Lear's Fool

Lear's fool chided the king, "Thou shouldst not have been old, till thou hadst been wise."
As we close on 40, our aim is to prod wisdom to catch up with age. We leave it to the reader to judge our success.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Our Government's Duty on Immigration

Stratfor has published an interesting analysis of the recent U.K. terrorist plot, in which 12 terrorists "sought to conduct suicide bombing attacks against a list of soft targets that included shopping centers, a train station and a nightclub." Eleven of the 12 were citizens of Pakistan in the U.K. on student visas.

Clearly there's a problem here. While it's reasonable for foreigners to want access to the advantages we in free countries have secured for ourselves, and while it's also reasonable for us to welcome those immigrants who we expect will become good citizens and contribute to the well-being of our nations, an indiscriminate "open door" policy viz. foreigners has proven to be both foolish and deadly - deadly not only to our lives but to our liberty and pursuit of telos as well. (Need we be reminded that the securing of these three is the very reason for creating a government?)

I propose a stricter policy viz. foreigners - a policy which must, above all other considerations, accomplish the objective of securing the rights of our citizens:

1. Our policy must not put at risk, nor allow to be put at risk, the lives of our citizens.

2. It must not permit a crisis to develop in which we are encouraged - even pressured - to relinquish our liberty in exchange for safety.

3. It must not inhibit the expression and teaching of our national and individual principles and pursuits as expressed in our founding documents.

If our policy fails in any of these regards, it must be rejected. Whatever else beneficial it may accomplish, these criteria are non-negotiable.

Current policy has clearly failed us. We continue to permit the enemy to infiltrate our societies and to plan and execute mass-murder attacks.

Nor is it appropriate to blame our police and intelligence forces. If, during World War II, we had allowed Nazi and Japanese troops to live in our cities and train on our soil, would it have made sense to blame the OSS or the local police department when these troops planned and carried out plots to massacre Americans?

Our present enemy do not wear uniforms. They are spies, assassins and saboteurs, making war on us in the most cowardly fashion, without honor and deserving of ignominious execution. Yet since they refuse to identify themselves as enemy soldiers, it is left to us to find the means of identification. As this is impossible - or has at least proven beyond our capacity - we're left with no alternative but to severely restrict or bar outright all immigration permits to those of certain identity. That identity may be national citizenship, as in the case of the 11 Pakistanis above. Or it may be a political ideology, such as totalitarian islamism.

Whatever the criteria, the primary goal of our policy must be to restrict as far as possible the infiltration of our border by the enemy. If, as a side effect, law-abiding and freedom-seeking Pakistanis are kept out, so be it. Let them blame us and call us paranoid xenophobes if they must. Or let them take up their disappointment and anger with their fellow countrymen who caused the situation.

Some may object to our restrictive immigration policy, not because they seek the freedom America offers, but because they disagree with our constitutional-republic form of government and want to move here and change it. If our immigration policy fails to address those who disagree with our form of government, it fails utterly and completely.

And yet that is precisely the situation in which we find ourselves, as masses of muslims move to America but want to be governed by the laws of their homelands. But the freedoms and advantages available in America were not achieved, nor will they be sustained, by adhering to foreign political philisophies. To reject America's political principles is to destroy the political freedom which those principles protect, and in turn to destroy the prosperity and opportunities that are an outgrowth of that freedom.

If some are unconvinced of this fact, and consider it a worthwhile political experiment to reject America's founding principles, let them stay home and use their own countries as political laboratories. To sneak into our country under false pretenses, to pledge fealty to our republican form of government while harboring hidden intent to undermine and overthrow it, is covert invasion by the enemy, and must be stopped.

Any government that fails to protect its citizens from such invasion is criminally negligent. Any government that permits such an invasion and furthermore uses it as cover for the abridgment of its citizens' liberties is ignoble and despotic.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Keep pushing that boulder, Sisyphus!

I'm mad!

This federal government bailout of deadbeat mortgage-holders has stepped over the line.

I drive a car that's 13 years old. I rent a drafty, run-down shack in the mesquite desert of north Texas. I live beans-n-rice cheap. And I save my money so someday I can buy a home of my own without getting into risky, foolish, massive debt.

And what happens? Obama comes down here, sticks a gun in my ribs (so to speak), and says, "Give us some money."

"What for?" I ask.

"You've gotta prop up the housing market."

Housing prices have been over-inflated for years. The ponzi scheme has reached its inevitable end. The music has stopped, and everyone who could find a chair has done so. Lots of folks have been left standing, and now they're whining, bawling, begging. And Obama has a gun in my ribs, demanding I give up my seat.

How 'bout this instead? If you got in over your head with the bank, if you thought your job was secure and found out the hard way it wasn't, if you were unprepared to cope with inflating prices and deflating wages, if you didn't pay attention to the "seven fat years, seven lean years" story - how 'bout you move into my shack and I'll move into your nice brick home? You can live cheap for a while, get caught up and then completely out of debt, get some savings, some positive net worth, and try again. And I'll talk to your bank about settling their bad bet (your mortgage) for a fair X-cents-on-the-dollar price agreeable to them and myself.

"No, banks shouldn't have to take a loss just because they made bad bets," Obama tells me. "And these folks shouldn't have to move out of their quarter-million-dollar house and live like you. So just hand me your wallet!" (Jab! Jab!)

So I'm forced to bid up the price of homes that OTHER PEOPLE GET TO LIVE IN!

Sisyphus, as the mythological story goes, was punished in Hades, forced to roll a huge boulder up a hill, and every time he got close to the top, the boulder would roll back down and he'd have to start all over again.

So here I am - and many others like me - living responsibly, frugally, circumspectly, sticking to our goal, only to discover the goal placed out of reach and our efforts not only futile, but used against us.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

A Note to Fathers

It's not yet so cold here in Texas that one can't get some work done outdoors; so this week I've been preparing a few more beds in my garden - which for now consists of turning the soil and removing the occasional Bermuda grass runners. This garden plot has sat dormant for several years, mostly in annual weeds, which make a good soil additive when tilled under. (I know, I know... the Old Law said to farm the land for six years and let it rest on the seventh, not let it rest for six years and farm it the seventh. :-))

The previous tenant had tilled it with a roto-tiller, which turned the top eight inches or so. My shovel, on the other hand, turns up another few inches, most of which is hard-packed clay. It often takes a good tug to break that clay loose, and I'm always afraid the old wooden handle is going to finally lose the battle and break.

Tilling by hand is slow work, but it's good work. It's quiet; I can listen to the winter birds sing. It works my body, which would otherwise be sedentary this time of year. It's at my own pace, not dictated by a machine. Best of all, it's not mentally taxing, so I can do some thinking. For what it's worth, here is some of that thinking:

I recall working on our small family farm when I was a boy, doing some of the same kind of shovel-work in soil that was awfully hard during dry periods. Sometimes you'd have to really pull on that shovel handle to break the soil loose, it was packed so hard. My father must've been afraid, too, that the handle was going to lose the battle and break, because he would tell me to take it easy.

I was just a kid - a skinny beanpole of a kid at that. I couldn't imagine any shovel handle could break under my strength; it was merely a battle between me and the ground, and I wanted to win. I was growing to the point of needing challenges. (Not "challenges" as the word is misused in modern SoftSpeak - where no one has problems, only "challenges"; where no one is disabled, only "differently-abled"; where "positive" doesn't mean definite, absolute or indisputable, but rather beneficial or cheerful; where the "exceptional" individuals are not the bright, gifted and hard-working, but rather those whose mental and physical development was retarded in some way.)

What I needed were real challenges, tasks, labors, tests, trials, dares. Some defiant obstacle to test myself against, to prove myself... or be defeated and return again later with increased strength and tenacity. How else can a boy discover what is lacking in himself and work to remedy the area of weakness? How else can he come to know himself? How else can he grow into what he ought to be: a man?

My brother John (a year and a half older) was no doubt also struggling to prove himself during those years. Fortunately for us, our father was not oblivious to our struggles. Also fortunately, a farm provides many opportunities for boys to grow toward manhood. (I pity those unfortunate boys who live in plush cities. What poverty!) My father devised the perfect challenge one summer when we boys were out of school: "We need a well!"

So we hired someone to come out and drill us a well. Just kidding! No, instead he picked out a spot, marked off the diameter, handed us a shovel, and went off to work. (He was a bricklayer at the time, and was often gone from Monday to Friday on out-of-town jobs.) So John and I set to digging.

But my father knew we didn't have the knowledge - nor many of the tools - to complete the task alone. One of his friends was an old fellow who seemed to have in his workshop every hand tool known to man, and in his brain the knowledge of how to use them. He came over that first afternoon with everything we would need to dig that well, and with the instruction and encouragement we would need to address the task.

And what a task it was! I was 13, John was 14. This was in 1980, which Texans will remember brought a record-breaking summer heat wave. Afternoons seared in 110-degree-plus heat. The elderly poor in Dallas/Ft. Worth were dying without air conditioning. Roofers were being rushed to hospitals suffering from heatstroke. My father was laying brick from 7:00am to 3:30pm, getting the day's work done before the heat was at its worst. And my brother and I were digging a well with pick and shovel.

It was hard work, work a boy can test himself against, work he can throw everything he's got at, work he can grow with.

That well was some 26 feet deep before we were done, six feet in diameter. At around 22 feet, the pick became useless against the sandstone. Instead we had to use this long steel bar (I forget now what it's called) to break up the rock. It was some seven feet long and 1 1/2 inches in diameter, pointed on one end and flattened to a blade on the other - a rock-breaker, essentially. You would lift it up and slam it down into the rock until you could break off a piece.

The work went from being hot, dry and dirty (before we hit water) to being muddy and wet (after we hit water). My father's bricking job was finished a few weeks into the summer, and we three dug that well six days a week. There were no fears of us boys breaking tools testing ourselves. The only thing we might break would be ourselves - and, intentionally or not, that's what this test was all about.

I wouldn't call this exercise a "rite of passage" in the classic sense. It lacked at least one essential element: the community's indisputable acknowledgement that these former "boys" are now men. (Nor am I suggesting we were transformed from boys to men by this trial.) But like so many other tests and dares my brother and I came up with on our own, it presented a challenge to be met head-on, win, lose or draw. As someone once said about boys and sports: Sports are a chance for us to have other human beings challenge us to excel. Well this was John's and my chance to excel, to test ourselves, to find the limits of our strength and struggle to gain more, to prove ourselves if only to ourselves.

And so we did. And so ought every boy have such opportunity. A note to fathers, therefore: See to it that your sons have such opportunities.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

A Lesson from "The Princess Bride"

"Westley had no money for marriage. So he packed his few belongings, and left the farm to seek his fortune across the sea."

What has happened to men? Why is it that having no money for marriage is no longer a reason to delay marriage? Why are we content to live off our wives' labor?

In westerns, the young cowhand goes on an arduous, months-long cattle drive so he will have enough to buy his own spread. Only then, he understands, will he be worthy to ask his sweetheart for her hand in marriage.

"Well we talked about it, and decided that she'll work while I finish school."

"I had trouble finding a good job here after I graduated. So rather than move and start all over someplace new, I took a part-time job I found. Which is okay, since her employer has good benefits."

"She's doing so well in her career - making a good salary and family benefits - that we decided I should stay home and take care of the house and kids."

A man's duty to his wife and children is to be protector, provider and guide. Men were created to this duty, and men throughout history have recognized this fact.

Welfare - whether it comes from the state or from one's wife - is demoralizing to men. During the Carter recession, I saw my father suffer the loss of his dignity when again and again he was denied the opportunity to work. I saw him lose the respect of his wife and family when my mother became the provider.

Men were created for work. To deny a man this work - whether by denying him a job or removing the necessity for it - is to reject what he is, and to deny him dignity, honor, self-respect and the respect of his wife and children.

Shame on those "men" who live off the labor of their wives. And shame on the rest of us for allowing them to disgrace themselves - and all of us with them.

Friday, November 03, 2006

On Santorum

Once again, Peggy Noonan is right on the money. This nation needs Senator Rick Santorum - and lots more like him besides.

Go listen to this recent speech and see if you don't agree. And see if it's not perfectly clear why this statesman is being booted out of office by the citizens whose best interests he serves.

We're ignorant fools, here in America. We have neither knowledge nor understanding of history. We think we "know politics" because we caught Nancy Pelosi's rant on CSPAN this afternoon, or Howard Dean's latest gaffe on Fox News.

We don't study history anymore, so we're unable to make sense of current events. We don't study political philosophy, so we're clueless as to the various possible solutions to the problems which confront us - problems which are not new, not unique to the 21st century, but which have arisen since time began. We deny the moral sense with which we were born, so we struggle to re-invent a morality fit for mankind. We despise and destroy the virtues, and then expend vast amounts of wealth in various and sundry attempts to diagnose and cure the inevitable social pathologies.

And when a statesman interrupts our fiddle-playing to warn us of a gathering storm, we stick our fingers in our ears with a "lalala I'm not listening lalala", distracting ourselves with ipods, big-screen tvs, cellphones, blackberries - our soma.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

(From "Men" Without Chests Revisited, by Prof. Paul Eidelberg)

During aristocratic ages, man's moral center of gravity is the chest -- the seat of "honor." A gentleman's honor was more than mere probity, and far more than prestige. As late as the 18th century, the lexicon defined "honor" as a quality that "supposes in a gentleman a stronger abhorrence of perfidy, falsehood, or cowardice, and a more elevated and delicate sense of virtue, than are usually found in [ordinary decent men]."

A gentleman's honor was therefore his most sacred possession. An insult to such a person, if unanswered, could result in his and his family's ruin. The manly response to offended honor was the duel.

As mankind became less aristocratic and more commercial, dueling, as an affair of honor, was outlawed. The clash of steel was replaced by libel laws, the violation of which might entail monetary loss rather than loss of life.

With the ascendancy of the consumer society, however, man's center of gravity has descended from his chest to his abdomen. Laws against defamation of character have lost much of their efficacy, especially now with unrestrained freedom of speech and press, the pride of flatulent democracies.

Indeed, so sacred and secure are the print and electronic media in an era of unfettered freedom of expression, and so prohibitive is the cost of a libel suit, that certain well-placed individuals can engage in character assassination without risking their lives or their fortunes. Enter "men without chests."

Men without chests are the product of consumptive as opposed to deliberative democracy. Those who control the political institutions and communications media of an all-consuming democracy do not engage their opponents in honest democratic debate but rather seek to destroy them by verbal voodoo. i.e., by one-word slanders. And they do this while posing sanctimoniously as democrats. In fact, it is precisely in the name of "democracy" that one can now defame an individual without fear of retribution.

Monday, July 03, 2006

On Hamdan v. Rumsfeld

This case is an outrage. Here is what I wrote to my representatives:

Dear Senator,

How will you respond to the Supreme Court's unconstitutional disobedience of the law in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld?

The Constitution clearly grants Congress the authority to make "exceptions" and "regulations" governing the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and inferior federal courts. And with the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005, Congress did exactly that.

Now the Court, in defiance of Congress and violation of the law, has proceeded to rule on a case outside their jurisdiction.

I elected you to govern on my behalf. It is your duty to defend the Constitution and maintain the separation of powers outlined therein.

In addition to issuing a "Sense of the Senate" measure condemning the Court's crime and restoring the verdict of the U.S. Court of Appeals for D.C., Congress should begin impeachment hearings for all justices who violated the "good behavior" clause of Article III, Section 2 of our nation's Constitution.

Thank you.

In his dissent, Justice Scalia argues that

(I)t is clear that this Court lacks jurisdiction to entertain petitioner’s claims.

Justice Thomas agrees:

For the reasons set out in Justice Scalia's dissent, which I join, I would hold that we lack jurisdiction.

Justice Alito:

(The Court majority's) conclusion (regarding jurisdiction) is patently erroneous. And even if it were not, the jurisdiction supposedly retained should, in an exercise of sound equitable discretion, not be exercised.

You would think these three law-abiding, Constitution-respecting justices would have had little more to say on this case. But no, they see fit to give us the benefit of their reasoning on Hamdan v. Rumsfeld - a case which has already been decided by the court which is supreme on this matter: the U.S. District Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

Who cares what the eight justices on the Court have to say on the case? After they recognize they have no jurisdiction, any opinions they offer are nothing but tardy amicus briefs.