Stephen W. Browne Rants and Raves

August 19, 2010

Foreign law, “It’s so much more logical!”

Filed under: Uncategorized — Stephen W. Browne @ 10:32 am

While indulging my guilty pleasure (reading Ann Coulter if you must know,) I came across this quote:

“Nativism in American politics has become so rampant that it is considered scandalous in Republican circles for a judge to acknowledge paying any attention to foreign courts and their legal rulings.” — New York Times editorial, Aug. 3, 2010

The first thing that struck me was the snotty/sarcastic tone typical of pig-ignorant lefty intellectuals convinced of their intellectual superiority over us peons.

I say pig-ignorant because of the sheer cluelessness of how things work in our system, and the typical attribution of that ignorance to people who aren’t on the left.

Repeat after me once again: legislators legislate, judges judge.

Maybe we should break it down further for the hard of comprehension. Legislators pass laws, judges decide questions of law, and at the higher levels decide whether a law is compatible with the highest law of the land (little thing called the Constitution) which “cannot be changed by ordinary processes of legislation,” in Thomas Jefferson’s words.

(I’ve got that bit highlighted because when I quoted it once to an idiot college student she immediately responded, “Oh so you don’t think the Constitution should ever be changed!”)

This is NOT to say there are no good ideas in the laws of other nations, of course there are.* But in our system they should be adopted by legislation, not judicial or executive fiat.

The second thing that occured to me was the memory of a conversation I had with a French friend of mine when we were teens, lo these many years ago.

It was about the quaint Anglo-Saxon legal tradition of, “innocent until proven guilty.” My bud said in France once you’re arrested and charged – congratulations, you’re guilty unless and until you can prove yourself innocent.

“It’s so much more logical!” he explained.

Yep, I guess it is. If getting convictions is your goal.

Another charming foreign innovation we might consider is not from even that far from home. In England they treat libel suits a bit differently. Here truth is absolute proof against libel, i.e. if what you said is true – it ain’t libel.

Not so in the Mother Country. You can get sued down to your underwear for saying something perfectly true about someone. That’s what makes it such an attractive destination for libel tourism.

So I have to ask, do cosmopolitan citizens of the world who show your sophistication by reading the Grey Lady want a judge to decide to bring American law into compliance with these international norms?

Well I just called you pig-ignorant, so perhaps you do.

*There’s a great one from Sweden that could have saved us the creation of massive bureaucratic fumblydiddles, according to Robert Heinlein. He said the Swedes dealt with pollution of streams by simply requiring all industrial plants that use water and discharge waste into the streams have their intake downstream from their outfall. I don’t know it that’s actuallly the law in Sweden – but it’s a great idea.

August 11, 2010

On the road again!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Stephen W. Browne @ 4:14 pm

Finished truck driving school and passed my Commercial Drivers License test with flying colors. It’s true as we say in martial arts, “The more you sweat in training, the less you bleed in combat.”

Now I’m packing my bags and fixing to head out with a trainer for 2-4 weeks for a trucking firm out of Fargo.

In the meantime my long-suffering wife is going to be arranging a move to a new rental house (sans moldy basement) and dealing with two rambunctious kids.

I’ll probably miss the start of school rush. Pity…

My wife went on a business trip for five days, so I took the kids to Lake Manitoba up in the Great White North for camping and swimming.

A nice Canadian customs lady had some searching questions about why I was entering Canada with two kids and no mom in sight. She told me I really ought to have a letter of permission to take the kids out of the country from wife.

I told her we are still happily married, but conceded I really should have thought of it.

On the other hand, how come every time my wife takes the kids to Poland to visit relatives, nobody ever asks her if she has my permission to take the kids out of the country?

Camping was great, though there was one night I forgot to secure the food containers after a bear warning and lost a bag of corn chips.

I heard the lid hid the ground, the sound of crunching gravel, and a sort of snorting sound.

By the time I got dressed and out of the tent, armed with Maglight and trusty pickup key chain (with the button that turns on the headlights and horn) all I saw was a pair of glowing eyes in the woods.

My fault. As the ranger lady told us, “A fed bear is a dead bear.” (Meaning bears who learn to live easy on human garbage become nuisances that have to be shot.)

So now it’s on the road again! Can’t wait.

August 3, 2010

Common Sense for our generation

Filed under: Uncategorized — Stephen W. Browne @ 11:37 am

Note: Article for the August issue of The Dakota Beacon.

“But there is another and greater distinction for which no truly natural or religious reason can be assigned, and that is, the distinction of men into KINGS and SUBJECTS. Male and female are the distinctions of nature, good and bad the distinctions of heaven; but how a race of men came into the world so exalted above the rest, and distinguished like some new species, is worth enquiring into, and whether they are the means of happiness or of misery to mankind.”– Common Sense, Thomas Paine, 1776

When the American nation was struggling to be born, Tom Paine articulated the sense of the American people and gave them a voice. Now when much of America senses things have gone terribly wrong, another voice has articulated the unease so many of us feel.

The special summer issue of The American Spectator featured a cover essay by Angelo Codevilla, ‘America’s Ruling Class – and The Perils of Revolution.’ After the article was posted online Rush Limbaugh devoted an entire show to discussing it and reading large parts on the air. Traffic was so heavy it briefly shut down the Spectator’s web site.

Codevilla is Professor of International Relations at Boston University, and a former Naval Officer and Foreign Service Officer. He served as a Senior Staff Member for the Senate Intelligence Committee from 1978-1985, and in 1980 on the Reagan Administration State Department and Intelligence Transition Teams.

Codevilla is also an immigrant who came to America as a young man, who understands there is something unique and valuable about America – and that we could lose it.

Jack McHugh, of the Michigan think tank The Mackinac Center, called Codevilla “our era’s Tom Paine,” a comparison that’s occurred to many of us.

Codevilla says nothing new or unproven. Rather like Paine (also an immigrant) he pulls together what we already suspected, presents it to us, and calls it what it is.

What he shows us is a ruling class has emerged among us whose interests are not ours. They think themselves fit to run our lives down to the smallest detail, waving aside any objections we have. Membership is open to those willing to fit in. They have no appreciation for the exceptional nature of America. And they despise us.

The Democratic Party is the representative of the ruling class, its courtiers and clients; including well-connected businesses, favored minorities, unions, academics in the social sciences and humanities, entertainers, and civil servants. And it represents their interests very well.

The Republicans represent what Codevilla calls the Country Party very badly, and only by default, and only because we have nowhere else to turn. When they gain power, their immediate impulse is to betray us.

“Differences between Bushes, Clintons, and Obamas are of degree, not kind,” Codevilla writes. “The Republican Party did not disparage the ruling class, because most of its officials are, or would like to be part of it.”

The existence of a ruling class is not news. Ruling classes emerge in every society, due to what German sociologist Robert Michaels in 1911 called, The Iron Law of Oligarchy, and the innate drive to make acquired power and wealth hereditary.

The Democratic Party’s role as the political arm of the ruling class has been known for some time. In 1972 leftist academic G. William Domhoff published, ‘Fat Cats and Democrats, the role of the big rich in the party of the common man.’

More recently distinguished professor of classics and military history ( and third generation grape farmer) Victor Davis Hanson wrote, “It’s surreal to see President Obama play the class-warfare card against the Republicans while on his way to vacation on the tony Maine coast, and even more interesting to note that now gone are the days when the media used to caricature Bush I (“Poppy”) for boating in the summer off the preppie-sounding Kennebunkport. The truth is that the real big money and the lifestyles that go with it are now firmly liberal Democratic.”

If oligarchy is inevitable, even in a free and democratic society, it is at least tolerable if the governing class is competent and its interests lie in keeping the country prosperous and stable.

What Codevilla touches on that resonates with the American people, is the growing feeling in the country that the ruling class is unworthy and unfit to rule.

In America since the original uneasy alliance of southern plantation owners, New England merchants, and rough western frontiersman first made a revolution we’ve had a leadership class appropriate for a free people, drawn from diverse backgrounds, advancing through real achievements in business, scholarship, and war. Though not always the nicest people, they were as tough and smart as those they led.
Now, while chanting the mantra of “diversity, diversity, diversity” the ruling class has congealed into a monolithic block defined by a rigid orthodoxy.

“Never has there been so little diversity within America’s upper crust,” Codevilla writes. “Today’s ruling class, from Boston to San Diego, was formed by an educational system that exposed them to the same ideas and gave them remarkably uniform guidance, as well as tastes and habits. These amount to a social canon of judgments about good and evil, complete with secular sacred history, sins (against minorities and the environment) and saints.”

Once we had a leadership class who made their fortunes in a freewheeling relatively unfettered marketplace, who sent their own into the military in wartime, and educated their offspring in tough schools with high standards. They favored their offspring, but raised them with the knowledge they’d have to earn their privilege.

Now our rulers’ fortunes come from government favor. They despise the profession of arms. They have reduced what were once among the finest universities in the world to indoctrination centers and social clubs for social climbers.

Codevilla describes the academic world of the elite universities, “Since the 1970s, it has been virtually impossible to flunk out of American colleges. And it is an open secret that “the best” colleges require the least work and give out the highest grade point averages. No, our ruling class recruits and renews itself not through meritocracy but rather by taking into itself people whose most prominent feature is their commitment to fit in. The most successful neither write books and papers that stand up to criticism nor release their academic records. Thus does our ruling class stunt itself through negative selection. But the more it has dumbed itself down, the more it has defined itself by the presumption of intellectual superiority.”

What this adds up to is a ruling class of clueless wimps with aristocratic pretentions, a class whose arrogance grows in direct proportion to their inability to lead free men.

Hanson characterizes the ruling class, “The good life of the elite is defined by both the absence of worry about necessities, and a certain status that accrues from properly recognized advanced education and sensitivity.”
1) “Untruth. One requisite to being a cultural elite, unfortunately, is a certain allegiance to untruth, to saying one thing and doing another.”
2) “Nature. The cultural elite class tends to romanticize nature, since it has little contact with it.”
3) “Muscularity. An elite is often characterized as staying fit entirely by the workout, the gym, the jog — never by chain sawing, digging, climbing, or hammering… The elite, being largely progressive, champion the muscular classes to the degree they can stay distant from them.”
4) “Gender. …the marked differences in the way our cultural elite express themselves… Today’s male’s voice is often far more feminine than that of 50 years ago. Sort of whiney, sort of nasally, sort of fussy. Being overexact, sighing, artificially pausing, all that seems part of the new elite parlance. In terms of vocabulary, the absolute (“he’s no damn good,” “she’s a coward,” “he ran the business to hell”) is avoided. Pejoratives and swearing resemble adolescent temper tantrums rather than threats that might well presage violence.”
5) “Logic. There is little logic among the cultural elite, maybe because there is little omnipresent fear of job losses or the absence of money, and so arises a rather comfortable margin to indulge in nonsense… take a deep breath and imagine the opposite of everything you know by experience to be true, and you have mostly the worldview of the sheltered cultural elite, who navigate in rather protected channels and not in the open seas of the real world.”

At any other time in history, this would mean a ruling class that is losing its grip and in the process of yielding to new up-and-comers. And on some level they seem to know this.

On some level they seem to know that to keep their grip on America, they must change the American character to create a people base enough to be ruled by the likes of them.

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