How We Elect: A Decaying Republic’s Broken System (Part Two)

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It’s a commonplace in American politics to ascribe corruption to every elected official.  They’re all crooks, we say… and the system makes such sweeping condemnation credible.  You can’t get elected without publicizing your candidacy, you can’t publicize without advertising, you can’t advertise without campaign contributions… and you can’t elicit meaningful contributions unless a body of deep-pocketed donors has reason to believe that you favor a certain agenda.  So… there you are, bought and paid for in the eyes of the casual cynic.

As I ponder the misery of conservative Americans, forever watching their government slide farther left by promising more and more goodies to possible voters, I share in the cynic’s disgust.  We who just want to be left alone (How about a “Back Off” party, with the Yosemite Sam who used to appear on trailer mud-flaps as our mascot?) are constantly being served the challenge, “Well, look at what the other side’s offering!”  We have to be content, then, with a slower rate of drift into the national debt chasm that yawns as millions of ne’er-do-wells sell their vote to the highest bidder.  Or we don’t have to be content, of course: we can sit out elections and opt for a straight nosedive.  Maybe the more abrupt catastrophe will be more fruitful—maybe those who survive it can get about piecing something together from the rubble sooner.

I’ve grown so familiar with both sides of this Hobson’s Choice over the years that I can argue for and against either one with equal vigor… and equal despair.  I don’t know how we find and promote candidates who genuinely wish to save the republic rather than feed off her decaying carcass—or, in the unlikely event that we elect them, how we keep them from going flabby within their first term.

Lately, though (and maybe thanks to a steady water-boarding in cynicism), I’ve begun to envision a new kind of candidate.  This worthy would already have amassed a small fortune, would already have very broad “name recognition”—and, most importantly, would already have experienced mistreatment at the hands of the info-tainment industry.  For the last criterion is essential: it’s what is permanently, fatally missing in our patriotic, clean-cut saviors who turn two-faced during their freshman term.  Someone—I think it may have been Chris Putnam—explained recently on Daniel Horowitz’s Conservative Review that mere surrender to the barrage of media criticism is a major cause of our champions going Judas.  It makes sense, if you consider the following picture.  Just who is this bright young star of ours?  A pleasant man or woman who’s very used to pleasing—who has known nothing else since being class president for several years running in high school.  This person has the smile, has the wave, has the walk.  He’s always charmed everyone… until now.  Now, alarmingly, the magic is gone.  That has to be terrifying.  How to get the magic back?  What does Orpheus do when the trees no longer uproot themselves to dance to his sweet lyre?  One has to suppose that he lets the strangely unmoved audience call the tune, and the tempo.

Consider, by way of example, the current game of rope-a-dope that “wise Latina grandmother” Sonya Sotomayor is playing with Chief Justice John Roberts.  She’ll get results; she usually does.  Roberts is more concerned over his acceptance by the beltway intellectual elite than he is about preserving the Constitution.  Ironically, his new compatriot Brett Kavanaugh is cut from the same cloth, despite a take-no-prisoners confirmation hearing that duped most of us into supposing our rock-bottom values to be the stake.  Kavanaugh is another prep-school party boy, though admittedly (hopefully—please-God-surely) almost as wise now as a Latina grandmother.  Sotomayor was correct in her snarky talking out of school to this extent: we do tend to preserve bits and pieces of the prejudices in which we were raised.  For Kavanaugh, the corrosive residue upon his judgment is one of wanting to please, of expecting to be praised.  It’s what he has always known.  (For Sotomayor, it’s a default retreat to the “Latina” trump card that has always won the hand in the past, even though her confidence in that strategy utterly undermines—patently contradicts—her sworn duty to consider all human beings as individuals equally endowed with rights.)

So… so who, then, is our superhero candidate capable of leaping over such obstacles in a single bound?  What about a figure from the world of professional athletics whose gilded reputation provides a breastplate against media slings and arrows?  What about Curt Schilling, the should-have-been (perhaps soon-to-be) Hall of Fame pitcher?  What about New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick—or his protégé, quarterback Tom Brady?  Wrestling superstar Tyrus has established his political gravitas on Greg Gutfeld’s show, and enjoys the additional advantage of being black.  Does that matter?  Am I really clinging to the notion of identity politics?  Why, yes: inasmuch as the name of this new game is vanquishing the propaganda machine at work behind news desks everywhere, any contradiction of the simplistic profiles spewed over our air waves is welcome.  We’re playing a game, precisely.  Our society is in a degenerative stage which its founding fathers would have recognized as fatal.  We can no longer merely rely upon sound arguments made by honest people—for a shocking percentage of the electorate reasons by pure association, and elected representatives of routine qualifications soon lose their honesty.  Those are the game’s ground rules.

The new candidate, therefore, needs an “in your face” attitude.  And his defiance has to be such that the public credits it to his established “bad ass” persona.  He must be able to jump down Jim Acosta’s throat, come back out with a fistful of viscera, and throw them in the impudent punk’s face.

Albert Pujols: he’ll be retiring soon.  First-ballot Hall of Famer.  The most terrifying batsman of the new millennium’s opening decade, and a giant of a man (a Latin giant) who silenced questions about his possible steroids use with little more than a scowl.  What sticks in my mind about Alberto’s political inclination is a proud remark I once heard Glenn Beck make about the world’s mightiest clean-up hitter being one of his fans… and also a much more recent, very understated regret voiced by Pujols about California taxes.  He’s Latino-wise enough, I’m sure, to keep his mouth shut on more hot-button issues until the Cooperstown vote is recorded.  He doesn’t want to get “schillinged”.  Wise, very wise.

But you see how this plays, anyway.  Would an actor also meet our specifications?  Maybe.  Dean Cain has played Superman, and doesn’t appear (in truly Superman fashion) to fear the Twitter spittle drawn by his conservative views.  Our man Ronaldus Magnus seemed to have mastered the art of ignoring flights of rotten eggs and tomatoes thanks to his screen career.  One could wish that Schwarzenegger had been a little less impressed with social engineering… but he, too, serves to sustain the main point.

Which is simply this.  Our broken system is preserved in constant shambles primarily (speaking from a purely mechanical perspective) by the unremitting slanders that educational institutions and broadcast media heap upon non-progressive, “back off” candidates.  We look for new faces who have “done things”: created jobs, served in the military, fought infanticide in the courts… and these tyros keep getting themselves shot down or captured in the first sally.  (Oh, by the way… yeah, how has Martha McSally worked out?)  It’s time now to pay attention to character rather than accomplishment—and when I say “character”, I don’t mean church attendance and fidelity to one spouse.  Maybe I should have said “personality”.  We need tough guys.  We need people who will stuff the slanders in their mouth, chew them into nails, and spit them back where they came from.  We need not to put nice guys on the ballot, guys like you and me.  We need a bad-ass.

Okay, so I’ve been describing Donald Trump… I guess.  I could argue with you about that.  For my taste, Trump spends too much time tweeting intercepted missiles back where they came from and too little time actually attending to policy.  (There’s an enormous amount of matter, for instance, capable of exposing the Swamp in all its stench that he could declassify tomorrow; why, oh why, doesn’t he do so?)  Imagine Bill Belichick giving the State of the Union instead of the Donald.  No celebration of Jevonka’s “jailbreak” bill, nor even a Medal of Freedom for Rush (though I’m fine with that: hell, Barack Obama dished out 123 of the things to people like Isabel Allende, Barbra Streisand, and Bruce Springsteen).  No, I picture Bill at the rostrum quietly, almost monotonously detailing all the duties not performed by the House, the Senate, the courts, the media, the universities, the banking sector… and then he raps his thin stack of notes sharply on the mahogany, turns to leave, and leans into the microphone for one last, very dry comment.  “Just do your job.”

Will I leave to hear those words from that stage?

“The Federated States of America”: Looking for Words in the Constitution’s Ashes (Part III)

[The following post should have appeared three weeks ago. We’ve just become aware that it was published to the wrong page and was probably not accessible to the public.]

I promise to go no farther (for a few weeks, anyway) than today’s remarks in my series of speculations about how we might reassemble some of our Humpty Dumpty republic’s pieces.  It’s a depressing subject.  I have not engaged it with the excitement of a utopian brat entering grad school who is pleased to treat people’s lives—and entire institutions of multi-generational pedigree—as chess pieces.  I do not believe in man’s “perfectability”: on the contrary, I am convinced (like our nation’s founders) of the ineradicable corruption hiding within all things human.

It’s precisely for that reason that I have so far advanced the following ideas:

1)      A defensive federation is essential.  Individuals or individual states must not have the right to undermine the security of the whole.  Undermining shared defenses in a persistent, deliberate manner and/or with obviously homicidal ends should be judged treasonous and punished with severity.  (Hence my proposals are not secessionist, despite my frequent sympathy with secessionism in the recent past: quite the opposite.)

2)      Within our restructured federation, states may do what they wish about marriage, consumption of mood-altering substances, possession of firearms, restriction of foods, provision of health care, and so forth.  Their freedom to regulate the quotidian lives of their citizens will be almost unbounded, inasmuch as the federal authority’s interest is exclusively in defending the union rather than micro-managing lifestyles.  Yet I write “almost unbounded” of state authority because (among other reasons) education and the news media, in their debased contemporary form, inevitably plunge us into issues of malevolent propaganda that must at last subvert the federation.  I think objective boundaries are easy enough to draw.  It really isn’t difficult to present both sides of a controversial issue in a classroom or newsroom setting: not doing so takes determination and requires design.  Professors who preach embrace of Red China’s mass mind-control practices in the morning, therefore, should be dismissed that afternoon under federal law.  Nobody’s telling them how to think—but the Federation must keep thought-hostile thinkers off of government payrolls. Institutional suicide should not be permitted. (Perhaps incurable malcontents could be resettled in other parts of the world that they suppose more amenable and that, for some reason, would consent to have them.)

3)      Thanks to the liberality implicit in Item 2, many citizens will no doubt want to emigrate from State A and take up residency in State B.  In the twenty-first century, this should pose few problems.  There are no mountains or deserts to cross in Conestoga wagons.  Yet new immigrants may have to abide in their adoptive states for a decade before being allowed a vote in local elections (with the terms of registration to be determined by each state).  One of the most effective fulcrums employed in toppling our late great United States was the abuse of enfranchisement—abuse both unintended and designed: new residents flooding healthy states but voting in the manner that polluted their forsaken states, residents from far-flung societies with no republican tradition who embraced paternalistic government on reflex, illegal aliens who were allowed to vote in the certain knowledge that they would support the party providing them with cost-free benefits… this must not stand as universal practice.  If certain states allow it to do so, then they must be permitted to crash, burn, and learn without dragging down their neighbors.

4)      No Supreme Court will sit to adjudicate the essential, God-given rights of citizens; the federal bench’s role, rather, will be to determine when individuals or states have acted seditiously or traitorously against the interests of the federation, as a necessary measure of self-defense.  Even in this function, one can readily imagine instances of excess and abuse, so the high court’s mandate would certainly have to be pondered much more deeply.  Yet the clarity of risk in the single area of determining treason only underscores the folly—so visible in our routine affairs as I write—of allowing unelected arbiters to have thumbs-up-or-down power over how citizens worship, how they converse, how they hire and fire, and so forth.  Our founders were uncharacteristically naive in supposing that an elite of robed Olympians would resist natural egotism and remain humble before the august authority of legal precedent (or dare I say “before God’s law”?).  No such luck.

5)      A corrupt executive appointing a supreme body of corrupt judges could conceivably do much damage, even in a looser federation; but it is to be stressed that the executive officer would himself be elected by a one-state, one-vote mechanism.  No popular vote… and no electoral college, either.  Since each individual state in this system potentially represents an experimental alternative (the phrase “crucible of democracy” has been used), one might view the fifty experiments as casting a collective vote.  Item 3 ensures that no experiment may be manipulated—legalistically and against the will of long-abiding residents—by the sort of population games that the Left ruinously practiced upon the decayed United States.

6)      Individual states would be free to form cooperatives within the federation for specific purposes dictated by clearly shared interests.  Certain states might wish to address a regional water shortage or flooding problem together, for instance, since the root causes of such concerns seldom respect boundaries drawn on a map.

Among the few final recommendations I would make is an insistent one about tax structure.  In the current (i.e., collapsing) system, we pay local sales tax and also locally varying property taxes (not to mention innumerable “stealth” taxes on licensures, franchises, and so forth).  Everyone pays the sales tax: it’s the most equitable levy in the world.  If you don’t want to pay so much of it, you learn to consume less.  One might say, indeed, that it is a morally instructive tax, in that it teaches frugality and suppression of frivolous whimsy.  In contrast, the property tax is a yearly fine upon citizens for the crime of daring to marry, save money, and purchase a residence as the foundation of family life.  There’s no counter-balancing tax, of course, upon those who prefer to spend their wages on parties and vacations as they maximize their personal pleasures.  The assumptions underlying the property tax, if they can be excavated from a century of mind-numbing habit, are morally outrageous.

Then we have the graduated income tax, exacted by the federal government and by most states.  No secret here about its moralistic underpinnings: soak the rich.  From those to whom much is given, much is required (even our secularist utopians can quote scripture when a context-less snippet props up their predation).  The truth is that extremely wealthy citizens know all too well how to skirt the tax man: hence Warren Buffett’s notorious claim during the Obama years that he paid less tax than his secretary.

The real opprobrium of the graduated income tax, however, lurks in the presumption that resources not taxed are resources removed from any benefit to the commonwealth.  This is absurd.  The only reason any millionaire would transform his portfolio into gold and silver that he hides under a mattress is that his government’s catastrophic mismanagement of the economy terrifies him.  Normally, this same Ebenezer Scrooge would seek out profitable investments so that his substantial capital continues to grow; and these investments, in turn, would finance new business start-ups and other opportunities for small players to prosper.

Money siphoned away from such activity by a greedy Nanny State, on the other hand, passes through dozens or hundreds of public-bureaucrat fingers before reaching its “charitable” destination: a paternalistic bribe, essentially, to secure struggling people in whatever trough life has set before them and, thus, to solidify them into a permanent constituency.  In the process of handing off revenues down the line, unholy alliances between public and private sectors also build up like an economic arterial sclerosis.  Industries selected by “corruptocrats” (after bribes, kick-backs, and campaign contributions) to supply the forever-needy grow fat and squeeze out legitimate competition.  This is the squalid underbelly of capitalism which so justly outrages our know-nothing youth poised to vote for Bernie.  The correct word for it is corporatism.

Here’s my recommendation.  End all income tax and property tax (or allow states to mix whatever “tax cocktail” they wish… and then stand back to let citizens vote on the brew with their feet).  Revenues spent in provision of the national defense would all be raised from sales tax.  The ordinary Joe and Josephine would thus be able to understand with visceral reality just how much an effective national defense costs; and furthermore, no resident within the nation’s borders—legal or otherwise—would be able to skate on making a fair contribution.

To be sure, the outcry of protest would be deafening in any given fiscal year.  It probably ought to be: that’s probably healthy.  Government contracts allowing Lockheed to put champagne upholstery in a transport plane (or to charge champagne prices for wormwood product) would evaporate.  Pressure would also be placed on state and local government to carve out a smaller piece of flesh.  And… need I add that our immigration debacle would somewhat self-correct if “guest workers” absorbed a proportionate cost for the society from whose security they profit?

The lynch pin of the whole thing is a relative independence of states within a rigorously maintained defensive unit.  We see the disastrous results of a system featuring the reverse emphasis when we look across the Atlantic (if, that is, we insist on being blinded to our own disaster).  The member nations of the EU have only obligations to Brussels: the oligarchic elite, in return, recognizes no duty to defend any national border.  If our entire planet is not to decay into an Orwellian dystopia, then we must allow our “visionaries” as free a hand as possible in designing their terrestrial paradises… and also insist—absolutely insist—that they face any consequences of engineering malfeasance that don’t involve mass die-off.  People who want to live the lives of spoiled children or gibbering idiots should be free to do so unless they are, in fact, children or idiots.  Otherwise, as adults, they have a solemn right to the harsh consequences of their folly.

In postscript, I will briefly acknowledge that I have written nothing directly this month about the two most subversive elements, perhaps, gnawing the marrow of our moribund republic: our broadcast media and our university system (whose tentacles reach ever deeper toward the toddler).  The truth is that I don’t exactly know how we might chastise the worker-bees of “hive ideology” eagerly staffing these cultural hornet’s nests without echoing their mindless buzz.  In the dark, prickly Garden of Manmade Eden where Sanders supporters are fist-pumping over the prospects of American gulags and Elizabeth Warren has magnified Obama-era “Net neutrality” into prison terms for those who speak against her royal will, one wants to reach for a pitchfork instead of wag a finger.  Knocking heads in defensive reaction is hard to resist (and is also, let us never forget, the very response to which the propaganda machine would goad “deplorables”).  For that reason, I am more than half inclined to rescind my suggestion above that college profs who dish out totalitarian indoctrination from the rostrum be cashiered: it may be a bit too Warrenesque.

Yet how exactly do we defend ourselves, and especially our youth, from these Satanic evangelists—these “murder is love” Mansonists?  I don’t entirely know.  I can only repeat, in parting, that allowing citizens who leap into that pot to simmer away without interference strikes me as the best recipe for stimulating a postponed adulthood.

The risk is that the witches tending the brew may call for adding, say, a Chinese or Iranian seasoning whose resulting stench threatens surrounding states.  Somehow, the union’s safety must be thrust to the fore in daily practice.

How We Elect: A Decaying Republic’s Broken System (Part One)

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On Friday, February 14, I received the following email message from Dr. Lerah Lee’s campaign to seek a House seat in D.C:

When I started this campaign for Georgia’s 7th Congressional District, I was determined to follow through, win or lose—but sometimes things don’t work out the way we plan.
Unfortunately, I have had to suspend my campaign to focus on my health, but I want to assure everyone that has supported me with volunteer work, prayers, and financial generosity that I am still committed to the conservative values we share and Republican victory in 2020.

There was more, but none of it relevant to the reasons for Dr. Lee’s withdrawal.  Having promoted her candidacy in this space and others, I felt that more was needed.  I had been persuaded—and I remain persuaded—that the Republican Party should pay more attention to wooing black voters away from the Democrat puppeteers ruining their lives.  I was reproached by some for playing “identity politics”… but I’m of Anglo-Welsh origin myself, and even I often look at Republican candidates with the thought, “One of those again—one of the doctor/lawyer class whose kids never went to jail for drunk driving, always found their way to a college degree after four or five years of partying, always graduated to find jobs falling into their laps.”  Yeah, I knew a lot of them.  And I’m white.  So you needn’t tell me that the “privileged class” perception is imaginary, especially when white “conservatives” like Doug Collins, Tom Tillis, and Lindsey Graham 2.0 continue to promote the presence of unvetted aliens among us while emptying out our prisons.  There’s something to the “country club/gated community” stereotype, my dears.  It happens not to be a racial “something”, primarily—though it is perhaps so secondarily; and the untrained eye often sees the second layer as the surface one.

Unfortunately, there’s also something to the Raisin in the Sun stereotype.  When I coached baseball for a predominantly black Little League in Tyler, Texas, many years ago, our pleasant experiences came to a skidding halt during a season when three or four of the league’s “organizers” decided to start pocketing cash from the concession stand.  One of them very nearly took a swing at me after I protested how he had scheduled road trips all over East Texas on school nights.  He said (or yelled) a little too much: it became clear to me just then that the whole arrangement was a “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” concoction to isolate the boys and their families from any food right at supper time… except, of course, for the concession stand.  None of these men was driving a humble Chevy S-10 and living in a fifty-year-old house, as I was.  All of them also seemed to be far deeper in debt than I’ve ever been.

So… did I just get played in a similar way by Dr. Lerah?  The whole thing has that old savor.  I certainly wouldn’t want to pry… but something a little beyond “focus on my health” (bolded dramatically) would help.  Why not just mention nervous exhaustion, or a newly diagnosed heart condition?  We don’t need to see the file and the X-rays, but… but some of us stuck our neck out for you, Dr. L!  One would also have liked to read something on the order of this: “I have now spent all of the funds raised and am consuming my personal savings on the campaign, which will destroy my family if I do not change course.”  But no.  Nothing in that genre.

The next time a bright young constitutionalist seeking office makes an appeal to me on the basis of African DNA, I’m afraid I won’t be very receptive.  Already, I’ve begun reflexively deleting emails from some new Candace Owens PAC requesting funds for just that objective.  You might think about that part of your legacy, Dr. Lee, if you’re at all inclined to ponder the wake left by your public actions.

And tossing about in the wreckage of that very wake, I started looking at Senator Kelly Loeffler from a new angle.  Appointed to replace the ailing Johnny Isakson by Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, Loeffler is required by state law to run for formal election next November rather than serve out the entire Isakson term uncontested.  The battle between her and the forementioned Doug Collins has drawn national attention.  As a girl, Kelly would probably not have fit the “one of those again” profile that I memorized so thoroughly in high school.  Her ads, now saturating local TV, represent a Midwestern farm lass who waited tables to put herself through college: someone much more like me than like my quondam classmates in an elite Fort Worth private school.  But that endearing snapshot edits out the critical years of her more recent life when she met and married an Atlanta billionaire.  Wikipedia estimates Kelly’s current net worth at 500 million.  The figure is likely not far off target, and the claim it fuels that Loeffler is among the wealthiest people in Washington seems justified.  Besides raw wealth, other peculiarities make this case a standout.  Here’s how one source represents the rather complicated picture taking shape around the freshman senator:

Kelly Loeffler, former CEO of bitcoin derivatives exchange Bakkt and a newly-appointed U.S. Senator, has joined the committee that oversees the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC).

Loeffler has joined the Senate Agricultural Committee, which has jurisdiction over the CFTC. Loeffler’s appointment to the committee raises concerns about a possible conflict of interest. Her husband, Jeffrey Sprecher, is the founder, chairman, and CEO of Intercontinental Exchange (ICE), which is regulated by the CFTC.

“I have worked hard to comply with both the letter and the spirit of the Senate’s ethics rules and will continue to do so every day,” Loeffler told the Wall Street Journal, adding: “I will recuse myself if needed on a case by case basis.”

Loeffler’s appointment reportedly comes at a time when the agriculture committee is working on legislation to reauthorize the CFTC. The committee also oversees approving nominations for CFTC commissioners and chairmen.

Oh, boy.  You know, one of the reasons I took my son to the north side of Tyler to play baseball was that the south side was overrun by the “one of those again” types: the pushy white males with their lucrative insurance gigs and car dealerships.  They would cut shady deals, those “coaches”, before draft night to have the two or three most grotesquely overgrown lads on their team, blow away the competition for the next two months, advance to regional play-offs, and (I’ve no doubt) assume that college or professional scouts would spot their son on the SuperTeam and immediately get on the phone about a scholarship or signing bonus.  They weren’t snitching Jacksons out of the cash drawer: they were fishing for Moby Dick.

And now Kelly Loeffler… is going to self-police on a committee that will determine the future of her husband’s vastly lucrative enterprise.  Well, maybe.  I guess it all depends on whether she has so much already that she doesn’t feel tempted to mark the deck during future shuffles.

Here is my collective response to our train wreck of a political system.  There are perhaps four types of politician.  One is a pitiful, negligible scavenger: the camp-following opportunist poised to snatch up whatever morsels slip off the table.  This person, being poor and void of powerful backing, raises a ruckus among the poor about the Class of the Powerfully Backed.  He or she may gain a bit of local traction but really never intends to go very far.  Going far, after all, isn’t necessary.  There are so many crumbs and morsels—enough to make even the also-rans fat and happy!  Why not just fill your pockets during the election season’s general chaos?  Dr. Lee, I’m not really looking at you… am I?  I wish I knew.  Or maybe I’m glad I don’t.

It is difficult to believe that the Clintons—our nation’s political Bonnie and Clyde—began as anything much other than petty scavengers.  Having watched their ascent over my own lifetime, I can discern no persistent motive in their behavior other than self-enrichment—no clear indication that they sought to subordinate this motive to ideology at any point.  To the extent that Hillary, in particular, grew to be a leftist ideologue, it is likely because she recognized in the sweeping vistas of power suddenly open before her a breathtaking opportunity to amass fortunes upon fortunes.  Sometimes the pet fed on table scraps becomes the Dog Who Has His Day.

Next we have the relatively impoverished but better connected, genuinely ideological populist who manages to get himself (or herself) catapulted into the Big Show.  This person truly intends to fight for the little guy in the beginning… and then sees what limitless fields of abundance have opened before him.  One imagines that European sailors who discovered flightless, succulent Dodo birds waiting to be slaughtered on South Sea islands must have known the temptation.  If one can ascribe any degree of sincerity to AOC in her first hours of fame, she may fit the profile; but then, she let suspiciously few of those hours pass before starting to live high and wide on her electoral success.  Perhaps she simply doesn’t understand money.  The once lovable Joe Lieberman, on the other hand, has come to understand money all too well.  He’s currently an effective lobbyist for a Communist China openly in pursuit of world domination: a nice guy no more, alas.

Now we do a kind of class/racial/economic pivot.  The third and fourth types enter politics already rich by ordinary standards.  Number Three is conservative in that he (or she) just wants to keep the gravy train rolling: form special ties with legislators, pass special laws to secure his venture’s favored position, perhaps open new markets or create new bureaucratic obstacles that will allow the venture to slip even farther ahead.  The “conservation” apparently enters the equation through the idea of providing jobs, jobs, jobs.  The crushing of potentially competitive start-ups through intrusive legislation and imperial bureaucracy… nah, who needs those jobs?  Nothing much is said by these “conservators”, either, about freedom of speech and assembly, or the right to bear arms, or due process, or abortion… nothing except on such public occasions as require checking the proper box.  Hello, Doug Collins, Lindsey Graham, Tom Tillis, John Cornyn, Mitt Romney, Mitch McConnell, Lamar Alexander… and will you join this rogue’s gallery, Kelly Loeffler?

Finally, and most ominously, we have the once-capitalist Croesus who has made so much loot in his day that he can never possibly spend a tenth of it, and who has hence lost interest in growing or even preserving it.  He is jaded with pedestrian luxuries like palatial mansions and armies of servants: he craves some new land to conquer.  The free market now bores him: freedoms of all varieties bore him, inasmuch as they encourage others to hamper his whimsical daydreams.  Perhaps if he could assume utter control over a nation and refashion it in a way that strikes his fancy… perhaps that would be amusing.  Perhaps he could become the God that children and fools used to believe in.  Becoming God… that should be amusing, shouldn’t it?

The paradox that someone so fabulously wealthy should seek political power by populist avenues appears to shock most people—yet such is the well-established pattern.  Donald Trump would probably leap to the popular imagination, with a little nudge from CNN (whose nudges are never little); yet Trump is a weak example, in that his program—to the extent that he has one—emphasizes removing centralized authority from the lives of ordinary citizens.  It’s true that his views have not always shown this inclination, do not always show it now, and indeed show a particularly annoying pliancy toward his daughter and her husband’s games of social engineering.  Still, the superior instances of this type may be found in Michael Bloomberg and Tom Steyer, both of whom have far more wealth than Trump and also far more intrusive designs for reassembling the republic as a well-oiled machine of tiny, obedient cogs.

Is there a fifth species of politico—a “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” type who doesn’t sell out his principles within mere weeks or months?  We all dream of that legendary savior… but he truly appears to be no more than a dream.  Even at his best (i.e., as his staunchest supporters imagine him), Donald Trump cannot audition for the role, simply because he lacks the “barefoot and backwoods” origins.  Admit it: the Donald was never really an outsider in the sense of our fathers when they screamed about a hike in property tax.  Democrats no doubt thought that they had found the genuiiiiine proletarian redeemer in Jimmy Carter, and then in Bill Clinton; but the former was a local patrician with a drawl, and the latter closer to what his minions would call “trailer trash” than to anyone who ever paid property tax.

Frankly, Ross Perot would probably have played the desired part better than any of the characters named above—but Perot’s only lasting contribution to the political scene was to clear the way for Clinton’s election.  Still more frankly—brace for devastating frankness!—Richard Nixon rose from humbler roots than any president of the past century, and enriched himself in the office, as well, less than perhaps any of his peers.

Nixon’s example only serves to show how straitjacketed our collective thought has become in such matters by the manipulative media/entertainment/education complex.  Tinkering endlessly with our perception and our memory, it prevents us from staring a stark reality in the face: the fact that we have no good options, now that fear of the Hereafter and a sense of common decency have gone the way of the watch fob.  I think Perot was probably torpedoed by whispered threats that the Public will never be allowed to learn.  (A few of you may recall that he issued cloudy statements about the sabotage of his daughter’s wedding.)  These threats would likely have emanated as much from the Republican establishment (the sanctuary of Number Three politicians) as from Democrats (a rag-tag collection of Numbers One and Two, before our decay birthed Number Four in abundance).  Nixon, too, had a good man in him somewhere… but constant hounding by the media and academe for his role in ferreting out communists during the Fifties grossly warped the man’s moral skeleton.  Good people, in short, don’t survive protracted exposure to our system: they either abandon the ship before she clears the harbor or turn pirate with the rest of the crew.

I don’t know what we do.  There’s almost a kind of tragic inevitability to the downward spiral.  People cannot be happy in this life unless they realize that this life doesn’t—cannot—contain what they need to be fully happy.  As our nation has prospered, its citizens have grown more secular; and as they discover ever more sullenly the absence of real happiness in their abundance, politicians advance ever farther by offering them yet more playthings of this world.  I don’t know what the corrective is for that, other than a plunge off the cliff which doesn’t quite crush everyone at the bottom.  The survivors limp away wiser, and start a new settlement in the chasm… what a hope, as Sir Kenneth Clark would say!

Is it a bad thing for a politician to be wealthy?  Why?  Might not wealth, rather, insulate an office-holder from being corrupted?  Yet how do we ensure that the grandee who can’t even recall the number of zeroes rounding out his net worth will not be corrupted by the far more lethal toxicity of megalomania?

The imposition of term limits wouldn’t hurt.  The one credible path to that end is a Convention of States (and there I find an organization that continues to be worthy of generous donations).  Might we not also be able to require, as part of their licensure, that outlets of news media, both national and local, contribute free time to political candidates?  That, too, is something of a pipe dream, I realize.  In an age when nonstop political advocacy is already masquerading as “straight news”, equality of time would be impossible to determine or enforce.  We’ve already had a glimpse of how that game might be rigged with the Obama era’s “Net neutrality” canard.  And, in any case, how would a candidate reach the stage of qualifying for free time, if not by having previous high visibility in the community?  That means money, unless you’re a high-profile entertainer or athlete.

Which, believe it or not, raises a serious point—and it must be my point of departure for next week, since I’ve run rather long today.

Why We Must Push Back Against “Climate Change” Hysteria

The other day I filmed a short video catalogued in my website archive (semperluxmundi.org) under “A Culture of Slanders and Slurs”.  The library of about two dozen videos now addresses topics related to religious faith in a straightforward manner: no virtue-signaling allowed.  I thought it was time in this particular series to call out the unscrupulous among us who abuse language in such a way as to sequester defenders of certain views from consideration as human beings.  Of course, “racist” is now such a slur, and I am about to dedicate another video to the word “Nazi”.  “Climate-change denier” has never really caught on, thanks to being quite unwieldy—but the notion behind the phrase is the same: those who “deny” climate change deserve whatever mistreatment comes their way.  Not only must we not give them a hearing; we should entertain giving them jail time, or maybe shooting them like dogs.

I placed the word “deny” in quotations above because denial isn’t even what’s properly at issue (any more than is “climate change” per se; the mandatory article of faith is really that global climate is rapidly, radically changing due to manmade influences).  My talk—and you can do just so much in fifteen minutes, alas—began by stressing that, as a lifelong enemy of the automobile and of our congested urban environments, I have left considerably lighter carbon footprints behind me than most people.  I then spent several minutes emphasizing that mere measurement of relevant climatic data is an enormously complex task.  Readings must be obtained at uniform geographical and chronological intervals from around the world, a requirement which undermines confident conclusions at our point in history right out of the gate.  Perceived changes in weather during one human lifetime qualify as evidence neither by the spatial nor the temporal standard; for none of us spends an hour per month at a hundred locations equally spaced around Earth’s sphere, and none of us lives the many centuries necessary to uncover a meaningful pattern.

This doesn’t make me a “denier”; it makes me a voice of restraint before those who insist upon rushing to unjustified conclusions.  I wish I’d had time to handle more adequately the dubious motives of many at the “movement’s” fore who busy themselves stirring the rush into a stampede.  Peter Helmes has often offered analyses of that caliber through his site, Die Deutsche Konservativen. One of his posts a couple of weeks ago noted that Greta Thunberg’s father has grown rather wealthy off of two concerns dedicated to marketing his eerily wooden and humorless “Green Joan of Arc” daughter; and the post concludes, all in boldface, Um es nochmals klar zu sagen: Dahinter stehen keine Idealisten, sondern knallharte Großkapitalisten. Wo deren Interesse liegt, dürfte jedem normal denkenden Menschen klar sein. Translation: “To say it plainly, there are no idealists standing behind [climate change hysteria], but hard-boiled capitalist tycoons.  Every competently thoughtful person should be clear about where the interests of such types lie.”

When I still possessed a small soapbox in academe from which to prod freshmen, I tended to proceed very cautiously into the realms of chemistry and atmospheric science.  Those weren’t my field.  Some of my students could have diagrammed complex molecules while I was still trying to figure out how carbon dioxide can poison plants.  (Can it?  An intrepid investigator probing a volcanic lake on the History Channel made that claim within my hearing… but the minute rise in global CO2 seems to be feeding plants handsomely in locations that aren’t fuming with sulfur.)  Behind my rostrum, then, I always contented myself with making a few very basic, even “dummy” observations.  1) Carbon dioxide is less than one half of one hundredth of one percent of the earth’s atmosphere; it’s hard to see how fluctuations in thousandths of a percentage point spell Armageddon.  2) Of that tiny amount, only about two percent arises from manmade sources.  3) Of those manmade sources, India and China are by far the most prolific contributors—and neither of those nations is in the least interested in curbing its industrial growth.

If the West, and the U.S. in particular, were to fragment its industrial/technological foundation for the very doubtful purpose of reducing CO2 emissions by .00003%, the following disastrous environmental consequence would therefore follow.  The “People’s Republic” of China would have a path free and clear to dominate utterly the world’s economy, and hence to determine in large measure the social and political organization of every individual society. In other words, the single greatest environmental poisoner in our planet’s history (with the possible exception of the post-Chernobyl Soviet Union) would be calling all the tunes globally.

Is this what we want?  Is this what any person sincerely concerned about life on Earth would want?  For several decades, we have seen (if we have eyes to see) how much the Chinese oligarchy cares about its own citizens.  I’ve noticed in reading the testimonies of Chinese citizens who speak out too daringly and are “invited for a cup of tea” at police headquarters that practically all detainees, when they know they’re not going home for several weeks, worry about not having their meds.  Everyone in urban China is on meds!  That’s because the air is poison to breathe.  (Remember a few years back when a massive effort was made to cleanse to skies temporarily over Beijing for the opening Olympic ceremony?)  We’re getting a refresher course right now, if we need one, on just how highly the PRC elite value the lives of ordinary people.  To the Party’s chosen few, handling the Coronavirus is primarily an exercise in public-relations damage control.  If the disease isn’t diagnosed, then ensuing death cannot be attributed to it… and only about one patient in ten was being tested for infection even in the early days of the outbreak, before resources gave out.

These are the people to whom we will surrender the planet’s health, should we throttle all fossil-fuel consumption, refuse to build nuclear power plants, and wait for the wind to turn blades on the high plains.  This is the “green” plan to save us all!

I also used to stress to my students, as I stress in the video and continue to underscore, that pointing all solutions in the direction of a more intrusive government smells very, very fishy.  It is especially so inasmuch as big government created most of the problem, to begin with.  After World War II, our federal government, favoring certain players in the transportation sector over others, pumped millions into producing a national car- and airline-dependency among us while leaving our substantial railways to languish.  (Trains move loads about fifteen times more cost-effectively, by the way, than trucks… but the Teamsters’ Union had a louder voice.)  On a local level, municipalities of the Fifties rigorously began to zone out your corner drugstore, your handy barber shop, your neighborhood school and pediatrician—which, of course, created real estate and building booms as well as forcing Middle America to invest heavily in cars, in gas and oil, in insurance, and so forth.  Meanwhile, lawyers, lawsuits, regulations, and inspectors converged upon Plainville, USA, the way vultures compete for a carcass.  Federal bureaucracies like OSHA hounded small-business owners even after they had duly shifted their shingle from Laurel Lane to Main Street.  Many of these hard-working people surrendered, dissolving their business and entering the daily rush-hour file of traffic to get to a corporation’s megalopolitan plant or office tower.

If we simply eradicated these zoning restrictions and micro-managing bureaucracies, we would preserve immense amounts of oil, reduce incalculable volumes of traffic-related stress and injury, almost nullify the crime endemic to periodically emptied neighborhoods, foster an environment where citizens were much happier thanks to a much more human level of contact with each other… but no.  No.  More government, more regimentation—that’s worked so well for us in the past! Let’s just amp it up.

Meanwhile, merely for raising your hand and daring to ask a question about any aspect of the “climate change agenda”, you make yourself a target for doxing, canceling, incarcerating… you’re a public spittoon.  This is your reward for suggesting that, if the emperor’s new clothes are invisible, maybe it’s because they don’t exist rather than because you’re blind.  This is our current level of insanity.  This is how well we’ve been groomed for rule by the idiot-producing ideologues controlling our classrooms, and by marketplace and political despots ranging from George Soros to Xi Jinping (who both turn out to be financing much of what happens in our classrooms).

Indeed, my ultimate question of our “social conscience” warriors—far down the list, and not an item that I would ask in a townhall meeting—nags at me more than any uncertainty I have about science.  How many of these self-declared moral beacons, I should like to know, who lead the chanting chorus of, “Climate-change denier!” as the mob gathers, are being remunerated rather directly by Soros, Xi, Robert Fink, or the Rothschilds’ Bank of England?  Conspiracy theory?  Why, hell yes, it’s conspiracy theory!  Have you not yet awakened to the fact that all truth in these “post-fact” times is suffocating under the bedsheets of conspiracy-theory quarantine?

How to Take a Wrong Turn on the Climb to Heaven

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Ever since I passed along to him a short anthology of Near Death Experiences compiled by a practicing physician, my son has sustained a lively exchange with me on the subject.  Being young, he is impressed by such “hard evidence” of life beyond the reality we know.  (Our nation’s school system, from bottom to top, certainly hasn’t given his generation any aesthetic or philosophical inkling of an empirical approach’s inadequacies—so empirical testimony against mere empiricism becomes very powerful.)  Personally, I’m always just a bit leery of the NDE.  It’s not that I’m an incorrigible skeptic.  On the contrary, I’m one of the few people you’re ever likely to know with years of grad-school conditioning in his past who believes that extra-terrestrial life (or its projection through an ingenious fleet of robotic minions) has probably visited our solar system.  I don’t think I’m particularly narrow-minded.

No, the problem I have with the typical NDE is the implications that over-excited chroniclers tend to draw from it.  The surrounding discussion often has the tone of boundless, almost delirious optimism.  “You see?  All is really sweetness and light!  It’s all love—love for everyone!  All is forgiven!  It’s just one great warm embrace!  All is swept up into the… the cosmic All!”  Okay, let’s stop and ponder that.  No justice for mass-murderers like Stalin and Mao (add Hitler if you like… but don’t forget Pol Pot, Genghis Khan, Attila the Hun, and King Herod).  No motive to try harder in this terrestrial existence—to “seek the kingdom”.  No reason why sincere sorrow and repentance are anything but wasted time.  Lighten up!  All you need is love!

In their defense, I will say of most NDE witnesses that their encounter is brief, dazzling, and (by definition) limned by the incomprehensible.  They’re not the ones who seek to graft sweeping metaphysical conclusions onto their out-of-clock-time ecstasy (a word which literally means “standing outside of”).  They were abruptly jolted from their body… and then they found themselves bathed in light and soothed by predeceased friends and family.  As far as I know, most of them haven’t borne back a message about how the universe is put together.  They merely reiterate with John the Gospelist, “True love hath no fear.”

Dr. Eben Alexander’s kerygma from the Beyond is not so modest.  My son forwarded this YouTube link to one of the good doctor’s many public presentations.  Alexander’s case has received special attention, apparently, because 1) he himself was a neurosurgeon who had practiced for two decades when a seizure caused his brain activity to flatline, 2) he was thoroughly agnostic at the time of the incident, and 3) his brain was so very moribund for days that no sort of short-circuiting or “flame-out” could have accounted for his visions.  Clearly, something very extraordinary happened in this man’s return to corporeal life, if not in his hours of unverifiable transit through another life.  He should have been dead—quite dead.  The feeding tubes had actually been removed from his body for days before his recovery.  His revival was miraculous.

And, yes, Eben Alexander experienced virtually all of the classic NDE moments: the dark tunnel (in more static form), the indescribably bright light at its end, an angelic chorus, the warmth and limitless love of innumerable figures… but he claims to have been entrusted with uncharacteristically specific information, besides.  He was told (in a degree of detail that Dante would have envied) that the universe is unfolding according to a great plan—and that this plan involves reincarnation.  We are to return to life in better-informed stages that, collectively, will set our planet—and other planets in other galaxies, eventually—on a hyperbolic path of intersection with heaven.

An unimaginably beautiful woman (who was plainly not some morph of the divorced Mrs. Alexander) was the doctor’s Beatrice during this revelation.  I note in passing that I’ve never read of any other NDE where Miss Universe puts in an appearance and spiritually fondles her visitor.

I’m being a bit facetious now.  It’s a way to send some of my irritation through an escape valve.  In my opinion, Dr. Alexander had a fully legitimate encounter with the unspeakable bliss that awaits us beyond this Vale of Tears… and he proceeded, consciously or otherwise, to finesse some of its contours into a form more marketable than the raw material would have been.  His book has appeared on the New York Times bestseller list for years.  His speaking honoraria have likely dwarfed his surgeon’s income (which, in itself, constitutes a small miracle).  He has chatted intimately with Oprah before a global audience, and he routinely gives presentations even for medical personnel thanks to his lab-coat cred.  I gather that he is involved in some sort of cutting-edge tech company that aspires to point the medical-scientific community’s nose more directly into metaphysics (or its ears: the technology has to do with harmonious sounds and healing).  Life has become pretty good for Eben Alexander—and, of course, I mean life on “this side”.

How many of these dark terrestrial tunnels would be beaming with warm gold-and-silver light at the end if Alexander’s testimony had remained (as NDE’s usually do) within confines of direct personal experience, without the peek at a cosmic playbook?  Wouldn’t that more typical result have smacked of… well, Christian orthodoxy?  Didn’t the “reincarnation” message sweeten it sufficiently that Oprah would line up to drink the Kool-aid?

On the one hand, I fear that my response may be too caustic.  After all, Alexander’s narrative is not so very far off the track of other NDE’s.  Maybe he just misspoke at key points, or maybe I have misinterpreted something he said.  I myself believe that the afterlife must surely be an occasion for “linking up” with innumerable other souls—for begging and granting pardons, for getting the whole story of what happened, for healing and growing strong as something yet more magnificent emerges.  Perhaps the abuse of the word “reincarnation” was this man’s clumsy metaphor for a reality whose approach to God is so near, and so ever-more-near, that only the notion of an utterly regenerated body in an entirely different life can convey the thrill.

And yet, that higher, deeper life cannot be entirely different.  This life matters.  Morally—spiritually—it must matter.  What we do is what we are: it is the “here” from which we must depart to reach “there”.  It’s not a prison, or need not be.  God’s will is not that we suffocate forever within the folly of the narrow walls we build around ourselves.  In the recognition of our folly, however, lies the key to the gate.  We cannot become better than our fleshly form—that temporary cast in which we have so distorted God’s image—if we turn out never to have existed physically, in the first place.  Our human individuality must not become an irrelevancy.

Such cancellation of our individual worth as creatures is where I see Eben Alexander wandering dangerously off the track.  He sings off-key.  His hymn sounds to my ear like secular progressivism with a mystical tingle in the background.  The confessional note—the admission of past error that signals true growth, and also the joy of dissolving another’s guilt over injuries done—isn’t audible.  Instead, we are ushered into a no-fault vision of things getting better and better and better… things on this earth, since reincarnation is the engine driving the ascent.  Alexander even offers the Gnostic heresy’s hint that souls are reincarnated as justification of his thesis, and he tosses in the rumors of Christ’s day equating John the Baptist with the resuscitated prophet Elijah.  A proper Christian faith, apparently, ought to become more Hindu.

The first time I encountered this infatuation of the theoretical scientist with the most ancient religions on earth was, I suppose, in Carl Sagan.  It probably goes back much farther.  Its pedigree, at any rate, must surely transmit a load of progressivist DNA through every branch of the family tree.  The better here-and-now’s the thing—not heaven, not metaphysical bliss: no, bring it down here, and put us now on a path to reach it!  That’s a slightly more spiritual version of launching the Starship Enterprise (but not really—just more spiritually adorned).

You see, Dr. Alexander, our world is not getting better and better in any way that I can discern.  It may be getting worse and worse… but I’m willing to attribute such pessimism to the filter of my own rather depressive predisposition.  It’s certainly not sprouting wings as more enlightened individuals return in new bodies—and, by the way, utterly purged of their former individuality.  You say, Dr. Alexander, that many very curious cases of ESP involve children who recollect images or events from previous times and far-flung places.  Yes, those interest me, as well.  But wherein do you find evidence that these children a) preserve the character of Captain MacKay who died on the field of Culloden or, more importantly, b) display any moral awareness beyond their years?  What are you thinking, man?  What world are you living in right now, as you bow to your applause and shake Oprah’s hand?

Do you consider that you yourself have become a better man than before, though you have failed to learn—Other World Journey notwithstanding—the moral necessity of individual coherence?  Say you’re indeed better; but you are still Eben Alexander, are you not? So may we expect the better Eben within minutes of your eventual death, as your soul flutters into a newborn? Right now, then—message and all—you’re just the old, inferior Eben… have I got that correct? Or have you been permitted to transport certain revelations despite your lack of corporeal upgrade? I like much of what you propose.  I, too, love the idea of using sound to access a clearer, cleaner state of consciousness; I’ve long suspected in my own life that our urban environment damages our minds with its sheer cacophony.  But… but Doctor, why must you insist that Beatrice bestowed upon you the secrets of this healing power so that we might go forth and Conquer the World for Goodness?

Oh, how I dread that formula, in all of its versions!  World conquest—and always, always for “goodness”!  Millions of hearts have coddled it, if their tongues have not exactly expressed it… and not all of those hearts, by any means, were bad ones from the outset.  Yet none was ever made better after nursing such a spiritual virus.  This world is imperfectable: at best, we hold our own against sin.  True hope lies elsewhere.

Perhaps I’m especially distressed by Dr. Alexander’s video because I have just published The Eternal Moment: Seeking Divine Presence in the Present on Amazon.  You can read there at much greater length of my concern over “future-worship”, our time’s dominant form of idolatry, if you’re interested.  I urgently suggest that you get interested.  Beware of “ascending” staircases whose bottom step rests upon today’s earth and whose top step merely reaches tomorrow’s earth, or the next day’s.  Such climbs tend to go steeply downward, from heaven’s perspective.