Saturday, August 09, 2008

Miscellaneous Threads and Musings:

To supply a brief reprieve from the subjects of the two most recent threads via the Times Online...

Tribute to Aleksandr Solzhentisyn

Many today may not know about him but he was convicted without a trial of being critical of the Soviet leader Josef Stalin and spent eight years in the Soviet gulags. Upon emerging he wrote in a variety of ways about the experience as well as what it was like to live under a genuine tyrannical regime.{1}

Whatever one wants to say about the complex man that was Aleksandr Solzhentisyn, he was at bottom a man who stood on principles and suffered for them. His Gulag Archipelago should be mandatory reviewing for any naive promoter of communism's lesser-developed cousin socialism in any of its current or past manifestations.

Georgia 'downs two Russian warplanes' as countries move to brink of war (Times Online)

Georgia says Russian tanks mean 'war' in South Ossetia (Times Online)


There is a reason why I started this thing off with the part on Solzhentisyn because it helps those who may have forgotten (or do not know) of the sordid past of the former Soviet Union of which Russia was among the principle parts thereof.

And finally, from the formerly explicitly communist{2} to the still communist, the Olympics have opened in China and I will watch not a single event in a kind of protest against the human rights atrocities committed by China.

Notes:

{1} Briefly to Bush Derangement Syndrome sufferers: no, the current presidential administration in no way whatsoever is a tyrannical regime however much you may delude yourselves into thinking it is.

{2} I have never been so sure that there is not an implicit communism involved still in some nations of the former Soviet Union (particularly Russia) but that is perhaps a subject for another time perhaps.

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Friday, August 08, 2008

I originally put up a notifications post back on August 4th a variety of posting projects I intended to complete before the end of this current blogging cycle. And as with all intentions, they are sometimes sidelined by events or circumstances that cannot be foreseen at the time they are enunciated.

In the case of the projects noted in that thread, they have had to be sidelined for the next blogging cycle either wholly or in part because one of the very few individuals who contacted me last year possessing both the rational and charitable equipment to be worth dialoguing on the subject of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.{1} They contacted me unexpectedly the following day mentioning that they planned to post what was once going to be their opening statement on that venture to the web on the anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing.

Upon their courteous notification of this intention, I did not have time to say much; however saying something seemed appropriate nonetheless. For that reason, I responded to this turn of events publicly except with yesterday's outline posting where this matter was discussed. In the interest of fairness, I wanted to balance my disappointment with the many online Catholics with apologetics pretensions who could not even make it out of the starting blocks to discuss this subject intelligently as well as charitably with the few who in my estimation could -as well as give some props in particular to the individual I chose to pursue that non-realized (at the time, unfortunately) ambition.

So the purpose of this posting is to shelve the projects outlined on August 4th until at least the 22nd and in the meantime to do my part to supply the counter position. I had dismissed from my mind the intention of saying anything on this subject in the current year but then these points were reflected upon which gave me sufficient cause for reconsideration.

--If it is ever to be discussed and be a "live issue" then it is at this time of year.{2}

--Merely cursing the darkness in light of the legions who approach these matters with not only insufficient knowledge but questionable ethics is an inadequate way of seeing such things eventually remedied if there is to be any possibility (however remote) of that happening.

--When someone is willing to go over these matters without the usual hysterics, misplaced accusations of "unorthodoxy" or "disobedience", and overall lack of principles such as charity and ethics, then there is an obligation to do so in the interest of furthering the cause of principled, ethical, charitable, and just downright honourable dialogue.{3}

So for those reasons, I have suspended the previously outlined projects either wholly or in part to tend to this matter and some other ones with the latter being of significantly smaller scale or requiring much less effort and resources than the former.

Notes:

{1} I outlined a format for a possible dialogue back on July 22nd and Mark and numerous others fell so seriously short of qualifying that they almost made a prophet out of me yet again. I say almost because I did actually receive a communique a few days back from someone who has expressed interest in a dialogue on these matters and I am in the process of setting an agreeable parameter down for seeing if this can occur. [Excerpt from Rerum Novarum (circa August 6, 2007)]

{2} Namely, the month of August at least the first half of it anyway.

{3} This is always the hardest to find in direct proportion to either the complexity of the subject in discussion and/or the passions that said subjects can stir up in the people who discuss them as a rule.

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Wednesday, August 06, 2008

As today's anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing was fast approaching, it had been brought to my attention by the individual I was going to dialogue on these matters last year{1} that they intended to post what was going to be their opening statement on the matter to another website. I had intended to spend the actual anniversaries of those events this year not commenting on the events until the anniversaries themselves had passed but it seems appropriate to say something at least briefly on this circumstance and the individual involved.

Admittedly after the experience of the two years previous to 2007{2}, I had gotten to the point last year at this time where I had decided that if this issue was going to be discussed by me at all in a public fashion that a serious vetting process was in order to make sure I was not going to waste my time on anyone not worthy of dialogue. As a result, I jadedly posted a challenge to any Catholic who wanted to dialogue on those subjects who could fulfill the most rudimentary of criteria for not only a potentially fruitful endeavour but in doing so actually give me reason to reconsider my reluctance to revisit this subject again in light of the way I had seen some people I once respected disgrace themselves on this subject in past years. Predictably some who were neither ethically nor intellectually equipped to discuss this issue weighed in and they were dispatched with so easily it was not even funny.{3} And the lack of worthy foils was predictable though that some would emerge who were was to these eyes a most pleasant surprise.

For out of the responses I got to that posting with pretensions of accepting the challenge, only two{4} were in my mind both intelligent enough to pique my interest but more importantly{5} possessing of the proper disposition to handle this matter equitably. As one of them happened to be someone who sent me an intelligent and obviously thought out criticism of one of my other weblog postings, I decided to go with the other individual upon whom I want to speak briefly about at the present time.

The individual who passed muster whom I decided to pursue dialogue with goes by the online pseudonym "Blackadder."{6} I proceeded to secure his concurrence on what was to be a joint declaration of dialogual principles preceding the planned dialogue. And in the interest of disclosure, they happen to be someone I have a good deal of respect for. Intellectually he is certainly a worthy foil but even more important is his general approach to subject matters in general. I am going to after this posting put up the first two thirds of the joint declaration from last year which is the part dealing with general dialogual principles. The last third which dealt with particular applications for our once-planned dialogue{7} will be omitted at this time though should he want to respond amicably to what I plan to write in response to his statement, I will supplement that omitted part to this weblog to the extent that it would apply to the matter in question.{8}

Anyway, more could be noted but before I link to where he posted the opening statement, I want to make the contents of that joint declaration known to all so that readers who want to know in advance what I expect of someone who would want to discuss these or any other matters with me. And that posting will be one of the next ones made to this weblog modified in the manner so noted above.

[Update: Some additional reflections were posted subsequent to this entry which can be viewed here. -ISM 8/8/08 12:30pm]

Notes:

{1} Until a variety of outside issues intervened and made the subject no longer of timely significance.

{2} Outlined in a scroll format here for those who are interested.

{3} Though admittedly I had a bit of schadenfraude in even more minutely steamrolling the pretensions of one of them later on.

{4} In the interest of disclosure I should note that I have no doubt that a third individual (someone I have had some challenging and enjoyable dialogues with in the past which are posted to the archives of this weblog) if they had the time and were actively involved in the blogsosphere at this time last year would also have made a worthy foil for this endeavour. I may mention their name at some point but for now this is all I will say on the matter.

{5} I am a realist and not an idealist. I know after years of observation, discussion board stuff, email correspondences, other forms of discussion, etc. that neophytes or those who are less-experienced in the more intricate issues will mess up. Heck, I expect neophytes to mess up!!! What is the indicator to me is what they do when they realize this.

The true mark of someone who is not wedded to their ego is the willingness to recognize and admit to error when they are apprised correctly on these matters. No one will do so perfectly all the time no matter how well they are learned because we all have issues over which we are more passionate about than others. But that does not mean there are lacking certain principles which can assist us on these matters. [Excerpt from a Forum Discussion (circa April 24, 2007)]

{6} Longtime readers probably are aware that Edmund Blackadder is one of my all time favourite characters so their choice of pseudonym was of course of interest to me.

{7} Who knows, we may have that dialogue again albeit in a different way than I originally envisioned it.

{8} As of the present writing, I am not sure on this point.

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Monday, August 04, 2008

The Presidency is Not an Entry-Level Position

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[Update: I have supplemented this posting with two additional footnotes (numbers three and four) to provide a bit more information than the post written after midnight last night had time for. -ISM 8/4/08 1:14pm]

Among the stack of books currently being read by your humble servant is one titled The Leaders We Deserve (And A Few We Didn't) about the presidents of the United States. The author has taken the initiative of avoiding the presumption of arbitrarily assigning a rank to various presidents on ideological pretenses as is the wont of most "historians" including some whose methodology this writer intends to post some critical bits on in the coming days.{1}

No, the author of the aforementioned book has sought to approach the subject of presidential rankings by analyzing forty U S Presidents{2} by six criteria{3} to ascertain where he believes they rank.{4} The methodology utilized solidified some traditional rankings (both high and low) but also made for some startling historical reappraisals.{5}

The present writer does not recommend this book simply because its author reaches many of the same conclusions with presidential rankings that your humble servant does -though that does not hurt of course.{6} Instead, it is being recommended despite our not finishing the work yet{7} because the approach to presidential ratings contained therein is so refreshingly original as well as provocative.

Notes:

{1} The bits mentioned here are the ones referred to in a recent notifications posting where I referred to "[a] few pieces on an April article from various historians pertaining to President George W. Bush."

{2} The three presidents excluded in his examination are President William H. Harrison, President James A. Garfield, and President George W. Bush. The reason for their exclusion was either inadequate time in office as in the cases of Harrison and Garfield -the former dying a month into his term and the latter being assassinated and dying less than a year into his term- and in the case of President George W. Bush because he is still in office when the book was published.

{3} The points of scoring are as follows: (i) character, (ii) vision, (iii) competence, (iv) economic policy, (v) defense, national security, foreign policy, (vi) preserving and extending freedom.

{4} As a result of the scoring system he uses, there are several ties (sometimes multiple ties) in the ratings approach.

{5} Both presidents traditionally ranked higher who ended up somewhat or significantly lower as well as the converse phenomenon.

{6} And while overall our views converge, there are some rankings which we take issue with for a variety of reasons.

{7} Something we do not do often but with this book we are far enough along to know it will turn out at least good if not better than that; ergo we recommend it at this time.

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Points to Ponder:

Be extremely subtle, even to the point of formlessness. Be extremely mysterious, even to the point of soundlessness. Thereby you can be the director of the opponent's fate. [Sun Tzu]

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Sunday, August 03, 2008

Points to Ponder:

With all the mistakes that have been made, political leaders of the United States have done many things right, or we would not have the great country we have. We should not lose sight of this.

It is understandable that people are sometimes turned off by
politics and politicians. Nevertheless, presidents and those in places of leadership, make decisions that can have far-reaching implications, for good or evil. No wonder the Scriptures tell us to pray “for kings, and for all who are in authority” (1 Tim. 2:1,2).

When leaders do not hold the highest spiritual standards or may be ungodly, we should still pray for them. Their decisions, despite this, can still turn things around for good. The classic example
is Cyrus. The Lord anointed him, though he did not know the Lord, so that he blessed the people of God, releasing them from slavery in Babylon (Isa. 45:1-4, 13; Ezra 1:1-4). [Ralph Woodrow]

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Notification of Some Upcoming Posts:

There are many projects which are unfinished -some of which have been in that state for some time now. One of the problems of time constraints is finishing in a timely fashion everything we intend to finish but there is also a benefit to the manner in which we approach subjects whereby we utilize timeless principles which accompany contemporary situations.

Among the projects we intend to either finish for posting in this blogging cycle or post{1} are the following:

--A response to an emailer taking issue with something we wrote on the subject of reason, faith, and atheism

--A few pieces on an April article from various historians pertaining to President George W. Bush.{2}

--A posting on the concepts of consequentialism and proportionalism and how they are frequently distorted by not a few who have frequent recourse to them.{3}

--A response to an email criticism of something we wrote in 2005 on the subject of journalism and journalists.{4}

Those are the projects in arrears we intend to get to in this posting cycle.{5} However, if we can find the time to either finish or otherwise get to posting them, here are some other possibilities:

--The long-talked about and finished{6} posting on the necessary third way in politics that is needed between the nonsense approaches of the radical conservatives and the radical liberals which are unworkable and unconstitutional respectively.

--A response to an emailer taking issue with my views on the fundamental rights of man and on Bastiat's overarching theory on which they are heavily based{7} asserting an incompatibility with Catholic moral and philosophical principles. Coupled in this is a challenge to my presentation of the distributivist weltanschauung in postings of the past -particularly a series of them{8} from last year.

Anyway, those are some of the planned and additional possible postings to be completed and/or posted in the current posting cycle.

Notes:

{1} Some of them are already done but for a variety of reasons have not been posted yet.

{2} Who though we are not fond of him we nonetheless in the interest of being fair feel obligated to touch on some matters on the blog from other mediums.

{3} Much along the lines of the oft-reissued "'neo con' challenge" except the terms of obfuscation are different.

{4} Namely this posting:

On the Subject of "Deep Throat", the Correlative Ramifications Thereof, Etc. (circa June 1, 2005)

{5} Which ends on August 21, 2008.

{6} It was completed last year but needs one final review before it can be posted.

{7} Though as we have noted in the past, we have actually developed further some concepts pertaining to Bastiat's theory -one of which was implied in his work but not explicitly stated and one which by logical extension is required to most fruitfully apply the theory to contemporary realities.

{8} Your host may link to the various threads in this footnote (or perhaps list them by name) at some point if he has the time to track them all down for the sake of greater completion.

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Excerpts from Classic Writings:

Today's sampling is from one of the earliest writings that influenced my overall outlook on politics and geopolitical issues in general.

I have been much concerned that so many people today with Conservative instincts feel compelled to apologize for them. Or if not to apologize directly, to qualify their commitment in a way that amounts to breast-beating. "Republican candidates," Vice President Nixon has said, "should be economic conservatives, but conservatives with a heart." President Eisenhower announced during his first term, "I am conservative when it comes to economic problems but liberal when it comes to human problems." Still other Republican leaders have insisted on calling themselves "progressive" Conservatives. These formulations are tantamount to an admission that Conservatism is a narrow, mechanistic economic theory that may work very well as a bookkeeper's guide, but cannot be relied upon as a comprehensive political philosophy.

The same judgment, though in the form of an attack rather than an admission, is advanced by the radical camp. "We liberals," they say, "are interested in people. Our concern is with human beings, while you Conservatives are preoccupied with the preservation of economic privilege and status." Take them a step further, and the Liberals will turn the accusations into a class argument: it is the little people that concern us, not the "malefactors of great wealth."

Such statements, from friend and foe alike, do great injustice to the Conservative point of view. Conservatism is not an economic theory, though it has economic implications. The shoe is precisely on the other foot: it is Socialism that subordinates all other considerations to man's material well-being. It is Conservatism that puts material things in their proper place-that has a structured view of the human being and of human society, in which economics plays only a subsidiary role.

The root difference between the Conservatives and the Liberals of today is that Conservatives take account of the whole man, while the Liberals tend to look only at the material side of man's nature. The Conservative believes that man is, in part, an economic, an animal creature; but that he is also a spiritual creature with spiritual needs and spiritual [p.5] desires. What is more, these needs and desires reflect the superior side of man's nature, and thus take precedence over his economic wants. Conservatism therefore looks upon the enhancement of man's spiritual nature as the primary concern of political philosophy. Liberals, on the other hand,-in the name of a concern for "human beings"-regard the satisfaction of economic wants as the dominant mission of society. They are, moreover, in a hurry. So that their characteristic approach is to harness the society's political and economic forces into a collective effort to compel "progress." In this approach, I believe they fight against Nature.

Surely the first obligation of a political thinker is to understand the nature of man. The Conservative does not claim special powers of perception on this point, but he does claim a familiarity with the accumulated wisdom and experience of history, and he is not too proud to learn from the great minds of the past.

The first thing he has learned about man is that each member of the species is a unique creature. Man's most sacred possession is his individual soul-which has an immortal side, but also a mortal one. The mortal side establishes his absolute differentness from every other human being. Only a philosophy that takes into account the essential differences between men, and, accordingly, makes provision for developing the different potentialities of each man can claim to be in accord with Nature. We have heard much in our time about "the common man." It is a concept that pays little attention to the history of a nation that grew great through the initiative and ambition of uncommon men. The Conservative knows that to regard man as part of an undifferentiated mass is to consign him to ultimate slavery.

Secondly, the Conservative has learned that the economic and spiritual aspects of man's nature are inextricably intertwined. He cannot be economically free, or even economically efficient, if he is enslaved politically; conversely, man's political freedom is illusory if he is dependent for his economic needs on the State.

The Conservative realizes, thirdly, that man's development, in both its spiritual and material aspects, is not something that can be directed by outside forces. Every man, for his individual good and for the good of his society, is responsible for his own development. The choices that govern his life are choices that he must make: they cannot be made by any other human being, or by a collectivity of human beings. If the Conservative is less anxious than his Liberal brethren to increase Social Security "benefits," it is because he is more anxious than his Liberal brethren that people be free throughout their lives to spend their earnings when and as they see fit.

So it is that Conservatism, throughout history, has regarded man neither as a potential pawn of other men, nor as a part of a general collectivity in which the sacredness and the separate identity of individual human beings are ignored. Throughout history, true Conservatism has been at war equally with autocrats and with "democratic" Jacobins. The true Conservative was sympathetic with the plight of the hapless peasant under the tyranny of the French monarchy. And he was equally revolted at the attempt to solve that problem by a mob tyranny that paraded under the banner of egalitarianism. The conscience of the Conservative is pricked by anyone who would debase the dignity of the individual human being. Today, therefore, he is at odds with dictators who rule by terror, and equally with those gentler collectivists who ask our permission to play God with the human race.

With this view of the nature of man, it is understandable that the Conservative looks upon politics as the art of achieving the maximum amount of freedom for individuals that is consistent with the maintenance of social order. The Conservative is the first to understand that the practice of freedom requires the establishment of order: it is impossible for one man to be free if another is able to deny him the exercise of his freedom. But the Conservative also recognizes that the political power on which order is based is a self-aggrandizing force; that its appetite grows with eating. He knows that the utmost vigilance and care are required to keep political power within its proper bounds.

In our day, order is pretty well taken care of. The delicate balance that ideally exists between freedom and order has long since tipped against freedom practically everywhere on earth. In some countries, freedom is altogether down and order holds absolute sway. In our country the trend is less far advanced, but it is well along and gathering momentum every day. Thus, for the American Conservative, there is no difficulty in identifying the day's overriding political challenge: it is to preserve and extend freedom. As he surveys the various attitudes and institutions and laws that currently prevail in America, many questions will occur to him, but the Conservative's first concern will always be: Are we maximizing freedom? [Senator Barry M. Goldwater The Conscience of a Conservative (circa 1960)]

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