SubscribeStar Saturday: Small Ponds

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Blogging is a notoriously inwardly focused medium, one in which the blogger injects not only his or her beliefs into the commentary delivered, but even his or her personality—lives, thoughts, seemingly unconnected details, etc.  At its best, blogging offers a glimpse into how people think, and the inextricable intertwining of the personal, subjective interlocutor with the supposedly objective facts under consideration.  At its worst, it devolves into self-indulgent “me-search,” in which the writers’ subjective experience becomes the primary—even the only—means through which the writer can understand the topic.

The latter situation is what I strenuously wish to avoid, though my blog is, at times, excessively self-indulgent and solipsistic.  I don’t think I’ve quite gone as low as a mommy blogger or a gloomy, self-absorbed teen, but I’ll admit I occasionally dash of some hasty “me-search” to meet my self-imposed daily quota.  Perhaps these pieces are worth your time—I hope they are—but I apologize if they aren’t.

That said, I do believe there is value in learning from one’s personal experiences (as I write that, I realize how painfully obvious that observation—I can’t even call it an “insight”—is).  Much of human wisdom—of history—consists of the hard lessons learned from individuals’ personal experiences with the world.  While I am by no means a great man or a world-historic figure—one critic of the blog once labeled me a “mediocrity”—I have, at least, thrown myself into multiple arenas in my short life, each one teaching me something different about our world and the human condition.  From politics to music to writing to teachingand on and on—I’ve learned my fair share of insights.

All of that waxing philosophical is to get to this point:  I have learned that the small pond—the small school, the small town, the small institution, the small business, etc.—is, while oft overlooked or derided, a very nice place to be.  The small pond is where opportunity exists.  If I am indeed a mediocrity, I’ve made a good life for myself being, perhaps, the First Among Mediocrities, the one willing to toss his hat into the ring.  That has made all the difference.

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Routine Maintenance

Regular readers will know that I’m a schoolteacher, and as such I enjoy multiple, almost random days off, sprinkled generously throughout the academic year (not to mention the three best reasons to teach:  June, July, and August).  We enjoyed one such break this past weekend—a glorious, four-day weekend dubbed “Winter Break,” in honor (no doubt) of Valentine’s Day and Presidents’ Day, all rolled into one big excuse to stay home.

It was, by all accounts, a meteorologically dreary weekend, with rain that started sometime Friday and lasting through the duration, but it was nevertheless enjoyable.  I took in my first movie in the theaters in months, and managed to get a number of miscellaneous items completed (as I’ve always got some side hustles going, I was able to dedicate some time to them, though I still need to work on editing my collection of Inspector Gerard stories).

Besides seeing friends and loved ones, though, I try to use these days to take care of routine maintenance—on the house, on my cars, whatever the case might be.  Lately I’ve been borderline fanatical about organization, particularly keeping my desk at home tidy, various writing utensils and calendars at the ready when needed.

This weekend, though, I dedicated several hours to reviving my long lost love:  my busted up 2006 Dodge Caravan.

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Romney Gets One Right

Okay, okay—before you start pelting me with the citrus fruit of your choice, let me make it clear:  I have no love for Mitt Romney.  I think he’s a traitorous, chimerical liar whose positions bend and twist with the ever-changing fashions of the Left.  He strikes me as a coward and opportunist, who will gladly slit his own party’s throat for a farthing of accolades from Democrats and the progressive press.

All that said, I’m intellectually honest enough to give credit where it is due, and even a stopped Mormon is right twice a day.  Mitt Romney has proposed a bill (forgive me for linking to the Never Trumpers at The Dispatch) that he argues is intended to alleviate childhood poverty, but is really a pro-natalist plan:  direct payments of $350 for children five and under, and $250 a month for children six through seventeen, with a maximum annual benefit of $15,000 annually, and payments beginning four months before a child’s birth.

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TBT: Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony

I’ve been on a major classical and Romantic music kick lately, dedicating the last three Fridays specifically to the music of the Romantic Period (here, here, and here).

As such, I thought it would be apropos to look back at a piece I wrote last January about Beethoven and his masterful Sixth Symphony.  The occasion for that piece was the South Carolina Philharmonic‘s Sunday matinee performance of their popular Beethoven and Blue Jeans concert—back in The Before Times when we still had live music.  The program, as I wrote at the time, was “‘Beethoven’s Greatest Hits,'” featuring Beethy’s Symphony No. 5 in C Minor and Symphony No. 6 in F Major.

The Sixth, often called the “Pastoral,” is one of my favorites.  I’m a sucker for programmatic music, and there are programmatic elements embedded in the titles of each of the symphony’s movements, but the music sounds like the countryside.

But I covered all of this a year ago, so why repeat myself (except that I’m doing that below… hmm…)?  Here is January 2020’s “Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony“:

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Slam into SCOTUS

With the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg last Friday, the political world was thrown into hysterics.  Democrats are threatening to set the Supreme Court building and the White House ablaze if President Trump attempts to nominate a replacement for the Notorious RBG before the November election.

Even if they were serious about their histrionic, treasonous threat, President Trump should do it, and Senate Republicans should act speedily to confirm his nominee.  For that matter, President Trump should appoint the most stridently right-wing, pro-life, socially conservative, religious justice possible.

If the Kavanaugh hearings taught us anything, the Left will pillory any mildly conservative nominee to the Court.  Kavanaugh is a Beltway Dudley Do-Right, and he was treated as a de facto stand-in for every unpleasant interaction a woman has ever had with a man.  If the Left treated him so shabbily, why not go for broke and get the second coming of Antonin Scalia, or a young Clarence Thomas clone?

When I first heard the news, I remembered President Obama’s Merrick Garland appointment, and how Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to hold confirmation hearings.  That was entirely constitutional, both for the president to nominate, and for the Senate to decline to confirm.  McConnell’s rationale was that the Senate should not confirm a nominee during a presidential election year, so as to give the people a chance to vote for new leadership first.

My initial reaction was, “Well, screw it—just slam in a nominee and control SCOTUS for generations.”  The Senate isn’t bound by an unwritten rule or custom, and the Left has broken so many rules (including threatening to impeach Trump for performing his constitutional duty to make an appointment), it’s time for us to do so to win.

But then my younger brother informed me that a confirmation at this time would not be a breach of senatorial custom.  The rule that McConnell invoked in 2016 only applies when the President is one party, and the Senate is controlled by the opposing party.  Presidents who have attempted nominations in those conditions during election years have failed.  Ted Cruz covers it beautifully in a short YouTube video:

Of course, McConnell warned then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in 2009 when the Senate got rid of its requirement that sixty Senators were necessary to confirm Supreme Court nominees that it would one day come back to haunt the Democrats.  The price of their political expediency could very well be—let us pray!—a conservative-controlled Court.

Sadly, it seems that the Democrats will keep moving the goal posts, as usual.  The cry now is that if Trump gets his nominee before the election, the Democrats will engage in court-packing should they win the presidency and Congress; in other words, they’ll add Supreme Court seats to dilute the conservative majority.

Congress has the authority to alter the number of Supreme Court seats (when the Constitution was first ratified, the Court only had six justices, rather than the present-day nine).  However, the last infamous example of court-packing—Franklin Roosevelt’s ham-fisted attempt to inflate the Court to fifteen justices from nine—was met with severe push-back from even his own party, which saw it for the transparently naked power-grab it was.  Democrats nearly ninety years later are all too eager to engage in that power grab.

Therefore, even if President Trump gets his nominee confirmed before the 3 November election, it could all be undone with a Biden win and a “blue wave” seizing control of the Senate.  That’s why it’s all the more imperative—especially in swing States—to get out and vote for Trump.  The Supreme Court pick will be meaningless if Democrats take control of the levers of power again.

Nevertheless, Senate Republicans need to confirm—speedily—whoever President Trump puts forward as his nominee (hopefully Amy Coney Barrett).  That decisive action could rally millions of conservatives to get out to vote for Trump (and vulnerable Republican Senators) in November.

More importantly, it will—barring progressive court-packing—secure the Court for conservatives for at least a generation, and possibly beyond.  If President Trump is reelected and Republicans maintain the Senate, it may then be advisable—as much as I hate to suggest it—for Justice Thomas to step down, thereby allowing Trump to appoint a younger conservative who can maintain the conservative majority for another thirty or forty years.

Big things are afoot.  The Republicans and Trump may just have one last shot to save the Republic.

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Lazy Sunday LXXVII: Rural America

After a week of incredibly hot weather here in South Carolina, Saturday brought a blessed drop in both the temperature and humidity—a foretaste of autumn.  My girlfriend and I spent Saturday weeding my disgracefully overgrown flower beds, which were mostly weeds strangling the life out of everything but the hardiest of perennials (and my robust banana trees).  We then did some new plantings (with a few more to put in, as well as some mulch).  The results were pretty good:

Lamar House - After Planting, 5 September 2020

It felt good to get our hands (and clothes, and faces) dirty, digging through the dirt and nurturing plant life.  My mother is an expert gardener, so I’ve picked up a few simple techniques from her; otherwise, we just bought flowers we liked and plopped ’em in with some in-ground bedding soil and a some water.  Fingers crossed that everything survives.

My mind has been on the soil lately, and our connection to it.  I have a fondness—perhaps a tad romantic—for country life.  With current trends in the cities—rising home prices, rising property taxes, and rising urban violence—country life seems like an attractive, even inevitable, alternative.

As such, I thought I’d dedicate this week’s Lazy Sunday to some pieces about rural America:

  • TBT: Rustics Have Opinions, Too” – This piece dates way back 2009, when the blog was in its first iteration on Blogger, and I was still enthralled with “Randian-libertarian economic” philosophy.  Such are the follies of youth.  However, I did notice even then the deep disdain of limousine liberals for the rest of us here in “flyover country,” a disdain that, at least in part, accounts for the TEA Party movement and the Trumpian revolt of 2016.
  • High-Tech Agrarianism” – When The Virus hit, people were in a tizzy about having enough toilet paper and food.  People gained a renewed interest in gardening as a source of sustenance, not just beauty.  In this post, I mused about a possible return to small-scale homesteading, coupled with our advanced information technology.  Essentially, I posited a world in which people still work, albeit increasingly from home and on more flexible hours, and can use their time to tend to small crops to supplement their diets.
  • SubscribeStar Saturday: The Future is Rural” – One of two recent posts on the lure of rural America and small town life, I argue here that life in the country offers many attractive incentives for working families.  Not only are cities pushing people away with high prices and crime; the country is ready to take in telecommuters who earn good money but want a low cost of living in a safe, healthy environment.
  • SubscribeStar Saturday: Small Town Natalism” – The second post in my Saturday series about small town and rural living, this post is a preliminary sketch of a policy proposal:  applying nationalistic, pro-birth natalist policies to the small town context.  Instead of wasting money on seldom-used public facilities, local governments could offer a stipend to married families with children to encourage increased birth rates.  That would grow towns organically and attract new residents, thereby broadening the tax bases in often distressed rural areas.

That’s it for this week.  The garden is calling to me.  Time to put down some mulch!

—TPP

Other Lazy Sunday Installments:

SubscribeStar Saturday: The Future is Rural

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The roiling waves of urban riots this summer could be the death knell of urban living.  Even smaller cities are falling victim to progressive insanity and destruction.  It was one thing when Seattle and Portland were ablaze, and Americans wrote off Detroit years ago.  But now Kenosha, Wisconsin is the hotbed of disorder and chaos?

The story of “white flight” from urban centers is a Leftist favorite, and—of course—progressives blame the plight of inner city blacks on the fact that white people took their tax dollars and fled tot he suburbs.  Never mind that riots in the 1960s destroyed white- and black-owned businesses, and that the current wave of riots destroys millions of dollars in black-owned property.  The Leftist narrative also implies that blacks aren’t capable of succeeding without substantial financial and institutional support from whites, a clear example of progressivism’s bigotry of low expectations.

As is often the case with Leftist canards, there is a kernel of Truth among the popcorn ball of misleading disinformation:  people did flee urban centers in the 1960s, precisely because they were so dangerous.  As the respectable, middle-class civil rights movement gave way to the militant black nationalism of SNCC and the Nation of Islam, sane people ran for the suburban hills.

Now we’re in a similar moment, in which progressive grievance-mongering and racial malfeasance gin up BLM and Antifa criminals, eager to fight imaginary “Nazis” in the streets.  While these riots are a tragedy for our nation and for the rule of law, there is a silver lining:  it could prove to be a boon for rural America.

The rest of today’s post might be a tad delayed; I am proctoring the SAT this morning, and then am hitting the road for a family celebration.  My apologies in advance.

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TBT^2: Back to School with Richard Weaver

Today marks the first day of school for the 2020-2021 school year:  The Year of The Virus, if we were to affix a Chinese Zodiac-style name to it.  It’s going to be the most unusual school year any of us have ever experienced, I imagine.  Please keep teachers, students, administrators, and staff in your prayers.

As I’ve noted often, I reread at least the introduction to Richard Weaver’s Ideas Have Consequences every school year.  The introduction offers a strong diagnosis of modernity’s ills, and it reminds me why teaching is so important—not just the accumulation of random facts into worldly knowledge, but to inculcate deeper knowledge and virtue—what we might call “wisdom.”

Here is “TBT: Back to School with Richard Weaver“:

Every year I try to reread the introduction to Ideas Have Consequences, Richard Weaver’s masterful work of analysis and prophecy.

With school starting back in just FOUR DAYS—may God have mercy on us all—it seemed germane to bring back this post from 2018, itself a contextualization of a Facebook post from 2014.

Here is “Back to School with Richard Weaver“:

Every year, I try to sit down and re-read at least the introduction to Richard Weaver’s seminal Ideas Have Consequences, probably the most powerful book I’ve ever read.  I tend to undertake this re-reading around the time school resumes, as it helps remind me why I teach.

In addition to Ideas Have Consequences, Weaver wrote some of the most eloquent essays on the South—and what it means to be Southern—in the twentieth century.  In 2014, I posted the following quotation on Facebook; I will allow it to speak for itself[:]

I’m undertaking my annual baptism in the works of Richard Weaver to focus my philosophical thinking for a rapidly approaching school year, and, as always, I’m presented with an embarrassment of riches. Few thinkers cram so many nuggets of truth into so little space. Every paragraph of Weaver’s writings yields insights that speak to the very heart of humanity.

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