You are currently viewing archive for April 2009
For ten years I have defended Arlen Specter as a "principled moderate Republican."

I apologize.

PREDICTION: even with the guarantee of support from President Obama (which he undoubtedly will honor--to some extent), my hunch is that Specter will find it extremely difficult to win the Democratic nomination in Pennsylvania in 2010.
Posted by: Tocqueville
"If we credit the Bible's description of the relationship between Creator and Creation, then we cannot deny the spiritual importance of our economic life. Then we see how religious issues lead to issues of economy, and how issues of economy lead to issues of art, of how to make things. If we understand that no artist--no maker--can work except by reworking the works of Creation, then we see that by our work, by the way we practice our arts, we reveal what we think of the works of God. How we take our lives from this world, how we work, what work we do, how well we use the materials we use and what we do with them after we have used them--all these are questions of the highest and gravest religious significance. These questions cannot be answered by thinking, but only by doing. In answering them, we practice, or do not practice, our religion."

. . . .

"If we think of ourselves as lofty souls entrapped temporarily in lowly bodies in a dispirited, desperate, unlovable world that we must despise for Heaven's sake, then what have we done for this question of significance? Not much, I think. For we are still stuck, like Macbeth, in a condemnation of this life and this world, which were not made for our condemnation. If we divide reality into two parts, spiritual and material, and hold (as the Bible does not hold) that only the spiritual is good or desirable, then our relation to the material Creation becomes arbitrary, having only the quantitative or mercenary value that we have, in fact, and for this reason, assigned to it. Thus we become the judges, and thus inevitably the destroyers, of a world we did not make, and that we are bidden to understand as a divine gift.

It is impossible to see how good work might be accomplished by people who think that our life in this world either signifies nothing or has only a negative significance.

If, on the other hand, we believe that we are living souls, God's dust and God's breath, acting our parts among other creatures all made of the same dust and breath as ourselves; and if we understand that we are free, within the obvious limits of mortal human life, to do evil or good to ourselves and to the other creatures--then all our acts have a supreme significance. If it is true that we are living souls and morally free, then all of us are artists. All of us makers, within mortal terms and limits, of our lives, of one another's lives, of things we need and use."

--Wendell Berry, Christianity and the Survival of Creation

Category: Politics
Posted by: an okie gardener
In this previous post, I offered 4 suggestions for the future of of the Tea Party "Movement." My first suggestion was

1. Any movement needs goals to rally around. As a first objective, TARGET BIG SPENDING MEMBERS of Congress for defeat. Use the list prepared by the Taxpayers Union.

I wish to elaborate.

Why is it important to have a clear goal? Because to form a movement out of a more general unrest, a clear goal is necessary to give cohesiveness.

Why is working toward a goal my first suggestion? Logically, would goal-setting not come after my last suggestion: 4. Use the means of communication to EVOLVE A COHERENT IDEOLOGY WITH CLEAR GOALS.?
Logically, yes. Realistically, no. Most people do not get excited about the intellectual process of developing a coherent ideology. Stopping to do so would cause the momentum to be lost. Also, there really is something called "the paralysis of analysis;" we can spend too much time talking about the problem to the detriment of solving the problem.

Why go after big-spending members of Congress? High taxation and excessive Federal spending were common complaints at the Tea Parties. Let's start there. Responsibility for tax policy and for Federal spending ultimately rests with Congress. So let's put some fear into the members of Congress.

What are the chances of success for this goal? Can incumbants be turned out of office? In 1830 the chances of ending slavery in the United States would have seemed slim. In 1928 the chances of achieving equal rights for all races in the U.S. would have seemed slim to none. Giving up before getting started is the one sure path to failure.
Photgnome sends this link to the Oklahoma Farm Report on the dismay being felt by cattlemen that Rush Limbaugh is doing commercials for the Humane Society of the United States.

Key paragraph in the OK Farm Report:

( to Rush) I know you believe in doing solid research. If you really check into what HSUS is up to, you will find that – despite having $200 million in assets – HSUS does not operate a single animal shelter nor provide financial support for local humane societies or shelters. HSUS is nothing other than a radical political organization determined to force all Americans to eat a vegan diet and forfeit the unique nutritional properties of beef.

HSUS web site.

Here is their page on farm animals, with an emphasis on reducing meat consumption and going vegetarian.

The lead paragraph on the HSUS farm animal web site:

Each year in the United States, nearly 10 billion land animals are raised and killed for food. Just like the dogs and cats we welcome into our homes, chickens, pigs, turkeys, and cows have their own personalities, inquisitive natures, likes and dislikes, and—most importantly—the ability to feel pain, suffer from boredom and frustration, and experience joy. As someone raised on a farm--cattle, sheep, hogs--this sounds like a paragraph written by someone without much experience around farm animals.

That is not to say I condone cruelty. Many poultry producers do overcrowd their stock, as do some hog producers for economic reasons. (Though overcrowd too much and the rate-of-gain loss due to crowding stress, acts to put an upper limit on crowding.) And, I do not eat "white veal", made from calves who are kept in crates too small to prevent much movement.

But HSUS seems to go too, too far, because it misunderstands animals--they are not people with feathers, four legs, or snouts.

21/04: Back Home

Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
This story from back in my neck of the woods perhaps explains some things about me. It at least offers a glimpse into rural north Missouri attitudes.

Headline: "Shots Fired During Drunken Brawl"

key paragraph: When officers got there, they found two intoxicated men who had been assaulting each other.

“We weren't sure who assaulted who so we were trying to figure out who was going to be charged with assault. Upon determination that neither person wanted to be victim, they were both released,” said Wayne Winn, Scotland County Sheriff.

I'm homesick.
Category: Politics
Posted by: an okie gardener
I offer a few thoughts to my fellow Americans who attended the Tea Parties last week regarding the future of the movement.

1. Any movement needs goals to rally around. As a first objective, TARGET BIG SPENDING MEMBERS of Congress for defeat. Use the list prepared by the Taxpayers Union.

2. Any movement, especially in its early stages, is in danger of being coopted by established groups. Avoid being swallowed by existing groups. DO NOT BECOME AN ARM OF THE REPUBLICAN PARTY

3. COMMUNICATE, COMMUNICATE, COMMUNICATE. Movements are formed through communication that brings like-minded people together. God bless the internet.

4. Use the means of communication to EVOLVE A COHERENT IDEOLOGY WITH CLEAR GOALS.
The coverage of the Tax Day Protests of 2009 proved depressingly emotional and self-serving, either inappropriately supportive or embarrassingly contemptuous. The conservative media unabashedly cheered and shilled for the "Tea Parties," while, on the other end of the ideological spectrum, the mainstream media lambasted the grassroots restlessness with unrestrained glee. Far too much of the coverage from both camps was silly, exaggerated, disingenuous, hostile, puerile, and juvenile.

On days like Wednesday, reasonable people say a prayer of thanksgiving for C-SPAN.

Ignore when possible; lampoon when not.

The loudest voices in opposition to the so-called Tea Party protests bristled at the suggestion that real Americans were driving the movement. Skeptics asserted that the protesters were dupes of the Republican Party, corporate interests, and crazy right-wing fat cats like Richard Mellon Scaife.

Reacting to the potential interpretation that the numerous rallies across the country reflected "grassroots" unhappiness, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi cleverly characterized the protests as merely an "Astroturf" movement. The Speaker suggested that the wealthiest people in America had financed a synthetic spectacle designed to preserve tax cuts for the rich rather than tax fairness for the great middle class.

If these were real people out in the streets, they hailed from lower intellectual orders. "This is the Ron Paul crowd," Howard Fineman said. "This is about racism straight-up," said Janeane Garofalo, cable news analyst; this is all about rednecks wanting to hang a black president. She went on to explain that conservatives have different brain structures incapable of processing reasoned argument.

"The numbers were disappointing." If artfully compared with the anti-war protests of 2002-03, some of April 15th numbers seemed insignificant. Talking heads reminded us regularly that hundreds of thousands of protesters took to the streets of New York, San Francisco, and Seattle in opposition to the "war for oil." For obvious reasons, metropolitan areas like NYC proved much more capable of producing bigger waves of humanity in aid of left-wing political activity. On the other hand, I can offer anecdotal evidence that crowds in a place like my hometown, Waco, Texas, proved much more impressive last week than they were during the anemic protests running up to the war in Iraq.

Notwithstanding, those two similar frustrated cries of collective helplessness provide a constructive comparison. In both cases, protesters emphasized deep displeasure and emotional sloganeering over reasoned and systematic critiques of a crossroads moment.

True Weakness of the Tea Party Movement.

The most reasonable and trenchant criticism of the Tax Day Protests of 2009 concentrated on the sprawling uncertainty and disunity of the message. Even from the point of view of a small-government conservative sympathetic to the American tradition of patriotic resistance, I could never quite absorb the true purpose of the protest. Was it taxes? And was that too much taxation or too little? Government spending? the Leviathan? the loss of individual liberty?

They were mad as hell--but could not quite put their finger on why. Or who to blame. George Bush? Barack Obama? Nancy Pelosi? Barney Frank and Chris Dodd? Wall Street? the rich? the elite? the Fed?

I am NOT one who doubts that the sentiments were genuine or grassroots. The protesters were sincere, but mostly they were dazed and confused. The lack of direction and coherency proved frustrating and hard to follow. The unhappy demonstrators did not know what to do, but this was something. If the protests had been more like they were initially described in the mainstream media (the product of a vast right-wing conspiracy), the demonstrations might have been more satisfying. The unruly events needed some genius behind the scenes to orchestrate a unifying theme.

For that reason, the self-titled Tea Party analogy misses the mark historically.

The historic Boston Tea Party (Dec. 1773) occurred at a point much closer to the culmination of the Imperial Crisis, which was already eight years in the making. The Patriot cause in 1773 was actually quite mature and ready to break across the "national" scene as a sophisticated colony-wide movement. The illegal attack on private property in Boston Harbor provoked the British government into the Intolerable Acts and led to the First Continental Congress and the short ascent to full-blown Revolution.

If anything, this modern Tea Party movement is more like the spontaneous, unfocused, and out-of-control reaction in Boston (and other places) to the Stamp Act, which proved the first act in the three-part, decade-long Imperial Crisis. The uncontrolled mayhem in 1765 gave rise to the Sons of Liberty and leaders like Sam Adams and John Hancock to guide and regulate the unrestrained and unnerving expression of popular anger (and violence).

Our current headless massive unease needs a Sam Adams to bring some order and clarity to all this emotion. More importantly, the protest needs a John Adams and a Thomas Jefferson with the skills to catalog and articulate the problems, outline a set of principles, and propose a plan going forward.

What Next?

It is entirely possible that the Tax Day Protests of 2009 will fade away quickly into the recesses of our collective memory--never to be heard from again in a serious way. On the other hand, and here is where the opponents underestimate the potential of this angst, there are very serious elements of concern. The problem of sustainability is not going away. Five and ten years from now the problems of debt and savings and unmanageable liabilities will likely be more dire than today.

If the Tea Party is indeed a significant movement, it is currently in an inchoate stage. We are very early in the game. If our colonial history is a guide, it is UNlikely that our current president will even be around when the full brunt of the frustration finally boils over into a politically employable form.

But that is NOT to say such an eventuality falls beyond the realm of possibility.

UPDATE: Welcome Instapundit readers.

UPDATE2: reading these thoughtful and insightful comments (the best set I have ever read on one of my posts) gives me hope about the future of this movement. I heartily recommend the comment thread to all readers.
Keith Olbermann is a popular news personality with many liberals. Lefties like him because he is not afraid to speak truth to the vast power of FOX News, intrepidly exposing the inherent right-wing bias of his cable news competition. He also drew high marks for his courageous calumny against George Bush. Why was that so courageous? According to Olbermann and his like-minded fans, the Bush years saw a "chilling effect" in the area of political speech. Even more remarkable, he does all this patriotic caterwauling in between delivering his signature objective reporting in a style self-consciously reminiscent of his hero, Edward R. Murrow.

Unfortunately, Katie Couric has already won this year's Walter Cronkite award for excellence in journalism for "her extraordinary, persistent and detailed multi-part interviews with Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin, which judges called a defining moment in the 2008 presidential campaign.”

Maybe next year Keith Olberman can get some much-deserved kudos for this report on "teabagging" (view here courtesy of RCP Video).

FYI: just in case you don't know (and I am somewhat embarrassed and somewhat contented that I did not), "teabagging" is a word that describes a somewhat unorthodox sexual act.

SERIOUS QUESTION: should grownups really spend eleven minutes of prime cable-TV time snickering through this bawdy witlessness?

One more disappointment: shame on Howard Fineman for taking part in this abomination.
Category: General
Posted by: Tocqueville
Did everyone notice the administration's unremarked revival of the recently retired word "terrorist" when referring to its own citizens who are pro life, pro markets, and pro borders? So, NRA members and veterans are terrorists. Al Quaida are not. They are human causers of disaster.
Category: General
Posted by: Tocqueville
This pretty much takes the cake, in my opinion. I don't know what is worse--the President's request, or the University's acqueisence. I no longer recognize my own country.

According to reports, the Obama administration felt that "it seemed most respectful to have them covered so as not to be seen out of context." You know, the context of speaking to Catholics at a Catholic university.

UPDATE: Don't miss this brilliant commentary here.
Category: Politics
Posted by: an okie gardener
Today from about 11am to 1pm there was a TEA Party Rally in Lawton, Oklahoma. One of many nationwide, the purpose was to protest soaring deficit spending, Big Government, and excessive taxation.

There had been little publicity; I did not learn of the rally until last night by way of a flier in a local restaurant. The location was along a major east-west boulevard near city hall. I arrived about 11:45am and climbed up on a bench to count heads: about 130 people, with some coming and going. I think 180 protesters total would be a conservative estimate. [pun intended] The local newspaper and television showed up for perhaps 20-30 minutes around noon.

The crowd skewed older and white, though all ages were represented and a few minority members. Dress ranged from lawyer-level suits to jeans and sweatshirts. Lots of U.S. flags and a couple of "Don't Tread on Me" snakes. About 1 in 5 carried a placard, most homemade, though a few had been printed. A PA had been set up, with patriotic music playing when no one was speaking. Open mike, with no dignitaries in evidence. Speaker topics ranged from taxation and deficit-spending to pro-life and respect for veterans. Interestingly, all the speakers were brief, stating their names, having their say for 3 or 4 minutes, then moving back into the crowd.

Will the TEA Party Movement accomplish anything? Will it have legs? I don't know. A woman standing next to me expressed the wish that the Republican Party had put up a table to register people. Nothing of the sort was in evidence by any party. One man, though, was passing out brochures from, about which I know nothing. We'll see as 2010 draws nearer if there is TEA impact.

btw, yes, I could not resist the opportunity of an open mike.
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
Recently parts of Okahoma burned; over 200 houses becoming ash. In many cases families had no time to gather belongings.

This past Saturday two business owners in our town were talking about the families burned out, and decided to do something. They called all the churches in town, and asked that it be announced Sunday morning that clothing, furniture, bedding, etc. be brought to their businesses by Wednesday afternoon. They would donate the use of two trailers to haul the goods to the worst hit part of the state.

This morning I took some bags of clothing and bedding my wife and I were donating downtown. Between the two sites, our town has collected quite a pile of stuff on short notice.

Personal initiative, community spirit, and not a government dime or bureacrat. God bless America.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Historically, I have NOT been a huge fan of Rick Perry (more on that later, perhaps), but, irrespective of past disagreements, he is looking better to me everyday. Why? His brand of strict fiscal conservatism is likely to be the recipe for survival in the lean and tumultuous years to come.

From the office of the Governor of the great state of Texas:

"Gov. Perry Backs Resolution Affirming Texas’ Sovereignty Under 10th Amendment"

Granted, this statement is freighted with political posturing, but I thoroughly appreciate the look, sound, and sentiment behind it. I admire any politician willing to stand up for federalism rightly understood through the prism of the Tenth Amendment.

I reserve the right to take back my tentative initial support, but this lovely symbolic stand is worth noting and watching.

With all his faults, Rick Perry's political ship may have just come in.

Worth reading and watching.
All I need to know:

Three dead pirates and one live American.

I am very happy to praise this president for this success.

Kudos to the United States military (still the baddest bunch of white hats on the planet).

Kudos to the President for employing the tools in his arsenal.

UPDATE. Another thought: this strikes me as a big political win for the President--domestically, of course, but also as a defining moment on the international stage.

His Statement to the World: we love you and we want to be your friend--but, if you push too far beyond the bounds of civilized behavior, we will shoot you in the head.
Category: Christian Belief
Posted by: an okie gardener
Today is Black Saturday. Yesterday Jesus died, as observed with Good Friday. He was buried, and the stone rolled across the doorway of the tomb. The followers of Jesus are in hiding--despairing, hopeless, afraid-- and the enemies of Jesus are still gloating.

But tomorrow is Sunday, Easter. Despair will change to elation, hopelessness to hope, and fear to confidence.

Don't be afraid. Don't give up hope. Don't despair. Jesus lives. Tomorrow may surprise you. Things may turn for the better. And at the end of history, the winner is--------God!

Here is a repeat of an earlier post.

A couple of weeks ago I had to be out and about in my car for a few evenings. Listening to a geezer rock station I heard a nationally syndicated program hosted by Alice Cooper. What a trip! Rock music, anecdotes, Bible lessons, and occasional libertarian/conservative political commentary. In the 1970s who could have imagined Alice Cooper on the radio explaining the context of a New Testament story? Or warning against the dangers of excessive drinking? Life is totally unpredictable.

For much of my life, from childhood until about fifteen years ago, I had a recurring dream: I was standing in the back yard of my paternal grandparents. I looked to the southwest and saw the top of a nuclear mushroom cloud (the direction of Kansas City), then I looked to the southeast and saw the top of another mushroom cloud (in the direction of St. Louis). I assumed, given the talk of those days, and later given my own analysis of the world's political situation, that nuclear war between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. was inevitable. (Boy did I feel that in the early 80s). I also recall, growing up in the 60s, having the feeling that America was doomed by enemies without, and by problems within. The same thoughts recurred in the late 70s with oil shortages, strong inflation, and the hostages in Iran. But, the U.S.S.R. is no more, the United States is still here, and my premonitions/predictions did not come to pass. The future is unpredictable.

For me this unpredictability gives me hope. Traditionally Christianity has regarded Despair (not to be equated with depression) as a sin. Despair is the rejection of hope. It is a sin because it is a form of pride, an assumption of omniscience. The person who chooses to despair assumes that he/she knows all the facts of the present, and knows what will happen in the future. We never know enough to declare that life is hopeless.

The Lord is risen! Is risen indeed!

10/04: Good Friday

Category: Films & Ideas
Posted by: an okie gardener
The Layman Online links to this medical and engineering account of the crucifixion of Jesus. Written a few years ago, it exams the movie portrayal in The Passion of the Christ.
Category: General
Posted by: an okie gardener
Last night Farmer and Okie were guests on Political Vindication Radio. To listen go here. Then find the blogtalkradio in the center near the top. Click on Looking Forward to 2030.
Category: Politics
Posted by: an okie gardener
Last night Farmer and I were guests on a webcast (see here for April 7th archive). The issue of the Republican Party's relationship to conservatism came up when I challenged the assumption that the Republican party is the natural home of conservatism: citing Teddy Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, and Gerald Ford, men who were not ideological conservatives in the sense of the Conservative Movement (that term itself a topic of conversation).

Farmer replied that since Reagan, the Republican party should be the home of Conservatives, but that the Party had gone off the rails.

I would like to continue the discussion.

Did Ronald Reagan really transform the Republican Party into the Amerian Conservative Party?

I don't think so.

Exhibit A: George H. W. Bush. Although a loyal Vice-President to Reagan, will anyone argue that Bush 41 is now or ever has been a genuine Reagan Conservative? Yet he became the Republican standard bearer in '88 and the forty-first president.

Exhibit B: George W. Bush. Although conservative in many ways, will anyone argue that his Compassionate Conservatism is the same as Reagan Conservatism? Would Reagan have put forward the Prescription Drug Plan? Yet GWB was twice the Republican Standard Bearer and the forty-third president.

Exhibit C: The Republicans in the U.S. Senate from 1980 until now. Are these all Reagan Conservatives? No, though most are conservative in some ways.

It seems to me that the Republican Party was not remade by Reagan into a homogenous, cohesive, party supporting Reaganism.

Italy and Israel have numerous political parties each relatively pure ideologically. In order to form a government, several parties must agree to form a coalition. By contrast, in the United States, with our Two-Party System as it has evolved, both parties are of necessity made up of internal coalitions agreeing to cohere for political success. Reaganism dominated for a time, but it did not completely transform the other Republican Party coalition members.

Category: Media and Politics
Posted by: an okie gardener
This morning on the Laura Ingraham show she played a clip from ?MSNBC? in which talking heads were blaming the Talk Radio "echo chamber" for the murderous rampage in Pittsburgh in which a crazy gunman killed three police officers. According to the talking heads all the crazy Talk Radio convinced the gunman that Obama would be coming for his guns. One of the heads asserted that all it took was one or two crazies listening to their radios and taking Conservative Talk seriously to make it a danger.

As a social conservative I welcome these liberal talking heads into our camp.

For decades we social conservatives have been arguing that violent video games, music that degrades women, and media glorification of perversion and sexual experimentation, were affecting people's attitudes and actions. Liberal reaction to our assertions has been to deny any connection and to accuse us of being dumber than Dan Quayle when he criticized Murphy Brown.

Bravo to these liberal talking heads for admitting, finally, that the media can influence people's attitudes and behavior. I await their pronouncements on Gangster Rap.
We live in strange times.

We spend more money on weddings than ever before, and marriages are becoming temporary.

We have an abundance of time and labor-saving devices, and live more hectic lives.

We use more coarse language in public, but villify any speech that might offend certain groups.

And we exercise more moral discipline in regard to our eating, than in regard to our sex lives.

Food, Sex, and Conscience by James Tonkawich.
"Let me say this as clearly as I can," Obama said. "The United States is not and never will be at war with Islam. In fact, our partnership with the Muslim world is critical ... in rolling back a fringe ideology that people of all faiths reject."

The U.S. president is trying to mend fences with a Muslim world that felt it had been blamed by America for the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

From AP via Breitbart via Drudge. Full story.

Islam is by its nature expansive through conquest. Both the Qu'ran, the life of Mohammad, and history demonstrate this. Those closest to the core of Islam are those who recognize jihad as an imperative. Periodic revivals of Islam result in violence.

If Muslims wish to demonstrate good faith in proving to the world their peaceful intentions, then I post this challenge that I wish Obama had made while in Turkey. Return Hagia Sophia to the Christian Church and end all restrictions on Christians. That would be a start.

For more that 1000 years Holy Wisdom [Hagia Sophia] served as the cathedral church of the Patriarch of Constantinople as well as the church of the Byzantine court but that function came to an end on May 29, 1453, when the Ottoman Turkish Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror seized the Imperial City and converted the Great Church into his mosque. It remained a mosque until 1935 when Turkish head-of-state Mustafa Kemal converted it into a museum. Years later the plaster which had been applied by the Muslims to cover the icons was removed revealing for the first time to modern eyes the extent of the desecration perpetrated by the Muslims in their effort to render the structure appropriate for their own purposes.
I continue to assert, even in the face of the obvious tragic consequences, there are compelling reasons for American citizens to have the right to arm themselves against a hostile world.

However, for weeks now (even before this twenty-four-hour period of murder and mayhem), I have had the sense that we are reaching a public opinion tipping point in re guns. Ironically, for political reasons, the Obama administration has remained silent. Convinced that gun control was a losing issue, the President has taken great pains to put gun owners at ease (although it is far from clear that he has succeeded in that respect).

Don't look for this hesitation to last forever. This uptick in gun violence, and the inevitable public clamor for a crackdown, will flush out those activists within the Democratic Party who have sincerely believed for decades that America would be much safer without an armed citizenry.

I suspect we are in for a big fight over guns in the near future.

I think reasonable people can disagree on this issue, but, in truth, I am not expecting a very reasonable or honest debate. Get ready for a no-holds-barred donnybrook.
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
H. P. Lovecraft (1890-1937), an American writer of weird fiction for the pulp magazines of the 1920s and 30s, created a body of work that has the touch of genius. Himself a materialist and atheist, he believed that modern readers could no longer be touched by traditional ghost stories. Therefore, he created stories that were given enough "scientific" language and explanation to aid the reader in the suspension of disbelief, in which the monsters were alien to earth, some even alien to our dimensional universe. These monsters were fit into a mythos, a cosmic story of great power.

The being that seems to have the greatest hold on the imagination of readers, and other writers who added stories set within the Lovcraftian mythology, is Cthulu. Cthulu is a sort of water elemental, living partly in our universe, while perhaps existing simultanously in other dimensions beyond our own. At the present time Cthulu is imprisoned within the sunken city of R'lyeh beneath the sea where he lies dreaming. His dreams can touch certain of the "weak minded" of the human race, who create a cult to worship and free their "god." When the stars reach proper alignment, Cthulu will rise again, ending humanity and reality as we know it.

Lovecraft's writing was rescued from oblivion by two friends, August Derleth and Donald Wandrei, who founded Arkham House to publish Lovecraft's work, and that of other writers of weird fiction.

H. P. Lovecraft biography.

List of Lovecraft's fiction.

Lovecraft also wrote a respected critical history of weird fiction, Supernatural Horror in Literature

The Cthulu Myth in song. While it is a parody of another song, it presents a good summary of Lovecraft's most famous creation.

Metallica: The Call of Cthulu.

Cradle of Filth: Cthulu Dawn

Septic Flesh: Lovecraft's Death
Category: General
Posted by: Tocqueville
It just happened in Iowa. Story here.

Out of 69 pages of pablum, here's the heart of the matter:

“[E]qual protection can only be defined by the standards of each generation.” (p. 16)

“The point in time when the standard of equal protection finally takes a new form is a product of the conviction of one, or many, individuals that a particular grouping results in inequality and the ability of the judicial system to perform its constitutional role free from the influences that tend to make society’s understanding of equal protection resistant to change.” (pp. 16-17)

Got that?

UPDATE: Allan Carlson nails it here.

UPDATE: Eugene Volokh discusses the slippery slope here.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
I have not been paying close attention to the G-20 summit, but that doesn't really matter. In fact, skimming can sometimes be a great advantage in these affairs. Nothing that transpired at this most recent meeting of global leaders is likely to have any more impact on the world than the latest episode of Dancing with the Stars. So, no harm in covering the event ET style.


The pictures are good. The camera loves our President. Michelle, evidently, is the new Jackie. They both exude confidence and style. Not since Reagan has an American president so graciously inhabited the role of leading man. At a glance, our tall, dark, and handsome president plays the part of Philosopher-King with great skill.

Gut Instinct: I like this guy (still). Seriously. I think he is smart and stylish, and, overall, at least in terms of symbolism, I think he did us proud on this trip (at least in the superficial sense that most people in the world now associate America with a cool and charismatic person of great charm and bearing).

On the other hand, there are some things I don't like. Some things that he has done over the past few months that worry me.

Little Things:

It bothers me that he gave the Queen of England an iPod made in China filled with his speeches and other frivolous material. Is he trying to be disrespectful--or does he just not know the difference?

He is cool and confident--but sometimes he is too cool and overbearing. In that vein, I am uneasy when he makes fun of Nancy Reagan, Jessica Simpson, or the Special Olympics.

For the Record: the "Special Olympics" comment was unfortunate and, worse, "unpresidential," but it would be hypocritical to get too exercised over a cruel joke. Perhaps it is a generational thing--but my guess is that most readers my age have engaged in similarly tasteless humor. Of course, now that I think about it, I have not tossed around Special Olympics as a "goof" for at least twenty-five years. But, still, give the guy a break. And, please, conservative talkers, enough with the sanctimonious condemnations.

But the tendency to say something cruel for a laugh speaks to a certain cold-bloodedness. The pattern speaks to a certain harshness. Frankly, it belies a certain lack of empathy (and to say it publicly speaks to his sense of invincibility--which is also troublesome). It all bothers me a bit. Of course, Ronald Reagan's purported inability to be an engaged father to his children bothers me to this day. Martin Luther King's infidelity makes me wince. I like my heroes flawlesss--but, alas, they are all human. And not every imperfection necessarily corresponds to a tragic malformation of character.

Perhaps more substantially, I am annoyed by the President's tendency to conflate our economic problems for political expediency. I know this Ivy Leaguer understands that the recession, the banking crisis, and our long-term structurally unsustainable national debt are three distinct obstacles posing extremely divergent threats to our existence. But he happily fuses them together regularly to beat up on opponents and rally support among the less discerning.

That bothers me.

And, it goes without saying, there is the BIG THING:

It worries me that this President favors a complete restructuring of American political culture in the mold of a modern European welfare state. That bothers me.

But other than those kinds of quibbles, I still like him.
TIME magazine lists the new Calvinism as #3 of the 10 ideas rocking the world right now.

In honor of the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth, my seminary alma mater has resources online for reading through The Institutes of the Christian Religion in 2009. The Institutes are the masterwork of Calvin.
One of the ironies expressed by Reinhold Niebuhr in his classic The Irony of American History was that there was a certain similarity between Western liberal ideology and Communist ideology. Both believed that, given the right conditions and methods, mankind can be controlled by an elite class for the betterment of all.

Writing in the midst of the Cold War, Niebuhr made a very clear distinction between the two ideologies. The methods of the communists he viewed as nefarious, while he believed that the potential excesses of liberal ideology had been tempered by practicality born of experience.

According to Niebuhr, one of the characteristics of irony is that it is generally unnoticed. It results from a sort of double-think. In the case of the example above, the greatest irony is that the aspects of Communism which were most decried by the West had their basis in the West’s own ideology, a fact not noted by most critics of Communism.

In modern American politics, there is just as big of an ironic disconnect between Republican/conservative ideology in foreign and domestic affairs.

As a general rule of principle, Republicans distrust the ability of government to efficiently improve the lives of its citizens. Reduce taxes, cut off handouts, let individuals in the market decide what's best: these are the rallying cries of most conservative Republicans. This is in opposition to the ideology of modern liberal Democrats, who view a government of enlightened leaders as capable of improving the lives of their fellow countrymen through the application of sagacious policies.

In foreign policy, however, the basic ideology of the Bush administration was nearly identical to those aspects of Democratic domestic policy which were most roundly condemned by conservatives. In part, the invasion of Iraq was driven by the belief that the application of sagacious policies by an elite (Americans, in this case) would improve the lives of Iraqis. [Yes, of course, there were other reasons for the invasion. But the reasons given by the administration changed so often I figure one is as good as the other.]

Republicans seem just as inclined as Democrats to carry out intrusive policies designed for the betterment of the less fortunate. The main difference seems to be that Democrats focus these policies on (or force these policies on, depending on your view) American citizens, whereas Republicans give Americans the benefit of the doubt in solving their own problems and instead focus/force policies on an international level.

I don’t know if this is due to a sense of American exceptionalism, a compulsion to spread democracy as quickly as possible, or something else. Importantly, I’m not even saying this is necessarily a bad thing.

It’s just ironic.

[note: I know this idea isn’t original to me. Many foreign policy conservatives have distanced themselves from Bush’s actions, labeling him and his team as neo-conservative, neo-Wilsonian, etc. – anything but “conservative.” They’ve obviously recognized the irony.]
Category: Politics
Posted by: an okie gardener
Who in the Obama administration is in charge of gifts for foreign leaders and heads of state? DVD's for Gordon Brown when he gave Obama a relic from a British anti-slavery warship? (DVDs that would not play in Britain.) And now, for the Queen, a made-in-China ipod. Here is the story, linked by Gateway Pundit.

Appearance is part of the reality of leadership. Obama, with his gaffe-gifts, is not projecting an appearance of competence. See also all the tax-cheats that have been nominated; even more than when I wrote this post.
A few weeks ago I had my history class read Federalist No. 57 by Publius (James Madison, February 19, 1788). In this essay Madison defends the proposed Constitution on the point of the House of Representatives. Specifically, he asserts that the House cannot become tyrannical for the following reasons:

The House members will be

(1) elected by the voters; (2) chosen by fellow-citizens and so can be presumed to be good men; (3) grateful to the voters; (4) wanting to keep the favor of the voters; (5) subject to frequent election; (6) affected themselves by all laws passed; and (7) this system for a House of Representatives is similar to that already in effect in various states.

Since Senators now are elected directly by the voters, I think his argument also may be applied to the Senate.

It seems to me that Madison is assuming first, clear-eyed informed voters, and second, elections with a meaningful possibility of turning out incumbants. I fear that neither assumption remains valid.

First, putting aside the expansion of suffrage in the subsequent history of our nation, it seems to me self-evident that most voters are neither clear-eyed nor informed. Many voters cannot name their Federal Represenative or Senators, and most have only a hazy notion of the voting record of their Congressional delegation. And it is a sad fact that many voters cannot penetrate the cloud of manipulative rhetoric and images put forth at election-time.

It could be argued that the above facts are evidence only of the need for better education of citizens, not of a need to make a structural change through Constitutional Amendment. I concur that a better educated citizenry is needed. And I also concur with the Founders that Liberty is protected not only by the virtue of the citizenry, but also by structures designed to prevent tyranny. It seems to me that we need not only better education, but also a structural change to limit the terms served by members of Congress.

Second, elections today are rarely a serious contest if the incumbant seeks reelecton. Madison did nor forsee the growth in the power of incumbancy. A nation in which Representative Murtha wins reelection needs to reexamine its governing structure. Elections occur every two years for the House members, and every six years for members of the Senate, but elections have ceased to be fearful encounters with the will of the people for incumbants. The advantages of money, support from interest groups, name recognition, and seniority advantages in both chambers, mean that there usually is a small chance an incumbant will be turned out.

A permanant governing class is created by our present system. The Founders had a name for a permanent governing class--aristocrats. And aristocracy is what a republic was created to avoid.

Term limits. The structural answer to our current aristocracy.

I suggest 12 years for Representatives, and 24 for Senators, but I am open to suggestions.