Oct 142015

Ben Carson has been getting heat about ill-advised comments about Jews, Nazis, and self-defense. I like Dr. Ben, but I don’t think he’s the right guy to scrub up the mess that the next president will inherit. But I’m a lousy picker anyway, so we’ll leave that alone. For some reasoned and well informed critique of Carson’s comments (wait. Carson’s Comments would be a great magazine title) from the right, you might look here and here. I’m more interested in what we may as well call the presuppositions that I find behind his comments.
(1) One strand of modern American feeling raises the status of victim to a position of privilege, to such an extent that some folks seek out the status, or find it in the most trivial circumstances. Carson upholds another strand – you don’t have to be a victim. Or if you must, you can go down fighting.
(2) His comments should lead us to ask what a citizen’s rights are when their government does not provide effective police and protective services. How far do our rights to self defense go?
(3) Cutting deeper, what are the citizen’s rights if the government becomes an active agent of injustice, as happened in Nazi Germany? I recall – and am happy to be corrected – a suggestion that the Founders considered an armed populace to be the final check against government oppression. We do not, at this time, think much about the moral limits


of government action. Perhaps we should.

Much of the professional commentariat seems incapable of recognizing this sort of background, and in any event the progressive faction doesn’t want the issue of the individual’s response when the polity imposes its will.  There’s a little inclination to strive for “All within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state.”


 Posted by at 9:00 am
Aug 242015

Were it discovered that cats or dogs, lions or horses, rhinos or tigers, were bred so their offspring could be extracted and their component parts harvested, celebrities would trample one another in their rush to the microphone, and PETA would be in the streets.  How is it that we have come to this point?

Aug 192015

Take a little time to get the granddaughter set up for kindergarten, and all Arkham breaks loose, doesn’t it?

This summer became an inadvertent Gene Wolfe/Tim Powers immersion event, which is another story and another discussion.  I promised myself a C. S. Lewis immersion in turn. I’ll begin that in earnest as soon as I find all my books WHICH SOMEONE HAS MOVED AROUND.  Hmph.  I have begun with The Abolition of Man, which I DID MANAGE TO FIND UNDER A PILE OF OTHER STUFF (ahem) and found this gem of a footnote (from chapter 2)

It will be seen that comfort and security, as known to a suburban street in peace-time, are the ultimate values; those things which can alone produce or spiritualize comfort and security are mocked.  Man lives by bread alone, and the ultimate source of bread is the baker’s van:  peace matters more than honour and can be preserved by jeering at colonels and reading newspapers.

A great load of acute observation lies within this. CSL was a perceptive social observer and critic.


Jun 292015

Denial is a River in the Heart

The heart is deceitful above all things, saith Jeremy, and desperately wicked. Who can know it?. Now here’s an instance we where we need no assumptions of the veracity of Scripture to agree with it; it’s truth is declared every day as we behold seething deceit, insatiable greed, violence, sudden and unaccountable lusts, selfishness amounting to clinical narcissism, betrayal, murderous anger; is there an end to the list? Nor are our own hearts exempt, though we spurn the knowledge. We are very happy loudly to proclaim the failings of others, but we exempt our selves. But none are exempt, and that’s perilous to ignore.

Awareness of our deceit should make us cautious.


Nov 062014

Lemme tell you some things about Illinois.

The economy is in the tank and has been for years.
Taxes are high.
So is unemployment.
Our government looks like a boa constrictor that swallowed a sheep.
Too many of our politicians have been the larval form of “felon.”


On this last election day, a day when the Heffalump Party made well-nigh historic gains across the electoral board, but especially in state legislatures, the Heffalump candidate for Governor of Illinois managed to collect just barely over 50% of the votes cast. The Heffalumps managed to not even slightly dent the vast majorities controlled by Illinois Speaker of the House Emperor Palpatine Mike Madigan and Illinois Senate President Darth Vader John Cullerton. Not. A. Dent.

The Governor Elect, Bruce Rauner, is a rich guy who ran a pretty bruising campaign. He sometimes gets a deer-in-the-headlights look when policy questions come flying at him, but he showed a bit of the brawler in his campaign. He’ll need it to go toe-to-toe with Madigan and Cullerton.

But he’s already muttering about taxes, and not about cutting them. Now that, without first establishing a record as a parsimonious S.O.B. who has razored every unnecessary expense out of the budget, has worked to get Illinois out of the bond market, is a one way ticket to Onetermsville. Same old, same old. He’s in for a 4 year brawl if he wants to reform this place.

 Posted by at 11:07 am
Feb 122014

Amidst rising tensions between the United States of America and the recently formed Confederate States of America, Presiding Bishop Justinian Wellenough of the Protestant Episcopal Church offered his services to the rival factions.  In telegrams to the two Presidents-elect, Jefferson Davis and Abraham Lincoln, Bishop Wellenough noted that February 12 was President-elect Lincoln’s birthday.  ”What better day to begin a facilitated conversation directed toward establishing a safe space to discuss our differences,” Bishop Wellenough noted.   “We must be able to recognize that our disagreements need not divide us.  It is the necessity of the Gospel that as Jesus reconciled us to the Father, we must work toward the gracious reconciliation of man with man.”

 Posted by at 4:58 pm
Dec 142013

And I shall, and avoid the next part of Peter Jackson’s version of The Hobbit.  Jackson’s sensibility, never very harmonious with Tolkien’s, has been set free by box office success to run amok.  Tolkien’s modest children’s book was little more than a draft or plot summary for Part I. So I shall not contribute to the box office numbers of this round. I won’t be missed, and I don’t need the popcorn.

It is interesting to speculate (and perhaps someone has done this work. If so, and if my reader knows of it, leave a comment) the differing perceptions of those whose first encounter with Tolkien’s work has been through the texts, and those whose first encounter has been through the lens of Jackson’s work. How do movie-first readers perceive the books? What do they find difficult or unsatisfying? What do they find more interesting than the movie version? If our culture is ever more visually dominated, what is lost when text becomes secondary to image? Those who for decades had only the text, were free to create their own images, and change them at will; Jackson’s work collapses the probability function, as it were, crystallizing Legolas into Orlando Bloom.  Can that mold be broken?  Hm.

 Posted by at 6:38 am
Jun 282013

Edward Snowden’s backstory makes very little sense, and smells of being a legend. What would George Smiley have done with him?  George would certainly have put Connie Sachs to work on Snowden’s deep background, with the remit, probably, of answering the question, “Who turned him?” George himself, I think, would have interviewed the girlfriend – bumbling, indirect, polishing his glasses on his tie, harmless as a sparrow, and would somehow extract the one or two key tidbits. Peter Guillam would be in charge of sort of terrorizing all of Snowden’s acquaintances into cooperation – they wouldn’t be sure with whom they were cooperating, but cooperate they would.

In the non fiction world, I wonder how James Jesus Angleton would have employed his proactive paranoia?

Jun 272013

DOMA was never a very good law, nor adequate response to the attack on marriage. Justice Kennedy needn’t have loaded his opinion with so much animus toward Congress, and Justice Scalia was right to be scandalized by that animus, and the majority opinion will be a problem for the future. But as law, DOMA was poor. Prior to DOMA, the rule of thumb for all of us bureaucratic pencil pushers (chorus of right wing boos and hisses) was that a marriage legally contracted in the jurisdiction of origin was legal wherever else the couple might go. This usually meant thinking through the more typical situation of a couple, one or both underage in their home, who cross state lines to marry in a jurisdiction with a lower legal age of consent. And that meant looking at the state law on that sort of subject. It wasn’t hard, though it did get amusingly convoluted from time to time. The situation altered when the SSM movement got off the ground. DOMA was simply not a good response to it, but there wasn’t the political force of will to federalize the matter via a constitutional amendment.
Proposition 8 is a somewhat more challenging matter. In terms of media response, one need only make a simple thought experiment: supposing the good people of California became weary of armed gangs in their cities, and by popular initiative overwhelmingly passed a well-crafted gun control Proposition, one that successfully targeted gangs, illegal gun transactions, and the like, while leaving undisturbed the right of innocent citizens to self defense or hunting or other appropriate use. Let us assume that the elected officials of California loathed this Proposition, refused to enforce it, and actively encouraged litigation to overturn it. After wending its way through the court system, the Supremes state, as they did in Proposition 8, that the rank and file citizenry have no standing to seek enforcement of a validly passed Proposition. The media firestorm would be immediate, though the matter of standing would be identical.
More generally, our culture generally has swallowed a lot of whoppers. The Father of Lies managed to persuade a couple of generations that a child in utero was not human. Once you get that one down, SSM is just dessert.
It also seems that our institutions are failing us, from the once beautiful program of public education through the court system. Right-wingers of a certain type will (not incorrectly, but maybe assuming too much intentionality) refer to “the long march through institutions.”  I myself suspect that a great wind is coming, one that will prune away a great many fruitless branches. Here and there you can see the stirring of that wind in the grass and tree tops. We’ll see.
So what do Christians do? Be very fundamental, preach and teach Christ, crucified, risen, and Lord. If Jesus is at the center, the lies wither and vanish.
And, lastly, if we insist on electing scoundrels and incompetents to high office, we must assume that they will act as scoundrels and incompetents. I’ve said before and will say again, that Terry Pratchett’s finest bit of satire may have been when he located the office of the Prime Minister of The Last Continent in jail.

May 242013

As the scandals and outrages multiply, President Obama’s fanboys and girls seem to be having trouble remembering that the President emerged from a petty, mean, vindictive, and vicious political kleptocracy from which he never did a single thing to differentiate himself. When a scandal erupts, the man in charge feigns ignorance and outrage; if pushed, if he’s a Daley, he might start sputtering and spitting in his outrage. His outrage at being questioned and held responsible, that is. That has entertainment value, at least. The scandalous appointee, unless actually indicted and convicted, usually resigns into temporary obscurity, only to emerge into some lucrative but less visible appointment later.  SO THERE IS NOTHING SURPRISING HERE.

 Posted by at 2:09 pm