Neo :)

Legitimate Government, Evangelical Lutheran Style

‪Norsk (bokmål)‬: Hermann Sasse.

‪Norsk (bokmål)‬: Hermann Sasse. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 I will shortly be posting an article at All Along the Watchtower (Jess’ site) on Luther’s Two Kingdoms doctrine. [It is now up, and is here.] In it I am talking about the interference we are currently seeing in our churches, both here and in the UK, from the secular authorities. I think you should read it. I will update with a link when it is available.

In any case, while researching that article, I came across an essay by Hermann Sasse entitled: THE SOCIAL DOCTRINE OF THE AUGSBURG CONFESSION AND ITS SIGNIFICANCE FOR THE PRESENT This essay was originally published in the Kirchlich-soziale Blätter in 1930. In April 1928 he was called to be pastor at St. Marienkirche, Berlin, and Sozialpfarrer in Innere-mission (“social pastor in inner mission”).

[...]The assertion “The power of the state arises from the people” is false according to Lutheran doctrine, if it would be more than a formal description of the proceedings in a modern state, by which a government is formed. The power of the state proceeds from God. One last reminder of this lives on in the religious formulas and forms with which modern peoples still surround the state and civil life.

Any political power which has arisen out of anarchy may become a God-given governing authority, if it fulfills the tasks of the office of governing authority. This task is the assurance of peace and the maintenance of law through external power, the symbol of which is the sword. The governing authority is a “Servant of God, the avenger for those who do evil.” [Rom 13:4] Legal governing authority is distinguished from religious power in that it not only (as does the latter) possesses power [Macht] but uses its power in the service of law. Both belong to the essence of the state; Power and law [Macht und das Recht]. A governing authority which bears the sword in vain, which no longer has the fortitude to decisively punish the law-breaker, is in the process of burying itself [gräbt sich selbst das Grab]. A state which removes the concepts “right” and “wrong” from jurisprudence, and replaces them with “useful” and “injurious”, “healthy” and “ill”, “socially valuable” and “socially inferior”, [a state] which in the place of the principal of remuneration places the principal of inoculation [Unschädlichmachung] a state which in its civil law dissolves marriage and family, ceases to be a constitutional state and thus the governing authority.

A governing authority which knowingly or unknowingly makes the interests of social position or class the norm for the formation and definition of law, or which allows the norms of the law to be dictated by the so-called “legal consciousness” of the time, sinks to the level of raw power. This danger exists now—and this is not addressed by the Augustana—for all governing authorities, and shall for all time. It exists especially in the modern democratic forms of government and in the dictatorship. For the result of the secularization process of the last century has been that the consciousness of eternal legal norms which are not determined by man, has nearly perished. But where this consciousness ceases to exist, there God-given power is changed into demonic power, resulting in its ruin among peoples and states. But wherever on earth a governing authority—irrespective of which form—is conscious of a [civil] righteousness independent of its will, exercises the power of its office, upholds the law and guards the peace, there it is “God’s good gift”, there it is “by the grace of God.”

The essay (PDF) is available here. The paragraphs and emphasis are mine.

The German statement of where legitimate power comes from may be jarring to Anglo-American readers, after all we have been taught that the people are sovereign. I don’t find them mutually exclusive, however. God established the family for man before the fall, and government after the fall, to provide a semblance of justice in the world. It’s easy enough to see how, under God’s direction, families got together to form first cities and then states to protect themselves. It is also important for us to remember that all the revolutions in the English-speaking world (and only there, strangely) have been more counter-revolutions, than anything else, always the goal has been the restoration of “The Good Old Law“. That is also why we have never gone into the stage of anarchy that has followed all the other (French, Russian, et al) revolutions. We were going back.

The other thing here is that you see how Weimar manged to delegitimize itself. How close are our governments coming to doing the same? I’d say very close, indeed.

Is Administrative Law Unlawful ?

English: Detail of Preamble to Constitution of...

English: Detail of Preamble to Constitution of the United States Polski: Fragment preambuły Konstytucji Stanów Zjednoczonych (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From the Constitution of the United States:

ARTICLE I, SECTION 1.

All legislative powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.


 

When we talk of Administrative law, we are speaking of an extra-legal add on, which has very little (if any) base in the Constitution. If you are not familiar with it, here is a link to an introductory lecture POL611 . That’s how it is conceptualized these days. But is it constitutional at all? That’s different story. I’ve spoken of this several times lately once at Jess’ Watchtower, and on this site here, and here. It’s an important concept. Much of the content here is taken from a series on The Power Line Blog here, here, here, and here. Don’t panic, they’re quite short posts! This is all both there, and here based on a book, Is Administrative Law Unlawful, by Philip Hamburger, who is the Maurice and Hilda Friedman Professor of Law at Columbia Law School. He received his B.A. from Princeton University and his J.D. from Yale Law School.

Here is a not so short video presentation of what he is saying that he gave at Hillsdale College, which was published on May 14 of this year. It is eminently worth your time.

If you remember I commented in the article A Most Conservative Revolution that we don’t pay enough attention to what I call “the Bill of Particulars” in the middle of the document. The reason I say that is in this article. Everyone of them is protesting the arbitrary power of the Crown acting with or without Parliament (which did not represent the British in North America.

Here are a couple which might sound familiar to us today:

  • He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
  • He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands. (Although this one you might want to read in the negative.)

In any event, I hope you see my point here.

The point is that the Constitution, which is written in very clear English, and means what it says, “All legislative powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States.” It does not say that Congress may delegate that power to the executive, or his subordinates. In fact, John Locke said this.

The people alone can appoint the form of the commonwealth, which is by constituting the legislative, and appointing in whose hands that shall be. And when the people have said, We will submit to rules, and be governed by laws made by such men, and in such forms, no body else can say other men shall make laws for them; nor can the people be bound by any laws, but such as are enacted by those whom they have chosen, and authorized to make laws for them. The power of the legislative[,] being derived from the people by a positive voluntary grant and institution, can be no other than what that positive grant conveyed, which being only to make laws, and not to make legislators, the legislative can have no power to transfer their authority of making laws, and place it in other hands.

In short administrative law = the King’s prerogative which leads directly to the Star Chamber and High Commission and ≠ the Rule of Law, more properly described as “The rule through and under the law” which is the traditional Anglo-American definition of The Common Law.

Undoubtedly we will be returning to this subject soon because this is important. In fact this is the battle that led to Runnymede, to The English Civil War, to the Glorious Revolution, to the American Revolution, an in part to the American Civil War as well.

The fundamental article of my political creed is that despotism, or unlimited sovereignty, or absolute power, is the same in a majority of a popular assembly, an aristocratical council, an oligarchical junto, and a single emperor. Equally arbitrary, cruel, bloody, and in every respect diabolical.

John Adams

 

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