I know in which America I want to live, and good beer is plentiful there.

With that line, I ended my senior essay, the cap-stone of the Program of Liberal Studies, “‘Third Way’ Distributive Economics: Catholicism, Democracy, and the Good Life.” Properly to understand the connection, one must read the two quotations that precede it, which I present now:

Finally, I present my last defense of Distributism.

Better beer and a greater choice would result from penalizing the large brewery and with the revenue subsidizing the small one, down to the cottage brewer. –Hilaire Belloc, An Essay on the Restoration of Property, page seventy.

Do we want an America where, on the highways and byways, all we have is catalog houses? Do we want an America where the economic market place is filled with a few Frankensteins and giants? Or do we want an America where there are thousands upon thousands of small entrepreneurs, independent businessmen, and landholders who can stand on their own feet and talk back to their Government or to anyone else?101 — U.S. Senator Hubert H. Humphrey (D-MN), in a 1954 speech on the Senate floor.

I know in which America I want to live, and good beer is plentiful there.

I refer to this passage because I believe in the intrinsic virtue of good beer, or, at least, in the virtue thereof when drunk well and respectably. A cluster of related articles posted in the Friday, 1 August, Arts & Letters Daily, thus truly saddens me. The articles’ writers elegizing the seeming down-fall of the English pub, I cite, here, an article from the Telegraph. Writes Andrew O’Hagan,

I’ve gone from being someone who stopped in at a pub several times a week when I was younger – and practically living there when I was a student – to hating pubs.

Many of the establishments are so pressed for custom that they will do anything to fill their bar – mainly selling toxic drinks in devastating quantities to kids who consider a good night out to be one that ends in copious vomiting.

I grew up knowing very well the dangers of excessive drinking, but most of that was done in private, at home or in the street, while social drinking was a matter for the pub. On Coronation Street, the Rovers Return seemed a perfectly typical hub of community life, where – believe it or not – conversations took place and business was done and views were exchanged.

Young and old used to meet in the pub, as did the differently educated (in Corrie, Ken Barlow would be at one end of the bar reading the London Review of Books while his rival, Mike Baldwin, would be at the other end chatting up the barmaid).

These days, it’s considered more typical for the social element to be bypassed, and for people to drag home a case of cheap booze from Tesco’s and demolish it in front of America’s Got Talent.

It would be hard to convince anyone that the pub was once the premiere venue for literary and journalistic life in this country, for intelligent argument and amorous adventure, for meeting with the unknown.

Not one person under 40 that I know met their partner in a pub, or got their present job via a pub assignation. Though quite a number of them could say that the last time they were exposed to violence was in a pub during “happy hour”.

In truth, this entire excerpt indicts my generation, English, American, and, I presume, of virtually every other “first-world” nationality, quite justly. Were I to go out to-night, I should, I shamefully confess, probably find my-self at the The Thirsty Turtle, quaffing twenty-five-cent whiskey-and-Diets with reckless abandon, the sheer uncultured nature of such debauchery a mere after-thought. My peers, mayhap, briefly, interested in debating the presidential campaign, soon would degenerate into a staggering, stumbling, slurring swarm seeking sexual success, whereby, of course, I mean a night of meaningless intercourse with the prettiest girl desperate, lonely, or crapulous enough to have lost all sense of right and wrong and all capacity to make sagacious decisions four vodka-and-cranberry juice cocktails ago.

Contrast this all too real, all too frequent scenario with what, having some time to spare, prior to helping a friend to move, I encountered at Hank Dietle’s, a deliciously dive-ish public house in Rockville, during a week-day happy hour: Five or six middle-aged gentlemen, one in a sport-coat, the others clearly of a more blue-collared persuasion, discussing, continuing on conversation from a previous evening at their watering hole, Constitutional arrangements vis-à-vis presidential succession; which presidents, for how-ever long, due to what-ever circumstances, served without a vice-president; and matters appurtenant to the current contest for commander-in-chief. (Unsurprising, most of my company supported, at least tepidly, Senator Obama.) I couldn’t help remarking to the one in nearest propinquity, who wore the sport-coat, that I found my-self slightly amazed that I found more intellectually stimulating conversation at Hank’s than I should have had I spent happy hour, imbibing as many still-over-priced Bud Light’s as I could before the discounts had met their end, amongst my own cohort, who, it, some-times, is alleged, represent the leaders of to-morrow.

I wonder what life was like when this particular line from O’Hagan held true: “It would be hard to convince anyone that the pub was once the premiere venue for literary and journalistic life in this country, for intelligent argument and amorous adventure, for meeting with the unknown.” I bet it was nice. Really nice.


This needs to enter the lexicon.

President Bush declares progress in Iraq war:

WASHINGTON – President Bush hailed a new “degree of durability” in security gains in Iraq Thursday, saying it should permit him to announce further U.S. troop reductions later this year. [My emphasis. – NPO]

“Degree of durability:” Please, readers, submit your thoughts on the best definition of this fantastic phrase.

Weyrich’s Next Conservatism

This is the first of a series of columns I intend to write on “the next conservatism.” In them, I will lay out where I think conservatism needs to go after the end of President George W. Bush’s second term.

Some people may wonder about the theme, “the next conservatism.” Isn’t conservatism always the same? Don’t we call ourselves conservatives because we believe in what Russell Kirk called “the permanent things,” truths that hold for all time?

Of course we do. We believe that truth comes from God, who does not change. We hold certain beliefs, such as the impossibility of perfecting man or human society, that define conservatism in any period. In fundamentals, what was true for Russell Kirk was also true for Edmund Burke. We are not relativists. We do not hold that there is or can be a different “truth” for each time, place or person, depending on what is “true for them.”

Yet it is also true that conservatism changes over time. Sometimes, that is because ideologies that are not really conservative try to disguise themselves with the conservative label (real conservatism is not an ideology at all). But more often, it is because new events face conservatives with new challenges. While our basic beliefs do not change, the circumstances to which we must apply those beliefs do. Burke and Churchill were both conservatives, but in the face of the French Revolution Burke stressed the importance of hierarchy and order, while under the threat of Nazism Churchill spoke of defending liberty. Their views were not contradictory, but the situations they faced were different. – Paul M. Weyrich, 18 July 2005

Weyrich’s Free Congress Foundation’s Next Conservatism web-page, replete with articles dedicated to topics ranging from “Country Life” to “Conservative New Urbanism” to “A Post-Literate Culture”, absolutely fascinates me. As Weyrich posits in the excerpt above, the Next Conservatism is no-thing more (or less!) than the immutable, non-ideological conservatism of Kirk’s permanent things; it’s also, in a manner of speaking, an ideology, as conservatism must become in the political ring; not just an ideology, though, particularly not that of modern main-stream conservatism, the Next Conservatism embraces the crunchiness of Rod’s conservatism, the protectionist sentiments of M’r Buchanan, Wendell Berry’s agrarianism, a paleo-conservative/Old Rightist skepticism toward foreign intervention, and just about every other scrap of belief espoused by the diverse traditionalist conservative veins for which I am possessed of any affinity. From some ideas Weyrich presents, I deviate, but, by and large, I endorse the platform of the Next Conservatism. Expect, in the next couple of days, some commentary on specific essays, expressly those on New Urbanism (He defends sprawl, and I wish to suggest that, for the worse, he confounds sprawl with what can be a perfectly healthy sub-urban alternative to city life.) and agrarianism.

Sign here! Do it, if you love Amurka and yr freedoms!

Many thanks to the Schwenk for posting a link to this. Sign here to say to Congress, “Get off of your corrupt, fourteen-per cent-approval-rating asses and protect my damn Constitution!”

Local self-rule, idiocy, and the Constitution (Or Indiana common-sense, part II)

I rarely use the word “hero” to describe any-one, but, specifically regarding the Second Amendment (and, by extension, that beautiful, neglected “goddamned piece of paper”), I’m starting to think that Dick Heller might live up to the name. The District has failed to adhere to the Court’s adjudication in Heller, leading, as I mentioned before, to the appellee’s second law-suit, and, now, to this letter to the Washington Post from Congressman Mark Souder (R-Ind. 3), whom I’ve actually come to respect, if not to like, his miserable party-line views on Iraq and too many other issues not-with-standing.

Sadly, since the announcement of the Heller decision, we have seen the D.C. Council continue to thumb its nose at the Constitution and defy a clear Supreme Court order by largely maintaining its draconian handgun ban.

Localist that I am, I sympathize with the people of Washington, whose license plates bear the statement “Taxation Without Representation”, who wish that they had more of a voice in politics, national and local. How-ever, my sympathy withers as I recall that the residents of our nation’s capital possess a perturbing predilection for putting into power positive putzes.

Souder continues, rightly enough,

Moreover, when Congress chose to delegate home rule to the District in the 1970s, it specified that legislation enacted by the District must be “consistent with the Constitution of the United States,” and it “reserve[d] the right, at any time, to exercise its constitutional authority as legislature for the District, by enacting legislation for the District on any subject.”

The time is now for Congress to step in to protect the rights of law-abiding Americans. [My emphasis. – NPO]

If ever exist an appropriate time for government’s protecting people from them-selves, it’s when that protection involves no-thing more than enforcing the guarantee of their Constitutional rights, even if the officials whom they elect, acting, presumably, as they people wish, determine that such is not the appropriate course of action.

No Big Macs for you! Come back in one year!

Courtesy of Will, Time reports that Los Angeles has enacted a one-year moratorium on new fast-food establishments in a low-income area of the city.

I sympathize with those who seek any sort of remedy to soaring obesity rates, particularly amongst the urban poor; how-ever, such nanny-state tactics, meant to save people from themselves, send a chill down my spine. On the other hand,

Councilwoman Jan Perry says residents at five public meetings expressed concern with the proliferation of fast-food outlets in the community plagued by above-average rates of obesity.

Striking the balance between appropriate governmental restraint and legitimate action some-times requires delicacy; that (some segment of) the residents of the area support(s) the moratorium makes it comparatively more palatable, although the residents whom Councilwoman Perry adduces may constitute a vocal minority, rather than an accurate representation of the populace. (Moreover, I think I have, before, suggested that I question the merits of relying too heavily on the wishes of the people, particularly at the local level, where, for whatever reason(s), I tend more authoritarian than I do at higher levels of government.)

Beyond the nanny-state health-policy question, I support this moratorium for reasons best described by dcporter, commenting on Will’s original post:

Having spent a lot of time in a town that bans fast food restaurants (meaning McDonalds and the like – they’ve still got places that make your food quickly), I have to say that I like it. And it’s always nice when local government stands up to oppose international capital accumulation.

Any-one who knows me well enough knows that I positively disdain chains (and, even, franchises), avoiding fast food almost always, steering clear of national sit-down restaurants almost as constantly, and buying local when-ever possible. (I even own a share in the Greenbelt Co-op grocery store!) For voluminous reasons, I support measures, which I should passionately oppose when directed toward other ends, that preclude formula restaurants and chain stores from establishing them-selves in communities; additional to cultural and economic grounds, I oppose chains on pretexts political, aesthetic, and land-use-related. Kudos to Los Angeles: Let’s see other municipalities, maybe states, too, enact such legislation, or, at the very least, enact ordinances and statutes, reasonable in nature, that favor local establishments over corporate entities.

Update: Finally, after three in the morning, I made it beyond the front section and Scrabblegram of Wednesday’s Post and noticed an article, head-lining the Business section, written apropos of Time‘s report.

One in three children in this country are overweight. But, until now, it was unclear how much the nation’s largest food and beverage companies spent influencing kids to eat unhealthy foods.

The companies spent about $1.6 billion marketing their products — mainly soda, fast food and cereal — to children in 2006, according to a Federal Trade Commission report on food marketing to children released yesterday.

One-point-six billion dollars spent on marketing junk food to kids, four hundred and ninety-two million dedicated to carbonated-beverage advertising, compared to a paltry sixty-seven million spent on the “Got Milk?” ad’s. (Yes, I intended to use an apostrophe there: “ad’s” is a contraction of “advertisements”; I have strange writing habits, I know.) All the more reason for the right to embrace culinary conservatism. Unless we aspire to portly populism, reactionary rotundity, or tubby traditionalism, that is.

If, only, next, we could receive an apology for the War of Northern Aggression and Reconstruction

House issues formal apology for Slavery and Jim Crow. Rightly, in the past, as the article notes, an apologize was offered to native Hawai’ians for our capitalist-led imperialist take-over of their kingdom. And, yet, no apology to any of us for Lincolnian tyranny or Wilsonian imperialism.