Category Archives: General

What the Austin Incident might tell us

The incident on Thursday in Austin where a man crazy man flew his airplane into an office building that housed the local IRS office has given me a lot to think about. I struggled whether to touch on this subject or not, since what I want to say could be construed as I support or am defending this guy’s actions. So let me say up front that I do not. One of the great things about our country is that we have largely avoided political violence as a part of our national experience. Yes, there are some exceptions – but for the vast majority of time, while we may be loud and a bit rowdy at times in our political discourse, it stays largely within the battlefield of ideas.

So, for those of you hard of hearing (so to speak), let me reiterate it: Stack was absolutely wrong in what he did, and all right thinking people should condemn it. Having said that, here comes the (potentially) controversial part of what I have been thinking. There is a link between the incident in Austin and an increasingly intrusionary governemnt apparatus. Let me expand on that.

Stack’s complaint (or one of…his “manifesto” wasn’t exactly coherant) was with a government that seemed to have little disregard for his plight. Anyone who has ever dealt with the IRS, or heck even the local DMV, can relate to that one. He say the government as something that simultaneously was more intrusive into his life and at the same time less and less concerned about his welfare. The leftist rantings aside (oh yeah, read the manifesto…the Federalist Papers it ain’t). Unfortunately, you combine the sense of frustration and inattention he felt with his craziness, and Stack comes up with his murderous idea.

Now I am certainly not saying that the people working in that building deserved what they got, no more than I believe the people working in the World Trade Center towers deserved what they experienced on 9/11 (you hear me Ward?).  What I am saying is that this incident serves as a signpost to us. Incidents like what happened in Austin are part of the reason why the Founding Fathers sought to design a limited government. Most of them understood political violence, the Revolution notwithstanding. The years leading up to the Revolution was filled with attacks on officials, tar and featherings (and worse), and other acts that  came about, in part, because of people’s frustration and anger at a distant, impersonal, and seemingly draconian government (sound familiar). In their view, a government that left people alone as much as possible was also a government that would not become a target of the people’s ire.

Fast forward to the present, with government at all levels increasingly telling us how to live, what to eat, what to drive, what temperature to set our thermostats to, what pressure we should have in our tires…is it all that surprising that crazy finds government to be the biggest target out there?

In the end, outside of the human tragedy, it is also a worrisome sign. Think of it as a proverbial canary in the coal mine. If the canary died, the miners knew to get the heck out of the mine because they too would soon be overcome. While you can always argue that these kind of acts are singular events perpetrated by the crazy and the fringe, maybe they are also a kind of warning. Maybe I am wrong, but it is something that ought to be thought about at least.

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What I Did On Summer Vacation, Part I

Yes, yes I realize that my summer break was a little longer than just the summer.  While the excuses are many, the important thing is that I am back and ready to resume my own little battle in the war of ideas.

Despite my extended absence on my blog, I was not just sitting idly by. Beyond calling and emailing my particular congress critters, I have been doing a good deal of reading. So today, to mark my return to the blog, I will do what countless schoolchildren have had to recently do: recite to the class what they did on summer vacation. In my case, I am going to offer up a short review of each book – not all at once, but interspersed in with other posts as we go into the fall (and probably winter) of our national discontent.

LFFirst up is a book by a writer that I hope is not unfamiliar to most of you. If he is, do yourself a favor and start reading his articles. It is Liberal Fascism by Jonah Goldberg, who writes for the National Review. I realize that this is not a new book, however it is new to me and, well, its my blog. At any rate, as you can probably guess by the book’s title, Goldberg’s main proposition is that liberalism (with a big L) lends itself to, or even creates, fascistic movements. He then goes on to lay out the historical case for why this is, moving from the end of World War I and the rise of Fascism in Italy, through the radicalization of the Progressive/Liberal movement in the United States during the 1950’s and 1960’s, up to today with the Left’s focus on political correctness, multiculturalism, and identity politics.

The most important thing that I gained from this book (and why I highly suggest you read it) is that it really turns many of the orthodox views in political history and political systematology on their head. Having spent a good deal of my education (both formal and self-imposed) in these areas, this book was really an “aha” moment for me. It isn’t so much that Goldberg revises history in a way that fits my worldview (although he is often accused of being a “revisionist”), it is that his re-telling of these historical events makes sense when placed in the political context of the late 19th and early 20th Century. For example, he points out, through primary documentation, that Mussolini did not consider himself right-wing at all. He was a died-in-the-wool socialist. National Socialism, hence, was not a right-wing or reactionary political movement, but a primarily socialist one mixed with totalitarian components such as such as worship of the state. Goldberg also does a great job of documenting the war between the communists and National Socialists in both Italy and, especially, Germany.  His point is not that these were two political ideologies combatting each other from opposite sides of the ideological spectrum, it is that these were basically turf wars. They fought over the same piece of ground, ideologically speaking.

Here’s where Goldberg turns over an orthodoxy. Political Science 101 is that there is a spectrum of political ideologies that has the unique characteristic of being circular in nature. Think of a circle that starts and ends at the 6 o’clock position. This is where totalitarianism resides. At the 12 o’clock position is liberalism, it being the opposite of totalitarianism. Now, if you go around the circle to the right from liberalism, you arrive at fascism (or so the “experts” say). If you go to the left, you arrive at communism. However, either way, you have arrived at totalitarianism. The point is that fascism and communism are really the same ideology, just one is “right wing,” the other left. Goldberg points out the fallacy in this argument by his fairly thorough examination of fascism as a socialist movement. To Goldberg, the political spectrum is not a circle, but a line, and both fascism and communism are well to the left of the center.

Goldberg also details the Left’s love affair with National Socialism, and Mussolini in particular, in the United States. Quite frankly, this is not the sort of history you get from your average U.S. History class. He shows how both were looked upon father favorably until the onset of the Second World War. Many on the Left saw National Socialism as the next logical step from the vast amount of planning that had been put in place during the New Deal (a topic we will cover in another review). He also shows how the Left was able to manipulate the view that Fascism was not a left-wing movement, but a right-wing one during the post-War years, in order to distance itself from a political ideology that was now inextricably tied up with genocide.

Goldberg also does a good job of exposing the skeletons in the Left’s closet, such as eugenics. While this topic is generally swept under the rug in your normal history class, Goldberg draws a damning web between progressives and the eugenics movement that was alive and well in the United States until well after the Second World War. He also shows the direct line from the eugenics movement to that bastion of progressive ideology, the “pro-choice” abortion movement.

Quite frankly, I could go on, but my suggestion is that you read this book. Especially if you are as concerned about the direction the Progressives (read that Liberals, the Left, or the Democratic National Committee) are taking this country. As you can guess, Goldberg has taken a good deal of fire from historians in academia (since most of them are part of this very movement, or are at least supportive of its aims) (you can follow much of it, as well as his take on current events here – although the blog isn’t being updated as of August). However, it is hard to combat the prodigious amount of primary documentation he uses, especially on the whole National Socialist topic. This book also does a great job of filling in many of the holes that most have regarding U.S. History, especially this country’s political history during the 20th Century. Again, there is good reason, because it doesn’t make the Progressive movement look very good, and let’s face it, that’s who is writing the history (at least the textbooks).

So, do yourself a favor. Read the book, even if you consider yourself a “liberal”. It is hard to ignore the historical evidence, and it will give you a better understanding of the ideological conflicts in present-day America.

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On Independence

Today, we celebrate the 233rd “birthday” of our country. It is an auspicious day, one that our Founding Fathers felt would be celebrated in perpetuity with games, ceremony, and fireworks. I think that if they were among us today, they would be pleased that the quintessential July 4th celebration is a cookout with family and friends, and then watching fireworks together as a community.

However, one thing that we tend not to do (like so many other times) is ponder the words that propelled that generation – THE Greatest Generation (with all due respect to the other Greatest Generation) to fight a desperate war for five (more) long years against one of the world’s superpowers, and more to the point, against what many considered to be their countrymen. I think that, especially in the times we live in, it is important to hear those words with renewed thoughtfulness:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the Right of the People to altar or abolish it, and institute new Government, laying its foundations on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

There was nothing really earth-shattering about the ideas reflected above when they were written. They had been around for many years, some would say thousands. What was (and remains) earth-shattering was that for the first time, these ideas would become the foundation, the bedrock, of a new society and new form of government.

Many would argue that we, as a country, have never lived up to its promise. In many ways, they are right – our country has failed many times to live up to those ideals. The unfortunate part is that, because of our unique ability for self-flagellation, many people focus so much on the failings of America that they do not (or choose not) to see the good of America. If for nothing else, this country has given mankind the true understanding of the relationship between the individual and the state. We do not exist for the state – the state exists for us. The ideas promulgated in the Declaration resonate throughout the world.

In the times we live in, the words contained in the Declaration have become all the more important. I think that, if Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, James Madison, and the rest of their generation were here among us, they would be very disappointed with us. I suspect many of them would wonder why we let government become a more and more intrusive part of our lives, and how we have allowed a political class to be formed that, for all intents and purposes, does not serve the general Welfare, but their own narrow interests.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated Injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

They understood what it was to live in tumultuous times, so I think they would have a special understanding of ours. I also think that they would wonder amongst themselves when we would decide we had had enough. They would probably counsel that the American people had thrown off one yoke already, but that the beauty of the system they left us was that, instead of having to pick up a rifle to change the system, we have but to pick up a pen (or in many cases, an electronic polling booth).

I think that they would scoff at the idea that government has to solve all of our problems for us, rather than us solving them for ourselves. I suspect that they had had quite enough of government solutions, thank you, and would wonder why we are content to allow the same. In their eyes, the government was often by and large the problem, and that any so-called solutions offered by it would lead to more of the same.

 So, on this commemoration of the signing of that most auspicious document, let us all look at it with renewed understanding of its promises and our responsibility to help uphold them. Let us also work with renewed vigor to try and restore our government to its rightful place, not as our lord and master, but as our servant. And let us all try to live our lives, as Americans, as the founders wrote at the end of the Declaration:

And for the support of the Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

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Time for a Third Party?

The topic of a third party is one that our society has wrestled with for a long time, from the Whigs in the 19th Century to Teddy Roosevelt’s running as a third party candidate to Ross Perot’s Reform Party to the candidacy of Ron Paul in the recent elections.

I have to admit that I have generally been against attempts to create a viable third party. The problem is not having a third party per se, but that our governmental system is set up in such a way as to promote a two-party system. This is somewhat by design, as the Founding Fathers wanted to avoid creating too many factions in society. So my skepticism at creating a viable third-party is mostly born from this understanding.

That is not to say that I have always felt that a major political party, in my case the Republican Party, has always represented my interests. As a matter of fact, for most of my adult life I was a registered Independent, because I really felt that neither party aligned with me philosophically. However, in practice, I usually voted for Republican candidates.

The past few years has been especially tough for conservatives. Most of us were underwhelmed with President Bush’s fiscal conservatism the last few years of his presidency, and the Republican Party put forward a presidential candidate that most of us really did not get behind until Palin was picked as the VP running mate.

Political parties, by their very nature, exist to do one thing: create an organization that gets as many of its candidates elected as possible. They are not think-tanks or special interest groups. Despite popular opinion, political parties have traditionally been places of moderation – the tent, as they say, has to be big enough to get a majority of people to vote for their candidates. While this has generally been a good thing, in that it has a moderating tendency in our political discourse, it has also led to both major political parties having a vested interest in maintaining the status quo.

This does not mean that political parties want policy positions to remain the same. Each side tries to effect policy, which in turn makes its supporters happy and more likely to support their candidates (and give money). It does mean that the systemic rules don’t get changed all that much, since both sides take advantage of the rules when they are in power. Which is all well and good – if you think the system is correct.

Increasingly, many Americans are feeling like there is a systemic problem with our government as it has evolved. It isn’t so much a Democrat versus Republican thing, but a growing awareness that most of our governmental officials are not serving the people. Granted, currently this voice is the loudest from the conservative side of things. This isn’t in my estimation, because a Democrat won the White House. It is because there is a growing sentiment that this administration is but the proverbial icing on the cake when it comes to moving the government, and the society, further and further away from the core values of America as voiced in our founding documents.

Of course, well meaning people can disagree on what was meant by this or that in the Constitution, and can even argue over whether the Constitution is “living” or meant to fixed and relatively unchanging. However, I think that the unease felt by many comes from a more fundamental sense than just arguments over the Constitution. The unease, I think, comes from a sense that there has been a fundamental shift in the relationship between the individual and the government that has really begun to culminate over the past several years.

Which leads us back to a third party.  There is a bit of a dichotomy in this argument, especially on the conservative side of things. Those who would think of joining a third party are disposed towards this because of the issues that they have with the two dominant parties. Also, among those with a libertarian bent, there is a skepticism towards collectivization at any level. The problem with all this is that, unless you organize with others that share a like-mindedness, your individual voice is no match to those that can organize effectively and present a united front to those in power.

So, the question remains…for those on the conservative side of things, is it time to put our weight behind a third party, to make it more viable? This issue is frought with concerns, not the least of which is the practical consideration that it would probably mean being political outsiders for at least a decade or so. Maybe the solution isn’t so much a political party, but a political action committee (PAC). PAC’s can be bi-partisan, and would provide some freedom of action to support the candidate that most represents what the PAC stands for. The question is whether this approach would lead to fundamental change within our government, bringing it back towards what it was meant to be?

I know that I have come to the conclusion that both major political parties no longer speak for me, or to me, on the fundamental issue of the relationship between the individual and the government. I believe that there are some in the Republican Party trying to correct its course, but I am not so sure that what isn’t needed is a massive change in course. Correcting it, at this point, is just not going to do it. Radical? Perhaps…but so was the Declaration of Independence when it was written. It completely altered the relationship between individual and government. The problem is that most of us have forgotten what the relationship is supposed to be, because we have all lived with a sort of creeping tyranny over the past several decades. Sometimes it barely moves, or even goes backwards. Other times (like now), it seems to be moving at a sprint. However, make no mistake that the government that we have allowed to come into being, under both parties, is massively different than what was anticipated by the founders of this country.

At the end of the day, the decision ultimately resides where it should: with each of us as individuals.  We still have, at least at this point, the right to associate with whomever we choose. The decision shouldn’t be made lightly. My only request (as if I have the place to make requests) is that it be done with an understanding of what that decision means. To paraphrase a popular saying nowadays, “Choices Matter” – the decision to support this side or that, this party or that, should be made with contemplation and forethought. Some may choose to do nothing, which of course is their right. This choice, too, has consequences. As the Rush lyric goes, “If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.”

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Quote of the Day

Here is something that caught my eye this afternoon. It is a quote by Friedrich Hayek, an economist who was a contemporary of John Maynard Keynes and one of his greatest critics. It speaks to a question that is, and ought to be, fundamental to our times. Namely, who knows better how to allocate our economic resources, individuals or government?

The real question is not whether man is, or ought to be, guided by selfish motives but whether we can allow him to be guided in his actions by those immediate consequences which we can know and care for or whether he ought to be made to do what seems appropriate to somebody else who is supposed to possess a fuller comprehension of the significance of these actions to society as a whole.

Hayek was firmly against Keynes’ theory of aggregate demand, which led Keynes to the belief that government ought to maipulate the economy to maintain aggregate demand (and thus, full employment). To make the point a little more clearer, Keynesian economics is what is driving our government wanting to bail out and “stimulus” the country back to economic health.

Just as an aside, I strongly suggest (if you are interested in economics) to read some of Hayek’s writings. His defence of classical economcs is in large part where the economic and fiscal principals of modern American conservatism come from.

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News & Notes

It’s time for another edition on News & Notes..a quick peek at the things on my mind, and the minds of a lot of other Americans.

Today marks the 50th (official) day of the Obama administration. A lot of emphasis is put on a new administration’s first 100 days in office…it is the political equivalent of getting off the starting blocks. So, here we are halfway through that important period, and the question that I have been pondering is whether or not anyone that voted for this administration regrets their decision? It is hard for the human ego to admit when it is wrong, and Obama still enjoys a relatively high approval rating. However, it has started to slip in the past few weeks…not to mention the free-fall our stock market has been in since his inauguration. This morning on the way to work, I saw my first “Don’t Blame Me, I Voted For McCain” bumper sticker. I will give Obama credit for one thing…this is about the earliest I have ever seen that bumper sticker appear.

I generally make it a habit to NOT watch the news from the three major networks. Nor do I watch MSNBC….however, it is often on at the gym, so I will watch from time to time. I am amazed at the obvious love affair it has with all things Liberal. The one thing that has disappointed me the most is Keith Olberman. For me, he and Dan Patrick made Sportscenter on ESPN into what it is today. I am not sure who gave him the career advice to ditch sportscasting and go wave his (red) flag on a news channel. He should sue whomever that is. Kudos to NBC for trying to reunite the dynamic duo on Sunday Night Football, but it is hard to get past the fact that he is another hack for the Liberals.

A random thought…who made the decision to label Republican states, districts, etc. red on the voting maps and the Democrat ones blue? Doesn’t it make more sense the other way around?…or is that just too obvious?

I am not sure that the American people know this, but in the midst of the economic issues we are facing in this country, and around the world, there is something even more important for our President to do…lifting the so-called stem cell research ban. Now, to be precise, stem cell research was never banned (despite the taglines found on your favorite mainstream media channel). What WAS banned was using federal funds to fund embryonic stem cell research. It didn’t keep federal funds from being used to fund research on existing lines of stem cells, nor did it ban the use of private funds to fund research on new lines of embryonic stem cells. I heard an interview yesterday (I forget with whom, but they were a supporter of lifting the ban), and they said that lifting the ban was the right thing to do, since these embryos would just end up “in the trash”. That one phrase says a whole lot about why our society is int he shape it is in. All I can say is that I am glad God is merciful. But let’s not also forget that God is just.

For those of you who wait with baited breathe for posts on this blog, keep your eyes open for my next post…it is on the interplay between taxes and tyranny. Stay tuned!

Until next time….

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More News and Notes

Dear readers, I would suggest that you may want to play the lottery today, lucky as you are to have TWO posts today. However, I would not want to offend my Baptist brothers and sisters.

However, two items have caught my attention that I just could not pass up. The first (how could I have forgotten this in my previous post) is regarding the meeting between Rep. Nancy Pelosi and none other than Pope Benedict. For those of you who do not know, Rep. Pelosi is a practicing Roman Catholic (by her own admission). She is also “pro-choice” in both word and deed. So her policy positions (and votes) do not reflect much of what her own religion teaches. It speaks volumes when there was no Vatican photographer present at the meeting (unlike his meeting with every other public figure) and the Rep. Pelosi was unavailable for comment afterward. Oh, to be a fly on the wall…

Another article from NR caught my eye today, by Victor Davis Hanson. He talks in more depth about a point I brought up the other day, regarding the difference between running for office and running the office.  I cannot expand much on what Hanson says, but I use to point out that if you have not read any of his books (Carnage and Culture and Ripples of Battle, amongst others), allow me to urge you to do so. Hanson is a classical historian, and focuses on the military history of the Greeks. He draws amazing connections between how the Greeks fought their wars and the ways in which the West formed culturally, including how the West continues to fight its wars. He also published a great compilation of his writings in the days and weeks after 9/11 called An Autumn of War. I highly recommend it, for posterity’s sake.

Also, I came across a website recently that had me laughing a great deal. Called The People’s Cube, it fits the description found on it’s homepage as being “the Stalinist version of the Onion”. It is highly toungue-in-cheek, and is probably highly offensive to liberals. Hey, liberals get their SNL…Lewis Black….The Daily Show….so, consider this payback.

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