The Stoic Traveler

"Wherever I go, it will be well with me."

30 November 2007

Variations I

L.A.S. s.d. C.L.:

There is a new push, according to the New York Times today, to repeal the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"(DADT/10 U.S.C. ss 654) policy crafted by Gen. Colin Powell under President Clinton.

Good, great, grand: I'm all ready to apply to OCS when they do.

There's just one problem: the repeal would be empty.

Even if section 654 were altered, there would still be the problem of the UCMJ, Uniform Code of Military Justice, which makes sodomy a crime. Unless this provision is removed or in some way abrogated, which can only be done formally by act of Congress, a gay serviceman is still subject to criminal penalties. Of course, it would no longer be for being gay, just acting gay.

Sail the middle course, I suppose.



28 November 2007


L.A.S. s.d. C.L.:

There are times in life when we must come clean. None of us is without fault. I am inclined to think life would be rather dull if we were perfect.
I hereby confess: I am a political snob. I long for a real debate in politics, for politicians that can really speak the speech as 'twas pronounced, and for something more satisfying than the soundbite.
Fortunately, a friend passed along this bit of absolution: In Defense of Uppitiness.
Mr. Greenberg is quite right about "conservatism-as-attitude": it is a belief that there are things in the past worth bringing into the present, and that action should be taken with reference to first principles. He forgets, unfortunately, that it is not merely for our own health that we bring them. The good in our past is also a legacy for our children and to future generations.
Those of us in the present are bound by salutary chains to the generations before and after. Whether we will or no, the institutions and actions of distant ancestors shape our immediate present. Our actions, in turn, will shape the future in the form of our last testaments.
I do not believe that an unchanging, Roman veneration of the mos maiorum, customs of the ancestors, is the correct way to pass along our estate. We ought to improve upon what was given to us, but ought not to change for the sake of change. A good change is considered, small, and careful.

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22 November 2007

As the Athenians Do

L.A.S. s.d. C.L.:

Today, my friend, is, in the United States, a national day of Thanksgiving. It is a day we are to set aside from our usual workaday to show gratitude for the good things bestowed upon us by the Almighty, and to eat vast quantities of Turkey.
One of the enduring traditions or, some might say, parodies of this pious day is the long-winded grace. Such a prayer goes on for ever, as turkey turns cold and dry, potatoes lump, and gravy congeals. The Stoic sages even turned their attention to such things, although without thoughts of ruined meals (for, after all, "ruin" is but a perception):

"A prayer of the Athenians: Rain, rain, O dear Zeus, down on the ploughed fields of the Athenians and on the plains.- In truth we ought not to pray at all, or we ought to pray in this simple and noble fashion." - Meditations, 5.7

The Emperor has a twofold point. For the Stoic Sage (the hypothetical culmination of Stoic thought), all things are as they ought to be and must be endured. Prayer, therefore, is not only pointless, it is damaging to practice. For the rest of us, perhaps we should keep our entreaties to the Almighty short, clear, and to the point.
I wish you, my dear friends, a happy Thanksgiving, and offer hopes that your harvest was bountiful, and that your winter be not too arduous.



15 November 2007


L.A.S. s.d. C.L.:

We all have our guilty little pleasures, amice. They are the (usually) harmless activities that we hesitate to mention in polite company. The internet, however, is not polite company; judging by some forums I have read, it barely qualifies as "company," and is certainly not polite. One of my guilty pleasures is the television show Kid Nation on CBS.
The premise is simple: forty kids, ages 8 to 15, move to an old Western movie set in New Mexico. There, they try to build a society by consulting an "old" journal "from the late 1800s," and acting on its "suggestions." Each week there is a new "suggestion," each one invariably divisive and destructive of unity and a well-functioning body politic. Suggestions have included literally dividing the town in to districts (Red, Blue, Green, Yellow) for purposes of the weekly Showdown, introducing religious services (led, of course, by the kids), and, most recently, attempting to "equalize" the districts, so that every district is on an equal competitive footing.
In what might be the most egregious display of the show's Marxist bias, there is a scene in this week's episode in which the Town Council members (the four-kid "ruling" body) try to divvy up the strong kids, the hard workers, and the well-spirited through negotiations among themselves. They give no consideration to the feelings of the transplanted kids, no thought to what might be considered the semi-spontaneous ordering of their proto-society. Their thought is for "the greater good" and "making Showdowns fair" for everyone.
The result of their "fairness" is a complete wash in the showdown, angered and unhappy citizens, and, most likely, a complete reshuffling of the Council next week. The object lesson is clear: central planning fails.

12 November 2007

In Flanders Field

In Flanders Fields
Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD
Canadian Army

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Beneath the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders Fields

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

08 November 2007

Jawohl Mein Fu--Mr. President!

L.A.S. s.d. C.L.:

My most favoritest person in the world, Dr. James Dobson, seems to want to cause trouble again:

"He is the leader of the evangelical and social conservative movement in America, and he's going to reassert that position and leave no doubt that he's in charge," says the adviser based in Colorado.

The Leader is going to reassert his position, and leave no doubt as to his authority by endorsing Mike Huckabee for President.
It is entirely possible that Gov. Huckabee of Arkansas is a fine man, an upstanding Christian, even a good governor. I have nothing against Mike Huckabee. I would warn him against seeking endorsements from avowed theocratic authoritarians.
Before I go further, I should point out, in the interest of fairness, that Dr. Dobson has done quite a lot of good in his life. His work with families is really great, his ministry is excellent. When he gets political, he frightens me. Terrifies me, in fact.
Dr. Dobson wants power and does not seem to care how he uses it. He has a sanctified mindset that equates all victories with the benevolence of God, and all defeats as the result of God’s wrath. Every institution of man has been ordained by God for man’s benefit. The insistent language of his advisor (e.g., “the leader,” “reassert,” and “in charge”) indicates that Dobson believes he has been wronged, and that he will reclaim what is rightfully his here on earth in the 2008 Presidential election. Engaging in a bit of remote psychoanalysis, the 21st century’s favorite parlor game, I might even suggest that Dobson sees his irrelevance to the ’08 campaign thus far as indicative of God’s displeasure.
Of further concern is the idea of Dobson being “the” evangelical leader. It is, of course, utterly impossible that there be multiple leaders of the evangelical movement. Pat Robertson, the late Jerry Falwell don’t enter into it. There can be only One. It does sound vaguely familiar.

Leaving aside the faint sound of leather riding boots and clipped German echoing from Colorado Springs, I could have sworn evangelical Christians in the United States, or anywhere for that matter, already had a leader. Granted, He’s not really disposed right now to endorse political candidates in person, probably a bit busy redeeming mankind and explicitly avoiding political disputes.

07 November 2007

Merges Rex

L.A.S. s.d. C.L.:

Wandering the internet today, I found this mildly interesting story about corn. One line stood out in particular:
The filmmakers are "talking about overproduction, and that's one thing that we see that's different from two years ago," Williamson said. "We're not seeing overproduction. The market is able to sustain it," thanks in large part to an ethanol boom.

Utter codswallop.

Market be damned, the ethanol "boom" has nothing to do with markets. It has everything to do with subsidies and the nigh-unlimited, unwarranted power of the corn lobby. Dr. Scammington can explain the problems with the ethanol nonsense better than I.

Taking a moment to think, it would seem that the corn lobby is, in fact, the most powerful lobby in the United States today. It has singlehandedly driven the U.S. Federal Government into supporting an unreasonable fuel, locks out sugar imports (and helps keep America fat), and wins billions a year in subsidies for poor family farmers like Archer-Daniels-Midland. Furthermore, its actions, as Dr. Scammington says, have caused a general increase in the price of food around the world.

I think I need to become a lobbyist.



06 November 2007

Epistolas Incipio De Novo

L.A.S. s.d. C.L.

I have been too lax in writing to you, amice, too caught up in worldly affairs and the worries of the day, to take time to set my thoughts to paper. The third time, they say, is the charm and I will take advantage of that maxim to re-build and expand the edifice I began thirteen months ago.

You know, I presume, that I have taken a pseudonym in these epistles. I do not pretend that this pseudonym actually shields my identity. Indeed, I often presume that you, dear reader, are at least vaguely aware of my foibles, views, and general opinions. So if the pseudonym is not really a protection, why use it? Why not use my real name?

I use the pseudonym for two main reasons. First, because it provides me a kind of cover, an excuse to use the grandiloquent style I have admired since I was a kid. And second, because I believe it connects me more immediately to my ideas.

You have probably noticed that my writing is not typical of a 21st century American. I write in an archaic style: "misplacing" relative clauses, using Latin expressions, expanding infinitives and purpose clauses, and using affectations such as "dear reader," among other tropes. In most cases, I use far too many words; enough to make at least two teachers of mine scream.

In normal writing, when writing as part of an assignment or specific task, my prose is clear and concise. I excise my hard-won, celestial Latin in favor of earthly German. While I relish the challenge of translating complicated ideas into clear thought, I daily wish I could use the high eloquence of Cicero, or Hamilton, or Burke.

My second reason stems from my first exposure to serious political and philosophical writing: the Federalist Papers. Written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay under the pseudonym Publius, the Federalist set out the case for the American federal constitution. Using "Publius," after the Republican Founder Publius Valerius Publicola, stronger in Roman Republican history than Brutus, Caesar, or even Cato, connected the Federalists with a deep Republican tradition and emphasized the vetus in the novus ordo seclorum that the American Experiment represents.

Using a Classical pseudonym, I believe, helps connect me to the things that I admire, to the American Founders, to the Romans, and to the intellectual world I hope to engage.

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