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Some Things Said… (Apr 05) (3)

Earth Day and Mother Earth

[Last week] marked the 35th anniversary of the founding of “Earth Day” by former Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson. It [was] also V.I. Lenin’s birthday — which is no coincidence. Nelson modeled his anti-capitalist protests after anti-Vietnam War demonstrations of that era. Today, the so-called “environmental movement” he helped spawn has devolved from a gaggle of unwashed adolescent peaceniks into a slick cadre of leftists, lobbyists and lawyers. The result of this devolution has been an enormous hidden tax on American products and services — more than a trillion dollars last year — in the form of runaway environmental regulation.

The populist wing of the environmental movement now operates under the aegis of the Lefts cult of Latter Day Eco-theologists, or earth-worshippers. Their current titular head is Albert Arnold Gore, he of the unfortunately timed “global warming” speech delivered in January, 2004, during the coldest day in New York City in decades. The objective of the earth-worshippers is to create a central authority over industrial production in the West through mechanisms like the Orwellian Kyoto Treaty. Their method is to portray industrial atmospheric emissions as a primary determinant of global climate. Their goal, consistent with both Nelson and Lenin, is to crush or at least bridle free-enterprise capitalism. The Kyoto Protocol, for example, hamstrings Western industrialized nations but exempts socialist states like India and China.

It should be noted that the U.S. Senate resoundingly rejected Al Gores beloved Kyoto Protocol in 1997 by way of the Byrd-Hagel Resolution. The vote count? An eye-popping 95-0. Commenting on the misuse of science to support political agendas, Harvard’s Dr. Malcolm Ross concludes of such folly, “Freeze or fry, the problem is always industrial capitalism, and the solution is always international socialism.” Colorado Environmental Studies Professor Roger Pielke adds, “It is clear that there is an ample supply of people willing to use concern over the politicization of science as a political bludgeon to score points on the Bush Administration [but] where are the analysts (including reporters) who care about the politicization of science?” –from the Federalist Patriot, 05-16, 04.22.05, at www.federalist.com

Government and taxes

“Government does not tax to get the money it needs; government always finds a need for the money it gets.” –Ronald Reagan

Gay and against gay marriage

A Minnesota state senator had two messages for a gathering of thousands at the State Capitol in St. Paul , Wednesday. The first one was: “Im gay.” The second: “I oppose gay marriage.” Sen. Paul Koering, R-Fort Ripley, made his “coming out” announcement at a rally in support of gay marriage, but went on to tell the crowd that he not only opposes gay marriage, he would vote to pass a constitutional amendment that defined marriage as between one man and one woman. –from Focus on the Family www.citizenlink.com

On Marriage, culture and selfishness

[M]arriage is threatened not by divorce, but by people not marrying in the first place — as is increasingly the case in the two European societies that have redefined marriage to include couples of the same sex. Our present high divorce rate is not stopping the vast majority of Americans from wanting to marry. Nor should it. Nothing provides the antidote to narcissism, or the environment for the healthy raising of children, or the way for people to take care of one another, as does the marriage of a man and a woman. And while most divorces are terribly sad, divorce itself no more undermines the institution of marriage than car crashes undermine the institution of driving. In fact, the vast majority of people who do divorce deeply wish to marry again; painful divorce has not undermined marriage even among those who have divorced. There may be honest reasons to support the redefinition of marriage to include same-sex couples. The argument that heterosexuals divorce a lot is not one of them. It is, in fact, demagoguery. –Dennis Prager

[E]ssentially modern post-Christian Europe , and Canada , and large parts of the United States …have replaced the traditional impulses of civilization, which is to breed, and to prosper, and to expand and survive with a culture of narcissism. You know, Id like to have…meaningless, promiscuous sex, and just think about myself all day long, and all week long, and all year long. But in the end, when you prioritize that, you actually destroy the culture that enables it. Its a completely absurd culture and brazen. And that’s what weve done. … Because the fact of the matter is…most societies have built into their DNA the need to survive, the need to prosper, and the need to reproduce. And we have managed to lose that in an extraordinary short period of time, and quite remarkably. … And so its a simple, foolish, self-defeating sort of selfishness to carry on like that. –Mark Steyn

The preceding two items were listed at www.federalist.com

The worlds view of Christ: “A Christ for Conservatives?”

On a visit to Washington , D.C. a while ago, I dropped in on an exhibit of Rembrandt’s late religious paintings at the National Gallery. In contrast to a painter such as El Greco, who rendered his religious subjects in an ethereal aspect, whitened, brightened, lengthened, already halfway to heaven. Rembrandt made his religious figures very real and down to earth.

But suddenly I found myself transfixed by a figure so utterly and intensely alive that I thought for a moment that it would speak. This turned out to be a painting after all, but one which really stood apart from the gloomy works surrounding it: the Portrait of Christ. As with the figures in the other works, Jesus is here painted from a live subject and posed not as for a holy card but as for a simple portrait. Because we are so much more familiar with various iconic images of Christ, however, what wasn’t terribly compelling in the other paintings is quite arresting here: a Jesus fully at home in the secular world who stopped to have his portrait painted, but whose spiritual presence is such that the portrait slowly evolves into something higher in its engagement with the viewer.

We see at first an attractive young man, kind of cool and relaxed, as Christs go, laid back, as we might say today. (A friend even thought he resembled a rock star.) This Jesus possesses a diffident yet confident quality that bespeaks a fullness of personhood beneath, both strong and gentle, wise and innocent, having a humble aspect and yet an awareness of who he is. He is not gesturing toward us, as depicted in so many paintings of Jesus, but his eyes directly engage even as his hands remain crossed quietly on his breast. He is interested in us, yet reticent and pensive, it seems. Those steady, dark brown eyes fix the viewer, while his head tilts to the side, giving the impression that he is scrutinizing you, studying you.

There is no halo of course, no artificial glow, no effeminate aspect, no gushing compassion, no indiscriminate forgiveness pouring forth in unconditional love. This was not the Jesus who, as one Episcopal bishop insisted, accepts us even in our “fat slobby selves.” This Jesus is rather more challenging than comforting. This is a Christ with standards, I thought half jokingly, a Christ for conservatives! A Christ who sized you up, maybe the way he sized up the chatty Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well or the rich young man who thought so well of himself. Where are you now, viewer, he might be saying, whats going on in you, are you ready for me? What are you holding onto, what worthless baggage are you carrying so that you can’t come my narrow way? You couldnt think of anything petty while in the purview of that calm, knowing, intelligent, and potentially redemptive gaze.

And then there are his hands, crossed, resting on his chest, the left fully visible, the right barely so, covering his heart. Something in this pose bespeaks a certain sadness, but also a readiness, an awareness, an acceptance, of his own oncoming agony. You can trust me, he might be saying, for my part I will do what I have to do. But again, what about you?

Reproductions can help but they cant convey what it is to stand in the presence of this extraordinary portrait, which has its home in the Hyde Collection in upstate New York. Rembrandt created a different sort of Christ, a portrait that straddles two worlds, indicated even in the background of the figure: the left side dark brown, that earthy tone again, the right side discreetly glowing with the light that illuminates the face, breast, and hands. A perfectly suitable secular representation of a great figure that turns into a holy image as, and if, one agrees to respond to it. — Carol Iannone, editor-at-large of Academic Questions , for the journal of the National Association of Scholars, excerpted from the article in the National Review at www.nationalreview.com 04.16.05

Taxing choices

The options for avoiding income tax in America are few and distasteful:

1) Move to another country, (a lousy idea for obvious reasons). 2) Don’t make any income. 3) Don’t report income, (they will catch you sooner or later). Or, 4) Die.

None of the above appeals to me. I sent my check into the Infernal Revenue Service. –from friend Andrew Foster , 04.10.05

Where have all the taxes gone, long time passing?

(Our duty is only to send them in; but you might like to know something about what is being funded too.)

The bottomless money trough in Washington DC is as full to the brim as ever, and so the Citizens Against Government Waste have released the 2005 edition of The Pig Book. Its pages detail all the myriad ways in which excess tax revenue is being misspent, in excruciating detail. Your tax dollars and mine are going to fund projects like Washington State s $250,000 appropriation for “asparagus technology.” Is high-tech asparagus your cup of tea? Other examples of blatant waste are $11,450,000 for a Louisiana waterway that carries 0.1% of the nations water traffic — while getting 3.4% of all waterway funding — and $3,973,000 for a multi-state research project on shrimp aquaculture which, according to the USDA, has already met its original objectives… scheduled to be completed in 1987.

Did you know that you donated $70,000 for the Paper Industry Hall of Fame in Appleton WI ? Were you aware that you paid $25,000 to the Clark County School District of Nevada so that the students can study mariachi music? Do you like golf enough to pay $100,000 for the Tiger Woods Foundation in Los Alamitos CA? Woods probably makes that much in a relaxing afternoon while playing a game – cant he fund his own foundation? Were you asked whether you wanted to give $775,000 to the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables FL , which charges customers $350 per night? On the Biltmore’s website, taxpayers can see where their money is going. “Coming Spring of 2005, The Biltmore will introduce a brand new, 12,000 sq. ft. destination Spa on the seventh floor of the hotel. Featuring spectacular views of surrounding Coral Gables , the Biltmore Spa will offer a luxurious and sophisticated setting for state-of-the-art treatments and services.” Your tax dollars at work! As far as Im concerned, all this pork spending is a load of fertilizer. If only I could get some of the $1,700,000 you gave to Alaska s International Fertilizer Development Center for saying so. –excerpted from “My Trough Runneth Over” at Cavaliers Guardian Watchblog at www.guardian.watchblog.com 04.20.05

Fulfilling Obligations

And they sent to Him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that You are true, and teach the way of God in truth; nor do You care about anyone, for You do not regard the person of men. Tell us, therefore, what do You think? Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?”

But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, “Why do you test Me, you hypocrites? Show Me the tax money.” So they brought Him a denarius. And He said to them, “Whose image and inscription is this?” They said to Him, “Caesars.” And He said to them, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesars, and to God the things that are Gods.” When they had heard these words, they marveled, and left Him and went their way. –Matthew 22:16 – 22

The Most Ridiculous Item of the Day

Our pal Andy Rooney making news again. Rooney was called to testify against an agent named Alan Walker, on trial for defrauding some celebrities. When Rooney took the stand, he was sworn in with the words, “So help me God.” Well, Rooney replied, “I dont know about God. –Bill OReilly from The OReilly Factor on Fox News Network, sent in by Mark Zaveson who added: “Well, he will.”

On Values

The more practical problem with the fact-value distinction is that no one, including those who espouse it, actually believes it. No one is really “value-neutral” with respect to his own values, or regards them as values, arbitrary preferences that one just happens to be saddled with. The late Allan Bloom pointed out that the social scientists who embraced the fact-value distinction after 1945 believed that “the war against the Right had been won domestically at the polls and in foreign affairs on the battlefield,” so one could safely assume that all decent and sensible people were liberal Democrats. And since all decent and sensible people wanted the same decent and sensible things, the job of social scientists was to discover the means for attaining these goals, not to waste time debating value-judgments about which goals to pursue.

Theres an old saying: the problem with socialism is socialism, and the problem with capitalism is capitalists. Meyerson, Linker and Scheiber remind us that the problem with relativism is relativism, and the problem with relativism is relativists. The problem with relativism is its insistence that all moral impulses are created equal—that there are no reasons to choose the standards of the wise and good over those of the deranged and cruel. A world organized according to that principle would be anarchic, uninhabitable. As Leo Strauss wrote, the attempt to “regard nihilism as a minor inconvenience” is untenable.

The problem with relativists is that they always dismiss other peoples beliefs, but spare their own moral preferences from their doctrines scoffing. Meyerson disparages orthodoxy, but praises “economic justice…a global economic order that seeks to enhance, not destroy, workers rights.” Linker deplores absolutism, but is content to settle the question of stem-cell research by relying on “the intuition embedded in moral common sense” that tells him “we should support research that promises to relieve human suffering when doing so inflicts no suffering of its own.”

Justice, rights, moral common sense, either these are things we can have intelligent discussions about or they aren’t. If they are, then a pope’s or a columnist’s assertion that justice means this or that may be right or wrong, but we cannot say that simply making such an assertion is an act of intellectual aggression. (It is, in any case, fatuous to criticize a pope for orthodoxy or absolutism. The papal job description doesn’t leave much room for resorting to the phrase, “But, then, who am I to say?”) And if they aren’t, then there is no basis for siding with Meyerson or Linker against John Paul on any of the issues where they disagree. Our own idiosyncratic value-judgments line up either with one or the other, and theres nothing more to be said about it. –excerpted from “Having it Both Ways on Values” by William Voegeli at www.claremont.org 04.14.05

The healthy government subject

Also this week the US Department of Agriculture announced yet another food pyramid. The first pyramid I remember suggested large servings of eggs, meats, whole milk and, I think, Milk Duds. Maybe it was Goo Goo Clusters. Then the USDA decided that eggs and meat were killing people because it clogged their cardiac arteries, so they decided we should all switch from large amounts of deadly fats to large amounts of healthy carbohydrates. Then they realized that two out of every three of us had supersized ourselves and so now they have developed a series of personal pyramids which will make us each responsible for our own girth – no longer able to place the blame on the government. You will lose about 5 lbs. just trying to follow the USDAs links to figure all this out. –from Rich Galen at his website www.mullings.com 04.22.05

Funny People

“People are funny; they want the front of the bus, the middle of the road, and the back of the church.” –Anonymous – contributed by Mary Monahan.

Article contributed by Richard Vandagriff and Mark Zaveson