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Thursday, October 29, 2009

From Brilliant to Moron in Ten Seconds Flat (or Vice Versa)

I just read a post by yet another left-winger who simply cannot conceive of two brain cells coexisting within the skull of a right-winger.

I will concede quickly that I have often read commentary like that coming from the right-wing end of the blogosphere and aimed at left-wingers. I find it just as regrettable there.

What gets me--when it's aimed at me, at least--is that politics is not the only thing I write or talk about. I've been in the position, more than a few times, of someone exclaiming about how learned and brilliant I am (Yes, the ol' IQ tests well above Mensa standards, if you want to know). As long as I'm talking about a subject that hasn't yet become a bone of contention, that is. But let the talk drift to politics--and boy...

...within seconds, I kid thee not, if that person is a leftist, more often than not, I, the formerly brilliant commentator on topic X, become a drooling halfwit. Clearly without the mental wherewithal to have done the reading and cogitating necessary to arriving at a well-informed, well-thought-out opinion. It's like leftists abhor the very thought that someone reasonably intelligent and well-informed might arrive at a conservative opinion, like that possibility somehow threatens them.

I've also seen this kind of thing in reverse, usually as regards homeschooling. When that subject comes up, invariably I am, at first, a drooling moron who doesn't understand how crucial government indoctrination is public schools are to this country. After a little explanation as to the real facts of the situation and the results we have obtained, I quickly become so brilliant that my results cannot be replicated by normal people: "Well, that may work for you and your family, MOTW, but you're clearly smarter than most people..."

Feh. After a while, you get kind of tired of it.

Cao Saith...

That would be Cao of Cao's Blog that we're talking about here--at any rate, she saith:
We are very close to suicide bombers blowing themselves up on American streets...
And I got to thinking, "Is there any reason we couldn't start having frequent suicide bombings here? Any reason at all?"

*Sound of Ye Olde Crickets Chirping*

One more thing to think about when you're training for self-defense.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A Trip to Hominy, Oklahoma

Okay, time for a brief break from all the Liberal Fascism stuff. More of that shortly, but today...

It's been a couple of weeks, but I was in Hominy to make a delivery/installation and had a few minutes to snap some pictures. I love rural Oklahoma. Clicking on the photos should yield larger versions, if you're interested.

This is a distant shot of what is actually a series of murals. There are murals of this sort of Indian art all over Hominy. I couldn't possible take pictures of all of it, unfortunately. Just not enough time in the ol' lunch break.

Here are the murals in the series, a little closer up and one-by-one.








This, obviously, is the police station. It is actually part of the same building that houses the fire department.

A fairly distant shot of the old building that houses the fire department and police department.

This is near the top front of that building. I couldn't help but think that this emblem made it clear that the facility must have once served a military purpose. The overall look of the place certainly had "military reserve" written all over it, at least to my eyes...

Remembering a suggestion that had been made about elements of a previous photo-post on rural Oklahoma, I looked 'round the building for something to tell me when the place was built. As I expected, it formerly had some military function; it didn't just have the look of it, it practically reeked of it. There are such buildings all over the state.

I wonder, those of you who haven't served in the Reserves or the National Guard, if you can quite picture the scene. This building went up in 1936 for the military. It is in the countryside now; back then, it might as well have been on the moon. These days, it is not uncommon for a reservist to drive three or more hours to get to his unit. When I was in the Marine Corps Reserve, we had people that drove two or three hours to get to our unit. Back then, I'm sure there weren't as many people driving long distances. The people supplied by this armory were probably all pretty local, and I'm fairly sure that they didn't think of themselves as being in training for foreign wars. They were there to protect their homeland, their families, their farms, their way of life. At least, I see that as being the likely state of affairs. That's the proper function of a military, anyway.

Personally, I like a military that is composed, in large part, of reservists. They're ready for action quicker than you might think and are very cost-effective. And it's better than belonging to the Moose Lodge any day.

This is one side of a Presbyterian church, the appearance of which I really liked. Presbyterians are cool. It's long been said that the best Baptist preachers read Presbyterian commentaries. If it weren't for that paedobaptism thing...

Another shot of the same church. I wonder if there are a lot of Indians/Native Americans in this church. You'd be surprised how many Native Americans in Oklahoma are Presbyterians...

The same church from another angle. You can see the architectural elements that caught my eye better in this one. I just loved those steps leading up to the door.

The same church, from the front. Imagine going up those steps on Sunday mornings...

And here're the doors. Nice doors. I loved this building...

This house is apparently some sort of historical site; it's called "The Drummond House," but they weren't open for tours at the time and I haven't looked it up. The place looks to be over a hundred years old, at least just by looking. Rather a cool-looking house. I love old stuff.

A church celebrating its hundredth year? Now, that is something.

This is just an old house. Only God knows how long it's been there. It just struck me as having been well-treated and well-preserved, old but still good-looking and homey.

I didn't have time to stop and ask what these evil-looking machines were. I suspect they have something to do with road construction.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Liberal Fascism Quote #6

Emphasis, where present, is mine and in bold:
This is the monumental fact of the Nazi rise to power that has been slowly airbrushed from our collective memories: the Nazis campaigned as socialists. Yes, they were also nationalists, which in the context of the 1930s was considered a rightist position, but this was at a time when the "internationalism" of the Soviet Union defined all nationalisms as right-wing. Surely we've learned from the parade of horribles on offer in the twentieth century that nationalism isn't inherently right-wing--unless we're prepared to call Stalin, Castro, Arafat, Chavez, Guevara, Pol Pot, and, for that matter, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, and John F. Kennedy, right-wingers. Stalin himself ruled as a nationalist, invoking "mother Russia" and dubbing World War II the "great patriotic war." By 1943 he had even replaced the old Communist anthem ("The Internationale") with one that was thoroughly Russian. Moreover, historically, nationalism was a liberal-left phenomenon. The French Revolution was a nationalist revolution, but it was also seen as a left-liberal one for breaking with the Catholic Church and empowering the people. German Romanticism as championed by Gottfried Herder and others was seen as both nationalistic and liberal. The National Socialist movement was part of this revolutionary tradition.

But even if Nazi nationalism was in some ill-defined but fundamental way right-wing, this only meant that Nazism was right-wing socialism. And right-wing socialists are still socialists. Most of the Bolshevik revolutionaries Stalin executed were accused of being not conservatives or monarchists but rightists--that is, right-wing socialists. Any deviation from the Soviet line was automatic proof of rightism. Ever since, we in the West have apishly mimicked the Soviet usage of such terms without questioning the propagandistic baggage attached.

The Nazi ideologist--and Hitler rival--Gregor Strasser put it quite succinctly: "We are socialists. We are enemies, deadly enemies, of today's capitalist economic system with its exploitation of the economically weak, its unfair wage system, its immoral way of judging the worth of human beings in terms of their wealth and their money, instead of their responsibility and their performance, and we are determined to destroy this system whatever happens!"

Hitler is just as straightforward in Mein Kampf. He dedicates an entire chapter to the Nazis' deliberate exploitation of socialist and communist imagery, rhetoric, and ideas and how this marketing confused both liberals and communists. The most basic example is the Nazi use of the color red, which was firmly associated with Bolshevism and socialism. "We chose red for our posters after particular and careful deliberation...so as to arouse their attention and tempt them to come to our meetings...so that in this way we got a chance of talking to the people." The Nazi flag--a black swastika inside a white disk in a sea of red--was explicitly aimed at attracting communists. "In red we see the social idea of the movement, in white the nationalistic idea, in the swastika the mission of the struggle for the victory of Aryan man."

The Nazis borrowed whole sections from the communist playbook. Party members--male and female--were referred to as comrades. Hitler recalls how his appeals to "class-conscious proletarians" who wanted to strike out against the "monarchist, reactionary agitation with the fists of the proletariat" were successful in drawing countless communists to their meetings. Sometimes the communists came with orders to smash up the place. But the Reds often refused to riot on command because they had been won over to the National Socialist cause. In short, the battle between the Nazis and the communists was a case of two dogs fighting for the same bone.

Nazism's one -nation politics by its very definition appealed to people from all walks of life. Professors, students, and civil servants were all disproportionately supportive of the Nazi cause. But it's important to get a
sense of the kind of person who served as the rank-and-file Nazi, the young, often thuggish true believers who fought in the streets and dedicated themselves to the revolution. Patrick Leigh Fermor, a young Briton traveling in Germany shortly after Hitler came to power, met some of these men in a Rhineland workers' pub, still wearing their night-shift overalls. One of his new drinking buddies offered to let Fermor crash at his house for the night. When Fermore climbed the ladder to the attic to sleep in a guest bed, he found "a shrine to Hitleriana":
The walls were covered with flags, photographs, posters, slogans and emblems. His SA uniforms hung neatly ironed on a hanger...When I said that it must be rather claustrophobic with all that stuff on the walls, he laughed and sat down on the bed, and said: "Mensch! You should have seen it last year! You would have laughed! Then it was all red flags, stars, hammers, sickles, pictures of Lenin and Stalin and Workers of the World Unite!...Then, suddenly when Hitler came to power, I understood it was all nonsense and lies. I realized Adolf was the man for me. All of a sudden!" He snapped his fingers in the air. "And here I am"...Had a lot of people done the same, then? "Millions! I tell you, I was astonished how easily they all changed sides!"
[snip]

What distinguished Nazism from other brands of socialism and communism was not so much that it included more aspects from the political right (though there were some). What distinguished Nazism was that it forthrightly included a worldview we now associate almost completely with the political left: identity politics. This was what distinguished Nazism from doctrinaire communism, and it seems hard to argue that the marriage of one leftist vision to another can somehow produce right-wing progeny.

[snip]

...what Hitler hated about Marxism and communism had almost nothing to do with those aspects of communism that we would consider relevant, such as economic doctrine or the need to destroy the capitalists and bourgeoisie. In these areas Hitler largely saw eye to eye with socialists and communists. His hatred stemmed from his paranoid conviction that the people calling themselves communists were in fact in on a foreign, Jewish conspiracy. He says this over and over again in Mein Kampf He studied the names of communists and socialists, and if they sounded Jewish, that's all he needed to know. It was all a con job, a ruse, to destroy Germany. Only "authentically" German ideas from authentic Germans could be trusted. And when those Germans, like Feder or STrasser, proposed socialist ideas straight out of the Marxist playbook, he had virtually no objection whatsoever.

[mother of all snips]

The communist ideologue Karl Radek...noted as early as 1923 that "Fascism is middle-class Socialism and we cannot persuade the middle classes to abandon it until we can prove to them that it only makes their condition worse."
Of all the things that I occasionally write about, few seem to elicit the negative reaction that noting that fascism is just a variety of socialism does. Leftists seem reluctant, for some reason, to embrace the idea that they own, ideologically speaking, both the murderous monstrosities of the twentieth century, communism and fascism. They'll continually tell you that communism is of the far left, but conservatives shouldn't get all cocky, as fascism/Nazism is conservatism run amok. I guess this makes them feel better, but it is ahistorical nonsense all the same.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Conservative Anti-Capitalists?

I have to admit that when I clicked on Carl Horowitz's column, "The Anti-Capitalist Impulse on the Right" I had a vague presentiment of what was to come, but I did not quite anticipate some of the detail that he threw in.

There are some who might be a little surprised to find that there are conservatives who have a certain distrust of capitalism. This may seem absurd on its face; how can a political philosophy that, almost without exception as far as I can tell, champions the right to property distrust capitalism? And the answer seems to be that so highly do some people value hierarchy, tradition, and moral structure that they look on the opportunities for license and indulgence afforded to the masses in a capitalist society with horror, so much so that they seem to think that the answer to the situation is government intervention. As Mr. Horowitz writes:
Traditionalists generally find this infuriating. For them, the exercise of personal freedom is tantamount to its misuse. A healthy culture, in their minds, must prevent adults from attending immoral concerts, watching immoral TV programs, and reading immoral magazines (or allowing their offspring to do likewise)...As licentious appetites must be whetted in today’s carnival of consumption, they argue, authorities should restrain people from indulging those appetites. Capitalism, while more efficient than socialism, undermines virtue. New sumptuary laws, of a sort, are needed...As long as people such as Hugh Hefner are permitted to run profitable enterprises, Kristol argued, capitalists would be the gravediggers of capitalism.
Mr. Horowitz argues strongly against this point of view, and I recommend you read the column, bearing in mind that I have points of difference with him, some of which may not be immediately apparent, so make no assumptions, please!

For my part, I pretty much always default to liberty. I have an almost total distrust of government's capacity to execute anything successfully, even its legitimate, God-ordained functions, let alone what you might think of as governmental extracurriculars, such as legislating morals. And yet I would agree totally that in a "healthy culture" people do not attend immoral concerts, watch immoral TV programs, read immoral magazines and the like (and I am by no means contending that I have been without sin in my life when I say that). So you might legitimately wonder how I say that the good society is a capitalist society, where people have both liberty and property rights and yet also a society that rejects the libertinism fueled by the rise in personal prosperity that capitalism affords. The answer is to be found in an old quote from Edmund Burke:
Men are qualified for civil liberty in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains on their own appetites. Society cannot exist unless a controlling power upon will and appetite be placed somewhere, and the less of it there is within, the more there is without. It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters.
What actually happens in the world is this, and I think you can see the process happening around you right now: you can have freedom, liberty, and property rights, the having of which necessarily entails the possibility of doing immoral things with them, and if enough people persistently do those immoral things, eventually the building blocks of society break down, and so much societal chaos ensues that people begin to clamor for order at any price, even the price of the liberty that they formerly cherished. The only way around this is for the members of a society, a culture, to regulate their own behavior, to, as Burke puts it, "put moral chains on their own appetites," that is, though they may have the means and the liberty to run around on their spouses and drink themselves into the gutter, they do not have the inclination. The most effective way of accomplishing such a state of affairs is through the thorough Christianization of a society, which means, ultimately, that the maintenance of liberty and property rights rest on the foundation of the preaching, teaching, and living out of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and where the church fails in this, in the long haul, society suffers collapse, tyranny enters--sometimes swiftly, sometimes by degrees--and the abuse of liberty brings about its own downfall.

At least, that's how I see it.
Afterthought: After reading Dave's question (see the comments), I thought, "Now, that's the problem with doing everything in one draft: occasionally, you're going to lack consistency." In this case, having said in one part of a sentence, "The most effective way...," which, obviously, means that there are other ways, I gave the impression in rest of the sentence that there wasn't another way.

Not the most consistent writing in the world. I amend the sentence thusly, new material in bold:

The most effective way of accomplishing such a state of affairs is through the thorough Christianization of a society, which means, ultimately, that the maintenance of liberty and property rights is best founded on the preaching, teaching, and living out of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and where the church fails in this, in the long haul, society is far more likely to suffer collapse; tyranny enters--sometimes swiftly, sometimes by degrees--and the abuse of liberty brings about its own downfall.

I chose to make the change here, rather than in the body of the post as originally written because had I done otherwise, Dave's question wouldn't have made sense to later readers.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Liberal Fascism Quote #5

If you can read this material and not understand that fascism is a variety of socialism, I honestly think that you must have blinders on. Not trying to be rude, but that's what I think. Emphasis, where present, is mine and in bold. Read all the way to the end of the post. It'll be worth it.
Benito Amilcare Andrea Mussolini was named after three revolutionary heroes. The name Benito--a Spanish name, as opposed to the Italian equivalent, Benedetto--was inspired by Benito Juarez, the Mexican revolutionary turned president who not only toppled the emperor Maximilian but had him executed. The other two names were inspired by now-forgotten heroes of anarchist-socialism, Amilcare Cipriani and Andrea Costa.

Mussolini's father, Alessandro, was a blacksmith and ardent socialist with an anarchist bent who was a member of the First International along with Marx and Engles and served on the local socialist council. Alessandro's "[h]eart and mind were always filled and pulsing with socialistic theories," Mussolini recalled. "His intense sympathies mingled with [socialist] doctrines and causes. He discussed them in the evening with his friends and his eyes filled with light." On other nights Mussolini's father read him passages from Das Kapital. When villagers brought their horses to Alessandro's shop to be shod, part of the price came in the form of listening to the blacksmith spout his socialist theories. Mussolini was a congenital rabble-rouser. At the age of ten, young Benito led a demonstration against his school for serving bad food. In high school he called himself a socialist, and at the age of eighteen, while working as a substitute teacher, he became the secretary of a socialist organization and began his career as a left-wing journalist.

[snip]

Because Mussolini trifled with men's wives, owed money, enraged the local authorities, and was approaching the age of conscription, he found it wise to flee Italy in 1902 for Switzerland, then a European Casablanca for socialist radicals and agitators. he had two lire to his name when he arrived, and, he wrote to a friend, the only metal rattling in his pocket was a medallion of Karl Marx. There he fell in with the predictable crowd of Bolshevists, socialists, and anarchists, including such intellectuals as Angelica Balabanoff, a daughter of Ukrainian aristocrats and a longtime colleague of Lenin's. Mussolini and Balabanoff remained friends for two decades, until she became the secretary of the Comintern and he became a socialist apostate, that is, a fascist.

Whether Mussolini and Lenin actually met is the subject of some controversy. However, we know that they were mutual admirers. Lenin would later say that Mussolini was the only true revolutionary in Italy, and according to Mussolini's first biographer, Margherita Sarfatti (a Jew and Mussolini's lover), Lenin also later said, "Mussolini? A great pity he is lost to us! He is a strong man, who would have led our party to victory."

While in Switzerland, Mussolini worked quickly to develop his intellectual bona fides. Writing socialist tracts wherever he could, the future Duce imbibed the lingo of the international European left. He wrote the first of his many books while in Switzerland, Man and Divinity, in which he railed against the Church and sang the praises of atheism, declaring that religion was a form of madness. The Swiss weren't much more amused with the young radical than the Italians had been. He was regularly arrested and often exiled by various cantonal authorities for his troublemaking. In 1904 he was officially labeled an "enemy of society." At one point he considered whether he should work in Madagascar, take a job at a socialist newspaper in New York, or join other socialist exiles in the leftist haven of Vermont (which fills much the same function today).

[snip]

After Mussolini's return to Italy (and a time in Austria) his reputation as a radical grew slowly but steadily until 1911. He became the editor of La lotta di classe (Class War), which served as the megaphone of the extremist wing of the Italian Socialist party. "The national flag is for us a rag to be planted in a dunghill," he declared.

[snip]

Mussolini was sentenced to a year in prison, reduced on appeal to five months. He emerged from prison as a socialist star. At his welcoming banquet a leading socialist, Olindo Vernocchi, declared: "From today you, Benito, are not only the representative of the Romagna Socialists but the Duce of all revolutionary socialists in Italy." This was the first time he was called "Il Duce" (the leader), making him the Duce of Socialism before he was the Duce of Fascism.

Using his newfound status, Mussolini attended the Socialist congress in 1912 at a time when the national party was bitterly split between moderates who favored incremental reform and radicals who endorsed more violent measures. Throwing in his lot with the radicals, Mussolini accused two leading moderates of heresy. Their sin? They'd congratulated the king on surviving an attempted assassination by an anarchist. Mussolini could not tolerate such squishiness. Besides, "What is a king anyway except by definition a useless citizen?" Mussolini joined the formal leadership of the party and four months later took over the editorship of its national newspaper, Avanti!, one of the most plum posts in all of European radicalism. Lenin, monitoring Mussolni's progress from afar, took note approvingly in Pravda.

Had he died in 1914, there's little doubt that Marxist theorists would be invoking Mussolini as a heroic martyr to the proletarian struggle. He was one of Europe's leading radical socialists in arguably the most radical socialist party outside of Russia. Under his stewardship, Avanti! became close to gospel for a whole generation of socialist intellectuals, including Antonio Gramsci. He also launched a theoretical journal, Utopia, named in tribute to Thomas More, whom Mussolini considered the first socialist. Utopia clearly reflected the influence of Georges Sorel's syndicalism on Mussolini's thinking.

[great big hairy snip]

From the moment Mussolini declared himself in favor of the war, Italian Socialists smeared him for his heresy. "Chi paga?" became the central question of the anti-Mussolini whisper campaign. "Who's paying him?" He was accused of taking money from arms makers, and it was hinted darkly that he was on France's payroll. There's no evidence for any of this. From the beginning, fascism was dubbed as right-wing not because it necessarily was right-wing but because the communist left thought this was the best way to punish apostasy (and, even if it was right-wing in some long forgotten doctrinal sense, fascism was still right-wing socialism). It has ever been thus. After all, if support for the war made one objectively right-wing, then Mother Jones was a rabid right-winger, too. This should be a familiar dynamic today, as support for the war in Iraq is all it takes to be a "right-winger" in many circles.

Mussolini on occasion acknowledged that fascism was perceived as a movement of the "right," but he never failed to make it clear that his inspiration and spiritual home was the socialist left. "You hate me today because you love me still," he told Italian Socialists. "Whatever happens, you won't lose me. Twelve years of my life in the party ought to be sufficient guarantee of my socialist faith. Socialism is in my blood." Mussolini resigned his editorship of AVanti! but he could never resign his love of the cause. "You think you can turn me out, but you will find I shall come back again. I am and shall remain a socialist and my convictions will never change! They are bred into my very bones."

Nevertheless, Mussolini was forced to quit the party organization. He joined up with a group of pro-war radicals called the Fascio Autonomo d'Azione Rivoluzionaria and quickly became their leader. Again, Mussolini had not moved to the right. His arguments for entering the war were made entirely in the context of the left and mirrored to no small extent the liberal and leftist arguments of American interventionists such as Woodrow Wilson, John Dewey, and Walter Lippman. The war, he and his fellow apostates insisted, was against the reactionary Germans and the Austro-Hungarian Empire, a war to liberate foreign peoples from the yoke of imperialism and advance the cause of socialist revolution in Italy, a true "proletarian nation."

Mussolini founded a new newspaper, Il Popolo d'Italia. The name itself--The People of Italy--is instructive because it illustrates the subtle change in Mussolini's thinking and the first key distinction between socialism and fascism. Socialism was predicated on the Marxist view that "workers" as a class were more bound by common interests than any other criteria. Implicit in the slogan "Workers of the world, unite!" was the idea that class was more important than race, nationality, religion, language, culture, or any other "opiate" of the masses. It had become clear to Mussolini that not only was this manifestly not so but it made little sense to pretend otherwise. If Sorel had taught that Marxism was a series of useful myths rather than scientific fact, why not utilize more useful myths if they're available? "I saw that internationalism was crumbling," Mussolini later admitted. It was "utterly foolish" to believe that class consciousness could ever trump the call of nation and culture. "The sentiment of nationality exists and cannot be denied." What was then called socialism was really just a kind of socialism: international socialism. Mussolini was interested in creating a new socialism, a socialism in one state, a national socialism, which had the added benefit of being achievable. The old Socialist Party stood in the way of this effort, and thus it was "necessary," Mussolini wrote in Il Popolo, "to assassinate the Party in order to save Socialism." In another issue he implored, "Proletarians, come into the streets and piazzas with us and cry: 'Down with the corrupt mercantile policy of the Italian bourgeoisie'...Long live the war of liberation of the peoples!"
My word, that's a lot of typing. I don't think I'll do it again; my aged eyes are feeling the strain. But it was necessary, I think. Too many people, when told that fascism is only national socialism and not a thing of the right at all, not conservatism run amok, respond by suggesting that perhaps the fascists, claiming to be socialists, didn't know what they were talking about, or were just saying that they were socialists. Mussolini's life, I think, demonstrates otherwise. If Mussolini didn't know what a socialist was, probably nobody in Italy, perhaps no one in Europe, did. It is very clear: Mussolini did not believe that he'd abandoned socialism for a different political ideology. He believed he was championing a better, more practical, more achievable version of that same ideology. He was a socialist, a creature of the left, and fascism is a creature of the left. The word itself, "fascism," has its origins in this time frame, that is to say, this is when fascism, properly speaking, was born. It is not something that existed throughout the ages; it has a birthday and a birthplace. I know it seems to some like I am hammering the point too hard, but it must be done. Fascism has nothing to do with the political right, if by "political right" you mean all the varying stripes of conservatism. It was born out of socialism, most especially Italian socialism; it is socialism's child, socialism's mutant child, if you like. It is all yours, Leftists--and by "Left," I do not mean your run-of-the-mill slightly left-of-center liberal, but the hard-core Left--like it or not, you own the phenomenon, you spawned it, you defined it, and dadgummit, you champion its offspring to this very day. And all the while you try to fool yourselves and others into believing that it has something, anything to do with conservatism. You seem to compelled to blind yourself to the reality that it's not merely Stalin's murders that are on the Left's conscience, Hitler's are, too.

I don't blame you, in a way, but I don't appreciate my political philosophy's track record being inaccurately conflated with that of yours.

Sorry if that's hard for some of you to swallow. Order the book here

Friday, October 23, 2009

Liberal Fascism Quote #4

The idea that there are no hard choices--that is, choice between competing goods--is religious and totalitarian because it assumes that all good things are fundamentally compatible. The conservative or classical liberal vision understands that life is unfair, that man is flawed, and that the only perfect society, the only real utopia, waits for us in the next life.
I said in my definition of liberalism that it is characterized by the willingness to try enormously and foolishly risky things that fly in the face of human nature, history, etc. You could also--and accurately, in my opinion--say that it is often characterized by the refusal to make hard choices. They are forever insisting that somehow they can have their cake and eat it, too.

Order the book here.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

So Help Me, I Don't Understand...

I know that there is more to self-defense than simply carrying a firearm. God knows, I know it, believe it, and preach it. Yet there's a darn good reason that the old saying, "God made men--Sam Colt made men equal," was once common currency. No single bigger equalizer than the firearm exists. It's such a no-brainer for so many women...

...or should be. So many women are reluctant to carry them and learn to use them. So help me, I don't understand...

Liberal Fascism Quote #3

Indeed, it is my argument that during World War I, America became a fascist country, albeit temporarily. The first appearance of modern totalitarianism in the Western world wasn't in Italy or Germany but in the United States of America. How else would you describe a country where the world's first modern propaganda ministry was established; political prisoners by the thousands were harassed, beaten, spied upon, and thrown in jail simply for expressing private opinions; the national leader accused foreigners and immigrants of injecting treason as "poison" into the American bloodstream; newspapers and magazines were shut down for criticizing the government; nearly a hundred thousand government propaganda agents were sent out among the people to whip up support for the regime and its war; college professors imposed loyalty oaths on their colleagues; nearly a quarter-million goons were given legal authority to intimidate and beat "slackers" and dissenters; and leading artists and writers dedicated their crafts to proselytizing for the government?
Mr. Goldberg goes into considerable detail about the excesses the Wilson administration indulged in, and I will be quoting a small portion of that material soon. I have to quote that material. Otherwise, you will simply think I'm a nut. All I can tell you here is that it is chilling reading, and it is Democrat history, and no, I haven't taken Democrat claims to be the party of freedom and liberty seriously for many years. They were once, back when Jefferson was leading them and for some decades thereafter. But sometime around the turn of the century, they started trending away from freedom and limited government and have now wound up a far-left monstrosity, a mockery of the party they once were.

You can order the book here. Go on, I dare ya.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Tried and True Method

This kind of thing actually does work, you know. When criminals are convinced that committing crime might get their lead deficiency cured, an amazing thing happens: they start committing the sorts of crimes that don't get them shot at as much.

Liberal Fascism Quote #2

We cannot easily recognize these similarities and continuities today, however, let alone speak about them, because this whole realm of historical analysis was foreclosed by the Holocaust. Before the war, fascism was widely viewed as a progressive social movement with many liberal and left-wing adherents in Europe and the United States; the horror of the Holocaust completely changed our view of fascism as something uniquely evil and ineluctably bound up with extreme nationalism, paranoia, and genocidal racism. After the war, the American progressives who had praised Mussolini and even looked sympathetically at Hitler in the 1920s and 1930s had to distance themselves from the horrors of Nazism. Accordingly, leftist intellectuals redefined fascism as "right-wing" and projected their own sins onto conservatives, even as they continued to borrow heavily from fascist and pre-fascist thought.

Must of this alternative history is quite easy to find, if you have eyes to see it. The problem is that the liberal-progressive narrative on which most of us were raised tends to shunt these incongruous and inconvenient facts aside, and to explain away as marginal what is actually central.

For starters, it is simply a fact that, in the 1920s, fascism and fascistic ideas were very popular on the American left. "That Fascism stunk in the nostrils of the New Masses," John Patrick Diggins writes of the legendary hard-left journal, "may have been true after 1930. For the radicals of the twenties the whiff from Italy carried no foul ideological odor." There was a reason for this. In many respects, the founding fathers of modern liberalism, the men and women who laid the intellectual groundwork of the New Deal and the welfare state, thought that fascism sounded like a pretty good idea. Or to be fair: many simply thought (in the spirit of Deweyan Pragmatism) that it sounded like a worthwhile "experiment." Moreover, while the odor of Italian Fascism eventually grew rancid in the nostrils of both the American left and the American right (considerably later than 1930, by the way), the reasons for their revulsion did not for the most part stem from profound ideological differences. Rather, the American left essentially picked a different team--the Red team--and as such swore fealty to communist talking points about fascism. As for the non-communist liberal left, while the word "fascism" grew in disrepute, many fascistic ideas and iimpulses endured.

It was around this time that Stalin stumbled on a brilliant tactic of simply labeling all inconvenient ideas and movements fascist. Socialists and progressives aligned with Moscow were called socialists or progressives, while socialists disloyal or opposed to Moscow were called fascists. Stalin's theory of social fascism rendered even Franklin Roosevelt a fascist according to loyal communists everywhere. And let us recall that Leon Trotsky was marked for death for allegedly plotting a "fascist coup." While this tactic was later deplored by many sane American left-wingers, it is amazing how many useful idiots fell for it at the time, and how long its intellectual half-life has been.

Before the Holocaust and Stalin's doctrine of social fascism, liberals could be more honest about their fondness for fascism. During the "pragmatic" era of the 1920s and early 1930s, a host of Western liberal intellectuals and journalists were quite impressed with Mussolini's "experiment." More than a few progressives were intrigued by Nazism as well. W.E.B. DuBois, for example, had very complex and mixed emotions about the rise of Hitler and the plight of the Jews, believing that National Socialism could be the model for economic organization. The formation of the Nazi dictatorship, he wrote, had been "absolutely necessary to get the state in order." Hewing to the progressive definition of "democracy" as egalitarian statism, DuBois delivered a speech in Harlem in 1937 proclaiming that "there is today, in some respects, more democracy in Germany than there has been in years past."

For years, segments of the so-called Old Right argued that FDR's New Deal was fascistic and/or influenced by fascists. There is ample truth to this, as many mainstream and liberal historians have grudgingly admitted. However, that the New Deal was fascist was hardly a uniquely right-wing criticism in the 1930s. Rather, those who offered this sort of critique, including the Democratic hero Al Smith and the Progressive Republican Herbert Hoover, were beaten back with the charge that they were crazy right-wingers and themselves the real fascists. Norman Thomas, the head of the American Socialist Party, frequently charged that the New Deal was fundamentally fascistic. Only Communists loyal to Moscow--or the useful idiots in Stalin's thrall--could say that Thomas was a right-winger or a fascist. But that is precisely what they did.

Even more telling, FDR's defenders openly admitted their admiration of fascism. Rexford Guy Tugwell, an influential member of FDR's Brain Trust, said of Italian Fascism, "It's the cleanest, neatest, most efficiently operating piece of social machinery I've ever seen. It makes me envious." "We are trying out the economics of Fascism without having suffered all its social or political ravages," proclaimed the New Republic's editor George Soule, an enthusiastic supporter of the FDR administration.
You can buy the book here. You're just dying to read it, now, aren't you? Even if all you want to do is explain to me later how wrong Goldberg is.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Buchanan's Diagnosis and the MOTW Prescription

Pat Buchanan saith this morning:
Referring to the white working-class voters in the industrial towns decimated by job losses, Obama said: "They get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."

Yet, we had seen these folks before. They were Perotistas in 1992, opposed NAFTA in 1993 and blocked the Bush-Kennedy McCain amnesty in 2007.

In their lifetimes, they have seen their Christian faith purged from schools their taxes paid for, and mocked in movies and on TV. They have seen their factories shuttered in the thousands and their jobs outsourced in the millions to Mexico and China. They have seen trillions of tax dollars go for Great Society programs, but have seen no Great Society, only rising crime, illegitimacy, drug use and dropout rates.

They watch on cable TV as illegal aliens walk into their country, are rewarded with free educations and health care and take jobs at lower pay than American families can live on – then carry Mexican flags in American cities and demand U.S. citizenship.

They see Wall Street banks bailed out as they sweat their next paycheck, then read that bank profits are soaring, and the big bonuses for the brilliant bankers are back. Neither they nor their kids ever benefited from affirmative action, unlike Barack and Michelle Obama.

They see a government in Washington that cannot balance its books, win our wars or protect our borders. The government shovels out trillions to Fortune 500 corporations and banks to rescue the country from a crisis created by the government and Fortune 500 corporations and banks.

America was once their country. They sense they are losing it. And they are right.
To which rather a lot of people are saying, "Amen, and amen."

As I have noted repeatedly, I do not have a particularly big axe to grind when it comes to race (see my thoughts on the subject here); I am far more interested in what a person thinks than in his quantity of melanin. But I am old enough to know that Buchanan is right; this country has undergone an enormous demographic change since I was a child. I was born in 1962. Immigration law was changed, courtesy of "The Swimmer," in the mid-60s. When I was a child, the country was about ten percent black, and everyone else that you saw in Oklahoma was either white or Native American or a mixture of the two (as am I, at least a wee bit). You rarely saw Latinos.

Now, to reiterate, since I know beyond any shadow ever cast by any doubt, that some will take what I am saying here and try to make it out as though I hate brown people, there's not a darn thing in the world wrong with Latinos. I served with many in the USMC Reserve; my wife is half-Mexican by heritage, etc. All I am trying to point out is that prior to those immigration reforms and the flood of immigration, both legal and illegal, but especially illegal, there was a greater degree of cultural homogeneity than there is today. The most graphic illustration of the point is the presence of bilingual labels on darn near everything you buy. When I was a child and a teenager, no one even thought of such a thing. It was completely unnecessary. By the time I had become a young adult, you occasionally saw a bilingual label, and it was the object of mockery. Now--it is de rigeur.

We have carried a desire for diversity and tolerance to the point where we are being threatened with balkanization and civil strife. We have, out of a desire for "fairness," (you can make Americans absolutely hose themselves by accusing them of being "unfair," so highly do they prize the concept of fairness), allowed what is, historically, overwhelmingly the dominant faith of the land, the faith whose precepts and concepts undergird our conception of man's rights and our system of government, to be marginalized and sometimes even ostracized. A misplaced faith in "free trade" (again, not the same thing at all as "free markets") has resulted in the mass exportation of our manufacturing capacity (and this is actually cheered by fools who have never so much as operated a lathe and have no idea how much mental and physical labor is involved, and how impossible it would be to rebuild our manufacturing base on short notice, should war, for example, ever make it necessary). The brainless idea that we can spend poverty out of existence has created only more poverty and a wave of seriously bad attitudes on the part of people we are allegedly trying to help.

Now, what to do?

Knowing perfectly well that there is not a snowball's chance of this ever actually happening, this is what I suggest needs to happen. Here, for what it's worth, is the MOTW prescription:

1) America's Christians need to quit excusing themselves from talking about their faith on the grounds that they're afraid they might "screw it up" or "drive somebody away," which is the excuse I am continually hearing. All you have to do is read your Bible consistently, go to church and serve in church consistently, and talk about your spiritual life as consistently as you talk about your interest in NASCAR. Not that hard. I am constantly amazed at our situation. I just got the latest CBD catalog in the mail yesterday, and this country is awash in Bibles, study Bibles, Bible studies, commentaries, and the like, and yet nobody feels confident enough about what they believe to speak up and talk about it. What rubbish. Quit making excuses and open your mouths. I say again: America's fundamental political precepts are drawn from a Christian heritage. You will not see a renaissance of constitutional government in this country without first seeing Christianity again becoming the overwhelmingly dominant faith in the land. It matters not whether your Christian brothers and sisters are White, Black, Latino, Mestizo, Indian, or Asian--not as long as you preach and teach the Gospel. It is the Gospel, and the ideas it carries along with it, that are important. Those ideas underly what it means to be an American.

2) Trim or eliminate income taxes and replace them with consumption taxes, that is, with tariffs or--better yet--the Fair Tax. The bottom line is that you must create a tax advantage to manufacturing in this country and quit punishing success.

3) One of those tariffs needs to be on imported oil. It must be cheaper to drill here than to import oil. We have plenty of oil and coal. We have the technology to burn coal cleanly. Every year I read of more discoveries of oil locked up somewhere in this country. It may be in oil shale or oil sands (sometimes not) or offshore, but we have plenty of dadgum oil. We can be energy independent, and energy independence, in turn, will greatly diminish the capacity of jihadis to wage war, since waging war takes money, and, sad to say, it is our payments for foreign oil that indirectly supply the jihadis with money!

Need I add the obvious, that the Federal government needs to get out of the way of the drilling?

4) Congress must execute or get off the pot, so to speak. They either need to declare war in the places our troops are committed, or they need to cut off funding. That is Congress's job.

5) We have to give up the idea of nation-building in Islamic countries. Islam and totalitarianism go together, as I have said repeatedly, like peanut butter and jelly. You will never succeed in remaking Dar al Islam into a series of representative governments. Our objective, vis-a-vis the War on Terror, has to be to keep jihadis off-balance, on the defensive, on the run, deprived of leaders and of resources (see point no. 3).

6) We have to secure our borders. The much-discussed fence is a must. We have to end all the things that make this country attractive to illegal aliens. No more public money spent on illegals. Employers must be required to verify that their employees are in the country legally. Illegals, once caught, must be deported. Congress must clarify, in law, not subject to judicial review (they have this power), that babies born in this country to illegal aliens are not citizens. People that have immigrated legally must be encouraged and assisted to fully assimilate. There must be an end to "chain immigration," as well. We should allow, or not allow, immigration on the basis of whether or not the citizens of this country benefit from it.

7) Federal spending must be drawn back to objects allowed to it in the Constitution--which will immediately result in an end to entitlement spending, obviously. This should not be a problem if point 2 is enacted; the projection is that the first year the Fair Tax is in place, the economy will grow by about ten percent, so jobs should be plentiful and if point 1 is carried out, America's churches can fulfill their historic role of helping the genuinely needy, starting with those in their own congregations.

8) We must drop any military commitments overseas that have outlived their usefulness to us. Last time I read anything on the subject, the United States has multiple treaty commitments to go to war on behalf of other nations should they be attacked, whether our interests are at stake or not. We have, I believe, troops or military obligations in some seven-hundred-plus places around the world. This is madness. US troops should be used for defending the United States.

9) Missile defense, aka "Star Wars," has to be a priority. If points 2, 7, and 8 are carried out, there should be more than enough money to make this work even better than it has so far.

Hmmmm. I guess that's enough for one day. I've probably already offended half the known universe. And you can see why I don't bother running for office.

Suddenly Feeling Very Old Indeed

One might get the impression from my occasional mentions of go that I play the game quite often. It would be more correct to say that I have ambitions of playing it quite often. What I would like to do eventually is show up every other Thursday night at the OSU Chess/Tulsa Go Club, which meets not five minutes away from my house (and judging from what I have read, I doubt very seriously they'll be terribly concerned that I'm not a student), and I hope to worm my way through a couple of books on the subject by years' end so that I don't look entirely execrable. However, right now, the reality is that I have looked at a few online tutorials and played perhaps thirty games against the computer, using the little 9x9 board that comes with the Igowin freeware (link in the sidebar). It's a fascinating game that I anticipate playing for many years, I hope. Hopefully, that and a little chess will help me stave off old-age dementia.

Last night, the eight-year-old said, How about, after the three-year-old goes to bed, you and I play some chess?"

And I said, "Oh, I don't know, why don't I teach you to play go instead?

"I already know how to play go."

"You do? When did you learn? I didn't teach you."

"Yes, you did, a few months ago."

"Really? I don't remember doing that."

"Well, you did, and we played a game."

"I really don't remember doing that."

"Well, you're old and I'm young, and I just remember some things better."

"Hmmmmph. Little whippersnapper. We'll just see about that," I thought to myself, and I dug out the little 9x9 board that I made, and the beans that I use as stones.

I gave the little punk a three-stone advantage, thinking he'd need it.

He CRUSHED me.

Now, I feel really old. An' that li'l varmint for darn sure ain't gettin' no handicap next time.

Liberal Fascism Quote #1

The major flaw in all of this is that fascism, properly understood, is not a phenomenon of the right at all. Instead, it is, and always has been, a phenomenon of the left. This fact--an inconvenient truth if there ever was one--is obscured in our time by the equally mistaken belief that fascism and communism are opposites. In reality, they are closely related, historical competitors for the same constituents, seeking to dominate and control the same social space. The fact that they appear as polar opposites is a trick of intellectual history and (more to the point) the result of a concerted propaganda effort on the part of the "Reds" to make the "Browns" appear objectively evil and "other" (ironically, demonization of the "other" is counted as a definitional trait of fascism). But in terms of their theory and practice, the differences are minimal.
One of the things that continually amazes me is the easy characterization by those on today's political left of American conservatives as fascist, or trending towards fascism. It makes no sense, no sense at all. American conservatism is characterized by the championing of limited government, certainly less government than we have today. Today's political left is characterized by the desire for more government, always more. If fascism is closely intertwined with totalitarian government, then, it seems clear that it is today's political left that trends fascist, rather than American conservatism.

There'll be more quotes in the days ahead. I'm reasonably sure that Mr. Goldberg won't mind too much. If anything, they should help him sell a few more copies of his excellent book.

That book provokes some of the most entertaining reactions, by the way. Whenever I argue along these lines, someone will pipe up and say, "Oh, that's right out of Goldberg's Liberal Fascism," as though merely noting that constitutes a refutation. I note that as a rule, they don't bother trying to refute the book. My personal opinion is that they can't. It is well-researched and reasoned, and so far, none of the people who try a summary dismissal of the book give any evidence whatever of having actually read it. It does annoy me, though, that people act as though I never thought that fascism was a variety of socialism before I read this book. I read a pretty fair amount of Mein Kampf--not all of it, Hitler was a beastly bore of a writer--and to the best of my recollection, it was riddled with socialist claptrap, and, of course, the very name "Nazi" is an acronym standing for, in German, "National Socialist German Worker's Party." Kind of a dead giveaway, if you ask me, the sort of thing today's left keeps trying to explain away and just can't. At any rate, the ideas in this book weren't new to me, it's just handy to have all the material in one volume, and I'm glad the "used" price finally came down to where I didn't feel guilty for buying a copy.

This book, and Blacklisted by History, which came out in the same general time frame and details the enormous proof that Joe McCarthy was not a paranoid wingnut, but was in fact correct when he charged that the U.S. government at the time was riddled with communists and Soviet agents, are books that just aggravate the daylights out of the left. In the space of one year, the left was deprived of the ability--at least, if the audience is even a little informed--to call conservatives fascists and/or McCarthyites and keep a straight face.

If for nothing else, that was a glorious year.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Just Call Me a Wimp, But...


...I think I know which item I'm pickin' up...

The "Crunchy Con" Manifesto

From time to time and in place to place, I've mentioned that I can probably be categorized in most respects as a Paleocon, but that I also have fairly significant "Crunchy Con" streaks. You can find my review of Rod Dreher's Crunchy Cons here, if you like, but I thought that today I'd whip out the "Crunchy Con" Manifesto from the book and add a little of my own commentary.

1. We are conservatives who stand outside the conservative mainstream; therefore, we can see things that matter more clearly.
I hate to say it, but the reality is that the conservative mainstream has become mostly the home of laundry-list conservatives. Laundry-list conservatives are not bad. It is better than having knee-jerk liberalism by far. But it seems to me that too many modern conservatives lack a certain amount of perspective and are unaware of conservatism's rich intellectual history.

2. Modern conservatism has become too focused on money, power, and the accumulation of stuff, and insufficiently concerned with the content of our individual and social character.
I said once of the Republican Party that too many within it would be thrilled to pieces if we could get low taxes and a strong national defense--so thrilled that they might not notice all that much if the country was still headed straight to the nether regions morally and socially.

3. Big business deserves as much skepticism as big government.
Only because big business too often gets or maintains its bigness by corrupting politicians. Or because the sheer size of the organizations makes them too remote from their customers to make them flexible, reliable, and accountable.

4. Culture is more important than politics and economics.
Ultimately, your culture determines your politics and economics, not the other way 'round. If you want small government, you must first evangelize and proselytize so that the population is amenable to those things.

5. A conservatism that does not practice restraint, humility, and good stewardship--especially of the natural world--is not fundamentally conservative.
This kind of thing is hard to legislate. But to my mind, a proper appreciation of real property rights goes a long way toward achieving such ends.

6. Small, Local, Old, and Particular are almost always better than Big, Global, New, and Abstract.
Almost always. It's not that I don't like new things; I do. But more often than not, I'm drawn to the old. And dealing with local folks is usually easier and more rewarding.

7. Beauty is more important than efficiency.
This one is hard for me, in that to the best of my recollection, I have not ever been forced to make a choice between pure beauty and pure efficiency. Rather, it seems to me that these things exist along a continuum, and that what we are really talking about is, "What is the best trade-off?" Just to give a short example, we have multitudinous books in the MOTW household. You just would not believe, I'm telling you. At any rate, all those books require housing, so to speak. We must have shelves, or some other means of keeping the li'l boogers off the floor. A home littered--even littered with books--is hardly attractive or beautiful. Yet, it is also true that we face very real financial pressures, and a certain amount of time pressure, so some of our shelves are little more than pine 1 x 8s screwed and glued together, one was scrounged from someone else's trash, etc.

Perhaps the most beautiful thing would be to hand-make shelves out of walnut, with some carving, or perhaps some decoupage. But we cannot afford to do that, at least not at this time, and so we must choose between books scattered about on the floors and furniture, or up on the cheap shelves. The cheap shelves are not as beautiful as would be the hand-made walnut shelves, but they allow for greater overall beauty of our home than would the complete absence of shelves. The choice is not beauty or efficiency, it is what blend of the two is most appropriate to a given situation, and it seems to me that most things are like that.

8. The relentlessness of media-driven pop culture deadens our senses to authentic truth, beauty, and wisdom.
Duh. It's like what happens to a smoker's senses of smell and taste.

9. We share Russell Kirk's conviction that "the institution most essential to conserve is the family."
Amen. When the family breaks down, society begins to break down. And look what's happening all around us...

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Ant and the Grasshopper


This was sent to me--again--by a relative. I've seen it before, years ago, as a matter of fact. It's one of those things that keeps going 'round the internet, getting changed bit by bit. I enjoyed this version. Typos, if any, were present in the text as it was sent to me.
Two Different Versions! ................. Two Different Morals!


OLD VERSION: The ant works hard in the withering heat all summer long, building his house and laying up supplies for the winter.

The grasshopper thinks the ant is a fool and laughs and dances and plays the summer away.

Come winter, the ant is warm and well fed.

The grasshopper has no food or shelter, so he dies out in the cold.

MORAL OF THE STORY: Be responsible for yourself

MODERN VERSION:

The ant works hard in the withering heat all summer long, building his house and laying up supplies for the winter.

The grasshopper thinks the ant is a fool and laughs and dances and plays the summer away.

Come winter, the shivering grasshopper calls a press conference and demands to know why the ant should be allowed to be warm and well fed while others are cold and starving.

CBS, NBC , PBS, CNN, and ABC show up to provide pictures of the shivering grasshopper next to a video of the ant in his comfortable home with a table filled with food. America is stunned by the sharp contrast.

How can this be, that in a country of such wealth, this poor grasshopper is allowed to suffer so?

Kermit the Frog appears on Oprah with the grasshopper and everybody cries when they sing, 'It's Not Easy Being Green.'

Acorn stages a demonstration in front of the ant 's ho use where the news stations film the group singing, 'We shall overcome.' Rev. Jeremiah Wright then has the group kneel down to pray to God for the grasshopper's sake.

Nancy Pelosi & Harry Reid exclaim in an interview with Larry King that the ant has gotten rich off the back of the grasshopper, and both call for an immediate tax hike on the ant to make him pay his fair share.

Finally, the EEOC drafts the Economic Equity & Anti-Grasshopper Act retroactive to the beginning of the summer.

The ant is fined for failing to hire a proportionate number of green bugs and, having nothing left to pay his retroactive taxes, his home is confiscated by the Government Green Czar.

The story ends as we see the grasshopper finishing up the last bits of the ants food while the government house he is in, which just happens to be the ant's old house, crumbles around him because he doesn't maintain it.

The ant has disappeared in the snow.

The grasshopper is found dead in a drug related incident and the house, now abandoned, is taken over by a gang of spiders who terrorize the once peaceful neighborhood.

MORAL OF THE STORY: Be careful how you vote in 2010.

Friday, October 16, 2009

A Loose Collection of Thoughts on Bible Reading

My father sent me a fifty for my upcoming birthday (don't ask--"older than dirt" is quite close enough), and, as I had been planning to do for a few months, I promptly spent the bulk of it on what will probably be the last Bible I ever buy, unless I surprise myself and get good enough at Greek to justify buying a combination Septuagint and New Testament in that language.

If you clicked on the link, you probably noticed it's not a study Bible. I've had several, but I quit using them a long time ago. They have their advantages--mainly, it's kind of like carrying a one-volume commentary around with you. They also have their disadvantages--mainly that it's kind of like carrying a one-volume commentary around with you. Usually, a one-volume commentary by one guy, or one committee. There's a certain potential for bias in the notes, and sometimes I think people vest more authority in the notes than is wise. The text is inspired, the notes are not.

I long ago gradually built up a set of The Expositor's Bible Commentaries so that I'd have something on the shelf on every book of the Bible, for the sake of preparing Sunday School lessons. I've also added other commentaries on individual books of the Bible. There is probably more commentary material on my shelves than I'm going to be able to read in my lifetime, unless I suffer the misfortune of a crippling illness or accident. Having a study Bible seems kind of redundant at this point. Not knocking them. If you don't see yourself picking up a shelf full of commentaries, they're just fine.

I've read several different translations over the years. The original preface to the venerable King James Version, which is seldom, if ever, printed in today's copies of the KJV, advised the reader to read the Scriptures in several translations
...varietie of Translations is profitable for the finding out of the sense of the Scriptures...
which, contrary to some very ill-informed assertions, are remarkably well preserved, easily exceeding the degree of preservation of most (I almost say "all" but don't wish to spend half a day finding and linking to articles to back me up) other ancient documents--and I have taken that advice. Off the top of my head, I've read the KJV, the New King James, the New American Standard, the New International Version, the Berkeley Version, the Revised version (to the best of my recollection), the Phillips translation of the New Testament, parts of the Living Bible, the NET Bible, and the English Standard Version. There may have been--actually, I'm pretty sure there are--others that I've forgotten.

Each of these has its pluses and minuses, and for the most part, I don't knock anyone for choosing one or the other. Having been through the process, I still think it's a good idea to read several translations. If it weren't for the eyestrain factor, I'd say that using one of the parallel editions that has more than one translation side-by-side is the best way to go.

The NET Bible is quite a decent translation in very modern English. The translators' notes--there are more than sixty thousand--give an enormous quantity of detail as to the original-language texts behind the translation and the translators' reasons for choosing the translations they did, as well as alternate translations. In many respects, I think it is the "winner" out of all these translations.

But I like the ESV best. It is really a thorough update of the Revised Standard Version, which in turn was an updated King James. The ESV is a very literal translation that retains much of the classic feel of the KJV and is very "readable," which is what people say when they're trying to find a polite way to say that the New American Standard, which is often touted as the most literal translation, is a little wooden. As I've noted before, the ESV is also what all the cool Reformed guys are reading these days.

I don't have a big axe to grind when it comes to "more literal" or "less literal" translations. That may be because I've read so many. Despite people who protest otherwise, the translations really do all say the same thing: there is a God, you are (me too!), by nature and by choice, in rebellion against Him and deserve to be punished in a very real lake of fire for eternity, and the only way "out" is to change your mind about yourself, to agree with God that you really are guilty before Him, that the way you've lived your life is altogether filthy in His eyes, to turn from your own way of "making it" and to accept the eternal life that can be yours if and when you put your trust in the only provision He has made, the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ, on your behalf, who proved who He was and His fitness to serve as a sinless sacrifice when He rose from the dead. You aren't worthy to enter eternal life, only He is--but when you put your faith, the faith itself being a gift of God, in Him, His righteousness is counted as though it were yours, your rebellion is pardoned, and you begin a life-long process of being conformed to His image. All the translations say that. I know, 'cause I've read them. They don't say it in one run-on sentence, like I did, but that's what they say.

Like I say, I like the ESV best, and I've been hankering for an edition that will be easy to read as I continue--well, hopefully, anyway--to age. Also, I wanted big, wide margins for making notes. I've tried keeping notes in a separate journal before. It doesn't work for me. I like making my notes and recording my thoughts in my Bible, and seeing them again and again as I make repeated trips through the text. I typically read four chapters in the Old Testament and two in the New on a daily basis. I say "typically," not "slavishly." That pace generally has me going through the New Testament about twice for every one time through the Old, and through the whole just a bit more than once per year. This edition has nice, big type, nice, big margins, and is what they call "Smyth-sewn," meaning the pages of the book are sewn together, like they did in the old days, and barring some sort of disaster, this copy and the notes I will make should very probably last me the rest of my days. No, it's not genuine leather, but the cover in which I carry my Bible is, so I never see and feel the actual cover anyway...

Hopefully, my children will be interested enough in my notes to fight over which one gets to keep my copy!

Not really. If they're really interested, I'm sure one of them will go to the trouble of transcribing my notes for the others.

Hey, I can dream!

Hey, We Like to Accessorize, Too...

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Great Jefferson Quote

We must not let our rulers load us with perpetual debt. We must make our election between economy and liberty or profusion and servitude. If we run into such debt, as that we must be taxed in our meat and in our drink, in our necessaries and our comforts, in our labors and our amusements, for our calling and our creeds...[we will] have no time to think, no means of calling our miss-managers to account but be glad to obtain subsistence by hiring ourselves to rivet their chains on the necks of our fellow-sufferers... And this is the tendency of all human governments. A departure from principle in one instance becomes a precedent for[ another]... till the bulk of society is reduced to be mere automatons of misery... And the fore-horse of this frightful team is public debt. Taxation follows that, and in its train wretchedness and oppression.
What I fear most of all is that we will see spiraling inflation as a result of trying to print enough worthless money to pay off all the incredible debt we are piling up--and yes, the Bush administration and Republican congress spent way, way too much, but the Obama administration and Democratic congress are succeeding in making even the Bushies look frugal--and the resulting economic and social pressures, added onto the stack of problems trending toward balkanization, will ultimately succeed in breaking the country apart.

No, obviously, I don't expect that to happen next week. But I am concerned that it might happen within my lifetime.

Think it can't happen? I suspect that you have no idea how bad these things can get. At one point before Napoleon took power in France, the situation was so bad that the laundry women were calling for the death penalty for people who sold soap at too high a price. Of course, the escalating prices were driven by an enormous increase in velocity, the speed at which money changes hands, which was driven by France's horrible monetary policies--policies from which the Obama administration and the Democratic Party seem to have learned nothing.

Interested in the concept of velocity? You probably haven't heard of that one before. Most people haven't. Try reading this little book.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Cool White Quote

Occasionally, James White knocks one out of the park. He saith:
"The traditional view of God the Creator is untenable now." What kind of hubris does one have to possess to come along at the beginning of the 21st century and decide that everyone else before you just didn't get it, and that your insights are so grand, so sweeping, that you can make such statements? Answer? The 21st century secular liberal, for whom there is no such thing as humility, let alone balance.
SNORT! Sorry, had to snort. Can't tell you the number of times somebody--lately, it's been a flock of atheists--has thrown up to me some argument that reveals that they either haven't bothered to read the material seriously, or that they aren't at all familiar with the centuries-old refutations of their centuries-old and still-sophomoric arguments. It's pitiful to watch, really; all they end up doing is making themselves look like 11-year-olds.
For the inevitable person who will come along and say something stunningly ignorant, the context of Dr. White's remarks has, probably, nothing to do with your particular issue, ok? The reason it's quoted is because it's a funny commentary on the bloated sense of self that so many people have today.

What I Believe About Non-Believers

Since the subject comes up from time to time, here it is.

I know some will find this ridiculously offensive. I honestly don't mean to be so. But on the other hand, this is exactly what I think. It'll be in the sidebar under "Popular and/or Important Posts," so casual passers-through won't have to search too hard.

There are many other verses along these lines, but these are enough to tell you what I think.

Psalm 14:1
...The fool says in his heart, "There is no God." They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds, there is none who does good.
14:2 The LORD looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God.
14:3 They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.
This is the natural state of man since the Fall. Even what he thinks is good is corrupted, and no one, on his own, seeks out God. The fool goes even further, saying to himself that there is no God. You can easily see, then, that when I hear someone say that there is no God, I immediately think that he is a fool. I may not say so out loud, but that is exactly what is going through my head.

Being a fool, in this sense, does not imply real stupidity, that is, mental retardation. The Scripture is not saying that that people who do not believe there is a God are suffering from a deficiency of gray matter. I have known highly intelligent atheists, and read of many more. But high intelligence does not prevent a man from believing and doing many, many foolish things, as most highly intelligent people can testify from personal experience.

Psalm 92:6
The stupid man cannot know; the fool cannot understand this:
92:7 that though the wicked sprout like grass and all evildoers flourish, they are doomed to destruction forever;
92:8 but you, O LORD, are on high forever.
Again, this is not to say that the atheist is suffering a deficiency of gray matter. The idea here is that he is so blinded by his rejection of God that effectively he cannot know anything about Him. You can talk and talk and talk to such people, and you will never, on your own, get anywhere.

Luke 16:23
...and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side.
16:24 And he called out, 'Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.'
16:25 But Abraham said, 'Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish.
16:26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.'
16:27 And he said, 'Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father's house--
16:28 for I have five brothers--so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.'
16:29 But Abraham said, 'They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.'
16:30 And he said, 'No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.'
16:31 He said to him, 'If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.'"
As an aside, I have to mention that I can no longer read these verses without thinking of a discussion I had with another Christian blogger who stated that torture is never right. If it's never right, what was this fellow doing in torment? But I digress.

The atheist--I am not speaking here of the agnostic, or of people who say they're atheists because they think it's intellectually fashionable but actually are still wondering--is not, despite what he will tell you, open to being convinced by the evidence. Nothing on this planet will convince him, not even if someone rose from the dead before his eyes. He will try to explain away the evidence of his own eyes instead.

Knowing this, having been fully convinced of its validity through much experience, I have pretty much quit arguing with atheists on evidential grounds--on any grounds, period, actually. They simply don't care. The only reason they will ask you for evidence or argumentation is so they can reject it--often grossly contradicting themselves in the process--and then pretend to themselves that they are fair-minded.

Romans 1:19
For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.
1:20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.
1:21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.
1:22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools,
1:23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
1:24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves,
1:25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
1:26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature;
1:27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.
1:28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.
1:29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips,
1:30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents,
1:31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.
1:32 Though they know God's decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.
There's all kinds of stuff here, obviously, but what's important for this post is that I believe that atheists do, somewhere in the core of their beings, know that there is a God. They could hardly do otherwise. It is dreadfully obvious, so obvious that it requires willful blindness not to believe it. They simply hate Him, and do everything in their power to convince themselves that what they know to be true simply isn't.

These people are on a level with the fellow who will stand in a puddle and claim that he doesn't know that the water is making his feet wet. You can argue the nature of the evidence with them if you want, but it is pretty much a waste of time. The Bible describes such people as mockers and scoffers. They are, as I said in another post, less interested in real argumentation than they are in hooting out their derision in the streets and chucking feces at the church windows. If evidence was the only issue, they'd believe. Again, the words are:
For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.
Evidence isn't the issue. They see the evidence, know exactly what it points to, and make a deliberate decision to reject and suppress it.

How, exactly, a person goes from being a non-believer under those circumstances to being a believer is a topic for another post, but it starts in John 6:44:
No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him...
No one comes to God simply because he figures things out. It may seem that way to him, but that is not actually what happens. Unless and until the Father draws that person, rather than figuring out the way to God, he will figure out his way from God. That's the real problem.

Now, then, that is what I believe about non-believers. Offensive as all get-out, I know, but now you know what I think.