Trying to Form a More Perfect Union

stearnsThis morning at the Watchtower, Chalcedon started his post with this:

Democracy is boring. It involves discussing things in representative assemblies – aka ‘talking shops’; it means compromises – aka ‘fudging things’; it involves not always getting what you want  – aka ‘selling out’.

Do go and read it, I’ll wait for you, and this will make more sense, with his as background.

I certainly agree, and would add that it is a feature, not a bug. As an American, when I look at the British government, well it’s terrifying. Parliament can literally do anything. The Prime Minister is a creature of parliament. Parliament itself is the supreme court. No checks, no balances, nothing. Only the Grace of God to prevent what the 3rd Marquess of Salisbury feared from happening even more often.

As I have said, there are two points or two characteristics of the Radical programme which it is your special duty to resist. One concerns the freedom of individuals. After all, the great characteristic of this country is that it is a free country, and by a free country I mean a country where people are allowed, so long as they do not hurt their neighbours, to do as they like. I do not mean a country where six men may make five men do exactly as they like. That is not my notion of freedom.

And that is why so many of us refer to the United States as a Republic. We have rules, set, as close as man can, in stone. The key thing actually is that the federal government is a government of enumerated powers. It can only do the things it is chartered to do, essentially what the preamble to the constitution states.

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Granted it has gotten stretched well beyond what the founders had in mind, and the states are plenary government, that can do anything not prohibited.

A few points here.

  • Our founders feared a strong central government. That’s why the government’s power is so circumscribed, and then divided three ways.
  • The founders also feared what John Adams called ‘Mobocracy’. That’s why the president is not elected by the people, we elect electors in each state who then elect the president. And that is also why the Senate used to be elected by the state legislatures. It was designed that way to slow down the passion of the mob and allow a cooling off period.
  • They also feared a standing army (with cause). That why the US Army, alone in the government can only be budgeted for 2 years.

It’s all about keeping the people, and only the people, not 50% +1 of the people, sovereign, not Congress, certainly not the President, not even the Supreme Courts, or the states, only the people.

Reagan said that “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it on to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”

He meant it and we still do. So Chalcedon is right as well about the second amendment. No, it’s not about hunting, although many of us enjoy that. Nor is really about the right of self-defense, although that is valid. And while the man who put the terrorist down last weekend in St. Cloud, MN is a sworn officer, he is a reserve and hadn’t been on duty for two months. What he does for a living is that he is an NRA certified instructor, mostly teaching and training concealed carriers. This was said once:

The right of self-defense is the first law of nature: in most governments it has been the study of rulers to confine this right within the narrowest limits possible. Wherever standing armies are kept up, and when the right of the people to keep and bear arms is, under any color or pretext whatsoever, prohibited, liberty, if not already annihilated, is on the brink of destruction.”

— Henry St. George Tucker (in Blackstone’s Commentaries)

And that is the purpose, it follows on from the inbred distrust in Anglo-Saxon communities of standing armies and aristocracies. Many say it can’t work anymore, but I wonder. Does anybody think the Americans can’t make as good partisan fighters as the Afghans? You might ask Lord Cornwallis about that. We wrote that book, with a fair amount of input from the Native Americans. It’s also germane that there are over 300,000,000 small arms in civilian hands here. It’s not a sure thing, for either side, and so prudent men wait and think and try to find a better way.

Putin and Assad are, perhaps, representative of their societies, but they are not of ours. Chalcedon is again right when he speaks of Hitler, Mussolini, Lenin, and Stalin. And while they were not as evil, Wilson, FD Roosevelt, George HW Bush, and Obama could be included. And likely some British PMs too. The wanting for a man on a white horse to right our perceived wrongs is as universal, as it is pernicious.

The identity politics we are seeing in the west, if we don’t get over it, will destroy our civilization. Jess and I wrote a short series on this a while back. Since this is already overlong, I’ll simply link you there, you’ll find them here, and here.

If It Ain’t Broke…

17078-john-adams-famous-quotesYes, I know I haven’t posted for a while, nor am I sure this isn’t the last. I started writing this blog because I had something to say, and I’ve said it over and over and over again. There’s little point that I can see in saying it anymore.

The title comes from that old saw: If it ain’t broke; don’t fix it. But there is a corollary: If it is broke; do fix it, or find another, or do without. And America isn’t.

There has been a lot written about Decius’ Claremont article The Flight 93 Election, of you haven’t read it, you really should. He has quite a lot to say, all of it cogent, and I think right. I’m only going to quote a couple of paragraphs.

If conservatives are right about the importance of virtue, morality, religious faith, stability, character and so on in the individual; if they are right about sexual morality or what came to be termed “family values”; if they are right about the importance of education to inculcate good character and to teach the fundamentals that have defined knowledge in the West for millennia; if they are right about societal norms and public order; if they are right about the centrality of initiative, enterprise, industry, and thrift to a sound economy and a healthy society; if they are right about the soul-sapping effects of paternalistic Big Government and its cannibalization of civil society and religious institutions; if they are right about the necessity of a strong defense and prudent statesmanship in the international sphere—if they are right about the importance of all this to national health and even survival, then they must believe—mustn’t they?—that we are headed off a cliff. […]

Yet we may also reasonably ask: What explains the Pollyanna-ish declinism of so many others? That is, the stance that Things-Are-Really-Bad—But-Not-So-Bad-that-We-Have-to-Consider-Anything-Really-Different! The obvious answer is that they don’t really believe the first half of that formulation. If so, like Chicken Little, they should stick a sock in it. Pecuniary reasons also suggest themselves, but let us foreswear recourse to this explanation until we have disproved all the others.

Read the whole thing ™The Flight 93 Election.

I think he’s exactly right. There was a lot of blowback, as you might imagine, and recently he issued a Restatement on Flight 93, And I also want to quote from that.

Some also complained about the aptness of the analogy: the plane crashed! Well, yes, and this one might too. Then again, it might not. It depends in part on what action the electorate chooses to take. The passengers of Flight 93 roused themselves. They succeeded insofar as that plane did not hit its intended target. The temptation not to rouse oneself in a time of great peril is always strong. In another respect, the analogy is even more apt. All of the passengers on Flight 93—and all of the victims at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon—died owing in part to a disastrously broken immigration system that didn’t then and still doesn’t serve the interests of the American people. Which also happens to be the core issue at stake in this election.

And as we have always held here, the passengers of Flight 93 staged a counterattack, yes, they died, but they made sure in doing so that the terrorists’ mission did not succeed. And you know what, they were going to die anyway, because of their counterattack, others lived. That is why they are and remain American heroes. Just like the defenders of the Alamo.

A point from the earlier essay is worth repeating. Conservatives have shouted since the beginning of Trump’s improbable rise: He’s not one of us! He is not conservative! And, indeed, in many ways, Trump is downright liberal. You might think that would make him more acceptable to the Left. But no. As “compassionate conservatism” did nothing to blunt leftist hatred of George W. Bush, neither do Trump’s quasi-liberal economic positions. In fact, they hate Trump much more. Trump is not conservative enough for the conservatives but way too conservative for the Left, yet somehow they find common cause. Earlier I posited that the reason is Trump’s position on immigration. Let me add two others.

The first is simply that Trump might win. He is not playing his assigned role of gentlemanly loser the way McCain and Romney did, and may well have tapped into some previously untapped sentiment that he can ride to victory. This is a problem for both the Right and the Left. The professional Right (correctly) fears that a Trump victory will finally make their irrelevance undeniable. The Left knows that so long as Republicans kept playing by the same rules and appealing to the same dwindling base of voters, there was no danger. Even if one of the old breed had won, nothing much would have changed, since their positions on the most decisive issues were effectively the same as the Democrats and because they posed no serious challenge to the administrative state.

Which points to the far more important reason. I urge readers to go back through John Marini’s argument, to which I cannot do anything close to full justice. Suffice to say here, the current governing arrangement of the United States is rule by a transnational managerial class in conjunction with the administrative state. To the extent that the parties are adversarial at the national level, it is merely to determine who gets to run the administrative state for four years. Challenging the administrative state is out of the question. The Democrats are united on this point. The Republicans are at least nominally divided. But those nominally opposed (to the extent that they even understand the problem, which is: not much) are unwilling or unable to actually do anything about it. Are challenges to the administrative state allowed only if they are guaranteed to be ineffectual? If so, the current conservative movement is tailor-made for the task. Meanwhile, the much stronger Ryan wing of the Party actively abets the administrative state and works to further the managerial class agenda.

This is exactly what I see, as well, and I do want to quote Decius’ final paragraph.

One can point to a few enduring successes: Tax rates haven’t approached their former stratosphere highs. On the other hand, the Left is busy undoing welfare and policing reform. Beyond that, we’ve not been able to implement our agenda even when we win elections—which we do less and less. Conservatism had a project for national renewal that it failed to implement, while the Left made—and still makes—gain after gain after gain. Consider conservatism’s aims: “civic renewal,” “federalism,” “originalism,” “morality and family values,” “small government,” “limited government,” “Judeo-Christian values,” “strong national defense,” “respect among nations,” “economic freedom,” “an expanding pie,” “the American dream.” I support all of that. And all of it has been in retreat for 30 years. At least. But conservatism cannot admit as much, not even to itself, in the middle of the night with the door closed, the lights out and no one listening.

I tried to tell it, and it got mad.

Again, read the whole thing: Restatement on Flight 93

I’ll tell you something, this is exactly what drove Brexit, this summer. Jess won’t agree, but everything I read says that the people that voted to leave the EU did so to restore the sovereignty of Great Britain. Some are as the BBC tries to paint them all, but most are not even against immigration, they are against uncontrolled immigration. But most want Britain to be governed in Britain’s interest, not Europe’s (or increasingly, Germany’s).

And that brings me to this. I have no idea when or if there will be another post here. I will take up my pen (I’m getting a little old for the sword) and my ballot to fight the left at any time. But when most of the right makes common cause with the left against America’s interest, well…

It really is our Flight 93 moment.

More Whittle Sharpshooting

Are Trump and Putin worrying you? Here are Bill and the gang with their take on it.

This has been kicking around for a bit. It’s still valid though, and I suspect there are lessons here for us as well.

Smart Power or Disrespect.

7812822-1x1-700x700When I first read about the arrival of Barack Obama at Beijing, sadly I chuckled, because it felt like something so many of us would like to do. Then I remembered when the President is piped on board a navy ship, he is announced as “The United States, arriving”. That is ceremonially, and in large part effectively, he is the United States, and when he is disrespected, so is the country. And so my chuckle was short lived.

Paul Mirengoff wrote on this the other day

It was, as the New York Times acknowledged, “bruising even by Chinese standards.”

It was also unsurprising, Susan Rice’s statement that “they did things that weren’t anticipated” notwithstanding. Obama has earned China’s contempt.

The administration’s “pivot to Asia” was not, objectively, terribly meaningful. But to the extent it had meaning, the Chinese reasonably perceived it as an attempt to counteract China’s large and growing influence in the region. Subjectively, the pivot was full of meaning for China.

Obama hoped through his “pivot” to forge stronger alliances with our traditional friends in the region and make new allies out of nations like Vietnam and Burma that feel threatened by China. However, as William Wan of the Washington Post observes, “the very Asian allies the pivot was meant to reassure had their doubts” about Obama’s seriousness. “Many wondered how much of the pivot was empty rhetoric and how much it would be backed by economic and military substance.”

As a result, the “pivot” was counterproductive. China became more belligerent while the nations that were supposed to help us curb Chinese belligerence wanted little part of it.

And it’s certainly not just the Chinese, John Hinderaker adds this

In contrast, Obama had to cancel his scheduled meeting with Philippine President Rodrigo Détente after that leader blasted Obama for criticizing his government’s war against Philippine drug dealers.

President Obama canceled a meeting with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte Monday, after the Filipino leader publicly swore while warning him not to raise questions about alleged death squad operations in his country against suspected drug dealers.

Earlier in the day, during a news conference before leaving the Philippines for Laos, where both men are to attend a summit of Southeast Asian leaders, Duterte had said that if Obama were to raise the issue during their scheduled meeting, “son of a bitch, I will swear at you.”

I haven’t heard the original Spanish, but other news sources say that Duterte said “son of a whore.”

He is a leader of a sovereign country and is answerable only to the Filipino people, Duterte said, and Obama must be respectful.

At the G20, Obama seemed determined to offend everyone, including his least favorite nation, Great Britain. He repeated his threat that Britain, having voted to leave the EU, would go to the back of the line when it comes to trade agreements with the U.S. But Brexit leaders weren’t buying it.

[A]t the G20 conference in China [Obama] appeared with the new Prime Minister Theresa May, and openly said that the 17 million who backed Brexit were wrong.

But Iain Duncan Smith, the former Conservative leader, said of Mr Obama’s comments: “Who cares what he says? He’s going. Bye bye.”

He told The Sun: “All the congressmen and senators I’ve spoken to have all said ‘When you’re ready to do a trade deal, we’ll step up to the plate’. We’re both free traders, it will take one or two years.

“The only trade deal the US has in train at the moment is TTIP, and everyone is saying that is dead. Congress won’t ratify it as they would have to make too many compromises to please the EU.

“It’s [Obama’s] vanity project. The truth is, no one really cares what he says.”

And Jacob Rees-Mogg, another Eurosceptic Tory MP, added: “Fortunately, he is yesterday’s man and will no longer be President early next year.

“The US is the UK’s single most important partner, and as far as I can see the EU-US trade deal is dead in the water.

“He’s putting a corpse ahead of the United States’ most loyal ally.

“These comments tell us all we need to know about how President Obama has never been a friend of ours.”

The “corpse” would be the EU.

As Streiff said on RedState,

He [Obama] was wrong then, he’s wrong now. He is confusing people being unafraid of us with people liking and respecting us. They don’t. They’ve witnessed the slow motion freight train wreck that has been America’s foreign policy under the morons Obama has appointed and hired. China should be thanked for showing the next president the low esteem in which China holds the United States.

Whoever the next president is, they’ve got a hell of a lot of rebuilding to do. Or we may as well go gentle into the night, for dark, it will certainly be.

Après nous le déluge

Still Naught For Our Comfort

One of the things that I love about my partner here, Jessica, is that she has rekindled my love for poetry, and you have seen each of us use it to reinforce our points. It is hardly a new method but, it is one used rarely these days. I suspect because most of us are so ill-educated that we are unaware of its richness, and ability to reinforce our point.

If you read much of Lincoln’s writings and speeches, for instance, you will see it used to great effect. For instance his famous, “of the people, for the people, and by the people’ was not original, nor did he claim it was, and his listeners knew it was not. The original is this: “This Bible is for the government of the people, for the people and by the people.” it is by John Wycliffe and it is from 1384.

She has greatly enriched my life, but more importantly, she has enabled me to make my points much more clearly. I wrote most of this post while she was just starting to recover from her illness, and it spoke deeply to me then, and in fact, looking at the world today, it still does.

A sea-folk blinder than the sea
Broke all about his land,
But Alfred up against them bare
And gripped the ground and grasped the air,
Staggered, and strove to stand.

For earthquake swallowing earthquake
Uprent the Wessex tree;
The whirlpool of the pagan sway
Had swirled his sires as sticks away
When a flood smites the sea.

Our towns were shaken of tall kings
With scarlet beards like blood:
The world turned empty where they trod,
They took the kindly cross of God
And cut it up for wood.

He bent them back with spear and spade,
With desperate dyke and wall,
With foemen leaning on his shield
And roaring on him when he reeled;
And no help came at all.

There was not English armor left,
Nor any English thing,
When Alfred came to Athelney
To be an English king.

It was a very bad time to be King Alfred of Wessex, and I think it holds parallels to where we are now, in America.

“Mother of God” the wanderer said
“I am but a common king,
Nor will I ask what saints may ask,
To see a secret thing.

“But for this earth most pitiful.
This little land I know,
If that which is forever is,
Or if our hearts shall break with bliss
Seeing the stranger go?”

And here we come to my introduction to this epic by Jess, when she quoted it to me when by deceit, Obamacare was ruled constitutional. That defeat continues to unfold to the detriment of the country, as do many others.

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

“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.’

Naught for your  comfort has become a catchphrase for us when things go awry, which has been often these last few years for us, personally, and for us as Americans, and for Britons as well.

We are living through a failed presidency (or at least trying to) and one of the reasons it has failed is that many of our countrymen have confused Obama with God, and I suspect he has as well. That never turns out well, and it is not here either. Nor does the next four years look exactly like ‘Morning in America’. But then neither did 1976.

I’m reminded that first class leaders hire the best men they can find to help them, and second class leaders hire third class helpers, and worst of all, third class leaders hire lackeys who will tell them what they want to hear. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Makes me wonder at who we are considering hiring to run ‘America, Inc.’

We will have to simply use our intelligence to try to select the best person. We have many things to fix. It’s going to be an epically hard battle, and we could do worse than to emulate King Alfred.

But remember, we remember King Alfred because he won. Let’s finish with the rest of the poem.

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.

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.

That may well happen again, but if we look around, the landscape does rather look as the poet describes here, doesn’t it?

They shall not come in warships,
They shall not waste with brands,
But books be all their eating,
And ink be on their hands.

Yea, this shall be the sign of them,
The sign of the dying fire;
And man made like a half-wit,
That knows not of his sire.

What though they come with
scroll and pen,
And grave as a shaven clerk,
By this sign you shall know them
That they ruin and make dark;

By all men bond to nothing
Being slaves without a lord,
By one blind idiot world obeyed
Too blind to be abhorred.

By thought a crawling ruin,
By life a leaping mire,
By a broken heart in the breast
of the world
And the end of the world’s desire.

By God and man dishonored
By death and life made vain
Know ye, the old barbarian,
The barbarian come again

Did that interest you enough to wonder about the poem and its author? I hope so. It was written by G.K. Chesterton (and its much longer than the excerpts here) it’s called The Ballad of the White Horse. You can find it at Project Gutenberg.

There is, of course, another lesson implicit in the poem. King Alfred succeeded because he was true to his vision and his faith. If we are not, we will fail.

By the way, Jess and I also often quote Mother Julian of Norwich to each other as well, especially as reported by T.S. Elliot in Little Gidding.

All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.

BLM and The End of PC: Bill Whittle Saturday

We haven’t had much Bill Whittle recently, so let’s have a couple for Saturday. First, how Black Lives Matters kills people.

And it’s going to get nothing but worse as the craven administrations of our cities force more and more police departments to ‘Go Fetal’. Anybody who thinks these people give a damn about blacks, or anybody else but themselves, well it’s hard to believe anyone can be that deluded.

Then there is political correctness. You know that I long ago decided not to play this game. I simply don’t care, I call things what and as they are. Bill and Stefan Molyneux thnk we’ve turned the corner on this one. Hope so, and in any case, keep the pressure on.

 

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