Tuesday, March 31, 2015

U2's Bono: Who is Jesus?

Gay Marriage Isn't About Justice, It's About Selma

Lutheran pastor, Hans Fiene:

Why do so many young adults paint absurd caricatures of Christians who request government protection of their religious freedoms, arguing their true goal is to ban gay men from sitting at the local lunch counter? Why do they spread falsehoods about legislation, insisting that bills like the one recently signed by Indiana Gov. Mike Pence will unleash a Republican-led Jim Crow revival aimed at the LGBT community? Why do so many people, Gen Xers and younger, invent a monster of anti-gay bigotry and keep screaming the monster is real despite a mountain of contrary facts standing before them?
The answer is “social studies.” My generation engages in straw men, misinformation, and lies because, in every year of social studies class, we studied the civil-rights movement not as history, but as hagiography. We didn’t just learn what events happened on American soil, we were encouraged to mimic the segregation-defeating holy ones and merit for ourselves a place alongside them in glory. Combining that admonition with our general aversion to hard work, we concluded that the only thing necessary to be as righteous as the saints who fought racial injustice was to decry an injustice that no one else was. And we became so desperate to find that injustice, we lost our minds in the process.

Don’t Let Facts Sully Our Self-Righteousness

But after all those years of waiting for that diamond to arrive, we weren’t going to let anyone to tell us what we held in our hands was really a cubic zirconia. This cause made us righteous. We were certain of it, so no opposition was allowed. No debate on the issue could be tolerated. No damn, dirty facts would take our saintly status away.
Of course we know that politely telling a customer you’ve served for nine years that you can’t, in good conscience, provide flowers for his wedding isn’t in the same moral universe as murdering a black teenager for talking to a white woman.
So when you argued that disapproving of gay marriage didn’t deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as oppression of black Americans, we knew you were right. Of course we know that politely telling a customer you’ve served for nine years that you can’t, in good conscience,provide flowers for his wedding isn’t in the same moral universe as murdering a black teenager for talking to a white woman. Of course saying “you don’t get to vote because your skin has a different amount of melanin than mine” is logically indefensible, while saying “I don’t think a union that’s biologically incapable of procreation fits the definition of marriage” is an argument that needs to be fairly considered, even if we don’t agree with it. But we wouldn’t consider it, wouldn’t even let your words embed in our ears because we would not risk having to surrender our halos in the offhand chance that you maybe, sort of, kind of had a little bit of a point.

Here is the rest.

Religious Freedom Restoration Act: A Time for Testing

First Things editor R.R. Reno:

We’re in a moment of mass hysteria, one that vindicates Indiana Governor Mike Pence’s decision to sign his state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). This law establishes a strong standard for religious liberty: A person’s free exercise of religious can be “substantially burdened” by a law only if that law advances a “compelling government interest” in a way that involves “the least restrictive means.”
It was immediately denounced as an unprecedented assault on gay rights. Apple CEO Tim Cook described the law as part of “something very dangerous” that “would allow people to discriminate against their neighbors.” Many others have joined the frenzy. Gays aren’t going to be served at restaurants! They won’t be allowed into hotels!
What world is Tim Cook living in? At present, Indiana has no legislation prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. As a result, no matter what one thinks of the recently passed RFRA, when it comes to gay rights this legislation does absolutely nothing to allow people to do things they’re not already allowed to do.
And what were people doing? At this point nobody has identified any pattern of discrimination in Indiana that, somehow, this legislation will empower. No gay person has complained of being denied a hotel room. None have reported being denied service at a restaurant. Gays and lesbians are not prohibited from voting or holding public office. Nobody is lobbying to prevent Elton John from performing in Indiana. There are no reports of discrimination in hiring.
But today is beside the point. Let me repeat that: Today is beside the point. The controversy in Indiana is about the future.
Christian conservatives in Indiana pressed for a RFRA because they anticipate the establishment of a thoroughgoing gay rights regime in America. The Supreme Court is very likely to find a right to gay marriage in the Constitution. Moreover, the reasoning used to justify the discovery of this right is only too likely move along lines that equate any objection to same-sex marriage with bigotry.
This is what I call the Selma Analogy. 

Monday, March 30, 2015

99% of Princeton Donors Give to Obama

Princeton gives new meaning to the phrase

According to The Daily Princetonian:
A total of 157 University faculty and staff members donated directly to the presidential candidates, with only two of those donations going to Gov. Mitt Romney, the records show. 
Not a surprise.  I'm all for private universities, but I won't be sending my kids to Princeton, even if they are offered a full-ride as I once was to the seminary.

I don't know if Democrats have cornered the market on stereotyping and prejudice (though there is certainly a lot of both in the Democratic party going all the way back to slavery), but they certainly haven't cornered the market when it comes to a diversity of beliefs and ideology--at least not in the ivory towers.
Though Princeton students and staff may separate into liberal and conservative classifications, Oresic said he feels strongly that political debate should be able to find a healthy middle ground, even with political donations.
“I accept the political climate that is here at Princeton University, and I feel that people ought to have a right to vote with their dollars,” he said.
I agree entirely.  We might call our shared feeling Citizens United.

This all brings to mind Robert Koons' excellent piece, "Dark Satanic Mills of Mis-Education: Some Proposals for Reform."  If you have never read the article (or read it all the way through), you should.

Starbucks and Race

I was asked my thoughts on the whole Starbucks "Race Together" catastrophe.  I really don't have any great thoughts on the matter.  What thoughts I do have are summed up by this:

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Now Playing

Like most people, music has always played a big part in my life.

I saw Tom Petty in concert (and Pink Floyd, and Pearl Jam, and Bob Dylan, and...)  The last song I listened to immediately before I was married was also by Petty.  (J.S. remembers this, I'm sure.  He, in part, made sure it was the last song I listened to. For J.S. and me, memories are important.)

One of the things that first endeared me to the Maverick Philosopher was his affinity for the same song which I too had adopted as a philosopher--that is, as a gadfly against certain things that might have been temporarily on the "wrong side of history."

Keep on rockin' the free world while it's free.

"Stop the Hate!! Don't Discriminate."

Does refusing to bake a cake for a gay wedding constitute or imply hating homosexuals or hatred more generally?

This is a follow-up post to the previous one.

A commenter on Facebook writes:
You mention the example of the cake for a wedding, but might it be the case that individuals are afraid they might be refused service in a variety of ordinary situations? For example, an individual walks into a family-run sandwich shop and is refused service because they are gay? While I do believe that it is completely wrong to make a religious cake designer make a wedding cake for a gay couple, might it be the case that gays are more worried about the everyday interactions as opposed to the few special exceptions?
Yes, it might be the case that some individuals are afraid they might be refused services such as the ones mentioned.  It could also be that others are motivated by wanting to see business owners who, for example, discriminate against practicing homosexuals (or homosexual weddings), punished by the government or forced into acts they object to for other reasons (such as changing their beliefs.  Acts breed habits and habits sometimes change beliefs.  Belief formation is a grab-bag mysterious thing).  LGBTQETC... activists know full well that court decisions have the effect of shaping people's beliefs--since for better or worse people's moral beliefs are (in part) codified by state laws and court decisions.

Of course, those in favor of the Religious Freedom Restoration Acts not only have similar fears, but also fear the government fining and ultimately imprisoning them.  It seems to me that this is not an unreasonable fear (especially given the fact that religious objectors already, rarely win in court versus the government which can usually manufacture a "compelling interest" for what it does...except when it takes a moral interest as in Lawrence vs. Texas.).

Here is a good primer on Religious Freedom Restoration Acts.

Let me ask the readers this: would you have similar concerns if, for example, a baker is asked to bake a cake by a religious person with an anti-homosexual-sex message as was the woman pictured above?
If so, why in this case but not in the other?
In an email to WORLD, [the man asking for the cake] wrote that he requested two cakes in the shape of an open Bible. He asked that the first cake show on one page, “God hates sin—Psalm 45:7,” and on the facing page, “Homosexuality is a detestable sin—Leviticus 18:22.” He requested that the second cake have on one page, “God loves sinners,” and on the facing page, “While we were yet sinners Christ died for us—Romans 5:8.”
As for me, I think we are long past the time when many positive Civil Rights laws (i.e. laws which make it illegal for businesses or other groups to deal with whomever they see fit) have served their usefulness.  There is a such a plurality of races, religions, ideologies, etc. in the U.S. that one can find the necessary services for one's needs.  And as far as racism goes, we've come a long way.  I see many laws today as further polarizing people, while at the same time keeping lawyers gainfully employed as well as race and gender baiting politicians.  Instead of seeking the government to coerce people by fines and imprisonment to deal justly and fairly with others, I favor education and free association, compelling people with arguments rather than brute force.  (Still, I see reason for ordinances which would, say, ban the KKK from parading in black neighborhoods.  One should feel safe in one's homes, and banning organizations from using public places for demonstrations which have a history of violence and suppression makes sense.  This is the conservative in me, not the libertarian).

Moreover, there is a serious business interest to deal with as many people as possible.  In addition, "everyday transactions" (as the commenter above mentions) should not be as much of a worry to homosexuals as (e.g.) blacks, since one need not advertise what one does in one's bedroom with people who one does business with in most instances.  The slippery slope argument here is baseless.

Nonetheless, if one cares to sign a petition asking the Arkansas governor to veto HB 1228 (as I was recently asked to do by a colleague) one can do so here.  After all, it is a free country.  But I won't be signing that petition.  I neither hate nor discriminate.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

"Anti-LGBT[QQIAAP] Religious Freedom Bill Passes Senate"

I'd be willing to bet that whoever made this sign is a moron.

That's the title of the latest Arkansas Times propaganda report.

So, let's get this straight:  a bill which would more or less make clear what the Constitution already protects--the free exercise of religion-- and which isn't about the glorious '60s or sex--is ANTI-LGBTQQIAAP?  A law which would protect people from going against whatever they conscientiously believe is good or right based on their religion and WITH THEIR OWN PROPERTY [!!!] is evil?  I would love to hear the argument for that.

Apparently, the left is coming out of the woodwork over this bill, characterizing it as anti-LGBT...and discriminatory.  For instance, here is a typical post from Facebook:
Anyone who supports this bill or has had a hand in its creation and potential passage should be ashamed. I am disgusted by what I have seen recently regarding Arkansas on both a state and national level, but this takes the cake. [No pun intended.]  I thought we were moving past state sponsored discrimination, but I guess I was wrong. This is another reason I cannot wait to leave this backward excuse for a state ASAP.  [Your backward state has the highest taxes of any of the seven states in which I've lived. I can see why yer itchin' to leave.  I'll see you in Saskatchewan.]
I hate to break it to the guy, but almost every single time the state makes a law, it discriminates.  For example, the social security age is discriminatory by choosing 65 years of age against every other age. Gas taxes discriminate between people who drive trucks and people who drive lawnmowers across country versus people who just ride bikes or walk.  The author of the post apparently does not understand what discrimination is or how laws typically work.

Note: for the left, "discrimination" seems just to mean "unjust discrimination" or perhaps more likely "unfair discrimination," even though this disambiguation rarely occurs (i.e., between discrimination, and either unjust/unfair discrimination, or between unjust and unfair discrimination).  Still, watch out for it and don't be bamboozled.  Most cases of discrimination are not unjust; we make discriminations ALL the time (you've made several while reading this post).

Regarding the Anti-LGBT spin on this particular bill--the left, with religious indignation, apparently holds that "whoever is not for us is against us."  Jesus's meaning aside, it seems that there is a failure, here, to distinguish between an agent being free simply to refrain from doing business with someone for religious reasons and an agent doing something overtly harmful and against another party.

At any rate, none of this behavior from the left is surprising.  The left is by nature totalitarian. In the name of liberty it moves away from individual liberty and aims to control individuals by the coercive means of the state so that no realm of life is left untouched by politics.

If I bake cakes (heaven forbid) and don't feel like I want to bake them for a gay wedding, that is unacceptable to the left.  You must obey Big Brother.

The only property rights you have are the ones that the left allows you to have.  Your ingredients to your cake are not really your own.  Your labor is not really your own.  Whoever wants that cake (within the politically correct sphere) has a right to it, and has a right to your working for them.  They have part ownership over your goods, your labor, and thereby you.  You are free in the sense that you are free to serve them; if you don't, you will be fined.  If you don't pay your fine you will go to jail.  That is how government coercion works, Kemosabes.

I've written about this before.  But let's look back at the AR Times piece once more just for fun:
Sen. Joyce Elliott read from a letter from a gay constituent, who wrote, in part, that the bill was extremely unconstitutional, and "mutes those who like myself are a religious or denominational minority." 
I guess like blueness and pain--and unlike uniqueness--unconstitutionality comes in degrees.  Not only that, but if the bill is passed into law, Sen. Elliott's constituent will become mute.  Now that's some bill!  And apparently I "should be ashamed."

Instead, I find myself proud to support it--against the cultural elite and even though I am on the wrong side of history.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Hillary Clinton's Emails Revealed

Some of Hillary's emails are now starting to come to light.  A selection:

From: Bill  [bubba@clintonemail.com ]
To: Hillary [hdr22@clintonemail.com ]
Subject: Re: Sexy!
Date: October 10, 2009, 6:20 pm

You were killing me with that pantsuit today.

On Oct. 10, 2009 at 6:21 pm, Hillary [hdr22@clintonemail.com ] wrote:
Oh, stop.

On Oct. 10, 2009 at 6:22 pm, Bill [bubba@clintonemail.com ] wrote:
No really.

On Oct. 10, 2009 at 6:23 pm, Hillary [hdr22@clintonemail.com ] wrote:
Oh do go on.

On Oct. 10, 2009 at 6:26 pm, Bill [bubba@clintonemail.com ] wrote:
I mean, I really liked the salmon one. But hospital green is just your color.

On Oct. 10, 2009 at 6:27 pm, Hillary [hdr22@clintonemail.com ] wrote:
I think you’re right.

On Oct. 10, 2009 at 6:32 pm, Bill [bubba@clintonemail.com ] wrote:
It matches your eyes.

On Oct. 10, 2009 at 6:32 pm, Hillary [hdr22@clintonemail.com ] wrote:
My eyes are blue.

Here are the rest.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Now Playing

Polyamorous Orientation?

Philosophy scholar and Christian historian Richard Carrier on his divorce here.  Excerpt:

I am polyamorous.
I have, and will continue to have, multiple girlfriends who are likewise poly or aware of my being so, and that will be the way of my life from now on. And I am going to strive from here on out to live that way as ethically and honestly as I should, working to grow and improve as a human being.
The ability to be more transparent, public, and open about my sexual orientation is a major part of what I’ve needed in my life. That, and to have to keep fewer of other people’s secrets–though I will remain bound by many, but that’s their business anyway, and not the public’s; I am choosing to be out and open about my life–and this is a matter of my own personal comfort level and consent.

"Polyamorous orientation."  It sounds so scientific and clinically sterile. (And I'd be willing to bet most boys would be diagnosed as such).

Sunday, March 22, 2015

A Book I Just Finished

This is the third volume in Churchill's six volume series on WWII.  After slugging my way through 1700 pages or so of the series, I had put this one down a couple years ago.  I got it back out this past week and finished it today.  I hope to read volume IV before the end of summer.


Everybody wants respect and to live for something.

(The visit with the relatives and the two deadbeat brothers are hilarious.)

Friday, March 20, 2015

On Loving Your Enemies and Having a Christian Father

Samuel (6-year-old): Good night, I love you.

Malea (11-year-old): Why should you love me?

S: Because you make fun stuff and games.

M: Anything else???

S: You're in my family.

M: Anything else?

S: [Pause.  Thinking].   You're supposed to love your enemies??

M: Samuel! You're supposed to love me because I'm your sister and you're a Christian.  Do you know that when you're a Christian all the other people who are Christians are your brothers and sisters in Christ, like Daddy's your brother because he's a Christian.

S: Dad's a Christian?

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Robert Nozick on Equality

The legitimacy of altering social institutions to achieve greater equality of material condition is, though often assumed, rarely argued for. Writers note that in a given country the wealthiest n percent of the population holds more than that percentage of the wealth, and the poorest n percent holds less; that to get to the wealth of the top n percent from the poorest, one must look at the bottom p percent (where p is vastly greater than n), and so forth.  They then proceed immediately to discuss how this might be altered.  On the entitlement conception of justice in holdings, one cannot decide whether the state must do something to alter the situation merely by looking at a distributional profile or at facts such as these.  It depends upon how the distribution came about.  Some processes yielding these results would be legitimate, and the various parties would be entitled to their respective holdings.  If these distributional facts did arise by a legitimate process, then they themselves are legitimate.  This is, of course, not to say that they may not be changed, provided this can be done without violating people's entitlements.

The entitlement conception of justice in holdings makes no presumption in favor of equality, or any other overall end state patterning.  It cannot merely be assumed that equality must be built into any theory of justice.  There is a surprising dearth of arguments for equality capable of coming to grips with the considerations that underlie a nonpatterned conception of justice in holdings.  (However, there is no lack of unsupported statements of a presumption in favor of equality).

                      ~Robert Nozick, Anarchy, State, and Utopia (Basic Books, 1974), pp. 232-3.

The One I Love

Very good.  Another genre-bender.  Romantic comedy...sort of.  I don't want to give too much away, but there are at least two or three genres battling in this one.  It's interesting all the way through; the writer/director not only understands human relationships, but came up with a neat idea to frame the movie around.  Watch it.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Gender Wage Gap: Tilting at Windmills?

The Gender Pay Gap Based on Unjust Discrimination is a Complete Myth

77 Cents on the Dollar Myth

Much of the Wage Gap Accounted for by Self-Selection in College Majors

How Many Flight Attendants are Men?

Wage Gap Myth Exposed by Feminists

The AAUW researchers looked at male and female college graduates one year after graduation. After controlling for several relevant factors (though some were left out, as we shall see), they found that the wage gap narrowed to only 6.6 cents. How much of that is attributable to discrimination? As AAUW spokesperson Lisa Maatz candidly said in an NPR interview, "We are still trying to figure that out."
But isn't the unexplained gap, albeit far less than the endlessly publicized 23 cents, still a serious injustice? Shouldn't we look for ways to compel employers to pay women the extra 5-7 cents? Not before we figure out the cause. The AAUW notes that part of the new 6.6-cent wage-gap may be owed to women's supposedly inferior negotiating skills -- not unscrupulous employers. Furthermore, the AAUW's 6.6 cents includes some large legitimate wage differences masked by over-broad occupational categories. For example, its researchers count "social science" as one college major and report that, among such majors, women earned only 83 percent of what men earned. That may sound unfair... until you consider that "social science" includes both economics and sociology majors.
Economics majors (66 percent male) have a median income of $70,000; for sociology majors (68 percent female) it is $40,000. Economist Diana Furchtgott-Roth of the Manhattan Institute has pointed to similar incongruities. The AAUW study classifies jobs as diverse as librarian, lawyer, professional athlete, and "media occupations" under a single rubric--"other white collar." Says Furchtgott-Roth: "So, the AAUW report compares the pay of male lawyers with that of female librarians; of male athletes with that of female communications assistants. That's not a comparison between people who do the same work." With more realistic categories and definitions, the remaining 6.6 gap would certainly narrow to just a few cents at most.
Could the gender wage gap turn out to be zero? Probably not. The AAUW correctly notes that there is still evidence of residual bias against women in the workplace. However, with the gap approaching a few cents, there is not a lot of room for discrimination. And as economists frequently remind us, if it were really true that an employer could get away with paying Jill less than Jack for the same work, clever entrepreneurs would fire all their male employees, replace them with females, and enjoy a huge market advantage.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Democratic People's Love of Equality Over Liberty

Why Democratic Peoples Show a More Ardent and Enduring Love of Equality than of Liberty

Suppose that all citizens take part in government and that each has an equal right to do so.  Since no man will then be different from his fellow men, no one will be able to exercise a tyrannical power.  Men will be perfectly free, because they will all be entirely equal, and they will all be perfectly equal because they will be entirely free.  This is the ideal toward which democratic peoples tend.
Liberty has manifested itself to men in various times and forms.  It is not associated exclusively with any social state, and one does not find it only in democracies.  Hence it cannot constitute the distinctive characteristic of democratic centuries.  The particular and dominant fact that makes such centuries unique is the equality of conditions; the principle passion that stirs men in such times is love of that equality.
If it were possible for a people, by itself, ever to destroy or even diminish the equality prevailing within it, it would require long and arduous effort.  It would have to modify its social state, abolish its laws, renew its ideas, change its habits, and alter its mores.  To lose political liberty, however is easy: fail to hold on to it, and it slips away.
Hence men do not hold on to equality solely because it is dear to them; they also cling to it because they believe that it must always endure.

Political liberty, if carried to excess, can endanger the tranquility, property, and lives of private individuals, and no one is so blind or frivolous as to be unaware of this.  By contrast, it is only the attentive and clear-sighted who perceive the perils with which equality threatens us, and they usually avoid pointing them out.  They know that the miseries they fear are remote and are pleased to think that they will afflict only future generations, for which the present generation evinces little concern.  The ills that liberty sometimes brings on are immediate.  They are visible to everyone, and to one degree or another everyone feels them.  The ills that extreme equality can produce reveal themselves only a little at a time.  They gradually work their way into the body of society.  Only intermittently do they become visible, and by the time they have become most virulent, habit has already ensured that they will no longer be felt.
Democratic people love equality in all ages, but there are times when their passion for it turns to frenzy.  This happens when a long-threatened social hierarchy finally destroys itself in one last intestine struggle and the barriers that once separated citizens are finally knocked down. At such times men swoop down upon equality as upon conquered spoils and cling to it as to a precious good that someone would snatch from their grasp.  The passion for equality then inundates the human heart and fills it entirely.  No use telling people that such blind surrender to an exclusive passion jeopardizes their most cherished interests: they are deaf.  No use pointing out to them that liberty slips through their fingers while their attention is focused elsewhere: they are blind, or, rather, in all the world they see only one good worth coveting.
Men cannot enjoy political liberty without making sacrifices to obtain it, and it has never been won without great effort.  But equality offers up its pleasures for the asking.  They seem to arise out of the most insignificant episodes of private life, and to savor them one has only to live.
I think that democratic peoples have a natural taste for liberty.  Left to themselves, they seek it out, love it, and suffer if deprived of it.  For equality, however, they feel an ardent, insatiable, eternal, invincible passion.  They want equality in liberty, and if they cannot have it, they want it still in slavery.  They will suffer poverty, servitude, and barbarity, but they will not suffer aristocracy.

This is true in all ages, and especially in our own.  All men and all governments that seek to combat this irresistible power will be overthrown and destroyed by it.  Nowadays, liberty cannot be instituted without its support, and even despotism cannot reign without it.

               ~Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859), Democracy in America, Vol, II, Pt. 2, Chapter 1                           translated by Arthur Goldhammer (NY: Library of America, 2004), pp. 581-4.

Monday, March 16, 2015

John Walton's, "The Lost World of Genesis One"

Here is a very critical review of Walton's book on the first chapter of Genesis.  Though I think McGrew overplays her hand on a few points, having read the book myself several years ago (well, good portions of it), I find the review fairly compelling at points.  I had similar thoughts as this when reading the book:
Putting all of this together, it is difficult to figure out what Walton means by God's establishing functions and installing functionaries in a sense that has nothing to do with material origins! Perhaps the most charitable thing to do would be to throw up one's hands and conclude that the book is radically unclear. What could it mean for all the plants already to be growing, providing food for animals, the sun to be shining, etc., but for these entities nonetheless to lack functions prior to a set of specific 24-hour days in a specific week? Throwing up his hands in despair at interpreting Walton is what one scholarly critic, Vern Poythress, essentially does after an exchange with Walton.
Like McGrew, it was not clear to me that there is a coherent sense in which things are (or could be) "receiving functions" from God during the (literal) seven days.  That is, given that--on Walton's account--the material things (creatures and the like) already seem to be kinds of things prior to the seven day period (and thus have structures, capacities, abilities, etc.), it's not clear what giving functions could amount to during the seven day period.  One might hold, sensibly I think, that to be is to be a kind of thing; to be a kind of thing is to have a nature; and to have a nature is to have (a) characteristic function(s).

Walton makes an appearance in the comments section followed by an awkward exchange.  (MarcAnthony's over-the-top remark is a good example of what is problematic with open comment boxes).  Though I've had a couple run-ins with McGrew, I didn't take her review to be outside the bounds of the ethical norms of book reviewing.  I look forward to reading and listening to the other reviews to which she has linked.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Abortion Rights are not Only for Women

An excerpt from Katherine Timpf:

Feminists are now arguing about whether or not it’s offensive to talk about abortion as a “women’s issue” because gender is not that simple and men have abortions too.

“We must acknowledge and come to terms with the implicit cissexism in assuming that only women have abortions,” feminist activist Lauren Rankin stated in July 2013. Or, as Jos Truitt of Feministing explained: “Trans men have abortions. Gender queer people have abortions. Two spirit people have abortions. [!?!?!?!?]  People who do not fit into the box of ‘woman’ have abortions.”
In response, abortion funds around the country have already been changing their names and language to be more “gender inclusive.” Last year, “Fund Texas Women” became “Fund Texas Choice,” because, in the words of co-founder Lenzi Scheible, the group “refuse[d] to deny the existence and humanity of trans* people any longer.” But not every feminist agrees with Rankin and Truitt and Scheible and friends.

At the risk of being branded a “cissexist,” feminist essayist and poet Katha Pollitt wrote a piece for the The Nation today daring to suggest that maybe it’s not totally offensive to link being pregnant with being female. “I’m going to argue here that removing ‘women’ from the language of abortion is a mistake,” she writes. “In an era where politics is all about identity, as a tool for organizing and claiming public space, are women about to lose theirs? Because after all we’re all just people now.”

TB: And now Monty Python weighs in...

Saturday, March 14, 2015

On Spiritual Direction and Mentorship

An excerpt from Glenn Peoples:

Let me sum up the difference between two ways of thinking about spiritual direction. The first is a way that you will encounter in Anglican Christianity – and in many modern Catholic parishes too. It does not represent a traditional Anglican way of doing things, but you’ll certainly find it today: “Alright, here is a book of some advice on spiritual direction, but first and foremost, let me say (if I may) that there are many ways of going about this, and please please please don’t hear me as saying that the way I will suggest is right. I wouldn’t want that. Gosh, there is a fabulous colourful array of equally OK ways of going about this, and a pick n mix of traditions to celebrate. Here’s a flower.”
Now, here’s another way of approaching this. When I look at this way, I recognize my own way of thinking. This is the way of people like Ignatius of Loyola approached spiritual discipline, and I’ll sum it up like this: “I’m going to tell you how to do this. It’s important, so listen carefully.”
Contrary to what some trendy airheads say, this is not “a relationship, not a religion.” It’s a religion (which doesn’t mean that it’s not a relationship). There is a point to the earliest Christian Creed, “Jesus is Lord.” He’s not simply your travelling companion, your friend, or somebody to help you find your own way. He is the way. Christianity isn’t a “pick a path” book (remember those?). This is an arrangement where God says “this is the way. Walk in it.”

The 14th Amendment

Here is the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, wherein one will find a right to an abortion, a right to gay marriage, and in general, a right to whatever is deemed good and fitting by progressive jurists under the invention of substantive due process:

Amendment XIV

Section 1.

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Section 2.

Representatives shall be apportioned among the several states according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each state, excluding Indians not taxed. But when the right to vote at any election for the choice of electors for President and Vice President of the United States, Representatives in Congress, the executive and judicial officers of a state, or the members of the legislature thereof, is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such state, being twenty-one years of age, and citizens of the United States, or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion, or other crime, the basis of representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age in such state.

Section 3.

No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any state, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any state legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any state, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.

Section 4.

The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned. But neither the United States nor any state shall assume or pay any debt or obligation incurred in aid of insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or any claim for the loss or emancipation of any slave; but all such debts, obligations and claims shall be held illegal and void.

Section 5.

The Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Progress! The World's First Three-Way Gay "Marriage"

Three homosexual men have “married” each other in Thailand in what is being billed as the world’s first three-way same-sex “marriage.” This was, of course, inevitable. It’s inevitable in every country that redefines marriage as anything but one man and one woman. When the culture’s only standard for “marriage” is that the parties love each other, then all sorts of novel configurations are possible. Look for this to come soon to a country near you.

Under the banner of the gay-rights rainbow, the new cultural revolutionaries are not only redefining marriage but also, to borrow from the popular term of 1960s radicals, “smashing monogamy.” What’s to stop these three non-monogamous married men from taking on added spouses? If three is fine, why not four? Or five?

This is, of course, a blatant I-told-you-so moment. This is what we gay-marriage opponents have been warning about. But it’s especially revealing of something else I’ve warned about for a while.
Those of us opposing same-sex “marriage” for reasons like this were told by gay-marriage advocates that we were nuts. Our claims that the redefining of marriage would lead to polygamous marriage and other arrangements were ridiculed. We were denounced as homophobes and bigots who simply hate. We were not just cold-hearted but hysterical. They shouted at us that they would never advocate arrangements like these. We were crazy to even suggest they would support anything but two gay people marrying one another.

But we know better. Those of us who have studied the ideological train-wreck called “progressivism” know better. We’ve watched how progressives “progress.” The only thing you really know about progressives, and that they know about themselves, is that they’re always changing, evolving. Where they stand now, on any given issue, is, by progressivism’s own definition, subject to change.
I often give the example of Margaret Sanger’s Planned Parenthood. It was launched in the 1920s as the American Birth Control League, with Sanger’s interests being birth control and eugenics. Sanger insisted that she and her organization were against abortion. “It is an alternative that I cannot too strongly condemn,” she wrote in January 1932. “Some ill-informed persons have the notion that when we speak of birth control we include abortion as a method. We certainly do not.”
Yet, for progressives, what began as birth control needed only a few decades to snuff out life after conception. They “progressed” to where Sanger’s organization rapidly became America’s largest abortion provider. And where do “pro-choicers” stand today on abortion? Now they tell you that you must not only support its legalization but pay for it. If you disagree with them, they smear you as favoring a “war on women.”

Read the rest.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

My Father the Philosopher

This essay by the daughter of philosopher Jonathan Adler is quite humorous.  Some of Jonathan Adler's views are a bit depressing--and I disagree about some of the implicit views of philosophy--but I invite the reader to read the whole thing.  Excerpt:

If the bed was here, if I touched it, lay down in it, walked away and came back, then it existed.
If it existed, then when I left for school and came back, it would still be there. If it was there today, then it would be there tomorrow. Right, Dad?
I touched the objects in the house. The bed and the Mickey Mouse light switch and the crumbling flower wallpaper. The Garbage Pail stickers. What about the office up in the attic? The porch? The sidewalk? I dashed over the slats, avoided the cracks.
My father smiled, pleased. “Well how can you know for sure? It's just like Descartes’s bad dream. What proves we’re not all living in a dream?”
Descartes's bad dream. What a lie. I bet Descartes loved his dream.
“Think about your first premise.”
“My first what?”
“Your first premise. Does it follow? If x, then p. Does touching something mean it exists? Are the conditions necessary and sufficient?”
* * *
If your father is a philosopher, then you should expect to lose many arguments. You will never lose “because life isn’t fair,” or because your dad “says so.” You will always lose on strict logical grounds.
For my friends and me, the best seats in my family’s station wagon were in the way-back. Sitting in the way-back, no parents could see us in the rearview mirror. When driving with friends, the absolute worst seat was in the front next to my dad. If I had to sit up there, then it was totally not OK for my friends to get the way-back.
But Adrianne and Christy widened their eyes when they asked him. "Can we sit in the way-back?"

I hated those faces. I knew what happened in the way-back. All the way at the other end of the station wagon, you make faces that are So Funny. You tell stories no one else is allowed to hear. By the time the car has stopped and you've piled out through the hatch, you two in the way-back are best friends and can forget about your friend who got stuck sitting in the way-front.
"Of course," my father said when they asked.
"NO Way!" I said. "That’s not fair. I can't sit back there, so they can't either."
"Who's going to sit back there if they don't?" my father asked.
"And where are you going to sit no matter where they sit?"
"In the front."
"So how is it not fair? The improvement of their situation in no one way worsens your situation. It is fair."
But my situation would be worsened. By the time we all got out of the car, I would be a blip in their collective, best friend memory.
"Adrianne. Christy. Get in the way-back. We're leaving."
And so I learned utilitarianism. The greatest good for the greatest number. The way-back for some, not for all.

State Marriage Laws are Constitutional

Of course they are; only one who can't read or a progressive with disdain for the ideals enshrined in the Constitution (by those antiquated old white males) could think otherwise.


There is nothing in the U.S. Constitution that requires all 50 states to redefine marriage. The only way one can establish the unconstitutionality of man–woman marriage laws is to adopt a view of marriage that sees it as an essentially genderless, adult-centric institution and then declare that the Constitution requires that the states (re)define marriage in such a way. In other words, one needs to establish that the vision of marriage our law has long applied is wrong and that the Constitution requires a different vision. There is, however, no basis in the Constitution for reaching that conclusion. Marriage is based on the anthropological truth that men and women are distinct and complementary, the biological fact that reproduction depends on a man and a woman, and the social reality that children deserve a mother and a father, and states have constitutional authority to make marriage policy based on these truths.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Gender Roles, Women in Combat, and Senator Tom Cotton

My senator has been in the news of late.  Maybe you've heard.  Perhaps as a result I was asked for my thoughts on the following commentary by the Arkansas Times' senior progressive editor, Max Brantley, on some remarks Cotton made. I'll comment throughout.  

[H]ere's an area where Cotton continues today to say things that echo his youthful comments and they seem likely to contribute to a gender gap in this race. Remember when he said all women should be legally prohibited from serving in combat roles? It's not just a muscle mass thing, because clearly some women could meet the physical standards and all men aren't automatically capable by virtue of their gender. He said, with emphasis added:
To have women serving in infantry, though, could impair the mission-essential tasks of those units. And that’s been proven in study after study, it’s nature, upper body strength, and physical movements, and speed, and endurance, and so forth.

Nature? We look forward to more from Rep. Cotton on the nature of women. We now know his patronizing outlook goes back many years.

TB: Where, oh where, to begin?

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Why Our Children Don't Think There Are Moral Facts

Excerpt of Justin McBrayer's opinion piece in the NY Times with my commentary throughout:

What would you say if you found out that our public schools were teaching children that it is not true that it’s wrong to kill people for fun or cheat on tests? Would you be surprised?
TB: No.
I was. 
TB: You shouldn't have been.
As a philosopher, I already knew that many college-aged students don’t believe in moral facts. While there are no national surveys quantifying this phenomenon, philosophy professors with whom I have spoken suggest that the overwhelming majority of college freshmen in their classrooms view moral claims as mere opinions that are not true or are true only relative to a culture.
TB: That comports fairly well with my own experience.  
What I didn’t know was where this attitude came from. Given the presence of moral relativism in some academic circles, some people might naturally assume that philosophers themselves are to blame. But they aren’t. There are historical examples of philosophers who endorse a kind of moral relativism, dating back at least to Protagoras who declared that “man is the measure of all things,” and several who deny that there are any moral facts whatsoever. But such creatures are rare. Besides, if students are already showing up to college with this view of morality, it’s very unlikely that it’s the result of what professional philosophers are teaching. 
TB: It is true that most philosophers seem to be moral realists and not relativists (relativism may or may not be a species of anti-realism depending on how one defines moral realism).  But it could be that there are a few intellectuals who hold a large degree of sway over the intelligentsia more generally.  Richard Rorty comes to mind as an anti-realist (not just about moral truths but truths more generally) whose writings have been  quite influential even if not in philosophy.  In addition, though it is true that most students entering college are not influenced directly by philosophers, that does not rule out that they have been influenced indirectly way downstream.
So where is the view coming from?

Monday, March 9, 2015

Price Gouging, Gasoline, and Disasters

This post is inspired by actual events...

What is "price gouging?"  For some, it is simply defined as charging a price significantly higher than normal.  But I take it that as the words are used most often in the media and by economists, price gouging is the raising of a price of a commodity or service significantly higher during times of crisis or a natural disaster than it would be otherwise.  This is what I shall mean by "price gouging."

People don't like price gouging.  A spike in gasoline prices in Louisiana due to a natural disaster is unseemly.  It offends people.  It's unfair.  "Big Oil" is being greedy and not caring about anyone other than Big Oil.  They aren't looking out for the little guy.

Laws against price gouging in the U.S. are a relatively recent phenomenon, but one can understand why so many states have passed laws against price gouging: their constituents think that price gouging is unjust or unfair, and it's in the interests of legislators to please their constituents.

My first semester at OBU, my county made news due to accusations of price gouging.  According to the Democrat-Gazette:
AAA reported that a regular gallon of gasoline averaged $3.586 per gallon at midnight Thursday in Arkansas, up one cent from Wednesday.
In Arkadelphia, Prosecuting Attorney Blake Batson said he sent subpoenas Friday morning to several Clark County stations along Interstate 30, requesting information about prices being raised overnight from $3.68 to $4.19 a gallon.
State law 4-88-303 prohibits the raising of prices more than 10 percent of that charged immediately before an emergency proclamation unless the increase is merely "attributable to additional costs."

So what's the deal?  What's wrong with raising prices on a gallon of gasoline by $.50 from one day to the next?  I'm not an economist, but I'll do my best to defend the practice of price gouging (at least in most circumstances) since I can see no good reason to prohibit it.  Even though "price gouging" is a pejorative phrase (it brings to mind ice picks and eyeballs) I shall use it in a neutral sense.  I welcome comments and objections.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Study: Conservatives and Liberals About Equally "Anti-Science"

That title is a bit misleading.  It might be better to say that conservatives and liberals are about equally distrustful of scientific claims that they hear reported in the media, according to The Christian Post.  Excerpt:  
Interestingly, liberals, moderates and conservatives were all less trustful of the science that was related to political debates compared to the ideologically neutral science. In other words, conservatives were less trustful of science related to fracking and nuclear power, though not as distrustful as liberals, compared to science related to ideologically-neutral astronomy and geology findings. And liberals were less trustful of science related to climate change and evolution, though not as distrusful as conservatives, compared to the ideologically neutral science.
 Conservatives and liberals were not equally likely to reject the science that was dissonant with their ideology. Conservatives were more likely than liberals to be distrustful. The authors attribute this to media coverage of the debates.
There has been much coverage of the scientific debates over climate change and evolution. By comparison, there has been little coverage of the scientific debates over fracking and nuclear power. Respondents, therefore, would be much more aware of controversies over climate change and evolution than fracking and nuclear power.
The researchers also found higher levels of anger associated with the distrust over climate change and evolution than the distrust over fracking and nuclear power.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Selma is Now. No, not Really.

Some perspective from James B. LaGrand:

[I]n his acceptance remarks after winning the Oscar for Best Original Song, co-writer John Legend again connected past and present. He tried to set straight any viewers who might be thinking that 1965 was a long time ago. “Selma is now because the struggle for justice is right now.”
Statements similar to Legend’s “Selma is now” have been made many times in the months since Michael Brown’s tragic death at the hands of policeman Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri. In fact, Ferguson has become a Rorschach test – not just on the state of race relations today, but on the past as well through the power of historical analogy. Like John Legend, congressman and civil rights veteran John Lewis has compared Ferguson to Selma in 1965. On college campuses, analogies comparing Ferguson to 1950s Little Rock and Michael Brown to Emmett Till have been heard.
These statements and actions are all rooted in the belief that little to nothing has changed in race relations from the Jim Crow era of the 1890s-1950s to the present day. If one of the tasks of History is to assess the complex relationship between change and continuity over time, these voices suggest that on the issue of race and race relations, the answer is pretty simple. 2014 = 1965 or 1955 or the 1890s.
But in looking at the past, it’s hard to make these claims hold up. The Jim Crow era stands as a distinctly grim, brutal period in America’s history for its Black citizens. After the end of Reconstruction, Black men who had recently won the franchise had it effectively taken away. The promise that Black Americans would own the product of their labor too became a bitter lie. All public spaces in the Jim Crow South became divided by the color line.
This racial code was enforced through lynchings and other forms of brutal violence. The Equal Justice Initiative has recently documented 3,959 African-Americans lynched between 1877 and 1950. Lynch mobs cast a wide net. They targeted Black men accused of crimes, those accused or suspected of sexual relations with white women, and those seen as being “impudent to white man,” in the words of one lynching record. Lynchings were barbaric, often involving the ritualistic burning and dismemberment of dead bodies. Not for nothing do many historians refer to 1890-1920 as the nadir of African-American history
They see their motives are earnest. By their way of thinking, a continued insistence that little to nothing has changed in race relations will hold white Americans’ feet to the fire. This approach will confront and challenge them, and prevent them from becoming prideful or complacent. Some teachers and administrators on college campuses say that a focus on continuity in race relations will allow for “teaching opportunities.”
But what if such a determined focus on racial continuity from the 1890s to today doesn’t bring about these results? The discipline of History is based on a reasonable confidence about concrete, particular things, not just a fuzzy mood or spirit. Activists who tout continuity believe that their cause will result in “consciousness-raising” about a range of racial issues. But it’s just as likely to lead to cynicism and disengagement if it’s thought that events have been manipulated and comparisons over-drawn.

Read the rest here.

It's also worth noting that, as the NY Times mentions, in the decade between 2000-2010 more black Africans have voluntarily come to the U.S. "than were imported directly to North America during the more than three centuries of the slave trade."

"We've come long way, baby."  Are there still racists in the U.S.?  Of course, as there are in every country.  But how racist is the U.S.?  Adam Carolla thinks, not that racist:

"We shall be rid of the last vestiges of Goldsteinism when the language has been cleaned."

Fortunately (or unfortunately), activists will never be out of a job.