Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Congress shall make no law

Jerry Pournelle made an interesting point today that clarifies a bit in our federal constitution:
The Constitution specifically allowed the States to have established religions -- "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion" and for the first forty years of the Republic some states had religions "by law established" which meant mostly tax paid clergy and public prayer at public events. Virginia had disestablished the Church of England before the Constitution was adopted, but seven of the thirteen States had Established Churches, and Congress had no power whatever to disestablish them (nor or course could it establish a Federal religion). There is on the Harvard campus what Russell Seitz is pleased to call "the established Federalist Church" and I believe it still stands and functions.

One wonders if it might not be better to do as the Framers intended, and leave religion to the States. I doubt any would establish a church, but certainly they have a right to do that.
Too often, we take our inferences ("separation of church and state", for example) to be fundamental facts. Here, our venerable wall of separation is seen to dissolve into its one simple element: Congress shall make no law...

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Bigger government! Smaller government!

By my lights, Ray Bradbury isn't making much sense. In one paragraph he wants President Obama to announce that we (which, in context, can only mean We the Government) should be going to the Moon and Mars, etc., and in the next paragraph he says, "There is too much government today." Choose one, Mr Bradbury.

Perhaps Mr Obama's only true success since January 2009 is his evisceration of NASA's manned space program, which is one of the first few necessary steps toward opening space to ordinary people eager to do great things and make a buck while doing them. It's fine to have NASA working on propulsion systems and deep solar system exploration; meanwhile, get NASA out of Earth orbit and let us get up there ourselves.

Monday, August 16, 2010


I'm beginning to think modern society is trapped in a nightmare: read the Suburban Banshee's report about what she saw on teevee tonight. I think the hormonal poison/abortifacient she's referring to is Seasonique.

We too should translate some books

From King Alfred's preface to his own Anglo-Saxon translation of Gregory's Pastoral Rule:
When I then called to mind all this, then I remembered how I saw, ere that all in them was laid waste and burnt up, how the churches throughout all the English race stood filled with treasures and books, and also a great multitude of God's servants, but they knew very little use of those books, for that they could not understand anything of them, for that they were not written in their own language, such as they, our elders, spoke, who erewhile held these places; they loved wisdom, and through that got wealth, and left it to us. Here men may yet see their path, but we know not how to tread in their footsteps, inasmuch as we have both lost that wealth and wisdom, for that we would not with our minds stoop to their tracks.

When I then called to mind all this, I then wondered greatly about those good and wise men that have been of old among the English race, and who had fully learned all the books, that they have not been willing to turn any part of them into their own language. But then I soon again answered myself and said, "They did not think that men would ever become so reckless, and that learning should fall off in such a way. Of set purpose, then, they let it alone, and wished that there should be more wisdom in this land the more languages we knew."

Then I remembered how the Law was first found in the Hebrew tongue, and again, when the Greeks learnt it, then they turned the whole of it into their own language, and also all the other books. And again the Latins also in the same way, when they had learned it, turned it all through wise interpreters into their own language, and likewise all other Christian nations have translated some part into their own speech. Wherefore I think it better, if it also appears so to you, that we too should translate some books, which are the most necessary for all men to understand - that we should turn these into that tongue which we all can know, and so bring it about, as we very easily may, with God's help, if we have rest, that all the youth that now is among the English race, of free men, that have property, so that they can apply themselves to these things, may be committed to others for the sake of instruction, so long as they have no power for any other employments, until the time that they may know well how to read English writing. Let men afterwards further teach them Latin, those whom they are willing further to teach, and whom they wish to advance to a higher state.

In my tribe

Kathy Shaidle keeps saying, "We will ALL default to our tribes when the time comes." Who's your tribe? Mine is basically small-town Midwestern WASPs, people who keep their yards mowed and research genealogy and take care of old forgotten cemeteries and raise big batches of kids.

Speaking of which, we went to a family reunion recently - our small branch of the Bragg family. One of the older ladies noticed our large crew - Lisa, me and four of our five kids, and noted with a bit of sadness that "there aren't many children anymore." It was a chilling moment. Our family reunions used to have more kids than adults, but at this one there were only five - our four and one other little boy. Things change so slowly it's hard to notice the changes day-by-day; but when someone stops to compare life today to life fifty years ago, the changes for the worse are shocking.

Somewhere around here...

...some Green lunatic is thinking, "now there's a good idea."

Such is education

Here's a bit by Roger Pearse, our great commissioner of classical translations, from his engaging post "Why We Need Akkadian" - I've left the part about Akkadian for your enjoyment at his blog; I wish to excerpt this bit about a good book he once read:
I remember the last time I ever went punting at Oxford. I bought, in a now vanished bookshop in St. Clements, an old ‘Everyman’ volume to read. The cover had gone, and someone had recovered it with some brown paper. Written on the brown paper in felt-tip were the words, “A century of English essays”. But I took it with me, and read as we punted into the Cherwell, along the green-brown muddy river and under the trailing trees. I have it still. It introduced me to the essays of Augustine Birrell. These in turn led me to Dr. Johnson, to an appreciation even of Gibbon, whom I might otherwise have known only as a less-than-honest polemicist, and a score more. Such is education, and a university the opportunity to acquire it.

One thing leads to another

Kathy Shaidle issues one of her patented brilliant takedowns of modern "culture".

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Around town

My Grandpa was a small-town building contractor in his younger days in Findlay, Illinois, and it's good to see that the houses he built are still lived in today. Here's one on the north edge of town that was rented by some hippie painter back in the early 70s - Mom may still have one of his psychedelic works in her closet. Here are a couple more; I grew up in the one on the left and Grandma and Grandpa lived in the other (hey - they cut down his evergreen tree!)

If you look to the north from that first house, you'll see a gloriously flat horizon.