21 Aug 2013

I highly commend the series of Riddleblog articles on “the buzz” in Orange County in the second half of the 20th century. Start at the beginning or with its terrific conclusion. The series explores the cool factor of many SoCal celebrity ministries and what happened after the crowds stopped pickin’ up good vibrations.

You know the names: Paul and Jan Crouch, Chuck Swindoll, Robert Schuller, Pastor Chuck (Smith), Walter Martin. And of course, Rick Warren.

A teaser:

[Rick] Warren is now old news here in the OC, suffering the fate of every “new” ministry when the “new” wears off. “Now what do we do?” “How do we keep it all going?” I’d bet the farm that figuring out what strategic step to take next occupies the time and energy of the staffs and governing boards of the remaining evangelical megachurches. Pity the poor staff person or board member who suggests going back to the basics of preaching the gospel!

10 Aug 2013

Be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. -Matt 10:16

I get the sense that I didn’t learn the lesson “Fruitvale Station” intended. It’s a movie about the last day in the life of a black man named Oscar Grant. We learn he has a live-in girlfriend and a young daughter he loves (Do not even the tax collectors do the same?). He tries to reclaim a job he lost due to tardiness. He considers selling drugs, but thinks better of it. It put him in the clink in the past and he doesn’t want to go back.

That evening attends a birthday party for his mother. He’s a flawed but often decent man.

Then he takes the fateful trip to watch a fireworks show in the city. After an enjoyable time downtown, he ends up in a fight that he did not start at an Oakland BART station. The cops nab him before he can escape, and he is wrestled to the ground in Fruitvale Station. Angry and hostile, he resists arrest to some degree, although he is not violent. As an officer tries to subdue Grant’s hands to cuff him, Grant is mortally wounded.

It’s unclear why the officer shot him. Was there malice? Did he panic? Did the cop mean to tase Oscar Grant and mistakenly shoot him instead?

Let me pause here to say that I do not trust the police any more than I trust any other government agency, and for the same reasons. They can legally oppress you. Like everything else the government does, they are bureaucratic, expensive, and often corrupt. They lack the profit motive that leads them to serve their supposed customer. They waste everyone’s time and money enforcing non-offenses (e.g. handing out tickets for expired license plates). Fully privatized security would be much better.

That said, consider The Man’s vantage point at Fruitvale Station. They come upon strangers in a train station who are verbally abusive and making semi-aggressive gestures. The cops deal all day with drug addicts, domestic abusers, and criminals. They get a jaded view of things. They don’t know Oscar’s back story that humanizes him in our eyes. Adrenaline is rushing in a tense situation.

Stop the tape! A lesson present itself: you may not like that you are being detained, but this is not the time to fight the power. Afterward, with an attorney, through peaceful marches, or in the media… yes. In the heat of an amped up scene… no. You’re being rassled by a guy with superior firepower. If anything happens, the deck is stacked against you and in favor of the government bureaucrat. That’s the way it is.

Oscar Grant fought the law and the law won. Like the house in a casino, it usually does. There’s a time for war and a time for peace.

19 Jul 2013

One thing I’ve noticed over the last 30 years is that when liberals go on about our need for “dialogue” and “conversation,” what they really want is a monologue. We talk, you listen. We: bench. You: dock. “Dialogue” now means dealing in bad faith.

I’m hardly a fan of the establishment neocon Rich Lowry, but he makes salient points here. As he notes, during “such an open discussion, it is particularly important that dissenting voices be swiftly condemned.”

C.S. Lewis once noted that there are “people who want to keep our sex instinct inflamed in order to make money out of us. Because, of course, a man with an obsession is a man who has very little sales-resistance.” I think this explains a lot of the media coverage of events like Martin / Zimmerman, which has little to do with getting at the truth and a lot to do with whipping up resentments (better ratings) and political sentiment (more contributions).

06 Jul 2013

Nothing ruins a career faster than the use of the “N” word. You may have used it 20 years ago, but no matter. From here forward, the world has been served notice: you are an unreliable element. You have hate in your heart. You are damaged goods. There’s no coming back from this one.

Men may free themselves from Christianity, but they will invent new moralities to replace the old. Usually it’s a corrupted form of something that is right. I enjoy getting to know people of other cultures. It’s noble to treat others with dignity. We should avoid giving unnecessary offense– the “N” word gives plenty of that. But of all the ways in which we fall short in loving our brother, in which we show a corrupted tribalism, why is this one plucked from the multitude of sins and seen as the transgression that is irredeemable?

The “N” word now functions as an arbitrary litmus test that allows people to feel morally superior to others, and this is so often a tasty morsel. You can have 2 abortions, 5 “affairs,” dress like a whore every day, support perversions, worship mammon, and curse others. You can be downright hostile. But don’t use that word!

If we took a panel of wise men selected across time and cultures, and this panel judged our culture against others, I wonder if ours would be judged the silliest in the history of the world?

14 Jun 2013

Wish hard enough fathers, and this can be you. Possibilities. I mean, who woulda thunk it? OK, wealth, fame, and power cover a multitude of sins, but anyhoo…

Think of all the young women out there who’ve benefited from this role model’s guidance and kindnesses.

24 Apr 2013

Howard Phillips died a few days ago, and I trust he went to be with the Lord. He ran for president several times on the Constitution Party ticket. He was a principled conservative who was a founder of the Moral Majority and a Ron Paul supporter.

Back in the deathly dull vacuum of the 1996 Dole-Clinton presidential “contest,” Phillips and Libertarian Harry Browne were third-party candidates and frequent guests on shows like Larry King. Trust me, they were the only interesting things about that campaign. Their debates were funny and illuminating, even if they bounced right off Larry King’s uncomprehending noggin.

Phillips was always great at soundbites. He was a frequent guest on CNN’s influential show “Crossfire” in the 1980s (he may have been an occasional co-host; time is the tide to a seashore on one’s memory). I actually remember watching his testimony where he was nearly alone in warning (from the right) against David Souter’s nomination to the Supreme Court. This was while we were being continually assured by Souter’s promoters in the Bush Sr. Administration (e.g. John Sununu) and elsewhere that Souter was a reliable conservative.

Souter ended up being reliable all right: reliably liberal. Later we were told that the Souter choice was a mistake, but how could anyone have known that this unassuming, retiring bachelor from New Hampshire would be another Earl Warren? Well, Phillips warned them ahead of time. (Cynical me, I think they knew better all along, but at least Howard made those excuses seem hollow).

A hefty man with a booming voice, Howard Phillips never minced words. He spoke naturally in concise, strong tones. He believed what he said, and I think he saw the wit in throwing a good, hard punch. He was a voluminous intellect and a fun listen.

The public airwaves are emptier without men like him.

20 Apr 2013

History always has its progressives and collectivists who push for a better world through authoritarian measures. Violence– forcing people to do what they don’t want to do — is an inseparable part of all collectivism. The symbols of progressivism are the whip and the truncheon. How do you force people to do things they wouldn’t do otherwise? You threaten them with jail time and fines, you propagandize them at their expense (e.g. public schools, public service messages, etc), you create competitive disadvantages by funding compliant competitors, and so on.

A liberal will tell you that his point isn’t to threaten jail time, it’s to help vulnerable kids. But as Dr. Zhivago responded to the commissar who said that an enemy village had to be burned down to make a point: “Your point. Their village.” You are still applying the whip. There is no getting away from the involuntary nature of it. There is no getting away from the assault on another man’s liberty.

As some look to better world in the future, others think longingly of the past. Of course, there are times of war and tranquility in our lands, and times of joy and sorrow in our personal lives. However, C.S. Lewis’s words remain true:

Human life has always been lived on the edge of a precipice. Human culture has always had to exist under the shadow of something infinitely more important than itself. … We are mistaken when we compare war with “normal life”. Life has never been normal. Even those periods which we think most tranquil, like the nineteenth century, turn out, on closer inspection, to be full of cries, alarms, difficulties, emergencies. -from “Learning in War-time”

Sinful men doing sinful things, that is what our world is and has been. Heresies, the poor, wars and rumors of wars, these things we will always have among us until the consummation of Christ’s kingdom. Progressive attempts to play God and create a substitute world for Christ’s coming kingdom are always a disaster waiting to happen, and Christians should never tire of opposing salvation through statism. But none of us should substitute the progressive myth by looking to a past that probably, on closer examination, wasn’t much better.

I’m prone to romanticizing the past, so I write this to remind myself as much as anyone.

11 Apr 2013

The Westminster Confession states that marriage is between a man and woman, “ordained for the mutual help of husband and wife; for the increase of mankind with a legitimate issue, and of the Church with an holy seed; and for preventing of uncleanness.”

Marriage is hurriedly being relabeled. It’s clear that the “marriage equality” movement will see to it that all of us are forced to accept it with a smile. It’s not good enough to obey Big Brother; you must love him.

Question: If “marriage” is redefined to be a mere ceremony between two committed parties, why just stop at two men? Let a man marry his mother. His uncle. Twelve women and three men.

Gross, you say? Well, how dare you deny others their equality, you white-wigged freak! How daaaarrrreee youuuu!

Grandpa should be applauded for marrying an 8 year old. Oh for Pete’s sake, you say, it has to be “consenting” adults. Hey man, why all these rules? Who made you jury? Sign, sign, everywhere a sign, blocking out the scenery, breaking my mind.

Let’s follow Marlin into the Wild Kingdom, too. Let a man marry his dog. Let him have a mixed arrangement with three women and a goat. Don’t give this nonsense about consent either. Our cat never consented to being adopted, never signed off on the residence we bought, and she has definitely never bought off on the yearly vet visit.

Yes, you want equality, let’s have equality. Affirm every man to do what is right in his own eyes and skip all the outmoded morality crap. If you’re going to erase the line, don’t redraw it.

De gustibus non est disputandum.

31 Mar 2013

Douglas Wilson has his eye on the ball on this gay marriage situation:

The same sex marriage crusade has nothing whatever to do with what people can do sexually in private, and it has everything to do with what you will be allowed to say about it in public. We are not talking about whether private homosexual behavior will be penalized, but whether public opposition to homosexual behavior will be penalized.

It finally dawned on me a few years ago that the whole push for “gay marriage” is being falsely, albeit effectively, couched in terms of personal freedom when it’s really about violating the free conscience (and wallets) of those who disagree.

27 Mar 2013

This “gay marriage” movement is like one long, tiresome political propaganda campaign. Come on everybody, get on board or get left behind!

The Supreme Court, from what I can tell, fills two roles. First and foremost, it puts the seal of approval on government usurpation of power, like the political equivalent of a sacrament. Second, from time to time it puts its foot on the seesaw of contentious topics based on whatever direction the political wind is blowing. I expect that the court will do its damage soon. Typically it tries to avoid an F5 storm in favor of an F3 or F4. Moderate damage. It’s the judicious thing to do.

NBC News informed me the other day that this change in the culture is because “gays” are coming out of the closet, and we all know them now. We all know they have their problems. Before we were all just dense and lacking in compassion (principled opposition is unthinkable). Agitpropsters always assume that their targets are fools and their opponents are knaves. They’re often right about the first part.

What’s really going on is that a determined minority has used television propaganda and benefited from the rise of desensitizing internet pornography and the decline of Christendon to persuade a large minority of the populace. The bandwagon gets rolling and there is a sea change in the culture where something once unthinkable becomes reality– snap, just like that. Most people are what Joe Sobran once called Gerald Ford: political driftwood.

Speaking of Sobran, he once asked how the immoralists would resist the next degradation in a probing and hilarious 1974 sendup of Hugh Hefner:

Still, Playboy [magazine] has to be careful how it gets indignant; it is paradoxically inhibited by its own libertinism. When, in a survey of current porn films, Contributing Editor Bruce Williamson tried to put his foot down, there was nowhere to put it. Straight and even gay films were okay with him, but films of bestiality… and sex with children were, he said, “weirdo junk” which “even dedicated swingers” “might” find “hard to stomach.” He didn’t go so far as to can for police action, or even to speak of a “shock to the conscience” (Williamson is no bluenose). He couldn’t: he could only sniff, mustering up the withering contempt of the tastemaker, that kiddie and doggie sex are sort of infra dig [beneath dignity], or infra dog, as the case may be. Weirdo junk indeed, frowned on by the right people.

So here we are, near the top of hill, our rollercoaster car ready to crest the next great mountain in the legitimization of homosexual degradation.

11 Feb 2013

How great, therefore, the wickedness of human nature is! How many girls there are who prevent conception and kill and expel tender fetuses, although procreation is the work of God. -Martin Luther

Tim Bayly wrote today about something I mentioned in passing a few months ago. When abortion is raised, we almost instinctively now think about the president, Planned Parenthood, and assorted other scoundrels. We don’t really look to the main problem: the women having them. That’s ground zero.

I think this is another outgrowth of the success of feminism and focus-group demagoguery. Women are a victim class to many, and so the pro-life movement likes to play a victimhood tune that the world knows by heart. (For me, it’s more like an annoying jingle that I can’t get out of my head).

This kind of dealing in politically-correct PR may have its short-term advantages, but I think it does more damage than good. Its muddies instead of clarifies. It’s a form of dissembling that plays into a phony victim narrative. It does get politicians who aren’t going to do anything about the matter some fired-up campaign volunteers, though.

Unlike government-directed slaughters which are an ever-present facet of this world, abortion is millions of individual decisions. We can rightly scourge the assassin (Lee Roy Carhart) and his driver (Planned Parenthood, politicians, etc), but the one(s) who orders the hit is most at fault. After all, as abortion’s guardians and the (unjust) law itself tells us, it’s “her body.”

03 Feb 2013

Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.” -John 19:15

One thing I notice in Facebook posts, articles, and TV snippets here and there is the unvarying faith of the media and much of populace in the state. With every policy discussion, the solution is invariably another law, more “investment,” more bureaucracy, more regulation, fewer impediments, more adherence to the state’s whims. The state must increase and liberty must decrease. For anyone who cares about liberty, it really is like wandering through a desert when you listen to these people. There are no signs of life. Their absolute faith in the state puts my own faith in the heavenly kingdom to shame. At times it’s eerily like watching different parts of the same organism (“I… am Landru.”)

Joe Sobran once asked a shrewd question:

What we really ought to ask the liberal, before we even begin addressing his agenda, is this: In what kind of society would he be a conservative?”

Four trillion a year in spending, a $16 trillion on-budget debt, $100+ trillion in unfunded liabilities, and 75,000 Federal Register pages later, we still haven’t hit that point. I don’t think we ever will.

27 Dec 2012

Sometimes I am teleported back to my days growing up in liberal protestantism. With certain people– Hillary Clinton comes to mind– you just get that stilted joylessness of one who quaffed from its poisoned wells of unbelief. “I feel it in the earth. I smell it in the air.” Other times you witness people celebrating evil with a modulated ickiness that recalls the unmistakable odor of decaying protestantism. Take this egg for example, which appears as if it were nurtured and hatched in a mainline Sunday School classroom back in 1977. Gag.

29 Nov 2012

Whenever is found what is called a paternal government, there is found state education. It has been discovered that the best way to ensure implicit obedience is to commence tyranny in the nursery. – Benjamin Disraeli, 1874

04 Nov 2012

When it comes to trusting the integrity and insight of a statement on a 1 to 10 scale, you might put words from your pastor or a “Slippery When Wet” sign in the hallway near 10, and email spam near 1. Well, right down there near 1 is where I’d put anything emanating from the Republican or Democratic parties, or any advocacy group or pundit that acts in a cheerleading role. At best the parties provide half-truths, such as “created 5 million jobs” without noting that 6 million were lost and the fact that they didn’t create any (private sector i.e. sustainable) jobs in the first place. It’s all a big game of shading the truth to attain and maintain power.

People are whipped up about this election, as if this is some titanic philosophical struggle. A lot of it comes back to a lack of perspective. You, me, Barack Obama, and Mitt Romney are going to die, and then comes the judgment (Heb. 9:27). However, people are under the influence of the major parties, who work most effectively through hysteria-inducing pundits and “independent” advocacy groups who toe the line once the latest nominee/hack is chosen. These are the people who’ve convinced many that, as every four years, it’s the most important election of our lifetime. That may turn out to be the case, but we have no way to know that ahead of time.

Furthermore, the framing of this as some titanic struggle for the soul of America is pure nonsense. The stakes are indeed high, but both parties have thrown their chips on a number that can’t win. The rhetoric differs, but there really is no practical difference between the candidates. Neither candidate has any plan or intention to truly cut spending. The deficit is going to keep escalating. The debt is going to grow massively, especially the off-budget entitlement debt. Defense spending will grow. The regulatory agencies that control so much of the economy will continue to grow. The violations of civil liberties will grow. Both candidates are Keynesians who support the existence of the great counterfeiting operation known as the Federal Reserve.

The government will lose none of its authority. This is what counts. In the 1940s the journalist John Flynn noted that a totalitarian government is one that acknowledges no restraint on its powers. The government doesn’t do everything, but it reserves the right to do as it pleases; all it needs is an appropriate crisis, as we saw in 2008. Electing Hack A instead of Hack B isn’t going to change that. Both candidates demagogue any attempt by the other to cut spending. Democrats savaged the Ryan plan, which doesn’t really cut anything anyway, while Karl Rove’s PAC criticized Obama’s plan to cut military spending (which Obama duly abandoned in the last debate).

Ah, yes, you say, but we should live in the real world and choose one of the choices, bad as they are. To which I say, why choose between two non-solutions? It’s like playing rock-paper-scissors and guessing apples. Or maybe strawberries.

Yes, but Mitt is the lesser of two evils, however slight! To which I retort, consider the 20th-century church battles with modernism, and note that those who did the real damage were the moderates. Supporting empty rhetoric saps a true opposition. The party that participates in compromises with the radical party toward greater levels of spending and regulation is the party that validates and legitimizes it, and that ultimately dampens discontent toward the state. It smooths the road to perdition. I think the winner of this election is going to be a disaster. If a currency crisis or some other disruption hits, the party in power is going to be discredited. If it’s the Republicans, then “free markets” (in other words, freedom) will be discredited (just as in 2008) since Republicans have been falsely carrying the “limited government” banner for decades.

So what about abortion? Well again, Mitt Romney isn’t pro-life. He’s been pro-choice most of his life. He isn’t going to do anything about it just as the Republicans didn’t do anything about it when they held all the branches of Congress. Those of us who hate it will still be forced to fund it. Planned Parenthood, the largest abortion provider in the country, will still get their money. Hospitals performing abortions will still be subsidized, as will the entitlement state. There is an abortion apparatus, and there isn’t enough political payoff to go after it even if someone had the courage and heart that Romney lacks. The Republicans had Congress and the presidency for years and they could not defund Planned Parenthood. There are powerful interests in the party who want it. It’s just an issue to run on in some districts. You vote on a meaningless measure that will never get through both houses of Congress, everyone gets the scores they want from the advocacy groups, and then everyone goes out for a beer.

All either party cares about is one thing, the same thing they’ve always cared about… “And nine rings were gifted to the race of men… who above all else, desire power.”

If they held an election and no one voted, that’d speak volumes more than participating in this racket. Voting only encourages them because it is an act of assent. Even if you reject this, I think it’s unquestionably true that governments rule by consent, and abortion will end when the people are persuaded that it should end. It does a great deal of good to remind our fellow citizens that abortion is evil. It’s this pounding of the drums that leads to change far greater than putting our trust in political power-mongers who are only using you to achieve their libido dominandi. You don’t hear much about gun control these days because public opinion has shifted.

04 Nov 2012

I’m not voting for Mitt Romney, mainly because he is no different than his opponent (I’ll expand on this in a follow-up post). The dominant response I’ve received to that declaration isn’t a defense of Romney. Instead it comes back to abortion. If we can save one baby, I’m told, we should support Mitt Romney.

I respect consciences tender to the slaughter of infants. I’m repulsed by political cowards and the degenerates who take blood money from NARAL and Planned Parenthood (speaking of which, remind your neighbors that Planned Parenthood is the nation’s largest abortion provider; they don’t simply refer them, they do them).

Still, the “if we can save one baby” line makes me uncomfortable. Let’s say a politician comes to power who immediately outlaws all abortion and makes it a capital crime. However, this politician also cracks a few thousand skulls every year to keep his enemies in check. So, a million babies are saved and a few thousand children of dissidents end up with dead fathers. Not “optimal,” as the president might put it, but that’s the world we live in.

Would you put that politician’s sign in your yard? I wouldn’t.

Abortion is called a holocaust. That analogy breaks down in that the government isn’t directing it as the fascist and communist governments of the 20th century directed their holocausts. Each abortion involves a woman (sometimes encouraged by a man or family members) making an evil decision. Politicians who look the other way and take blood money are complicit, but in the end each woman is making the decision to slaughter her own child. Few if any abortions occur if that decision isn’t made.

I don’t think Mitt Romney is truly pro-life– his conversion reeks of political calculation — but even if he were a stalwart it seems to me that a single-minded focus on abortion is guarding only one breach in the wall.

Take for example the disturbing new power and authority that Republican presidents and congressmen (as surely as Democrats) wholly support. My hypothetical example from earlier may not eventually be so hypothetical. Presidents have started killing people without benefit of a trial. The government can now bypass habeas corpus. No one can predict what this will mean in the future, but this move toward extra-judicial killing and arrest seems to me a disturbing trend and a camel’s nose in the tent.

The ACLU has given “civil liberties” a bad name, but civil liberties should be of serious importance to the church. Under the guise of anti-terrorism, government has grown greatly since 911, and Republicans have egged it on. The most obvious examples the government’s presence at airports, where they are now swabbing drinks. They’ve been putting the clamps on cash and foreign transactions in various ways. There was recently a story of a man who was arrested for posts he made on a private Facebook group. I think the government has access to everything we’ve typed online, public or private. Not that they’ve researched everything… but they can if they want. Tools continue to improve the analyze and parse this data. Retina scan technology is bringing new possibilities to crowd control. The Patriot Act has eased surveillance barriers. The Bush and Obama administrations have expanded the use of drones to kill people in other countries (only the Lord knows how many), and now drones are coming to the states to aid local police forces (which are themselves becoming increasingly militarized).

How long until they start zapping “terrorists” here in the states? Since terrorism is a tactic and not an ideology, the definition of terrorism is whatever the government decides it is that day. Today it’s “radical Islam.” Tomorrow?

The tools for a police state are rapidly falling into place, which suits the crony capitalists in each party just fine. By and large, Christians are ignoring this.

19 Oct 2012

Here’s an excellent article by Gary North. He’s right that, far more than the Ron Paul movement, the one great and successful effort to “opt out of the state” is the homeschooling movement. Public schools are a colossal waste of money, time, and intellect. I mean that in the nicest possible way. OK, not really.

I’ve long believed that if we just made public schoolboys wear brown shirts, and the girls red scarves, it might underscore the social-shaping that goes on there.

One tenet of public school religion is recycling. I told a kid once that mandatory trash recycling programs are a waste of money. You’d think I’d shot him given the reaction. Such is life going against state propaganda, which is always parlayed as enlightened opinion by intellectuals who are themselves usually on the public dime in some way. (Mandatory trash recycling is a waste of money, which is why in areas with optional recycling it costs more per month to participate in recycling than it does to use the trash can. Someone has to waste gas driving around to pick the bins up and sort stuff, then they have to send it somewhere where they waste energy cleaning up the material. If it made economic sense, such as the recycling we all do with everything from plastic grocery bags to old socks, it wouldn’t have to be mandated.)

05 Sep 2012

Course I’m respectable. I’m old. Politicians, ugly buildings, and whores all get respectable if they last long enough. -Noah Cross in Chinatown

During his presidency, Bill Clinton was seen largely as a punch line. He was the self-absorbed, knavish, shameless “Slick Willie” of Troopergate, Whitewater, FBI file thefts, and siccing the IRS on his opponents. He never made a memorable speech. His most famous utterances were this lie and his lawyerly dissembling on the meaning of the word “is,” a Diet Coke at his side. His handlers told us on talk show after talk show that oral sex wasn’t really sex. Anything to keep the guy in office.

He was impeached. He still stuck around. No way he was going anywhere. On his last day in office he stayed up all night and lingered to the very end. Within a few years after leaving office he was very wealthy, ground he no doubt prepared carefully while in office. He was forever accusing his enemies of “cynicism.” His paranoia about the deviousness of his opponents made him the embodiment of the old saying that a fox smells its own hole.

The Starr Report. Paula Jones. Kathleen Willey. Safe, legal, and rare. Joe Sobran summed Clinton up best with a collection of 1990s essays entitled Hustler. It’s trustworthy contemporary accounts like Sobran’s that tell you more than the history books (c.f. John Flynn on Franklin Roosevelt).

Now, however, Bill Clinton is seen as a lodestar of fiscal responsibility in contrast to the “big spender” Obama. Unlike Obama (my opinion of whom is unchanged), Clinton supposedly balanced the budget.

This narrative overlooks inconvenient facts which are also inconvenient for Congressional Republicans of the time. First, the Clinton era coincided with huge productivity growth thanks to the rise of the web, which was accompanied by a massive Fed-induced boom that finally popped at the end of Clinton’s second term. Second, there never was a balanced budget if you include off-budget costs like unfunded entitlement liabilities. The government was simply spending money that it was supposed to save, a practice that continues today. Clinton had plenty of grandiose schemes. Clintonian spending was restrained compared to the ensuing George W. Bush years because Clinton shot himself in the foot too many times to ever gather the momentum to accomplish anything (something we can be thankful for).

Conservatives trumpeting Responsible Bill vs. Irresponsible Barack are just doing it for the need of the moment. Clinton is not a candidate and not a threat. Obama is. Romney needs the undecided lunkheads, so whatever you have to say to appeal to them, say it. After all, as we hear every four years, “it’s the most important election of our lifetime.”

Perhaps the needs of the election cycle will be the last barrier to Clinton being taken seriously, which is something that eluded him throughout his presidency. Richard Nixon was remembered in later years as a statesman. It looks like William J. Clinton’s time for respectability has come.

22 Aug 2012

I am coming more and more to agree with Lew Rockwell that voting is a waste of time, but what about the argument that we should vote for the man who will do less damage? Why not vote for the man who will drive off the cliff at 40mph instead of the man who’ll drive off the cliff at 50mph?

In the church, the moderates do the real damage. Few believers listen to strident liberals. More influential is the reasonable-sounding man who tries to edge things toward peace at all all costs, or the woman who appeals to civility as she suggests a small step that just so happens to undermine Biblical authority (and there will always be another step after that). It’s the evangelical with the disarming smile who is just kinda sorta trying to move the church toward — and really in just the most limited way — ordaining women deacons. He supplies the credentials and the legitimacy. He seals the deal.

I think it’s basically the same in politics. The man doing the real damage is the one who fraudulently claims to present a real alternative when he is 98% the same as the other guy (and actually even worse on some issues like war and civil liberties). The Republicans had Congress and the presidency for years and they could not defund Planned Parenthood. There are powerful interests in the party who want it. It’s just an issue to run on in some districts. You vote on a meaningless measure that will never get through both houses of Congress, everyone gets the scores they want from the advocacy groups, and let’s go have drinks.

The guy who gets your vote doesn’t care if you’re holding your nose while pulling the lever for him. It’s a vote all the same.

But here’s the larger problem: pulling the lever for empty rhetoric and table scraps enervates a true opposition. It saps it. It doesn’t act to reverse the train heading off the cliff or even stop the train, it stabilizes the engine so it can steam toward destruction. The 19th-century theologian R.L. Dabney put it well:

Its history is that it demurs to each aggression of the progressive party, and aims to save its credit by a respectable amount of growling, but always acquiesces at least in the innovation. It is now conservative only in affecting to resist the next innovation, which will tomorrow be forced upon its timidity and will be succeeded by some third revolution; to be denounced and then adopted in its turn. American conservatism is merely the shadow that follows Radicalism as it moves forward to perdition. It remains behind it, but never retards it, and always advances near its leader.

Moderates do the real damage.

05 Aug 2012

It is no good asking for a simple religion. After all, real things are not simple… If we ask for something more than simplicity, it is silly then to complain that the something more is not simple. Very often, however, this silly procedure is adopted by people who are not silly, but who, consciously or unconsciously, want to destroy Christianity. Such people put up a version of Christianity suitable for a child of six and make that the object of their attack.

That C.S. Lewis quote from Mere Christianity came to mind with the recent Chick-fil-A flap. Reading all the pro-homosexual anger on Facebook and elsewhere, as well as the usual equivocators within the church who are always anxious to avoid being insufficiently progressive, you’d think there is this huge strand of self-righteousness throughout the church. So many hypocrisy-seeking progressives always like to talk about gray areas, but they view the believing churchman as a straw man, for no one can honestly and seriously oppose the homosexual gospel of tolerance. There is no charity to be given to one’s opponents.

Maybe I’ve been in the reformed ghetto too long with its emphasis on depravity and our remaining sin, but I’ve been around serious Christians of all denominations for a lot of years, and I can’t remember more than a few who I found overly self-righteous. At times everyone sees the speck in their brother’s eye rather than the log in their own, but in general my experience is that Christians are much more humble than unbelievers. An understanding and adoption of Scripture and its teachings is a moderating influence on one’s pride.

16 Jul 2012

There has been a lot of confusion in the media about the word “cult,” and I realized recently that it’s because people don’t know what Christians mean by the word. When people hear the word “cult,” they think about kooks leading around the mentally-unstable. Now,there are cults like that and they deserve the name. However, the common Christian understanding of a cult may not be in the dictionary. It refers to a false faith, especially one that claims to be Christian while denying fundamental tenets of Christianity as expressed in its creeds and confessions. A cult may deny the Trinity, it may deny Christ’s deity, it may deny salvation by grace through faith in Christ. However, it is not denying “side” issues like wine vs. grape juice, or sprinkling vs. immersion, but the ones that the church has always believed were dividing lines between belief and unbelief, salvation and damnation.

Mormonism is in the ring with this election. On one hand, you have liberals tittering “ooh, it’s a CULT and it’s weird.” On the other side, Republican hacks who hastily bring out the bigotry accusations against anyone who opposes Romney’s religion. This is their attempt to silence dissenters — it could depress turnout, you know — and get everyone in marching formation before the election.

Things are dividing along tiresome party lines, as if the only thing at stake is who wins the presidency. The Republicans, due to their candidate being the Mormon, are taking the more troublesome approach. Just remember that there is something at stake that is more important than the next election: souls. A Mormon needs Jesus Christ more than you need Mitt Romney.

06 Jul 2012

A good measure of a political pundit is how quickly and reliably they fall in lockstep with a current Republican or Democrat political campaign. A pundit not worth taking seriously is one whose discussion of a phony politician during an election year is pure boosterism, with criticism only starting up when it’s safe to do so, such as when the politician is a lame duck years later. Such criticism gives the pundit an air of credibility and distance, while conveniently clearing the way for the next set of party hacks bankrolled by its wealthy, connected sponsors.

Mitt Romney is a career wind vane who tilts Rockefeller when the breeze stops. And yet daily we hear conservatives- politicians, pundits- telling us that the first step to reclaiming our freedom is to elect Willard Romney.

Seriously? It’s one thing to push the lesser of two evils argument, but quite another to act as if the lesser of two evils isn’t really evil and actually offers a “positive vision” for the country. Yea, he is one of us. Folks, if you really pay attention, there really isn’t much difference between Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin, and, oh, I don’t know, Rick Santorum. Marco Rubio. I remember back when Jeb Bush was the “conservative” Bush.

I sometimes watch taped Fox shows while working out, and I’m trying to remember if I’ve heard Mitt Romney criticized by any of Fox’s pundits since he wrapped up the nomination (well, other than for some quibble about how he is running his campaign). I sometimes wonder if the pundits believe that their well-paid jobs are held at the party’s leisure. I wonder who is really pulling the strings.

Conservatives can easily see that MSNBC is a mouthpiece for the Obama administration. It’s kind of hard to miss. But let’s be honest, folks, Fox News is talking points for the Republican party establishment, with tendentious stories and commentary occasionally “counterbalanced” by the faithful opposition. I put that in quotes because I often find myself disagreeing with both sides of Fox debates. Often they are little more than exercises in triviality, like discussing the color of the wallpaper in a whorehouse. That’s entertainment.

Let’s take a sample topic: spending. Fox constantly offers up pundits and politicians criticizing (rightly so) Obama’s irresponsible spending. However, if you sat down and went through the budget with these people, what you think you’d hear? Social Security- keep it and slightly privatize it. Medicare- same. Defense and anti-terrorism- increase it! The Fed- only a Ron Paul freak cares about that. The federal bureaucracy- downsize it a little but only a crazy fool would question the legitimacy of it all. In other words, you’d find the difference between them and the Obama administration is nearly non-existent when it comes to the vast majority of federal spending.

I guess it pays the bills though.

03 Jun 2012

The words of Jesus… have a unique permanence. They don’t merely survive as aphoristic wisdom; they have an authority in our hearts, even when we try to deny them. They command. We can obey or rebel. That is why Jesus is still not only loved but hated– and why those who hate him feel they have to profess to love him. -Joseph Sobran, 1996 column

02 Apr 2012

A black kid dies violently. Outrage ensues before anyone has complete facts. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson head to the scene to fill the leadership vacuum. Later it turns out that the media has misled us. NBC edited its tapes. Treyvon Martin was not a little boy but a tall 17-year old kid with some history of trouble. There is the distinct air of political and media exploitation. The death of Treyvon Martin has followed a familiar trajectory.

Crimes are disproportionately committed by young blacks. We’re told that “profiling” is some form of unmitigated evil, but this isn’t true if it’s really just about being wise in certain situations. If you’re walking down an urban street at night and you see teenage black strangers in hoodies coming toward you, you can be as open-minded as you want. I’m crossing the street. Just a guess that the high-minded busybodies on TV would do the same thing.

On the other side, imagine you are a law-abiding black man. Wouldn’t you get tired of seeing your ‘brothers’ die? You know a little about your people’s history in America. You see people who look like you getting hassled and arrested by the police, sometimes without cause. You see the police more often as your oppressor rather than your protector (a view I think has merit). When you walk toward white people, they sometimes cross the street. Cabs don’t stop for you. That has to work on a man and create a sense of alienation. You’d probably start seeing slights too.

We don’t know what exactly what happened to Treyvon Martin yet, but it seems to me that charity– benevolent feelings, consideration, sympathy– is something both sides could use when thinking of the other. Maybe you put that away on a deserted street at midnight or with a gun pointed at you, but that’s not most of the time.

01 Feb 2012

When I hear kids talk about getting a tattoo, I like to tell them that they’ll fit right in in prison.

I don’t know if it encourages them to make a wiser decision, but it is amusing to poke fun at a dopey (and ugly) mutilation fad.

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