Thursday, April 30, 2009
Exxon Mobil, the hated and feared and maligned oil giant, reported a 58% decrease in profits from a year ago. Where are the protests and poignant op-ed pieces demanding that we "save" Big Oil?
Oh, that's right...oil, the stuff all of us use every day and our entire economy is dependent on and companies risk billions of their own money to find and refine, is evil and linked with George Bush and Iraq so we don't care when they lose money. Sorry, I forgot.
Back to Swine Flu!
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Dr. Thomas Sowell has a new book out on the root causes of the recent collapses of the housing and financial markets, and today in his column he gave us a sneak peak. Check this one out.
Like so many disasters, the current economic crisis grew out of policies based on good intentions and mushy thinking.Too true, sir. Too true.
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Republicans in Name Only. Otherwise known as Arlen Specter. You see, THIS is has been the problem with the GOP for many years now: many of them in Congress are not actually Republicans, let along conservatives. Senator Specter has defected to the party he has been with all along, the Democrats, and we're supposed to be surprised?
Conservatism wins when it is presented and actually followed through on. The logical conclusion of the brand of politics that men like Specter and even to some extent John McCain practice is liberalism and Democrat victories. Wise up, conservatives!
Here's another great re-cap of what is going on here with Specter. Here's a clip of the man himself promising just last month that he would never switch parties. God Bless 'em.
I don't know if you've seen this yet, but my Bears selected Jarron Gilbert from San Diego State University in last weekend's draft. The guy is over 6'5'' tall, weighs some 280 pounds, and can do THIS...watch that clip.
Monday, April 27, 2009
First Newsweek told us that America as a "Christian nation" was a dead idea, and now USA Today tells us that such a claim is "Not Even Close." So which is it? Does it even matter?
Dr. Albert Mohler, president of Southern Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY, offers some thoughts and commentary on the whole situation on his blog today. It's worth the read, folks.
The Newsweek article rightly quoted me on the analysis of a Post-Christian turn in the culture. I not only stand by those comments; I would gladly expand upon them. The real issue here is that I define Christianity in very different terms than those of either the ARIS study or Professor Prothero's minimalist use of the term.
My concern lies less with cultural influence than with the vitality and integrity of Christian witness. My comments may sound elegiac, and in some sense they are, but my concern is with the very trends Prothero himself identified. The transformation of American Christianity into just a Christian-branded "spirituality" is part and parcel of my concern. My central concern is evangelism, not cultural influence, and my definition of Christianity is unapologetically tied to an embrace of the faith "once for all delivered to the saints."
The doctrinal declension of Christianity in America is writ large. The great institutions of Christian learning of eras past are now largely bastions of secular worldviews, even when these institutions are still classified in some way according to a tie to Christian truth in the past. Such is also the case with mainline Protestantism, where theological liberalism has redefined Christianity as something other than historic biblical Christianity.
My concern is less with a Post-Christian America as a cultural reality than with Post-Christian America as an evangelistic and missiological challenge. What Stephen Prothero sees as Christian (in some sense, at least) I see as what may best be called a "Post-Christian Christianity."
Saturday, April 25, 2009
President Barack Obama intends to make health care and insurance a right, not a privilege. Charles Krauthammer explains why this might be what you want, but it's not something any of us need.
It is estimated that a third to a half of one's lifetime health costs are consumed in the last six months of life. Accordingly, Britain's National Health Service can deny treatments it deems not cost-effective -- and if you're old and infirm, the cost-effectiveness of treating you plummets. In Canada, they ration by queuing. You can wait forever for so-called elective procedures like hip replacements.
Rationing is not quite as alien to America as we think. We already ration kidneys and hearts for transplant according to survivability criteria as well as by queuing. A nationalized health insurance system would ration everything from MRIs to intensive care by a myriad of similar criteria.
The more acute thinkers on the left can see rationing coming, provoking Slate blogger Mickey Kaus to warn of the political danger. "Isn't it an epic mistake to try to sell Democratic health care reform on this basis? Possible sales pitch: 'Our plan will deny you unnecessary treatments!' ... Is that really why the middle class will sign on to a revolutionary multitrillion-dollar shift in spending -- so the government can decide their life or health 'is not worth the price'?"
My own preference is for a highly competitive, privatized health insurance system with a government-subsidized transition to portability, breaking the absurd and ruinous link between health insurance and employment. But if you believe that health care is a public good to be guaranteed by the state, then a single-payer system is the next best alternative. Unfortunately, it is fiscally unsustainable without rationing.
Friday, April 24, 2009
Perez Hilton is an openly gay celebrity blogger who was asked to be a judge for the Miss America pageant this year. (Thanks, Donald Trump.) If you aren't familiar with what happened to Miss California last Sunday night in the Q&A portion of the pageant, read this re-cap here.
More importantly, what has emerged from this whole situation is the on-going disagreements over gay marriage. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE watch this debate between Perez Hilton and Dennis Prager that took place on Larry King Live this past Wednesday night. Wow.
Finally, here is Miss California giving her own explanation of the situation and defense of her beliefs. Very impressive!
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
“Our Constitution was made for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate in the hands of any other.”
One of the biggest myths perpetrated in our culture today is that morality has nothing, or even little, to do with our government, our politics, and the law itself. When such a narrow claim is made, it invariably is in antagonistic response to the conservative’s stance on such hot-button issues as abortion and gay marriage.
People on the Right, primarily the religious among them, are castigated and de-legitimized for stooping so low as to raise moral objections to what are clearly moral issues, because, the story goes, once un-elected judges or fickle politicians in Congress get a hold of it, the matter in question is suddenly too lofty for the shackles of moral thought and discourse.
Please tell me that doesn’t sit well with you either.
Important topics such as the intervention of government in the private sector, deciding what should be done to curtail pollution, the “right” a woman may or may not have to end the life of the child in her womb, and yes even taxation, are all issues that are both legal and moral in nature. It is unavoidable that morality, ethics, personal worldview, and Constitutionality will all play parts in deciding these contentious areas of disagreement, and countless other critically important matters of state.
Today I want to focus on the last example I gave in the list above: taxation. As we move towards a more European-style of economy, where even countries like England now have tax rates as high as 50%, debate over justifiable levels of taxation is inevitable. Inseparable from taxation is the question of what the legitimate role of government is in a society that calls itself free, and presumably values liberty.
For those who question or deny the moral component necessary to any discussion of taxation, let me say this: If how I spend my money involves morality, and it certainly does, then how other people spend my money will be a moral discussion as well.
If a man is unable to pay his bills and it is discovered that he’s been wasting his paycheck each week on gambling, drugs, and prostitutes, we may all legitimately defend his “right” to do it, but no one would say he was right to do it. Let’s factor in that the person blowing through their money in such a reckless manner has children or people dependent upon them financially, and morality’s key role in the matter becomes a no-brainer.
So then what about the federal government when it wastes billions in taxpayer dollars? What about we, their dependents, who suffer as a result? What should be said about the entity that takes the fruits of our independent labors, under the auspice of protecting and sustaining our Union and liberty, and ends up purposely expanding its Constitutionally-appointed roles, which subsequently requires more taxation to fund?
If how you spend your money matters, then so does how Congress spends ours.
Taxation, as defined by George Mason economist and professor Dr. Walter E. Williams in his recent speech "Freedom: Going, Going, Gone", is the lawful theft of a private citizen’s private property. Before you start composing an email to me citing all the necessary things our government does and needs money for, please know that I fully understand your valid point. We’re all in agreement that we need some government. In the 18th century, the Founders here in America, and powers in Great Britain, both agreed that the colonies needed some form of governance in place. The differences in form and degree led to our independence.
Others of you might be beginning to wonder, “Well then how do we make judgments regarding taxation? Are you suggesting we just allow people to decide on a case-by-case basis what taxes they will and will not pay? Isn’t throwing the term ‘morality’ out too subjective?”
The best starting place in a nation of laws would be an analysis of those laws. For this we turn to the “rule book”, the Constitution. This document is either the essential compact that holds us together as a country or it is not. To acknowledge that it is as much does not confer “infallibility” status upon it. In fact, the same Founders who believed in a Creator (and His “endowed rights”) believed enough in the fallen state of mankind, and foresaw that technology and circumstances would advance beyond their wildest dreams, so they left an “out” (the 5th amendment) in case things, well, needed to be amended.
But at some point we do need to decide if we’re with the Constitution or against it. We need to agree upon rules. No one would play poker with me if I decreed that the rules were “living, breathing” entities.
For now, let’s assume you are a normal, appreciative American who does believe in the Constitution. In Article I, Section 8, the 21 things that Congress is authorized (and mandated) to do are listed. Among these are: the powers to lay and collect taxes and duties to pay the national debts, to provide for the common defense, to regulate commerce with foreign nations and between states, to coin money, and to raise and support armies.
The Framers granted tax-and-spend authorities for specific things. Apart from or outside of this, there is no Constitutional authority. Dr. Williams points out that upwards of 75% of what Congress currently collects taxes for is technically un-Constitutional. That’s a lot, for those of you who went to public schools. There has never been Constitutional authority for our federal government to hand out things such as farm subsidies, food stamps, bank bailouts, and cash for Hillary’s “Green” golf-karts.
So how did we get here?
Time + Disinterested Citizenry + Pro-big government Academia/Media + Allure of Power in Washington = Illegal activity perpetrated by our own government (on the part of both parties).
Simply put, the problems we have with our current tax burden, bloated bureaucracy and corpulent federal government stems from this: we aren’t playing by “the rules” we agreed upon more than two centuries ago. And even things that might need changing are never changed in the way prescribed in those “rules.” Wouldn’t you agree that the breaking of an agreed upon rule is an immoral act, especially when done willfully?
The very first thing we hear from our politicians and elected officials when a new spending bill is presented is never, “This project is in proper accordance with the Constitution, the document which gives us the power to collect your tax money in the first place.” Instead we are told little more than that such-and-such a piece of legislation is a “good” idea. Convinced? Who’s going to argue with someone who went to an Ivy League law school and now panders in Washington for a living, right?
I mean, besides me.
The word “good” implies morality in and of itself. Along with the “good idea” argument, those in power bring up “justice” and “fairness” as much as humanly possible when talking about how they will be spending your money to “help” others. (So first I’m being appealed to on a moral basis.) If I object and think that money is better spent and allocated by private charities, I’m called “cold-hearted” and “greedy”. (Then I’m being castigated on a moral basis.)
Seems everyone can lay claim to morality except those pointing to the rulebook by which we’ve all ostensibly agreed to play the game of self-governance by.
For the next few weeks I want to continue a dialogue and discussion with you, my readers, on the topic of the proper role of government in a free society. I’m not an expert in the Constitution. I’m not economist. My community has never had the privilege of having been organized by me. I’m just a passionate American who is trying to make up for lost, blissfully ignorant, time in my own life by now seeking to analyze the current political and economic climate through the prisms of history, economics, and theology (or morality, if that offends you less).
I believe in this country. I believe in her people. I know deep down many of you do too, but you’ve either given up or never started.
My aim here today is to get the intellectual juices flowing in your minds. The very first question we should be asking ourselves when we hear Congress talking about spending bills or new taxes is, “Is it Constitutional?” We should demand from our representatives that they show us that what they are doing in legal, and enough of us need to be competent and vocal enough to identify if we’re being told the truth.
If we first know that it is legal, we can then have a lucid debate regarding the practicality, rationality, and yes, even morality of the issue at hand.
Taxes matter because the government can do nothing without them. This is why those who favor more government control and intervention favor higher taxes. It’s not rocket science, and any politician promising to expand government while cutting taxes is culpable of pathologically lying to your face.
From the NR editorial:
The release of the memos alone will serve to reinforce an ethos of timidity and inaction in the intelligence community. The message to agents asked to do dangerous things to keep our country safe is: “Even if you have a presidential assurance, legal license from the Department of Justice, and encouragement from the congressional intelligence committees, you may not be safe a month from now, a year from now, or whenever the climate of threat changes or power changes hands.” It’s probably what those agents suspected all along, even as they acted, regardless, out of a sense of duty. Now they know.
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
I'm not going to harp on Democrats here or act like they are the only ones with conflicts of interests in the funds they allocate, but we find out today that Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) routed $25billion to a government agency that had just given her hubby a lucrative contract. The Washington Times reports:
Mrs. Feinstein's intervention on behalf of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. was unusual: the California Democrat isn't a member of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs with jurisdiction over FDIC; and the agency is supposed to operate from money it raises from bank-paid insurance payments - not direct federal dollars.
And there is more from a California Democrat. It was just released that two years ago, Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA) was caught on tape promising to help the powerful pro-Israeli lobbying group AIPAC get reduced charges from the Justice Department for two of that group's members who are up on espionage charges. In exchange for her help, AIPAC promised to put pressure on Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to make Harman the Chair of the Intelligence Committee, which she is today.
It's true that allegations of pro-Israel lobbyists trying to help Harman get the chairmanship of the intelligence panel by lobbying and raising money for Pelosi aren't new.They were widely reported in 2006, along with allegations that the FBI launched an investigation of Harman that was eventually dropped for a "lack of evidence."
What is new is that Harman is said to have been picked up on a court-approved NSA tap directed at alleged Israel covert action operations in Washington.
And that, contrary to reports that the Harman investigation was dropped for "lack of evidence," it was Alberto R. Gonzales, President Bush's top counsel and then attorney general, who intervened to stop the Harman probe.
So see...there is a Republican (allegedly) involved. Corruption is corruption is corruption. Speaking of which, Rep. Jack Murtha (D-PA), no stranger to earmarks and barrels-o-pork, made the news today as well.
As head of a powerful Defense committee, Murtha controls hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars, reports CBS News investigative correspondent Sharyl Attkisson. And he's not shy about directing money to those who give generously to his election campaigns. CBS News has learned that this month, Murtha is steering new earmarks toward 10 companies that recently donated to his campaign
Interesting, no? Well finally today there is this gem from the Inspector General's office: turns out there is a lot of potential for fraud when the federal government spends trillions of our tax dollars. Who knew?
Taxpayers are increasingly exposed to losses and the government is more vulnerable to fraud under Obama administration initiatives that have created a federal bank bailout program of "unprecedented scope," a government report finds. In a 250-page quarterly report to Congress, the rescue program's special inspector general concludes that a private-public partnership designed to rid financial institutions of their "toxic assets" is tilted in favor of private investors and creates "potential unfairness to the taxpayer."
God Save America!
Monday, April 20, 2009
I believe Barack Obama to be an honorable man with whom I vehemently disagree on nearly every single issue. (He's even a White Sox fan.) But the one thing I thought I might be able to rally behind my Commander-in-Chief on was race. The fact that a black man became president, Jesse Jackson did not like him, and he promised to help put racial divides behind us seemed something real conservatives could hang their partisan hats on after the election.
But where is the change? Not even in action, for I know these things take a while, but in spoken word where is the change we've been waiting for? I believe that Obama (and high-ranking members of his cabinet) continues to exasperate racial tensions at home and abroad with his rhetoric. The President's trip to Latin America this past week saw him yucking it up with foreign leaders such as Hugo Chavez who are openly racist and hostile towards the same white people that elected Barack Obama president...yet our leader says nothing.
Victor Davis Hanson, writing in "The Corner" on National Review Online, poses the question: "Can we get beyond race?"
Man, I sure hope so. President Obama holds in his hands the power to drastically re-shape the way Americans talk about race, but if he is serious about moving the nation "beyond race", he has some catching up to do. He's not just ACORN's president. He represents us all.
Saturday, April 18, 2009
Movie Review by: R.J. Moeller
Tell me if you’ve heard this one before? Powerful forces (i.e. an evil corporation) with connections at the highest level of government is embroiled in a scandal that involves , double agents, and rough-neck reporters with hearts-of-gold who have to put it all on the line so the truth can get out. Sound familiar?
If so, then you’ve either already seen State of Play , the new Russell Crowe-Ben Affleck political thriller, or you’ve seen almost any other film in this genre made since the Robert Redford-Dustin Hoffman political thriller All The President’s Men in 1976.
Without attempting to break much new ground in the realm of conspiracy tales, State of
Crowe plays the shaggy-haired reporter whose best friend and college roommate, Affleck, is a Congressman investigating a paramilitary corporation (think: Blackwater) that stands to make upwards of $40 billion in homeland security government contracts. Affleck’s character is having an affair with a - ed on his staff who is shockingly ed, and old-school investigative reporter Crowe, who once had an affair of his own with Affleck’s wife, suspects there’s been foul play on behalf of the Corp being investigated.
There are leads to follow, old wounds to mend, and a looming newspaper -line to meet for Crowe and his femme reporter sidekick played by the painfully gorgeous Rachel McAdams. As the dynamic duo of Crowe and McAdams begin to peel away the layers of the complicated story, the writer and director take literally every opportunity possible to remind us how dangerous and icky those private corporations are, and how much safer the federal government running things always is.
RJ: Hey Hollywood, can you possibly keep saying the same distorted negative things about the military, free enterprise, and Republicans in every third movie produced in the last 30 years?
Hollwood: Yes We Can!
Oh, and there are numerous shots at non-newspaper sources of information (websites, blogs, cable news networks, on-line magazines, etc.), including a clearly out-of-place and forced dialogue between Crowe and Affleck during the film’s climactic finish in which Crowe poignantly reminds us that newspapers are where people really interested in the truth still get it.
Ahhh! We're the New York Times! The
Sorry, back to the movie.
The action/violence in State of Play comes in spurts, and is mostly of the cat-and-mouse variety, but each of these scenes do add some real excitement. Jason Bateman of Arrested Development fame and Academy Award winner Helen Miren (The Queen) are two nice additions as side characters, and overall the casting and acting were spot-on.
There is no , a handful of profanities, and some “adult” conversations about the various romantic affairs involving the main characters. The PG-13 rating is more than fair.
The only real warning I will offer is that if you suffer from what is commonly known as “Disingenuous Support of Our Troops-itis”, then you might want to bring a copy of General Patton’s War As I Knew It autobiography, or a downloaded version of John Wayne’s performance in The Longest Day on your iPod to help the spell of rage you might experience during specific scenes in this film pass.
For those of you who suffer from this affliction, you’ll know what I’m talking about when you see it. For the rest of you, enjoy the movie and be grateful you can still derive full pleasure from entertainment that subtly (and sometimes not-so-subtly) seeks to undermine your traditional, conservative worldview.
I mean it, I’m jealous. I can’t watch a Fruit Loops commercial without reading politics in to it.
While I grant State of
State of Play: Good acting. Cool idea. But in the end, a story that falls short of being great.
RJ’s Fool-proof Rating System:
“New Theater, Opening Night” (Charlton Heston would have Fandango-ed this one already)
“New Theater” (Worth your time and $10)
“Cheap Theater” (No rush, but better seen on a screen bigger than the one you got at home)
“Rental-worthy” (For when the movie you wanted at Blockbuster is all checked out)
“Bad” (Someone should offer a public apology for the distribution of this film)
Cubs win! Today's victorious finish against the Cardinals was too dramatic not to put something on the old blog about it. In case you didn't hear...actually, you know what, just watch the footage I have linked right here.
People have been asking me my thoughts on the Tea Parties. I would like to enter in to evidence Exhibit Steyn. Please read his new column on why exactly it was that much of the mainstream media either tried to ignore the hundreds of thousands of Americans who came out on Tax Day, or belittled the conservative attempt at community organizing.
Amid his scattershot pronouncements on everything from global nuclear disarmament to high-speed rail, President Obama said something almost interesting the other day. Decrying a "monstrous tax code that is far too complicated for most Americans to understand," the Tax-Collector-in-Chief pledged: "I want every American to know that we will rewrite the tax code so that it puts your interests over any special interests."
That shouldn't be hard. A tax code that put my interests over any special interests would read: "How much did you earn last year? [Insert number here]thousand dollars? Hey, feel free to keep it. You know your interests better than we do!"
OK, to be less absolutist about it, my interests include finding a road at the end of my drive every morning, and modern equipment for the (volunteer) fire department and a functioning military to deter the many predators out there, and maybe one or two other things. But 95 percent of the rest is not just "special interests" but social engineering – a $400 tax credit for falling into line with Barack Obama and Susan Roesgen. That's why these are Tea Parties – because the heart of the matter is the same question posed two-and-a-third centuries ago: Are Americans subjects or citizens? If the latter, then a benign sovereign should not be determining "your interests" and then announcing that he's giving you a "tax credit" as your pocket money.
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Some readers of mine, expressing what I believe to be an all-too-commonly held position in the culture at-large, claim that when I quote from books like Wealth of Nations or The Federalist Papers or Democracy in America or Road to Serfdom I’m, “living in the past,” or that, “those guys couldn’t have foreseen a complex world with Facebook, so we shouldn’t take what they say too seriously.”
It has become unfashionable to know, appreciate, and promote wisdom from ages past. Americans don’t like to read, and they like to read things written PJG (pre-John Grisham) even less. If a book hasn’t been blessed by The POprah, it doesn’t’ exist.
But of course there are repercussions for such inattention to historical detail. We’re missing out on centuries of invaluable thought and wisdom that have unmistakably shaped every aspect of both our modern world and individual lives. We’re convinced that all the nation’s problems started in 2000 with the election of George W. Bush so in ignorant turn we’ve elected a man whose ideas and policies are identical to the ones that got Jimmy Carter elected in 1976 and booted from office by 1980. We’re sure that God has no place in the public square simply because atheists have told us so and correctly banked on the fact few of us will know enough to put up an intellectual fight.
The truth is, we've got nothing to fear but the fear of not knowing anything itself.
As Americans persistently continue to pride themselves on originality and progress, even a brief perusing of history, economic thought, and theological discourse from the past 233 years exposes that we’re living with nothing but regurgitated cultural motifs, failed socialist policies and regressive moral standards.
I’ve been attempting recently in my columns to focus on the idea that there are better ways of doing things than others. This insinuates that different ways have been tried and by studying what works and what does not work one can come to some pretty certain conclusions regarding everything from human nature to foreign policy. Debate and discussion are always needed and appreciated, but for either to be effective, those engaging in them need to have some mutually agreed upon starting points.
Such is the case in modern political discourse. Everyone’s so busy arguing over the means, over how universal health care will be paid for or what number of trillion is a trillion to far for our government to spend, that we’ve lost sight of the ends. Few seem to know (or care about) what we actually are aiming at, let along what we should be aiming at, as a people, government, and nation.
As far as the core principles of the American experiment in democracy are concerned, you don’t need to spend months in a dimly-lit basement pouring over pages of antiquated writings written by dudes who wore powdered wigs. That would help, and I can recommend some books and basements if you're interested, but when it comes to defining what this country is all about, what its unique value system is all about, then look no further for reading material than your own pocket. Pull out a coin, any coin, and prepare your attention span to keep it together for 3 seconds.
Inscribed on it you will find three tremendous things: “In God We Trust.” “Liberty.” “E Pluribus Unum.”
These, in the prolific words of conservative columnist, author, and radio talk show host Dennis Prager, are what constitute the, “American Trinity.” It’s all right there. The three most distinct and pivotal values of our nation, the things that separate us from every other civilization in the history of the world, can be found in the take one-leave one change tray on the counter of your local gas station. Surprised?
“In God We Trust”: Congress added this phrase to our currency in the 1950’s under the leadership of President Dwight D. Eisenhower. The openly stated reason for its insertion was to distinguish God-fearing America from our mortal enemies at the time: the atheistic communists of the USSR. Although the phrase was added only 50 years ago, the sentiments expressed are the very same Thomas Jefferson penned 180 years before Eisenhower in the Declaration of Independence.
If rights are to have meaning, they must come from somewhere or someone. If they are simply the concoctions of naturally-selected minds, developed over eons of evolutionary progress from protozoa to tadpole to ape to iPhones, then rights can be granted or taken away as other “fitter” mammals who happen to be in power see fit. This is how most of the world has lived from the dawn of time.
But along comes a rag-tag collection of farmers, doctors, lawyers, clergymen, and soldiers who in Philadelphia, 17 centuries after Christ, decide that they’d rather risk their lives and the lives of their families on the idea that man’s rights did not come indirectly (and arbitrarily) from kings, oligarchs, or academic elites, but from the Creator of all life Himself, than live another day under tyranny. God was the procurer of their rights, and His existence was self-evident.
That’s how the idea of America began.
“Liberty”: After establishing where our rights come from, we decided that while equality is a desired outcome, liberty is the necessary catalyst for it to be realized. The French Revolution prized equality over liberty and the people of that once great European nation quickly learned that equality is in the eye of the beholder and in the hand of the executioner. We collectively took a decidedly different and better path.
Liberty must come first, early, and often. One must be free if they are ever to be equal, and even the Creator Himself chose in His infinite wisdom to create a world where uniqueness was more important than strict, enforced equality. Hence, a poor blind black kid from the South can play the piano like Beethoven and sing like a raspy angel, while rich white kids with two working eyes from the North end up being able to play nothing but Ray Charles’ records in their basement.
From the concept of liberty come things like the free market economic system. Voluntary participation, limited government, strong enforcement of previously agreed upon laws, the ability to own private property and “equality of opportunity” (instead of impossible promises for “equality of outcome”). No country can erase the realities of work, death, or even poverty, but the one country that has succeeded in alleviating each of those things more than any other is our own. It is the same one that provides the superior environment within which hundreds of millions of people can work, live, and pursue their own interests without having to cede their basic liberties.
This is how the idea of America became great.
“E Pluribus Unum” means “From many, one.” From the many who come to our shores, from the many different states those people then live in, we are one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. No country in the history of mankind has assimilated as many people from as many different places on the planet as the United State of America.
Why is this place so special? What distinguishes it from all others? You guessed it: Creator-endowed rights, liberty for all, and the promise of equality of opportunity.
Newcomers to this country are not required to erase their ethnic heritage, but they must be prepared to embrace our legal, cultural and, yes, even linguistic institutions. Not because where they came from is necessarily inferior, but because where they came from is not here.
As Dennis Prager wisely points out when talking about “E Pluribus Unum”, an Egyptian born in Germany is still called an Egyptian. An Egyptian in America, even one born in Egypt, is called an American the day he or she becomes a citizen. There is a subtle, but powerful difference. We want you here, but it is fair to presume that you want to be here when you come, and that the reason you want to be here is because you value what we value.
For a nation to exist it must have declared values. For a nation to prosper its values must be worthy. For a nation to endure, its people must be prepared to maintain those values, even when new people move in.
Perhaps one of the most idiotic and destructive idioms to emerge from the cultural revolution of the 1960’s was: “Don’t trust anyone over 30.” Don’t succumb to the same narcissistic thinking that that generation did. It is an intellectual house-of-cards that foolishly ignores that those people and ideas what came before us are the primary reasons we even know what we know and live better than 99% of the people on this planet.
Have enough respect for the things you can’t deny, our freedoms and prosperity, to at the very least investigate the things that produced them. If it would help you get started, I can lend you a quarter.
(For Dennis, and "clarity")
Monday, April 13, 2009
It's getting to the point where I am hoping Mark Steyn's weekly column won't be as good or better than the last. He's let me down again this week by knocking yet another one out of the proverbial park in explaining why the Somali pirate escapade has more implications regarding the growing weakness in the West than we might have first realized.
Once upon a time we killed and captured pirates. Today, it’s all more complicated. The attorney general, Eric Holder, has declined to say whether the kidnappers of the American captain will be “brought to justice” by the U.S. “I’m not sure exactly what would happen next,” declares the chief law-enforcement official of the world’s superpower. But some things we can say for certain. Obviously, if the United States Navy hanged some eyepatched peglegged blackguard from the yardarm or made him walk the plank, pious senators would rise to denounce an America that no longer lived up to its highest ideals, and the network talking-heads would argue that Plankgate was recruiting more and more young men to the pirates’ cause, and judges would rule that pirates were entitled to the protections of the U.S. constitution and that their peglegs had to be replaced by high-tech prosthetic limbs at taxpayer expense.
Meanwhile, the Royal Navy, which over the centuries did more than anyone to rid the civilized world of the menace of piracy, now declines even to risk capturing their Somali successors, having been advised by Her Majesty’s Government that, under the European Human Rights Act, any pirate taken into custody would be entitled to claim refugee status in the United Kingdom and live on welfare for the rest of his life. I doubt Pirates of the Caribbean would have cleaned up at the box office if the big finale had shown Geoffrey Rush and his crew of scurvy sea dogs settling down in council flats in Manchester and going down to the pub for a couple of jiggers of rum washed down to cries of “Aaaaargh, shiver me benefits check, lad.” From “Avast, me hearties!” to a vast welfare scam is not progress.
Liberal columnist and renowned atheist Christopher Hitchens has written another poignant piece for Slate today, and in it Hitchens points out that President Obama's recent Euro Trip '09 lacked a few key ingredients for it to have been considered a success. Chief among these is something called "the truth."
The limitations of the Obama manner were exposed in his address to the Turkish parliament and his press conference with the Turkish leadership. The president did not take the opportunity to reiterate his principled stand on the Armenian genocide that we are commemorating this month and took refuge in platitudes about healing and negotiation. It's not as if the Turks don't know what he thinks, so it's difficult to see the value of undue reticence. And it's hardly an that, in all successful attempts at settling accounts with the past in other nations, the word reconciliation has invariably been preceded by the word truth. The first duty is to stop lying. Only then can any genuine attempt at settlement get under way.
It was also somewhat naive of Obama to deny that the United States is "or ever will be" at war with Islam. Of course, one cannot exactly make war on a faith, most especially a faith that is currently undergoing a civil war within itself, in which Turkey has several times been attacked by Bin Ladenist forces. But twice in the past, jihad has been officially proclaimed from Turkey's capital. It was in the name of the Quran that the piratical Ottoman provinces known as the Barbary States took hundreds of thousands of American and European voyagers into slavery in the 18th century, until Thomas Jefferson dispatched the fleet and the Marines to put down the trade, and it was from Constantinople that the Ottoman military alliance with German imperialism in 1914 was proclaimed as a holy war binding on all good Muslims. In other words, what one really wants is an assurance that Islam is not, nor ever will be, at war (again) with the United States.