Reflections from the Front Porch

MINT-AND-CORN COUNTRY, INDIANA — Over at Nathancontrmundi, I’ve posted my first substantive bit of writing in some time, “Confessions of a Front-Porch Realist”, my reflections on the less-pleasant realities of localism in contemporary America. It is not, I hope, an accurate depiction of all of rural Middle America, but I fear that it aptly describes all too much of the Heartland. (My more pessimistic side fears that the problems that I explore are just as dishearteningly pervasive amongst a great deal of urban neighborhoods, too — and not just in obviously crumbling cities such as Detroit.)

I hope to have, by day’s end, a second front-porch reflection posted at my home Weblog, this one exploration at least of one seeming internal tension in New Urbanist thought as it relates to front-porch republicanism, if not a deeper investigation of the relationship between the two.

God willing, getting these two pieces online will be the kick in the pants that I need to return to contributing regularly here and reviving my blog. I have a lot to say, and William P., inter alios, I’m sure, has a lot to refute.

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Democrats, F[r]iends of the Poor!

MINT-AND-CORN COUNTRY, INDIANA — Politico reports that the public optionconsumer option” premiums will be higher than those for most private plans. From the CBO’s report:

That estimate of enrollment reflects CBO’s assessment that a public plan paying negotiated rates would attract a broad network of providers but would typically have premiums that are somewhat higher than the average premiums for the private plans in the exchanges. The rates the public plan pays to providers would, on average, probably be comparable to the rates paid by private insurers participating in the exchanges. The public plan would have lower administrative costs than those private plans but would probably engage in less management of utilization by its enrollees and attract a less healthy pool of enrollees. (The effects of that “adverse selection” on the public plan’s premiums would be only partially offset by the “risk adjustment” procedures that would apply to all plans operating in the exchanges.)

I’m quite in favor of fixing our current healthcare system. Yes, I think that some sort of serious change is worth “punishing” most Americans in the name of the those who truly have been hurt by our current mangled, corporate system. I was withholding judgment on the public option; no longer am I. (And I’m still baffled that anyone advocates a freakin’ mandate.) It’s one thing to bill the taxpayers even more to cover further government involvement in healthcare. It’s quite another to do so and then to make this aid to the downtrodden more expensive than a quasi-market policy. But, hey, the Democrats already love them some Big Pharma types, so why not make this entire system even more of a clusterf**k?

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J Street Conference – Quick Take

I was there, and basically share Scott’s assessment, though Mike Dougherty is undoubtedly correct as well.  I see J Street as playing a very complicated game, in short to capture the Jewish center for Obama’s broader foreign policy agenda (not just Israel-Palestine) with few illusions about how dire the situation is.  Everyone at the conference was saying we are approaching the tipping point as far as saving the two-state solution, which as a general rule means we passed it some time ago.  The solutions preferred by the leadership of J Street are certainly as impracticable as those urged by South African Liberals in the 80s, but like them I think they know this perfectly well.

UPDATE: Here’s another quick take I contributed to Mondoweiss, and over the weekend I should be writing an extended essay account for multiple publications, stay tuned.

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Has The Post No Decent Editors?

MINT-AND-CORN COUNTRY, INDIANA — I realize that Anglican-Catholic concerns aren’t exactly the primary focus of Post Right, but I do believe that relations amongst orthodox, apostolic Christians — Anglican, Roman, and Eastern — should be (and often are) of interest and concern to alternative/crunchy/paleo/post-right/front-porch conservatives. Emphasis on traditional morality, humane economics, and the natural law all rank highly with us, and are intrinsic to apostolic Christianity. Moreover, we probably ought to care that one of the premier dailies in the country (elite liberal media or not) allows something as egregious as below to make it to print.

My friend Roque tipped me off to this doozy from Sunday’s Washington Post, a mind-bogglingly bad opinion piece on Benedict’s recent opening of the gate — building a bridge over the Tiber, if you will — for Anglicans. You know that it’s going to be atrocious when you see that the title asks, “Is Pope Benedict a closet liberal?” You incline toward turning to the comic pages, but cannot help yourself: Must. Read. Foolishly. Titled. Piece.

David Gibson writes,

Thus far, Benedict’s papacy has been one of constant movement and change, the sort of dynamic that liberal Catholics — or Protestants — are usually criticized for pursuing. In Benedict’s case, this liberalism serves a conservative agenda. But his activism should not be surprising: As a sharp critic of the reforms of Vatican II, Ratzinger has long pushed for what he calls a “reform of the reform” to correct what he considers the excesses or abuses of the time.

Reasonable enough. Reading this after a series of paragraphs in which Gibson carries on about the purportedly “extraordinary concession” that Benedict made in the form of the “principal innovation” of opening the Church more fully to the Tridentine Mass is a bit disconcerting, insofar as it suggests cognitive dissonance on Gibson’s part: Restoring the Mass that predominated for nearly four centuries is hardly innovative, and the only thing extraordinary about it, really, is the form of the Mass, itself. Nonetheless, Benedict has been “liberal” inasmuch as his actions may not always strike the observer as being “conservative” in the sense of prudential and moderated, but when the revolutionaries strike, one ought to don the reactionary’s cape.

Things take a turn from the absurd, though. Having made quite clear that Benedict, however “liberal” his means, is stridently “conservative” (Really, he’s just an orthodox Catholic, but debating religious semantics with David Gibson, I fear, is probably a battle unworthy of my time.), Gibson proceeds to smack the reader across the face with this gem:

More important, with the latest accommodation to Anglicans, Benedict has signaled that the standards for what it means to be Catholic — such as the belief in the real presence of Christ in the Mass as celebrated by a validly ordained priest — are changing or, some might argue, falling. The Vatican is in effect saying that disagreements over gay priests and female bishops are the main issues dividing Catholics and Anglicans, rather than, say, the sacraments and the papacy and infallible dogmas on the Virgin Mary, to name just a few past points of contention.

That is revolutionary — and unexpected from a pope like Benedict. It could encourage the view, which he and other conservatives say they reject, that all Christians are pretty much the same when it comes to beliefs, and the differences are just arguments over details.


The sacraments, the infallible dogmas on the Blessed Mother, and even, to a lesser degree, the papacy (with the Anglo-Tridentines primarily, I think) are already points of contention within the AC, and not merely apparently not-as-important divisions between Rome and Canterbury. Gay priests and female priests and bishops may be the camel’s-back-breaking straws, but Anglicans have been a fractured group over more theologically profound questions far much longer than they’ve cared about how priests are using their penises — or if they have them at all. Some Anglicans, of course, accept the Assumption, and a good number the Immaculate Conception. Others prefer Eucharist as “symbol” (To hell with it!) and Calvinistic nonsense about predestination.

If anything, that female priests (not to mention bishops!) are out of the question in Catholicism and that openly gay priests will not be tolerated are enticing to, rather than problematic for, the Anglicans who are most likely to come home. What will keep them — those otherwise most inclined toward Rome — in the Continuing Anglican Church, or elsewhere within the crumbling AC, are reservation about the papacy, inter alia. Absolutely nothing from Benedict has suggested otherwise; permitting Anglicans to keep an Anglican Rite (just as we now freely hear the Tridentine Mass, as I do every Sunday, in Chicago) is not at all the same as permitting them to reject the Real Presence or the papacy. Benedict hasn’t If the latter, especially, were the case, they’d probably remain smell-and-bells Anglo-Catholics. B XVI is not opening the door without reservation; he’s decidedly not trying to turn the Church into the new “Roman Communion”, where you can believe just about anything and still be a good Catholic (a term that I use aware of the potential danger: A number of Catholics who don’t fall in line at all still think themselves to be good Catholics, and I mean not to judge them, but the distinction is clear: Catholics are supposed to believe X, Y, and Z to be Catholic; Anglicanism, lamentably, really is an à la carte religion).

Please, Washington Post, EDIT.

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The Good Guys?

Karadzic in the dock. Or not, if he understandably carries on refusing to turn up. But what about the rest of them? Muslims good, Croats okay, Serbs bad? Wrong. Completely and utterly wrong.

To Croat children, he is Dred Božinjak, Father Christmas. To Serb children, he is Božik Bata, Christmas Friend. And to Bosnian Muslim children, he has been, for the last fifty years, Deda Mraz, Grandfather Frost, who comes round to schools and distributes presents. But not from last year. So not this or any other year, either. Or, at least, not in the public schools of Sarajevo for this white-bearded figure in a garb clearly modeled on that of an Orthodox bishop, although apparently he was invented by the Croats. And his clothes are red and white, leading one to question the veracity of the claim that the obviously related figure in Anglophonia, though certainly green at one time, was only turned red by Coca Cola.

I have had fierce debates because I have never tired of pointing out the strongly Islamist character of Bosnian secessionism. Well, how much more proof do you need? The present Bosnian entity is the creation, and the living continuation of the personality, of a Saudi-funded Wahhabi rabble-rouser who, moreover, had been typical of his people in his Nazi activities in the Forties. These two strands, which were related both in the Forties and in the Nineties, come together in the erosion of Christmas, which the Nazis also tried to do in Germany, even if without any success. Expect these schools, and other public institutions, to enforce Islamic dress codes, dietary laws and so forth in the very near future.

The Republika Srpska will declare independence sooner rather than later, and will deserve every support when she does. The Bosnian Croats are also coming round. The West backed the wrong side in Bosnia, as also in Kosovo, where the Wahhabism and the Nazi nostalgia are mixed in with heroin-trafficking, with prostitution, and with Maoism, which seems to be all over the place under Western patronage – Kosovo, Nepal, Rwanda, and in the neocon favorite lately running Portugal but now running the European Commission.

It has been suggested to me that, had the Yugoslav Wars been fought after 9/11, then the West would have been on the right side. But 9/11 was only possible because we turned Bosnia into an Islamist haven and cesspit. And the UDI in Kosovo came, of course, several years after 9/11. Will we never learn?

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A few brave conservatives reject ‘unhinged’ radio ranters

“A few brave conservatives reject ‘unhinged’ radio ranters” is how the headline read in Charleston’s Post & Courier for Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Dick Polman’s latest, in which he applauds Peter Wehner, David Frum, Lindsey Graham and other Republicans speaking out against the antics of Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, Michael Savage and “worst” of all – Glenn Beck – at whom Polman directs most of his ire. Polman also throws in Alex Jones and what he calls his “post-Beck schtick,” believing that the conspiratorial Jones is some sort of threat to civil public discourse.

I make the argument in a recent TAC piece that much of the anger directed toward Beck by conservatives is not simply because of his wacky style, but his habit of questioning conventional right-wing wisdom on foreign policy and daring to undermine the Republican Party. Lo and behold, writes Polman:

“it’s not just the tone that worries these conservative critics… Far worse is the fact that Beck and some of his brethren are just as capable of skewering the GOP, and inspiring fans to do the same. A few weeks back, he stunned many Republicans by declaring in an interview, ‘I think John McCain would have been worse for the country than Barack Obama.’ Why? Because ‘I think McCain is a weird progressive, like Theodore Roosevelt was.”

Of course, Beck is absolutely right about McCain in his comments, especially once one understands where the FOX host is coming from and his concept of the term “progressive.”

In applauding Frum’s attacks on Beck, Polman notes that he’s an “ex-Bush speechwriter who helped coin the term ‘Axis of Evil.”

After reading what seemed like Polman’s positive example of Frum’s conservative credentials, I couldn’t help but think – has anything Limbaugh, Levin, Savage, Beck, Jones or any other pundit ever said or done led to more destruction, tragedy and heartache than Frum’s infamous phrase?

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Nazi News

Nazism is news here in Britain. The deeply unpleasant (and not very bright) Leader of the deeply unpleasant British National Party has in the last few hours appeared on a flagship BBC panel program, while the controversy continues over the new Tory allies in the ridiculous European Parliament at Strasbourg, especially those from Latvia, who seem to have some sort of connection to the SS.

If the BNP wants votes here in the former mining areas, where it certainly does want them, then it will stop identifying with Churchill, as it is very keen to do. But it won’t. In the Thirties, there were two British threats to constitutionality and, via Britain’s role in the world, to international stability. One came from an unreliable, opportunistic, highly affected and contrived, anti-Semitic, white supremacist, Eurofederalist demagogue who admired Mussolini, heaped praise on Hitler, had no need to work for a living, had an overwhelming sense of his own entitlement, profoundly hated democracy, and had a callous disregard for the lives of the lower orders and the lesser breeds. So did the other one. Far more than background united Churchill and the British Fascist leader, Oswald Mosley, originator in English of the currently modish concept of a Union of the Mediterranean.

In Great Contemporaries, published in 1937, two years after he had called Hitler’s achievements “among the most remarkable in the whole history of the world”, Churchill wrote that: “Those who have met Herr Hitler face to face in public business or on social terms have found a highly competent, cool, well-informed, functionary with an agreeable manner, a disarming smile, and few have been unaffected by a subtle personal magnetism.” That passage was not removed from the book’s reprint in 1941. In May 1940, Churchill had been all ready to give Gibraltar, Malta, Suez, Somaliland, Kenya and Uganda to Mussolini.

Churchill’s dedicated Zionism was precisely that of the BNP: he did not regard the Jews as British, so he wanted them to go away. The anti-British terrorists who went on to found the State of Israel agreed with him, very nearly coming to an understanding whereby Hitler would have expelled the Jews by sending them to British Palestine, which he and the Zionists would have conquered together for the purpose.

All sorts of things about Churchill are simply ignored. Gallipoli. The miners. The Suffragettes. The refusal to bomb the railway lines to Auschwitz. His dishonest and self-serving memoirs. Both the fact and the sheer scale of his 1945 electoral defeat while the War in the Far East was still going on, when Labour won half of his newly divided district, and when an Independent did very well against him in the other half after Labour and the Liberals had disgracefully refused to field candidates against him. His deselection as a parliamentary candidate by his local Conservative Association just before he died. And not least, his carve-up of Eastern Europe with Stalin, so very reminiscent of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact.

But we have not forgotten the truth about him in the old pit communities. Nor have they in the places that he signed away to Stalin, including the country for whose freedom the War was fought, making it a failure in its own terms. And including Latvia. It may exist in German, but I have never come across in English a full study of the SS Divisions of various nationalities after they had gone home. Yet the movements and subcultures that they became turn up an awful lot. And, except in Latvia, we love them.

We loved Alija Izetbegovic, SS recruitment sergeant turned Wahhabi rabble-rouser, and founder of one of the two entities to which the terms “Islamofascist” and “failed state” are both properly applicable. We love the other one, created by the Kosovo “Liberation” Army of heroin-trafficking pimps whose black shirts defer to their fathers and grandfathers. We love the pro-war Danish People’s Party: the coalition of the willing, no matter who the willing might be. We love those advocating Flemish secession, now that that would be in the service of global capital. Ahmadinejad’s oblique, if any, Holocaust denial causes uproar, yet that of Croatia’s Franjo Tudjman – historically, geographically, ideologically and sartorially far closer to the events – did not. But for some reason, the Latvian Fatherland and Freedom Party is a problem. Why? No one ever mentions that Eurofederalist, big business-loving Fine Gael of Ireland goes back to the Blueshirts, admittedly far from the worst, but even so.

Just as some Nazi roots are acceptable but others are not (never mind that Ahmadinejad has none at all), so the anti-Semitism and the general racism, the brutality and the contempt for democracy, the admiration for Mussolini and especially for Hitler, are omitted from accounts of those who agitated for war in the Thirties, but heavily emphasised, sometimes to point of fabrication, in accounts of those who pleaded for peace.

If you leave aside Churchill and Mosley, then both sides wished to harness the full capacity of the State to correct the root and branch injustice of capitalism in itself, in order to conserve national sovereignty and traditional values, and in order to prevent a Communist revolution; that was the position of all three British parties at the time, and the reason why certainly Labour, and arguably also the modern Conservative Party, had been set up in the first place. But one side also wished, for exactly the same reasons, to prevent another war in Europe, or in countries beyond Europe to stay out of any such war. The contemporary resonances of both aspects could not be more obvious. Those who held to both, across or astride the political spectrum, deserve to be reassessed.

As, far less sympathetically, does Churchill. The BNP is as welcome to him as it is to Mosley, or to the Bosniaks, or to the Kosovars, or to the Danish People’s Party, or to the Vlaams Belang.

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Forget About Burke

A few days ago, Richard Spencer mocked the new Edmund Burke Institute for American Renewal. In my estimation, the mockery was well deserved. I’ve read my fair share of Burke, and, unlike the Burke Institute, I can’t recall any of Burke’s passages from which a strategy for Republican outreach to Latinos can be extrapolated. I furthermore doubt that many of the group’s Board of Governors are particularly knowledgeable about Burke or his ideas. Does anyone want to venture a guess as to the last time Michael Steele perused Letters on a Regicide Peace? A pattern is emerging in American political discourse; apparently every mainstream political movement now wants to be considered Burkean. Although I maintain my respect for Burke as a writer and statesmen, I think this trend further confirms my contention that “Burkeanism” is now at best a meaningless term, and at worst an dangerous ideal for the Right.

Of course, traditionalist conservatives have never wavered from their admiration of Burke. More recently, however, others have picked up the Burkean mantle. David Brooks, for example, now claims Barack Obama is a paragon of Burkean thinking. Sam Tanenhaus now claims the New Deal was a “Burkean correction.” Jonathan Rauch described John McCain as one of America’s most Burkean Republicans.

Burke fans should be careful not to assume that this new love for Burke signals any good signs for American conservatism. Regardless of whether it is an accurate description of Burke’s thinking (I don’t think it is), “Burkeanism” now means little else but “defending the status quo.” Leftists now appeal to Burke because they finally recognize that the current social order is thoroughly dominated by left-wing institutions and left-wing thinking. Given this accepted definition, conservatives should forget about being “Burkean.”

When Big Government liberals tell conservatives they need to be more like Burke, they mean conservatives should be gracious losers – this is hardly an accurate description of Burke himself, but I digress. In their mind, a “Burkean” Right is one that provides only minor speed bumps on America’s road to a centrally-planned utopia; to them, the ideal conservative is an erudite gentleman who pontificates for a few minutes, and then gets out of the way. They prefer conservatives like George Will, who bristle at any perceived “populism” on the Right, and they despise figures who would channel conservative anger into an effective political movement that actually threatens the present state of affairs.

Conservatives and libertarians who receive praise for their “Burkean” sensibilities should rethink their strategy. According to the contemporary definition, “Burkeanism” is now a synonym for “harmless,” and insipid organizations like the Edmund Burke Institute will do nothing to change that definition.

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Ms. Sand never does anything out of her subjective feelings, only out of reason

New Ayn Rand biographer Jennifer Burns was on The Daily Show last night.  The discussion was rather underwhelming if basically correct, but one point was made which grabbed my attention and merited further discussion:  that Randian atheism is far less problematic to the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck today than it was to the leading thinkers of Reagan-era conservatism.

One need not be on the editorial board of The American Prospect to regard Ayn Rand as the god that failed of the Bush era.  I personally see no reason not to regard Alan Greenspan as having been the logical outcome of putting her ideas into practice, not only with respect to the great inflation itself but to the Bush/Rove political motives behind it – both the funding of their wars and of the housing bubble designed to build their permanent exurban majority.

Indeed, a convincing case can be made that the teabaggers, insofar as they have any guiding philosophy, owe more to Rand than anyone, especially when we consider the jingoism of both.  And it is not surprising that they seem to have no qualms about the Randian hatred of religion as it becomes increasingly clear that the era of the religious right is over.  Six months later, Obama’s Notre Dame speech looks increasingly like the end of America’s abortion wars, as TAC aptly foresaw even earlier.

But of course, that is a heretical notion to the Kossack mob that is The Daily Show studio audience, as illustrated in this desperate attempt to deny it.  As ever, the left can not get past its dogmas to have an intelligent understanding of the right, as the right was once able to have of the left.

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Re: Warmongering is a Bipartisan Tradition

Granted, John’s articulation of the argument nowhere approaches the extremes broached in the past by Brendan O’Neill, for one, but it is shocking to look back on those who saw Obama as the ultimate armed liberal internationalist in light of the neocon lamentation of his “abandonment of democracy”.  Sam Tanenhaus, in lamenting the fall of Hillary Clinton, was essentially right in making the point that the influences that shaped Obama were more leftist than liberal.

(The exception that may prove the rule is apparently Reinhold Niebuhr, of whom I can not help affirming both the conservative embrace and the bitter reproaches of both the isolationist firebrand Harry Elmer Barnes as “that S.O.B.” as well as the hardy old socialist Louis Waldman in denouncing him as a fellow traveler.)

If anything, old-fashioned Wilsonianism is now the province of the unholy alliance of Marty Peretz and company with the loony liberals at Huffington Post who are presently hounding Obama, ostensibly from the left.

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