24 December 2006

Merry Christmas

In Hoc Anno Domini

This editorial was written in 1949 by the late Vermont Royster and has been published in The Wall Street Journal annually since.

When Saul of Tarsus set out on his journey to Damascus the whole of the known world lay in bondage. There was one state, and it was Rome. There was one master for it all, and he was Tiberius Caesar.

Everywhere there was civil order, for the arm of the Roman law was long. Everywhere there was stability, in government and in society, for the centurions saw that it was so.

But everywhere there was something else, too. There was oppression -- for those who were not the friends of Tiberius Caesar. There was the tax gatherer to take the grain from the fields and the flax from the spindle to feed the legions or to fill the hungry treasury from which divine Caesar gave largess to the people. There was the impressor to find recruits for the circuses. There were executioners to quiet those whom the Emperor proscribed. What was a man for but to serve Caesar?

There was the persecution of men who dared think differently, who heard strange voices or read strange manuscripts. There was enslavement of men whose tribes came not from Rome, disdain for those who did not have the familiar visage. And most of all, there was everywhere a contempt for human life. What, to the strong, was one man more or less in a crowded world?

Then, of a sudden, there was a light in the world, and a man from Galilee saying, Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's and unto God the things that are God's.

And the voice from Galilee, which would defy Caesar, offered a new Kingdom in which each man could walk upright and bow to none but his God. Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. And he sent this gospel of the Kingdom of Man into the uttermost ends of the earth.

So the light came into the world and the men who lived in darkness were afraid, and they tried to lower a curtain so that man would still believe salvation lay with the leaders.

But it came to pass for a while in divers places that the truth did set man free, although the men of darkness were offended and they tried to put out the light. The voice said, Haste ye. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness come upon you, for he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth.

Along the road to Damascus the light shone brightly. But afterward Paul of Tarsus, too, was sore afraid. He feared that other Caesars, other prophets, might one day persuade men that man was nothing save a servant unto them, that men might yield up their birthright from God for pottage and walk no more in freedom.

Then might it come to pass that darkness would settle again over the lands and there would be a burning of books and men would think only of what they should eat and what they should wear, and would give heed only to new Caesars and to false prophets. Then might it come to pass that men would not look upward to see even a winter's star in the East, and once more, there would be no light at all in the darkness.

And so Paul, the apostle of the Son of Man, spoke to his brethren, the Galatians, the words he would have us remember afterward in each of the years of his Lord:

Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.

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08 December 2006

This Guy is a Genius

In the Core Course of our Masters program, we explore the question, "what's modern, about modern history?" It's broken up into 4 themes which are taught by 3 different professors. The first set of seminars explored the Historiography of Modern History and History in general and the second, current seminar, has explored history through Nationalism.

This week we gave a presentation based on an article by Prasenjit Duara entitled, "Transnationalism and the Challenge of National Histories." It is from Rethinking American History in a Global Age, Thomas Bender, editor. Among other things, he warns against the use of history to promote ultranationalism and encourages a study of history that does avoids using the current evolutionary borders as limits or guidelines to historical research ie. British History, American History, Modern Germany, etc. He cites several examples in China and the Mexican border that show how history cuts across borders and must, to be truly understood, be examined locally.

In his Chinese local example, he shows how two different regimes in China plus Japan all used a folk history to promote different ends. He argues that this is part of the tension that exists between modernity and tradition--a Marxist argument that has been passed as fact. The Fascist regime in Japan and the Marxist and Fascist regimes he refers to in China most assuredly bent the history to establish their legitimacy as governors of Japan and China respectively. This does not, however, necessarily mean that an either/or dichotomy exists between tradition and modernization.

The Unites States, unlike those Chinese and Japanese governments, does not suppress alternate histories. We have, collectively, been forced to come to terms with the ugliness of our history--treatment of native peoples, slavery, women, etc., have all been incorporated into our history and collective memory. Despite these scars of history, we continue to embrace the good traditions of our past while looking forward to continued modernization. Such is the case in democratic, pluralistic societies.

We've linked to One Cosmos a couple of times in the past, and do so again here because of the light he sheds on this tension between tradition and modernization.

How do you tie free trade, progressivism, the tradition of the religious right, and scientific revolution into one post? Like this:
But what to do about it? The paradox, or “complementarity” at the heart of the modern conservative movement is the tension between tradition, which preserves, and the free market, which relentlessly destroys in order to build. While individual conservatives may or may not contain this tension within themselves, the conservative coalition definitely does, with the “religious right” on one end and libertarians and free marketeers on the other. People wonder how these seeming opposites can coexist in the same tent, but the key may lie in their dynamic complementarity, for freedom only becomes operative, or "evolutionary," when it is bound by transcendent limitations -- which, by the way, is equally true for the individual.

The ironically named progressive left is an inverse image of this evolutionary complementarity. This is because it rejects both the creative destruction of capitalism and the restraints of tradition. Therefore, it is static where it should be dynamic, and dynamic where it should be static. It is as if they want to stop the world and “freeze frame” one version of capitalism, which is why, for example, they oppose free trade. While free trade is always beneficial in the long run, it is obviously going to displace some people and some occupations. It is as if the progressive is an “economic traditionalist,” transferring the resistance to change to the immament realm of economics instead of the spiritual realm of transcendent essences.

I know this is true, because it is what I used to believe when I was a liberal. For example, I grew up at a time when most people worked for large corporations that gave their employees generous pensions and health benefits. As such, it seemed "natural" or normative. In reality, this was just a brief phase of American capitalism, lasting from the mid-1950’s through the 1970’s. But backward looking progressives act as if this aberration was “in the nature of things.” They have a similar attitude toward factory jobs in heavy industry, as if we could somehow go back in time and preserve these high-wage, low-skill jobs.

But while the progressive is thoroughly backward looking with regard to economics, he is the opposite with regard to the spiritual realm. For him, mankind was basically worthless until the scientific revolution, mired as he was in myth, magic, and superstition. Rather, the only reliable way to understand the world is through the scientific method, which has the effect of throwing overboard centuries of truly priceless accumulated spiritual wisdom. It literally severs man from his deepest metaphysical roots and ruptures his vertical continuity. In reality, it destroys the very possibility of man in the archetypal sense -- i.e., actualizing his "spiritual blueprint."

A new kind of man is born out of this progressive spiritual inversion. Yesterday we spoke of castes and of “spiritual DNA.” Progressives, starting with Karl Marx, waged an assault on labor, eliminating its spiritual significance and reducing it to a mindless, collective “proletariat.” You might say that the left honors labor in the same way they honor the military: both are losers.

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07 December 2006

Pearl Harbor Day

This was originally posted on 7 December 2005.

Before 9/11 became the most infamous date in American history, there was Pearl Harbor Day. Americans tend to like dates they can celebrate, more than the ones they memorialize, but this sentiment doesn't make them any less important.

The United States circa December 1941 was a country torn between a virtuous desire to aid the free, democratic countries of Europe, and its heritage of isolationism. Anyone with a basic knowledge of this history knows that it started early--George Washington's "Farewell Address." Historians, political scientists, and politicians of various ilk point to this speech as the genesis of whatever foreign policy position they want to endorse. Though historian Joe Ellis points out that the term "entangling alliances" didn't come from this speech, despite our subconscious association. Winston Churchill, though mourning with us for the loss of life, was famously relieved that America would be joining the war. He knew that from the moment the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, that America would fight and win the war against fascism.

Historical minutiae aside, the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor woke us from this internal debate--a debate that has been internally waged before, during and after every armed conflict in American history. Simply refer to the Op-Ed page of your local newspaper. The characters are different, but they are still isolationists. Historical interpretation of WWII teaches that this attack joined the two motivations--self interest, with the virtuous desire to liberate Europe. The combination of these two strong impulses, made the victory of WWII the perfect example of the marriage of these two ideals.

Maybe 9/11 was the Pearl Harbor that allowed us to fight terrorism and bring democracy to the Middle East. If, like us, you believe in the righteousness of the war against terror and the ongoing attempt to bring democracy to Iraq, then you see the parallels between Pearl Harbor and 9/11. The Japanese started out our enemies, but in the aftermath of WWII became our closest allies--aiding us today in Iraq and elsewhere. But the Japanese people were never our enemies and neither are the Iraqi people. They were both subject to religious fascists and once liberated, embraced democracy.

This is the path we are on in Iraq. Car bombs will continue, but they aren't set off by an Iraqi people angry at our "occupation" of Iraq. They are set by a radical minority, fanatics manipulated like so many pawns on a chess board by the Islamofascists who really are evil and do not care about the future of Iraq. The Iraqi people, the ones who care about their country, they are the ones who voted in overwhelming numbers in every election held in Iraq (women too!) and who, even now, hope we wont leave before stability has been established.

We believe our legacy in Iraq will end with the Iraqi people among our closest allies in the war on terror. A war that will not be won by ceding Iraq to the insurgents abroad or defeatists at home. The only similarity between Iraq and Vietnam is the fact that John Kerry lied about both.

Whether you agree with our position on Iraq or not, take a minute to remember the sacrifice of patriotic Americans who gave so much. Because that's what this day is about--memorializing those who in every generation have taken up arms in defense of their country. In case you need a little refresher, take a hard right at the rack full of Pearl Harbor (Ben Affleck is an idiot)DVDs at your local Blockbuster and check out Band of Brothers. It doesn't give you Pearl Harbor history, but it is WWII and, at least as far as we have read and studied, is historically accurate.

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04 December 2006

Romney Watch II

An email from Fernando Mladineo and comment from our favorite rabble rouser, Voice of Raisin, prompted us to dig into our recently bookmarked pages and produce another Romney Watch. You can see the first one here.

First, a poll at MSNBC (hat tip: Fernando Mladineo) that asks, "Mormon for President in 2008?"
The caption under Mr. Romney's photo explains that Barack Obama will have to "overcome" his race in order to get elected while Mr. Romney will have to "overcome" his religion.

We look forward to the day when race and religion will not be things to be overcome.

Meanwhile over a townhall.com, Michael Medved argues that centrists Rudy Giuliani and John McCain will probably compete with each other for moderates, Mr. Romney will be left as "the most credible conservative candidate."

Under the catchy title, "there's something about Romney," Dean Barnett, also blogging at townhall.com, recounts a story from when he campaigned for then Senate hopeful Romney against "Chappaquiddick" Ted Kennedy. Predictably, the Kennedy smear team attempted to dig up dirt on Mr. Romney and found--employees who had been fired after Mr. Romney's company had purchased theirs. Chappaquiddick this was not.

Finally, last week an article in the Salt Lake Tribune that asks, "is Romney's religion a non-factor?"

When we first wrote about a potential Romney run back on the 13th of January, we thought that his candidacy would at best give future Mormon candidates a chance, we're beginning to think his chances are a little better than that.

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Arrested Development Watch

No allusion here, but something worthy of its own post.

Arrested Development, cheap.
(hat tip: Fernando Mladineo)

Now for a limited time at amazon.com, all three season of Arrested Development for about $30 including shipping. We wouldn't shill for these folks if Arrested Development weren't really that good.

And Fernando, we looked around but couldn't find our link to your blog. Email it to us and we'll include the link in the hat tip as we usually try to do. Thanks.

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02 December 2006

Our Brother = Great BYU Fan

With a layoff until the Vegas Bowl--for which we have tickets--we figured we'd post a "hodge podge" of BYU Football links, including this fantastic picture of our brother after the game.

Thanks also to our friend at the University of Utah who provided this ticket.

In other news, reader and frequent contributor Morgan Habedank has provided us with a link to a quality version of BYU highlights from last week's game. Click here.

We've been searching for some great pictures we saw posted to Cougarboard by one Dan Ransom, but have been unable to relocate them. If any of you know where they can be found, please email us or post a link in the comments section and we'll repost the link as an update in the body of this post.

**Update: As you can see, we've located the picture and the website--danransom.com (hat tip: Morgan Habedank, again). His game photos are incredible as you can see from this example. Click on the link above and check them out.

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01 December 2006

Bill Simmons: I heart Seattle

Because we love Seattle sports teams and all things Washington, we reproduce Bill Simmons bit from his Friday article about the NFL.
1. Loudest crowd I've ever heard. Seems like it's more due to the way the stadium is built than anything else -- for instance, Monday's crowd was 20 percent Packers fans and even they sounded abnormally loud.

2. We decided that Seattle can't be considered an underrated city because everyone always talks about how underrated it is, so now it's properly rated. But can you think of another city other than New York or Los Angeles that had a bigger cultural impact on this country over the past 16 years? Grunge music, Starbucks, microbrews, Microsoft, Amazon.com and even ESPN.com all started there. What other city can come up with six things to compare to those?

3. Highlight of the trip: Finding out that Seahawks tackle Walter Jones has a daughter named Waleria and a son named Walterius..

4. Seahawks fans really, really, REALLY don't like Jerramy Stevens. It's a palpable dislike. Don't think this won't be rearing its head in January.

5. If you can't get excited to attend a Monday Night Football game when it's snowing out, you need to stop following sports immediately.
And he didn't even mention Nordstrom, Boeing, Washington Mutual, or Costco. Seriously. How could he forget Costco? (Full Disclosure: We worked at Costco three summers in a row)

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Arrested Development Allusion Watch

"Loose seal!" "Lucille? Where?"
(hat tip: Matt Lybbert)

"A series of sea-lion attacks on people in recent months has led experts to warn that the animals are not as cute and cuddly as they appear."--Associated Press, Nov. 28

Beginning now, a tribute to what our friend WCSG calls not only the funniest show ever, but "as funny as a show can be." Arrested Development, RIP.

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Top 10 Christmas Movies of ALL-TIME

Christmas is the time for Christmas movies. The other day we had a conversation about Christmas movies with our British "flatmates" and discovered they had never seen National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation or A Christmas Story or even Scrooged. How does that happen? This clearly called for a reprint of last year's "Top 10 Christmas Movies."

Originally posted on 20 December 2005.

1. National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation
In the genre of Christmas films Cousin Eddie is possibly the best character ever. We also think he is a composite of several members of my extended family. If you've only ever watched this on tv, be prepared to fast-forward a couple parts

2. A Christmas Story
Red Rider BB guns, the neighbor's hounds, the smiling Christmas duck, chocolate ovaltine--this movie has it all. And you can't beat the tongue on the flagpole, you really can't--that's the type of humor that appeals to all ages.

3. Scrooged
We love watching the angel/ghost beat the snot out of Bill Murray's character. If you like Groundhogs Day or What About Bob? or Ghostbusters you'll love Bill Murray in this movie. Ditto on the self-edit, the tv version cuts out some of the unnecessary crass material.

4. It's a Wonderful Life
We're sometimes sentimental but never sappy. This is one you can watch with the whole family.

5. Elf
This movie is good, but not great. We particularly enjoy the scene where Will Ferrell tries to put the star on the tree. Also, answering his father's office phone, "Buddy the Elf, what's your favorite color?" is classic and oft repeated. Speaking of oft repeated quotes from Will Ferrell, can we please be done with everything being "kind of a big deal?" Sure, we think more cowbell is just as funny as the next guy, and we know Ferrell is popular because even the dumb get his jokes, but still, can we let this one die, please? It's overused in the way "alrighty then" from Ace Ventura Pet Detective was abused. Apologies to those of you too young to remember that movie or the quote or, if you do, don't remember why it was funny. You probably don't remember because it wasn't that funny in the first place. But, in ten years when some little-read blog writes about Anchorman and how everyone used to wait around for the obligatory reference to something being "kind of a big deal," you'll wonder at the fact that you thought it was so frickin hilarious. And then, you'll know what we mean.

6. The Santa Clause
Our sister wanted us to include this one. And yes, we did watch Home Improvement growing up, and loved it.

7. Santa Claus The Movie
Before there was Elf there was this movie where an elf leaves the North Pole because he doesn't fit in. This movie has Dudley "need we say" Moore? Seriously. Need we?

8. White Christmas
We first watched this movie because Chevy Chase's character (Clark Griswold) referred to it in his famous rant near the end of Christmas Vacation. Watch this one with grandma.

9. Home Alone
What is it about pain that gets such big laughs? Suspend your hate of Macauley Culkin and watch this one with your younger cousins or neices and nephews--that way you can either laugh at the movie or their response.

10. A Muppet Christmas Carol
Our favorite version of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. This one should also appeal to your friends of the Angry Left. We don't know why we wrote that, it just felt right (no pun intended).

And yes, Morgan, for those in the know, this was another backhanded jab at Bill Simmons.

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