"What is supposed to happen in a democracy is that each sovereign citizen will always vote
in the public interest for the safety and welfare of all. But what does happen is that he votes
his own self-interest as he sees it... which for the majority translates as 'Bread and Circuses'."
- Robert A. Heinlein

In Roman times, free Bread and Circuses entertained the masses. I hope you find your time
here both entertaining and informative.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

The Bomb!

Of course, the whole point of a Doomsday Machine is lost, if you *keep* it a *secret*! Why didn't you tell the world, EH?

North Korea Has THE BOMB!

"Every Communist must grasp the truth, "Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun." Problems of War and Strategy Mao Tze-Tung, November 6, 1938, Selected Works, Vol. II, p. 224.

Nuclear Blast

So North Korea has the bomb. Big surprise. Guess that's what happens when we let rogue states bully the UN, rattle their sabres, and generally ignore the requirements of the IAEA. Now what remains to be seen is how the West will deal with a new nuclear power. North Korea has always remained committed to beligerence on the Korean peninsula. The question we must ask ourselves is "Do we truly care about South Korea?" Will we allow the communist North Korea to subsume the free South? Is it still in the interest of the United States to contain the threat of communism, totalitarianism, and nuclear thuggery?

I believe it is still in our interest. The US should then be ready to do whatever is realistically possible to protect South Korea from the aggression of the North. More on that later, as it develops.

This failure in restricting weapons proliferation should also drive us to renewed efforts on another intending nuclear power, Iran. Bush has said that the US cannot allow Iran to obtain nuclear weapons. Perhaps now would be a good time to take a page from Menachem Begin's playbook. Back in 1981, which is before many of our time, Israel performed a surgical strike on Iraq's nuclear weapons plant, believing it was intended to produce nuclear weapons. Roundly condemned at the time, Israel's actions are today believed to have prevented Iraq from having nuclear weapons at the time of its invasion of Kuwait in 1990.

O'Reilly's Audience Smarter... Eh, not so much

Jon Stewart

So Bill O'Reilly says that Jon Stewart's audience on "The Daily Show" is a bunch of "stoned slackers." Well, as a committed member of Stewart's audience who is not a slacker, and has never been, nor ever intends to be, stoned, I take offense. Apparently, so did Comedy Central, Stewart's vehicle. They asked Nielson Media Research to conduct a study, a study which revealed that Stewart's viewers are more likely to have finished four years of college than those who watch The O'Reilly Factor, the purported "No Spin Zone."

Amusing. Here is the comment that started it all.

O'Reilly: "You know what's really frightening? You actually have an influence on this presidential election. That is scary, but it's true. You've got stoned slackers watching your dopey show every night and they can vote."

Stewart: "This election is going to rely on the undecided, and who is more undecided than stoned slackers? Ice cream or pretzels? Ice cream or pretzels? What's it going to be?"

Mr. Stewart you are awarded this week's "Winston Churchill Award for Most Witty Come-Back to a Stupid Comment" Mr. O'Reilly, I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.

The funny thing through all this. I'm a conservative, and yet I watch Mr. Stewart's show with much more regularity than Mr. O'Reilly's nightly diatribes.

CNN Article



















Mansfield and De Tocqueville

Monday, September 27, 2004

The Charge of the Light Brigade

By Alfred, Lord Tennyson


1.
Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
"Forward, the Light Brigade!
"Charge for the guns!" he said:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.


2.
"Forward, the Light Brigade!"
Was there a man dismay'd?
Not tho' the soldier knew
Someone had blunder'd:
Their's not to make reply,
Their's not to reason why,
Their's but to do and die:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.


3.
Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
Volley'd and thunder'd;
Storm'd at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of Hell
Rode the six hundred.


4.
Flash'd all their sabres bare,
Flash'd as they turn'd in air,
Sabring the gunners there,
Charging an army, while
All the world wonder'd:
Plunged in the battery-smoke
Right thro' the line they broke;
Cossack and Russian
Reel'd from the sabre stroke
Shatter'd and sunder'd.
Then they rode back, but not
Not the six hundred.


5.
Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon behind them
Volley'd and thunder'd;
Storm'd at with shot and shell,
While horse and hero fell,
They that had fought so well
Came thro' the jaws of Death
Back from the mouth of Hell,
All that was left of them,
Left of six hundred.


6.
When can their glory fade?
O the wild charge they made!
All the world wondered.
Honor the charge they made,
Honor the Light Brigade,
Noble six hundred.



Comment: Sometimes lost causes are worth it.

Saturday, September 25, 2004

IF

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream -- and not make dreams your master;
If you can think -- and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings -- nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run --
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And -- which is more -- you'll be a Man, my son!

~Kipling

Friday, September 24, 2004

Mansfield: Ambivalent Theorist?

A Review of Taming the Prince, by Harvey Mansfield.

Harvey Mansfield’s book Taming the Prince comes at an important point in the development of political theory. We live in a society that unthinkingly accepts the realities of realpolitik and the existence of political necessity without embracing the full implications of these theories. Following the democratic trend in Western culture, the people of many developed constitutional societies are uncomfortable with several aspects of Machiavelli’s political theory. In what is perhaps a cunning example of Machiavellian subterfuge and ambivalence, Mansfield “tames” Machiavelli for the democratic era and regime. It is in this way that Mansfield preserves the essential nature of Machiavelli’s prince, as applied to the modern executive, while necessarily obscuring those portions less palatable to a modern democratic tradition.

Mansfield correctly argues that Machiavelli’s recognition of the necessity of executive power founded in uno solo was the watershed point in the development of the executive authority. Specifically, Machiavelli founded the belief that necessity guides a prince, ambivalence is his shelter, and he should be a single man who does more than merely carry out the law. As such, Mansfield recognizes that prior to Machiavelli’s arrival on the theoretical scene there was no clear notion of the executive as we speak of it today. Mansfield gives a very detailed and studied analysis of Machiavelli’s core principles, as well as the evolution of these ideas over time.

Mansfield begins by summarizing the role of the executive in political theory before Machiavelli. Ultimately he concludes that any current concept of executive authority cannot stem from such philosophers as Plato and Aristotle, as they do not speak to anything resembling the modern executive. The closest thing being Aristotle’s “offices,” Mansfield writes “[t]his is the part of the regimes in Aristotle’s schema corresponding to the modern executive power, but his offices lack the unity at the top embodied in the single modern executive.” (58)

Once Machiavelli had discovered the role of a single executive, Mansfield argues that the taming process began. This process as described by Mansfield is one by which gradually the responsibilities of the executive increased. In Machiavelli’s estimation, the only true responsibilities the executive had were to continue his principality and to be bound to necessity. Once Hobbes entered the scene though, the executive gained the requirement that he protect his people from dying a violent and untimely death. This is a small departure from Machiavelli, however, Locke brings a very different responsibility to the executive. By constitutionalizing the executive, Locke necessarily constrains the executive to a set number of powers, imposing upon him certain responsibilities. To formalize the executive power completely is to rob him of his strength, but to codify at least some of his powers is necessary to prevent unchecked abuse. This is one more step along the evolutionary process of modernizing and taming the Machiavellian executive.

Proceeding on from Locke’s constitutionalism, Mansfield directs the reader’s attention to Montesquieu’s moderation of the executive. “Montesquieu presents classical virtue, not any modern institution, as the executive power of government. This would presumably be a tame, subordinate executive if it worked at all, but would it?” (223) Montesquieu focuses on republican virtue as the power from which executive authority stems. This theory of executive as mouthpiece of the people’s will or virtue ultimately completely democratizes the executive under Montesquieu. “The executive has become one partisan representative of the people—no longer is it a nonpartisan, discretionary check on legislative will, as in Locke.” (246) Ultimately, Montesquieu’s virtue argument does not pose the answer for Mansfield, in that it moderates the executive too much, replacing necessity and power with virtue and republican will.

Mansfield argues the executive came of age in the American Founding. Here the benefits of the previous interpretations of executive power were brought together. Constitutionalism and republicanism were balanced so that the executive has a clear role and responsibility, but can act outside it to preserve the spirit of the law. The executive serves more than his own interests, yet is independent of the people. According to Mansfield, the Founders created an energetic executive who posed little threat to liberty. “Yet if energy is not virtue, in the American Constitution energy leads to virtue.” (267)

Once the executive has been firmly developed from Machiavelli, the next step is to put his advice into action. Mansfield argues that the theorists and practitioners who followed Machiavelli have correctly moderated the rougher corners of Machiavelli’s prince, until we are left with the modern executive, as clearly embodied in the American president. It is in this argument that Mansfield out does Machiavelli himself. The essential nature of Machiavelli’s executive is preserved in Mansfield’s “tamed” ambivalent executive. Machiavelli’s advice to the Medici was clearly intended as candid advice from a political observer. Because of this Machiavelli is unashamed of portraying his executive “warts and all,” knowing that those reading his epistle would be in a position to appreciate that the true nature of realpolitk was meant for their eyes only. Mansfield however, is writing for a modern democratic audience, and thus cannot be as open about the necessities of executive power, so he resorts to arguing quite persuasively that one needn’t worry, Machiavelli’s prince has been tamed by having percolated through several centuries of political theorists.

By arguing the Machiavelli’s prince has been tamed, Mansfield obscures the fact that all the ambiguity and necessity that is vital to Machiavelli’s prince have been preserved for the modern executive. In doing so, he makes the Machiavellian prince not only relevant to a democratic age, but also politically feasible in such a time. So ultimately, all the executive has lost is the ability to be open about what it is he does. Mansfield shows that through the recognition of necessity the single executive can address the problems and exigencies that arise, issues to which a legislative body cannot adequately respond. But he also demonstrates that by ordering the concept of the executive within a constitutional republican system, the executive avoids the criticisms which face Machiavelli’s prince.

(Originally Completed for Presidency class with Dr. Robert Stacey. R.I.P Presidency, Spring 2006.)

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Gunga Din

Here's another good Kipling poem. Many of Kipling's works show a Anglo-centric bias, particularly in his attitudes towards European colonization and "civilization" of India. But Gunga Din appears to show up much of this prejudice. Gunga Din the man is shown to be a compassionate human, and he shames the speaker by his self-sacrfice. The actions of this "heathen" outperform the self-proclaimed European saviors of humanity. How often do we Christians meet pagan Gunga Dins who show a selfless spirit which is so much more Christlike than the attitude of many of us who profess to bear His name?


Gunga Din

You may talk o' gin and beer
When you're quartered safe out 'ere,
An' you're sent to penny-fights an' Aldershot it;
But when it comes to slaughter
You will do your work on water,
An' you'll lick the bloomin' boots of 'im that's got it.
Now in Injia's sunny clime,
Where I used to spend my time
A-servin' of 'Er Majesty the Queen,
Of all them blackfaced crew
The finest man I knew
Was our regimental bhisti, Gunga Din.
He was "Din! Din! Din!
You limpin' lump o' brick-dust, Gunga Din!
Hi! Slippy hitherao!
Water, get it! Panee lao!
You squidgy-nosed old idol, Gunga Din."

The uniform 'e wore
Was nothin' much before,
An' rather less than 'arf o' that be'ind,
For a piece o' twisty rag
An' a goatskin water-bag
Was all the field-equipment 'e could find.
When the sweatin' troop-train lay
In a sidin' through the day,
Where the 'eat would make your bloomin' eyebrows crawl,
We shouted "Harry By!"
Till our throats were bricky-dry,
Then we wopped 'im 'cause 'e couldn't serve us all.
It was "Din! Din! Din!
You 'eathen, where the mischief 'ave you been?
You put some juldee in it
Or I'll marrow you this minute
If you don't fill up my helmet, Gunga Din!"

'E would dot an' carry one
Till the longest day was done;
An' 'e didn't seem to know the use o' fear.
If we charged or broke or cut,
You could bet your bloomin' nut,
'E'd be waitin' fifty paces right flank rear.
With 'is mussick on 'is back,
'E would skip with our attack,
An' watch us till the bugles made "Retire",
An' for all 'is dirty 'ide
'E was white, clear white, inside
When 'e went to tend the wounded under fire!
It was "Din! Din! Din!"
With the bullets kickin' dust-spots on the green.
When the cartridges ran out,
You could hear the front-ranks shout,
"Hi! ammunition-mules an' Gunga Din!"

I shan't forgit the night
When I dropped be'ind the fight
With a bullet where my belt-plate should 'a' been.
I was chokin' mad with thirst,
An' the man that spied me first
Was our good old grinnin', gruntin' Gunga Din.
'E lifted up my 'ead,
An' he plugged me where I bled,
An' 'e guv me 'arf-a-pint o' water-green:
It was crawlin' and it stunk,
But of all the drinks I've drunk,
I'm gratefullest to one from Gunga Din.
It was "Din! Din! Din!
'Ere's a beggar with a bullet through 'is spleen;
'E's chawin' up the ground,
An' 'e's kickin' all around:
For Gawd's sake git the water, Gunga Din!"

'E carried me away
To where a dooli lay,
An' a bullet come an' drilled the beggar clean.
'E put me safe inside,
An' just before 'e died,
"I 'ope you liked your drink", sez Gunga Din.
So I'll meet 'im later on
At the place where 'e is gone --
Where it's always double drill and no canteen.
'E'll be squattin' on the coals
Givin' drink to poor damned souls,
An' I'll get a swig in hell from Gunga Din!
Yes, Din! Din! Din!
You Lazarushian-leather Gunga Din!
Though I've belted you and flayed you,
By the livin' Gawd that made you,
You're a better man than I am, Gunga Din!


Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Please Sir, Can I Have A Guitar.

For Steeg.

Seems to me, that of all the instruments we have in chapel, guitars and drums would be the MOST Biblical. You know, tamborines and harps... God seemed to dig those. Percussion and strings. Anyway, why can't we have an electric guitar and drums? Seriously, are we going to all go to hell for making a rockin' joyful noise?

Saturday, September 04, 2004

"We showed weakness, and weak people are beaten"

So said Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin, speaking in a news conference where he appeared visibly shaken by the tragedy which concluded the hostage situation at the school in Breslan in southern Russia. The current death toll tops 340.

I don't intend to discuss the merits of the Russo-Chechen conflict. Nor will I offer suggestions on how to resolve the situation. If you want my opinion, track me down and ask me personally.

However, I will say this. Anyone who thinks seizing a school full of over 500 children is a valid way to fight a war or influence politics is scum. Debate the line between terrorist and freedom fighter until doomsday, but those who attack helpless children deserve no such consideration. Does anyone wonder why the FBI considers kidnapping the lowest crime in the pantheon of criminal acts? Human nature innately revolts against the idea. Bastards.

Kipling on First Loves

Try as he will, no man breaks wholly loose
From his first love, no matter who she be.
Oh, was there ever sailor free to choose,
That didn't settle somewhere near the sea?

Myself, it don't excite me nor amuse
To watch a pack o' shipping on the sea;
But I can understand my neighbour's views
From certain things which have occured to me.

Men must keep touch with things they used to use
To earn their living, even when they are free;
And so come back upon the least excuse --
Same as the sailor settled near the sea.

He knows he's never going on no cruise --
He knows he's done and finished with the sea;
And yet he likes to feel she's there to use --
If he should ask her -- as she used to be.

Even though she cost him all he had to lose,
Even though she made him sick to hear or see,
Still, what she left of him will mostly choose
Her skirts to sit by. How comes such to be?

Parsons in pulpits, tax-payers in pews,
Kings on your thrones, you know as well as me,
We've only one virginity to lose,
And where we lost it there our hearts will be!

- Rudyard Kipling, The Virginity

Bread and Circuses: An Introduction

"'Bread and Circuses' is the cancer of democracy, the fatal disease for which there is no cure." - Robert Anson Heinlein.

You've come to this blog because you want to know what and how I think. Whether you agree or disagree with my thoughts is irrelevant, you're still curious.

Bread and Circuses may be an odd name for a blog. Such a title seemed apropos because A: It sounds cool, and B: The concept of 'Bread and Circuses" is intrinsically linked with Roman entertainment. They were the tools of demagogues, instrumental in buying off an easily contented populace. Blogging seems to have a strong entertainment aspect to it. At the same time, there are strong aspects of demagoguery in it, albeit now a democratic demagoguery.

Everyone can have a blog, anyone can read them. Yet a common theme is that blogs elevate the opinions of the masses to an equally exalted position, without any Platonic standard of excellence. Yet the blog also presents a powerful tool to push discussion of the higher minded goals of human reason, "The Good" or "True Truth."

Anyway, I hope that this blog will provide stimulating and thought provoking material for a dialogue about philosophy and culture. Do not expect mindless "Humorous News of the Week," and do not expect to always agree with my writings, no matter what ideological pigeonhole you may find yourself reading from. Take me with a grain of salt. With that, I welcome you to my personal internet soapbox.

P.S. If I think something needs explanation or prologue, I will provide one. Otherwise, assume either I don't care to give one, the subject does not need one, or that I am, as I will often be, posting to provoke thought, which might very well include posting material with which I do not entirely agree or identify.