Nullify the Offshore Drilling Ban

August 3, 2011

A look at any sign around town advertising the price of gasoline or diesel fuel is enough to signal that something may be askew.  And something certainly is:  The federal government has imposed a de facto ban on offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico by no longer issuing permits to those who seek them.

The full scope of the troubles wrought by this ban encompasses more than higher fuel costs alone.  The good news, however, is there are steps that can be taken to undo the federal government’s mischief.

The first step is recognising the fundamental characteristics of our polity.  The United States are not, and were never intended to be, a centralised, homogeneous nation with an all-powerful federal government directing all aspects of the citizens’ lives, whether moral, political, or economic.  No, the genius of ourUnionis the division of power between federal, state, and local governments; and the limited nature of government at each of these levels.

This historical truth carries profound implications – first and foremost being this declaration of Thomas Jefferson’s from the Kentucky Resolutions of 1798:  ‘…the several States composing the United States of America, are not united on the principles of unlimited submission to their General [i.e., federal] Government’.  The federal government, itself a creation of the states, is instead constrained by the U.S. Constitution (USC), he continues, which grants the federal government only limited powers to carry out those few tasks given to it in the USC. 

Should this agent of the states attempt to exercise powers not granted to it, or to utilise those that are granted for purposes not included in the charter, then those federal actions are ‘unauthoritative, void, and of no force’, according to Jefferson, and are to be resisted by the state governments and other institutions the citizens of the states have seen fit to establish. 

These state and local checks quite effectively kept the federal government within its proper bounds during the earlyAmericanRepublic, but this salutary system was overturned with the onset of the War between the States.  Now that we are beginning to recover from our ‘re-founding’ at the hands of Pres. Lincoln and those likeminded centralisers who followed him, nullification is once again being practised in states all across the Union on laws ranging from Obamacare to the requirement of a national ID card.

The revival of this safeguard – whether called nullification, veto, interposition, etc. – comes at a critical time.  The federal government has for years claimed the right to regulate oil and gas drilling off the coast of Louisiana and other states bordering seas and oceans, even though such a power is not granted to the federal government in the USC; nor does mining within the territory of a state constitute ‘interstate commerce’ that could be regulated by the federal government under Article I, Section 8, Clause 3, of the USC.

Because Louisiana has acquiesced in these baseless federal claims and the resultant federal permitting scheme, thousands here have lost their jobs; drilling companies and associated businesses are losing massive amounts of money (and in some cases going bankrupt); and fuel prices have risen dramatically.

In other words, this is the time forLouisiana’s state and local governments, etc., to seek justice for their fellow citizens, to perform their duty to uphold the USC andLouisiana’s own Constitution, by nullifying the federal permitting process in favour of permitting by state or local agencies. 

The Louisiana State Sovereignty Committee has drafted model legislation, the Freedom to Drill (FtD) Act; it is available for viewing at lassc.wordpress.com .  I encourage everyone to contact the governor, your state legislators, and your local parish and city officials and ask them to back the FtD Act or something substantially similar.

Gov. Jindal and many others around the state, from both public and private sectors, have so far been content simply to complain about the drilling ban or to beg the federal government to change its behavior, displaying an unseemly devotion to the cult of federal power and its corollary, apathy toward or disdain for local authority and decision-making.  But sniveling and groveling will not revive the drilling industry:  Only action will do that.  And the correct action in this situation, the ‘rightful remedy’ according to Jefferson,Madison, et al., is nullification.

The Result of Gay Marriage on Male Friendship

February 22, 2011

Anthony Esolen writes a few things we ought to consider as the push to re-define marriage marches on.

http://touchstonemag.com/archives/article.php?id=18-07-021-f

Some of the Best Thinking on Political Reform You’ll Find

February 10, 2011

From Donald Livingston:

http://www.aratorjournal.org/livingston.html

From John Medaille:

Part I:  http://www.remnantnewspaper.com/Archives/2010-0915-medaille-monarchy.htm

Part II:  http://www.remnantnewspaper.com/Archives/2010-0930-medaille-real-catholic-monarchy.htm

Part III:  http://www.remnantnewspaper.com/Archives/2010-1015-medaille-monarchy.htm

What Marriage Is for

February 10, 2011

Prof Robert P. George of Princeton and others on what marriage really is:

http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1722155

What an Economy Is for

February 10, 2011

Great essay from The Distributist Review.

http://distributistreview.com/mag/2011/01/buy-junk-or-starve/

In Support of Monasticism

February 10, 2011

With St Valentine’s Day just around the corner, why not take a moment to enjoy some of the words inspired by love that have been recorded through the centuries in Western literature?

Hear the tender words of Queen Dido for her Aeneas at their parting:  ‘Go.  And follow/Italy on the wind, and seek the kingdom/Across the water.  But if any gods/Who care for decency have any power,/They will land you on the rocks….  Oh, I will follow/In blackest fire, and when cold death has taken/Spirit from body, I will be there to haunt you,/A shade, all over the world.’  (The Aeneid, Book IV)

Does your heart remain unmoved?  Then give ear to the Norse god Freyr’s gentle wooing, through his servant Skirnir, of the maiden Gerth, whom he desires to wed:  ‘Seest though, maiden,/this keen, bright sword/That I hold here in my hand?/Thy head from thy neck/Shall I straightway hew,/If thou wilt not do my will.’  (‘Skirnismol’, The Poetic Edda)

Need we any more illustrations of how unruly men and women can be when seized with longing for one another? 

There are proper channels for such human passions, marriage being chief among them (secondarily – friendship, study, competition, creation, etc.).  The people of our country, however, are now unwilling to yield to the demands, and thus to receive the rewards, of that most basic institution as the number of co-habiting couples, divorces, out-of-wedlock births, etc. clearly demonstrate for us. 

Our civilisation is progressing down the path which ancient Greece and Rome walked.  G. K. Chesterton writes in St. Francis of Assisi, ‘What had happened to the human imagination, as a whole, was that the whole world was coloured by dangerous and rapidly deteriorating passions….sex cannot be admitted to a mere equality among elementary emotions or experiences like eating and sleeping. The moment sex ceases to be a servant it becomes a tyrant.  There is something dangerous and disproportionate in its place in human nature…; and it does really need a special purification and dedication.’

When one does not know how to properly use a thing, especially one capable of great harm, it ought not to be handled until such knowledge is gained.  When a civilisation, our civilisation, has largely forgotten the proper ends of human sexuality, we should abstain from those passions until we remember. 

That was the experience of our European forefathers (Greek, Roman, and more besides) more than a millennium ago as they struggled to escape the prison of lust into which their old pagan religions had led them.  And if we intend to recover our sanity and equilibrium, we will follow their example; we will follow them into the monasteries.  Without this prayer and fasting, repentance and cleansing, true marriage and family will go on in dishonor, unable to flourish, to the detriment of future generations.

St Ambrose of Milan pointed out in his writings of the 4th century A.D. that it is natural for there to be more married men and women than monastics (else how would human society survive?).  But with so much confusion in our age about what marriage is for, along with a general lack of self-control as it relates to sex, it would be in everyone’s interest to encourage men and women of whatever age to take the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience and withdraw from the world of vice and discord.

But where are the churches in all this?  Instead of going into ‘the streets and lanes of the city’ and the ‘highways and hedges’ (St Luke xiv: 21, 23) calling souls to an ascetic life and building the monasteries to house them, saving them from a life devoid of constancy, direction, and purpose, many are silent, and in their silence is great peril.

Let them instead repeat for all to hear the comforting words of St Ambrose from his short work Concerning Widows:  ‘And do you then, who burn with many desires, taken either by the beauty or by the fortune of some one, implore Christ, call in the Physician, …show Him your faith, and fear no delay.  Where there is prayer, the Word is present, desire is put to flight, lust departs….’

A friend in Pixar

January 4, 2011

For those concerned about the darkness with which Hollywood has been filling our cultural life, there is a light shining where refuge may be found: Pixar. 

I have not seen them all, but the more I watch their films, the more convinced I become that they are true art in the sense in which Irving Babbitt defined it, per Claes Ryn’s paraphrasing in Will, Imagination and Reason: ‘works which capture with depth and fullness the essence of human existence, with its anchor in a universal moral order’.

Or, said another way, art reveals truth to man and dispels illusions. 

Ryn continues, ‘While Babbitt insists that great art is never didactic, he also believes it teaches man something about life. … The total effect of the drama is to give us an elevated sense of order, proportion and reality.’

So in Pixar’s Up, for example, we see in the character of Carl Fredricksen one worth imitating because of his determination to keep his oaths even under the most trying of circumstances.  In this same character, however, we are warned against the danger of following a deceitful desire – one he wishes to be fulfilled because he believes (due to his inattentiveness) it will bring him happiness but in the end finds that it does nothing of the sort. 

In Ratatouille, we see reflected in Remy’s situation St Paul’s admonition to Timothy – and to all of us – ‘Do not neglect your gift’; ‘fan into flame the gift of God’.  (I Timothy 4:14; II Tim. 1:6)

The Incredibles is a splendid tale of how beautiful the institutions of marriage and family truly are.  Cars reminds us of the ugliness and emptiness of vanity, and the glory and nobleness of humility and self-sacrifice.

In both Up and Toy Story 3 the idea of justice meted out for evil actions is presented clearly.  Charles Muntz in Up falls to his doom for his abuse of the innocent, and attempt at murther, simply to soothe his hurt pride.

The antagonist of Toy Story 3, the brilliantly named Lots-o’-Huggin’ Bear (a.k.a., ‘Lotso’), is consigned to a lifetime of inhaling insects, road dust, and engine exhaust after a garbage man ties him to the front grill of his garbage truck out of excitement at being reunited with a toy he had as a child.  This after Lotso refuses to grant Woody and his friends their freedom, and ultimately betrays them to what he thinks will be their fiery death.

Especially in Lotso’s punishment, the reality of eternal punishment in hell for unrepentant wrong-doing is suggested to us.

Closely connected with this intimation of the casting out of the wicked is the eternal bliss of the righteous together in heaven.  Carl’s reluctance to leave behind the house he shared with his now-deceased wife for so many happy years in Up; and a similar reluctance displayed thrice over in Toy Story 3 – Andy’s desire to hold on to the toys that filled his childhood with such delightful memories (and their desire to remain with him) and the sadness of Andy’s mother as her son moves out to attend college – all such nostalgic longing for the past, for a cessation of the relentless flow of time, C. S. Lewis tells us, point us toward heaven where the clock no longer tyrannizes, where all time – past, present, and future – is available to us.

The words of Andy’s mother to her son at their parting poignantly illustrate this universal longing for eternity and for eternal companionship and dialogue with those we love:  ‘I just want to always be with you.’ 

To which St Paul replies with thunderous jubilation, ‘…and so shall we ever be with the Lord’ (I Thessalonians 4:17) when he returns – not ‘we’ as isolated, alienated individuals, but ‘we’ corporately, the Church, rejoicing in the fellowship of one another and of God himself.  No more loneliness or separation or despair ever again. 

Claes Ryn explains, ‘The moral imagination leaves out no essential element of human experience.  We are drawn in the direction of “seeing life steadily and seeing it whole.”’  Despite a misstep here or there, let us all stand and cheer for Pixar, a friend of the moral imagination in a world that too often opposes it.

As we gather for Thanksgiving and Christmas…

January 4, 2011

The time of our annual Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations is upon us, but what will they resemble?  Fred Chappell’s description from ‘A Thanksgiving Invitation’?   ‘The neighborhood lies quiet as a shroud/As men to television football crowd,/So their family Thanksgiving Day/Takes place in San Francisco or Green Bay….Few shall avoid contagion of excess/In a bloat nation sickened with success.’

Or shall we take some time to consider the deeper meaning of giving thanks, of festivity?  Josef Pieper, in his short book In Tune with the World, writes that a festive day grows ultimately from a resolution, conscious or unconscious, that there is something good about life worth celebrating, that it is not all a fleeting vanity.

Pieper prepares the soil by quoting St John Chrysostom, ‘Festivity is joy and nothing else,’ and then goes on to explain that ‘Underlying all festive joy kindled by a specific circumstance [like Christmas Day] there has to be an absolutely universal affirmation extending to the world as a whole, to the reality of things and the existence of man himself….that…at bottom everything that is, is good, and it is good to exist.’

Pieper is thus drawn to the conclusion that ‘there can be no more radical assent to the world than the praise of God, the lauding of the Creator of this same world.’

But to the extent that this affirmation or assent is withheld by a person, just as much will he be ‘incapacitated for either joy or festivity.  Festivity is impossible to the naysayer.’ 

When man rejects reality, ‘He is driven out of his own house-into the hurly-burly of work-and-nothing-else,…into incessant “entertainment” by empty stimulants-in short, into a no man’s land which may be quite comfortably furnished, but which has no place for the serenity of intrinsically meaningful activity, for contemplation, and certainly not for festivity.’

‘Festivity lives on affirmation’-which means, strangely enough, that festivity and affirmation exist even in the midst of evil, suffering, and death. 

This is possible, says Dorothy Sayers in Letters to a Diminished Church, because ‘God [i.e., God the Son, Jesus Christ] is alive and at work within the evil and the suffering, perpetually transforming them by the positive energy which he had with the Father before the world was made.’ 

This is what we must ‘expect when the creative energy [of God] is manifested in a world subject to the forces of destruction’ that man brought about.

Festivity, joy, thanksgiving-these are ultimately manifestations ‘of knowledge of God,’ Father Alexander Schmemann, continuing Pieper’s line of thought, teaches in The Eucharist.  ‘Man was created for knowledge of God, and in the knowledge of God is his true and thus eternal life.’  (See John 17:3.)  ‘Knowing God transforms our life into thanksgiving….’

Mere ‘knowledge about God’ will not suffice, however; we must have ‘knowledge of God’.  And this knowledge of God which gives rise to true, pure thanksgiving is only available through Christ:  ‘…because the Son and the Father are one (Jn 10:30), he who knows the Son knows the Father, he has access to him and to eternal life.’

‘Thanksgiving,’ then, ‘being the fulness of knowledge, is also the fulfilment of freedom, that genuine freedom of which Christ said: “you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (Jn 8:32)….God created us not for some kind of abstract “freedom” but for himself, for our communion, having been “brought” out of nonbeing into life and life in abundance, which is only from him, in him, is him….It is only this life that man calls by that most incomprehensible…word freedom.’

So this holiday season, for family, tradition, good food, a warm house, a measure of liberty, and even for trouble and distress, let us give thanks.  But this ‘thanksgiving for something,’ in Fr Schmemann’s words, is only the starting point; our thanksgiving must transcend all those things.    We must go ‘further up’ and ‘further in’ as Aslan cheerfully commanded Peter and the others in The Last Battle

For in the end, to use Pieper’s quotation of Odo Casel, ‘To celebrate a festival means to enter into the presence of the Deity’; to ‘step’ however briefly ‘out of time’ into ‘the realm of Eternity’ and receive as a gift ‘the true fruit of the festival: renewal, transformation, rebirth.’

Will Nov. 2nd change anything?

October 21, 2010

Federal elections are approaching on 2nd November, and many believe that a Republican Congress can begin to reverse the policies of crushing debt, waves of new regulations, collapsing entitlement systems, and the rest of this sort of rot. 

Should Republicans regain a majority in either chamber of Congress, I wish them well but haven’t much confidence they would adhere to a limited government philosophy for very long.  For ‘experience hath shewn’ that the liberal culture of Washington, D.C.; the influence of the national parties and big money donors; and a desire to be liked have a way of grinding down the principles and independence of most new arrivals until they become imbued with the spirit of that wretched place.

No, dear friends, we mustn’t look primarily to D.C. to repair the commonwealth.  The solutions lie rather in what is local, small, personal.

The U.S. simply cannot be governed well as it is currently structured politically.  To give but one illustration of why this is so, examine the U.S. House of Representatives.  The district of each member contains 690,000 citizens on average.  That the interests of the common citizen are, or could be, represented in any meaningful way at ratios this disproportionate is a farce. 

Prof Donald Livingston in his insightful essay for Arator adumbrates.  After a brief passage on the Queen’s nominal authority over the government of Great Britain, despite its being styled ‘her majesty’s government’, he says, ‘Likewise in large modern republics, the people are said to be sovereign, but their participation too is largely ceremonial and consists typically of choosing periodically between two candidates selected by national political parties of vast scale over which there is little popular control.’  (‘David Hume, Republicanism, and the Human Scale of Political Order’ – available at http://www.aratorjournal.org)

This is quite at odds with the tradition we inherited from the ancient Greek republics:  ‘Every citizen should be their own representative with both the theoretical right and the practical ability to express their views and influence their community.’  (Joseph Pearce, Small Is Still Beautiful, pgs. 126-7)

Bill Kauffman finds Thomas Jefferson in substantial agreement:  ‘…citizens must be capable of “transacting in person a great portion of [their] rights and duties”….’ (Bye Bye, Miss American Empire, p. 85)  In our age of the interfering bureaucrat, this has become somewhat difficult.

Given the woefully weak position of the citizen vis-à-vis the national government in particular, reforms that place more authority in the hands of citizens and local communities should be doggedly pursued.  Those powers that can be exercised legitimately and competently by individuals, families, private associations, and local governments should be yielded up to them:  policies regarding welfare, the environment, health care, education, agriculture, etc.

Following Hume’s advice, the powers of political minorities and small regions ought to be greatly augmented.  An amendment should be drafted to allow any 10 concurring U.S. senators or 44 U.S. representatives (1/10th of either chamber) to refer any federal law to the states for approval or rejection by a majority thereof, with each state determining how it will decide the question.

Another should require a vote of all the states on whether to repeal any federal law upon the petition of either the legislature or governor of any five states, the question again being decided by a majority of states. 

Similar mechanisms for proposing federal laws and amendments to the U.S. Constitution ought to be adopted also. 

Initiative (citizens propose laws and constitutional amendments for the voters to adopt or reject, should a sufficient number of signatures be collected) and referendum (citizens may vote to veto any existing law, ruling, regulation, or budget or any parts thereof if a signature threshold is reached) should be adopted at every level of government.

Nullification by states, parishes/counties, cities, and trial juries merits mentioning here.

Locally, the police juries, city councils, school boards, and such like ought to be expanded to provide better representation of the various urban & rural neighborhoods, geographic regions, etc.  And citizens ought to attend the public meetings of these bodies as often as they are able in order to guide policy, guard against corruption, judge the competency of officials, and so forth.

Let us call this a beginning, and let us begin this journey towards localism today, casting off the yoke of November and its outcome.

Reinvigorate Southern Culture

September 22, 2010

It is an unhappy occasion to reflect on modern depictions of Southern culture in the popular media.  But worse yet is our region’s own view of itself – for example, the image of the ideal Southern man.

No longer is he the gentleman-farmer, well-mannered and well-read, enjoying a calm, peaceful life free of the lust for material things.  Today the model Southern man is one who eschews dignity in his dress and speech, rejects the wisdom and pleasure found in reading great books, treats women with disrespect, and owns the largest, loudest pick-up truck available to him.

As lamentable as this is, it should not surprise us.  For generations now, the South, just like every region of the U.S., has faced enormous pressure to exchange its own unique culture for that of a restless soulless homogenised commercialism.  But accepting the “high standard of living” promised by factories, giant industrialised agriculture, big-box retailers, and national chain restaurants is a fool’s bargain.  What we lose in order to obtain their high wages and abundance of cheap, low quality food and crafts is our region’s very identity:  We are cutting off our roots.

“A man belongs where he has roots,” author H. P. Lovecraft wrote in 1961, “where the landscape and milieu have some relation to his thoughts and feelings, by virtue of having formed them.  A real civilization recognizes this fact – and the circumstance that America is beginning to forget it, does far more than does the mere matter of commonplace thought and bourgeois inhibitions to convince me that the general American fabric is becoming less and less a true civilization and more and more a vast, mechanical, and emotionally immature barbarism de luxe.”  (Quoted in Kauffman, Bye Bye, Miss American Empire, P. 203)

What can be done to rescue our culture from such decay, to reconnect us with the heritage of our ancestors?  Here, in no particular order, are several suggestions. 

-Take a long, deep draught from the well of Southern literature, for that water is sparkling and cool and refreshing.

Of great poets, novelists, and more the South has had and continues to have many: Flannery O’Connor, Fred Chappell, Wendell Berry, Donald Davidson, George Garrett, William Faulkner, Booker T. Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Edgar Allen Poe, Eudora Welty, Henry Timrod, Richard Weaver, Patrick Henry – and the list goes on.

-Read journals touching upon Southern culture – Arator, Mississippi Quarterly, et. al.

-Learn to cook Southern cuisine – okra, grits, greens, black-eyed peas, cornbread, barbeque sauce, biscuits, and such.

-Return to the soil, even if it is “only” growing a few fruits or vegetables indoors.  Farming is one of the South’s oldest and finest traditions.

-Explore the Christian faith, our region’s ancient religion – its history, famous saints, hymns and music, literature, architecture, etc.

-Become familiar with Southern music – the blues, jazz, bluegrass, country, and their antecedents: spirituals, African tribal music, traditional Celtic and English music, etc.

-Preserve the accent!  Reject utterly the bland West Coast/Midwestern dialect.

-One of the most original ideas comes from James Kibler – spell words using the pre-Noah Webster’s Dictionary orthography in furtherance of regional distinctiveness (e.g., “honour” for “honor”, “centralise” for “centralize”, and so on).

-Participate in institutions that give form and substance to the identity of our region like the Abbeville Institute, Southern National Congress, Fellowship of Southern Writers, etc.

-Learn about her geography and indigenous plants and animals.

Russell Kirk says of culture, “Our English word culture is derived from the Latin word cultus which to the Romans signified both tilling the soil and worshipping the divine.  In the beginning, culture arises from the cult:  that is, people are joined together in worship, and out of their religious association grows the organized human community.  Common cultivation of crops, common defense, common laws, cooperation in much else – these are the rudiments of a people’s culture.  If that culture succeeds, it may grow into a civilization.”  (America’s British Culture, P. 1)

For what shall we trade our rich cultural inheritance, shaped and wrought by the hands of our ancestors over the long years?  The paltry offerings of Best Buy, Burger King, or CBS?  May it never be!  Posterity will curse our generation, and deservedly so, if we do not pour all the effort we can spare into halting the decline of, and once again nurturing the growth of, Southern culture, our common possession and responsibility.