The Nature of Democracy

My University newspaper, The New Hampshire, rarely rises above the level of a poorly written tabloid. Even casual observers of campus life admit this. A few weeks ago, they published a poorly edited essay by a Professor of Classics titled "What is Democracy, and is it 'The One'?" In it, the Professor argued (rightly) that democracy in itself is not a panacea. George W. Bush, the professor implied, has too much faith in democracy to solve problems - certainly something that can be debated. But throughout the course of his criticism, he conflates pure democracy and other forms of democracy, confusing his primary argument.

Anyways, I wrote a response to the article and sent it to the editor expecting it to be published. But, true to form, the newspaper never published my letter. They tried to justify it by explaining that the article that had run in the paper was poorly edited and therefore they would not publish responses until a correction was printed - but my letter had nothing to do with the formatting of the article and therefore waiting to publish it makes little to no sense. I suppose it was a convenient excuse.

Anyways, if you're interested, please check out the link above which directs you to a pdf file of the Professor's article - it was written for a University wide symposium on democracy. I've published my response to it below - let me know if you think I'm on target.
Re: What is democracy?

I picked up the TNH this past Tuesday and found an interesting article titled, "What is Democracy, and is it the One?" Intrigued by the possible connection between the Matrix movies and democracy, I read on. At the essay's conclusion I found myself disappointed. Rather than an attempt to connect two unrelated things (at least superficially), the essay was yet another critique of President George W. Bush's foreign policy. Fair enough.

In the course of his argument, Prof. Smith provides a critique of democracy. It seems that he agrees with the late Pope John Paul II, who wrote, "Fundamentally, democracy is a ‘system’ and as such is a means and not an end." But I think the Professor cheapens his critique by conflating Greek pure democracy and the American democratic republic. They are not identical; the very things that the Professor laments about Greek democracy are the things that the Founders sought to remedy through the Constitution, the concept of federalism, and elected representatives. Publius in Federalist 10 writes, "in the extent and proper structure of the Union, therefore, we behold a republican remedy to the diseases most incident to republican government." Their intention was to maximize self-government and simultaneously hold our destructive tendencies in check. You can debate whether or not they were successful – but in order to do justice to both America and the nature of democracy, Professor Smith should have at least noted these distinctions.

Finally, elsewhere in his essay he seems to suggest there is a better form of government than democracy. I agree with this idea – I think it's the American form. But I'm curious as to what the professor thinks. He does not take up the question explicitly, but alludes to something that sounds like aristocracy. What is the case?


Roger Kimball on WFB:
Emerson, who wasn’t wrong about everything, devoted a book to Representative Men, men who epitomized some essential quality: Shakespeare; or, the Poet; Napoleon; or, the Man of the World; Goethe; or, the Writer. Bill was, in Emerson’s sense, a Representative Man. One cannot quite imagine Emerson getting his mind around a character like William F. Buckley Jr. But if one can conjure up a less gaseous redaction of Emerson, one may suppose him writing an essay called Buckley; or, the Conservative.

I hasten to add that by “conservative” I do not mean any narrow partisan affiliation. Sure, Bill was known above all as the man who, by starting National Review, did as much as anyone to save American conservatism from irrelevance. That’s all very well, but unfortunately the term “conservative” (like its opposite number, “liberal”) has degenerated into an epithet, positive or negative depending on the communion of the person who wields it, but virtually without content.

Being conservative may commit one to certain political positions or moral dogmas. But it also, and perhaps more importantly, disposes one to a certain attitude toward life. Walter Bagehot touched upon one essential aspect of the conservative disposition when, in an essay on Scott, he observed that “the essence of Toryism is enjoyment.” Whatever else it was, Bill’s life was an affidavit of enjoyment: a record of, an homage to, a life greatly, and gratefully, enjoyed. What delight he took in — well, in everything. Playing the piano or harpsichord, savoring a glass of vinho verde, dissecting the latest news from Washington, inspecting with wonder the capabilities of email and internet service on a Blackberry handheld.

Part of Bill’s conservatism was his Catholicism. Our secular age is unfriendly to Catholics, to religion generally, but the irony is that secularists are often less jubilantly worldly than their Jewish and Christian compatriots. “God made the world and saw that it was good.” That bulletin from Genesis might have been the motto of Bill’s life. He certainly did everything he could to broadcast it among his many friends. I have never known a more generous person. I do not mean only materially generous, though Bill’s largesse in that department was legendary. I mean spiritually, constitutionally generous as well. A telling anecdote: everyone knows that Bill commanded a formidable vocabulary. It was significant, therefore, that he should have telephoned us once in search of a word. “It means taking pleasure in the misfortune of others,” he said to my wife. “Schadenfreude,” she said. “That’s it!” he said. How perfectly Buckleyesque that he should have forgotten it. It named an emotion that was as foreign to him as joy was native.


We Must Stop Global Cooling

Take a look at the temperature data for the last 20 years:

What is Obama going to do to stop Global Cooling?
Let’s hope those factors stop fast. Cold is more damaging than heat. The mean temperature of the planet is about 54 degrees. Humans—and most of the crops and animals we depend on—prefer a temperature closer to 70.
Read more here.

Buckley will live forever in National Review

President Bush on the death of WFB:

America has lost one of its finest writers and thinkers. Bill Buckley was one of the great founders of the modern conservative movement. He brought conservative thought into the political mainstream, and helped lay the intellectual foundation for America's victory in the Cold War and for the conservative movement that continues to this day. He will be remembered for his principled thought and beautiful writing — as well as his personal warmth, wit, and generous spirit. His legacy lives on in the ideas he championed and in the magazine he founded — National Review.

Laura and I send our prayers to Chris Buckley, the Buckley family, and all who loved this good man.

And surely those who loved this man can be found throughout the globe.

R.I.P. William F. Buckley

"William F. Buckley Jr., who marshaled polysyllabic exuberance, famously arched eyebrows and a refined, perspicacious mind to elevate conservatism to the center of American political discourse, died Wednesday at his home in Stamford, Conn." (NYT)


white people

A website talking about whole foods stores:
These stores are excellent for bringing children, as there is nothing that they actually want.

“Oh, mommy, look chocolate!”

“No Joshua, that’s carob.”

“I want it.”


The child will then take a bite and realize that nothing in the store can be trusted.


the pathetic New York Times

This past week the New York Times printed a attack piece on John McCain. Mind you, this is the paper that endorsed McCain for the Republican nomination. Their pathetically obvious and sad strategy was to help him get the nomination and then destroy his candidacy by rumormongering and deceit. Read the article - you can tell within the first page of the article that the Times has nothing substantial to say. This type of journalism scares me, and I think it should scare you. Journalism is no longer about accurately reporting what happens in objective reality (like that's even possible, right?); rather, it seems to be about conforming reality to a particular ideology using the power of manipulation. And yes, the Times is not alone in this endeavor - I don't want to give the impression that I think that other news outlets (e.g. Fox News) are free of bias, but that the Times is perhaps the most guilty in this regard. They don't even try to be objective.

But hey, The Times is the archetype for elite modern journalism, so it's no surprise they have given up on principle and act solely with concern for power.


Jean Jacques Rousseau

I am currently reading a book on Church history titled Triumph: The Power and the Glory of the Catholic Church. Hereto a selection that amused me.
Jean Jacques Rousseau was quite obviously insane. His life and works are those of a hypocritical, intellectually perfervid, and emotionally unstable actor. He is a precursor of New Age religion, and a smoother of that yellow brick road that leads from giving every man the right to vote to having every man's national and emotional aspirations embodied in a Fuhrer. (pg. 339)
Whatever the merits of this assessment may be, you have to admit it's a humorous way to describe somebody.


The Inevetible Decline of Obama

Margery Egan is a liberal talk show host for 96.9. She's an Obama supporter. The thing is, she's nervous now that she realizes he has a chance. Obama only spouts rhetoric, and I am confident that the American people will get over his charm by November. Adults will prevail. Here is her article in the entirety:

I’m an Obama girl and my man throttled Hillary Clinton, again, Tuesday night.

Suddenly, the impossible is real.

Suddenly, I’m nervous. Very nervous, actually.

I’m nervous because an otherwise normal grownup told me yesterday she’s watched the will.i.am (Black Eyed Peas) “Yes We Can” Obama video about 100 times and gets “weepy” every time.

I’m nervous because a longtime political type, normally quite cynical, now waxes rhapsodic about Obama’s “cool.”

“He’s elegant, controlled, the best-dressed candidate ever,” he says. Never a red tie, yellow or bright blue. No, Obama does a subdued lean charcoal gray suit with a gray or silvery tie. Everything muted, measured, fluid. “He floats onto the stage, a bit of the Fred Astaire thing going.”

Fred Astaire?

This same man, 100 percent anti-illegal aliens, fears Obama could pull a Reagan or a JFK on the Mexican border, head down there, chanting, “Tear down this wall!” or even do an “Ich bin ein Tijuana!!!”

He’s with Obama anyway.

I’m nervous because Harvard political genius Elaine Kamarck told me Hillary understands the various messes we’re in far better than Obama.

Suppose Kamarck’s right?

I’m nervous about the “O’Bambi” factor. Will the terrorists move in next door when Obama’s in the White House?

I’m nervous because Michelle Obama, about whom I just wrote a fawning puff piece, now says that until her husband’s stunning ascendancy, she’s never before been proud of America. Huh?

Barack now claims she didn’t mean it. Oh, yes she did. We all know the insufferable, holier-than-thou, Blame-America-First types who lecture the unwashed from the rarefied air of Cambridge and Brookline.

If I wanted lecturing, I’d be with Hillary.

I’m nervous because too many Obama-philes sound like Moonies, or Hare Krishnas, or the Hale-Bopp-Is-Coming-To-Get-Me nuts.

These true believers “Obama-ize” everything. They speak Obama-ese. Knit for Obama. Run for Obama. Gamble - Hold ’Em Barack! - for Obama. They make Obama cakes, underwear, jewelry. They send Valentine cards reading, “I want to Barack your world!”

At campaign rallies people scream, cry, even faint as Obama calmly calls for the EMTs. When supporters pant en masse, “I love you!” (like The Beatles, circa 1964), Barack says, “I love you back” with that deliciously charming, almost cocky smile.

Oh - I’m nervous because it’s all gone to his head and he hasn’t even won yet.

I’m nervous because it’s gone to a lot of other people’s heads as well. Maryland Congressman Elijah Cummings introduced Obama last week in Baltimore and said, “This is not a campaign for president of the United States, this is a movement to change the world.”

“He walks into a room and you want to follow him somewhere, anywhere,” says George Clooney.

“I’ll do whatever he says to do,” says actress Halle Berry. “I’ll collect paper cups off the ground to make his pathway clear.”

I’m nervous because nobody’s quite sure what Obama stands for, even his supporters. (“I can’t wait to see,” said actress/activist Susan Sarandon, declaring full support nonetheless).

I’m nervous because even his biggest fans can’t name Obama’s accomplishments, including Texas state Sen. Kirk Watson, an Obama-man who humiliated himself when MSNBC’s Chris Matthews asked him about five times to name something, anything, Obama’s done. Watson hemmed. Watson hawed. Watson gave up.

I’m nervous because John McCain says Obama’s is “an eloquent but empty call for change” and in the wee, wee hours, a nagging voice whispers, suppose McCain’s right, too? Then what?

Here's the link to the article: http://www.bostonherald.com/news/opinion/columnists/view.bg?articleid=1074977&format=text


For the Catholics

And anyone else interested Catholic practice, I reproduce an excellent article on the sacrament of confession. I'm citing the entire article in a smaller font because it's all great. And besides, how many people actually click on the links in these posts?
Advice from Fr. Philip Neri’s Confessional

I. Starting point:

1. Sin. When we sin we abuse a gift from God. Just about every sin we commit can be traced back to a disordered use of some grace we have received from God. Abusing God’s gifts is a dangerous practice b/c it is through the charitable use of our divine gifts for others that God perfects His love us. If you are not using your gifts for the benefit of others then God’s love is not being perfected in you.

2. Forgiveness. When we ask for forgiveness we are not asking God to do something He has not already done. All of our sins are forgiven right now. All of them. Then why go to confession? God gives us forgiveness always, constantly, without ceasing. We go to confession to receive His forgiveness. Let’s say I call you up and tell you that I’ve purchased a nice Easter ham for you at Central Market. It’s a gift from me to you and your family. I give you this ham. For the ham to be a proper gift, you have to go get it. Once you have received the ham, it is a gift. The ham is no less real b/c you haven’t picked it up yet. The ham doesn’t materialize out of thin air when you go to Central Market and ask for it. The ham is just sitting there waiting for you to come ask for. The same is true for God’s forgiveness. Just ask and you will receive.

3. Charity. Once you have received your gift of forgiveness, you need to put it into action as a gift for others. We do not have the option of failing to forgive. We are commanded to love and when we love, we forgive; i.e., You give your gift of divine forgiveness away by forgiving me my sins against you. In this way, you enact your most basic ministry as Christ to me.

II. The Sins (in order of frequency heard in the Box)

4. Lust. What gift does lust pervert? You might be tempt to say “love” or “sex,” but I would say “beauty.” We know from the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation (Dei verbum) that God reveals Himself to us through His creation, His only Son, and scripture. As the rational members of His creation, we humans are particularly capable of revealing Who God Is, that is, of revealing Divine Beauty, Goodness, and Truth to others. In other words, you are a revelation of God to me and I to you. When you see a beautiful woman (or man) she is beautiful b/c God’s beauty is being revealed through her. She serves as an icon through which God shines His beauty and through which you receive His beauty. Your attraction to her is the attraction you know and feel for Beauty Himself. When you take that Beauty and pervert it for temporary pleasure (porn, masturbation), you sin against God.

Advice: Begin to habituate yourself to giving God thanks for the Beauty He reveals to you. When you see an attractive person lift them up in your mind and say, “Thank you, Lord, for showing me your beauty through this beautiful person!” Be truly grateful each and every time. Over time, it will become harder and harder to think of others as objects when you know that they are actually icons.

5. Envy: What gift does envy pervert? I would say that envy perverts the nature of giftedness itself. We are all created as graced creatures…THAT we exist at all is a grace, a gift of God. Beyond the gift of existence, each of us is gifted in some particular fashion—singing, writing, patience, piety, etc. These gifts are mixed and matched and combined in all sorts of odd configurations. Our job is to organize these gifts into a coherent “charitable personality,” to become the best possible version of ourselves that these gifts will allow. The way we do this is to use the gifts for others. When we do this God’s love is perfected in us. However, when I lust after the gifts of my friends and neighbors, ignoring my own gifts in favor of coveting theirs, I fail to use my own gifts and God’s love is not perfected in me. So, envy is a double-edged sin in that it promotes covetousness and makes us lazy in being charitable.

Advice: Being grateful is the key here. When you feel yourself becoming envious of another’s gifts, stop and give God thanks for that person’s gifts. Pray that they might use their gifts well and grow in holiness. Gratitude is one of the things that the devil can’t fight against. A truly grateful heart is well protected from temptation.

6. Gossip: What sin does gossip pervert? Gossip tends to pervert the gift of Truth, or in other words, gossip distorts our view of objective reality in favor of the illusions generated by lust, envy, jealousy, etc. Depending on the subject of the gossip, gossip is exciting b/c there is the great potential there for making oneself look good or better in front of friends. It is important to us that we appear to be “hooked in,” so we gossip. Gossip, in its worse form, is also a form of tearing people down—lying exaggerating, etc. all build up a false picture that then gets used to make rash judgments.

Advice: St. Philip Neri once took a penitent to the top of his church. He handed the woman a feather pillow and told her to rip the pillow open and scatter the feathers. She did so, watching the thousands of feathers fly all over the city. He then told her that her penance was to go and collect every feather. Such is the nature of gossip.

7. Doubt/Not praying: These sins can also be understood as a perversions of God’s Truth. One thing we have to get clear, however, is there is doubt and there is Doubt. Little “d” doubt is acceptable if and only if you are truly confused about or unsure of the right way to think about and believe an article of the faith. Being ignorant of a teaching can lead to doubt, so can the complexity of some of our beliefs. Big “D” Doubt occurs when you are actually rejecting a de fide (of the faith) teaching of the church for no other reason than you don’t like the teaching or that you the teaching teaches against your favorite sin. This occurs a lot with contraception, masturbation, and pre-martial sex. So, when you confess “doubt” be sure and distinguish between the two. Doubt often leads us to stop praying or to stop using the sacraments.

Advice: Know your faith! You are responsible for knowing and living the faith as it has been given to the Church. If you are truly confused about a teaching, ask for help or get a copy of the Catechism. If you find yourself Doubting, try saying to yourself: “I am one person in a two-thousand year old Church. I’m smart but I’m not Two-Thousand Years Smart, so I will assent to this teaching and assume that my rejection of the teaching is based on my ignorance and not on the falsity of the teaching.” This is a properly humble way of approaching difficult teachings. When you find yourself unable to pray with any eagerness or force, just pray anyway…”fake it ‘til you make it through the dry spell.” Prayer is a habit like any other and requires constant maintenance. Prayer is the means by which God speaks to us, so keep the channel open even when you are convinced that there’s no one on the other end. Think of yourself lost on a deserted island and you have a radio. When you give up hope that you will be rescued, you will turn the radio off. How will the rescue team find you then? Leave it on so you catch anything that might come through. In fact, pick several times during the day when you will sit with the radio and broadcast your location.

8. Lack of charity: This is a really BIG sin. This sin perverts God’s love. First, we are commanded by Christ to love one another. He never says that we have to like one another. This is the whole problem with equating “loving others” with “being nice to others.” We should be nice to other out of a sense of civility but the failure to be pleasant or polite is not a sin. When you find yourself actively working against the Good of another person, then you are in trouble. Charity requires that we will the Good of the other at all times. I can truly dislike someone and still will the Good for them. In fact, there may be more merit to loving someone you dislike. “Willing the Good” requires that we treat others as persons with their own ends, meaning we treat others as fellow creatures created in the image and likeness of God. We cannot use people as means to other ends. This is uncharitable.

Advice: Giving thanks for everyone in your life is key to being charitable to these people. Pay attention to how you are thinking and feeling about the people you interacted with daily. For everyone you meet send up a prayer that whatever they need to grow in holiness will be given to them. If there is someone you really, really dislike make that person a part of your daily thanksgiving. Have a Mass said for them! Beware one common pitfall: “Please, Lord, help Philip to change his ridiculous ways and make him a agree with me about X.” This is a prayer to change me to fit your expectations of who you want me to be. For some reason, I find mothers are terribly burdened with this temptation, especially when it comes to their children! Try instead: “Lord, I give you thanks for Philip. Grant him all he needs to grow in holiness.”

III. Resisting Temptation

9. Temptation: Temptation is the pressure we feel when our disordered desires rise up and urge us to indulge them against God’s will for us. Entertaining a temptation is not a sin. Merely thinking about lying is not the sin of lying. However, if you decide to lie and do so “in your heart,” then you have lied whether you actually give voice to the lie or not.

10. Resistance: When you resist temptation on your own you are rejecting God’s grace and denying the victory of the Cross. There is no reason to resist temptation. You are perfectly free not to sin. Rather than steel yourself against temptation and fight like mad to resist the sin, turn and face the temptation square on. Name it. Hand it over to God. And move on. Resistance is actually the first step we take toward the sin. Be honest: how many times have you resisted a temptation only to submit to it eventually? What you are doing is habituating yourself to surrendering to sin. Break the cycle here by taking control of the temptation itself. Let’s say you are being tempted to lie to your professor about cheating on a paper. Say to God, “Lord, I am being tempted to lie to Dr. Jones about my paper. I give this temptation to you to deal with. I’m going to the library. Amen.” This is both an act of the intellect and an act of the will. Habituate yourself to using Christ’s victory over sin and stop resisting temptation!


No doubt there is much more I could say here. Much, much more. But these are the common sins I hear in the Box. Keep these basic principles in mind at all times:

You are free. Right now, right this second, you are free. You do not have to sin.

You cannot sin in ignorance or by accident or by being forced or coerced.

Mortal sins “kill charity in your heart.” Ask yourself: have I killed charity in my heart? Don’t turn every sin into a mortal sin “just in case.”

For most sins only you can decide whether or not you have sinned, meaning, sinning is a highly subjective affair and you must decide what your intent was at the time. Of course, there are intrinsically morally evil acts but these acts have to be committed before they are sins in the real world. If you commit an IMEA, then you have sinned objectively. Examples of IMEA’s are murder, apostasy, adultery.

Source: http://hancaquam.blogspot.com/2008/02/confessional-advice.html


deep thoughts

The truth does not belong to us - it is not anyone's possession. Rather, we belong to the truth.

You know, like, gravity doesn't belong to us but rather we belong to gravity.


Six Moments

The Ethics and Public Policy Center (EPPC) recently hosted a dinner at which George Weigel, past President of EPPC, spoke on "the issues behind the issues in 2008." Six moments from the 1960s, he proposed, illuminate the underpinnings of the Left's policy and rhetoric today.

1--The assassination of JFK (1963)--Harvey Oswald, a communist upset with Kennedy about Cuba, became ensconced in the Left's collective memory as a reactionary bigot of the Right who brought down Camelot. Liberalism became obsessed with style in politics.

2--Griswald v. Connecticut (1965)--The Supreme Court decision which brought us a penumbra from an emanation, the right to privacy. Griswald was the Pearl Harbor of the judicial culture wars and the raw exercise of judicial power.

3--The Tet Offensive (1968)--The canonical account of Vietnam, to which the Left is biblically committed, is factually incorrect. This can be overlooked because "what really counts is the nobility of my feelings." Intentions trump responsibility.

4--The Kerner Commission (1968)--The civil rights movement, whites and blacks marching towards human equality, guided by the light of God's commitment to such equality, was hijacked by race baiters. The long saga of the politics of victim hood begins, as moralism replaces morals.

5--Publication of "The Secular City" (1965)--Mainline Christianity became secular, making it irrelevant. The cult of the new was established.

6--Earthday (1969)--Modern environmentalism, impervious to data, was born. Environmentalism, a misplaced religious yearning, replaced God; the worship of false gods tends towards bad politics.
Because of this, the Left misunderstands the two transcendent threats of our time, jihadism and the slow descent, via biotechnology, into human indecency.

A Compelling Argument for Fiscal Conservatives

Check out the Wall Street Journal for this article: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB120295108223666913.html?mod=opinion_main_commentaries

Most notable section:
Mr. McCain has tried to reassure economic conservatives by pledging to make permanent the tax cuts he initially opposed. Whether Mr. McCain can ultimately convince them remains to be seen, although his 25-year record of supporting pro-growth tax cuts weighs in his favor. If that's not enough, they might consider that the Bush tax cuts are on auto-pilot to expire -- and neither a President Clinton nor a President Obama will have to lift a finger to impose a crushing tax hike on America's economy.
There is simply too much at stake to not vote for McCain. Here is a start to re-assure the fiscal / economic concerns of conservatives.


Bioethics Debate

Professor Robert George of Princeton and Christopher Tollefsen of USC (I think?) recently wrote a book titled "Embryo: A Defense of Human Life. It was reviewed by Slate.com's resident bioethicist, William Saletan. Saletan is responsible for some of the intellectual work behind the middle ground on the abortion issue, in his book Bearing Right. So, it can be expected that his review seeks to reprove George and Tollefsen from this supposed middle ground. George and Tollefsen civilly respond to the review in this thorough rebuttal published at National Review, parts of which I would like to highlight.

George and Tollefsen respond:
In attempting to resist our conclusion that human embryos ought not to be exploited and killed, while at the same time acknowledging their moral standing and the special respect they are owed, Saletan gets himself into a jam. To meet our argument that a human embryo is, as a matter of scientific fact, a developing human being—i.e., a living member of the species Homo sapiens in the earliest stages of development—and thus, as a matter of basic justice, a possessor of inherent dignity and a right to life, Saletan is driven to deny that human embryos are whole entities, as opposed to mere parts (such as gametes, tissues, or organs). He denies that embryos are determinate individuals, and he seems to doubt that they are organisms at all. But if these denials and doubts are warranted, then there is no rational basis for believing that human embryos “deserve our respect” or that “we should never create or destroy them lightly.” Saletan is trying to find a plot of solid ground lying between the views of radical liberal bioethicists, on the one side, and defenders of the pro-life view, on the other. The failure of his effort shows that the middle ground is nothing but quicksand.
This is important to point out, especially to those who would seek to defend abortion on rational grounds. On the question of whether human life has intrinsic dignity by its very nature, logic demands a clear cut either/or. That is, either it does, or it doesn't.


what matters

"At the end of life, the only tragedy is to not have been a saint."


"How Difficult It Is!"... for today's politicians to get their heads out of the clouds.

In an age when the trendiest political slogans are "Together we can" and "Change you can believe in," it's nice to hear someone bringing the Utopian masses back to their senses. Fr. James Schall, in a pithy contribution to the Ignatius Press website, writes about a question that has dominated the Western mindset for millenia: How can we make life better? And not in the future, but right now? Illustrated by Deval Patrick and Barack Obama's vapid campaign slogans, the "forward-looking" Progressive quest for improvement is humorously ironic, in that it is the same quest that Plato remembers having experienced as a young man. At the age of 40 in 334 B.C., the philosopher is reminded of his youthful enthusiasm by an encounter with a boy who has yet to be jaded by politics. Plato is empathetic with the youth's optimism and belief that his city of Syracuse "ought to be free and live under the best of laws," but experience (not the least of which includes his relationship with Socrates and hemlock) leads Plato to understand "how difficult it is to manage a city's affairs rightly." One's own daily experience with the fallible nature of man provides easy corroboration for Plato's claim. How is it that some people can find so much wrong with the world and still insist that it would take so little to make it all right? If only we had universal health care, if only this law were in place or that law were repealed or free market economies were magically changed to some Utopian ideal. Ahh, wouldn't things be wonderful then? Obama says that's change we can believe in. Patrick says that if we all work together, we can achieve this ambiguous and elusive state of happiness.

But what exactly is it that these politicians are campaigning on? If Plato, in 334 B.C., knew that the perfectly just city was to be forever beyond the earthly grip of man, what are Progressive politicians promising the masses? Fr. Schall notes that
"Some philosophers even say that this very desire to have the perfect city is the cause of all political evils that do happen in the world." In my opinion, the careers of politicians of this stripe can have one of two endings: First, they may prove neutered and insipid like Patrick's, having failed to deliver on any of the grandiose promises made on the campaign trail. Second, and infinitely more dangerous, they may follow the path outlined by the philosophers of which Schall speaks in the last quotation, sacrificing many for the good of the whole.

Why McCain?

I agree with the correct sense of Bill Bennett and Seth Liebsohn who write:
McCain voted to defund Planned Parenthood last year, Clinton didn’t and would likely expand Planned Parenthood’s taxpayer funding.

McCain voted to ban partial-birth abortion, Clinton didn’t and would likely reverse the partial-birth abortion ban.

McCain voted for Roberts and Alito and made the case for them in the media, Clinton didn’t.

McCain has never voted for a tax increase, Clinton will increase taxes.

McCain will continue the Bush tax cuts, Clinton will end them.

McCain will end pork-barrel spending, Clinton supports the endowment of projects like the Woodstock Museum with taxpayer funding.

McCain will not cut and run in Iraq, Clinton will work with Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Harry Reid to do just that.

McCain sponsored legislation to keep the Fairness Doctrine from rearing its head again, Clinton has not and has signaled moves to revive it.

McCain supports school choice, Clinton does not.

Clinton will mandate health insurance, McCain will not.

McCain voted to convict Bill Clinton on impeachment, Clinton was a witting accomplice in President Bill Clinton’s scandals.

McCain has an ACU (American Conservative Union) rating of 82.3; Clinton has a rating of 9.

McCain has 0-percent rating from NARAL; Clinton has 100 percent.
Yeah, McCain can be a jerk. But what is the alternative?



Here's to productive arguments. Or at least arguments that help pass time, eh?


Machiavelli hat

The Wall Street Journal highlights the reason I might have to put on my Machiavelli hat and vote for John McCain in 2008:
The judiciary is different. On Jan. 20, 2009, six of the nine Supreme Court justices will be over 70. Most of them could be replaced by the next president, particularly if he or she is re-elected. Given the prospect of accelerating gains in modern medical technology, some of the new justices may serve for half a century. Even if a more perfect candidate were somehow elected in 2012, he would not be able to undo the damage, especially to the Supreme Court.
If only the court weren't so important...

Obama's Dangerous Rhetoric

From National Review Online's "The Campaign Spot":
But this? This is a substance-free message of "yes we can, unity is good, we have hope and the hopes of children are important," etc. It's practically a self-help video. There's nothing to object to in it because there's no ideas in it; it's entirely emotion.
Read more here.


Barack Obama

Francis Beckwith on Barack Obama:
[Barack is saying he] "...will end the politics of division by attractively stipulating the correctness of my views and thus implying that those who don't agree are ugly and want to perpetuate the politics of division."