faith, life, depression, struggle

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Public education: Good for them, but not for our kids ...

I give enormous credit to politicians who walk the walk. If you're the sort of defender of public schooling who is also opposed to home schooling, school choice, etc., you should send your own children to a public school. To do otherwise is rank hypocrisy.

Well, our president-elect is starting to look an awful like the typical D.C. politician. No surprise there; that's what he is. The New York Times reports that the Obamas will send their kids to the Sidwell Friends School, an ultra-expensive, ultra-exclusive private school that educates the creme de la creme of D.C. No problem there; that's the Obamas' prerogative.

Now, I have no problem with anyone sending their kids to a private school. That's their business. But it's a curious private decision for a man who has openly championed the status quo in public education -- pandering to the educator unions, spouting the same bromides about throwing even more money at public schools, etc. In true Obama fashion, he's also spoken frequently of reform and accountability, but once the reality of the educators' unions influence over the Democratic Party sinks in, he'll back off the accountability tack. He won't have a choice, which is very sad.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Union of American Socialist Republics

The Independent Institute's Robert Higgs asks the right question in his column today: Are we a communist country yet?

Draw your own conclusions, but first read his explication of the 10 conditions Marx and Engels raised for the conversion of a nation's politics and economy to a communist state. Each applies, to a greater (mostly) or lesser (at least, thus far) extent. He concludes that we are well on our way to becoming what we fought wars to keep others from becoming. Higgs writes:

So, here we stand, having come close enough to communism for government work. It is a mistake, however, to call it communism or socialism, because a major part of its genius is its preservation of the form of private property rights, even as the substance of such rights is progressively gutted. Properly speaking, our system is, and long has been, economic fascism. "It's a free country," the Red State voters keep yelping. But it's not. In truth, it never was. But a hundred years ago, it came a great deal closer to being free than it does now.
I pray for our nation.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Obama

Had Oprah not already brand-stamped "O" as her own, I'd be tempted to tag our new president with just that one letter. After all, the near-religious (actually, there's nothing "near" about it -- it is what it is) zeal many of his supporters maintain for the icon makes him more than worthy.

Before delving too deeply into that topic, Juan Williams of NPR/Fox News (and author of the terrific Eyes on the Prize, a history of the Civil Rights movement) has a solid editorial in the Wall Street Journal today. Williams looks at Obama's impact on race relations thus far, and is very hopeful for the future -- provided we all take advantage of this opportunity:

The Jesse Jacksons, Al Sharptons and Rev. Jeremiah Wrights remain. But their influence and power fade to a form of nostalgia in a world of larger political agendas, such as a common American vision of setting the nation on a steady economic course and dealing with terrorists. The market has irrevocably shrunk for Sharpton-style tirades against "the man" and "the system." The emphasis on racial threats and extortion-like demands -- all aimed at maximizing white guilt as leverage for getting government and corporate money -- has lost its moment. How does anyone waste time on racial fantasies like reparations for slavery when there is a black man who earned his way into the White House?

Make no mistake, there is still discrimination against people of color in America. And inside black America, there is still disproportionate poverty, school dropouts, criminal activity, incarceration and single motherhood. But with the example of Mr. Obama's achievements, from Harvard Law to the state legislature, U.S. Senate and the White House, the focus of discussion now is how the child of even the most oppressed of racial minorities can maximize his or her strengths and overcome negative stereotypes through achievement.


As discussed previously, this is something of a return to what was once seen as the path to success in the African-American community -- hard work, grit, and building strong communities around life-sustaining institutions, such as the church, the business community, and local organizations. For all the good that came out of the Civil Rights movement -- and a great deal did -- the reliance on government as the provider of solutions to our nation's racial hostilities was one huge bad development. From at least LBJ's War on Poverty (which intensified inner-city crime pits, a problem that haunts us to this day) onward, climbing the ladder of success has too often meant corporate shakedowns and other forms of legitimized extortion. Or, in shorthand, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and their cadres of dishonorable men.

If Obama inspires us to move further into the future of better race relations, hallelujah. Nothing else, save for the passage of time and growing African-American middle class, has worked. I sincerely hope that Williams' words prove prophetic.

But one need only look at the face surrounding Obama thus far to wonder if "change" meant anything more than "change of ruling party in the White House." As Paul Craig Roberts writes in yesterday's column, Obama is turning to the same old thugs from the Clinton administration in his initial moves. Rahm Emanuel's neoconservative credentials are clear -- he supported the invasion of Iraq and has served as the Democrats' de facto AIPAC representative when needed. Roberts also points out that this is the same Rahm Emanuel who was on the board of Fannie Mae during its 2001 crisis year (well, one of 'em, anyway), effectively setting the table for the eventual meltdown and bailout with a slate of accounting scandals.

Robert Rubin, of Obama's economic policy team, is the same Clinton administration Treasury Secretary who pushed to get the Glass-Steagall Act repealed. That opened the door for banks (and bank holding companies) to own non-bank financial companies, and the rest, as they say, is history -- history we're living down right now, and that our kids and grandkids will be paying down, provided there's any money of value left by then.

And so on. Nothing new under this sun, in terms of policy. Obama may yet surprise me, but I'll be surprised if this coming administration is anything more than same old, same old with a better look and more respectable speechifying.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

The neocon grip on the next president

If neoconservatives were worried that their grip on power was about to loosen completely under the new president, they can breathe easy. With his first announced appointment, Barack Obama makes clear that he is committed to the status quo in the Middle East.

Who is Rahm Emanuel? Not merely an Illinois congressman. As Patrick Cockburn points out in Counterpunch this weekend, Emanuel's a real hawk's hawk on terrorism and pro-Israel policy:

Emanuel, as Ralph Nader points out in my interview with him below, represents the worst of the Clinton years. His profile as regards Israel is explored well on this site by lawyer John Whitbeck. He’s a former Israeli citizen, who volunteered to serve in Israel in 1991 and who made brisk millions in Wall Street. He is a super-Likudnik hawk, whose father was in the fascist Irgun in the late Forties, responsible for cold-blooded massacres of Palestinians. Dad’s unreconstructed ethnic outlook has been memorably embodied in his recent remark to the Ma’ariv newspaper that "Obviously he [Rahm] will influence the president to be pro-Israel… Why wouldn't he be [influential]? What is he, an Arab? He's not going to clean the floors of the White House."

As other commentators have pointed out, Obama's foreign policy slant toward the Middle East and Central Asia sounded increasingly like the Bush administration's as the campaign wore on. With the appointment of Emanuel to this key administration post, it is now safe to assume that we'll have a major military presence in both regions for the foreseeable future. Calling this a disappointment, for those of us opposed to U.S. interventionism in general, is an enormous understatement.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Spurgeon on the Savior

From today's Spurgeon Morning devotional:

Salvation may be described as the blind receiving sight, the deaf
receiving hearing, the dead receiving life; but we have not only
received these blessings, we have received CHRIST JESUS himself. It is
true that he gave us life from the dead. He gave us pardon of sin; he
gave us imputed righteousness. These are all precious things, but we
are not content with them; we have received Christ himself. The Son of
God has been poured into us, and we have received him, and appropriated
him. What a heartful Jesus must be, for heaven itself cannot contain
him!
I love that last sentence. Puts me in mind of Col. 1:15-20:

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. -- Col. 1:15-20, ESV

He is altogether lovely, this Jesus Christ, the lover and savior of my soul, my guardian and ultimate end.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Meditations with Gracie and side effects

It's 4:48 a.m., and I am just barely awake. My cat Gracie (one of five!) is fast asleep, her head pressed against mine, one front leg draped across my shoulder. It's a warm feeling of love and comfort, and even though my stomach is hurting (side effects from Interferon treatments), I feel glad. The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

I am finding contentment more often in my life than I ever have before. The challenge of fighting cancer has been a strange catalyst, urging me to seek God more often throughout the day than I did previously. It has bound me to other patients at the RCC, to health care professionals and colleagues at work, feeling a keen appreciation for what they do, their impact on my life, and the loving kindness God has shown me throughout this process.

A very dim blue light falls all around my bed, early as it is, and I can feel the beginning of a fever -- achy joints, chills, all that. Part of the effects. A reminder of how frail my body is, how weak I am without my Lord and Savior.

And there's Gracie, shifting slightly, snuggling more intimately into my face. Just one more way God reminds me that I am His child, and I praise Him for the sweet and tender mercy of knowing Him and loving Him, even as poorly as I do that.

White racial guilt and the Obama vote

Long before the Democratic convention, some leftist writers were not only admitting that they were going to vote for Obama out of white racial guilt, they were encouraging others to do the same. Columns appeared at Salon.com and Slate.com, among other respectable liberal outlets. And along with that sentiment, of course, comes the flip side: the elitist snobbery that presumes sophisticated racial attitudes that trump the knuckle-dragging opinions (rather, presumed opinions) of flyover country.

British commentator Brendan O'Neil has a tremendous column on this very phenomenon in his weekly Spiked-online.com piece. As O'Neil points out:

This is what underpins much of the cultural elite’s pro-Obama, pro-black sentiment: it is less a commitment to true equality, certainly of the character-over-colour variety promoted by King and others, and more a public performance of moral sentience and goodness. It is the exercising of good etiquette, and crucially a way of distancing oneself from those parts of America – ‘old white men’, ‘rednecks’, the ‘bitter brigade’ – whose refusal to endorse Obama is re-presented as a moral failure in racial etiquette terms. It really is, as Salon put it, an ‘appeal to one’s better self’. It has very little to do with genuine racial equality. Indeed, it is striking that in the Guardian, Tomasky put himself in the camp of ‘African-Americans and white liberals’ in contrast to the other camp: ‘young black men and old white men’. This is clearly not about race, per se, but about the aloof, elite sections of society who behave correctly (middle-class ‘African-Americans and white liberals’) looking down upon those who do not (inner-city ‘young black men’ or redneck ‘old white men’).

Once "racism" got defined downward -- from overt words and acts of hostility that seek to undermine an individual's inherent worth as God's creature, to "code words," "cultural attitudes," and all the rest (as primarily defined by university human relations departments and other race hustlers) -- a lot of people became "racists" without having changed one iota. Now, I believe it's true that we all struggle with racist impulses; it's the tribalism that defined (still defines) human existence all these millions of years later. Racism is but one form of that tribalism, but to see how subtle it gets, one need only examine any of the many civil wars and tribal conflicts that afflict the African continent. All over the world, people find a reason to hate each other as a group.

I hope I'm wrong -- sincerely, I do -- but I suspect that Obama's sincere (I believe) desire to transcend race as our president will be put to a very harsh test once Democratic constituencies start banging on his door (and legislative doors) seeking payback. It's the same process that happens with every new administration; but Obama's appeal is so broad (to his credit), albeit ill-defined, that everyone's reading what they want into his nascent administration -- and into the man itself. Heck, I'm tempted to do that very thing, myself, and I am not a supporter (in the campaign, I mean -- I will support him as our president with prayer and well-wishing, for our shared future as Americans and people).

It's one more thing I need to pray for him, and really, for all of us. The upside: If Obama can really lead us even one step further down the road of real racial harmonization, it will be a great thing. I'm not sure that any of us understands how tall an order that really is, though. It also seems to me that those who are congratulating themselves for voting for Obama because of his race understand the least.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Lew Rockwell on barriers? What barriers?

Lew Rockwell is about as uncompromising a paleolibertarian (although that term seems needlessly limiting for him) as is out there. The longtime colleague of an American original, Murray Rothbard, Rockwell stands foursquare behind the rightness of free-will exchange with no bow to coercion whatsoever. His piece today takes a closer look at the barriers President-elect Barack Obama is alleged to have broken down with his victory Tuesday:

But why should politics be the standard for what constitutes a barrier or a barrier broken? The ability of individuals in a group to navigate the murky and treacherous waters of electoral politics has no necessary connection to the status of the group as a whole.

A much better indicator concerning the status of any group – racial, religious, sexual, or otherwise – is commerce, which is the real engine that makes society work. And here we see that there are no such barriers in existence. We need only look at the status of black-owned businesses to see that there are more than one million in the United States, generating revenue of some $89 billion per year, which is more than the GDP of 140 countries around the world, and growing (according to most recent data) at a faster pace than all businesses.

Tragically, Obama does not seem to see that expanding this trend is a pathway forward. For him, the answer is the failed politics of redistribution, a pathway that can only exacerbate racial tension. Far from being a healing force in American life, his success at taking from one group to give to another will only increase conflict.

Conflict is the critical word here, for the conflict view of society is what is really behind the hysterical claims that Obama's real contribution is to have broken through barriers. To understand this view, we must examine the implicit social philosophy held by those who write the headlines and put the political spin on all important events.


This is a point that Elizabeth Wright has raised again and again in her newsletter and blog over the years: Those who came before broke down the barriers, before African-American advancement became a matter for the government. Booker T. Washington. S.B. Fuller. So many others who managed to succeed on their own guile and genius at a time when racism was openly and aggressively practiced as a matter of policy.

As a symbol, Obama's victory is powerful, no question about it. But Obama also represents the triumph of grievance politics -- not freedom, but greater government control over every corner of our lives. As Rockwell writes:

You can go through the list here: age, ability, education level, class, region – really there is an infinite number of directions you can take this conflict view of society. One of them is race, and this one has been around a very long time and has its roots in America in genuine exploitation as represented by actual physical slavery. And yet under the conflict view, a form of slavery persists in all relations between black and white. They see only exploitation and antagonism while ignoring all contrary evidence. The path to advancement for blacks, in this view, comes only through taking power and wealth from whites, and the surest way to do that is to empower the state.
Really, the state couldn't lose in this election -- or any election. And when the state wins, liberty loses. Those two institutions cannot coexist, not even in tension; one exists at the expense and extermination of the other.

Giving Obama a chance

I am shaken by the thought of radical leftie control of the entire federal government, and hopeful that Obama will govern toward the center.

And where does the blame reasonably lie? The Republican Party, of course, but let's drill down a bit: Karl Rove. Rove was the mastermind (in a manner of speaking) behind the single worst administration of my adult life. Far from establishing a permanent GOP majority, Rove may have rendered the GOP little more than a husk of itself by crafting a strategy that relied on abandoned principles and power-grabbing opportunism. Who but a demented genius could destroy the GOP by digging up the least of the Bush sons to lead the party into an eight-year tailspin?

I am not a Republican, but I am very much an old-line conservative who believes in individual freedom, the blessings of free enterprise, and citizenship, all under the limits the Constitution proscribes. I honestly believe I'm part of a dying breed; the modern conservative doesn't even know the difference between real conservatism and, well, anything else, including the neoconservative bastardization of right-leaning principles. Eight years, to undo the good done by previous Republican administrations (on occasion, at least), to completely dismantle the Reagan revolution -- something not even Bill Clinton could manage.

So, fellow conservatives of the antiwar, pro-enterprise, traditional morality bent -- we've got to find our way out of this miasma. Perhaps the liberal landslide will help focus that effort. We'll see.

In the meantime, I pray that God's will be done, and I look forward with hope to a better day ahead. Perhaps Obama will lead us there, in spite of my suspicions. I'm willing to allow for that, certainly, and I'd love to be surprised on this count.

Monday, November 3, 2008

A conservative, but not a Republican

Alvaro Vargas Llosa, a writer I admire greatly, wrote an interesting piece in The New Republic on the GOP's depature from conservative principles and how that may shake out following this election. As Vargas Llosa notes, a rebellion among conservative columnists is already under way:

More poignantly, they all decry what they perceive as a betrayal of conservative principles. Buckley put it succinctly when he wrote that George Bush's government has brought America "a doubled national debt, ruinous expansion of entitlement programs, bridges to nowhere, poster boy Jack Abramoff and an ill-premised, ill-waged war conducted by politicians of breathtaking arrogance." Brooks thinks the problem goes beyond the Bush years, stating that "modern conservatism began as a movement of dissident intellectuals" against the liberal domination of the academic world, but "what had been a disdain for liberal intellectuals slipped into a disdain "for the educated class as a whole." Parker is even more forceful: "The well-fed right now cultivates ignorance as a political strategy. ... Years of pandering to the extreme wing ... have created a party no longer attentive to its principles."

Of those opinions, I identify most with Buckley's sweeping condemnation and fail to understand how conservatives aren't overwhelmingly livid over the party's direction during the past eight years (although I could make a case that this has been going on since Nixon, at least). If losing this election helps the GOP reassess its direction and issue appropriate course correctives, then bring on defeat! Our nation will survive a liberal populist this time as surely as we survived a fake conservative-totalitarian the past eight years and a philandering moderate the eight years before that.

Vargas Llosa notes that soul-searching can be just what the doctor ordered:

These fundamental deviations from conservatism crystallized in the Bush administration. The result was the biggest growth in government since the presidency of Lyndon Johnson, a loss of international prestige and, in purely political terms, the alienation of millions of people who could have been attracted to the Republican Party had its libertarian roots been preserved in dealing with social issues. Thus, the party that styles itself the champion of individual liberty has come to be seen by many in the United States and around the world as a special-interest group driven by factions and devoid of principle.

For all these reasons, my support will go to Chuck Baldwin and the Constitution Party. I like Bob Barr and certainly have common ground with the Libertarian Party, but Baldwin comes closest to embracing and upholding the principles I hold dear.