Sunday, November 30, 2003

Pogo Was Right


My friend Tom and I agree on any number of things, but we disagree on a few. Actually, most of the things we disagree on are just a matter of scale. We both belong to the NRA... life members. We're both Republicans (my grandmother, who believed that FDR walked on water, just did a backflip in her grave). We're both educated guys and fairly successful in the money wars of the middle class. So... what's the problem?

Well, I'm sure that the problem is mine, not his. For a long time I have been uncomfortable with the way the breeze has been blowing through the bushes. I didn't like the fact that Nixon was in the burglary business. How did he get so far away from any central assumptions of honesty? Hell, he was the President (with deliberate capitalization) for Christ's sake! Heck, I wanted to vote for him... mostly because I thought then and I still think that Henry Kissinger is the definition of a heavy hitter.

And I didn't like the fact that Kennedy and his brother were humping Marilyn Monroe. OK... happy birthday Mr. President. But why did those guys have to act like a couple of arrogant prep school boys handing around a cheerleader in the back of the school bus? Well, the reason they acted that way was because that was the way they actually were. They were arrogant and elitist, monied snobs and insufferable coxcombs. But in spite of all that Jack was elected and is still part of the mythology of America. I wanted to like him because I thought his wife was a classy babe and deserved better. I feel the same way about our current president's mom. Very classy lady. And we all know that it's actually the women who run things. Right?

I didn't like the fact that we actually elected a lizard like Bill Clinton to the office. I don't particularly care that the guy was a whore dog... heck, I've been accused of that myself... but I didn't like the fact that he was willing to write his legacy with his pecker and rub the whole world's nose in it. The only image I can recall of the man's presidency is that big stain on the front of Monica's dress. First of all, it was huge! Did he come on her or piss on her? And why did the dizzy bitch save the dress? Was that something she was proud of? Look Mom... I saved the jizz of the President of the United States. Wanta smell? Is that all there is? I guess so. But he was the capital letter P President... symbolic leader... and we all voted for him. At least enough of us did that he got the chance to abuse the office. That shudder you feel is the collective revulsion of a whole generation. And Mrs. Clinton allowed that vulgarity. She gave it house room. Sanction. All that tells me is that she is more dangerous than he was. What hunger, what brutal exercise of power, what force of will is required to condone that fall from grace? Does she honestly believe that we will see her as the victim when she stayed with the guy and continues to practice the art of politics with Bill because he is the only show she can dance in? Yikes!

Also, I don't like the fact that tuba players at Jones High School in Orlando don't have to have a C average to play in the Macy's Thanksgiving parade. There were nine high schools invited to march in the 2003 parade. It's a big deal because it was on national TV. The principal of the F-graded school established the rule that if you didn't have a passing GPA you couldn't participate in any extra-curricular activities. That's a fairly standard rule, I think, in most schools. If you're flunking you don't have time to go all the way to New York. You need the time to study for your FCAT. Right? Well.... Jones is the traditional black school in Orlando and a third (yikes!) of the band was not passing. The black mothers of the black band members protested the rule. They have a right to march! They are being discriminated against! The school board crumbled and gave in and did not back up the principal. The flunking band members went to New York and the whole country saw that you don't need passing grades so long as you're black. Really? The other eight schools marching had to have passing grades, but not Jones. Why? Well, because they are black and should not be held to any kind of recognizable standard. Do we really believe that? What we're really saying is that black kids don't matter, right? Do what ever you want... you guys don't count anyhow. Heck, you're not even the leading minority anymore. There are more hispanics now than blacks. I wonder if they have a band. But wait... do they have entitlements? Maybe not.

I read an excellent article by Bryan Caplan the other day: Mises and Bastiat on How Democracy Goes Wrong.The question addressed by Caplan is -- How can majoritarian politics durably sustain policies harmful to majority interests? Of course, both Mises and Bastiat were the architects of all that supply side thinking that stands on the other side in opposition to Keynes. Ah... a dichotomy. Hegel rears his ugly head.

Bastiat once said that "Public opinion, whether enlightened or misguided, is nonetheless mistress of the world." Of course, that's true. But is it right? That's a separate question, isn't it. The fact that Kennedy and Clinton were electable means that they acted as conduits of public opinion. The fact that a group of academic failures can humble a community leader like the principal of Jones High School is not right, but it is a fact and no amount of carping on my part will change that.

Bastait believed that the public was guilty of what he called "broken window" thinking, that they ignored opportunity costs. They want to maintain a large army because they don't want unemployed soldiers roaming the streets. They want protectionism because they don't want to give up jobs to foreigners. He says that "When one of these fundamental errors... becomes firmly established as a conventional judgement, unquestionably accepted and agreed to by everyone, it tends to proceed from theory into practice, from thought to action."

You have to admit that most of our politicians are secretly Keynesian. Mr. Bush is a political conservative because talk radio says he is. But he is the guy who has just pushed through the largest increase in governmental spending since the New Deal... a new and improved Medicaid/Medicare complete with a free for all drug store attached. Give them what they want! They've got a right to all the free stuff! That begs the question: is there such a thing as a conservative Keynesian? You betcha. How did that happen? Well, we want the government to pay for all this stuff. We... want this. But at the same time we all want to agree with Mises and Bastiat that majoritarian issues are not necessarily the "right" thing. What I heard Trent Lott say this morning on TV is that our grandchildren will have to pay for all these "free" programs. Excuse me while I go get my lovely daughter to agree to stay on the pill for a while... at least until one of us can win the lottery and make taxation a moot issue for us.

Bastiat said that "Protectionism is too popular for its adherents to be regarded as insincere. If the majority had faith in free trade, we should have free trade." True. If we wanted to help our grandparents get help at the drugstore we would open up an account for them down at Eckerds and pay the bill when it came due. But we don't want to pay. We want the government to pay. And we are willing to saddle our grandchildren with the debt. Really? Well, no... not really. But I suspect that most of us don't really believe that we will ever have to pay. Most of us believe that our world will end before any final accounting can be done.

That's another one of those dichotomies, isn't it? The duality between our heads and our hearts that Rebecca West described so elegantly in her Black Lamb and Grey Falcon: Only part of us is sane. Only part of us believes that we can die at home in bed in a house that we built with our own hands, surrounded by people who love us and grieve our passing. The other part wants to burn down the house so that we are left in blackened ashes surrounded by desolation, alone, and beyond the responsibility of hatred or hope. We love the science of modern medicine but hate the fact that we have to pay for it. We love the taste of success when our children are invited to play the tuba in a famous parade but hate the fact that we are forever branding them as the losers from Jones who can't win by following the rules but have to cheat to get in the parade. We are fascinated by filth, especially powerful filth, so we debase our institutions because we secretly wish that it was us who pulled back Lewinsky's hair so that we could see our tumescent selves in her mouth, pulling out just in time to see it spurt down the front of her dress. That's what power is, right? The ability to heap degradation on others, right? Do we really believe that? Only part of us does. The other part sees it as that nililistic part of us that wants to destroy every good thing in our lives. We find ourselves hating our own souls. Lincoln once said that there are two angels in our nature, and that good does not always win. Sometimes the darker angels of our nature has acendancy. Hell, we do this to ourselves.

So I still belong to the ACLU. Why? Because I believe that they are part of the Heglian dance that we all are a party to. Some of what they do will form the opposition to what needs to be opposed. Are they right all the time? Hell no. No more than Mr. Ashcroft is always wrong. We agree that most of what he is working for is agreeable to us... but not all. There is no pure dialectic. Mises said, "Democracy guarantees a system of government in accordance with the wishes and plans of the majority. But it cannot prevent majorities from falling victim to erroneous ideas and from adopting inappropriate policies which not only fail to realize the ends aimed at but result in disaster." As Caplan so aptly notes, "Bastiat anticipated the rise of socialism but Mises actually lived through it." The dialectic... the process... persists. We have painfuly learned that socialism is a mistake. So, there is no longer a USSR... just the lingering foolishness of academic marxists. But we still don't want to pay for our parent's medications. Or our children's tuba lessons.

I'm actually the only optimist in the crew. I believe that if we can continue to blunder along we will find some common ground to move towards the future. Thesis opposes antithesis and begats... synthesis. Which becomes a new proposition, or... thesis. And so the Heglian dance moves painfully forward. Somehow, my daughter will find a way to get me the medical attention I'll need in my dotage (a rapidly approaching certainty). And I'm sure that just because the principal of Jones High lost this round he will ultimately win the war because what all those politically correct mommies really want is educated children. Black or white or brown or whatever they are tomorrow.

Who said the culture war was unwinnable?


Bob

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

glad you could make it to the funeral. mrs. kenyon was quite a lady. i did talk to kenny last thurs. & he seemed in good spirits. tough to lose a mother but a real relief to know they've escaped from the dementia jail.

as for agreeing about life & the box...you've forgotten your longfellow:

tell me not in mournful numbers
:life is but an empty dream"
for the soul is dead that slumbers
and things are not what they seem.

first poem i ever learned...clean poem, that is.

i'm more concerned about the wonderful ts elliot line:

"i've seen the eternal footman hold my coat & snicker..."

that SOB better not snicker!

i like the old die hard battery ad in which the "battery grim reaper was worried about being reduced to "house plant grim reaper". snickers will get him demoted to "dental plate grim reaper"!

have you asked for your check back from the aclu?

bought any sousa marches to keep away the riff raff?

Monday, November 24, 2003

If all men knew what others say of them, there would not be four friends in the world.

-- Blaise Pascal


My apologies to my oldest friend. Let's continue to agree between us that life is short and the only thing that awaits either of us is a box. I hope Kenny is holding up. I couldn't go to another.

Bob


well, i finally get around to figuring out blogger bob's invitation and what do i find? why the rascals posted my gentle rejoinders to the squandering of bucks on the aclu!

of course, he fails to post my link pointing out the aclu's anti 2nd amendment campaign now going on in mass. then he accuses me of losing my sense of humor!

sound like typical leftist moonbat ad hominem to me...

judge for yourself...here's his response...


Tom -

Well, that stuff might hold some water in Mass. Perhaps the folks in Boston
shouldn't be allowed to carry guns. Uncle Ted always used Volkswagons to
kill people, he being an enlightened left coast liberal.

Tommy... you're in danger of losing your sense of humor. Stop thinking with
your mouse and try putting together positive arguments originating from your
own experience. Clicking around to other people's ragged ranting doesn't
enhance a position, it only elaborates other people's thinking. And those
folks always seem to have an axe to grind.

I thought you'd read my take on 9/11 and have something to say. I did
reinvite you to join the blog at my website.


chicken little must be right...ol' bob's complaining about "ragged ranting"? why i've heard the old boy, when in full voice, do a credible imitation in volume, style & quality of though to what henry VIII must have mustered discussing the wives, the pope, the peter's pence, the divorce...

i, however, do admit that advancing old fartdom may have caused me to resemble "thinking with my mouse" more than thinking with that part of me i used to think a lot more with when i was much younger. not only am i now thinking about a much wider range of topics, but the women are safer.

now i can comfortably contemplate scintillating topics like "when did bob's mind turn into a skull full of rush...ehhhmush?" how could i not have known? i know he seemed overly preoccupied with ginsberg at a tender age, but weren't we all? he did get diverted into academia, but one would think the bail bond business would have cured that! how could my oldest friend developed moonbats in his belfry and I NOT NOTICE?

a terrible friend i've been!

now i know combing that batshit out of your hair will be a bitch, bob. but you can do it...and it's a great excuse for excessive use of red wine.

let us examine a statement extracted from your pitiful attack on my sense of humor:

"Clicking around to other people's ragged ranting doesn't
enhance a position, it only elaborates other people's thinking. "

it seems to me that 'elaborating other people's thinking' is why both you & i have spent a gazillion dollars on books. we scrunched up our cerebellum's for a humongous philosophical enema from which we sifted those nuggets necessary to "get our shit together". after ongoing mental digestion, what's left is the mental equivalent of "you are what you eat".



as i dodder into old fartdom, i find clicking is cheaper & quicker and doesn't weight nearly as much when you have to move. today, just as when we were growing up, one man's ragged ranting is another's philosophical gems. the only difference is i am much more discriminating than i used to be and, of course, more frequently right!

( i know, you're thinking "right of what? adolf?")

i have to go now. please try to work on those leftist liberal cobwebs. i'm sure the scales can fall from your eyes if you really, really try!

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

This was passed along by Dan Gilmartin. Gee, Dan... this seems like typical Gator football to me:


Except for Oklahoma, it's one wacky football
season

by Mark Bradley
Atlanta Constitution

Nobody knows anything, OK? I don't know. You
don't know. Bobby Bowden doesn't know. Tommy
Bowden doesn't know. Terry Bowden doesn't know.
Nobody knows.

Nobody knows what's coming next because nobody
can make any sense out of what has happened.
Florida State shut out Notre Dame in South Bend
but lost to Clemson, which was shut out at home
by Georgia. Florida lost to Tennessee, which lost
to Georgia, which lost to Florida. See any
pattern?

Nobody sees any pattern. Nobody knows anything.
Larry Coker doesn't know. Frank Beamer doesn't
know. Miami, which hadn't lost a regular-season
game in three years, lost two in eight days. In
the span of 17 days, Virginia Tech lost to West
Virginia, beat Miami and lost to Pittsburgh.

Ole Miss started its season 2-2 and leads the SEC
West. Auburn started its season ranked No. 1 by
The Sporting News and The New York Times and will
be 6-5 if it loses Saturday in Athens. Georgia
Tech beat Auburn and nearly beat Florida State in
the same season it lost to Duke and almost lost
to Vanderbilt. Florida led Miami by 23 points and
lost and trailed Kentucky by 18 and won -- in the
same month!

TCU is undefeated. Notre Dame is 3-6. Southern
Cal went to Auburn and won and went to Berkeley
and lost. Arkansas plays six overtimes every week
and wins. Alabama plays five overtimes every week
and loses. Penn State is 2-8. Tennessee is two
points from being 1-4 in the SEC but is No. 7 in
the BCS standings. Ohio State still has won every
close game except the one where its linebacker
tried to throttle Wisconsin quarterback Jim
Sorgi, who was rendered speechless and who gave
way to backup Matt Schabert, who threw the
winning touchdown pass.

The best collegian in the country, Maurice
Clarett, hasn't played a down. A.J. Suggs, who
has been a starting quarterback in both the SEC
and ACC, hasn't played a down. Peyton Manning
couldn't beat Florida, but Eli Manning has.
Dennis Franchione's old team lost to Northern
Illinois; Dennis Franchione's new team came
within 78 points of Oklahoma. Mike Price, briefly
Franchione's successor, says he never had
improper relations with any of those women.

Northern Illinois, Bowling Green and Boise State
are ranked in the latest AP poll. Washington,
Kansas State and Maryland are not. Miami (Fla.)
is ranked only nine places ahead of Miami (Ohio).
Eleven teams are ranked in the Top 25 that were
unranked in preseason. TCU has pulled ahead of
Tennessee, Michigan, Georgia, Florida State and
both Miamis in the BCS standings.

If not for the numbing omnipotence of Oklahoma,
this would be the weirdest college season ever,
and there's still a chance things will get
stretched beyond all shape and reason. Nobody has
any idea what to make of TCU or where to send it
for the holidays. North Carolina State isn't
ranked in the Top 25 but has a realistic chance
of playing in a BCS game. (It must beat FSU and
Maryland and then pull within five spots of the
Seminoles in the final BCS rankings.) Texas,
which lost to Oklahoma by 52 points, could play
the Sooners again in the Sugar Bowl.

And then there's the SEC, which has enlivened the
scene by making up tiebreakers as it goes along.
Say Ohio State loses to Purdue and then beats
Michigan. Say Southern Cal loses to Oregon State
or UCLA. Say Texas loses to Texas A&M. Say LSU
loses to Ole Miss. The BCS standings as of Nov.
30 would have Oklahoma No. 1, Tennessee No. 2 and
Georgia No. 3. Which would mean:

Georgia goes to the SEC championship game.

And Tennessee might go to the national
championship game.

Say Georgia loses to Ole Miss in the Dome. That
would put the Vols in a position we historians
like to call "Nebraska." You might recall that,
two seasons ago, the Cornhuskers lost their final
regular-season game to Colorado 62-36 but wound
up No. 2 in the BCS without actually winning
their conference. College football -- it's the
realm where nobody knows anything, and nobody
ever learns.