When It's Easier to Demolish Your House Than to Make the Code Police Happy

In Palm Beach, where else:

Two new residences will be going up while five old residences will be coming down, as approved Wednesday by the Architectural Commission…264 Bahama Lane: Owner Karl Wattenhofer is demolishing his house to cure a code-enforcement violation for unapproved window changes. He currently has fines that total more than $74,000.

For me personally, this is poignant: the house is down the street from where I grew up.

Mr. Wattenhofer’s house’s back yard faces the Palm Beach Country Club, the place where Bernie Madoff made off with both the funds of a large part of the membership and the club itself.  Under U.S. law, those who choose to live next to a golf course take an assumed risk for the damage to person and property that errant golf balls inflict, so they can’t sue the club or the golfers for the damage.

Faced with this reality of American law, the Swiss Wattenhofer did a logical, defensive act: he installed bullet-proof glass in his windows. That, sad to say, fell afoul of Palm Beach’s dreaded Architectural Commission (“ARCOM”).  The police discovered this installation–then ten years old–in May 2012 when they were making a routine security check nearby, and turned him into ARCOM, which cited him and started a $250/day fine.

Wattenhofer, faced with a $50,000 retrofit and unable to see his way clear to recoup the loss in selling the house, decided to take his leave from the land of the free and the home of the brave and petitioned ARCOM to demolish the house.  ARCOM has now agreed to the demolition; his attorney can now move to have the fines reduced, destroy the house, and sell the land to someone else who can jump through ARCOM’s hoops and build anew.  (That’s expensive, but keep in mind that, in Palm Beach, generally the value of the land far exceeds what’s sitting on it).

Bahama Lane is part of the old “Dodge Estate”, which I think was the last “major” estate to be broken up on the island.  (I went to school with the son of same Dodge). The houses aren’t that old.  The whole concept of demolishing a house to satisfy the prissy sensibilities of ARCOM, especially in view of the reality Wattenhoffer was facing, is absurd.

Although I’d be the first to admit that Palm Beach is an exceptional place on the edge of these United States, the sad truth is that all of our country, in varying degrees, has saddled itself with a morass of property regulations.  Every day we hear of people fighting municipalities and associations regarding flags, political signs, basketball goals, mailboxes, Bible studies and the like.  And that’s just the start; you get into environmental disputes such as wetland designations, and things really get rough.

Mr. Wattenhofer, for his part, has had enough.  Perhaps when he’s back in Switzerland he can commiserate with Tina Turner, who gave up her U.S. citizenship to live in the land of Alps and muesli.  In the meanwhile those of us who are left behind, as we celebrate our independence with swelling patriotic rhetoric,need to cut the platitudes and conventional wisdom and ask a simple question: independence from what?

Why Both Lewis and Tolkien Were Both Wrong on Marriage

Christianity Today’s piece on C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien on marriage is making the rounds, especially in the wake on SCOTUS’s boffo performance on same-sex civil marriage.  CT’s take is that Lewis was wrong and Tolkien was right, but unfortunately things aren’t that simple.

CT’s analysis (coming as it does from an Evangelical publication) reminds me of my freshman and sophomore English teacher’s endless attempts to extract meaning from passages with absolutely no regard for the context of the author, time, etc.  Given that Evangelicals are by and large unfamiliar with the intricacies of Anglicanism and especially Roman Catholicism, such a vacuüm is understandable but ultimately unhelpful.

Let’s start with Tolkien, the Roman Catholic.  His description of the “dual marriage” system is as follows:

The last Christian marriage I attended was held under your system: the bridal pair were “married” twice. They married one another before the Church’s witness (a priest), using one set of formulas, and making a vow of lifelong fidelity (and the woman of obedience); they then married again before the State’s witness… using another set of formulas and making no vow of fidelity or obedience. I felt it was an abominable proceeding—and also ridiculous, since the first set of formulas and vows included the latter as the lesser. In fact it was only not ridiculous on the assumption that the State was in fact saying by implication: I do not recognize the existence of your church; you may have taken certain vows in your meeting place but they are just foolishness, private taboos, a burden you take on yourself: a limited and impermanent contract is all that is really necessary for citizens.

The description–and his immediate take from it–is spot on.  It’s a system in place in most parts of the world today.  From this, however, he had already attacked Lewis’ idea of allowing things in civil marriage that Christian marriage does not.  There is only one marriage, Tolkien argues, and the rules should not be changed for everyone else.

That conclusion, however, ignores two important facts.

The first is that the “dual marriage” necessity came out of the French Revolution.  Until that time France and most Catholic countries had only church marriage.  My ancestors in French and Spanish Louisiana, before either the introduction of American rule or the Napoleonic Code, signed contracts before receiving the sacrament of marriage.  The First Republic and its immediate successors took that away from the Catholic Church, to put it bluntly, because they wanted the state to be god and not the Triune Deity represented by the Church.  The situation in places like France and others which adopted this system is one which the church has been forced to accept by the brute power of the state, an unpleasant state of affairs but one which is ultimately not of the Church’s making.

The second is that marriage, in the Roman Catholic Church, is a sacrament.  Everyone these days wants to emphasise the communitarian and social aspects of marriage, but in such a system marriage is between a man, a woman, and God, with the priest presiding because of the Church’s view of itself and its role in the dispensing of grace.  Although I don’t agree with the Roman Catholic Church’s view of its own role, I think that Anglicanism didn’t do itself any favours by jettisoning marriage as a sacrament.

That, of course, brings us to the Anglican Lewis.  Lewis’ idea of allowing unscriptural divorce in civil society is expedient but doesn’t make sense in a country which is (or was) supposedly a Christian country, complete with state church with a very definite position on the subject.  Either the state needed to line its laws up with those of the church or the country needed to stop the pretence of being a Christian country.  That fork in the road is very much in front of the UK today in the same-sex civil marriage debate.

Tolkien was right that there is only one marriage.  But ultimately we must recognise that marriage for those who profess and call themselves Christians is different because they are different.  That impacts many aspects of life together.  Tolkien and Lewis fell out over the divorce issue.  Easy and frequent divorce has done more to undermine the general acceptance of the Christian concept of marriage in general society than just about anything else.  It has paved the way for same-sex civil marriage and the dilemma we are in today.

Beyond that, we must recognise that civil marriage, far from being “the deal” for tying the knot, is a form of “rendering unto Caesar” when Caesar in reality doesn’t deserve it.  When Tolkien attended a “dual” marriage, he lamented that one ceremony presupposed that the other was a lie.  But such is the way that things coming from the father of lies really are.  There was a real marriage in the process, but it wasn’t the state’s.

Same Sex Civil Marriage: The Saddest "I Told You So" of Them All

It happened: SCOTUS has struck down the provision of the Defence of Marriage Act that denied federal recognition to same-sex civil marriages, and basically “punted” on Proposition 8 on a standing issue.  The latter doubtless seals that provision’s fate.

One of the reasons I find myself getting away from blogging on political issues is that I find myself taking positions on issues that not only don’t get blowback from the left, but don’t get any reaction from “my side” either.  I have an array of officials in my church and other ministries who have access to what I think, and I don’t think that after working for same church for 13 1/2 years I am a complete non-entity.

The whole business of same-sex civil marriage is the most frustrating issue of them all.  I have taken the position for the last six years (and indirectly long before that) that civil marriage needs to be abolished.  I said that Proposition 8 was “ill-advised” the year before it passed, and we now know that is true.  Marriage a) was instituted by God and b) antedates the state, so same state doesn’t have any rights to it.  On the other side, it is intellectually dishonest for those who believe that sexual freedom is the key freedom–and that includes just about all the left–to exalt marriage for any reason.

But Christian activists refuse to even consider breaking the formula–set first by Calvin’s Geneva–that the state can decide who is married and who is not and that ministers can become agents of the state.  You can’t get them even to discuss the matter.  They act like it came down from Mount Sinai and that’s it.  There are a few people on the right that are starting to put things together (Glenn Beck is one of them) but so far they have had little impact on the Christian establishment’s thinking.

Same establishment went into this debate without considering the nature of its assumptions and simply crowned the state’s prerogative as a given.  This, of course, has played right into the hands of LGBT activists, whose aims in obtaining civil marriage go far beyond the ephemeral “rights” that come with it.  The result we have now is a direct result of this mistake and another: that popular will could trump élite unity, another typical Evangelical fallacy.

So here we are.  We’ll hear endless lamentations on the demise of the family and what not, but as long as we pursue a game plan of dubious Biblical support and merge our love of God with love of country (and by extension, whether we like it or not, love of state) we’re going to keep getting hit upside the head with one adverse court decision after another.

At this point there are only two silver linings out there.

The first is that the country our elites have created for us is unsustainable.

The second is that what SCOTUS gives the IRS takes away.  As I noted earlier this year, the “fiscal cliff” settlement included a serious marriage penalty.  So the message of our government to high-rolling gay and lesbian couples (and that’s a good part of them) is simple: “You’re married!  Now pay up!”

"Open" Cubicle-free or Office-less Workplaces New? Hardly!

Not only is the “cool office” a myth, it isn’t a novelty either.  Consider “the Open Office Space Panopticon” like this:

Trading in a cubicle for a shared desk not only encourages conformity — no more quirky puppy posters! — but also lets your boss see what you’re doing at all times. Or at least he or she wants you to think that. On top of that feeling of watchfulness that also exists in a cubicle plan, management has also made it so that your co-workers act as a surveillance state as well. Not only do workers internalize the ever-watching boss, but they have their nosy cube mates to keep them on track too.

But it’s not new, either.  Consider the photo to the right of the “open office” of New Orleans based distributor-of-everything Woodard-Wight & Co., taken in 1973.  Sure there are no computers and the furniture was old even then, but the concept is the same, especially for the bosses (with their closed offices in the corner) using the desk neighbours to keep tabs on each other.  (Click on the photo for more background.)

Whatever has happened before will happen again. Whatever has been done before will be done again. There is nothing new under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 1:9 GW)

Living on the Cheap at Starbucks is a Little More Expensive

The place that defined coffee bumps up the price, for some of us at least:

The Seattle-based coffee company says it’s hiking prices on average by 1 percent nationally starting on Tuesday. But it says the price for many drinks, such as medium and large brewed coffees and Frappuccinos, won’t change in most its 11,000 U.S. cafes.

For a small brewed coffee, the price will increase by 10 cents at most. Other drinks could increase by more than that.

We’ve been found out.

“We”, for those of you scratching your heads, are those who have taken advantage of Starbucks’ star system to the max.  We have done this as follows:

  1. Signed up for the program, registered the card, etc.
  2. Get at least green status, gold is obviously better.
  3. Go to Starbucks and buy tall a brewed coffee.
  4. Obtain free refills of same, no longer necessary to buy a larger size.
  5. Earn one star for each visit, just as you would for your Frappuccino, cappuccino, etc.
  6. When you meet the quota (which was recently lowered from 15 to 12) splurge.  Big time.
  7. Avoid the calories of the expensive drinks, which makes weight control simpler.

Evidently Schultz and Co. have had their canful of this but don’t want to admit it, so they bump up the price of the tall coffees while leaving the grande and venti sizes alone.  But even at that, if you have the discipline for this program, it will pay off.

And, to address the issue of the day both for Starbucks and its opponents, there is only one real civil marriage equality and that is in its abolition.  Period.  Anything else just doesn’t cut it.

If the NSA Were an Anglican Organisation…

…their motto would be “all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid”.

This, of course, is from the opening Collect of the Holy Communion in the 1662 and 1928 Books of Common Prayer, which is why we jettison Cranmer’s lovely prose at our peril.

Since, at least for now, the CoE is still England’s state church, the British intelligence services may have already adopted this as their watchword, particularly in view of their performance at the recent G20 summit.

The difference between the NSA (and the government in general) and our Heavenly Father is that the latter has a much lovelier way of obtaining forgiveness, which is also outlined in the Holy Communion with these comfortable words:

COME unto me all that travail and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you. St. Matth. xi. 28.
So God loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, to the end that all that believe in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. St. John iii. 16
Hear also what Saint Paul saith.
This is a true saying, and worthy of all men to be received, That Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. I Tim. i. 15.
If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the propitiation for our sins. 1 St. John ii. 1.

For more about Our Lord’s better offer…

At Last, the Mystery of "A City Set Upon a Hill Cannot Be Hid" is Revealed

Back in 2011 I posted (or more accurately reposted) the unique “Jesus Music” album A City Set Upon a Hill Cannot Be Hid.  At the time I characterised it as “the mystery album of 1970′s Christian music”.

That mystery is now at an end, thanks to Paul Griffo, who was a member of the group.  He has given a detailed history of the album and the people who were involved in its making, and I urge you to read his extensive comments on the subject.

Those comments lead me to a few of my own:

  1. Although both Paul Griffo and I agree that the concept of “the music came directly from God” is a stretch, it comes closer to making that claim than a good deal of Christian music that came out at the time, and certainly most of what has come out since.
  2. Even though the composition and performance was very much a composite business, the basic unity of the album is amazing.  Even more amazing, especially in view of the current concept of everything being done by a “specialist”, is that the composition and performance of the album was largely done by people who were not professional musicians and did not pursue a career/ministry in same.  For someone like myself who has laboured to promote and guide lay ministries for most of his ministry career, this is extremely gratifying.
  3. It’s interesting to muse what would have become of the album’s later reputation if Maranatha had released it.  Maranatha certainly could have used a work like this; even with strong groups like Parable and Daniel Amos, the label struggled to keep up with the rapidly expanding and changing field of contemporary Christian music, which is one reason it went to praise and worship music before the end of the 1970’s.
  4. I still think this deserves a revival as a church production.  I’ve needled my church people along these lines for a long time; perhaps these revelations will be the first step towards making that possible.

In any case it is a magnificent album, and I am grateful to Paul Griffo for his help in telling its back story.

Note on the Filioque Clause: St. Thomas Aquinas on the Procession of the Holy Spirit From the Son

Since the ACNA is dickering with the Creed re the “filioque” clause, it’s informative to look at Thomas Aquinas’ analysis of the problem.  I reproduce same below, but the upshot of his argument is that, if the Holy Spirit does not proceed through the Son from the Father, it would be impossible to differentiate the Son and the Spirit.  He also has his own view of the origin of the denial of filioque and its conciliar history as well.

My guess is that ACNA is looking towards unity with the Orthodox, but as long as WO is out there this isn’t going to do it.

From Summa Theologiae, Prima Pars, q. 36 Art. 2:

Article 2. Whether the Holy Ghost proceeds from the Son?

Objection 1. It would seem that the Holy Ghost does not proceed from the Son. For as Dionysius says (Div. Nom. i): “We must not dare to say anything concerning the substantial Divinity except what has been divinely expressed to us by the sacred oracles.” But in the Sacred Scripture we are not told that the Holy Ghost proceeds from the Son; but only that He proceeds from the Father, as appears from John 15:26: “The Spirit of truth, Who proceeds from the Father.” Therefore the Holy Ghost does not proceed from the Son.

Objection 2. Further, In the creed of the council of Constantinople (Can. vii) we read: “We believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Life-giver, who proceeds from the Father; with the Father and the Son to be adored and glorified.” Therefore it should not be added in our Creed that the Holy Ghost proceeds from the Son; and those who added such a thing appear to be worthy of anathema.

Objection 3. Further, Damascene says (De Fide Orth. i): “We say that the Holy Ghost is from the Father, and we name Him the spirit of the Father; but we do not say that the Holy Ghost is from the Son, yet we name Him the Spirit of the Son.” Therefore the Holy Ghost does not proceed from the Son.

Objection 4. Further, Nothing proceeds from that wherein it rests. But the Holy Ghost rests in the Son; for it is said in the legend of St. Andrew: “Peace be to you and to all who believe in the one God the Father, and in His only Son our Lord Jesus Christ, and in the one Holy Ghost proceeding from the Father, and abiding in the Son.” Therefore the Holy Ghost does not proceed from the Son.

Objection 5. Further, the Son proceeds as the Word. But our breath [spiritus] does not seem to proceed in ourselves from our word. Therefore the Holy Ghost does not proceed from the Son.

Objection 6. Further, the Holy Ghost proceeds perfectly from the Father. Therefore it is superfluous to say that He proceeds from the Son.

Objection 7. Further “the actual and the possible do not differ in things perpetual” (Phys. iii, text 32), and much less so in God. But it is possible for the Holy Ghost to be distinguished from the Son, even if He did not proceed from Him. For Anselm says (De Process. Spir. Sancti, ii): “The Son and the Holy Ghost have their Being from the Father; but each in a different way; one by Birth, the other by Procession, so that they are thus distinct from one another.” And further on he says: “For even if for no other reason were the Son and the Holy Ghost distinct, this alone would suffice.” Therefore the Holy Spirit is distinct from the Son, without proceeding from Him.

On the contrary, Athanasius says: “The Holy Ghost is from the Father and the Son; not made, nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding.”

I answer that, It must be said that the Holy Ghost is from the Son. For if He were not from Him, He could in no wise be personally distinguished from Him; as appears from what has been said above (28, 3; 30, 2). For it cannot be said that the divine Persons are distinguished from each other in any absolute sense; for it would follow that there would not be one essence of the three persons: since everything that is spoken of God in an absolute sense, belongs to the unity of essence. Therefore it must be said that the divine persons are distinguished from each other only by the relations. Now the relations cannot distinguish the persons except forasmuch as they are opposite relations; which appears from the fact that the Father has two relations, by one of which He is related to the Son, and by the other to the Holy Ghost; but these are not opposite relations, and therefore they do not make two persons, but belong only to the one person of the Father. If therefore in the Son and the Holy Ghost there were two relations only, whereby each of them were related to the Father, these relations would not be opposite to each other, as neither would be the two relations whereby the Father is related to them. Hence, as the person of the Father is one, it would follow that the person of the Son and of the Holy Ghost would be one, having two relations opposed to the two relations of the Father. But this is heretical since it destroys the Faith in the Trinity. Therefore the Son and the Holy Ghost must be related to each other by opposite relations. Now there cannot be in God any relations opposed to each other, except relations of origin, as proved above (Question 28, Article 44). And opposite relations of origin are to be understood as of a “principle,” and of what is “from the principle.” Therefore we must conclude that it is necessary to say that either the Son is from the Holy Ghost; which no one says; or that the Holy Ghost is from the Son, as we confess.

Furthermore, the order of the procession of each one agrees with this conclusion. For it was said above (27, 2,4; 28, 4), that the Son proceeds by the way of the intellect as Word, and the Holy Ghost by way of the will as Love. Now love must proceed from a word. For we do not love anything unless we apprehend it by a mental conception. Hence also in this way it is manifest that the Holy Ghost proceeds from the Son.

We derive a knowledge of the same truth from the very order of nature itself. For we nowhere find that several things proceed from one without order except in those which differ only by their matter; as for instance one smith produces many knives distinct from each other materially, with no order to each other; whereas in things in which there is not only a material distinction we always find that some order exists in the multitude produced. Hence also in the order of creatures produced, the beauty of the divine wisdom is displayed. So if from the one Person of the Father, two persons proceed, the Son and the Holy Ghost, there must be some order between them. Nor can any other be assigned except the order of their nature, whereby one is from the other. Therefore it cannot be said that the Son and the Holy Ghost proceed from the Father in such a way as that neither of them proceeds from the other, unless we admit in them a material distinction; which is impossible.

Hence also the Greeks themselves recognize that the procession of the Holy Ghost has some order to the Son. For they grant that the Holy Ghost is the Spirit “of the Son”; and that He is from the Father “through the Son.” Some of them are said also to concede that “He is from the Son”; or that “He flows from the Son,” but not that He proceeds; which seems to come from ignorance or obstinacy. For a just consideration of the truth will convince anyone that the word procession is the one most commonly applied to all that denotes origin of any kind. For we use the term to describe any kind of origin; as when we say that a line proceeds from a point, a ray from the sun, a stream from a source, and likewise in everything else. Hence, granted that the Holy Ghost originates in any way from the Son, we can conclude that the Holy Ghost proceeds from the Son.

Reply to Objection 1. We ought not to say about God anything which is not found in Holy Scripture either explicitly or implicitly. But although we do not find it verbally expressed in Holy Scripture that the Holy Ghost proceeds from the Son, still we do find it in the sense of Scripture, especially where the Son says, speaking of the Holy Ghost, “He will glorify Me, because He shall receive of Mine” (John 16:14). It is also a rule of Holy Scripture that whatever is said of the Father, applies to the Son, although there be added an exclusive term; except only as regards what belongs to the opposite relations, whereby the Father and the Son are distinguished from each other. For when the Lord says, “No one knoweth the Son, but the Father,” the idea of the Son knowing Himself is not excluded. So therefore when we say that the Holy Ghost proceeds from the Father, even though it be added that He proceeds from the Father alone, the Son would not thereby be at all excluded; because as regards being the principle of the Holy Ghost, the Father and the Son are not opposed to each other, but only as regards the fact that one is the Father, and the other is the Son.

Reply to Objection 2. In every council of the Church a symbol of faith has been drawn up to meet some prevalent error condemned in the council at that time. Hence subsequent councils are not to be described as making a new symbol of faith; but what was implicitly contained in the first symbol was explained by some addition directed against rising heresies. Hence in the decision of the council of Chalcedon it is declared that those who were congregated together in the council of Constantinople, handed down the doctrine about the Holy Ghost, not implying that there was anything wanting in the doctrine of their predecessors who had gathered together at Nicaea, but explaining what those fathers had understood of the matter. Therefore, because at the time of the ancient councils the error of those who said that the Holy Ghost did not proceed from the Son had not arisen, it was not necessary to make any explicit declaration on that point; whereas, later on, when certain errors rose up, another council [Council of Rome, under Pope Damasus] assembled in the west, the matter was explicitly defined by the authority of the Roman Pontiff, by whose authority also the ancient councils were summoned and confirmed. Nevertheless the truth was contained implicitly in the belief that the Holy Ghost proceeds from the Father.

Reply to Objection 3. The Nestorians were the first to introduce the error that the Holy Ghost did not proceed from the Son, as appears in a Nestorian creed condemned in the council of Ephesus. This error was embraced by Theodoric the Nestorian, and several others after him, among whom was also Damascene. Hence, in that point his opinion is not to be held. Although, too, it has been asserted by some that while Damascene did not confess that the Holy Ghost was from the Son, neither do those words of his express a denial thereof.

Reply to Objection 4. When the Holy Ghost is said to rest or abide in the Son, it does not mean that He does not proceed from Him; for the Son also is said to abide in the Father, although He proceeds from the Father. Also the Holy Ghost is said to rest in the Son as the love of the lover abides in the beloved; or in reference to the human nature of Christ, by reason of what is written: “On whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him, He it is who baptizes” (John 1:33).

Reply to Objection 5. The Word in God is not taken after the similitude of the vocal word, whence the breath [spiritus] does not proceed; for it would then be only metaphorical; but after the similitude of the mental word, whence proceeds love.

Reply to Objection 6. For the reason that the Holy Ghost proceeds from the Father perfectly, not only is it not superfluous to say He proceeds from the Son, but rather it is absolutely necessary. Forasmuch as one power belongs to the Father and the Son; and because whatever is from the Father, must be from the Son unless it be opposed to the property of filiation; for the Son is not from Himself, although He is from the Father.

Reply to Objection 7. The Holy Ghost is distinguished from the Son, inasmuch as the origin of one is distinguished from the origin of the other; but the difference itself of origin comes from the fact that the Son is only from the Father, whereas the Holy Ghost is from the Father and the Son; for otherwise the processions would not be distinguished from each other, as explained above, and in 27.

The New Daniel Ellsberg Will Have It Much Rougher Than The Old One

Now that we know that Edward Snowden has blown the NSA’s cover on its secret operations, the thoughts of some of us turn back to the days of Daniel Ellsberg, the victim of some of Richard Nixon’s dirty tricks after he outed the Pentagon Papers over the Vietnam War.

Like our current security apparatus isn’t the current Occupant’s creation, the Vietnam War wasn’t of Nixon’s making, but he was determined to keep the government’s secrets secret.  On this site is the part of the Watergate hearings (forty years ago this summer) where John Erlichmann attempted to fend off accusations (and perjured himself in the process) that he attempted to throw Ellsberg’s trial by offering Judge Byrne the FBI directorship.

Snowden is aware that Barack Obama and his minions are rougher players than Nixon:

“All my options are bad,” he said. The US could begin extradition proceedings against him, a potentially problematic, lengthy and unpredictable course for Washington. Or the Chinese government might whisk him away for questioning, viewing him as a useful source of information. Or he might end up being grabbed and bundled into a plane bound for US territory.

“Yes, I could be rendered by the CIA. I could have people come after me. Or any of the third-party partners. They work closely with a number of other nations. Or they could pay off the Triads. Any of their agents or assets,” he said.

And don’t forget that the current Occupant has the habit of picking off American citizens with drone strikes…getting whisked away by the Chinese might be his most life-extending option.

Response to Tom Engelhardt and the Class of '66: Just Retire, Please

Tom Engelhardt has obviously been reading this blog, as he too is composing graduation speeches he won’t deliver in person.  In his case, it isn’t just popularity lack: he addressed his own Class of 1966:

The answer, class of 1966, is: just begin. Just believe that for every measure, there is still a potential countermeasure. That you matter. That we matter. That we’re not too old. That it’s not too late. That it truly isn’t right, even now, to leave all this to our children. That the future by definition isn’t and can never be known, which means it’s no more Rex Tillerson’s than it’s ours.

So, class of 1966, potential graduates of life-thus-far, prepare yourselves. You may not move as fast as you once did, but that’s okay. When you’re ready, just head for the entrances, not the exits. It’s time to begin.

I think the rest of us have had enough.

Engelhardt, the slightly pre-Boomer (technically the first Boomer college class was ’67) is calling his classmates, brain cells reduced in number by recreational drugs, to “arms” once again to make the world a better place.  He’d like to think that they can solve the problems in the world; what he doesn’t realise is that they’ve largely created them.

Let me make one clarification: when I speak of the Class of ’66 and those immediately following, in many ways I’m speaking of two classes.  I tend to lump Boomers into one group, and in some ways that’s justified, but in others it isn’t.  This generation is bifurcated in many ways; one went the William Ayers route, and the other went towards a more conventional, traditionally American way of life.  That bifurcation has defined just about everything this past half century; our politics, our culture, you name it.

Engelhardt’s place in this fork in the road is obvious when he spent his last night before graduation (he’s an Ivy Leaguer, what else?) with his girlfriend and stuck his parents with the bill.  He tries to deflect the natural reaction by explaining that “Despite what you’ve heard about the 1960s, this wasn’t acceptable behavior.”  Acceptable to whom?  One of the things the 1960’s is “about” is that some behaviour that was not acceptable became such and vice versa, especially when you could stick someone else with the tab.  Without meaning to, his blasé act of pleasure is emblematic of what his generation really wanted to do with themselves and everyone else.

Engelhardt’s prose is strange; he informs us that, unlike today’s planet with global warming and what not “we had one lucky thing going for us which you, the class of 2013, don’t and won’t have going for you: the illusion that we couldn’t and wouldn’t destroy our own planet.”  But then he reminds us that destruction of our own planet hung over us like the Sword of Damocles via the nuclear arms race and (I should add) the budding environmental movement.  So which is it?  In any case such an environment was the fuel for the apocalyptic thinking that dominates our national discourse to this day, and this in a country whose elites love to parade how “rational” they are.

It didn’t take long for his class to start leading everyone else astray and ultimately making their life miserable, as I document in The Geniuses Commit Suicide.  Some plotted and marched and murdered to stop wars (Engelhardt’s favourite cause) and others simply peddled their unworkable ethos to captive audiences in classrooms around the country, brutally suppressing dissent with an absolutist view of life worthy of any totalitarian state, which is the genesis of the speech codes we see on college campuses today.

Engelhardt would probably say that the wrong side of his generation won, with wars in Iraq and Afghanistan following.  But I think that, after breaking American society in profound ways during the 1960’s and 1970’s and having the largesse of Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson behind them, if the left could not clinch the deal then, it was and is their own fault.  The core problem was that Americans were more aspirational economically and theistic in their world view to supinely accept what the left had to offer.  After all, there was an atheistic society out there with ostensibly egalitarian way and active in the world peace movement, and that was the Soviet Union.  The threat of extinction via nuclear weapons was the result of fending that off, but it’s too easy for Engelhardt to forget that, had the Soviets triumphed, his ability to speak his peace (which he has made a career out of) would have ended.

Today we live in a country which has turned civil rights upside down for the benefit of economically prosperous groups who are useful to those at the top of society; which keeps promising to end wars but drags it out while sons and daughters, who have little in common with their ultimate superiors, die and are wounded; which keeps telling people to achieve and yet rigs the system in innumerable ways not to make it worth the bother; whose debt will eventually sink the benefits (good and bad) of dollar hegemony; and which has now created a security apparatus for a populace scared of its own shadow which would make “Uncle Joe” Stalin proud, this in the “land of the free and the home of the brave”.

Much of this is the result of a generation whose lack of introspection is only matched by their hypermoralism, moralism proven unjustified by acts like Engelhardt himself did before he took the Ivy League sheepskin.  The rest of us have had enough.  Social Security isn’t what I would call a “golden parachute” but it’s the best we can afford, and it isn’t our fault if thrift wasn’t your strong suit.  I agree it isn’t much to “tell our children and grandchildren, you, the graduates of 2013, that we failed you, that we left the world in worse shape, and that now — thank you very much — we’re dumping it into your laps to deal with”.  But it beats more of the same from Engelhardt’s colleagues.  Please retire before it’s too late for everyone, you’ve done enough damage and then some for one lifetime.