A song of love; a translation into English is here.
As we are about to begin Holy Week, here is a message from a swordsman and a master of his craft. It concerns education, and how young men should train themselves.
“Young knights, learn to love God and Honor women. Be chivalrous and learn the art that your honor will increase in war. Wrestle well, skillfully wield spear, sword, and dagger in a manful way.”
- Master Sigmund Ringeck, fencing master to the Duke of Bavaria, c.1430
I always feel better when Mark Steyn sees things in the same way that seems right to me:
Even Obama hasn’t yet asked the CBO to cost out, say, what happens to the price of oil when the Straits of Hormuz are under a de facto Iranian nuclear umbrella — as they will be soon, because the former global hyperpower, which now gets mad over a few hundred housing units in Jerusalem, is blasé and insouciant about the wilder shores of the mullahs’ dreams. Or suppose, as seems to be happening, the Sino-Iranian alliance were to result in a reorientation of global oil relationships, or the Russo-Iranian friendship bloomed to such a degree that, between Moscow’s control of Europe’s gas supply and Teheran’s new role as Middle Eastern superpower, the economy of the entire developed world becomes dependent on an alliance profoundly hostile to it.It is time.
Which is to say that right now the future lies somewhere between the certainty of decline and the probability of catastrophe. What can stop it? Not a lot. But now that your “pro-life” Democratic congressman has sold out, you might want to quit calling Washington and try your state capital. If the Commerce Clause can legitimize the “individual mandate,” then there is no republic, not in any meaningful sense. If you don’t like the sound of that, maybe it’s time for a constitutional convention.
The scientist who discovered the quark gives an interview:
[I]n 1979, Polkinghorne surprised many with the announcement that he planned to become an Anglican priest. Author of numerous books and articles, Polkinghorne is a Knight Commander of the British Empire, a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS), and the 2002 recipient of the Templeton Prize. He is founder of the International Society for Science and Religion and of the Society of Ordained Scientists.This is an interview I think many of you will enjoy reading.
...is female, says Politico.
"Many of the tea party’s most influential grass-roots and national leaders are women, and a new poll released this week by Quinnipiac University suggests that women might make up a majority of the movement as well."
What a shock: that a movement calling itself 'the tea party' should be led by women.
At what point did this tremendous insight settle in upon your consciousness?
Women or not, they're right. Are you sure you would prefer the masculine sounding equivalent? It's called "the Revolutionary War."
Lars Walker has a review of an interesting book up for us to consider.
"This excerpt from page 232 of Rodney Stark's God's Battalions: The Case for the Crusades, is characteristic of his approach to his subject. He takes a hard look at the bulk of recent historiography on the Crusades, and finds most of it shamefully biased. He identifies four great lies that have become common wisdom in recent decades..."
I wouldn't agree that Saladin receives 'undeserved' praise; he had all the chivalric virtues, including prowess in battle. Have you heard of the time he saw Richard afoot, and sent him two Arab horses as a gift before he would receive him in battle? Or the time that he lay seige to Castle Kerak, and learned of a wedding party being held within? He asked -- so the story says -- to know the wing of the castle in which the party was being held, and directed his catapults to bombard only the others. The bride is reported to have sent him some of the wedding cake.
Are those stories true? History records them; but perhaps we should ask whether we're doing myth or history. If they aren't true, they should be.
Cassandra has an argument, backed as her arguments often are with charts and numbers, that is worth reading through. She's right, of course; though it's easy for me to say so, since you've heard me talk about the disaster of pensions and entitlements for years. It's been clear for nearly four years that the Federal government did not merit any confidence that it might fix the problem.
My ideas on solutions have changed in those years, though, and particularly now I am certain that a state-led constitutional convention is the right way forward. It is the one thing we can do quickly -- everything else requires two election cycles even to get started on seriously, as we'd need supermajorities in Congress at least. Even then, it is doubtful that Congress would really cut Federal power back to something close to the original vision of the Founders.
The states, however, have every reason to wish to do so. Their budgets are being destroyed by a rampaging Federal political class. They have nothing to lose by rebalancing power away from the Federal government and toward themselves, and indeed, very much to gain by doing so. Furthermore, as the Balanced Budget Amendment got 32 states to sign on to asking for it, and as this crisis will be far worse for state budgets and independence, it ought to be fairly easy to get the 34 states required to call such a convention.
I've said this a few times recently, and I hate to beat long on the same drum. Still, it seems right to me; and if you agree, you might wish to take it up with your state representatives, or any political organizations to which you belong, such as the NRA, or your local Tea Party movement.
Actually, that headline from Gateway Pundit minimizes the insult. If he had merely said, "Arrange our schedules so I will not have to dine with the Israeli Prime Minister," it would have been a snub. What he did instead was a blatant refusal of hospitality, while the Prime Minister was a guest in his house.
Benjamin Netanyahu was left to stew in a White House meeting room for over an hour after President Barack Obama abruptly walked out of tense talks to have supper with his family, it emerged on Thursday. The snub marked a fresh low in US-Israeli relations and appeared designed to show Mr Netanyahu how low his stock had fallen in Washington after he refused to back down in a row over Jewish construction in east Jerusalem.The extent of the insult in refusing to offer food and water is... well, it is one of the deepest insults possible in human society. It is the refusal of hospitality, one of the few values that is universally felt among men. In the Middle East, the insult has especially deep resonance. It is normally done only to those with whom one is planning to kill; in many cultures it is at least a declaration that you don't care if they live or die. Compare with this story:
… (Mr. Obama) immediately presented Mr Netanyahu with a list of 13 demands designed both to the end the feud with his administration and to build Palestinian confidence ahead of the resumption of peace talks. Key among those demands was a previously-made call to halt all new settlement construction in east Jerusalem.
When the Israeli prime minister stalled, Mr Obama rose from his seat declaring: “I’m going to the residential wing to have dinner with Michelle and the girls.” As he left, Mr Netanyahu was told to consider the error of his ways. “I’m still around,” Mr Obama is quoted by Israel’s Yediot Ahronot newspaper as having said.
Saladin invited the king [Guy] to sit beside him, and when Arnat [Raynald] entered in his turn, he seated him next to his king and reminded him of his misdeeds. "How many times have you sworn an oath and violated it? How many times have you signed agreements you have never respected?" Raynald answered through a translator: "Kings have always acted thus. I did nothing more." During this time King Guy was gasping with thirst, his head dangling as though drunk, his face betraying great fright. Saladin spoke reassuring words to him, had cold water brought, and offered it to him. The king drank, then handed what remained to Raynald, who slaked his thirst in turn. The sultan then said to Guy: "You did not ask permission before giving him water. I am therefore not obliged to grant him mercy."...Saladin was an honorable man, whether friend or foe: it is clear he knew what he was doing, and wanted to ensure everyone understood that he was not violating the ethic. One doubts the President thought that deeply about what he was doing, or has any notion of how men of honor might receive the insult. Nevertheless, the ethic is universal, and he cannot but have known he was doing something terribly wrong to his guest.
[Saladin] then advanced before [Reynald], sword in hand, and struck him between the neck and the shoulder-blade.
Regardless of what he knew, however, the cultures in the Middle East will read this according to their own tradition. It will be taken as an indication that the President refused the Israelis water in his tent; and that is a sign that will have consequences.
From the Saga named for him:
King Sigurd then sailed eastward along the coast of Serkland, and came to an island there called Forminterra. There a great many heathen Moors had taken up their dwelling in a cave, and had built a strong stone wall before its mouth. They harried the country all round, and carried all their booty to their cave. King Sigurd landed on this island, and went to the cave; but it lay in a precipice, and there was a high winding path to the stone wall, and the precipice above projected over it. The heathens defended the stone wall, and were not afraid of the Northmen's arms; for they could throw stones, or shoot down upon the Northmen under their feet; neither did the Northmen, under such circumstances, dare to mount up. The heathens took their clothes and other valuable things, carried them out upon the wall, spread them out before the Northmen, shouted, and defied them, and upbraided them as cowards. Then Sigurd fell upon this plan. He had two ship's boats, such as we call barks, drawn up the precipice right above the mouth of the cave; and had thick ropes fastened around the stem, stern, and hull of each. In these boats as many men went as could find room, and then the boats were lowered by the ropes down in front of the mouth of the cave; and the men in the boats shot with stones and missiles into the cave, and the heathens were thus driven from the stone wall.The lesson: every place of strength has a weakness. It's only that no one has yet thought of it.
Then Sigurd with his troops climbed up the precipice to the foot of the stone wall, which they succeeded in breaking down, so that they came into the cave. Now the heathens fled within the stone wall that was built across the cave; on which the king ordered large trees to be brought to the cave, made a great pile in the mouth of it, and set fire to the wood. When the fire and smoke got the upper hand, some of the heathens lost their lives in it; some fled; some fell by the hands of the Northmen; and part were killed, part burned; and the Northmen made the greatest booty they had got on all their expeditions.
There is always a thing forgotten
When all the world goes well;
A thing forgotten, as long ago
When the gods forgot the mistletoe,
And soundless as an arrow of snow
The arrow of anguish fell.
Bonus question: who knows why 'an arrow of snow' is such an appropriate metaphor in the context of poems about the Vikings?
The real provocation here is the part of the law that imposes an individual mandate to purchase a hugely expensive product, with resistance punishable by up to five years in prison. Just to make sure we're clear on this, I'll cite Media Matter's own page, claiming to "debunk" that claim. It's not true that the law will send you to prison for not maintaining 'acceptable' levels of insurance; the law only forces you to pay a fine. It's only if you don't pay the fine that you go to prison. But hey, they add, "Willful failure to pay taxes of any sort can result in civil or criminal penalties." Indeed they can, but that doesn't change the fact that this is something new. We have now brought the 'willful failure' to purchase a private product from an insurance corporation into the realm of things we will resolve through punitive taxes, and prison time if you resist the tax.
Anyone who wants to complain about the rise of violent rhetoric among opponents of the law should recognize that the law is what first threatened violence. Throwing people into prison is violence. Extracting money from people under threat of throwing them into prison is violence. It was this law that decided to make "health care" into the kind of issue that we resolve, not with the market by other free private decisions, but through violence and threats of violence.
Health care has never been that kind of issue in America before. Until this law is repealed we have an era in which Americans are under actual physical threat over how they purchase insurance, or make decisions about the care of their family members.
The fact that the police and the courts are 'lawful violence' and resistance is not lawful is a reasonable point to make. It's worth remembering, when making that point, that the American tradition is laid on the idea that we have a right to revolt against tyrannical authority. The British Army was also 'lawful violence,' and the Stamp Act was far less provocation than this.
Indeed, I haven't quite finished describing just how provocative this really is. The fact that the individual mandate is enforcable by arrest and prison time is only part of the issue. The other part is that the mandate has been set so high that most American families will only be able to afford it through Federal subsidies. That means two things:
1) Taking a handout from the government will no longer be a matter for those who are down on their luck, to be done only for as long as absolutely necessary to get back on your feet. It will be the normal condition for American families. From now on, most of us will be dependent on a government handout -- because the government has mandated that we be dependent. That redefines the basic nature of the relationship between government "charity" and what was supposed to be a free and independent People.
2) Because of this dependence, we will be subject to whatever conditions the government puts on the aid. You can compare the experience of buying food with your own cash versus buying food with food stamps: suddenly, you're not really free just to get what you want. You have to submit to the approval of a distant government bureaucracy, which will tell you whether what you want is acceptable or not.
This mandate and that approval are at the core of the 'cost bending' aspects of this bill: in other words, they are indispensable to the whole idea of HCR as it has been put forward. The reason that this allegedly will not break the budget is that everyone will have to buy insurance at this massively expensive level, and that we'll be able to establish 'comparative effectiveness boards' to deny treatments to Americans that the government decides are too expensive.
Put in the most basic terms, the average American family is being told that they will be required to be a ward of the state, and that refusal to comply will result in fines, or arrest and up to five years in prison. Compliance, however, will mean that the decisions about what medical treatments are open to their families will be made by the government, no longer by the family.
What would Patrick Henry have said about that?
This is not a call for violence by me, nor is it a suggestion that violence is legitimate at this time. There are several years in which to rectify this error before that part of the law goes into effect. All I mean to say here is that the American tradition clearly endorses violence against far less tyrannical exercises of power than this. If we get to the point that people are really being threatened with arrest over this mandate, then the government will be the one threatening violence. If that draws a violent response from the citizenry, that may be a legitimate response according to our political tradition.
I think it's important to understand that, especially for those on the pro-HCR side. If you put people in this position, it won't do to complain that they are wicked for resorting to violence. They will reply that you ought not to complain about violence being introduced to the debate, as you introduced it. And they will feel legitimate in using violence against you; nor is it clear that they are wrong, given America's particular political tradition.
This is not the limit of the provocation, by the way; it's only the worst of the provocation. The law is provocative in requiring states to completely rewrite a huge percentage of their budgets in spite of a majority of states not wishing to do so. There are many other things people might complain about as well. Yet it is this imposition of a mandate, backed with the threat of prison, that makes this law an act of tyranny that might give the People a legitimate cause to revolt against Federal authority.
Now, what ought to be done instead of violence:
The best thing is for this to be resolved quickly, and through peaceful and constitutional means. The best way for that to happen is through state government action. The states should call for a constitutional convention to reinforce the restraints on the Federal government's power.
At a minimum, we should act to ensure that the commerce clause is restored to its originalist notion; and that we specify that neither Congress nor the executive branch may pass any laws, nor spend any money, in pursuit of any power not specifically delegated in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution.
I might suggest that the states consider additional rebalancing provisions, such as repeal of the 17th Amendment. Another very good idea would be to reinforce the originalist position that only the Congress may craft laws and regulations; a lot of that has been done by Federal executive agencies, under Congressional delegation of authority. The SCOTUS used to view such delegation as unconstitutional, and indeed it is not constitutional on an orginalist view; it may be worth re-banning the practice in order to ensure that the Federal government is returned to its intended, proper, constitutional limits.
Many of you are effectively without a voice at the Federal level, given that the opposition party has been reduced to ineffectiveness and wings of the Democratic party have proven submissive. However, your state governments still are under your control to a much greater degree. As they are also the place where action can be most effectively located, I suggest we begin here.
If the 2010 elections produce a Congress that is more balanced and responsive to the people, there may be some limited things that can be done as well. However, it is unlikely that repeal can be effected at the Federal level until 2013. The states are in play even right now. That is where we should focus, and the place where a peaceful and lawful resolution can be most readily created.
It is important for pro-HCR people to realize that they have provoked a potential legitimate revolt, I said above; it is important for anti-HCR people to realize the same thing. If we do not find a way to resolve this peacefully and through politics, there may be serious consequences. Those of us who are devoted to the survival and success of the Republic ought to make action a priority in the coming years, before this mandate goes into effect. It is a dangerous provocation, and one that is likely to produce very bad results if the Federal government tries to enforce it.
I'm sure many of you might like to discuss the passage of the health care bill in the House last night. I've been on a pretty even keel about this all along, simply because I can't see any way in which this thing lasts long enough to create the fundamental change in American society that Mark Steyn sees. The fact is that, pre-HCR, we had somewhere around $100 Trillion in unfunded liabilities. We've been a train racing down the mountain to Insolvency Gorge; all the HCR bill does is tear off what were already stressed and failing brakes.
From my perspective, then, all this means is that we get to the crash faster. The important questions have always been what we'd do after the crash, since it was clear these last few years that neither party in Washington intended to be the ones who avoided the crash.
However, if you really want to avoid it, take heart! The best thing that could have happened to you has happened. If the Stupak faction had held firm, yesterday would have been the end of HCR. We'd have a good six months of history to take people's minds off the attempt. Now, with the court cases that are certain to happen, and the possibility of the states demanding its repeal, it'll continue to be headline news every night. People will still be focused on it come Election Day, and the Tea Party movement -- which might be the one chance for those who'd really like to avoid seeing the nation crash into the aforementioned gorge -- will be strengthened by mounting populist outrage, and the states' need for a political force to help them repeal this before it destroys them.
We may even get to see a Constitutional Convention forced by the states. The Balanced Budget Amendment got 32 of the required 34 states to sign its petition; this bill creates even more pressure on the state governments than any previous act of Congress. A "reasserting the 10th Amendment" petition might well get the required 34 states, if the challenges to this bill fail in Federal court.
It's encouraging that there is a political movement forming around the idea of holding Congress to Art. 1 Sect. 8 and the 10th Amendment, just when one is needed. And it's good that this movement is now almost guaranteed to build in size and power before the elections, instead of fading away. It needs to continue to build and hold its power through at least 2012 to achieve the real effects that we need to save the country; but if it doesn't, we'll get those effects anyway. They'll just come through fire, instead, when the government can no longer pretend it will or can keep its word.
Pretty symbolic that the US lost its AAA bond rating in the same news cycle as the passage of this beast, eh? Would you loan this government money?
We'll be looking at Plutarch soon. Since we had no assigned reading for this week, though, let's take a look at something we can glance over today. I'm thinking we might usefully discuss a few of Horace's letters, specifically, the first, fifth, and sixth of the letters from his first book.
In the first letter, he declares his devotion to the study of virtue:
It is virtue, to fly vice; and the highest wisdom, to have lived free from folly.Yet in the fifth letter, he declares to his guest his readiness to pursue folly in his expression of the virtue of hospitality:
We shall have free liberty to prolong the summer evening with friendly conversation. To what purpose have I fortune, if I may not use it? He that is sparing out of regard to his heir, and too niggardly, is next neighbor to a madman. I will begin to drink and scatter flowers, and I will endure even to be accounted foolish. What does not wine freely drunken enterprise? It discloses secrets; commands our hopes to be ratified; pushes the dastard on to the fight; removes the pressure from troubled minds; teaches the arts. Whom have not plentiful cups made eloquent?In the sixth letter, he further complicates the picture:
Let the wise man bear the name of fool, the just of unjust; if he pursue virtue itself beyond proper bounds.... Lucullus, as they say, being asked if he could lend a hundred cloaks for the stage, “How can I so many?” said he: “yet I will see, and send as many as I have;” a little after he writes that he had five thousand cloaks in his house; they might take part of them, or all. It is a scanty house, where there are not many things superfluous, and which escape the owner’s notice, and are the gain of pilfering slaves.In resolving these apparent conflicts we come to understand what Horace really meant. How should they be resolved?