Tag Archives: politics

Edward Gibbon on the Fall of Roman Empire

I just came across this in an article from The American Thinker, entitled The Quiet Revolution: How the New Left Took Over the Democratic Party, by Scott Powell. Though it’s not short, the entire piece is well worth the time it takes to read it, tracing as it does the way Marxism, Leninism and other communistic “isms” have slowly made their way into American politics, society, and government — precisely, as it happens, in the manner that some of them advised.

However when I got to the part where Powell references the famous historian Edward Gibbon and what he said regarding aspects of Roman society that were precursors to Rome’s fall, I thought the parallels as they apply to what we’re seeing in the USA today were so inescapable and sobering, I wanted to share them:

The big question is whether the nation can survive and prosper if the culture remains fractured with a majority adrift from the heritage, morality and values of liberty and personal responsibility that are at the heart of the Declaration and the Constitution.

Edward Gibbon, the renowned historian, published his first of six-volumes of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, in 1776, the year Thomas Jefferson penned the Declaration of Independence. Gibbon described six attributes that Rome embodied at its end: first, an overwhelming love of show and luxury; second, a widening gap between the rich and the poor; third, an obsession with sports and a freakishness in the arts, masquerading as creativity and originality; fourth, a decline in morals, increase in divorce and decline in the institution of the family; fifth, economic deterioration resulting from debasement of the currency, inflation, excessive taxation, and overregulation; and sixth, an increased desire by the citizenry to live off the state.

One might hope that awareness of factors associated with Rome’s fall would prompt an awakening in America. But so many are now disengaged and relatively few people read books, let alone possess the capacity to reflect deeply about causality and historical parallels. Many feel atomized and helpless.

Turning around America’s decline will require more than just political change. It’s vital to reestablish a positive and solid framework and foundation, around which a majority consensus could emerge and grow.  Such a foundation was well understood and articulated by George Washington — revered by many as the greatest of all U.S. presidents. His timeless wisdom was conveyed in both his speech consecrating the nation at its birth and also in his Farewell Address delivered eight years later upon leaving office.  He said:

“Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports… Let it simply be asked: Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice? And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”

You can  Read the entire article HERE.

 

Utopia vs Freedom

More thoughts from The Secret Knowledge by David Mamet…

When I did my post on this book last week, I forgot that I’d written down some of my thoughts on it both during and after I’d finished reading it. The other night I found them, and today I’ve decided they might be of interest to at least some of my readers.

One of the things that has been impressing itself upon me with regard to Liberal (or should I say “Progressive”?) thought these days is the element in it of wanting to restore, through the efforts of flawed and sinful men, the Garden of Eden. Of course, they don’t call it that, they call it “Utopia,” a term coined by Sir Thomas More for his book of the same name regarding a fictional island where dwells the “ideal” or perfect society.

David Mamet maintains (from personal experience — remember he was a Liberal until he was 6o years old) that one of the primary differences between Conservative and Liberal thinking is that Liberals believe human beings have “good hearts” — and in particular, that they, themselves, have good hearts. Conservatives, not so much; in fact, not at all, if one considers the content of Liberals’ constant attacks on Conservative character: we only oppose their policies, they say, because they aren’t our policies, or because we just want them to fail so we can win, or because we want kids to go hungry, or old people to be neglected. I suppose the Liberal answer is that we do have good hearts, but are simply denying them for the sake of “partisan politics.” But then,  that wouldn’t be very good-hearted, and so, really — oh, never mind!

Where was I?  Oh, yes — that Liberals believe they have good hearts and thus “good-hearted” ideas and plans for the world.

One such “good-hearted” idea, says Mamet, is that If they “could just make sure everything is fair,” all would be well.  Fair, not before the law, but just, you know, “fair.” Everyone getting an equal amount of the pie, for example, whether they worked for it or not, because, you know, some people just can’t work, don’t know how to work, or can’t find the sorts of jobs that are appropriate for their expectations… It’s not their fault.

Mamet illustrated this with the notion that the street sweeper, who does a valuable job that serves the community, should be paid just as much as the surgeon, who also does a valuable job. Who’s to say which is more valuable? The idea that just about anyone could sweep a street, whereas not everyone could be a surgeon, to say nothing of the years of preparation that goes into becoming a surgeon, doesn’t seem to enter the equation.

Another notion of “fairness” is having an equal number of races and/or genders distributed across the populations of various institutions — colleges, businesses (particularly in the executive suites), grant and college recipients, scientific organizations, prisons… Anything else just wouldn’t be fair.

In order to bring all this fairness about — this wonderful, perfect society where “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need” is the order of the day — we’ll need someone to be in charge: a socialist dictator. But have no fear, since he (or she) will be one of “them” (i.e., Liberal) and thus, by definition, will be a “good” dictator.

Conservatives, on the other hand, see the human race as potentially noble and honorable, but flawed. Sinful. Stubborn. Blind. Arrogant. Lazy. Selfish. Greedy. Combative… The idea of flawed human beings trying to make a perfect world is ludicrous. Instead we hope only to devise a government that takes into account the flaws and tries to provide liberty and equality under the law. Iindividuals will be free to make their own decisions — the bad ones that lead to failure and want, or the good ones that lead to success and plenty. It will be the outcome that motivates, not some person in charge of “fairness.”

The law merely ensures the people under it don’t violate each others’ freedom to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” — for example, it’s against the law to steal your neighbor’s stuff, or worse, kill him first and then take his stuff.

If you do, and are caught, you pay the penalty, period. It doesn’t matter what you look like, what your gender or race is, who your parents are, whether you like cats or dogs, how much money you have, what your societal position is…

Laws, of course, will not be perfect, having been devised by imperfect men. Neither will they be perfectly enforced, since imperfect men will be in charge of enforcement. There will never be perfect fairness in all situations. But still, few can deny that the American system of government our Founding Fathers devised has over the last two hundred years or so resulted in more freedom and more prosperity for more people than at any other time in history.

It’s not Utopia, but I think it’s about the closest we’ll ever get to a perfect society this side of Heaven. And a far sight better than the good-hearted view that if every one could just have the same amount of the same things we’d all be forever happy. That one is a system which historically, in every attempt to implement it so far, has failed miserably… You’d think its proponents would see that. That they don’t is another of the subjects Mamet addresses: “magical thinking.”

But that’s a topic for another day.

 

Take a Day Off and Other Articles

stu sleeping

As you’ve probably noticed, I’ve been MIA for the last week or so. I gave up on trying to control myself and gave it over to the Lord to handle. He seems to be giving me a vacation of sorts…

So today, I thought I’d put up a list of some items of interest I’ve come across recently…er, well, mostly today, actually.

First up, appropriately enough is Writers Should Take a Year Off and Give Us All a Break – an essay in The Guardian on the observation that, to borrow from Ecclesiastes, “the writing of many books is endless…”  At the time of Solomon, however, it was nothing compared to today, when the rate of publication has exploded as never before. How ironic that this is occurring at the same time that more and more people lack the attention span or time, to read anything longer than a tweet.

Still, I like the idea of taking a year off from writing… oh, wait… I’ve already sort of been doing that …

Next, I draw your attention to a Muslim Brotherhood Fact Sheet from Stand With Us, an international, nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting Israel.  It includes quotes from the Brotherhood’s own charters, writings and guides. Members are not interested in dialog. Nor are they interested in peace (unless you count the peace that results from the entire world being converted to Islam). They are most definitely not interested in democracy, unless — again — it’s the Islamist kind… that is, Sharia Law.

Third is an essay on the misguided Western policy of appeasement during World War 1 that resulted in World War 2 and may well be on its way to setting up World War 3. This one’s written by my favorite blogger and former high level Foreign Service Officer The Diplomad 2.0: Obama and an Edouard Daladier Moment

And finally, the new  “funnel tunnel” in Houston, an unintended metaphor for where our tax dollars/charity donations are going…

Let’s Keep Politics Out of It

empty_chair

What, really, does “Let’s keep politics out of this” mean?

Previous to a recent election, I was going through our information on ballot propositions, one of which involved changing the way judges are selected. Voting on judges has always been a mystery to me. I don’t know any of them, so how am I supposed to know? In the past I just skipped that section, thinking that people in the know, like lawyers or folks who’d recently served on juries should be the ones to vote.

This time, however, I read the amendment and then started in on the arguments in favor of the amendment:  the Republican governor of AZ supported it (who I had voted for) as did various retired judges, and other legislators. Those who opposed the amendment included the League of Women Voters, a bunch of lawyers, a woman pastor of a large local, very liberal Presbyterian?/Methodist? church,  a domestic violence organization, and the Democrat Party of Arizona.

I find the latter most ironic, since almost all the arguments against the amendment cited the need to “keep politics out of the selection of judges.”  And yet… one of the main methods liberals use to change this country, particularly when they can’t do it through the elected legislators is through the courts. The most blatant example that comes to mind is AZ SB 1070 — passed by the legislators, approved by voters and declared invalid by a judge.

Sounds like politics is already very much involved in our judicial system, so why shouldn’t it be involved in the selection of the judges?

Still, that’s not what struck me the most this time. This time, I realized that somehow the phrase “let’s keep politics out of (fill in the blank)” is one that communicates the idea that “politics” is bad, superficial, and irrelevant. Ie, “the only reason you want to do X is because you’re a Republican”  Implying that signing up to be a Republican was something done in a vacuum and afterwards came the criterion for what that meant.  That is, having decided to register as a Republican, I then must go through the party’s positions to figure out what I’m supposed to think.

Really??

I think not.  Rather, it’s that what I think just happens to line up mostly with what Republicans express and support. And, in fact, as I began reading through the arguments, the first thing I checked was who had made the argument and what was their affiliation. Because that way I have some idea of their worldview and where they are coming from. I am learning more and more that we can use the same words and assign them very different meaning.

I have to laugh at the accusations of the detractors of conservatives, especially those of us who enjoy listening to Rush Limbaugh — ie, that we are mind-numbed robots who have to tune in to figure out what to think.

Not at all. More like we — or at least I — tune in because I’m in desperate need of hearing a sane voice.

In fact, many, many years ago, after I’d gotten saved, the more I learned about the Word of God, the more conservative I became and the more interested in politics. (Writing novels helped spur this interest as well) But everything I read in the newspapers, saw on TV, heard on the radio conflicted with what I believed. It was depressing and frustrating.

I remember when Carter was president, which was really depressing… how people thought all the Christians would vote for him because he was a Christian. Aaack!  No way.

He was such a disaster. (I vividly remember the gas lines. In fact my dad and hubby were nearly run over by a distraught elderly woman while they were waiting outside the car in one of them)

Ronald Reagan was amazing; I was so proud to vote for him. What a president! I loved him.

But still, the papers, the radio, the TV… they all had one voice (pretty much as they still do, if you don’t get Fox)…Reagan was a dunce, an actor, a fool, an idiot, what did he know? etc, ad nauseum. Rather like they treated George W Bush.

And then one day I had the radio on and heard Rush Limbaugh for the very first time. And yes, it was probably sometime in 1988 when he first came on the radio. It was amazing. Finally here was someone — on the radio! — expressing the views I already held! I was so jazzed to learn there were others who thought as I did, others outside my little local assembly of fellow believers, and the obscure periodicals I read.

In fact, it’s still like that. I hear or watch or read the news and form my own assessments, which usually are nothing like the assessments of the mainstream media folks. But  afterward I go my favorite conservative sites (Drudge, Power Line, The Diplomad, Rush, VDH ) and aaahhh. I find common sense, actual facts and information, observations or declarations of the obvious which are totally missing from the mainstream media…

The funny thing is, the ones who constantly seem to harp on the notion of “keeping politics out of it” are the ones who put politics into everything. Who tend to do things precisely for “politics” which I’m coming to think is another word for power-grabbing. But that, too, is a post for another day.

de Tocqueville: Soft Despotism

No Trespassing

Recently I came across this quote from Alexis de Tocqueville, the Frenchman sent by the French government in 1831 to study the American prison system, but who was really more interested in studying and writing about American society. He did so in a book entitled Democracy in America, and it is from this that the following quote on soft despotism was taken. (Soft despotism is control over or oppression of the people without their realizing it; hard despotism is the more obvious oppression.)

I’m posting it because I think it sounds eerily apropos of what’s going on in our country today.

“After having thus successively taken each member of the community in its powerful grasp and fashioned him at will, the supreme power then extends its arm over the whole community. It covers the surface of society with a network of small complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd. The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, and guided; men are seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting. Such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd.

I have always thought that servitude of the regular, quiet, and gentle kind which I have just described might be combined more easily than is commonly believed with some of the outward forms of freedom, and that it might even establish itself under the wing of the sovereignty of the people.”

From Volume II, Book 4, Chapter 6 of his book Democracy in America,.

The above link takes you to  the entire book, which you can also download. I just downloaded it onto my Kindle for PC,  in fact.

Latest, Most Detailed Timeline on Events in Benghazi

Well, I was going to talk a bit about our trip to the White Mountains today, but decided to put it off in favor of the accounting I just finished reading on the State Department’s official webpage (“Office of the Spokesperson”) regarding a blow-by-blow  (or “tick-tock” as the State Department official put it)  of the events of  the night of September 11 in Benghazi. This is a transcript of a “Background Conference Call With Senior State Department Officials” given to various invited news reporters back on Oct 9 which  has apparently just been released to the public.

It’s somewhat long, but it’s fascinating and so intense it reads like a Brad Thor novel. I highly recommend taking the time to read it all.

It also makes very clear 1) there was NO protest, unless you can call an all out armed attack on a US diplomatic compound a “protest;” 2) it was definitely preplanned (and it seems very likely, at least to me, that the perpetrators were specifically trying to murder the ambassador); and 3) the president knew exactly what was happening and that it wasn’t a protest about a movie since the security officer in the Tactical Operations Center on the compound had the White House on the phone from the moment the attack began — despite VP Biden’s claims to the contrary in that debate last week.

At the end of the two State Department Senior officials’ recounting, during the Q&A period, one of them, when asked if they should have prepared for such an event, said,

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL NUMBER TWO: It is difficult to answer hypothetical questions, but let me just put it this way. The lethality and the number of armed people is unprecedented. There had been no attacks like that anywhere in Libya – Tripoli, Benghazi, or elsewhere – in the time that we had been there. And so it is unprecedented. In fact, it would be very, very hard to find a precedent for an attack like that in recent diplomatic history.

You can, and should read the entire transcript HERE. It will be very much worth your time.

Endorsements: Romney vs Obama

So on the one hand we have those who have endorsed Gov Romney for President:

Anti-communist hero Lech Walesa

the People of Israel

42 Congressional Medal of Honor Winners

and the Small Business Owners of America

And on the other we have those who have endorsed President Obama for re- election:

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin (some say also head of the KGB) who called Obama an “honest man who really wants to change much for the better.”

Venezuela’s dying dictator and megolomaniac Hugo Chavez (“I’d vote for you and you for me.”)

and the Communist Party of America

Hmm. Wonder which one I should choose…

Obama the Competitor

Yes, it’s another post about politics, though I suppose it’s not surprising, given politics are rising to the fore what with the Republican National Convention last week, and the Democrat Convention beginning today. I’m not exactly a political junkie, but the majority of blogs I read are political in nature, and sometimes I come across things that blow me away.

Like this article in Forbes today, titled “New York Times Proves Eastwood Correct — Obama is a Lousy CEO.” In it Forbes staff writer  Rich Karlgaard references a piece  published in the New York Times by Jodi Kantor called “The Competitor in Chief — Obama Plays To Win, In Politics and Everything Else”

Golf. Bowling. Billiards. Cards. Golf. Basketball. Reading to kids…  Golf…

As Karlgaard points out, both Kantor and the Times  are usually in the President’s camp, so he expresses surprise they’d write what he sees as essentially a hit piece. In fact, he calls it “devastating” and wonders if  “the NYT might just have killed President Obama’s re-election hopes.”

Having read the Times article, I agree that it certainly doesn’t portray the President in an attractive light. However, I’m not altogether sure the Times and Kantor see it that way.

The article’s tone seemed to me more like a paean to Obama’s constant striving to be perfect and to excel in everything, as if this were a good thing; a characteristic that made him a good president and would perhaps give him the edge over that idiot Romney (which is how he clearly perceives his opponent according to Kantor).

The trade-off in time and energy the President devotes to trivialities rather than the weighty issues his office demands were left to Forbes’s Karlgaard to remark upon. And his constant need to correct and teach others, his overweening opinion of his own excellence in every area of life seemed minor inconveniences, not major character flaws as Kantor presented it — that is, irrelevant defects and only to be expected from someone as great as The One.

Certainly she never expressed the sort of conclusions that Karlgaard did, but perhaps that was because she was merely “reporting,” while he was assessing.

In any case, he boiled  it down to the salient points and as I said, didn’t hesitate to draw the necessary conclusions and it’s … rather chilling, actually.

You can read Karlgaard’s Forbes piece HERE.  It’s shorter and links to the Times article if you want to go on from there.

Or if you’d rather go straight to the Times, click HERE.

4 July 2012

“We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” ~ John Adams*

Today, as we celebrate the freedoms we’ve enjoyed as a nation for over three hundred years, freedoms which seem to be eroding away because of the very elements Adams notes in the quote above, let us remember that while human freedom is weak because it depends on fallen humans for its maintenance, the spiritual freedom we have in Christ cannot be touched by anyone.

“Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” ~ 2 Corinthians 3:17

*The Works of John Adams, ed. C. F. Adams, Boston: Little, Brown Co., 1851, 4:31

Over My Head

I’m reading a book about Rome (Life in Ancient Rome by Don Nardo) and have come across a number of interesting pieces of information, one of which is that during the Roman Republic, which began around 500 BC, they had a Senate comprised exculsively of men belonging to the Roman aristocracy. These men, who held their positions for life, controlled the finances, foreign policy and dictated how the provinces would be run. Here’s the part that struck me:

The traditional power of the oligarchic Senate was what kept Rome from evolving into a true democracy. This is not surprising, considering that the senators were part of the ancient and venerable patrician elite. They doubted the intelligence, abilities and moral capacity of the common people, whom they often referred to as “the mob.”

On this subject he quotes Cicero, who held that while a little democracy might be good, “too much was dangerous.”  Cicero believed that it would be unfair to grant authority to both society’s highest and lowest members because “the highest were by nature superior…and therefore deserved to rule, while the lowest would be incapable of ruling well even if given the chance.”

And it just reminded me of the political ruling class in this country. The idea that governing has allegedly become so complex and sophisticated that only a small minority has the intellect and capability of figuring it all out. If you haven’t gone to Harvard or Yale you are clearly hopeless.  (Unless you have, but you are a Republican with the last name of Bush…)

In any case, I can see why they think that with some of their strange ideas about the economy — for example, going into more debt is a great way of getting rid of one’s debts.  That is definitely a complex and sophisticated idea — so much so that to me, a common person, without an ivy league education, it makes no sense whatsoever.

Just like inflicting increasing gun control laws on our law-abiding citizenry, while freely allowing some 2000 guns to “fall into” the hands of Mexican criminals. I’m afraid I am too stupid to figure out how that was a good idea, either.

Nor how we can have “affordable” healthcare for all without it costing  any of us any more in taxes. And why are we lectured on the need for all of us sharing the sacrifice when our leader and his wife can’t even share the same plane?

I’m confused.

But then, I’m not a member of the ruling class intelligensia, so that must be why. It’s all just over my head.