The St. Croix Review

The St. Croix Review

The St. Croix Review speaks for middle America, and brings you essays from patriotic Americans.

Sunday, 20 December 2015 08:08

In Defense of the American Family

Our Mission Is to Reawaken the Genuine American Spirit . . .

In Defense of the American Family

Barry MacDonald - Editorial

Stories have power to make us stronger or weaker.

We've witnessed the creation of a fable this year: a black youth was shot in the back while his arms were raised in surrender. Supposedly, Michael Brown's death in Ferguson, Missouri, is yet another instance of racial oppression. Darren Wilson, the policeman who shot him, is presented as a symbol, much like a whip-wielding slave driver or a robed Ku Klux Klansman: he represents historical grievance.

The fable drives emotions. It's a morality tale with a sharp image: Michael Brown is kneeling while shot in the back. Another black man is down (really, Michael was just a big kid with no direction).

President Obama took the opportunity to reinforce the fable. He said that racism:

. . . is part of our DNA . . . Racism, we are not cured of it. And it's not just a matter of it not being polite to say n_____ in public. That's not the measure of whether racism still exists or not. It's not just a matter of overt discrimination. Societies don't, overnight, completely erase everything that happened two to three hundred years prior.

According to the President, whites have been forced to hide their racism, but we are who we are, and the killings of blacks by American police officers reveals the truth about white people, especially white men, as they are the shooters.

If you were black and you believed the President's poisonous message, if all your friends and role models supported the President's disheartening message, if you had heard all your life from fellow blacks that the system was against black people, if you felt hopeless and helpless, if the music you listened to inflamed you, if you didn't have a caring father in your home to guide you, what would you do?

Never mind that Michael Brown was 6-foot-4-inches, 300 pounds, had just robbed a convenience store, was high on drugs, grabbed for Darren Wilson's gun, was not surrendering, and did not have his arms raised, but was in fact charging the policeman who shot him to save his own life.

Never mind that 90 percent of the blacks who are being gunned down in America are being killed by fellow blacks, and that innocent children are dying in the crossfire.

Never mind that 70 percent of black families have holes in their centers: there are too few fathers serving as decent role models who teach the boys to get up in the morning and go to work every day, who provide the girls with a righteous and loving example of what a man should be.

I believe that people who see racism in the encounter between Michael Brown and Darren Wilson have jumped to a faulty conclusion. The question should not be why Darren Wilson acted as he did, but why Michael Brown did as he did. Michael Brown was eighteen years old. He had a stepdad, not a dad. I really don't know how he was raised, but somehow he came to believe that it was OK to behave like a thug, and it got him killed.

The black family has been blown to smithereens and all President Obama can do is to play to a narrative of grievance. But it's not just black families that are falling apart in America; each family is at risk.

It is much more common now for couples not to marry but to cohabit while having children. I believe that when couples choose not to take the solemn and consecrated path of marriage they are less committed to the discipline of raising children together. The vows of marriage are sacred. Perhaps taking vows is becoming less serious.

Our summer's battles over gay marriage have been revealing. All the concern has been focused on the legality of marriage when what's vital is the commitment couples bring to marriage. We over-lawyer marriage and deemphasize its sacredness.

Spiritual commitment is central, even for childless couples, because spouses hold each other's emotional well-being in their hands.

The Left is fond of changing the definitions of words in furtherance of agendas, so they have expanded the word "marriage" to mean same-sex couples. Given our momentum, perhaps marriage will come to mean a union of three or more.

Who is concerned about the definition of commitment? How may we promote loving commitments? A divorce judge may rule on the distribution of property when a marriage fails, but he can't minister to the needs of souls. Religious faith is necessary. An everyday sense of the sacred sustains us.

The experience of a family may be terrible and oppressive. If the mother or the father is cruel and selfish, great damage may be inflicted on children. If there is alcoholism or drug abuse involved, the family may become insular and secretive and the malady may be transmitted through generations. But in such cases it's not the fault of marriage and family. The spiritual failings of the parents are to blame.

We come into the world with two eyes, two arms, two legs each, and two genders - this is natural. It takes a man and woman to produce a child - this is natural. Men and women think, feel, and behave differently - this is natural, not the result of an oppressive patriarchy foisted upon society.

So how could we believe that the proliferation of single-parent families, with an absent father - or with a cohabitating man of questionable commitment who plays the role of father for a while - is good for the welfare of our children?

Isn't it natural and reasonable to believe that a loving father brings something irreplaceable to a family, and when he is lost the children lose half the sustenance they need?

What America needs is a system for instilling in children a moral compass so that children may appreciate the value of love, loyalty, cooperation, hard work, self-respect, kindness, courtesy, respect for others, et cetera - this is the natural purpose of a family.

The Left believes that schools with specially designed curricula can instill values in children - with its view of propriety. The Left believes that supplemental government money and services can replace the father's hard-earned income and his presence.

I am afraid that too many men in America are becoming habituated to diminished roles. We aren't taking fatherhood seriously anymore and our society is crumbling. I believe fatherhood civilizes men as it gives us worthy purposes. Families require discipline and focus, and if men aren't being fathers in a family men become lost in selfish pursuits.

This issue of The St. Croix Review is dedicated to a defense of the traditional American family. We will be distributing this issue to an expanded readership, so there will be a re-publication of a few essays that are especially on target. I ask for the indulgence of our current readership.

There are three points we would like to emphasize: 1) The family is the foundational institution of society; 2) the Left is attempting to replace the traditional family with the state; 3) we may see the consequences in the rioting and looting of Baltimore. *

Editor's Note: we have learned that John A. Howard, the former President of Rockford College and veteran of W.W. II, passed away this August at the age of ninety-three. John Howard was a long-time supporter of and a greatly appreciated author for The St. Croix Review. We will publish a tribute to him in the December/January issue of The St. Croix Review.

Wednesday, 16 December 2015 12:07

Summary for August 2015

The following is a summary of the August/September 2015 issue of the St. Croix Review:

In "Faith and Un-tethered Delusion," Barry MacDonald contrasts what moves revolutionary progressives and conservatives.

Timothy S. Goeglein, in "The Moynihan Report at 50," reviews the prophetic predictions of a famous American statesman concerning the health of the American family and culture.

Michael D. Dean, in "Now Make Them Sell Ham," reveals the nasty, vicious character of the hard left - they have totalitarian urges.

Paul Kengor, in "Gay-Marriage Conservatives? A Reply to Greg Gutfeld," draws upon the words of Russell Kirk and Ronald Reagan to show why gay marriage isn't conservative; in "Seven Brothers? A Remarkable World War II Story," he shares the experience of the Pietkiewicz family.

In "Justice Scalia's Dissent," Associate Justice Antonin Scalia explains why the ruling striking down state bans on same-sex marriage was an act of hubris.

Allan C. Brownfeld, in "What Dennis Hastert's Case Tells Us about Washington's Institutional Corruption," reveals how politicians have been enriching themselves through public service - at great cost to the integrity of government; in "Remembering the Real Heroism of Robert E. Lee at Appomattox," he shows how the discretion and courage of Gen. Lee and other Confederate Generals saved America from much greater bloodshed; in "The Proposal to Remove Alexander Hamilton from the $10 Bill Is an Assault on American History," he shows why Alexander Hamilton is so important to American History.

Mark Hendrickson, in "Lee Kuan Yew (1923-2015)," shows how Singapore's Prime Minister pulled off a resplendent free-market miracle in the midst of socialist nations; in "Is Obama to Blame for Weak Economic Growth?" he details five ways President Obama has "crippled" the American economy.

Herbert London, in "Appeasement Here and Abroad," compares the Obama Administration's dealings with Iran and Russia with the conflagrations in Ferguson and Baltimore; in "Human Wants and Desires and Prospects for the West," he describes how our desire for unfettered freedom has led to a refusal to be bound by biology, laws, or conflict.

Thomas Martin, in "Inventing Human Beings Is Child's Play," compares what Justin Bieber and Hollywood do with what Aristotle thought.

In "Letters from a Conservative Farmer: Love and Lies," Jigs Gardner continues on from his last essay to a further exploration of Angus' character.

In "Writers for Conservatives 56: Anthony Trollope (1815-85)," Jigs Gardner discusses Trollope's subtle and comprehensive use of character development.

In "Survey of Conservative Magazines: Trouble Ahead," Fayette Durlin and Peter Jenkin present an article from the Weekly Standard that reveals the totalitarian intolerance of the left once they have achieved a measure of success.

Wednesday, 16 December 2015 12:07

Survey of Conservative Magazines: Trouble Ahead

Survey of Conservative Magazines: Trouble Ahead

Fayette Durlin and Peter Jenkin

Fayette Durlin and Peter Jenkin write from Brownsville, Minnesota.

The June 22nd issue of the Weekly Standard features an article by Jonathan Last which should alarm us all: "You will be Assimilated: The same-sex marriage bait-and-switch." A brief summary: same-sex marriage was supposed to mean freedom for homosexuals to form marital unions, but now that that seems to be more or less accepted (superficially at least), it means much more to its champions. This is the "bait-and-switch" of the subtitle. The essay opens with a recapitulation of the case of Bernard Eich, who was fired from his company when it was revealed that he had donated to California's Proposition 8 campaign (banning same-sex marriage), showing that the movement is determined to punish dissenters - and more.

It's about revisiting legal notions of freedom of speech and association, constitutional protections for religious freedom, and cultural norms concerning the family.

The author goes on to show how leaders of the movement, sensing imminent triumph, are abandoning arguments they used to advance their cause, arguments they now consider constraining, like the notion that sexual orientation was genetically determined, not a choice. "The genetic argument has boxed us into a corner." Then there was the argument that homosexual marriage would have no effect on normal marriage. That's out the window now, as homosexuals work for "marriage redefinition":

. . . gay marriage has something to teach us. That gay couples provide a model for marriages that are more egalitarian and less burdened by the old gender roles that are weighing marriage down these days.

The woman who wrote that sentence is pushing promiscuity and infidelity, one of the vaunted characteristics of homosexual marriage.

This is only the first step "on the path to redefining the family itself." The author goes on to show that even seemingly moderate homosexual marriage advocates are extremists, as an analysis of Jonathan Rauch's supposed defense of opponents shows. He admits that

. . . asking people to give up history's traditional understanding of marriage is a big ask. You don't expect thousands of years of unquestioned moral and social tradition to be relinquished overnight.

Last's comment is,

So we are asking society to make a wholesale redefinition of one of the pillars of human civilization on the basis of a movement that didn't exist until the day before yesterday.

Rauch goes on to tackle religious opposition to homosexual marriage.

The First Amendment carves out special protections for religious belief and expression. That does not mean, of course, that Christian homophobes can discriminate as much as they want provided they quote the Bible. It does mean, at least for a while, courts and legislators will strike compromises balancing gay rights and religious liberty . . . it means gay-marriage supporters will hit a constitutional brick wall if we try to condemn our opponents to immediate and total perdition. (Emphasis added.)

The emphasized words and phrases are telling. Rauch

. . . is as serious and high-minded as any advocate of same-sex marriage in America. And by his own admission [such] advocates will tolerate religious liberty only so long.

The movement is determined to avoid what it sees as the political legacy of Roe vs. Wade:

Even those who disagree with the pro-life cause respect it and recognize that it has a legitimate place in the debate over public policy . . . it's because of that respect that pro-choice leaders generally respect the religious liberty and conscience rights of their pro-life fellow citizens.

The homosexual marriage movement intends to cast supporters of traditional marriage as "bigots who won't be allowed to make their case in the public square."

Mr. Last concludes that this tells us that the homosexual marriage proponents "realize that they have not persuaded society of the rightness of the revolution they actually seek." A hopeful note perhaps, but this article should warn us of the struggles ahead. *

Wednesday, 16 December 2015 12:07

Letters from a Conservative Farmer: Love and Lies

Letters from a Conservative Farmer: Love and Lies

Jigs Gardner

Jigs Gardner is an Associate Editor of the St. Croix Review. Jigs Gardner writes on literature from the Adirondacks, where he may be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Angus was married. The storekeeper showed me a clipping from the newspaper at the Strait: "Angus Robert MacIvor to Margaret Matheson." Her eight-year-old daughter was "Maid of Honor." The storekeeper told me she had been married to the Sobey's manager in the Mall, had an older son and this daughter, but started drinking and running with a rough crowd in the Strait.

They got roughs at the Strait make us look like Presbyterians.

The manager divorced her, and then she took up with Angus. She was sort of an Avon Lady, sold cosmetics and such. I had seen a shiny yellow car with "Beauty" painted on the door, parked at the end of Angus's lane. God pity her, I thought.

How Angus came to be what he was I cannot imagine. When I knew him he was in his early 50s with a retarded son about thirty. Shabbily dressed, filthy, he was the master of any situation, well spoken, courteous, witty, amusing. As I have said elsewhere, he was a consummate con man, talking his wary countrymen into one scam after another, year after year. I think he carried them off because he was extremely sensitive to his victim's moods and inclinations so he could anticipate what they were thinking, what they were going to say, and get there before them. I don't know - that's just a guess. He was a mystery. As it turned out, a much greater enigma than I knew.

He came by a few days later, walking across the fields from his place. Completely transformed, he proudly showed himself off, turning about in the kitchen to show his clean khakis, neatly pressed, with a belt instead of baling twine, and a bright flannel shirt.

How do you like the new model?

he joked as he settled down on his usual seat, the bench beside the stove. Of course, we exclaimed and complimented him before we settled to our tea, and then the talk ran on to their plans and prospects. I presumed they would live at the Strait. Yes, he said, but there was a hitch: Margaret (he called her Bunny, as I shall henceforth) didn't want The Boy living with her young daughter. We canvassed various alternatives. He refused to commit him to the asylum in Sydney, no, never that. There was a home for the retarded in Mabou, but it had a long waiting list, as I knew. We gave up and were sitting in silence when he said,

I wonder if you folks would take him in?

We were too stunned to answer. Angus got in a face-saving qualifier.

Just come over and take a look at him.

That got us out of an awkward situation; it didn't commit us to anything.

Early Sunday morning I set off across the fields. I had seen The Boy only at a distance, sitting in an abandoned car near the house, heavily bearded with long tangled hair. I was apprehensive of course; who wouldn't be? I was distracted from my worries by the sight of red curtains in the shining windows. Angus threw open the door and gave me a smiling welcome. The kitchen had been utterly changed. The walls had been painted, there were hooked rugs on the polished floor, sturdy straight chairs were set around a large kitchen table. Angus proudly pointed out the features, enjoying my admiration. When Bunny appeared I had another surprise. I suppose I had expected a slattern. But she was a handsome woman, tall with a fine figure and wide deeply blue eyes, very striking. Shaking my hand firmly, she welcomed me and I told her how impressed I was by the kitchen.

We did it together,

she said, looking fondly at Angus.

I'll get Colin,

he said.

It's time for his breakfast.

So that was The Boy's name; I had never heard it.

Bunny stirred a large pot of porridge on the stove. I went to sit at the table, but she told me that was where Colin sat, so I moved to a daybed against the wall, next to the door through which Angus had exited. I asked her about Colin's meals, listening to Angus's steps as he ascended the stairs. She set a big bowl on the table.

He likes his porridge,

she said. I heard a door open upstairs. Angus said something. At once there was a huge sound that I can only describe as ROAR! The hair stood up on the back of my neck. Bunny never showed any sign but went on talking about Colin's meals. I tried to think of something casual to say, but I could neither speak nor think. I was petrified. They were coming down the stairs, Angus speaking soothingly, Colin roaring and moaning. The noise grew louder. Bunny was filling the bowl from the pot. Now they were at the door right next to me, rattling and banging. The door opened and Angus came in, holding Colin's hand. All noise ceased. Colin, head turned away from me, sidled to his chair and sat. He opened his mouth and Bunny fed him with a large spoon. He was shaven and his hair was cut short. He just looked like a big boy, which indeed he was. All my tension drained away as I sat there, feeling weightless. I watched the scene, which I would always remember: Bunny concentrating on the spoon, Colin automatically opening and closing his mouth, Angus sitting across from him gazing benevolently at his wife and son.

Colin was soon done. He shuffled out with Angus, again averting his gaze. I left soon afterwards, saying nothing to Angus or Bunny. They said nothing either. The subject was never raised again between us.

But their problem remained, and they came over several times to talk it over with us. By late fall Angus had decided to build a one-room cabin back of Bunny's house where Colin could live separately. He would build it, and I could see he was working around to the idea that I would fell the trees and skid out the logs to go to the mill. Then snow fell, closing the lane, and we didn't see Angus again til spring. I wouldn't've done it anyway; our horses were too quick - you want slow, steady horses for skidding. I had enough trouble getting out my own logs.

I have told in another place why the local sawmill, run by the Kennedy brothers, would no longer saw my logs, so take it as a given. As a result, we had over 100 logs stacked behind the barn, intended for building a shop, being chewed up by bugs. We could actually hear them as we were milking twenty yards away. And as I listened to that relentless destruction, I realized that while the logs were no good to me, Angus could use them. I stuck a note in his mailbox, but he didn't come by for several days. It took time to set it up with the Kennedys, he said.

This is the deal. You haul your logs to the mill and Duncan'll saw them because he thinks you've given 'em to me. You bring the lumber home, I'll take what I want, and you can have the rest for the shop.

I didn't see how there'd be much left for the shop, but it was certainly better than nothing. So I began the three-mile haul to the mill. Sometimes I'd meet Angus and Bunny in her bright yellow car and we'd exchange a few words. Bunny couldn't thank me enough. But it was a little odd. They weren't really condescending, but it was that kind of situation: there they were dressed in casual clothes, a bottle on the seat between them, smiling, waving, while I was standing on a load of logs, going on to a day of work for them, rolling the logs on the carriage, stacking boards on the wagon, driving the load home, piling the boards.

One day when I arrived there was a pile of boards set aside marked "sold" with a crayon. To hell with that, I thought, and started loading the boards on my wagon. Just then the Kennedys arrived, and Duncan began snatching back the boards while Willie tried to calm things down by saying it was Angus's deal: he had sold them. I was blazing mad, but I saw that fighting over some boards with a couple of men in their 80s wasn't very smart. I put the boards back. The problem, of course, was the lie: I couldn't tell the truth. I was stuck. Meanwhile, I'd have to find out what Angus was up to.

A terrible storm blew up that night, wrecking the schedule. Willie sent me a note saying that part of their barn roof had blown away so it would be a few days until they could resume sawing. It was just as well because our barn roof had been damaged, too. That's where I was, re-nailing galvanized sheets, when I saw Angus walk up to the house. He wasn't there long, perhaps half of an hour, when he came out, and as he walked down the lane, he was slouching dejectedly. I was quite struck by it. Jo Ann must've given him hell over those boards. I asked her about it later.

He explained that someone saw the lumber and pestered him to sell him some. The Kennedys were there and he couldn't very well say it was yours, so he sold them. He promised it wouldn't happen again.
He looked to me as if you'd chewed him out.
No, nothing like that. He was quite apologetic about it, and we parted on the best of terms.

Two days later I got this note from Willie:

As you and Angus have had a falling out, the rest of the logs here are yours if you want them. I'll get Alex Gillis to saw them. Otherwise we'll buy them.

You can understand my bewilderment. Angus had made up some story for reasons I couldn't make out, but of course the whole thing was a deception. I couldn't very well tell Willie the truth. I would have to accept the situation and go on as before. So that's what I did. Willie said nothing, I said nothing, and since Alex was a good deal faster than Duncan, we got the sawing done in time to complete the shop - 35 feet long, 15 feet wide with a big woodshed on the end - just as the first snow fell.

I never saw Angus again. He just disappeared. But I wasn't done with him yet.

The next summer I was waiting at the station in town for the 1 a.m. train from the West, and the storekeeper was waiting, too. The train was late and we were sitting on the platform, our backs against the freight shed. I was telling him about the deal with Angus, and when I got to the end I said,

I couldn't figure it out. Why would he be so dejected? Jo Ann assured me he was quite happy when he left. I didn't think he was so sensitive -

The storekeeper had been shifting about as I told the story, and now he had his handkerchief to his face and he seemed to be struggling. Suddenly he burst out laughing, great whoops. I scratched a match on the platform. His face was red, tears were running down his face and he was shaking his head, still laughing. At last he subsided. He put his hand on my arm.

I'm sorry. I couldn't help it. When you said he was so "sensitive" I couldn't hold it in any more . . . Listen: Angus was lying to everyone - to you, to Bunny, to the Kennedys. It was a hoax from beginning to end. Everything from start to finish was a lie. He didn't want you to take in The Boy, he didn't want your lumber, he had no intention of building a place for The Boy at the Strait. What he wanted was for things to stay as they were, with Bunny coming on the weekend with plenty of booze, and the week for him to do as he pleased, to "frolic" as he liked to say. Can you picture Angus living in a house at the Strait? He wanted his own way and he got it.
So he was pretending to be disconsolate that day?
You still can't take it in, can you?

He pushed against the wall and stood up.

I'm getting stiff. Let's take a walk.

As we passed the station the agent looked out the window and called,

Maybe 20 minutes or a half hour, boys.

We walked on the gravel beside the tracks as far as the bridge, and there we leaned against the parapet.

It's hard to understand,

I said. The storekeeper grunted, and then I said,

Let me ask you something. You've known him for years. Do you think he loved Colin?
When he cleared for the mainland he stuck him in the asylum in Sydney.

A barred owl hooted down by the Point and we watched the headlights of a car on the Point road.

What else could he do if he was going?

The storekeeper said nothing for a moment and then he asked,

How much do you know about love?
What a question! Well, I've been married for 28 years to the only woman I've ever loved.

Then I added,

Thinking about it, I just don't know. I mean, it's an experience; you don't think about it.

We stood silent, hearing the owl again, father off. Then we heard the train whistle far down the line.

That's the West Bay Road crossing,

he said. We started back for the station. As we stepped onto the platform the storekeeper said,

I bought those boards from Angus. I'll send you some money in the morning.

I said nothing, and the storekeeper asked if I were surprised.

I'm all surprised out.

A couple of weeks later Bunny appeared in her yellow car with an older man, not very prepossessing. They had been drinking, and her speech was a little slurred. She wanted bacon and butter and eggs, and while I was slicing the bacon she asked if I had seen Angus.

No, and I don't want to. That business about building a place for Colin was a fraud. He was just stalling you off so he could stick to his old ways during the week.
I can't believe that.
Suit yourself. But it's the truth.

She kept shaking her head, muttering

No, no, that's not the way it was.
Come on, honey,

the man said patting her bottom. I carried the stuff out to the car and put it on the back seat.

You're making it up,

she said as she got in the car, but I could hear a lack of conviction.

He lied to you, he lied to me, he lied to the Kennedys. Face it.
Angus wouldn't lie to me,

she said, shaking her head.

But I wasn't done with Bunny. On a hot afternoon in August I was in the shop with the big double doors open, shoeing the mare, when she drove in alone. She walked a little unsteadily across the grass to the doorway. She watched me for a time. I had a front hoof between my knees, rasping it flat.

I was at the house just now.
You walked in that lane in high heels?

I said amazed.

I took 'em off. Remember how it was with those nice red curtains? When I came in Friday evenings Angus'd have the lamps lit, and those curtains looked so nice . . . All gone now, the place a mess.

I put that hoof down and stepped over to pick up the other one. Up to that point I hadn't really thought about the whole affair from her viewpoint at all. Now I realized that she had been the one, besides Colin, to suffer. After all, I built the shop, didn't I? Suddenly I felt very sorry for her, but I couldn't look at her. I kept working on the hoof.

I can't believe he didn't love me.

I let the hoof drop and stood up with my hand on Jenny's back. I looked at her, at those beautiful eyes in that ravaged face, and I was angry. I spoke harshly.

He never loved anyone, Bunny. Not you, not even Colin. He only loved himself.
How much do you know about love?

Her voice was quiet. What the hell is this, I thought, everyone asking me about love.

Enough,

I said, thinking loving one woman was enough for any sane man.

I loved Angus,

she said simply, as a matter of fact, and I watched the tears well in her eyes and trickle down her cheeks. She turned, walked back to the car and drove away.

Years have passed, and I suppose everyone else who was involved has been gathered to Abraham's bosom. Sometimes when I work in the shop and notice the worm-holes in the boards, I remember. By this time, of course some of the details have faded, but some scenes and words come back to me: Angus's benign gaze on his son as Bunny fed him, the storekeeper laughing at my innocent account, all that talk about love. One thing I know I will never forget: Bunny's brimming blue eyes on that memorable August afternoon. *

Wednesday, 16 December 2015 12:07

Inventing Human Beings is Child's Play

Inventing Human Beings is Child's Play

Thomas Martin

Thomas Martin is the O. K. Bouwsma Chair in Philosophy at the University of Nebraska at Kearney. Along with his fellow colleagues who are dedicated to the study of the Great Books, he teaches the works of Plato, Aristotle, and G. K. Chesterton.

Can Justin Bieber reinvent himself?

This question is posed under a portrait of Justin Bieber in a recent issue of Men's Health, the Reinvention Issue.

Justin is shirtless with his hands clasped behind his head, displaying a buffed upper body decorated with tattoos, both arms sleeved with roses, stars, a tiger, a joker, a crown, vixens, etc. Beside his right ear the caption "It's time for me to grow up."

Be this as it may, implicit in the question "Can Justin Bieber reinvent himself?" is the idea that Justin started as an invention.

No doubt some Hollywood-type talent agent took this raw youth who could keep a tune, sat down at the drawing board and manufactured a teen idol for pubescent girls and boys plugged into i-Tunes.

Justin's stock soared but, alas, his youth faded and he ran into his mortality - Justin turned twenty-one. Gone is the teen idol.

So, his handlers went back to the chop-shop for the reinvented, post-millennium, twenty-something hooked on his sexuality.

And it worked. The reinvention of Justin with his chiseled body just became the new face and body of Calvin Klein underwear.

Of course, in time the reinvented Justin's body will sag, and he will have more skin than he knows what do with and no one will be interested in how he looks in underwear.

The Hollywood fabricators of human idols will then create a new sensation for the masses who sparkle in the light of skin-deep beauty and sensuality. This is the lot of those who are consumed by vanity and neglect their character - their souls! - where true beauty is housed.

It is obvious by the indelible ink of Justin Bieber's tattoos that he is searching for something permanent. This is as it has always been.

Twenty-four centuries ago Aristotle noted that man is the creature who is inherently made for happiness and that the happiness man is seeking is something permanent. This happiness is a good of the soul and not one of the goods of the body, the external goods, which are subject to rot and rust.

The goods of the soul are the seat of character whose permanence is a virtuous activity in conformity with a rational principle. For example, you should never return a harm with a harm - by murdering, stealing, or commiting adultery.

Aristotle is the father of the "purpose-driven life" that is essential for a happy life. In his own words:

In speaking of the proper function of a given individual we mean that it is the same in kind as the function of an individual who sets high standards for himself: the proper function of a harpist, for example, is the same as the function of a harpist who sets high standards for himself. The same applies to every group of individuals, the full attainment of excellence must be added to the mere function. In other words, the function of a harpist is to play the harp; the function of the harpist who has high standards is to play it well.

This is common sense; the proper function of a harpist is to play the harp. The virtue of a harp player is to play the harp well.

You were not born playing your instrument any more than you were born speaking; however, you have the capacity by nature to learn to act your given part, speak well, and master yourself. This is not easy. It helps to have good teachers and to practice.

This is the classical way to be happy and fulfilled: find your natural function, imitate those who are virtuous and avoid those who are vicious.

In short, practice virtue and overcome vice. Justin Bieber, like all of us, can cultivate himself for happiness - but does he know how? *

Wednesday, 16 December 2015 12:07

Justice Scalia's Dissent

Justice Scalia's Dissent

Antonin Scalia

Antonin Scalia is an Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. The following is his dissent in the case of Obergefell v. Hodges in which state bans on same-sex marriage were struck down.

I join the Chief Justice's opinion in full. I write separately to call attention to this Court's threat to American democracy.

The substance of today's decree is not of immense personal importance to me. The law can recognize as marriage whatever sexual attachments and living arrangements it wishes, and can accord them favorable civil consequences, from tax treatment to rights of inheritance.

Those civil consequences - and the public approval that conferring the name of marriage evidences - can perhaps have adverse social effects, but no more adverse than the effects of many other controversial laws. So it is not of special importance to me what the law says about marriage. It is of overwhelming importance, however, who it is that rules me. Today's decree says that my Ruler, and the Ruler of 320 million Americans coast-to-coast, is a majority of the nine lawyers on the Supreme Court. The opinion in these cases is the furthest extension in fact - and the furthest extension one can even imagine - of the Court's claimed power to create "liberties" that the Constitution and its Amendments neglect to mention. This practice of constitutional revision by an unelected committee of nine, always accompanied (as it is today) by extravagant praise of liberty, robs the People of the most important liberty they asserted in the Declaration of Independence and won in the Revolution of 1776: the freedom to govern themselves.

Until the courts put a stop to it, public debate over same-sex marriage displayed American democracy at its best. Individuals on both sides of the issue passionately, but respectfully, attempted to persuade their fellow citizens to accept their views. Americans considered the arguments and put the question to a vote. The electorates of 11 States, either directly or through their representatives, chose to expand the traditional definition of marriage. Many more decided not to. Win or lose, advocates for both sides continued pressing their cases, secure in the knowledge that an electoral loss can be negated by a later electoral win. That is exactly how our system of government is supposed to work.

The Constitution places some constraints on self-rule - constraints adopted by the People themselves when they ratified the Constitution and its Amendments. Forbidden are laws "impairing the Obligation of Contracts," denying "Full Faith and Credit" to the "public Acts" of other States, prohibiting the free exercise of religion, abridging the freedom of speech, infringing the right to keep and bear arms, authorizing unreasonable searches and seizures, and so forth. Aside from these limitations, those powers "reserved to the States respectively, or to the people" can be exercised as the States or the People desire. These cases ask us to decide whether the Fourteenth Amendment contains a limitation that requires the States to license and recognize marriages between two people of the same sex. Does it remove that issue from the political process?

Of course not. It would be surprising to find a prescription regarding marriage in the Federal Constitution since, as the author of today's opinion reminded us only two years ago (in an opinion joined by the same Justices who join him today):

[R]egulation of domestic relations is an area that has long been regarded as a virtually exclusive province of the States.
[T]he Federal Government, through our history, has deferred to state-law policy decisions with respect to domestic relations.

But we need not speculate. When the Fourteenth Amendment was ratified in 1868, every State limited marriage to one man and one woman, and no one doubted the constitutionality of doing so. That resolves these cases. When it comes to determining the meaning of a vague constitutional provision - such as "due process of law" or "equal protection of the laws" - it is unquestionable that the People who ratified that provision did not understand it to prohibit a practice that remained both universal and uncontroversial in the years after ratification. We have no basis for striking down a practice that is not expressly prohibited by the Fourteenth Amendment's text, and that bears the endorsement of a long tradition of open, widespread, and unchallenged use dating back to the Amendment's ratification. Since there is no doubt whatever that the People never decided to prohibit the limitation of marriage to opposite-sex couples, the public debate over same-sex marriage must be allowed to continue.

But the Court ends this debate, in an opinion lacking even a thin veneer of law. Buried beneath the mummeries and straining-to-be-memorable passages of the opinion is a candid and startling assertion: No matter what it was the People ratified, the Fourteenth Amendment protects those rights that the Judiciary, in its "reasoned judgment," thinks the Fourteenth Amendment ought to protect. That is so because

. . . [t]he generations that wrote and ratified the Bill of Rights and the Fourteenth Amendment did not presume to know the extent of freedom in all of its dimensions . . . .

One would think that sentence would continue:

. . . and therefore they provided for a means by which the People could amend the Constitution,

or perhaps

. . . and therefore they left the creation of additional liberties, such as the freedom to marry someone of the same sex, to the People, through the never-ending process of legislation.

But no. What logically follows, in the majority's judge-empowering estimation, is:

. . . and so they entrusted to future generations a charter protecting the right of all persons to enjoy liberty as we learn its meaning.

The "we," needless to say, is the nine of us.

History and tradition guide and discipline [our] inquiry but do not set its outer boundaries.

Thus, rather than focusing on the People's understanding of "liberty" - at the time of ratification or even today - the majority focuses on four "principles and traditions" that, in the majority's view, prohibit States from defining marriage as an institution consisting of one man and one woman.

This is a naked judicial claim to legislative - indeed, super-legislative - power; a claim fundamentally at odds with our system of government. Except as limited by a constitutional prohibition agreed to by the People, the States are free to adopt whatever laws they like, even those that offend the esteemed Justices' "reasoned judgment." A system of government that makes the People subordinate to a committee of nine unelected lawyers does not deserve to be called a democracy.

Judges are selected precisely for their skill as lawyers; whether they reflect the policy views of a particular constituency is not (or should not be) relevant. Not surprisingly then, the Federal Judiciary is hardly a cross-section of America. Take, for example, this Court, which consists of only nine men and women, all of them successful lawyers who studied at Harvard or Yale Law School. Four of the nine are natives of New York City. Eight of them grew up in east- and west-coast States. Only one hails from the vast expanse in-between. Not a single south-westerner or even, to tell the truth, a genuine westerner (California does not count). Not a single evangelical Christian (a group that comprises about one quarter of Americans), or even a Protestant of any denomination. The strikingly unrepresentative character of the body voting on today's social upheaval would be irrelevant if they were functioning as judges, answering the legal question whether the American people had ever ratified a constitutional provision that was understood to proscribe the traditional definition of marriage. But of course the Justices in today's majority are not voting on that basis; they say they are not. And to allow the policy question of same-sex marriage to be considered and resolved by a select, patrician, highly unrepresentative panel of nine is to violate a principle even more fundamental than no taxation without representation: no social transformation without representation.

But what really astounds is the hubris reflected in today's judicial Putsch. The five Justices who compose today's majority are entirely comfortable concluding that every State violated the Constitution for all of the 135 years between the Fourteenth Amendment's ratification and Massachusetts' permitting of same-sex marriages in 2003. They have discovered in the Fourteenth Amendment a "fundamental right" overlooked by every person alive at the time of ratification, and almost everyone else in the time since. They see what lesser legal minds - minds like Thomas Cooley, John Marshall Harlan, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., Learned Hand, Louis Brandeis, William Howard Taft, Benjamin Cardozo, Hugo Black, Felix Frankfurter, Robert Jackson, and Henry Friendly - could not. They are certain that the People ratified the Fourteenth Amendment to bestow on them the power to remove questions from the democratic process when that is called for by their "reasoned judgment." These Justices know that limiting marriage to one man and one woman is contrary to reason; they know that an institution as old as government itself, and accepted by every nation in history until 15 years ago, cannot possibly be supported by anything other than ignorance or bigotry. And they are willing to say that any citizen who does not agree with that, who adheres to what was, until 15 years ago, the unanimous judgment of all generations and all societies, stands against the Constitution.

The opinion is couched in a style that is as pretentious as its content is egotistic. It is one thing for separate concurring or dissenting opinions to contain extravagances, even silly extravagances, of thought and expression; it is something else for the official opinion of the Court to do so. Of course the opinion's showy profundities are often profoundly incoherent.

The nature of marriage is that, through its enduring bond, two persons together can find other freedoms, such as expression, intimacy, and spirituality.

Really? Who ever thought that intimacy and spirituality [whatever that means] were freedoms? And if intimacy is, one would think Freedom of Intimacy is abridged rather than expanded by marriage. Ask the nearest hippie. Expression, sure enough, is a freedom, but anyone in a long-lasting marriage will attest that that happy state constricts, rather than expands, what one can prudently say.

Rights, we are told, can

. . . rise . . . from a better informed understanding of how constitutional imperatives define a liberty that remains urgent in our own era.

Huh? How can a better informed understanding of how constitutional imperatives [whatever that means] define [whatever that means] an urgent liberty [never mind], give birth to a right?

And we are told that, "[i]n any particular case," either the Equal Protection or Due Process Clause

. . . may be thought to capture the essence of [a] right in a more accurate and comprehensive way. . .

than the other,

. . . even as the two Clauses may converge in the identification and definition of the right.

What say? What possible "essence" does substantive due process "capture" in an "accurate and comprehensive way"? It stands for nothing whatever, except those freedoms and entitlements that this Court really likes. And the Equal Protection Clause, as employed today, identifies nothing except a difference in treatment that this Court really dislikes. Hardly a distillation of essence. If the opinion is correct that the two clauses "converge in the identification and definition of [a] right," that is only because the majority's likes and dislikes are predictably compatible.

I could go on. The world does not expect logic and precision in poetry or inspirational pop-philosophy; it demands them in the law. The stuff contained in today's opinion has to diminish this Court's reputation for clear thinking and sober analysis.

Hubris is sometimes defined as overweening pride; and pride, we know, goeth before a fall. The Judiciary is the "least dangerous" of the federal branches because it has

. . . neither Force nor Will, but merely judgment; and must ultimately depend upon the aid of the executive arm . . .

and the States, "even for the efficacy of its judgments." With each decision of ours that takes from the People a question properly left to them - with each decision that is unabashedly based not on law, but on the "reasoned judgment" of a bare majority of this Court - we move one step closer to being reminded of our impotence. *

Wednesday, 16 December 2015 12:07

Now Make Them Sell Ham

Now Make Them Sell Ham

Michael D. Dean

Michael Dean, an attorney who litigates in defense of Christian liberties.

I'm a Gentile. I like a good club sandwich. Even a BLT once in a while.

No doubt there are Orthodox and Islamic folks who think that's sinful. But until recently, it never occurred to me to call a Kosher deli or a Halal butcher and order a ham on rye. Or find something they actually do sell and ask them to cater it to a baptism or Easter service or first communion or some other place or time they find offensive.

Orthodox and Moslem vendors discriminate. And in one way or another, so do most other people for whom religion (or anything else) still actually means something.

But in a free country, you live and let live. Because calling out the equal rights police and the torch and pitchfork media to burn a religious dissenter in the public square is stupid, mean, and vicious.

Then a few months ago I saw an interview with the Indiana woman who'd gone into hiding after Pizza-Nacht, now trying to put back together her life and business shredded by the Brownshirts that pass for main stream media.

Assuming there really was a ceremony and not just another polemic media stunt, the special couple apparently decided to celebrate the most meaningful day of their lives with take-out. Then somehow managed to find the one pizza joint in the entire Western hemisphere that had a problem delivering double pepperoni to a same-sex celebration.

In a rational live and let live world, when I find out a deli is kosher, I say OK, and order my ham on rye some place else. And when the decent 99 percent of gays in America find out a pizza parlor is Christian, they say OK, and order a veggie supreme from one of the 50,000 stores in Indiana that don't care.

But live and let live isn't what destroying the pizza lady was about. It wasn't even about whether she would serve gays - my guess is she's served hundreds over the years and never thought twice about it.

No, a gay ceremony is an expressive event, and demanding that a Christian cater it is about making her personally participate in, ever so slightly, something that violates her conscience. It's about forcing her to help express and implicitly endorse, even incidentally, an idea she disagrees with.

And forcing those they disagree with to violate conscience by endorsing and participating in something abhorrent is what the left is always about.

Abortion zealots have been at it for years. Co-opt police and regulators to force a pro-life pharmacist or company to sell or pay for an abortifacient. Force a pro-life nurse or doctor to help kill a human being in utero.

It doesn't matter that drugs and abortions are easily available from someone else. Force that Christian to drop just the tiniest pinch of incense on Caesar's altar. And if she refuses, turn the lions loose.

The left has never been about tolerance. That's just a mantra for the gullible until they run things. Once they're in charge, the "right of privacy" between a woman and her doctor to kill a human being becomes the right to violate someone else's privacy and force someone else's doctor to kill a human being. Once they're in charge, it's no longer about forcing government to tolerate and recognize "gay marriage" - it's about forcing every last private individual in the country to do so too. Or be destroyed.

Left-wing zealots know - as fascists have always known - that if they can make a Christian not just tolerate something abhorrent, but affirmatively endorse or participate in it - then she's violated her conscience, and they have her.

The baiters and knee-jerk media obsess that pizza lady is like white restaurants refusing to serve blacks. Not even close.

Besides the fact that race and same-gender sex aren't remotely the same (in bearing and raising children, race doesn't matter, gender obviously does), there's a world of difference between selling someone the same thing you sell everyone else, and being forced to sell it in a way that makes you endorse and participate in expression and ideas that violate your conscience.

Of course it's a double standard. Think about the lying, never-knew-the-Ray-Rice-elevator-video-existed-but-now-I'm-really-really-shocked commissioner of the misogynistic NFL, that brave behemoth that threatened to pull the Super Bowl from Arizona if the governor signed legislation protecting bakers and photographers from being forced to create and sell messages that violated their consciences - mom and pop businesses that wanted nothing more than the same protection demanded by the NFL's 32 multi-billion dollar franchises, every last one of which reserves the absolute right to control and censor the images, messages and advertising fans and customers bring into their publicly-funded places of business. (Think you'll ever see John 3:16 in an end zone again?)

If you think I'm wrong, do you really want Orthodox and Muslims forced to butcher and sell pork as the price of earning a living? Do you really want Black Muslim and Planned Parenthood bookstores forced to sell and deliver New Testaments and pro-life pamphlets? Do you really want gay ad agencies forced to design and execute Christian ad campaigns? Or vice versa?

And if you still think I'm wrong, call Roger Goodell. The NFL could use someone with your talent. *

Wednesday, 16 December 2015 12:07

Faith and Untethered Delusion

Our Mission Is to Reawaken the Genuine America Spirit . . .

Faith and Untethered Delusion

Barry MacDonald - Editorial

I try to see the best in people and to understand that bitterness defeats itself.

The Left is always angry and they are full of energy - they derive strength through accusation. They have a master narrative: America is an oppressor nation. Black men are being murdered by racist police because racism is in America's DNA. White privilege pervades society. White males are raping coeds on college campuses. Religious people hate homosexuals and want to punish them. The litany of accusations is vast and so much of it is founded on fabrication and deceit.

The narrative is an old revolutionary trick. It creates an army of progressive crusaders who believe their opponents are demons against whom viciousness is justified. Truthfulness is not important but the amount of anger generated is. Lies are useful tools in advancing the political agenda - the grasping of ever more power.

It would be easier to have sympathy for the deluded leftists if we weren't being smeared, and our livelihoods, property, and prosperity weren't at risk, but we are in a battle to preserve a decent society and we will need to call upon whatever reserves of strength and faith we have to be successful.

Consider the effects of resentment, and be wary of falling into the trap yourself, because that's what happens in battles - anger generates anger in a tit for tat dynamic.

Resentment is a malignant obsession that focuses the attention narrowly to a few points or a single point. All mitigating factors are eliminated, and so resentment is a form of blindness. There is little room for the patient and objective-minded pursuit of truth because the space is taken by catch phrases and slogans. Passion arises and the resulting behavior is capable of great damage. People who disagree become monsters to be destroyed by any means necessary. So many humane qualities are forgone: kindness, gentleness, consideration, compassion, benevolence, justice and, most importantly, the communication of different points of view through which a deeper view of truth is discovered.

Anger is a natural human emotion and at times it is a proper and just response, but it is difficult to keep within proper bounds once it is summoned and directed by political operatives skilled in manipulation. I strive for balance, and to address issues dispassionately, as Abraham Lincoln did.

Habitual consuming anger created and manipulated by demagogues for political gain corrodes and distorts the unfortunate soul who is captured by the fervor of a revolutionary narrative. For the deluded pawn, what chance is there for lasting satisfaction or happiness? Perhaps even his dreams are saturated with bitterness.

What distinguishes conservatives from the revolutionary progressives? We believe in a transcendent moral order that comes from God. We have faith that morals are built into the nature of things and that decency is a reflection of God's grace.

We have been characterized as fuddy-duddies, stubbornly, and defiantly holding on to our worn-out ways of behavior. This is mistaken. We conservatives may disagree among ourselves about how things should be going forward, but as a whole, I believe, we do rely on revelation: That governance should be grounded on solid and humane principles revealed to us through our practice of faith. We believe that we should adapt in partnership with the divine. We are a collection of different faiths and we are willing to compromise within moral bounds.

The challenge and adventure for us is to discover how to adapt ourselves to ever-evolving circumstances while at the same time preserving ordered liberty, human dignity, free enterprise, property rights, free expression, and the loving care of children within healthy families.

Progressives often refer to "social constructs" when addressing matters of race, gender, abortion, right and wrong, etc. I've been puzzled by the term - what do they mean? I believe they mean that "society" decides how to parcel out divisions of race and gender. "Society" decides how to value an unborn child's life. And how does society decide? The few people at the top use power to make up the rules - might makes right.

To Progressives there are no sacred rules, and our most intimate moral precepts are subject to ridicule and revision.

Progressives don't have a problem with the use of power; in fact, they want to acquire all the power they possibly can. And they want to punish political opponents, but that's not tyranny. Tyranny is when white Christian males have the power.

Progressives may profess to be people of faith, but their behavior doesn't reflect it - perhaps they are honestly deluded. What kind of faith supports the routine use of viciousness and deceit?

Do progressives search for the nature of a transcendent moral order? Do they believe there is a power higher than the elite few who control government? I don't think so.

I am not sure what progressive "principles" are. Bruce Jenner proclaims himself to be a woman - we are expected to agree. A blond, blue-eyed Rachel Dolezal pretends to be a black woman crusading against an oppressive culture - we are supposed to admire her bravery in challenging "social constructs." Planned Parenthood kills babies and harvests organs from the bodies, further desensitizing Americans to an increasingly barbaric practice - and we are called extremists for objecting.

Progressives always progress - that's what's truly scary about them. Where will their totalitarian urges take us next? Aren't we justified in being angry with them? Yes, of course.

But we shouldn't allow ourselves to be consumed with hatred and bitterness because we do believe in a transcendent moral order - this is our strength, that we place trust in God as we do everything we can to oppose progressivism. We should allow God to work his will - this is a resource the progressives don't have.

Abraham Lincoln is a wonderful example. With his armies he fought the Civil War to the utmost while he held to his principles and preserved his humanity.

In Charleston, South Carolina, Dylann Roof passed an hour in the company of church members having a Bible study. He almost desisted from his intentions because the congregants were so welcoming, but his hatred determined him. He shot and killed nine decent people.

Rioting and looting didn't happen in Charleston as they did in Ferguson or Baltimore. Al Sharpton found no leverage to raise a mob because authentic Christianity is practiced at the Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, and the people of Charleston wouldn't permit it.

The public heartfelt forgiveness of Dylann Roof by the families of the murdered victims should be a magnificent example to us all. *

Wednesday, 16 December 2015 12:05

Summary for June 2015

The following is a summary of the June/July 2015 issue of the St. Croix Review:

In the editorial, "Abraham Lincoln, Part II," Barry MacDonald completes a view of Abraham Lincoln's extraordinary character.

Allan Brownfeld, in "Anarchy and Conservatism: Two Contradictory Philosophies in Danger of Collision," makes distinctions between "ideology" and "principles" to reveal much confusion within the conservative movement; in "White Racism Is the Scapegoat in Baltimore, Not the Culprit," he points to de-industrialization and the breakdown of families as first causes; in What Hillary Clinton's Attempt to Re-create Herself Tells Us About American Politics," he writes that Hillary epitomizes the phoniness of modern campaigns.

Mark W. Hendrickson, in "Negative Interests Rates: A Brilliant Concept," looks hard for rationality behind a novel development but finds only dysfunction; in "Nobel Economist Joseph Stiglitz Misdiagnoses Inequality and the Cause of Middle Class Woes," he sees progressive ideology distorting economic sense; in "Free to Speak His Own Mind, Ben Bernanke Shows Himself to Be an Unreconstructed Orthodox Keynesian" he sees the former Federal Reserve Chairman really does have a "puppeteer mentality."

Paul Kengor, in "Attacks on Scott Walker Remind Us of Reagan," documents and rebuts small-minded attacks on the Wisconsin Governor.

Herbert London, in "Self-Censorship and the First Amendment," believes too many in the West are paralyzed by fear; in "Big Questions: The Great Books Have No Simple Answers," he states why Great Books are necessary; in "Hillary's Foreign Policy 'Achievements'," he considers Hillary Clinton's supposed accomplishment: setting up a sanctions regimen on Iran; in "President Obama's Nuclear Weapons Vision," he questions President Obama's sense in seeking to reduce our deterrent capability.

In "Pope Francis on the Academic Concept of Gender," Thomas Martin points out vapid liberal responses to statements made by the Pope.

Nicholas D. Ward, in "Magna Carta and American Law," explores how the "Great Charter" has been reinterpreted through hundreds of years in the United Kingdom and the U.S. It established the principle of a law "higher" than the King.

Jo Ann Gardner, in "Understanding Exodus," provides a full account of the Biblical story.

Jigs Gardner, in "Letters from a Conservative Farmer: The Last Deal," shares an account of dreamers manipulating each other.

Jigs Gardner, in "Writers for Conservatives 55: John Dos Passos (1897-1970)," writes about the author's inspiration and the "American Renaissance" movement.

Fayette Durlin and Peter Jenkin, in "Survey of Conservative Magazines," review essays from First Things, Claremont Review, and National Review.

Wednesday, 16 December 2015 12:05

Survey of Conservative Magazines

Survey of Conservative Magazines

Fayette Durlin and Peter Jenkin

Fayette Durlin and Peter Jenkin write from Brownsville, Minnesota.

We have not written any Surveys for a while because conservative magazines were full, last summer, of speculation about the coming elections, and afterwards were preoccupied with the results and what would follow - pretty insignificant stuff. Now, however, we have some interesting issues and fruitful discussions in the conservative press, and we are back on the job.

Sadly, we have to report a gap in the ranks, a grievous loss. The American Spectator stopped publication last summer without the grace to inform subscribers. We subscribed to the magazine back in the 1980s, and we miss it (a digital version exists for online subscribers).

We had all but given up on First Things which, under the editorship of R. R. Reno, had become essentially a sectarian Catholic publication, and worse, was boring. Mr. Reno is prolix and so is D. B. Hart, who writes a feature. Nothing is so deadly in a magazine as acres of uninspired prose. The May issue, still suffering from the editor's prolixity, nevertheless has managed to publish three first-rate pieces worthy of our attention. The first is the lead editorial by Mr. Reno, "Success Is Not Dignity," taking issue with Robert Putnam's book Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis, whose thesis is that "College-educated people are largely functional, while less-educated people are increasingly dysfunctional." But, as Mr. Reno points out:

Today, the poor lack social capital first and foremost, not financial capital. They are spiritually impoverished more than educationally disadvantaged.

His argument is eloquent:

It means policies that punish divorce and reward marriage. It means getting serious about limiting pornography and resisting the temptation to legalize drugs. It means affirming gender roles that encourage men to act like gentlemen and women like ladies.

Yes, it is much too wordy, but the case is made and we can now see clearly the limits of the utilitarian, meritocratic approach.

The second coup is a long (but not too wordy) essay by Daniel Mahoney on Solzhenitsyn's 6,000 page saga, The Red Wheel, that begins as a historical novel, "but in sections, turns into dramatic history with no fictional characters at all, only historical ones." Some years ago we read the "August 1914" section and were not impressed, concluding that no matter how good he was at factual prose, Solzhenitsyn was not a writer of fiction. The Mahoney article, which discusses the whole epic in considerable detail, makes us want to read the entire, now revised, text. It not only makes clear what Solzhenitsyn was up to, but also arouses our curiosity and interest.

The third triumph is "The Great Interpreter" by Michael and Luke Paulsen, who argue that Lincoln, in the Civil War crisis, shaped the Constitution as we know it now, because his response to secession was to follow a strict reading of that document and of his duties as President: America was a nation, not a confederation of sovereign states, and it was his duty to "preserve, protect, and defend" the Union. The war itself decided the issue. Lincoln's election, and thus endorsement of his position on limiting slavery by keeping it out of the territories, led to secession, which led to war, to the emancipation Proclamation, the North's victory, and the Thirteenth Amendment abolishing slavery - all within five years. Lincoln's vision of the Union, a matter of heated debate before the war, became the settled opinion of the nation. Furthermore, he did this in the face of the Dred Scott decision because he thought that:

The Supreme Court's decisions are not supreme over the Constitution itself, and therefore cannot bind other responsible actors in the exercise of their independent constitutional responsibilities.

The authors strongly support the argument, although it seems not to prevail today. This excellent essay amplifies our view of Lincoln and the whole legal background of the time.

The winter issue of the Claremont Review (which arrives in spring) continues to improve and this issue contains, besides several tributes to the late Henry Jaffa, a fine appreciation of Martin Gilbert by David Pryce-Jones, an excellent review of Hillel Halkin's biography of Vladimir Jabotinsky, father of the Israeli Right, and a sharp review by Ronald Radosh of two books about the notorious Lillian Hellman.

Horrible Hillary is always good for a laugh, and in the April 6 issue of National Review James Lileks and Rob Long both satirize the e-mail kerfuffle. Lileks presents "e-mails from the low-level techs who administered Clinton email.com, written to its primary user," and I quote one:

Just wanted to thank you for the experience of a lifetime! Flying over the ocean in a helicopter with SEALs and watching them throw the drive out the door and destroy it with a missile was AWESOME.

Long quotes e-mails from a "customer support group." Here's one:

Unit no longer processing human warmth. Unit seems to be displaying signs of total breakdown in Natural Human empathy Algorithm. This has been repaired and repaired several times and EACH TIME it suddenly lurches into malfunction without sending the error code.

They are both amusing, but Long's humor cuts much deeper, we think. *

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