Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Philosophy, the Great Cheat, and the Great Delusion

         Even though they rightly chastise their students for question begging, philosophers themselves always beg the question.  They always cheat.  If they did not cheat, if they did not beg the question, they could not do philosophy at all.  Philosophers begin with a colossal cheat and cannot proceed without it.  They beg the question, THE question, the question before all questions, right from the start. 
         Here is the question:  “Are mind and senses together a reliable way of understanding the world?
         In order to answer that question properly, in order to answer it without begging it, philosophers must not use the mind and senses in question.  But they do it any way.  They know that not to cheat here is not to begin.  In the choice between beginning with a cheat or not beginning at all, they elect to cheat.  They construct an entire system of reason on the foundation of a begged question, which is the philosopher’s version of the house built on sand.  Theirs is a system of reason based on unreason, even anti-reason.  Theirs is a rationality that is irrational at the root.  They start with a non-starter and march boldly forward nevertheless.  They build, in effect, a metaphysical Potemkin village, something far less profound and substantial than what meets the eye.
         Not to do so brings their entire project to a halt.  To acknowledge that initial cheat, and to refuse to go forward until it is resolved, is to bring the philosophic endeavor to an abrupt end at the very beginning, and that they will not permit.
         They do not permit it because to the great cheat they add the great delusion, which is the pose and pretense that human creatures are careful, precise, and objective seekers after the truth.  They are not.  They are wicked, sinful, self-glorifying sinners whose heart, Calvin rightly observed, is an idol factory.  It displaces and replaces God at every possible turn.  The philosophic impulse, like everything else about us, is fallen.  That’s because the will to power is stronger in us than the will to truth or to validity.
         If the philosophers have such knowledge about their crippled, indeed morally dead, selves, they deny it or suppress it.  If they do not have such knowledge, they are even more woefully ignorant and self-deceived than we yet have said.  They beg the question not only concerning a starting point, but also concerning themselves.  To the question “Even assuming that mind and senses are reliable, am I myself to be trusted in this philosophical pursuit?" they must begin by assuming that they are indeed capable or else not begin at all.  Somehow, that they have cheated at the outset of the philosophical enterprise by begging the question of mind and senses does not does not lead them to conclude that they are cheaters who cannot be trusted.  No; instead they cheat and then cheat again:  If they know they have cheated just to begin, they are deceivers and cannot be trusted.  If they do not know that they have cheated just to begin, they are incompetent and cannot be trusted.  Nevertheless, they trust themselves to begin.
         Do not follow them in their mistake, in their whirling self-delusion.
         Philosophers are like all other human creatures.  They are desperately fallen and deeply wicked.  They are not objective and truth-seeking analysts.  No one is.  Philosophers are subject to the same debilitating noetic effects of sin as are we all.  Ignorant of, or defiant of, the fundamental truth about us, philosophers march boldly and publically forward, spinning out false universes in their minds, hoping to lure you into the vortex of their delusions, mocking those who refuse to follow, but doing so only on the basis of the house of cards they have constructed for themselves and the lies they believe about themselves.  They not only misconstrue the world, they misconstrue themselves and God, which is utterly fatal to wisdom.  They do not know what Calvin knew:  Wisdom is comprised of two things:  knowledge of God and knowledge of ourselves.  Calvin knew that such knowledge is a package deal.  Those two foci of knowledge come tied closely together and are gotten only through Christ, Who is both truly God and authentically human.  He is known only through the historical events narrated and explained in Scripture, which for their work philosophers reject.  Were they to accept Scripture as the basis for their thinking, they would not be philosophers but theologians.
         In a display of unmitigated hubris, some philosophers even think they can reason their way up to God Himself.  They think that they can, simply by means of the mind and senses they cheated to use, construct a system of thought that encompasses and rightly understands the world, themselves, and even things beyond the world.  Regarding the last, they do not know that whatever they reach by such means is not God.  They do not know that God cannot be reached; He reaches.  We cannot get from here to there; He can and does get from there to here.  To know Him requires revelation and regeneration.  It requires raw, undiluted, redeeming and transforming grace, which is no part of philosophy.
         How to avoid begging these questions I have explained elsewhere.  Here is but one:

         (An aside:  some philosophers think they can justify their use of mind and senses because mind and senses can be shown to work.  But that is simply to mistake pragmatic preference and utility for metaphysical warrant, which it is not and never can be.  It also simply continues to beg the question because both to determine and to measure utility requires mind and senses.) 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Mortgage Deduction, or The Makers and the Takers

         I think the mortgage deduction was a terrific idea and ought to be kept.  Indeed, it ought to be expanded.  We ought to give even greater tax breaks to those who buy and maintain houses.  We need what they do.  But lawmakers, with their insatiable appetite for confiscating and squandering other folks’ money on government-sponsored projects that simply cannot succeed, are now considering its elimination.
         The mortgage deduction is good for us in many ways.  Here are just a few: 
         Human beings are creatures of incentive.  They have a nose for, and tend to follow, the path of personal benefit.  The mortgage deduction is just such a benefit.  It gives folks a reason to work hard, to save, to buy a house, to maintain and improve that house, to grow a family, and to maintain stable relationships – all good things in so many ways.
         To work hard is to have a job, keep that job, and to produce goods and services, which adds to the nation’s wealth, not just to one’s own.
         To save is to live responsibly and to make available through banks and other lending institutions more money for investment by others, investment that creates more jobs and more goods and services, also adding to the nation’s wealth.  More jobs mean more taxpayers, which means more government revenue precisely because of the mortgage deduction.
         To buy a housemeans being responsible and productive for many, many years -- or else the house is gone and you are on the street.  Economic stability is good both for families and for the economy.  When millions of folks buy homes and keep them, it’s good for the nation.
         To maintain a homerequires constant investment, which means more commerce and more jobs.  It also means better neighborhoods and the persistent watchfulness needed to keep those neighborhoods that way.
         To grow a familyin an environment of hard work, responsible action, foresight, personal stability, and community involvement is a blessing to all concerned.  Children raised in that context with those values are an enormous asset to the nation on all levels.
         To maintain stable family and community relationships is the best apprenticeship for the next generation and its ability to provide future stability, which is the prescription for avoiding the devastation wrought in our inner cities by a welfare system that destroys families, encourages instability, and that fosters irresponsible action and violence.
         In other words, the politicians in Washington want to cut things that make the nation better, things like the mortgage deduction, but not cut the things that undermine us, things like welfare and entitlements, which injure the very persons they are ostensibly designed to help.  It’s as if they never heard that you get more of what you incentivize and less of what you tax.  Let’s incentivize responsible home ownership and not broken families.  To the left that sounds evil, which is proof the left does not understand what its higher taxes and its higher subsidies have done to America and its citizens.
         But please understand that I’m not simply blaming the politicians.  Ultimately, we’ve got no one to blame for this but ourselves.  We voted the bums into office.  We’re getting what we deserve.  We’ll keep getting it until we learn to vote more responsibly.  Home ownership tends to do just that.  It tends to make us vote more responsibly.  When you’ve got something, you’ve got something to lose, and you vote so as not to lose it.  When you’ve got nothing, you vote so as to get something.  There’s nowhere else to get it except from others.  That rapacious incentive is the death of personal responsibility and autonomy for all concerned, the makers and the takers.     

Saturday, November 24, 2012

A Parasite Consumes its Host(ess): A guest opinion by Christopher Bauman

         It was inevitable. A parasite will eventually consume so much that the host will die. Such was the case with the Baker's Union and it's host, Hostess.
         The union and the company were at an impasse for quite awhile. Two of the major sticking points were the fact that some Board Members had received a raise, and that the union did not believe that the company was already on a very thin profit margin.  
         Several factors had contributed to this razor thin margin. For instance, due to government coercion, schools are no longer allowing this type of treat to be sold in government-controlled public school cafeterias. Indeed, in many school systems, such occasional snacks are no longer even allowed to be brought from home. The unintended consequence of removing this choice from a parent's options was to dry up a significant portion of the consumer demand.
         Coercion on the union's part was also a factor in the strike that crippled the company. The strike vote was not a secret ballot, not at all like the secret ballots that Americans are accustomed to having on an election day. Unions typically make it very clear that THEY KNOW HOW YOU VOTE. The intimidation factor in this type of voting is very instrumental in forcing it's members to toe the line with what the union management wants.
         Hostess also has (HAD is now the operative word, actually) a contract with the Teamsters Union. That contract forbids the company from using any independent carrier or trucker to ship Hostess products. The company was never able to enjoy the lower-cost shipping rates that a free-market transportation system will provide, thus denying the company an opportunity at ever capitalizing on a chance to earn a little more money.
         To the credit of the Teamsters Union, they re-negotiated their contract with Hostess, and allowed some “give-backs.” They first demanded a look at the company's financial records, though, and after examining them, they believed that the company was, indeed, in financial trouble. The Teamsters then recommended that the Bakers Union have a second, and this time SECRET, strike vote. This second, secret vote would have removed any intimidation factor, and thereby produced an honest result. The Bakers union management declined this advice, of course, and 18,000 jobs have perished.
         And about those Board Members who had received a pay raise....unions have always (wrongly) felt that it is their business to know what wages other people make. The Board answers only to the investors, the very people who have made the entire thing possible in the first place. If a union member wants a say-so in how much those executives make, they should risk their own money and become investors.     

Friday, November 23, 2012

In Answer to a Request: Why I Never Believed Lance Armstrong

         If memory serves, and sometimes it doesn't, about 10 or 12 years ago, on the old Eurobike web forum, I wrote my reasons for not believing Lance Armstrong rode clean.  He was then in the midst of his 7 consecutive Tour de France “victories” and had not, to anyone’s knowledge, ever failed a drug test.
         I didn’t believe it.
         I didn’t believe it because he not only was trouncing, year after year, the greatest cyclists on the planet, but they reportedly were doping and he wasn’t.  They failed drug tests and he did not.
         Please understand how difficult it is to beat the best riders on the planet when you face them on equal footing.  Please understand how much more difficult it is to beat them when they are doped up and you are not because doping works.  Please understand how much more difficult it is to beat the dopers clean, especially after you have risen from your apparent deathbed in order to do so, having had only about a 5% chance of surviving testicular cancer.  Please understand that testicular cancer is sometimes the result of doping.
         So, no, I wasn’t buying it.
         In order to assuage my growing doubts, I very much wanted to see the training numbers that Armstrong promised to publish but later declined to reveal.  If he were that remarkably strong, the numbers would likely show it.  The public never saw those numbers -- the wattage, the mileage, the hematocrit levels, the body weight, the interval sessions, etc.
         Then, as I recall, I explained my reasons on Eurobike for not believing the hype.  Bill Stapleton, Armstrong’s rep, wrote on the forum threatening to sue me, as if I were not entitled to have an opinion or to state publicly both it and my reasons for having it.
         Later, people began to come forward in two ways:  (1) Some former colleagues of Armstrong began to testify under oath that they had seen him dope, even helped him dope, thus incriminating themselves in the process.  (2) Over time, various riders, not former Armstrong teammates, retired from competitive cycling and, after their retirement, confessed that during their careers they too had doped, but never got caught.  Like Armstrong, none of them had ever failed a drug test.  That, it seemed to me, took away his last, his best, and his most plausible defense:  He had not failed a drug test.  Neither had they, but they still were guilty.  In other words, passing drug tests did not mean he, or anyone else, rode clean.
         Many of Armstrong’s former teammates, some of whom went on to win a grand tour or an Olympic medal for themselves after they left his team, were found guilty of doping.  Floyd Landis, Roberto Heras, and Tyler Hamilton come to mind as impressive winners.  It strained credulity to believe that they all would have started doping only after leaving Armstrong’s side, but never did so while they were still in harness.  Later, under oath, several former teammates admitted that they had done so while on his team and under his direction. 
         It also came out that some of the Armstrong’s test results were questionable.  It came out too that he had given a great deal of money to professional cycling’s world governing body, a suspicious juxtaposition of facts, in my view, though not necessarily evil.  Coincidences happen. 
         So I, for one, support the decision to vacate Armstrong’s TdF titles and to give them to no one.  Too many of those who finished second and third to him were dopers too.  It would be impossible, this far after the fact, to run down the list of GC riders to find the highest finisher who rode clean.  Doping ran too deep.
         When you dope, nobody wins.
         Now, for seven years, nobody won.
         Everybody lost.
         To quote Shakespeare’s prince in Romeo and Juliet, “All are punished.”      

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Correcting Ron Paul on Secession and the American Way

         According to Ron Paul’s latest outburst of silliness, it is the American way to secede.  Of course, it is not.
         The American union to which the states agreed is perpetual.  That union permits no divorce.  It does not permit secession.  When the states signed on, they signed on to a perpetual union.  The states are not free to leave as they wish.  
         But you are.  You can leave when and if you choose.  If, after a cost/benefit analysis, you decide to stay, you are free to stay.  If, after a cost/benefit analysis, you decide to go, you are free to go.  But your state is not.  That is not the statehood to which your state, or any state, consented.  We fought a civil just to clarify the point.  Ron Paul's side lost twice:  at the ratification and at the clarification.
         You can leave and not be part of the union.  You can stay and be a part.
         Make your choice.
         But centuries after the fact, and more than a century after the bloody clarification, you cannot remake at will the conditions of statehood to which your state initially agreed.  That game is over.  That contract is signed.  You can no more stay and be free from the union than you can go to Paris and be free from French law or from the Parisians.  It’s a package deal, and that is the package.  If you want to stay and be part of the American union, you are free to do so.  If you want to leave and be free from the American union, you are free to do so.  But you are not free to stay and be free from the American union.
         And that is the American way.
         Again, make your choice.

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Myth of Solution

         When liberals go wrong, they often do so by falling prey to “the myth of solution.”  They think that, if they just work hard enough and mean well, if they care, they can fix most of what’s wrong with the world.
         The liberal agenda, well intentioned as they say it is, turns out to be supremely naïve.  Liberals forget, assuming they once knew, that most of the ills that plague human existence have no political solution.  None.  No matter how you shuffle the cards, no matter how you redistribute the opportunities or the outcomes, you cannot fix what ails us.  Poverty, disability, disadvantage, ignorance, prejudice, sloth, disease, wickedness, inequality, and death -- in other words, humanity itself -- cannot be fixed, and certainly not by the state.
         Liberals famously have a penchant for redistribution, a penchant they aim also at God, redistributing His omni-competence to the state, as if the state knew all, sees all, and can fix all.  For almost every problem facing us, the liberals’ first recourse for solution is government.  They are confident that government is the place to turn for fixing, or at least ameliorating, our problems.  They have not yet answered the more basic question, “Who fixes government?”
         Perhaps they have not answered that question because in so many, many ways, government cannot be fixed.  It certainly cannot fix itself, even though just as certainly it cries out for fixing, radical fixing.  Government has the opposite of a Midas touch -- everything it touches turns to garbage, not to gold.  But gold, massive amounts of it, is precisely what government says it requires of us to fix the messes it made and that it made worse.  In the endless battle between you and government over who will control your gold, government is winning, and has been since it took us off the gold standard, whether we wanted it or not.
         I am speaking literally:  Far more often than you might imagine, secularists have devolved God into government.  They are fundamentalists of the state.  They do not know their altar belongs to Moloch, in sacrifice to whom they slaughter their children by the millions.  And as they do, they think you are the one without heart, compassion, and conscience.  They think you are the one who does not see the beauty of their solution, even though it be final.      

Monday, November 12, 2012

Why Taxing the Rich Simply Cannot Work

According to the prevailing leftist worldview, in order to cure the nation’s debilitating debt disease, and in order to aid the nation’s poor, we ought to raise taxes on the rich so that they begin to pay their “fair share.”
It’s a futile remedy.
If you took every penny from every person in America who made a million dollars or more last year, you could run the government for only a few weeks.  Taxing millionaires, even at 100%, won’t fix the problem.  Our problem is that we spend more than a trillion dollars every year that we simply do not have.
But when conservatives try to keep an out-of-control government from driving the entire nation over a cliff into the gaping maw of economic destruction, liberals claim conservatives lack compassion.  They do not.  They are trying to avoid scuttling the ship of state.  Avoiding a shipwreck is not lack of compassion because, when the ship sinks, all who are aboard -- the poor and the wealthy alike -- are set adrift in the open sea, a result that benefits no one except the Marxist sharks patrolling the waters of international dissolution.
Think about it:  Even if you tax the wealthy at 100%, not only you will not have enough money to do what liberals want to do via government, but you will have succeeded only in creating many more poor:  Those who once were rich now have nothing.  And once you have taken all their money, and succeeded in running the government for only a few weeks with it, from whom will you get money to run the government when that handful of weeks has passed?
You can’t get it from the poor because they don’t have it.  The only option left is the middle class, who then will be destroyed in short order.  Taxing the rich even at 100% will not work.  Even all their money combined will not solve the problem.  And if you do not tax the rich at 100%, you will have even less money to do what you think ought to be done via government, and that money will run out even quicker.  Once the money of the rich is gone, and you still wish to do what leftists want government to do, you must take the money of the middle class.  At that point, everyone is poor.
In short, you cannot fix what’s wrong by means of tax increases.
It’s simply impossible.
So, why pursue it?  I see no more elevated reason for doing than craven envy and destructive class warfare.  If you can, then let me know.
So as not to be unhelpful, I recommend the following ideas: 
(1) You must lower taxes all around, which leaves more money for investment, invention, and job creation. More workers means more taxpayers, which means more government revenue. In other words, I'm talking about the Laffer Curve, which has been proven correct at least twice.  (2) You must reduce the burden of government mandates, regulations, and red tape, which impose enormous financial burdens on businesses and force investors to withhold, at this, point, several trillion dollars in investment money, which is lying idle because investors don't know what injurious things will emerge from Washington next.  No one wants to lose.  They want to invest wisely, and they can't invest wisely because they can't trust Washington to provide a stable business environment.  No investment, no new jobs.  (3) Reduce spending drastically.  We ought not do nationally what the Constitution does not explicitly permit us to do at that level.  All those things have been reserved for individuals and the states. 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Leftism vs. Reality (round 2)

         Much like it famously failed to do with Chick fil-A, the left now threatens to boycott Papa John's and Applebee's because those two companies are considering either layoffs or a hiring freeze due to the heavy new costs imposed upon businesses by Obamacare.
         Because the left knows nothing about economics, their anger is misdirected:  When the cost of running a business increases significantly -- and under Obamacare it does -- then either the company raises its prices, which makes it less competitive and more likely to fail, thereby costing allits employees their jobs, or else it has to cut operating costs significantly in order to make up for the heavy new health care expenses Obamacare imposes.
         Between those two options, cutting costs is the better choice because it keeps the company in business and saves the most jobs.
         What Papa John's and Applebee's are doing is exactly right. What Obama is doing is not -- not if creating jobs and lowering unemployment matter to you.
         Obamacare or more jobs?  Pick one.
         You cannot have both.  Not even the Democratic messiah can change the laws of economics.  

Friday, November 9, 2012

Politics 101: American Voter, Who art Thou?

         While human beings are capable of reason, they are rarely ever reasonable.
         But if you tell them that, or worse, if you actually prove it to them, they will not thank you for the valuable undeception.  They will get offended, and they will have proved your point, albeit unwittingly.  They do not know that they are wasting time being offended, time they could have spent thinking.  Their over-weaning sense of grievance and offense has been highly refined; their skill at rational analysis has not.
         Reason is but one of the many things that drive human beings, and it is normally not the strongest.  Human beings are also creatures of habit, of appetite, of prejudice, and of passion.  More importantly, they are creatures of incentive.  If you wish to move human beings, and moving human beings is the fundamental political action, then you must place effective incentives before them.  Because human beings are not primarily mind-driven, more often than not that effective incentive won’t be a rational argument or anything like it.
         The American voter is not capable of sustained rational analysis, and doesn’t care to be.  That’s not the lure that draws them.  That’s not the bait that brings them to the hook.  Only a few get reeled into the electoral boat by rational analysis and a recitation of accumulated historical precedent.
         The rest feed on other things.  They are not convinced so much as they are bought.  To win an election, you must promise them what they want and give them a short slogan in which to wrap it.  That slogan doesn’t have to be true, just superficially plausible.  Any half-true truism will do.
         Deeper than that you must not go.
         I’m not saying you shouldn’t make an argument.  Of course you should.  Some folks live at that level and must be reached.  Most do not.  But they think they do.
         You won’t win postmodern elections with esoteric discussions on degrees of constitutionality or on monetary theory, important as those are.  Reality won’t permit it.  The average presidential sound bite in a news cast is about 6.5 seconds.  What can you say in six seconds except “Vote for me.  I care, and I want to give you something?”
         Politics is not the lofty enterprise some think it is.  It’s dirtier and more crass than that.  America is not a nation of unbiased intellectuals seeking for truth, and it doesn’t want to be.  It’s a nation of self-absorbed sinners who crave little more than personal peace and affluence.  They want what they want when they want it.  Then, after you give it to them, they want to be left alone to do as they wish, not as they ought.
         If you don’t know that about American voters, you won’t win elections.  If you don’t know enough to appeal to human sloth and craven self-regard, you don’t know politics because you don’t know people.
         Do not forget that America voters were educated in American public schools, where the Gospel of John is banned and Heather has Two Mommies is required; where sincerity, not achievement, is the measure of success; and where you get trophies just for trying.  Then, after twelve years of this self-indulgent, brain-numbing, soul destroying, secularist propaganda, they go on to state-funded (and therefore state-controlled) universities, where the government decides the guidelines by which students are enrolled, teachers are hired, and classes are taught, universities from which they get advanced degrees in leftist group think and learn falsely to believe they are intellectuals who follows the evidence wherever it leads rather than lemmings marching resolutely to destruction.
         Those are the voters to whom you must appeal or else you will lose.  Your political fate rests with them.  Most of them don’t want to hear your arguments.  They want a Coke in one hand and a candy bar in the other.  Whoever gives them the goodies first and best wins.
         This is what the political application of the Christian doctrine of human depravity looks like.  Don’t forget it.
         Now, about 2014, what’s your plan?          

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Richard Ebeling on the Great Divide

 The following analysis comes from my friend and former colleague, economist Dr. Richard Ebeling, to whom many thanks for permission to reprint his ideas.

        The news media -- both the "mainstream" and the "fair and balanced" one -- has made much, since Tuesday's election results, of the ethnic, social, and cultural divide in the country in terms of which groups voted for which of the presidential candidates.  And it is clear that the two leading political parties appealed to different segments of the society.
         But the real divide in the country, may I suggest, is that between those whom John C. Calhoun called the "taxpayers" and the "tax-receivers" in the society.  That is, the divide is between those on opposite sides of the redistributive state.
         But it is not simply between those who, on net, pay the taxes and those who, on net, receive the taxes. (Though as Frederic Bastiat said, in the spider's web of transfers it is often difficult for a person to know if he has, on net, "gained" or "lost".)  It is the political philosophical divide between those who believe in the moral "rightness" of income and wealth redistribution and those who believe that an individual has an inherent right to that which he has honestly earned in the productive market place of trade and exchange.
         This is the real and true battleground of ideas within which the future of the country must and has to be fought out.
In this context it is important for friends of freedom to reach out and persuade people in various groups who have been falsely convinced that the "State" is their "champion."
         The Republicans and conservatives (and libertarians), I believe, have made a serious mistake in not reaching out to many in the Hispanic community who should be and can be receptive to the "freedom philosophy."  They or their parents came to America --like earlier generations of immigrants -- to make a better life for themselves and their children. Many of them are or desire to be self-supporting and hardworking, if only they had a chance to do so in the market. Many are or would like to be small business people, with the hope of being successful and leaving a legacy for their families.  Many are strongly community-oriented with an attitude of mutual self-help in times of personal or family trouble.
         But they have been duped by collectivist and altruistic rhetoric and demagogic politicians, inside and outside their own community, to believe that "capitalism" won't provide them with a "fair chance" and that the "State" is the only avenue for a better life through redistribution, regulation, and special favors to help the "little guy."
         What friends of freedom need to do is to help those duped in this way by the Statists to distinguish between (as Bastiat said) "what is seen and what is not seen," to understand that the siren call of collectivist promises is a road to their perpetual serfdom and not the path to the "American Dream."

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Doubling Down on Ignorance and Failure

         You can no more break the laws of economics than you can break the law of gravity.  Try if you must, but the outcome is certain:  Rather than break such laws, you break yourself against them.  And if, against all sense, you try it again, the result will be the same.  Doubling down on ignorance and failure means more ignorance and more failure, not success.
         By re-electing Barack Obama, the American voters have doubled down on ignorance and failure.  They obviously think the boneheaded policies that led to:
(1) higher unemployment,
(2) lower household income,
(3) more jobs going overseas,
(4) the greatest one-term growth in national debt in history,
(5) expanded intergenerational dependency on the state,
(6) trillions of dollars of fiat money flooding the market place, and
(7) millions more persons living in poverty and on food stamps

will magically lead to something completely different in the future.
         It’s not going to happen.
         If you still think that the most partisan president is really the post-partisan president, then don’t be surprised if partisanship flourishes even more in the next term than it did in the last, when the Republicans were literally locked out of health care reform discussions and debates, and when every budget passed by the Republican-led House was killed in the Democrat-led Senate – every one.  If that’s what you think about partisanship, you are not thinking at all.  You are not even paying attention. 
         If you think that the Democrats, who failed to pass even one budget in four years will suddenly start passing them now, much less governing according to those budgets, you are part of the problem, not the solution.
         If you think that the politically motivated failure to protect our own land and personnel overseas against terrorist attacks on the anniversary of 9/11, despite repeated and desperate pleas for help coming from the victims themselves, and that the Obama administration’s craven lies and misdirection that for weeks followed the slaughter will make for a safer America or a safer world, you are the Jihadist’s dream come true.
         If you think that a culture that slaughters its babies for convenience or for money won’t slaughter its elderly for the same reasons, then please don’t be surprised when you, your friends, or your family are eventually disposed of by the very bureaucracy charged, ironically, with national health care.  Your capital offense, the thing that lowers the death sentence upon you:  Getting older and getting expensive.  When the choice is between you and money, and when the government has no money, you die.  Please notice:  the government has no money.    
         If you think that Barack Obama failed so miserably in his first term because he inherited a mess, then how can you expect anything but proportionally greater failure from him when he tries to fix the even greater mess he inherited from himself?
         Or, if you want it in an epigram:  “If you fail to learn the easy way, then you are doomed to learn the hard way, if you learn at all.”

Friday, November 2, 2012

"Hey, Whoa, Man:" A Eulogy for John Reist

          I never had to say, “John Reist is here.”
         John always announced his own presence, even if he were still some distance away.  At any moment of any day, you might step outside the faculty office building into the quad and hear someone whistling a tune, and you’d think, “It’s Reist.”
         It was.
         As the song got louder and John himself appeared, he’d tell you a joke, maybe three.  John had a joke for every conceivable occasion, and even a few for occasions not conceivable.
         Then he’d complain.  Something always was wrong.  Something or someone always needed to be addressed.
         Forgive me if I assume you might not see the connection between the song, the joke, and the complaint, but too many folks did not.
         John had a song, a joke, and a complaint precisely because, more than anyone else I ever knew, he tried to live a thoroughly and authentically theological existence.  He knew and he professed the lordship of Christ.  He was committed in faith to the God Who became a man, Who suffered and writhed in agony on the cross for the sins of the world, Who died, was buried, and rose from the dead.  John understood that in the death and resurrection of Christ the sorry and tragic history of human life, as well as its destiny, had been redeemed and renewed, that the Devil and his works were doomed, and that the final chapter in the lives of all believers was not just a happy ending, but the happiest.
         John knew that sin had been declawed, that death’s sting had been removed, and that Christ was Lord of all things.  For John, as for all conscientious Christians, that meant we have a reason to sing, a reason to laugh, and a reason to work.
         So he went about his life whistling, laughing, and putting wrongs right.  He especially liked putting right arrogant and self-congratulatory piosity wherever he found it.  He delighted in popping the bubbles of pretense.  He found them everywhere.  If he caught you primping, preening, posing, or posturing, he’d do you the favor none of your other friends would do:  He’d do you the enormous favor of popping your bubble.  In a religion like Christianity, based as it is so fully on God’s grace and not on human virtue, nothing better could happen to you.
         So he whistled, he joked, and he popped.
         On the day I shut the door that closes this life and open the one that leads me into the next, I expect to hear somebody whistling in the distance, and then saying to me with a chuckle, “Who would have guessed?  They let in Baptists!”
         As always, even in Heaven, I won’t have to say “Reist is here.”  He’ll already have announced his presence.  Then he’ll remind me that “Christ has died, Christ has risen, and Christ is coming again.”
         In light of that stupendous truth, the only sensible response I can offer here is to say, “Somebody sing a song.  Somebody tell a joke.  Somebody pop a bubble.”