You are currently viewing archive for May 2009
Category: Courts
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Didn't we all see this coming?

On Monday evening, I encouraged GOP opinion makers to "be lucid, rational, and polite." I exhorted us to "use this episode as a teaching moment" and implored our public figures to "avoid unhinged diatribes” and “outlandish horrors."

Wasted breath. Here we are: red-faced and frustrated, forced to walk back from a haphazard and mean-spirited frenzy of wild accusations against a woman who will surely be the first Hispanic female on the Supreme Court of the United States. And for what? Ironically, once installed, we will likely find Justice Sonia Sotomayor fairly forgettable and insignificant.

How did this happen?

We thought we were settling a score. We desperately wanted to give the Democrats a taste of their own medicine.

Did we have a point? Sure. For years, the opposition pursued a single-minded obsession to obstruct (and destroy) Republican judicial appointees. In fact, as a result of their unprecedented disregard for decorum and fair play demonstrated during the 1987 Robert Bork hearings, a new verb entered the political lexicon.

Am I talking about a few isolated wingnuts? Not really. Bork could not have been "borked," and Clarence Thomas could not have been "lynched," without the compliant leadership of Joe Biden. Fast-forward two decades: President Obama served in the Upper Chamber for only one year before he threw his hat in the ring for a bigger prize--but he was in Washington long enough to speak out and vote against two impeccably qualified conservative nominees for the Court.

Do the Democrats just have it in for dorky white guys? Not really. Ask Clarence Thomas how much the opposition cared about his American Dream. As many commentators have pointed out, we had an amazing Latino nominee of our own, whom the Democrats destroyed simply because they could.

But here is the difference: that was then; this is now.

We say: we are only playing by the rules the other team insisted upon. Look what they did to Miguel Estrada.

They say: huh? what? who?

It is pretty simple. The mainstream media often cheered on the vile attacks against Republican nominees. When they weren't piling on, they were giving the Democrats a pass on their worst excesses. Therefore, while you can drag up a few moldy news items, there is virtually no agreed-upon public memory of the despicable behavior conservatives remember so well. For most citizens, Ted Kennedy's notorious speech about "Robert Bork's America" is as distant and irrelevant as a Daniel Webster Fourth of July oration.

In essence, "we got punked." Without any context, the breathless and hastily constructed pursuit of Sotomayor appears completely lacking in civility (which it is). If viewed through the lens of our own trauma, our pathetic blindness might be more sympathetic—but so it goes. No matter, regardless of our continuing maltreatment at the hands our persecutors, remember that our attacks REALLY ARE way out of line. Even worse, our street-fight strategy represents a gutter level of discourse that we have properly railed against for decades now. We should live up to our own standards—not adopt those that we know to be unworthy. We REALLY ARE wrong to engage in this low-level character assassination.

So, in the end, regardless of who started it, our current behavior rightly engenders revulsion. While it may not seem fair in light of the recent past, in the sense that our conduct actually merits censure, we REALLY ARE reaping a just denunciation.

Live and learn.
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
All across the country, but especially in the South, people will gather weekly or monthly to sing "sacred harp" songs. These songs are a capella, four-part harmony, using "shape notes" rather than modern transcription, and are a living tradition going back to the early years of our nation.

Here is the official website of the Sacred Harp Heritage Association, that has description, history, and other information, including locations of "singings" that anyone can participate in.

Some examples of Sacred Harp singing:

What Wondrous Love Is This, from a singing in Columbia, Missouri. Sound quality if amateur, but a good introduction. Notice that the singers begin by going through the tune fa so la, etc. Sacred Harp schools were held on the frontier in the 19th century and within a week could produce high quality choral singing from whatever group of pioneers were gathered. Rather than being taught conventionallly, the men and women were taught to associate notes with pitch using the do, ra, mi, etc

From Birmingham, Alabama.

This is an "internet ad" promoting a singing in Newbury, Vermont.

From the Cold Mountain movie soundtrack, better sound quality obviously.
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
Perhaps you've heard about the pharmacist who shot the robber up the road here in Oklahoma City. Story here.

Confronted by two holdup men, pharmacist Jerome Ersland pulled a gun, shot one of them in the head and chased the other away. Then, in a scene recorded by the drugstore's security camera, he went behind the counter, got another gun, and pumped five more bullets into the wounded teenager as he lay on the floor.

The store is in a bad neighborhood, and had been robbed before.

The pharmacist has been charged with first-degree murder. Lots of folks are praising him, though, and giving money to his defense fund.

The charges were filed because he shot the robber five more times after getting another gun, while the young man was lying on the floor.

My thoughts: his first actions were justified, but he went too far when he fired the second-round of shots. However, first-degree murder seems too harsh. A massive rush of adrenaline in the context of fearing for your life can give a person a sort of "tunnel vision," a locked and intense focus akin to an experience of autism.

This man is a civilian, who had to be on edge working in a store that had been robbed before, had just had his life threatened, and was reacting primally. Reduce the charges.

Stupid quote of the story: "He didn't have to shoot my baby like that," Parker's mother, Cleta Jennings, told TV station KOCO. Your "baby" attempted an armed robbery; better his funeral than his victim's.
Worth reading are the essays by Robert A. J. Gagnon, Associate Professor of New Testament, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary (PCUSA). Website here.

Especially helpful is his destruction of the argumentation of those who seek to set aside St. Paul's obvious meaning in Romans 1.
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
Christianity Today, the Books & Culture section, has an interesting and enlightening panel discussion of James Elkins' On the Strange Place of Religion in Contemporary Art. Elkins is the E. C. Chadbourne Chair in the Department of Art History, Theory, and Criticism at the School of the Art Institute in Chicago. Panelists who responded to his book are Bruce Herman of Gordon College, James Romaine of Bethel University, Bruce Ellis Benson of Wheaton College, and Theodore Prescott of Messiah College.

Elkins was prompted to write this book by

his experience as one of four jurors for the 1990 exhibition "Revelations: Artists Look at Religions." It was a big show with several famous artists in it, including Andres Serrano, the maker of Piss Christ. But the jurors also had to slog through hundreds of submissions, looking at slides, reading statements, and scanning résumés. It was a daunting, numbing job. One submission caught their attention, and they were ready to accept it until they learned the artist was a nun, and her work, which the jurors had found quirky, was her vision of heaven. "Oh God," moaned one of the jurors, and they voted it down. Elkins was the only one to vote for it: "I wanted to accept it because it was religious, and religion was supposedly our theme."

This experience started Elkins thinking about "the exclusion of religious meaning in contemporary art,"

This panel discussion provides a good starting point for reflection on the world of contemporary academic art discourse, and on the larger problem of modern aesthetics.
Category: Courts
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
A Waco Farmer votes "Aye."


[The President] shall nominate, and by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, shall appoint...judges of the Supreme Court....

Presidential elections matter. The Constitution, which we hold so dear, lays all this out quite clearly. The people elect a president, and he nominates justices to the Supreme Court. The Senate has a say--but, barring extraordinary circumstances, this is manifestly a presidential prerogative.

Enough said.

That is not how the Democrats play it!?!

Not the point. Our job is to abide by the obvious intent of the framers. The egregious partisan antics employed by the opposition over the past twenty-five years has done great damage to the judiciary. The fruits of their unforgivable political vandalism provide a stark lesson on why we should do the right thing--not a license to respond in kind.

Elections matter. Choke it down and go on. Losing should hurt.

How disastrous is this pick, really? Relax.
This is not the death knell of the Republic.

Sotomayor does not change the game. Right now right-wing bloggers and talkers are breathlessly painting her as an incompetent radical. This is most likely a wild exaggeration. But, even if it is spot on, so what? Does anyone really think her voting record will be that much different from David Souter's.

Best Case Scenario: she is just another liberal jurist in the mold of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer. You win some; you lose some.

Worse Case Scenario: if by chance, she does turn out to be a wild-eyed racist radical, she will be an embarrassment to the Obama administration--and, more importantly, a crucial rallying point for the coming Republican resurgence. The public will not appreciate a fanatical loudmouth throwing her weight around on the Court. Trust me. If she is half as bad as Rush Limbaugh and Mark Levin claim she is, this the best thing that has happened to us politically in 121 days.

Relax. Make your case. Be lucid, rational, and polite. Use this episode as a teaching moment. But avoid unhinged diatribes in which we predict a whole slew of outlandish horrors that are very unlikely to come to pass (at least not on a timetable rapid enough to provide vindication).
Here is the pdf document for HRes 397, that would establish the first week in May as Spiritual Heritage Week. Link from Layman Online.

I don't know that this resolution would change much, but it could provoke a good discussion. At a minimum, the Resolution itself demonstrates that ours was not founded as a secular society. Here is the beginning of HRes 397.

Affirming the rich spiritual and religious history of our Nation's founding and subsequent history and expressing support for designation of the first week in May as `America's Spiritual Heritage Week' for the appreciation of and education on America's history of religious faith.

Whereas religious faith was not only important in official American life during the periods of discovery, exploration, colonization, and growth but has also been acknowledged and incorporated into all 3 branches of the Federal Government from their very beginning;

Whereas the Supreme Court of the United States affirmed this self-evident fact in a unanimous ruling declaring `This is a religious people . . . From the discovery of this continent to the present hour, there is a single voice making this affirmation';

Whereas political scientists have documented that the most frequently cited source in the political period known as The Founding Era was the Bible;

Whereas the first act of America's first Congress in 1774 was to ask a minister to open with prayer and to lead Congress in the reading of 4 chapters of the Bible;

Whereas Congress regularly attended church and Divine service together en masse;

Whereas throughout the American Founding, Congress frequently appropriated money for missionaries and for religious instruction, a practice that Congress repeated for decades after the passage of the Constitution and the First Amendment;

Whereas in 1776, Congress approved the Declaration of Independence with its 4 direct religious acknowledgments referring to God as the Creator (`All people are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness'), the Lawgiver (`the laws of nature and nature's God'), the Judge (`appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world'), and the Protector (`with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence');

Whereas upon approving the Declaration of Independence, John Adams declared that the Fourth of July `ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty';

Whereas 4 days after approving the Declaration, the Liberty Bell was rung;

Whereas the Liberty Bell was named for the Biblical inscription from Leviticus 25:10 emblazoned around it: `Proclaim liberty throughoutthe land, to all the inhabitants thereof';

Whereas in 1777, Congress, facing a National shortage of `Bibles for our schools, and families, and for the public worship of God in our churches,' announced that they `desired to have a Bible printed under their care & by their encouragement' and therefore ordered 20,000 copies of the Bible to be imported `into the different ports of the States of the Union';

. . .

The Resolution now has 61 cosponsors, and has been referred to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Here is the Library of Congress Thomas site for more information.
Category: Same-Sex Marriage
Posted by: an okie gardener
The Pew Forum examines this question through a Q & A with Ira “Chip” Lupu, the F. Elwood and Eleanor Davis Professor of Law, The George Washington University Law School, and Robert W. Tuttle, the David R. and Sherry Kirschner Berz Research Professor of Law and Religion, The George Washington University Law School.

There are reasons to be concerned. Can religious organizations, e.g. hospitals and colleges, be forced to hire, and to provide benefits, for those in same-sex marriage? Can churches refuse to host same-sex marriages on their property, including campgrounds? The article notes that concerns such as these have caused

New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch (D) to say he would sign legislation legalizing gay marriage in that state only if lawmakers add provisions giving religious organizations the right not to recognize such marriages. Another possible flash point involves private individuals and businesses that, for religious reasons, do not want to provide wedding-related or other services to same-sex couples.

A Clash of Rights? Gay Marriage and the Free Exercise of Religion

As one of the participants notes, so far the courts have addressed the relationship of governments to same-sex marriage. The relationship of religious institutions to same-sex marriage has yet to be tested.
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
The travelogue continues. For previous entries Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

South of Burnet is Marble Falls. One of the most beautiful towns in central Texas--rocky hills and a lake--with some of the worst traffic in Texas, apparently because getting anywhere in town means using U.S. 281, putting the locals and those just passing through onto the same pavement. The lake resulted from the damming of the Colorado River (of Texas), which covered the Falls that had given the city its name. Can't have everything. Perhaps the town best should be known as having elected the first woman mayor in the United States in 1917 when the voters were all men.

The small community of Round Mountain is off the highway, but along 281 is a truckstop that a sign proclaims to be municipally owned. While I don't think that the Federal Government owning GM or Chrysler is a good idea, I'm OK with communities choosing to operate businesses within the larger structure of regulated Capitalism.

Above the Pedernales River sits Johnson City, hometown of Lyndon Baines Johnson. The town was named for a relative of LBJ, one James Polk Johnson. The LBJ boyhood home is now an historic site maintained by the National Park Service. It was a Texas-sized ambition of LBJ's to eliminate poverty in the U.S. The Great Society did not turn out as planned, and probably could not have under any circumstance. Dependency on the Federal government, like any dependency, tends toward dystopia, no matter how noble the initial vision.

The next town south is Blanco, along the Blanco River. To the traveler, the town looks like a tourist jumping-off point for fun in the Hill Country, especially tubing the rivers.

San Antonio. Germans, Hispanics, the Alamo, the Riverwalk, the Spurs. And Trinity University, the goal of our trip, to see our youngest graduate (with honors I might add). A fun town. A big city. And I can't help but wonder how its residents will have enough water in the 21st century. San Antonio is perhaps the easternmost of the major cities in the U.S. such as Phoenix, where population growth seems destined to outrun the water supply. We Americans have operated on the assumption that we can always bend nature to our desires through our technology. The Greeks had a word for this attitude--hubris. Every so often the Mississippi, or a hurricane, reminds us 'tain't necessarily so. Drinking water may be our future lesson in humility.
Muslims attack Hare Krisna center in Bangladesh. Must be grievances over the Crusades, or maybe Hare Krisna support for Israel.

Muslims in the Palestianian Authority desecrate Christian graves. Must have been self-defence, or maybe the dead provoked the peaceful Muslims.

Copts continue to be harassed in Egypt. Must be the usual tensions between a new immigrant community and the established society. No wait, the Copts were in Egypt before Mohammad.

Remember, the one using the terms must define their meaning. When Muslims call Islam The Religion of Peace, they mean the "peace" of submission. If you refuse to submit, things are not so peaceful.

25/05: Memorial Day

Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
The Remittance Man has this post commemorating the taking of Monte Casino in WW2 by Free Polish Forces.

The inscription on their memorial reads:


Today, as we honor our own war dead, let's remember also our allies from The Revolution to Afghanistan.

21/05: Obama and FDR

Don't miss this wonderful analysis from Charles Kesler, senior fellow of the Claremont Institute and editor of the Claremont Review of Books.

I love this great one-liner from the piece:

It was the unreformed Supreme Court's "horse-and-buggy" constitutionalism that saved the country from that ugly experiment [some of the more draconian elements of the New Deal], and thus allowed future generations to praise FDR's moderation.


Read the essay in its entirety here (via RCP). It is brief and worth your time.
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
On down the road from Hico is Evant. In the Texas dialect it is pronounced EEvant, the accent tending to move forward and lengthen the vowel. The story of Evant is the story of West-Central rural Texas in miniature. Settled in the 1850s, growing to its maximum population by the 1950s, then a steady decline since then. Before the Corps of Engineers "stabilized" them, rivers such as the Missouri and Mississippi wandered over their bottoms, changing course gradually by cutting sideways on the outer side of bends, and changing course suddenly during floods. The U.S. population and economy also have "wandered," cutting new channels slowly or suddenly. Centers become peripheries, and vice versa. I doubt that attempts to stabilize populations and economic networks will be as successful as river control. Bad news for West Texas, and Michigan, but security is rare in this world.

South of Evant the terrain begins to look like the Texas Hill Country: ridges and knolls of limestone, covered in mesquite and cedar. Hard to believe that when white settlers arrived in the Hill Country it was covered with grass, except along the creeks. But, overgrazing and ill-advised attempts to grow cotton, depleted the soil and grass cover. No longer contained by wildfires the brush claimed the land.

With Lampasas we are entering the region of Texas explored by the Spanish. Lampasas is the next town of any size (sorry Adamsville), its economy largely dependent upon nearby Ft. Hood, home of armor. Though I would not promote military spending as a jobs-creation program, or an economic stimulus, I think it is important to realize that much of the military budget is spent within the American economy.

Burnet had a role in the construction of the Texas State Capitol Building. A narrow-guage railroad was built from Granite Mountain to Burnet to haul (wait for it) granite to a finishing yard on the south edge of town, whence it was loaded onto railcars for the trip to Austin. A waste of money? I don't think so. There is a place for beauty in public life, and the Texas State Capitol is beautiful. Messages are conveyed with symbols, and the solid, imposing beauty of capitol buildings, and courthouses, preaches without a voice that life together is possible when law is solid and respected, and is the product of citizens meeting together in council.
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
Mineral Wells is near the Brazos River, along the John Graves Scenic Waterway. Before the current lakes were dammed, Graves canoed the upper Brazos and recorded his experience in the book Goodbye to a River. A great read, a thick narrative of the region.

Crossing the river, U.S. 281 a few miles farther south crosses the modern trafficway of Interstate 20. Travel farther, faster, and see less.

South of I-20 is Stephenville, in Erath County. Erath has the largest concentration of dairy farms in Texas, affecting water quality on the Bosque River from manure run-off. Economics drive producers to larger and larger dairy farms so that the economies of scale can make the investment of money and labor profitable. But, concentrate large dairy operations and the resulting manure produced harms the local envirnment. Government regulations to curb pollution tend to force farmers either to quit the business, or to get even larger to sustain profitability in the face of regulatory requirements. Larger and larger dairy farms produce more and more manure . . . You see the dynamic. But, in a creative effort to solve the problem, Erath County dairymen are engaging in a program to compost the manure and then market it--turning a problem into a profit.

Next in turn is Hico, a town with a couple of problematic claims to fame. Years ago an old resident claimed to be the real Billy the Kid. Not to lose an opportunity, the Chamber of Commerce created a small bandwagon to draw tourists: putting up a billboard on the edge of town claiming to be the home of Billy the Kid, and opening a small museum. Another instance of the desire for dollars trumping self-respect. More troubling is the local reputation of the town as a stronghold of the KKK. True or not, Hico is believed by central Texas blacks to be a place to avoid. We didn't stop.

The next town of any size is Hamilton. Like almost all the towns in this area it was founded in the 1850s as the Comanche Empire (called by the Spanish Comancheria) began to wane under the pressure of Anglo settlement and the Texas Rangers. After 1700, having been introduced to horses through their allies the Utes, the Comanche had moved onto the southern plains and within fifty years had driven out the Apaches, killing many and selling large numbers as slaves to the French in Louisiana. When the Comanche arrived, the Apache had just established themselves as the rulers of the southern grasslands all the way to below the Rio Grande, wiping out their main enemies the Jumanos. Apacheria, as the Spanish called it, was short-lived. Ironically, the Comanches, with whom the Anglos fought a genocidal war, were indirectly responsible for the American presence. Spain, and then Mexico, had been unable to dislodge the Comanche to allow settlement, and so invited in settlers from Europe and America. Give human beings the technology to dominate our neighbors, and history shows we will do it, whatever our race or ethnicity.

Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
On Friday we traveled to San Antonio for the graduation of our youngest from Trinity University. From the end of our driveway to Trinity it was U.S. 281 for about 400 miles.

First past Ft. Sill, the U.S. Army's large base just south of us, the home of Field Artillery. Most days we hear the thump of cannon fire from our yard. Sounds like freedom.

Ft. Sill is adjoined on the south by Lawton, hometown of 2007 Miss America Lauren Nelson. About a year ago I ran into her at a pow-wow. I did not recognize her as I walked by until she smiled at me from about two yards away. When Miss America smiles at close quarters you notice.

South of Lawton we passed Walters, Oklahoma, site of the annual Comanche Homecoming. (This year July 17-19). A camp ground just north of this small town hosts this large gathering and dance.

Across the Red River into Texas. If you've never seen the Howard Hawk's movie of the same name, you've missed one of the best westerns--John Wayne and Montgomery Clift. Another movie in which Wayne plays a character whose "manliness" nearly undoes him and everyone else. If Shakespeare had written a western, this would have been it.

South of the Red River is Wichita Falls, home of Shepherd Air Force Base. The falls on the Wichita have been no more since the late 19th century. But, in true American Chamber of Commerce fashion, an artificial falls have been created to show tourists.

cont. below

» Read More

Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
VDH pens the latest conservative prediction that the American electorate is finally on the verge of seeing through the Barack Obama facade.

Is he right? Not likely.

His thoughtful analysis is worth reading (and mostly correct in terms of substantive objections to the ill-conceived Obama policy agenda). However, his mistake--and it is the same fatal mistake that most conservative analysts make in these pieces--lies in his assumption that the public will see the folly of the President's plan in advance of its implementation.

This is mostly wishful thinking.

Dramatic and overwhelming buyer's remorse is not the fashion in which political tides turn in America. The People are invested in this president and are determined to give him the benefit of the doubt. The Public is unlikely to wake up one day soon and "come to their senses."

Why? A critical mass of Americans do not follow national politics and policy regularly. Voters have made their big decision. They are now otherwise occupied, perhaps glancing at Washington intermittently while waiting optimistically for good things to happen. Obama enjoys a friendly media and a relatively unengaged (and hopeful) citizenry. How would a significant majority gather enough information to experience a collective epiphany in the near term?

Yes. This radical change in direction most likely will be disastrous--but not enough voters are going to believe it until the disasters are actually upon us.

Therefore, the fall of Obama is not mere months away. The slow reappraisal of this President is actually years and years in the future. For that reason, I continue to counsel patience and long-term planning. America will find itself in desperate need of principled conservatism at the conclusion of this sanguine interlude. We need to be ready and credible.

Just for kicks (and fodder for a future post):

When are we actually viable again?

My best guess is 2014.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
For several days I have struggled to find the time to write a defense of Dick Cheney as a principled American statesman exercising his right to publicly disagree with the government without being nearly as disagreeable as so many of his opponents over the years. You think Cheney is dead wrong? God Bless America! Let the debate begin.

Today Carl Cannon offers this MUST READ explanation of Cheney's character, his motivations, and his sacred right to speak freely.

From Cannon:

[W] damage to ourselves when we substitute political debate with name-calling and ad-hominem attacks. I think Dick Cheney is wrong on important matters. I also think he is a patriot. And I hate to think that we have lost the ability to hold two such opinions in our heads at one time.

Excellent. Read the whole thing. The essay offers some much-needed perspective to the mob-driven anti-Cheney orgy.

One more essential thought: if not for Dick Cheney, this necessary conversation regarding the tensions between liberty and power (as well as national security and national morality) would be mostly one-sided and/or completely outside the public consciousness.
You will remember a few weeks back that the President held a reception in the East Room for the Washington press corps celebrating his triumphal first one hundred days as chief executive. During the merriment, the President related a story that attempted to associate Winston Churchill with the administration policy on "enhanced interrogation techniques."

President Obama:

I was struck by an article that I was reading the other day talking about the fact that the British during World War II, when London was being bombed to smithereens, had 200 or so detainees. And Churchill said, "We don't torture," when the entire British -- all of the British people were being subjected to unimaginable risk and threat.

And then the reason was that Churchill understood, you start taking short-cuts, over time, that corrodes what's -- what's best in a people. It corrodes the character of a country.

The moment I heard that bold assertion, I immediately thought two things:

1. He better have this right.

2. It sounds wrong.

I was correct on one count. It was not a very reliable story. The historical account did not stand up to scrutiny. However, as it turned it, I was wrong on my first thought; it really didn't matter if he was right. For the most part, the members of the mainstream media were so grateful, evidently, to be invited to the nice party that they felt it awkward and impolite to criticize the host and guest of honor for his imprecise illustration.

Save for the conservative media (and, really who listens to them, anyway?), the President received a complete pass on his sloppy (perhaps even disingenuous) historical assertion. Oh, well.

New Question: does Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi merit the same protection?

I wonder. Speaker Pelosi finds herself in an utterly indefensible position in which her public statements on torture and her actions as a key member of the House of Representatives look to be completely irreconcilable.

Will it matter? Could Nancy Pelosi actually be in some political danger? Hard to say. But the press is asking some tough questions. Even Jon Stewart gave her the "hypocritical political gas bag" treatment on his show (see here via RCP video).

Stewart's surprising reaction is perhaps indicative of the dilemma Obama-boosters face.

True, they are fierce loyalists to the President and remain intent on going to any lengths to ensure his success; however, and here is the rub, they are also desperate to maintain some moral rectitude in their own eyes--and it gets harder every day.

How to square their unquestioning fidelity to this President and their journalistic integrity?

Maybe you take down a non-essential player on your own team. Perhaps then you can sleep better at night, look yourself in the mirror in the mornings, and view yourself as an independent agent solely intent on safeguarding the public interest.

Am I saying that Nancy Pelosi is in danger? YES--maybe. Her downfall still remains extremely unlikely (she belongs to several protected classes--Democratic leadership being the most sacred). However, the NYT and Jon Stewart have her in their sights. They can pull the trigger on her if they want to. Will they want to? MAYBE. If this goes much farther, they may have to choose between their political inclinations and their tortured self image as fair-minded denizens of the Fourth Estate.

The fall of Nancy Pelosi may be just the tonic the mainstream media needs to revive their own beloved self delusion.
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
I have been a fan of pianist Chick Corea since the early 70s. He was around before that, I just was not aware of him. In the 70s he was on the cutting edge of Fusion music--jazz and rock, experimenting with the new possibilities offered by electronic technology. For those of us who remember that decade, and that hybrid genre, we know there was a lot of crappy sounding stuff. But not with Chick. Chick always made music. To paraphrase someone whose name I can't recall: often when jazz musicians move toward rock, it sounds as though they are slumming, (and when rockers edge toward jazz, it sounds as though they are reaching above their station). But not Chick, he always made music. Electronic music in the 70s often was bad, bad stuff. But not with Chick, he always made music.

Listen to an early version of his group, Return to Forever, playing Crystal Silence. From 1971.

Return to Forever, RTF for short, evolved toward a more fusion sound. Here is a 1974 recording of the new quartet--Chick, Stanley Clarke on bass, Bill Conners on guitar, and Lenny White on drums.

By 1975 Al DiMeola had replaced Conners on guitar in RTF. Here is Beyond the Seventh Galaxy. And Vulcan Worlds.

The guys never forgot how to get acoustic. From 1976, The Romantic Warrior.

By the late 70s the members of RTF were into solo albums, but I think each one never again achieved the heights they reached together.

Return to Forever also functioned as a kind of "outreach band" for Scientology. In the 70s all four were Scientologists (though I have heard that Clarke left the religion), the album covers directed listeners to sources of more information on that religion, and the music itself, in my opinion, evokes a Scientology feel.

The music I recommend, though not the religion.

UPDATE: RTF has reunited for a tour. Here is Stanley Clarke talking about RTF in the 70s.

Vulcan Worlds from last June on the Reunion Tour.
Category: Thinking Out Loud
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
I have been thinking a lot about the Republican Party (and, hopefully, a post will be forthcoming soon). However, Pat Buchanan gets to the heart of things today. Save for the part about things turning around by the midterm elections, Pat has it almost entirely right (and you don't hear me say that about him very often).

Read here.

Pat correctly points out that all this Democratic euphoria is personality and media driven. President Obama is remarkable and on top of the world--but he won't be president forever. The Democrats are still the Democrats. And, when Obama leaves, his New Deal 3.0 programs will have us in a world of hurt.

While Pat does not emphasize this quote from Robert Menzies quite enough in my view, I appreciate the mention and applaud the sentiment. Everyone should read it carefully and take it to heart:

"(T)he duty of an opposition ... is to oppose selectively. No government is always wrong on everything. . The opposition must choose the ground on which it is to attack. To attack indiscriminately is to risk public opinion, which has a reserve of fairness not always understood."

What to do in the present: Republicans need to take a breath and look to the future. We need to rally around our true conservative principles and be patient and rational.
Category: General
Posted by: an okie gardener
At-home bioengineering the new hobby among science geeks known as biohackers. This sounds like chapter one of a novel that ends badly for humanity. Link Instapundit.
My own opinion of Joel Osteen's message is well expressed by Michael S. Horton in this essay on the Westminster Seminary California website. Link from Monergism.

Although explicit proponents of the so-called "prosperity gospel" may be fewer than their influence suggests, its big names and best-selling authors (T. D. Jakes, Benny Hinn, Joel Osteen, and Joyce Meyer) are purveyors of a pagan worldview with a peculiarly American flavor. It's basically what the sixteenth century German monk turned church reformer Martin Luther called the "theology of glory": How can I climb the ladder and attain the glory here and now that God has actually promised for us after a life of suffering? The contrast is the "theology of the cross": the story of God's merciful descent to us, at great personal cost, a message that the Apostle Paul acknowledged was offensive and "foolish to Greeks."
. . .
Osteen reflects the broader assumption among evangelicals that we are saved by making a decision to have a personal relationship with God. If one's greatest problem is loneliness, the good news is that Jesus is a reliable friend. If the big problem is anxiety, Jesus will calm us down. Jesus is the glue that holds our marriages and families together, gives us purpose for us to strive toward, wisdom for daily life. And there are half-truths in all of these pleas, but they never really bring hearers face to face with their real problem: that they stand naked and ashamed before a holy God and can only be acceptably clothed in his presence by being clothed, head to toe, in Christ's righteousness.

This gospel of "submission," "commitment," "decision," and "having a personal relationship with God" fails to realize, first of all, that everyone has a personal relationship with God already: either as a condemned criminal standing before a righteous judge or as a justified co-heir with Christ and adopted child of the Father. "How can I be right with God?" is no longer a question when my happiness rather than God's holiness is the main issue. My concern is that Joel Osteen is simply the latest in a long line of self-help evangelists who appeal to the native American obsession with pulling ourselves up by our own bootstraps. Salvation is not a matter of divine rescue from the judgment that is coming on the world, but a matter of self-improvement in order to have your best life now.
Today I am trying to reclaim my office from Chaos.

In so doing I discovered this bit from my daily calender for this past Thursday, May 7. On May 7, 1789 the first Inaugural Ball was held in New York City. The plan had been for the new government to form in March, but bad travel conditions delayed assembling enough members of Congress to count the electoral votes before April 6. Additional time was required to reach Mt. Vernon to inform George Washington of the results, then for the newly-elected president to reach New York City, then the nation's capital.
Posted by: an okie gardener
Story here.

I missed this story when it happened. I have no insights to offer, including how it might affect his political ambitions.

A sentence in the coverage did sadden me once again.

The family-values crowd has never completely embraced Newt, probably because he has been married three times, most recently to a former Hill staff member, Callista Bisek.

Republicans seem to have trouble finding spokesmen and leaders who exemplify conservative values. In 1980 and 1984 the Republicans ran the divorced-and-remarried Reagan against the married-to-their-first-wives Carter and Mondale. In 1996 the divorced-and-remarried Dole against the married philanderer Clinton. In 2008 the divorced-and-remarried MCain against married-to-his-first-wive Obama. Conservative favorite Fred Thompson--divorced and remarried. I've lost count of Rush's wives.

Thank God for the Bushes.
The Episcopal Divinity School (i.e., a seminary for training Episcopal priests) in Cambridge, Massachusetts, appoints a radically pro-abortion lesbian priest, Kathrine Ragsdale, as its new president. Story. In a past sermon this woman called abortion a blessing, and has testified before Congress that she transported a fifteen-year-old girl across a state line to get an abortion--and would again if it became illegal. My point is not so much this priest herself, as the message it sends to any remaining conservative Episcopalians--as a conservative believer you will be increasingly marginalized. Small wonder conservatives have been leaving the Episcopal denomination.

To make the same point again--the marginalization of conservative Episcopalians within their own denomination--Gene Robinson, the Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire who himself is a practicing homosexual, recently spoke at a pro LGBT event in Washington, D.C., in which he proclaimed

“You and I stand on the shoulders of drag queens in Stonewall bar who had enough, [San Francisco politician] Harvey Milk and Dr. King,” Robinson said. “It will be enough to have others stand on our shoulders” and “enough to be in the parade.”

Robinson identified gay rights as a part of the agenda of the Kingdom of God. Story.

Organizations send messages to their members by the choice of those who are given positions of power. The elevation of Ragsdale and Robinson tells members more than any number of position papers and platitudes.
According to the Pew Forum, Americans tend to be a praying people, with 58% of the population responding that they pray daily. Even 22% of those who self-identified as "unaffiliated" responded that they prayed at least once a day. Figures were higher for older Americans, women, and those with incomes under $30,000/year. Among religious groups, Jehovah's Witnesses seemed the most prayerful, followed by Mormons and Black Protestants. Tellingly, Mainline Protestants came in under the national average, at only 53% praying daily.

Our society is not secular yet.
Brits at Their Best reported that about 170 years ago a man named Rowland Hill put the British postal service into a profitable position by

the brilliant and counter-intuitive idea that postal costs have little to do with distance and that the whole cumbersome process could be speeded up and the charge for sending mail could be drastically reduced. And profits? Profits increased because the numbers of people who could afford to send a letter increased dramatically.

Under Hill's plan, postage on a letter would not be collected after complicated travel computations which slowed down delivery and were often so high recipients of letters refused to accept them. Instead, those sending mail would simply buy adhesive stamps for a uniform charge at the post office.

The government bureaucrats of the day naturally called Hill's idea wild and visionary - and these were not compliments - but his plan made such obvious sense it swept Britain and, soon after, the world.

Simplification and reduction in costs of a government service leading to growth and profitability.

Jack Kemp, R.I.P.
Category: General
Posted by: Tocqueville
The Decline of Middle America and the Problem of Meritocracy by Jeremy Beer


The seemingly unassailable ideal of “equality of opportunity” demanded by the meritocratic regime has drawn scorn from thinkers such as those I have quoted in part because they have understood that in order for talent to triumph, it must be mobile. This, as we have seen, is precisely the aim of a meritocracy. It seeks to remove the barriers posed by tradition or culture — that is, barriers posed by institutions, texts, myths, habits, social forms, sensibilities, affections, characteristic practices, and the like — to the mobility of the intelligent. Thus, the more perfect the meritocracy, which we typically equate with justice itself, the more mobility — both geographic and social — is required, until talent is able to flow freely to where it can command the highest price. A perfect market for talent is the dream and goal of meritocracy: nothing must stand in the way of the rise of talent to primacy. Progress, understood both as the never-ending process of self-liberation and self-fulfillment, and as the indefinite expansion of our consumer economy, depends upon such mobility.

. . . .

The fact that our meritocracy rewards most those at home in the world of “abstractions and images” has further isolated our new elites from the rest of society by their insulation from manual labor. “The thinking classes are fatally removed from the physical side of life,” and indeed, only under such circumstances could such academic theories as “the social construction of reality” gain any purchase on the mind, concludes Lasch.

Another serious disadvantage to rule by the “best and brightest” is that, unlike the older, premeritocratic elite, with its codes of chivalry and concern for honor and family, the new elite, thinking that it owes its power to intelligence alone, has “little sense of ancestral gratitude or of an obligation to live up to responsibilities inherited from the past.” It “thinks of itself as a self-made elite owing its privileges exclusively to its own efforts.”

In sum, social mobility, far from being the sine qua non of democracy, actually “helps to solidify [elites'] influence by supporting the illusion that it rests solely on merit.”