Optimism in America? 2

[I’m just going tp pit this post up and let the air clear again. I was working on other things and didn’t get today’s done. But Jessica reminds us of some eternal verities here. America was built on optimism, and we’d be remiss if we see only the gloom these days. So enjoy. Neo]
America optimism

One thing which has always struck me about America, and it is one of the reasons that FDR and President Reagan stand so pre-eminent, is that it is built on optimism. When you think of the situation of the Founding Fathers, goodness, what a leap of faith! They literally laid their lives on the line in a fight for independence against the great British Empire with its huge military might; but they triumphed. Their Republic consisted of twelve States on the eastern edge of a great, and largely unexplored Continent, with French and Spanish territory to the south and south-west; Louisiana essentially barred the route westward; Spanish Mexico barred the route to the south. Yet, within fifty years of the founding of the Republic, these barriers had vanished.

West of the Missouri, however, despite Lewis and Clark’s famous expedition, was more or less terra incognita, and even within the United States, tension was growing between the slave-holding States and the Free, so much so that by the 1860s, the Republic was tearing itself apart in one of the bloodiest of civil wars. Until the end of World War II there was hardly a decade when Bruce Springsteen’s lines about having ‘no work, because of the economy’ were not true; forty-odd years of exceptional prosperity in a material sense may have inculcated the belief that somehow the Republic’s people would always live on easy street – but that, whilst being part of the American hope, was never necessarily something most people actually achieved; you only have to look at the history of the Irish and Italian immigrants to see how it was for many first generation ‘Americans'; and of the suffering of the slaves, well, that is indeed a scar on the conscience.

But, despite of these things, America got on with it. Shady politicians? Crooked businessmen and bankers with their hold over the politicians? Politicians who were in it for themselves? Pork-barrelling? Faction fighting? Bitter insults hurled by political opponents at each other?  These are not new, these are American history; and you know what? America is bigger than them all. Sure, there are worrying developments – that FDR and his attempts to use SCOTUS to put in place that socialistic ‘New Deal’, with that Communist Wallace and Harry Hopkins, that really worries me! What’s that, that happened in the 1930s? Oh well, I mean Obama and Pelosi – except they don’t have an ounce of the talent and drive of FDR and his ‘Brains Trust’. The Great Republic remains standing. Does that mean that the fears of FDR’s opponents were wrong? Or does it mean that their vigilance stopped the worst happening? Or does it mean that the realities of America proved too great even for FDR’s ambitions? I confess I don’t know.

But what I do know is that at his first election Obama spotted something important – he knew that the American people are optimists, ‘can do’ people; after all, how many of their ancestors would have been there had they not been so?  So when he ran on a rhetoric of ‘hope’ he struck an authentic chord in the American people. It was one his opponents did not catch and still show insufficient sign of catching. It is all very well to call Obama out for being pretty useless, and to prophesy that the skies will darken and the waters rise and doom will fall upon the land; but is it a political programme to put before a People founded on the optimistic dreams of a bunch of guys who, if they’d calculated, would have paid the tax on tea and gotten on with feathering their nests?

I am an outsider who loves America. But I can’t help thinking that unless President Obama’s opponents get away from negativity (after all, if people feel, as they do, negative about him, they don’t need to be told to feel it) and offer a vision of the America its people recognise as optimistic, then for all her many faults, it will be Hillary in ’16. At which point, even my capacity to be Sunny will vanish :)

A Manifesto for Conservatarians

n_mj_cooke_130412-998x748This is fascinating. Two very good minds,thinking about the future. David Harsanyi of The Federalist interviews Charles C. W. Cooke of National Review officially about the latter’s book, but they get around some. Lots of good insight here, I think.

You can’t go far these days without running across someone describing themselves as a libertarian-leaning conservative. In his new book, “The Conservatarian Manifesto: Libertarians, Conservatives, and the Fight for the Right’s FutureNational Review’s Charles Cooke proposes a philosophical and political framework that fuses conservatism and libertarianism into a cohesive and effective political brand. The Federalist talked to Cooke about how divisions on the Right over issues like abortion, gay marriage, immigration and foreign policy can be overcome—and how conservatarianism might be the future of the Republican Party.

The Federalist: The fusionist idea has been bouncing around since the dawn of the modern conservative movement. How did you come to the idea of writing a manifesto for conservatarians?

Charles Cooke: The two halves of the title fit together quite nicely, I think. The conservation part is reactive. I have heard people since the Bush administration explaining routinely what they are not. Many did not want to be described as ‘conservative’ and many did not want to be described as ‘Republicans,’ but few were unwilling to go as far as to suggest they were ‘libertarian.’ You hear this a lot: people say, ‘I am conservative when I am around libertarians and libertarian when I am around conservatives.’ I wanted to find out who these people are and what they want and why they are confused. But I also wanted to offer my own explanations as to how they can co-exist and where I think they can go with these instincts and these ideas. And how the various factions on the Right could coexist.

The Federalist: Is there a politician out there now that embodies the philosophical outlook of conservatarians?

Charles Cooke: It’s a difficult question because there are so many factions on the Right, you can get a lot of traction by appealing to any one of them. As such, there doesn’t seem to one candidate who is fits the bill. The closest person is probably Rand Paul.

The Federalist: My sense of Paul too often betrays a paleo-libertarian instinct that, in the end, will probably turn off most conservatives that lean small “l” libertarian.

Charles Cooke: I agree. I think the connections to his father will also damage him. And, you know, it’s a good question but it some regards it misses the point. This is supposed to be a way of changing the minds of voters. The very notion that Americans would be putting all of our stock in one person in the executive branch is in and of itself a problem. Because that is how we now discuss politics.

The Federalist:  Most voters have a difficult time detaching ideas about process from specific policies. Liberals, especially these days, conflate policy and process because outcome is what really matters. Focusing on a single person is a lot easier for voters who aren’t generally very knowledgeable about specifics. So, I imagine, your argument is more difficult to sell than almost any other contemporary political philosophy, precisely because it is built on that distinction.

Keep reading Can Libertarians and Conservatives Coexist?: An Interview With Charles C.W. Cooke.

In many ways this is where I fit in to our political society, and it’s pretty much a traditional American stance; “Leave Me Alone!” Shouted at the top of our voices.

Concealed Carry and the Right of Self-Defense

Feb25We haven’t been talking a lot about this lately mostly because other than a few loonies like NYC’s mayor, few are pushing it. But as always, we need to pay attention.

One thing that struck me as we all watched the events in Paris, is how helpless Europeans have become, simply passive sheep awaiting slaughter. Nor was it the first time these thoughts were in my mind.

Most of you know that I have many friends in Britain, and a while back when Drummer Rigby was butchered in Woolwich, we talked about it both on the Watchtower and I expanded on those comments here. It was very interesting to see the differences in  the American viewpoint contrasted with the British, and I suspect continental Europeans are even more passive.

In fact, the passivity contained in the comment by a distinguished British educator chilled my blood.

We are entirely dependent upon the Police”

My response was as follows:

It’s true of course, most of us have read of British subjects sentenced to life in prison for defending themselves in their home from an armed assailant. And I’m certain I speak for most American when I say, with that system, you are not free. To me and most likely to my compatriots it brings to mind a phrase that Thomas Jefferson used.

Malo periculosam, libertatem quam quietam servitutem.”

Which translates as,

“I prefer the tumult of liberty to the quiet of servitude.”

This was brought to mind this morning as I read from Dave “the Sage”, in his usual, calm rational style the case for the armed citizen, which is as true today as it was when the right was written into Magna Charta 800 years ago., thereby codifying an existing right. Here’s a piece  of it:

“A fear of weapons is a sign of retarded sexual and emotional maturity.” 

–  Sigmund Freud

[…]

The truth is often very simple. The law-abiding, gun-owning citizen is not the problem but for some reason is often the target of those who seek to disarm the populace.

When I received my concealed handgun permit it required little more than having the right sheriff, taking a hunters safety course, filling out a questionnaire, not having a criminal record, and writing a check. They have since tightened the restrictions a bit, but not by much if you know the right NRA instructor. Seventy-five dollars can get you an afternoon of target practice, training, and your ticket to the coveted concealed-carry permit if you are willing to do your homework.

Think of the growing number of concealed handgun permit holders as thousands of walking safety bubbles moving throughout society and undoubtedly crossing your path while potentially protecting you and your family without you even knowing it. You can live as a victim subject to the whim of criminals and crazies or you can live as a free man and have the potential to protect yourself, your family, and your community. I choose the latter.

[…]

No one should insist on leaving entire sections of the community open and helpless to the predations of murderous psychopaths. It is important to attempt to help change a culture that has wandered hopelessly off the path of logic and common sense, and help to rectify the pathetically failed policies that cost some people their lives. I can think of nothing more important to address than that. People are dead because of others stupidity and continual striving for a utopian nanny state. That cannot be excused or allowed to continue anymore.

Free Americans should have the right to defend themselves from the more unsavory elements of society that attempt to prey upon or outright kill them.

Laws that forbid the carrying of arms… disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes… Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man.

— Jefferson’s “Commonplace Book,” 1774-1776, quoting from On Crimes and Punishment, by criminologist Cesare Beccaria, 1764

Concealed Carry and the Right of Self-Defense ⋆ Dc Gazette.

It strikes me that the main problem with the Europeans, and with some segments in America as well, is that they have abdicated the right to be a free person, along with (or perhaps because of) the concomitant obligation to act in their own interest. And so they sold their freedom for a little temporary safety, and as always, they soon shall have neither.

The Rhymes of History: OODA Edition

156635-ISIS-largeThis is pretty interesting, and we would be well to file it in the “Rhymes of history” file. Whatever happens-it has before, probably often. Here’s Thomas Fleming bringing advice from George Washington to our present problems.

Another way to phrase this, that I use, it was developed by an Air force officer, is the OODA Loop. It’s a good guide to gaining and maintaining the initiative. I wrote some about it here. The problem here is mostly with the ‘Observe’ part. our NCA seems to be totally oblivious to anything except fundraising, and when he does do something it is too little-too late, and often the wrong thing anyway.

Channeling George: Regaining the Initiative

“By the spring of 1972, President Nixon’s decision to ‘Vietnamize’ the war was in full swing. He had withdrawn almost all our combat troops. Only a few hundred advisors remained behind, working with various South Vietnamese divisions. The overconfident North Vietnamese launched an offensive aimed at ending the war. It was a disaster for them. They were defeated everywhere. Their worst humiliation came in the town of An Loc, where a South Viet force, outnumbered five to one, held out while American airpower pulverized the attackers. Suddenly we saw a way to seize and keep the initiative without recommitting large numbers of American infantry.”[…]

“Like President Truman in Korea, President George W. Bush found a commander who knew how to deal with the situation. General David Petraeus saw that the real problem was our inability to retain control of towns and cities where we had defeated the enemy. As we moved on to other embattled sites, the enemy, in standard guerilla fashion, infiltrated men and weapons into the supposedly pacified territory, and resumed their destructive tactics, with the help of the intimidated local population. Petraeus’s answer to this was “The Surge.” With forty thousand reinforcements, he was able to keep the places we pacified under our control, and the peace-hungry majority soon turned pro-American. That is how we regained the initiative in Iraq and won the war.”

“But it hasn’t stayed won, alas.”

“That’s because President Obama, pressured by the left wing of the Democratic Party, withdrew too many troops too soon, and there were enough guerrillas still in the game to take advantage of it. When a President listens to domestic politicians instead of to his generals, we have a veritable formula for losing the initiative.

– See more at: http://hnn.us/article/156635#sthash.cTIYFW28.dpuf

via History News Network | Channeling George: Regaining the Initiative.

He’s indisputably right, of course. What he doesn’t talk about is the parallels with Carter as well. Especially the utter inability to see that not everybody in the world is like them, some are far more ruthless, and likely motivated by things that we do not even start to understand.

To me, our biggest problem here, though is that we have utterly lost the initiative to a bunch of rabid barbarians, and the Iraqi minorities are paying a horrendous price for out cluelessness. Obama can blame the intelligence agencies all he desires, it’s an utterly transparent lie. It has been obvious for months, if not years, even in the middle of the country. The only reason for not seeing it, is an unwillingness to face reality.

Unless, and until, we regain the initiative, it is going to get worse, maybe much worse. This is not the mostly rational Soviet Union we are (sort-of) fighting here.

Cavafy comes to mind again.

What are we waiting for, assembled in the forum?

The barbarians are due here today.

Why isn’t anything happening in the senate?
Why do the senators sit there without legislating?

Because the barbarians are coming today.
What laws can the senators make now?
Once the barbarians are here, they’ll do the legislating.

Why did our emperor get up so early,
and why is he sitting at the city’s main gate
on his throne, in state, wearing the crown?

Because the barbarians are coming today
and the emperor is waiting to receive their leader.
He has even prepared a scroll to give him,
replete with titles, with imposing names.

Why have our two consuls and praetors come out today
wearing their embroidered, their scarlet togas?
Why have they put on bracelets with so many amethysts,
and rings sparkling with magnificent emeralds?
Why are they carrying elegant canes
beautifully worked in silver and gold?

Because the barbarians are coming today
and things like that dazzle the barbarians.

Why don’t our distinguished orators come forward as usual
to make their speeches, say what they have to say?

Because the barbarians are coming today
and they’re bored by rhetoric and public speaking.

Why this sudden restlessness, this confusion?
(How serious people’s faces have become.)
Why are the streets and squares emptying so rapidly,
everyone going home so lost in thought?

Because night has fallen and the barbarians have not come.
And some who have just returned from the border say
there are no barbarians any longer.

And now, what’s going to happen to us without barbarians?
They were, those people, a kind of solution

The King’s Prerogative

English: President Barack Obama's signature on...

English: President Barack Obama’s signature on the health insurance reform bill at the White House, March 23, 2010. The President signed the bill with 22 different pens. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We have talked several times about the rise of administrative law and it’s almost exact similarity with the King’s Prerogative. You can find those articles here, here, here, and one here at Jess’, nearly all of those articles also have links, if you’re interested.

Today we are going to speak of how the Obama administration and its Democratic sycophants are defending it. In the Affordable Care Act (ACA, Obamacare, and other less complimentary names), it states clearly and unequivocally, that to receive a subsidy one must purchase through an exchange established by a State.

In fact that was one of the major inducements included to try to force the states to establish exchanges. A majority of the states, being more attuned to the people than Washington is, refused. And the matter came to the DC court last week, which ruled that the words meant what the words said. That was what the Democrats had campaigned on back in the effort to pass the law, but now, they find it most inconvenient, since it means that many Americans will have to pay the full price of the overpriced, not very good insurance available on the exchanges.

So now, not understanding apparently, that we were listening (and that You-Tube exists) they are now saying that what they meant was an exchange established by a state or by the administrative bureaucracy of the federal government. Most of the administration, legislature and judicial officials owing loyalty to the Democratic party are supporting this nonsense, and some courts will no doubt rule accordingly. And so we are likely to end up at the Supreme Court again.

On Sunday Angelo M Codevilla wrote on the Library of Law and Liberty on this. Here is a bit of it.

[…]America has moved away from the rule of law in recent decades, as more and more of the decisions by which we must live are made by administrative agencies in consultation with their favorite constituencies and judges rather than by the people’s elected representatives. More and more, statutes passed by Congress are lengthy grants of power to administrative agencies, the content of which is determined by complex interactions between bureaucrats, special interests, and judges aligned with either. Hence House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s famous statement—that the ACA’s meaning would be determined only after its passage—was true of it and most other modern legislation as well. This is the rule of men, not of law.

But the transition away from the rule of law has been masked by the (ever thinner) fiction that the administrators are merely filling in the interstices of laws. Were they to prevail, the administration’s arguments for casting aside the ACA’s explicit provision because it conflicts with its will and its clients’ convenience would mark the dropping of the mask. America’s transition from the rule of law to the rule of the sovereign, largely accomplished some time ago de facto,would now be fulfilled de jure. Openly, this President and his partisans would have trumped law by will. Thereafter, continuing to pretend that America lives by law would be a mockery.

The importance of this is difficult to exaggerate. The nation’s slide into something foreign to its past would accelerate.

Barack Obama is not the last President America will ever have. Sooner or later, someone will come into the presidency representing a majority of Americans who—rightly or wrongly—may be aggrieved by what they feel are measures that the previous administration and its partners have shoved down their throats. They may be eager to engage in retaliatory activity with lots of compound interest. The administrative machinery, the legal arguments, and the political precedents would be ready for them.[…]

You really need to read it all

This morning Robert Tracinski also wrote on The Federalist on this. He shows that this type of legislating is what we increasingly do. Here’s a bit of that:

[…]But the big question is: why do they think they can get away with this? Why do they think they can write something into the law, go around for a couple of years explaining that provision to audiences, and then pretend later that it wasn’t there at all and it’s patently ridiculous for anyone to think it ever was?

Partly this a measure of crass partisanship, and partly it’s a measure of desperation. Without the subsidies, what happens to ObamaCare? And without ObamaCare, what does their messiah have to show for his presidency?

But this also fits into a larger context. They think they can get away with rewriting the law on the fly because of the way we legislate now. For more than a century, it has become increasingly common for Congress to write laws that declare a broad, vague goal without clearly defining the specifics of its implementation—and then leave it to bureaucrats in federal agencies to fill in the blanks.[…]

Again, you should read his entire article

But the main takeaways here are that the legislative authority in our system is vested in the Congress, and only the Congress. One of the results of this mispractice is that Congress can evade their responsibility for what the legislation says, and simply blame HHS or EPA or whatever bureaucracy is concerned. That is not what the Founder’s intended. The bureaucracy (and the executive generally) were established to enforce the laws the Congress passed, essentially without comment, although it wouldn’t do any harm if the Legislative and Executive branches were to occasionally remember that they also have sworn to uphold the Constitution.

In truth this practice is not measurably different that The Statute of Proclamations (1539) that allowed Henry VIII to rule as a despot. This allowed the King to issue proclamations which had the force of an Act of Parliament.This essentially did away with the need for Parliament. And that is pretty much what we are seeing with Obama’s reliance on his “pen and a phone”. I should note that very soon after Henry’s death that Act of Proclamations was repealed, although all the way to 1689 English Monarchs kept trying personal rule under various guises.

This was one of the abuses that the Constitution was specifically written to prohibit. We’ve let it sneak back in, in the guise of administrative law.

Nothing new under the sun is there?

 

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

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