Saturday, June 28, 2014

Are There More "Extreme" Conservatives Moving Further to the Right?

I get the impression from news outlets (the one I listen to most being NPR) that the answer to this question is most definitely, "yes."  It seems to me, however, that the answer is only "yes," on a subtle disambiguation of the word "change," one which most listeners or readers of the media will not recognize.  Thus, I suggest that such media outlets are either yet again displaying their blind ignorance (likely) or engaged in more leftist sophistry (possible, but less likely I'd wager).

Distinguo between a so-called Cambridge change and (for lack of a better term) a real change.  To a rough approximation a Cambridge change for some x occurs when x changes though nothing intrinsic to x changes.  Example: I am to the right of the building.  I run to the left of the building.  The building changes from being to the left of me to being to the right of me, though, of course, the building does nothing nor has anything done to its structure.  If the building has changed by my movement, it's undergone a mere Cambridge change.

If there are more and more conservatives moving further and further to the right, I suggest that is true, but only if we take "moving" to be expressing a Cambridge change.  As progressives (who by nature are progressing) move further to the left, conservatives (who by nature resist change) are "moving" further to the right.  But while progressives are trying to foist upon states that gay "marriage" be recognized and sanctified, that suicide and euthanasia are Constitutional rights, that there is a right to free day care and a duty to pay for it, that it's the job of the government and not parents to feed children during summer vacations, that we should all agree that our ladies should be sent to military front lines on pain of being sexist...conservatives are plodding along with their old beliefs and political positions, ones with which Democrats not more than a decade or two ago would have agreed.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Justice is Neither Fairness nor Equality

From a eulogy for philosopher Sidney Morgenbesser:

Years after the Columbia riots, where [Sidney] was clobbered by the police, he was being questioned for a panel for jury duty. One of the questions was, “Have you ever been treated unjustly or unfairly by the police?” His reply was classic: “I’ve been treated unjustly but not unfairly. They were clobbering everybody.”

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Per Impossible Counterfactual Sale of One's Son

Sam: "Dad, if you sold me, how much dollars would you sell me?"
Me: "Why do you ask:?"
Sam: "I just want to know."
Me: "Son, I would never sell you."
Sam: "Dad, IF you had to sell me, how much dollars would you sell me?"
Me: "There is never a possible circumstance in which I would sell you.  And it's "how MANY dollars, not how MUCH dollars."
Sam: "But, DAD,  IF you HAADDD to sell  me, how MANY dollars would you sell me?"
Me: "Five dollars."
Sam: "DAD!!!!"
Me: "Maybe four, if they twisted my arm."
Sam: "DAAAD!!!"
Me: "You asked.  I told you I'd never do it.  On the condition that I would never do it, I'd do it for six bucks, tops!"

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Doo-doo Validates Externalist Epistemology

Recent household conversation...

"James pooped in his diaper."

"Does anybody want a poop sandwich?"


"Why not?  Have you ever tried one?"


"Then how do you know you wouldn't like it?"

"I just know."

Church Sign In Town

No.  NO.  NOOO, you didn't.  Oh, the vulgarity:

In other "in town sign" news....


2 for $5
Big King

May this latter sign live forever.

[BTW, "Saint Riverside Baptist"--not a real church in town...but it could be---will now be my generic church sign for embarrassing church signs]

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Ted Olsen on Gay Marriage and Race

Ted Olsen was on NPR's Diane Rehm show today talking about his book and his legal crusade for gay "marriage."  I didn't get to catch the whole thing but I was struck by these two comments:

We studied what the Supreme Court had said. We sensed that the Supreme Court was ready to uphold the right of citizens. The other part of the history of the Supreme Court is to protect classes of individuals who have characteristics that are immutable. It might be race or it might be illegitimacy or something like that. To put them in a box and treat them differently, the Supreme court abhors that kind of thing. So we looked at these precedents.

Race is perhaps immutable (though Michael Jackson comes to mind as at least raising questions about its immutability), but homosexuality?  If that's true, then no homosexuals could become straight or vice versa.  Now, granted that the empirical evidence so far suggests that few homosexuals can become straight, nonetheless, some at least claim to have done so.  So homosexuality does not appear to be immutable.  But this is all beside the point and is really a red herring.  Even if homosexuality is immutable, that's irrelevant to whether the government should have an interest in recognizing "marriage" between homosexuals (which was the main point of the discussion at hand).

What they said over and over again, our opponent says, [marriage has] always been that way. But you could use that to deny people the right to marry someone of a different race. That's what the Supreme Court faced in 1967. Traditional definition of marriage, it's always been between a man and a woman. Traditional definition of marriage before the Civil War would not allow slaves to get married, would -- denied rights to women in a marital relationship. So the fundamental right is -- cannot be denied because it's always been that way.

There are two issues that Olsen runs together and confuses.  The one is about the definition of "marriage"--the issue of what marriage IS.  The second is about what legal rights have been and should be afforded to people.  It is just not true that anti-miscegenation laws which prohibited whites and blacks to marry, or laws which did not allow slaves to marry, and so forth had anything to do with the traditional DEFINITION of marriage.  In fact, such laws implicitly RECOGNIZED the traditional view since they acknowledged that black and whites, slaves, etc. could ENTER INTO MARRIAGE.  Those laws were enacted to try to discourage it and such laws gave certain people legal rights w/respect to marriage but not others.  But they did nothing to change the definition of marriage.  Proponents of such laws--as far as I'm aware--were not arguing that the government should not endorse such marriages because they weren't REALLY MARRIAGES in the first place.  Gay marriage opponents (at least some of them), however, are arguing (in part) that the government has no place in recognizing gay "marriages" because they are not really marriages; to recognize that they are is to discriminate against those who hold the traditional view and to revise what "marriage" means in public discourse (even if we're rarely told what it does mean by the revisionists).

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Neuroscience Study Challenges Free Will

A very interesting study challenges the notion that humans have free will.  I would love to read more about the details, specifically just how well the decision could be predicted on the basis of prior "background noise" in the brain.  But apparently the online journal the study is published in costs FIFTEEN BUCKS to access!  If I find out more I'll give an update .

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Tour of Duty, Good Guys, Bad Guys, and the End of Time

My sons listened to the Rolling Stones', "Paint it Black," this evening.  My favorite Stones song for sure.  Tonight, I told them it reminded me of the (awesome) TV show, "Tour of Duty"

We then watched the opening sequence of Tour of Duty and then Sam asked:

(Sam): Daddy, can we listen to that again?
Me: No, it's time for bed.  We've listened to that twice already.
S: Can we watch that show then?
M: No.  It has too many bad guys in it [i.e., too much violence for a five-year-old].
S: Daddy, did all those bad guys die?
M: No.
S: How many died?
M: I don't know, but not all of them. It's time for bed.
S: But how many?
M: Not all of them.
S: Daddy. Are there still bad guys?
M: Yes, there are still bad guys, Sam.  There will always be bad guys.  Until the end of time there will be bad guys.  BUT there will ALWAYS be good guys fighting against the bad guys.
S: Can I be one of the good guys?  And when is the end of time?  

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The "Logic" of Progressivism

A Conservative Primer

Every conservative and liberal should read this by University of Texas professor, Robert Koons.  It's an excellent summary of the conservative position.  So if you you think you're a conservative or think the position is evil or stupid and not for you, here's a good summary of conservative ideology:

Conservatism encompasses the accumulation of experience and wisdom over many generations, enlightened and guided by Divine Revelation. Much of the knowledge embodied in conservatism cannot be put into words but consists rather in certain dispositions and habits of the mind and heart. However, there are certain fundamental truths that have been articulated within this tradition with increasing clarity and certainty. To many Americans, these truths may seem mere truisms or platitudes ("self-evident", as Jefferson put it), yet it is vitally important to remind ourselves periodically of what we know, to ensure that this body of wisdom can be passed on without loss to a new generation.

Conservatism does not produce a mere laundry list of policy recommendations, nor does it represent the interests of this or that class or special interest. Nor is conservatism grounded in a reflexive reaction to change, nor in a nostalgic attachment to the past. Rather, it begins by rejecting what C. S. Lewis called "chronological bigotry": the foolish notion that contemporary thinkers have a monopoly on the truth, simply because they are alive today and not in an earlier, "less enlightened" era. Conservatives draw on the accumulated wisdom of the past to form a comprehensive and coherent view of the world, from which we derive certain principles essential to the promotion of the common good.

Every philosophy has certain basic propositions upon which everything else is based. These propositions are called postulates.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Monday, June 9, 2014

All-Time Best Opening Scene from a Movie

Jaws?  2001: A Space Odyssey? Reservoir Dogs?  Magnolia? Once Upon a Time in the West?

All excellent.  But, for my money, this is hard to beat (viewer discretion advised for pacifists, unpatriotic Americans, and those with sensitive ears):

Saturday, June 7, 2014

My Androgynous Four-Year-Old

Jonathan: Daddy, I need a drink of water.
Me [rhyming & teasing]: OK, then.  A drink of water for my daughter.
JB: Daaadddyyyy!  I am not your daughter.
Me: Well then what are you?
JB: I'm a kid.
Me: Are your sisters not kids also?
JB: No.
Me: Your sisters are not my kids?
JB: No.  I'm your kid.  My sisters aren't kids.
Me: Says who?
JB: No one.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Why I Gave Up Alcohol

This is largely autobiographical but there's also somewhat of an argument here and there.  I found a photocopy of it today in my workroom box on the way out of the office.  I wonder why the person didn't just email me with the link?  At any rate, I will assume that this person knows I have this blog and wants me to write a post about it. There are certainly a good deal of sensible things in that Christianity Today article (and I applaud D.L. Mayfield in pursuing her calling), but there's also nothing said that's new; other than the autobiographical parts, it's mostly old news.  Nonetheless I shall make a few comments below on some of the problematic or noteworthy items:

Thursday, June 5, 2014

My Five-Year-Old Son, Ambiguous Reference, and a Riddle

On the way home from swimming lessons just now:

Sam: Daddy, this is a riddle...
Me: "THIS" is not a riddle.
Sam: No, Daddy.  This is a riddle...
Me: "This" is NOT a riddle!
Sam: Daddy, STOP!  I am GOING TO tell you a riddle.
Me: What is it?
Sam: I am red...
Me: That's not true.  You are not red!
Sam: No, this is a riddle!
Me: I thought we had established that "THIS" is not a riddle?
Sam: No, I am going to tell you a riddle. Here's the riddle: I am red and I am shaped like a brick.  What is it?
Me: How about a red brick?
Sam: No, that's not it.
Me: But a red brick is red and shaped like a brick.
Sam: No, that's not it.  Do you want to know what it is?
Me: Yes.  What is it?
Sam: It's this thing on my shoe. It's red and shaped like a brick.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Another Proud Moment for a Father

Son: Daddy, is it OK if I sleep with my [fake] mustaches tonight?
Me: What?
Son: These mustaches.
Me: Sure, Sam.  Why do you want to sleep with your mustaches?
Son: I don't know.

"Live as if You Are Going to Die Tomorrow, Study as if You Were to Live Forever" ~Erasmus

From a book I'm reading: The Life of Thomas More.

God Predicts College Football National Champion

Here it is.

The Buckeye's Brutus in Onion

The Iraq War Was Wrong

If you don't believe that, then read this blog.  It's awesome all the way through.

[UPDATE: I have had some questions about this post.  If you have questions, see the labels below.]

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Elliot Rodger was a Product of America's Knife Culture

This is a call for a conversation about America's knife culture, a conversation which doesn't take place primarily because of special interest groups such as Gerber Legendary Blades, Marble Arms and the like.

Elliot Rodger was a legend in his own mind, and he made knives a part of that legend. His case doesn't merely brook a conversation about knife regulations and whether we make it too easy to own a knife. His case should force us to confront America's knife culture, and to ask whether we make it too desirable to own a knife.

Mind you, knife fondlers and their largely unarmed pseudo-intellectual ilk would prefer if that conversation simply didn't happen. The National Review began its post-Rodgers knife editorial by blasting "the classic" boilerplate of knife-control advocates, only to end the piece with boilerplate of its own: "It is at this point something of a cliché, but it should perhaps be offered anyway: If someone is determined to kill a substantial number of people, he will almost certainly manage to do so." Rodger also shot some unfortunate souls and attacked more with his car, see. Why pick on knives?

Yes, it is something of a cliché.  True, there are not 130,000 Americans stabbed each year as in the United Kingdom, but knives are second only to handguns as the leading cause of murder.  And if you don’t think knives kill people, just try stabbing yourself in the heart with a knife!  Moreover, in some cases, high capacity knives have been used to stab 22 people in a matter of minutes. 

We know that slogans masquerading as plain speech are mere rhetoric because, on a moment's inspection, they reveal themselves to be absurd. "The best answer to a bad guy with a knife is a good guy with a knife" reveals itself to be a lie on a single inspection: the best answer is to not let the bad guy have a knife. "Knives don't kill people, people do." No: obviously, people with knives kill more people than people without them. Why not ban guns or cars, which can be instruments of death, too? Because these things were designed to help people do things other than kill people—like shooting bunny-killing-coyotes from the sunroof of your SUV. "Knife control" means controlling those things whose first purpose is to help people kill other people.

Knives are fun. They are useful. They are, like all tools, limited in their utility. But unlike most tools, they are virtually unlimited in their capacity for destruction.

It is true in a strict sense that knives make men equal (and even women).  They make the deranged, the paranoid, the excitable, the racist, and the brute equal in strength and righteousness to the sane, the cautious, the paranoid, the open-minded, and the meek.

One thing that is clear about Elliot Rodger is that for all his racism, his privilege, his misogyny, his acting out, his awfulness and his sickness, he never doubted that he was right and just. In idiosyncratic language, he averred again and again that attractive people were "horrifyingly" "cocksure" "pricks," "foul" "beasts" that he deserved to best in love and in life. He felt impotent to do that until he armed himself.

Sometimes a tool is just a tool. But sometimes it is much more. We are a society that makes much of our knives as more than mere tools, as instruments of power. Elliot Rodger's knives provided a tragically clichéd beginning to his cliché social problems. But sometimes—not every time, but too often by far, in schools, on streets, in restaurants and playgrounds—when you're the one holding the knives, every cliché you utter sounds profound, every action you take seems good, and every problem is somebody else's.  In the case of Rodger, 3 stabbings with an assault weapon led to 3 shootings. Less knives, less crime.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Gay "Wedding" Baker Stops Baking Cakes

Expect to start seeing a lot more cases like this (which I wrote about before here and here) where, in the name of hallowed political correctness, diversity, and tolerance, people are forced through coercive legal means to either change professions or violate their conscience.  Kudos to Jake Phillips for not violating his conscience even at the cost of some of his business (by no longer baking wedding cakes).  May we all have that kind of resolve in the face of the Thought Police.