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Man of the West
Atlantic, Iowa, USA
Eccentric Anglo-American who love to discuss all the interests listed below plus just about everything else.
Interests: History, Christianity, Culture, Religion, US Politics, UK Politics, Political Philosophy, Books, Literature, Art, Europe and America, World History, Medieval History, Historical Literature, Historical Re-Enactment, Being Excessively Geeky, Being an Information Junkie Interested in Just About Everything, Walking, Fencing, Western Martial Arts, Shooting, Acting, Photography... If I've never heard of it I'm interested in it because I've never heard of it...
Recent Activity Putting this here so it is preserved for posterity. This is a trend I've been aware of for some time, but this article does a good job of showing the depth of the craziness. I'll just make a few comments: If you think that a university is a place where you should never be exposed to "uncomfortable" ideas, thoughts or speech... I suggest you've completely failed to understand the meaning of the word, or indeed the purpose of education. If you think the "right" not to be offended trumps the right to free speech, I suggest that whatever you call yourself, "liberal" is not appropriate, and you really need to read some J.S. Mill... If you think that a "free society" is one in which you never have to feel discomfitted, challenged or (yes) threatened by someone else's ideas or speech, one which protects you from these things... then you and I have radically incompatible ideas of what "freedom" means. And if you think that you are acheiving a victory for a good society when you use intimidation and threats of disruption to shut down a debate... I am really very scared what your vision of a good society... Continue reading
Posted Nov 22, 2014 at Man of the West
Hobby Lobby thoughts… After a brief flurry of links, I haven’t commented much on the Supreme Court’s decision in the Hobby Lobby case and the resulting controversy. In part, that’s because I got bronchitis and was rather out of it for a week and am still distinctly under par, and felt like I wasn’t capable of thinking clearly enough about the issue. But also, as time went on, and I read more and more comment and response, I found myself getting more and more depressed and scared by the debate. Not by the decision, which (I think) I broadly support, or by the passionate disagreement with it, which I expected. But by the debate, and what I was seeing happen in discussions of the issue. My Facebook friends list includes an extremely wide variety of political and religious beliefs, from Atheist European Socialists to American Fundamentalist Christian Conservatives via Moderates, Anarchists, Right-libertarians and more. So I saw a lot of different discussions, and links to many articles from different perspectives. And across nearly all of them, I have rarely seen such total failure to really communicate. It’s not that agreement wasn’t reached: I didn’t expect that. It’s that there has... Continue reading
Posted Jul 9, 2014 at Man of the West
Security expert Bruce Schneier writes on our cultures increasing risk aversion and our poor ability to assess the reality of different risks - and the dangers these pose to our societies. This is the cultural/psychological background to so much of what I've been writing about/linking to recently. Our Newfound Fear of Risk We're afraid of risk. It's a normal part of life, but we're increasingly unwilling to accept it at any level. So we turn to technology to protect us. The problem is that technological security measures aren't free. They cost money, of course, but they cost other things as well. They often don't provide the security they advertise, and -- paradoxically -- they often increase risk somewhere else. This problem is particularly stark when the risk involves another person: crime, terrorism, and so on. While technology has made us much safer against natural risks like accidents and disease, it works less well against man-made risks. ... and more. Really good stuff to keep in mind whenever we're reading about or thinking about the debate about the balance between liberty and security, freedom and safety. Continue reading
Posted Sep 10, 2013 at Man of the West
Ok, here, in my opinion, is an example of how to use knowledge of the past well to aid in analysing a situation in the present. Nicholas Quinn Rosenkrantz, Law Professor at Georgetown University, examines President Obama's announcement that he is delaying implementation of the Business Mandate of the Affordable Care Act, aka "ObamaCare" for a year, and compares and contrasts it with Lincoln's suspensions of Constitutional rights during the Civil War. For those, especially non-Americans, whose reaction to that sentence is "what on Earth can Lincoln suspending habeas corpus have to do with Obama suspending part of a healthcare law?!"... The answer is simple, really. Historians have been debating for 150 years whether Lincoln had the Constitutional power to do what he did. As Rosenkranz points out, he claimed he did, given the unusual and extreme circumstances - and referred to the Constitution in his explanation. Obama, on the other hand, isn't even bothering to answer the question "by what authority do you tell your administration to not enforce part of a law duly passed by Congress and signed into law by you?" I could go on about the fundamental contempt for fundamental law of this administration, but... Continue reading
Posted Aug 20, 2013 at Man of the West
Why do we read (or write)? C.S. Lewis answers – This post was prompted by 2 recent posts by friends, both writers (one professional, the as-yet unpublished). A few days ago Lars Walker (the professional) linked to an article on Christian fiction, asking the question “what is Christian fiction?” A week or 2 earlier, my friend Alex had posted a criticism of the advice to authors he had often encountered, to “write what you know”, arguing for imagination and exploration in writing. Both posts, in different ways, irresistibly made me think of perhaps the most eloquent defence of the value of literature I have ever read: the final chapter of C.S. Lewis’ An Experiment in Criticism. While I don’t have sales figures to hand, I would hazard a guess that An Experiment in Criticism is one of C.S, Lewis’ lesser known or appreciated works today. This is, in my humble and unlettered opinion, a great shame. As the title indicates, it’s actually about literary criticism, and it proposes a new approach. Reading Lewis’ analyses of the literary critics of his day, and the shortcomings of their approaches was both eye-opening and depressing. Eye-opening as I Lewis dissects their methods, and... Continue reading
Posted Aug 14, 2013 at Man of the West
Not quite sure how I stumbled across this article from 2010, buts its well worth it. Short but to the point. I'm particularly pleased that Hanson addresses the worrying denigration of the Liberal Arts and Humanities by so many on the Right in the USA. Its nothing new to me that PostModern liberals will look down their noses at the traditional Western vision of a Liberal Arts education, but what has surprised and worried me since coming to the USA is how many so-called conservatives and libertarians appear to consider a formal education in the Humanities a waste of time and money. For every 1 person I've read extolling the virtues of "Christian Classical Education", or bemoaning the removal of the classics from school reading lists, I've read at least 1, if not more people mocking or attacking the entire concept of spending time and money to study Art, Literature or History, certainly at any level above High School. Hanson calls it the "the utilitarian Right" - the view that any Higher Education that isn't, basically, direct training for a specific career or field of paid work is a luxurious indulgence at best or a criminally stupid waste of time... Continue reading
Posted Aug 10, 2013 at Man of the West
So, I was wondering whether to write another post on the Rule of Law, following the revelation that the Obama Administration is now adding "demanding the phone records of 10s of millions of random Americans" to its list of egregious outrages ... when I came across this. Since it sums up pretty much everything I've been trying to say in my several posts on this subject, and does so clearly, succinctly and passionately, my only problem with it is envy that I didn't write it myself. Conor Friedersdorf writes at The Atlantic: All the Infrastructure a Tyrant Would Need, Courtesy of Bush and Obama " Let's assume that George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Barack Obama, Joe Biden, their staffers, and every member of Congress for the last dozen years has always acted with pure motives in the realm of national security. Say they've used the power they've claimed, the technology they've developed, and the precedents they've established exclusively to fight al-Qaeda terrorists intent on killing us, that they've succeeded in disrupting what would've been successful attacks, and that Americans are lucky to have had men and women so moral, prudent, and incorruptible in charge. Few Americans believe all of that... Continue reading
Posted Jun 7, 2013 at Man of the West
How Mail On Sunday 'printed' first plastic gun in UK using a 3D printer- and then took it on board Eurostar without being stopped in security scandal Scandal!!! So, 2 reporters from the “Mail on Sunday” bought a £1700 3D Printer, downloaded a program from the internet, and printed a crude plastic .380 calibre pistol. Then they took it on a Eurostar ride to Paris without being detected. Horror! Disaster! The terrorists have won! Nobody is safe! We must Do Something! Well, far be it from me to suggest I might be better informed and more, ah, “wordly-wise” than a Mail on Sunday reporter, but I’d like to point out a few things they seem to have missed… The gaping hole in their hypothesis… According to the article, they assembled the gun but “did not load it for safety and legal reasons”. So, if they hadn’t been worried they might get in trouble, they’d have run down the road and picked up a box of .380 ACP ammunition? Oh, wait… In Britain (unlike in the USA), you can’t buy ammo at ASDA. You’d have to go to a Registered Firearms Dealer, who would ask to see your Firearms Certificate. Modern... Continue reading
Posted May 16, 2013 at Man of the West
A little while back I generated some good discussion (which I regret not continuing longer and digging deeper) when I posted about the case of the Romeike family, who applied for asylum in the USA after clashing with the German government over their desire to homeschool their children For those of you who were interested in that discussion, and thanks to a conversatio on Alan Noble's FB page, I bring you this fascinating piece - In which blogger The Paper Make-Weight (I have no idea who he/she is, but they appear to know law and can certainly write...) responds to a piece attempting to rebut the Home School Legal Defense Association's case againsty the US government. The majority of the original piece is quoted in that article, but for those of you who feel its only fair to read whats being critiqued in full first (a laudable goal!), here is the piece, by Libby Anne of Patheos blog "Love, Joy, Feminism". - As you might guess, I tend to agree with Paper Make-Weight, but its all good thought-provoking stuff! Continue reading
Posted Apr 22, 2013 at Man of the West
My friend Denis Haack, of Ransom Fellowship (awesome people, amazing writing, go to their website, sign up for their magazines, buy Margie's book...) blogged on the film "Zero Dark Thirty" and his thoughts on the Rule of Law and the fight against terrorism. His conclusion (similar to mine) : "We need to talk" I am not convinced, however, that as a people we have thought about this issue or discussed it sufficiently. That our leaders could so easily sacrifice our deepest ideals in the name of security is troubling. In fact, just war principles had been raised in the last few decades as justification for conflicts in which American soldiers would be participating. Why did such ethical considerations not enter the picture here? The rule of law in war is vital because without it a nation can win a conflict only to discover that in the process they have sacrificed their souls. Terrorism remains a sad fact in our broken world, the yearning for security still lingers amidst the fears generated by the daily news, and decisions need to be made about fresh threats as time goes by. We need to talk. ... Both topics, the use of torture and... Continue reading
Posted Mar 26, 2013 at Man of the West
Here, courtesy of the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), is one of those court cases which most people who aren't involved in the specific issues it touches on (homeschooling/home education, political asylum) will probably never notice at all - but which has profound implications. In one sense, its a simple case: Germany forbids homeschooling of school age children in all except a very, very few exceptional circumstances. Uwe and Hannelore Romeike wanted to homeschool their children and wouldn't take no for an answer. After being threatened with jail time and having their children taken to school by the police, the Romeikes left Germany for the USA. When they got here, they applied for political asylum, claiming the German government's treatment of them and other homeschooling families amounts to political persecution. The immigration judge agreed, and granted them asylum. The US government disagreed, and sucessfully appealed the ruling. They appealed, and now the case is before a Federal Appeals Court (1 step below the Supreme Court, where it could well end up if both parties are determined not to give up). "Simple" - but profoundly important. At its heart are some of the most important questions for any society: Who... Continue reading
Posted Feb 17, 2013 at Man of the West
Jason - Thankyou for that comment. I agree entirely. "Freedom isn't free" applies to all of us, not just the soldiers or policemen who risk their lives professionally. We have to ask ourselves if we really want to live in a free society, and if we do then we have to accept there is a considerable degree of risk involved. I don't believe in freedom because it is comfortable or safe in the immediate present. In the long term,a free society is probably the only society safe from the worst evils of evil government, but a tyranny can be quite safe for most of the population for quite a long time... and freedom is definitely awkward and uncomfortable.
So, great minds think alike, or something - found another disturbing-but-vitally-important piece by Glenn Greenwald on the destruction of the Rule of Law in the "War on Terror". If you don't have time to read it all, just read the first few paragraphs, because in them Greenwald makes 2 vitally important points: 1. Greenwald's opening sentence: A primary reason for opposing the acquisition of abusive powers and civil liberties erosions is that they virtually always become permanent, vested not only in current leaders one may love and trust but also future officials who seem more menacing and less benign. Yes! I had more than a few conversations, years back with American Republicans and British Labour supporters who weren't entirely comfortable with the loss of traditional liberties that happened under Bush and Blair, but defended the governments basically on the grounds the "they're good guys, we can trust them. He/they (Bush/Blair or their ministers) aren't tyrants". Well, personally I'd say that the traditional British view, and the entire US Constitution, presume the truth of "Acton's Axiom" - "all power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely". But even if we assume that Blair and Bush were incorruptible... that's beside... Continue reading
Posted Feb 6, 2013 at Man of the West
For more than 10 years now I've watched as both my countries have thrown away perhaps their most precious gift to the world, the concept of the Rule of Law as enshrined in the Common Law since Magna Carta. I've seen the "War on Terror" be used to justify throwing away rights considered fundamental since the 17th Century. I've written a few things on the subject - a couple of articles sent to friends but never published, a few "letters to the editor", a few letters to my elected representatives on both sides of the Atlantic. In the last few years in the USA, I've written less, falling almost stunned at how many on both sides of the political divide are willing to sell their birthrights for a mess of "National Security" pottage. And then today Glenn Greenwald wrote the article I wanted to write.... Well, ok, I wouldn't have written it exactly like that. It would have slightly different emphases, and also probably be nowhere near as well written. But Greenwald's article does what, sadly very few others do. It has the courage to assume that its readers can follow a point-by-point, detailed, argument on an important subject,... Continue reading
Posted Feb 5, 2013 at Man of the West
Well, this is something I've wanted to write about many times. I couldn't count how many times I've seen posts or comments from friends who lean more towards the left side of politics accusing Christians who are politically conservative of gross hypocrisy for their opposition towards some particular anti-poverty or welfare program, or their opposition to some regulation. This is particularly common from Europeans towards American "Christian Conservatives", whom many Europeans seem to believe can't possibly be Christians at all. Now, I live amongst "Christian Conservatives" in a pretty solidly Republican area of the rural MidWest. And I can tell you that most of the people I live, work and go to church with are not callous hypocrites. I also know that the statistics show that Americans are amongst the most generous individuals on Earth in terms of their gifts to charity. So, why do they oppose the government helping the poor? Why do they oppose universal healthcare, or so many things that seem to those on the other side of the political aisle - or even just on the other side of The Pond - to be such obvious examples of Christian Charity? I could try to explain, but... Continue reading
Posted Jan 22, 2013 at Man of the West
Good question - I don't remember! Will check. I'd be unlikely to edit comments unless they were pure spam though. Unrestrained discussion and all that.
Toggle Commented Jan 17, 2013 on Douthat on "How to read in 2013" at Man of the West
Hi all First of all, I'd like to thank everyone for the kind words, comments and discussion that my post before Christmas produced. I certainly DO intend to return top the topic of Gun Rights/Gun Control, and in fact I have a couple of ideas for posts in my head now. But I thought I start the year by linking to this great column in the New York Times by Ross Douthat, who is almost always worth reading. In it he urges us to read outside our comfort zone, to read those we disgree with and to read about stuff that isn't "our thing". As a "Anglo-American", I'd especially agree with his urging people to step entirely outside their own national arena. As I settled into the USA, one of the first things I realised was just how innaccurate, and at times totally infair, the portrayal of certain things about the USA in most of the British media is. The same is true to some extent in reverse, though in the USA the problem is more often what Bill Bryson described as "a magic trick any foreigner in America can do - open a newspaper and watch your country disappear!"... Continue reading
Posted Jan 16, 2013 at Man of the West
Well, thanks everyone for the thoughts, arguments statistics and other comments when I linked my previous post on FB. Y'know, you are free to comment here too- in fact, one of my motivations for wanting to start a website was that i've had so many interesting and informative discussions on FB that have vanished into the ether (oh, I'm sure that Facebook has them somewhere, of course. But FB is not exactly designed for searching or archiving). Anyway - I shall return to the topic, definitely. But as I said, I want to take a Christmas break - in fact, I think i need to take a few days offline entirely to be with my beautiful family. SO, I wish you all a wonderful, blessed and happy Christmas, and leave you with a link to Donald WIlliams interesting and profound thoughts on God's punning in Bethlehem... (yes, you read that right. Go read :-) Bethlehem - Donald Williams Continue reading
Posted Dec 24, 2012 at Man of the West
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Dec 22, 2012
Well, I've had great plans for a relaunch of my website/blog for months, which have remained as plans... This was not the topic I intended to start with, but the more I though about this post the more I realized that what I'm actually trying to do here is at the heart of something I hoped to acheive here - to communicate across, and encourage communication across political, cultural, national and religious divides. So I'm posting it. For those who know me and pray, prayers it might be the start of a new lease of life for this moribund website would be appreciated! Here goes... Some of you may think I’ve been commenting a lot on gun control, gun rights and the Second Amendment in the wake of the tragedy in Connecticut. The truth is, I’ve been manfully restraining myself from commenting/responding five times as much and five times as long. But I don’t want to spend the Christmas season in the middle of an acrimonious debate. The subject is one I’ve actually thought about a lot, and done a lot of research on, provoked by moving from an area and society in which gun ownership is rare and gun... Continue reading
Posted Dec 22, 2012 at Man of the West
So, Lars Walker is once again providing me with material... This time, he links to this post by writer/screenwriter/pundit Andrew Klavan on Beowulf - the original poem and the recent film. Andrew Klavan on Beowulf Wow. Just... wow. There's a lot I could say about that, and so many directions a discussion of it could go. Perhaps I'll follow up some of them later. Or perhaps I'll wait to see what all of you (if there are any of you following my abominable 3 week absence from posting) think about Andrew's analysis. If you're not already reading it, let me just say that in a few short paragraphs he touches on the origin and reality of evil, moral relativism, safety, the modern West's complacency, the need for warriors, genre literature, video games and more. Here's a sample: Great works of literature often peel away the mask of our piety to expose the raw life underneath. So it is with Beowulf, a brooding, blood-soaked celebration of warrior manhood. We in the modern West have been so powerful, so dominant, so safe in our homes for so long that we slip too easily into the illusion that we live at peace. We... Continue reading
Posted Mar 30, 2011 at Man of the West
Our local newspaper regularly syndicates 4 or 5 columns from people who write for much larger publications. These vary from the deeply annoying to the truly thought provoking (and also display a commitment to political neutrality that results in Donna Brazile and Diane West once sharing a page, which is... interesting). Probably my favorite is Nat Hentoff, one of those Civil Libertarians who regularly enrage the Right and the Left by consistently standing for Liberty for everybody, no matter their politics, faith or philosophy. So a few days ago, they published a column by him on "Zero Tolerance" policies in schools. I'm linking it here, because I agree with him 100%, and it also ties in with some recent events here in our little MidWest town... For those of you who have the good fortune to have never been involved with the American Public School system, the idea of a "Zero Tolerance Policy" is to deal with the increasing problems in many schools by having a single, non-discretionary policy of specific mandated school discipline (usually suspensions or expulsions) for certian issues - most commonly, drugs, violence or weapons. Its one of those ideas which sounds great for about 10 seconds...... Continue reading
Posted Mar 8, 2011 at Man of the West
Those who know who he is might be interested to read Gene Edward Veith's review of the second of Lars Father Aillil books, West Over Sea -
Well, since he had the kindness to mention me on his blog, the least I can do is to post a heartfelt recommendation of the work of Lars Walker. Lars is a fellow Early Medieval History enthusiast and Viking Re-enactor I met last year in Elk Horn, Iowa while re-enacting with Skjaldborg, the Viking group from Omaha. I try to meet up with Skjaldborg whenever they're re-enacting in Elk Horn, so I was enjoying a rare afternoon of loosing myself in talking History, re-enactment gossip and even getting a little combat in. (Live Steel Viking Battle Re-enactment!). In the middle of the crowds of rowdy Vikings (if you know any re-enactors you know what I mean), I noticed a quiet, gray-haired man in Viking kit, standing behind a table full of books. Since a table full of books exerts an irresistible gravitational force on me, I went over. Turns out the books were mostly written by the quiet man, who turned out to be Lars Walker. We then talked History, Books and even a little politics for the next 20 minutes. I noticed that Lars had written 2 historical novels set in Viking Norway, and before I said goodbye I... Continue reading
Posted Feb 27, 2011 at Man of the West
Thank you Joel! That's a great point- there are things that we are willing to give hours of our time to - even ones that can be intellectually challenging. Why is it that even those of us who claim to take politics seriously get impatient with a politician who can't outline his entire reasoning on an immensely complex topic in a few minutes?