Saturday, May 30, 2015

J.R.R. Tolkien: Radical, Right-Wing, Libertarian-Anarchist?

From a letter to his son:

My political opinions lean more and more to Anarchy (philosophically understood, meaning abolition of control not whiskered men with bombs) – or to ‘unconstitutional’ Monarchy. I would arrest anybody who uses the word State (in any sense other than the inanimate realm of England and its inhabitants, a thing that has neither power, rights nor mind); and after a chance of recantation, execute them if they remained obstinate! [a joke] If we could get back to personal names, it would do a lot of good.
[T]he most improper job of any man, even saints (who at any rate were at least unwilling to take it on), is bossing other men. Not one in a million is fit for it, and least of all those who seek the opportunity. And at least it is done only to a small group of men who knowwho their master is. The mediævals were only too right in taking nolo efiscopari as the best reason a man could give to others for making him a bishop. Give me a king whose chief interest in life is stamps, railways, or race-horses; and who has the power to sack his Vizier (or whatever you care to call him) if he does not like the cut of his trousers. And so on down the line.

Are Hobbits for Hippies?

Equality Time Machine

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Obama Admin. to Order LGBTQIIAAP Hired By Faith-Based Groups

Progress is swift and unrelenting.

It is not enough to obey Big Brother; His will must be the will of all.

The Extreme Democrats Move Further to the Left

Totalitarian Democrats Out for a Stroll

I have written about this before.  More support from the New York Times.

Birthday Hooker

Johno (now five-year-old) had his B-day this week. The little guy was even happy about the clothes he got for his bear.

"It even has its own hooker!!"

"'Hanger,' Johno. 'Hanger.'

It doesn't have enough money to have its own hooker."

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Robert Reich's (Intentionally) Deceptive $15 Minimum Wage Video

What is wrong with this video?

Donald Boundreaux explains:



Here and


Student Retention

From the Democrat Gazette:

[Trevor Francis] now oversees the new Office of Graduation and Retention at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, taking on his role in September and meeting with faculty members and administrators to brainstorm ideas to improve the university's 62.3 percent six-year graduation rate.  
Francis, who ears a yearly salary of $88,000, began working at the university as an academic adviser in 2004.  When it comes to leaving school, student experiences "are so unique and so complex that, at any given time, it can be for a number of reasons," he said...His office includes an analyst able to crunch the numbers for academic departments and present reports in an understandable format, Francis said.  Much of his time has involved meeting with leaders of academic units about ways to improve student outcomes..."I can come in and offer advice and sort of help them compare and contrast what best practices are at other institutions and what seems to be working there," Francis said.

Here is some advice of my own about how to retain students, and you don't have to pay me $88,000 for it: Fire Francis and his staff and use the money to lower tuition.  You could also just not give any student a grade lower than a 'C.'  I didn't even have to attend a single brainstorming meeting or get up to date on the latest "best practices" for that one.

Monday, May 25, 2015

American Honor

Once we knew who and what to honor on Memorial Day: those who had given all their tomorrows, as was said of the men who stormed the beaches of Normandy, for our todays. But in a world saturated with selfhood, where every death is by definition a death in vain, the notion of sacrifice today provokes puzzlement more often than admiration. We support the troops, of course, but we also believe that war, being hell, can easily touch them with an evil no cause for engagement can wash away. And in any case we are more comfortable supporting them as victims than as warriors.
Former football star Pat Tillman and Marine Cpl. Jason Dunham were killed on the same day: April 22, 2004. But as details of his death fitfully emerged from Afghanistan, Tillman has become a metaphor for the current conflict–a victim of fratricide, disillusionment, coverup and possibly conspiracy. By comparison, Dunham, who saved several of his comrades in Iraq by falling on an insurgent’s grenade, is the unknown soldier. The New York Times, which featured Abu Ghraib on its front page for 32 consecutive days, put the story of Dunham’s Medal of Honor on the third page of section B.
Not long ago I was asked to write the biographical sketches for a book featuring formal photographs of all our living Medal of Honor recipients. As I talked with them, I was, of course, chilled by the primal power of their stories. But I also felt pathos: They had become strangers–honored strangers, but strangers nonetheless–in our midst.
In my own boyhood, figures such as Jimmy Doolittle, Audie Murphy and John Basilone were household names. And it was assumed that what they had done defined us as well as them, telling us what kind of nation we were. But the 110 Medal recipients alive today are virtually unknown except for a niche audience of warfare buffs. Their heroism has become the military equivalent of genre painting. There’s something wrong with that.
What they did in battle was extraordinary. Jose Lopez, a diminutive Mexican-American from the barrio of San Antonio, was in the Ardennes forest when the Germans began the counteroffensive that became the Battle of the Bulge. As 10 enemy soldiers approached his position, he grabbed a machine gun and opened fire, killing them all. He killed two dozen more who rushed him. Knocked down by the concussion of German shells, he picked himself up, packed his weapon on his back and ran toward a group of Americans about to be surrounded. He began firing and didn’t stop until all his ammunition and all that he could scrounge from other guns was gone. By then he had killed over 100 of the enemy and bought his comrades time to establish a defensive line.
Yet their stories were not only about killing. Several Medal of Honor recipients told me that the first thing they did after the battle was to find a church or some other secluded spot where they could pray, not only for those comrades they’d lost but also the enemy they’d killed.
Desmond Doss, for instance, was a conscientious objector who entered the army in 1942 and became a medic. Because of his religious convictions and refusal to carry a weapon, the men in his unit intimidated and threatened him, trying to get him to transfer out. He refused and they grudgingly accepted him. Late in 1945 he was with them in Okinawa when they got cut to pieces assaulting a Japanese stronghold.
Everyone but Mr. Doss retreated from the rocky plateau where dozens of wounded remained. Under fire, he treated them and then began moving them one by one to a steep escarpment where he roped them down to safety. Each time he succeeded, he prayed, “Dear God, please let me get just one more man.” By the end of the day, he had single-handedly saved 75 GIs.
Why did they do it? Some talked of entering a zone of slow-motion invulnerability, where they were spectators at their own heroism. But for most, the answer was simpler and more straightforward: They couldn’t let their buddies down.
Big for his age at 14, Jack Lucas begged his mother to help him enlist after Pearl Harbor. She collaborated in lying about his age in return for his promise to someday finish school. After training at Parris Island, he was sent to Honolulu. When his unit boarded a troop ship for Iwo Jima, Mr. Lucas was ordered to remain behind for guard duty. He stowed away to be with his friends and, discovered two days out at sea, convinced his commanding officer to put him in a combat unit rather than the brig. He had just turned 17 when he hit the beach, and a day later he was fighting in a Japanese trench when he saw two grenades land near his comrades.
He threw himself onto the grenades and absorbed the explosion. Later a medic, assuming he was dead, was about to take his dog tag when he saw Mr. Lucas’s finger twitch. After months of treatment and recovery, he returned to school as he’d promised his mother, a ninth-grader wearing a Medal of Honor around his neck.
The men in World War II always knew, although news coverage was sometimes scant, that they were in some sense performing for the people at home. The audience dwindled during Korea. By the Vietnam War, the journalists were omnipresent, but the men were performing primarily for each other. One story that expresses this isolation and comradeship involves a SEAL team ambushed on a beach after an aborted mission near North Vietnam’s Cua Viet river base.
After a five-hour gunfight, Cmdr. Tom Norris, already a legend thanks to his part in a harrowing rescue mission for a downed pilot (later dramatized in the film BAT-21), stayed behind to provide covering fire while the three others headed to rendezvous with the boat sent to extract them. At the water’s edge, one of the men, Mike Thornton, looked back and saw Tom Norris get hit. As the enemy moved in, he ran back through heavy fire and killed two North Vietnamese standing over Norris’s body. He lifted the officer, barely alive with a shattered skull, and carried him to the water and then swam out to sea where they were picked up two hours later.
The two men have been inseparable in the 30 years since.
The POWs of Vietnam configured a mini-America in prison that upheld the values beginning to wilt at home as a result of protest and dissension. John McCain tells of Lance Sijan, an airman who ejected over North Vietnam and survived for six weeks crawling (because of his wounds) through the jungle before being captured.
Close to death when he reached Hanoi, Sijan told his captors that he would give them no information because it was against the code of conduct. When not delirious, he quizzed his cellmates about camp security and made plans to escape. The North Vietnamese were obsessed with breaking him, but never did. When he died after long sessions of torture Sijan was, in Sen. McCain’s words, “a free man from a free country.”
Leo Thorsness was also at the Hanoi Hilton. The Air Force pilot had taken on four MiGs trying to strafe his wingman who had parachuted out of his damaged aircraft; Mr. Thorsness destroyed two and drove off the other two. He was shot down himself soon after this engagement and found out by tap code that his name had been submitted for the Medal.
One of Mr. Thorsness’s most vivid memories from seven years of imprisonment involved a fellow prisoner named Mike Christian, who one day found a grimy piece of cloth, perhaps a former handkerchief, during a visit to the nasty concrete tank where the POWs were occasionally allowed a quick sponge bath. Christian picked up the scrap of fabric and hid it.
Back in his cell he convinced prisoners to give him precious crumbs of soap so he could clean the cloth. He stole a small piece of roof tile which he laboriously ground into a powder, mixed with a bit of water and used to make horizontal stripes. He used one of the blue pills of unknown provenance the prisoners were given for all ailments to color a square in the upper left of the cloth. With a needle made from bamboo wood and thread unraveled from the cell’s one blanket, Christian stitched little stars on the blue field.
“It took Mike a couple weeks to finish, working at night under his mosquito net so the guards couldn’t see him,” Mr. Thorsness told me. “Early one morning, he got up before the guards were active and held up the little flag, waving it as if in a breeze. We turned to him and saw it coming to attention and automatically saluted, some of us with tears running down our cheeks. Of course, the Vietnamese found it during a strip search, took Mike to the torture cell and beat him unmercifully. Sometime after midnight they pushed him into our cell, so bad off that even his voice was gone. But when he recovered in a couple weeks he immediately started looking for another piece of cloth.”
We impoverish ourselves by shunting these heroes and their experiences to the back pages of our national consciousness. Their stories are not just boys’ adventure tales writ large. They are a kind of moral instruction. They remind of something we’ve heard many times before but is worth repeating on a wartime Memorial Day when we’re uncertain about what we celebrate. We’re the land of the free for one reason only: We’re also the home of the brave.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

How I Evolved on Gay Marriage

A young Christian, I arrived at college in the fall of 2004 with some of the usual intellectual difficulties: evolution, creation, the authority of Scripture, and so on. But I could think through them undisturbed, working them out in my reading rather than in debates. No one was asking, “Where do you stand?”

With gay marriage on the horizon, that soon changed. It was a time when everyone was supposed to evolve—and I did, just not in the way I was supposed to. Unlike for many other young Christians, coming around to approving gay unions as marriages never became a possibility for me.


One source I turned to for intellectual friendship was Nicolás Gómez Dávila, a Colombian aphorist who’s helped me see through the clichés of our time. The merits of the argument for gay marriage, such as they are, are obscured by the movement’s extreme rhetorical shallowness. Advocates seem to think that progress is inevitable, that history only turns one way. Against such a conceit, Gómez Dávila whispers a warning: “The fool is disturbed not when they tell him that his ideas are false, but when they suggest that they have gone out of style.” Accusing someone of being on the wrong side of history says nothing about whether he is on the right side of the argument. It is a mere threat, and a somewhat hollow one. History is an arbitrary enforcer.

The Root Difference Between Conservatives and Liberals

From Keith-Burgess Jackson: 

Barry M. Goldwater (1909-1998) on Conservatism

Barry Morris Goldwater (1909-1998)I have been much concerned that so many people today with Conservative instincts feel compelled to apologize for them. Or if not to apologize directly, to qualify their commitment in a way that amounts to breast-beating. “Republican candidates,” Vice President Nixon has said, “should be economic conservatives, but conservatives with a heart.” President Eisenhower announced during his first term, “I am conservative when it comes to economic problems but liberal when it comes to human problems.” Still other Republican leaders have insisted on calling themselves “progressive” Conservatives. These formulations are tantamount to an admission that Conservatism is a narrow, mechanistic economic theory that may work very well as a bookkeeper’s guide, but cannot be relied upon as a comprehensive political philosophy.
The same judgment, though in the form of an attack rather than an admission, is advanced by the radical camp. “We liberals,” they say, “are interested in people. Our concern is with human beings, while you Conservatives are preoccupied with the preservation of economic privilege and status.” Take them a step further, and the Liberals will turn the accusations into a class argument: it is the little people that concern us, not the “malefactors of great wealth.”
Such statements, from friend and foe alike, do great injustice to the Conservative point of view. Conservatism is not an economic theory, though it has economic implications. The shoe is precisely on the other foot: it is Socialism that subordinates all other considerations to man’s material wellbeing. It is Conservatism that puts material things in their proper place—that has a structured view of the human being and of human society, in which economics plays only a subsidiary role.
The root difference between the Conservatives and the Liberals of today is that Conservatives take account of the whole man, while the Liberals tend to look only at the material side of man’s nature. The Conservative believes that man is, in part, an economic, an animal creature; but that he is also a spiritual creature with spiritual needs and spiritual desires. What is more, these needs and desires reflect the superior side of man’s nature, and thus take precedence over his economic wants. Conservatism therefore looks upon the enhancement of man’s spiritual nature as the primary concern of political philosophy. Liberals, on the other hand,—in the name of a concern for “human beings”—regard the satisfaction of economic wants as the dominant mission of society. They are, moreover, in a hurry. So that their characteristic approach is to harness the society’s political and economic forces into a collective effort to compel “progress.” In this approach, I believe they fight against Nature.
Surely the first obligation of a political thinker is to understand the nature of man. The Conservative does not claim special powers of perception on this point, but he does claim a familiarity with the accumulated wisdom and experience of history, and he is not too proud to learn from the great minds of the past.
(Barry M. Goldwater, The Conscience of a Conservative, ed. CC Goldwater, The James Madison Library in American Politics, ed. Sean Wilentz [Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2007 (first published in 1960)], 1-3 [footnote omitted; italics in original])
Note from KBJ: This is a great book by a great (though, like all of us, imperfect) man. I'm ashamed to say that it took me 58 years to read it. Better late than never.

Eccentric Art

Simon and Garfunkel's Garfunkel has a spot on his website that records every book he's read in the last 44 years.  Not a bad list.  He claims in this interview, "Notice it's heavy sh*t.  It's not fluff."  I'll let you be the judge of that.
I also never realized that he does math in his spare time.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

The Duggars, Hypocrisy, and the Left

Allan Brocka: "A Tweet so that the world may know I am an idiot." 
The unmitigated schadenfreude after it was revealed that 12 years ago one of the Duggar's sons was involved in forcible fondling of other minors is morally repulsive to watch.  Here is a family against everything progressives stand for and, look, they have a sinner in their midst!  Gotcha! Isn't it great! (Or at least someone who was a sinner 12 years ago before he grew up and got married.)

And as always, enter the left's mindless script of "self-righteousness" and "hypocrisy."  Of course anyone who knows what hypocrisy is, knows that there is no evidence here at all that any of the Duggars are hypocrites.  But most progressives don't seem to know what hypocrisy is (which is not to say that they are not guilty of it.)

This brings to mind a post from the Maverick six-years ago.  Here is an excerpt:

I am suggesting, then, that hatred of religion is at the root of the Left's excessive and unbalanced animus against hypocrisy.  Of course, I am not implying that hypocrisy is good; it is plainly bad.  But what wants explaining is the Left's mindless fury at it and those who seem to exhibit it.  In her fine essay, "Let Us Not be Hypocritical," Daedalus, vol. 108, no. 3, Summer 1979, pp. 1-25, Judith Shklar points out that every other vice and every other evil can be excused after it has been duly analyzed and understood, but not hypocrisy, which to many today appears as the summum malum.  Why is hypocrisy singled out as the worst of evils?
It is worth noting that hypocrisy is not among the Seven Deadly Sins:  pride, lust, anger, avarice, gluttony, sloth, envy.  Does that tell us something?  I'm not sure.  Does it tell us that religionists are less appalled by hypocrisy perhaps because of a sober acceptance of human wretchedness and of the unavoidable gap between what we are and what we ought to be, a gap not to be bridged by human effort alone?   I am also struck by the fact that hypocrisy cannot be easily subsumed under any of these heads.  Hypocrisy is not a species of pride or lust or anger, etc.  If it is a sin, it is is a sin against truthfulness. But on second thought, perhaps hypocrisy can be understood as a type of pride.  The proud man, blinded by his own excellence, cannot see his own faults.  Lucifer the light bearer's very phosphorescence hid from him his finitude and creaturely status and transmogrified him from light bearer to Prince of Darkness.  Lacking humility and incapable of accurate self-assessment, the proud man imagines himself to be better than he is.  He is arrogant in that he arrogates to himself qualities that he does not in fact possess.  But this doesn't really support the notion that hypocrisy is a species of pride.  The proud man, blinded by his excellences, is blind to his faults.  But it seems that the hypocrite must be well aware of his faults so that he can hide them from others.  He must know his true motives in order to dissemble them. 
Another point worth noting is that in our culture, dominated as it is by liberals and leftists, most of the Seven Deadly Sins are not reckoned sins at all.  Given that sin is a religious concept, there cannot be sins for those who deem religion buncombe from start to finish.  But one can believe in vice without believing in sin.  I think it is safe to say that most Americans today do not consider any of the Seven Deadly Sins to be vices, with the possible exception of sloth interpreted as laziness rather than as acedia. 
TB: Bill might be right that hatred of religion is at the root the matter.  But I would add that it is a hatred of religion which particularly manifests itself in strict moral codes (e.g.) antithetical to the deliverances of the '60's.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Another Argument Against Capital Punishment

This series on the death penalty got started with a flippant remark about those who are in favor of retaining the death penalty but are also pro-life on abortion by N.T. Wright.  Wright seems to think that capital punishment is in-principle immoral--at least that is what his remark, even in context, suggests.  He goes on to add, "The rest of the world, today and across the centuries, simply doesn’t see things in this horribly oversimplified way…"

On the contrary, it seems to me that his position is overly simplified.  There are no obvious arguments that capital punishment is in-principle unjustified or impermissible.  In fact, for a Christian or Jew who takes the Bible seriously, it is difficult to square such a view with some Old Testament prescriptions for capital punishment; if capital punishment was permissible once then it is not in-principle impermissible.  Hence if capital punishment is to be abolished, it seems to me that the best arguments for its abolition are complex, in-practice arguments.

A reader, JT (philosophy professor and friend of friends) offers one such argument, similar in many ways to the one in the previous post on capital punishment.  It is a good and thoughtful one.  I add two premises and a conclusion to which I do not think he will object and I comment throughout.

Here's the best argument I can think of against capital punishment: 

(1) In a society like ours, the vast majority of cases of capital punishment are motivated by vengeance. 

(2) But every action motivated by vengeance is ipso facto morally wrong. 
(3) Therefore, in society like ours, the vast majority of cases of capital punishment are morally wrong. 
[(4) If (3), and there are no other goods which would justify capital punishment in our society, it should be abolished in our society.]

[(5) There are no other goods which would justify capital punishment in our society.]
[(6) Thus it should be abolished in our society.]

I take it that (2) is fairly evident from Christian scripture and tradition (although I'm optimistic that it could also be seen to be true on the basis of natural reason). So I expect that (1) is the controversial premise here. In order to see why (1) is right, it's helpful to think of some of the legitimate aims of punishment. 

Ted Cruz Rebuffs Reporter on Gay "Marriage" Entrapment Questions

Buff Rebuffer
Ted Cruz tellin' it like it is.

I shared this on Facebook but it's too good not to throw up on the blog.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

One of the Better Arguments Against Capital Punishment I Have Seen

I believe these are all lecture notes from Alexander Pruss (I don't want to give the reader the impression that this is Pruss's final, considered view on the issue; it's a sketch of an argument but a very clear sketch):

Aquinas on Capital Punishment

Capital Punishment #1

Capital Punishment #2 (there is some overlap with #1 at the beginning)

The last third of the third link gets to the crux of Pruss's argument.  His view seems to be that capital punishment is in-principle permissible (and perhaps in some circumstances obligatory.)  However, a society has no strict obligation to punish an offender by means of capital punishment.  Knowing that someone has (e.g.) committed a murder gives one a strong reason for capital punishment, but there might be overriding reasons for adopting lesser penalties such as life in prison in a society that has the money to afford prisons and can insure that offenders do not commit further capital offenses.  If there is no significant deterrence of crime from capital punishment, the (a) value of the offender's life and the (b) plausibility of the dehumanizing effect on the executioners (who kill guilty, but helpless humans) provide reasons for adopting lesser punishments.

A very measured argument.  I suggest reading the whole thing.  I find myself in agreement with almost all of it.  Yet I think there is a bit more to be said.  First, I think that capital punishment does deter crime, though it is notoriously difficult to provide hard, empirical data one way or the other. At any rate, I think that it certainly can deter crime if implemented in some ways rather than others.  I would need a great deal of empirical evidence not to think that speedy trials with public hangings deter crime more than lethal injections done in private quarters after multiple trials and years in prison or life imprisonment.  But more on this, perhaps, in the next post tomorrow.

Beyond the deterrence of capital offenses, it certainly prevents further capital offenses (the dead can't commit more capital offenses; to his credit Pruss rightly alludes to this in his final sentences about escape artists and poor countries.)   Moreover, it is good for societies to put their ultimate stamp of disapprobation on horrendous acts of injustice committed by hardened, unrepentant criminals, not merely as a matter of deterrence, but as an act of solidarity with the vulnerable.  Pruss is correct that the value of the life of the (e.g.) murderer and the potentially dehumanizing effects on the executioners do provide additional reasons against the practice of capital punishment.  At the same time, in eliminating capital punishment there is also the real potential that a society will find itself having less solidarity than is warranted with the vulnerable and more than is warranted with the worst capital offenders.  The primary role of the government is to insure justice to all of its citizens and the effect of removing capital punishment could have the effect of lessening the primary value of that role in the eyes of the citizens.  As well, abolishing capital punishment eliminates principled and meaningful acts of mercy as should be the end result in this case.  (Of course, cases like this where the execution goes through also give reason for eliminating the death penalty in practice even if not in theory.)
I'll have more to say about the issue tomorrow when I consider JT's interesting argument.

Scot McKnight Against the Death Penalty

I agree with Scot McKnight on more important issues than I disagree.  We're on the same team.  Nevertheless I demure on his recent post on capital punishment.  I am going to skip over the part where McKnight talks about the Old Testament and head right to the part where I have disagreements.  Also, I have not looked at the 100+ comments about his post; perhaps some of the issues I raise are addressed by him there.
Third, Jesus clearly undermines the lex talionis. Not because Jesus didn’t believe in justice, or that the death penalty was unjust. Here’s what Jesus says:
 Matt 5:38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; 40 and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; 41 and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. 42 Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.
The Torah of Moses specified justifiable revenge; Jesus contends that his followers are to extend grace. He knows what justice permits; he just doesn’t think that is the way to proceed for his community of faith. Yes, he seems to be saying, the lex talionis is just, but among my followers there will not be the pursuit of revenge. As I point out in The Sermon on the Mount, what was “show no mercy” in the Torah under Jesus becomes an opportunity to show mercy. [my highlights in bold]

Monday, May 18, 2015

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Can a Return to Federalism Save Us?

The Maverick Philosopher:

Can a Return to Federalism Save Us?

The Problem
I fear that we are coming apart as a nation.  We need to face the fact that we do not agree on a large number of divisive, passion-inspiring issues.  Among these are abortion, gun rights, capital punishment, affirmative action, legal and illegal immigration, same-sex 'marriage,' taxation, the need for fiscal responsibility in government, the legitimacy of public-sector unions, wealth redistribution, the role of the federal government in education, the very purpose of government, the limits, if any, on governmental power,  and numerous others.
We need also to face the fact that we will never agree on them. These are not merely academic issues since they directly affect the lives and livelihoods and liberties of people. And they are not easily resolved because they are deeply rooted in fundamental worldview differences, in a "conflict of visions,"  to borrow a phrase from Thomas Sowell.   When you violate a man's liberty, or mock his moral sense, or threaten to destroy his way of life, or use the power to the state to force him to violate his conscience, you are spoiling for a fight and you will get it.

We ought also to realize that calls for civility and comity and social cohesion are pretty much empty.  Comity (social harmony) in whose terms?  On what common ground?  Peace is always possible if one side just gives in.  If conservatives all converted to leftism, or vice versa, then harmony would reign.  But to think such a thing will happen is just silly, as silly as the silly hope that Obama, a leftist, could 'bring us together.'  We can come together only on common ground, or to invert the metaphor, only under the umbrella of shared principles.  And what would these be?

There is no point in papering over very real differences.
Not only are we disagreeing about issues concerning which there can be reasonable disagreement, we are also disagreeing about things that it is unreasonable to disagree about, for example, whether photo ID ought to be required at polling places, and about what really happened in the Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin cases.  When disagreement spreads to ascertainable facts, then things are well-nigh hopeless.

The rifts are deep and nasty.  Polarization and demonization of the opponent are the order of the day.   Do you want more of this?  Then give government more say in your life.  The bigger the government, the more to fight over.  Do you want less?  Then support limited government and federalism.  A return to federalism may be a way to ease the tensions, some of them anyway, not that I am sanguine about any solution. 

What is Federalism?
Federalism, roughly, is (i) a form of political organization in which governmental power is divided among a central government and various constituent governing entities such as states, counties, and cities; (ii) subject to the proviso that both the central and the constituent governments retain their separate identities and assigned duties. A government that is not a federation would allow for the central government to create and reorganize constituent governments at will and meddle in their affairs.  Federalism is implied by the Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited to it by the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."
Federalism would make for less contention, because people who support high taxes and liberal schemes could head for states like Massachusetts or California, while the  conservatively inclined who support gun rights and capital punishment could gravitate toward states like Texas.
We see the world differently.  Worldview differences in turn reflect differences  in values.  Now values are not like tastes.  Tastes cannot be reasonably discussed and disputed  while values can.  (De gustibus non est disputandum.) But value differences, though they can be fruitfully discussed,  cannot be objectively resolved because any attempted resolution will end up relying on higher-order value judgments.  There is no exit from the axiological circle.  We can articulate and defend our values and clarify our value differences.  What we cannot do is resolve our value differences to the satisfaction of all sincere, intelligent, and informed discussants.
Example: Religion

Read the rest.

Bill concludes with the following observation and question:

I understand that my proposal will not be acceptable to either liberals or conservatives.  Both want to use the power of the central government to enforce what they consider right.  Both sides are convinced that they are right.  But of course they cannot both be right.  So how do they propose to heal the splits in the body politic?
TB: The answer, of course, is by an appeal to emotion, deceptive media practices, and coercion.  (Though I'm curious why Bill thinks that the proposal will not be acceptable to conservatives.  Perhaps he has in mind neoconservatives.)

Friday, May 15, 2015

Obama: Christians Too Focused on Abortion, Not Poverty

The President:
Obama gently criticized churches for how they engage politically. In terms of “what’s the thing that is really going to capture the essence of who we are as Christians, or as Catholics,” [Catholics aren't Christians?] he said, concern about poverty “is oftentimes viewed as a ‘nice to have’ relative to an issue like abortion.”
Contrary to how Christians "oftentimes view" abortion compared to poverty, they give far more money to fighting poverty. If anything, they do not give enough to fighting abortion and 1960's "ethics."
“In 2009, overseas relief and development supported by American churches exceeded $13 billion, according to path-breaking calculations by the Hudson Center for Global Prosperity. (This includes not just evangelical churches but also Catholic and mainline Protestant congregations, and covers both direct missions work and donations to private relief groups.) That compares to $5 billion sent abroad by foundations in the same year, $6 billion from private and voluntary relief organizations apart from church support, and $9 billion donated internationally by corporations. The $13 billion in religious overseas philanthropy also compares impressively to the $29 billion of official development aid handed out by the federal government in 2009.”
The reason that so many Christians seem to be focused on issues like abortion, same-sex "marriage," transgender parades, genderfuck events, etc., is because that is what is currently being crammed down America's throat in the press and by the unlawful courts.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Sex Ed Show for 8-year-olds

Progressives have a European fetish.  If Europe does it so should backward U.S. of A. Progressives absolutely adore Europe.  It's often quite embarrassing that they happened to be born in the wrong continent.

Well, now we can bring some cutting edge European culture to the U.S. with only a few digital files!  Without doubt, PBS could stand a ratings boost.  Act now, before you're on the (dreaded) wrong side of history.  [Bonus: Swedish 3-10 yr. old penis and vagina video.]

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Atheist John Loftus on David Wood's Conversion

You can read it here.

Pretty interesting coming from a guy who has this to say about his own deconversion:
Today I am pretty much guilt free. That is, I have no guilt in regards to the Christian duties mentioned above. I am free of the need to do most of the things I felt I had to do because I was expressing my gratitude for what God had done. And yet, I am still grateful for my present life, even more so in many ways. I love life. I’m living life to the hilt, pretty much guilt free, primarily because my ethical standards aren’t as high. In fact, I believe the Christian ethical standards are simply impossible for anyone to measure up to. Think about it, according to Jesus I should feel guilty for not just what I do, but for what I think about, lusting, hating, coveting, etc. I’d like every person who reads this book to experience the freedom I have found. It is to you that I dedicate this book.
Nothing like lowering the standards to be guilt free!

Monday, May 11, 2015

A Puzzle About Baptism

I have spent a decent amount of time thinking about baptism, but one could always think a lot more.  If I have time in the near future I will comment on the thoughts the good Maverick offers below.

His first post and the context for what is below is here.

This link is for what follows:

Peter Lupu wrote me yesterday about baptism, I responded online, and today he is back at me again:
In your response you say:
" As for the change in metaphysical status wrought by baptism, the main change is the forgiveness of all sins, whether original or individual (personal).  The baptism of infants removes or rather forgives original sin only . . . ." 
" The change in metaphysical status wrought by baptism would be better described as a change in soteriological status."
I am puzzled. Why isn't conception (or even natural birth) sufficient for a salvational (soteriological) status? After all, according to all Monotheistic views, conception marks man's metaphysical status as having a spiritual soul that would animate his natural existence post birth and determine man's metaphysical status as a vital, organic, yet spiritual, being. Granting the soul at conception and rendering it a vital, active, animating force upon natural birth should suffice to grant man salvational status. Moreover, according to the creation, the soul represents God's spirit that was transferred from God to man ('spirit' in Hebrew also means 'ruah ' or 'wind' and God's spirit is translated as 'ruah Hashem' or "God's wind or breath"). Hence, bestowing a soul upon man at conception, and rendering it a vital force that animates his life at birth and thereafter, should suffice to bestow upon man salvational metaphysical status; for the soul represents God's determination, not man's. Baptism as a determinant of soteriological metaphysical status trumps the prior decision of God to grant salvational status and, since, Baptism is an act of man, it represents man's overreaching into the divine sphere where only God may act. 
Hence, I am puzzled.
Peter asked me yesterday about baptism in Christianity, and so I took my task as one of explaining concisely what the sacrament of Baptism does for the one baptized according to Christians.  What I said was correct, though I left a lot out.  Now I will say some more in trying to relieve Peter's puzzlement.  I will not give my own view of baptism, but merely explain  what I take to be the Christian view.
Peter's puzzlement concerns the necessity of baptism.  Why do we need it?  After all, man is made in the image and likeness of God.  This likeness, of course, is spiritual, not physical.  Like God, man is a spiritual being.  Unlike God, he is an animal.  Man, then, has a dual nature: he is a spiritual animal.  This sets him above every other type of animal, metaphysically speaking.  He has a special metaphysical status: he is the god-like animal.  As god-like, he equipped to share in the divine life.  Every creature has a divine origin, but only man has a divine destiny.
If so, if man was created to be a spiritual being, and to share in the divine life, then his special metaphysical status should suffice for his salvation.  Or so Peter reasons.  Why then is there any need for baptism? The Christian answer, I think, is because of Original Sin.
Man is a fallen being.  Somehow he fell from the metaphysical height he originally possessed.  This is not to say that he ceased to be a spiritual animal and became a mere animal.  It is not as if he was metaphysically demoted.  Both pre- and post-lapsarian man has the special metaphysical status.  But after the fall, Man's relation to God was disturbed in such a way that he was no longer fit to participate in the divine life.   I would put it like this: Man the spirit became man the ego.  Overcome by the power to say 'I' and mean it, a power that derives from his being a spirit, man separated from God to go it alone.  The power went to his head and he fell into the illusion of self-sufficiency.  He used the God-given power to defy God.  He became a law unto himself.
In short, man fell out of right relation to God.  Thus the necessity of a restoration of that right relation.  This is where the Incarnation comes into the picture.  Only God can bring man back into right relation with God.  God becomes one of us, suffers and dies and rises from the dead.  Having entered fully into death and rising again, God the Son secures the redemption of man for those who believe in him.  The immersion in water and the re-emergence from it signify the entry into death and the resurrection in which death is conquered.
So why do we need baptism if we already enjoy the special metaphysical status of being spiritual beings? We need it because of the fall of man, his original sin.  In baptism, each individual human being appropriates the inner transformation that Christ won for humanity in general by his death and resurrection.
Peter says that baptism is an act of man.  That is not the way a Christian would understand it.  Baptism is a sacrament: an outward sign of an inward (spiritual) transformation.  The physical rite is of course an act of man, but the inner transformation is due to divine agency.
The Peter Puzzle Potentiated
Suppose Peter accepts the foregoing.  He can still raise a difficulty.  "OK, I see how Original Sin comes into the picture, along with Incarnation, Resurrection, Redemption and Atonement.  But if Christ died for our sins and restored humanity to right relation with God, why do we need baptism?  What additional job does this do?  Didn't Christ do the work for us?"
Here I suppose an answer might be: "Yes, Christ did the heavy lifting, but each of us must accept Christ as savior by faith. Baptism is the faithful acceptance whereby the individual joins the Mystical Body of Christ wherein he reaps the salvific benefits of Christ's passion."
At this point Peter might reasonably object:  "But how is such a thing possible for an infant?  How can an infant accept Jesus Christ as lord and savior?"  Here we arrive at the vexing question of infant baptism.
There are obviously many difficult questions here, and equally difficult answers.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Mother's Day Meme Fun

Is Organic Food Worth the Money?


Why Organic Food Isn't 'Sustainable'

Is Organic Agriculture 'Affluent Narcissism?'


Fewer Pesticides More Antioxidants

Egalitarianism Ruins Everything

Malcolm Pollack:

Some time ago I commented on a tiny, emaciated female police officer I had seen in Prospect Park. Now we learn that a 33-year-old woman, Rebecca Wax, is to be made a New York City firefighter despite having failed the physical exam.
Fighting fires is not a political or ideological abstraction. Actual fires take place in actual physical buildings, and threaten actual physical property and actual human bodies. Extinguishing them, therefore, and rescuing the lives of those human bodies, requires the movement and control of actual physical resources and equipment, in great haste, under demanding and extremely adverse physical conditions. Many, if not most, of these physical resources are necessarily bulky and heavy. Moreover, firefighters must work as a team, in which every member’s life may depend, at any moment, on the physical ability of any other member. Therefore, as we read in the article linked above:
In the FST exam, probies must breathe through a mask attached to an air tank while carrying up to 50 pounds of gear.
They must climb six flights of stairs, stretch hose lines, raise ladders, perform tasks that simulate breaking doors and pulling down ceilings, and drag dummies through tunnels with no visibility.
They must complete the course in 17 minutes, 50 seconds or less.
Despite many attempts over the Fire Academy’s 18-week training course, Wax completed the test just once — but it took her more than 22 minutes, the source said.
In numerous tries, Wax struggled and was too slow. While fit probies finish with air left in their tanks, she had to stop when hers ran out, the source added.
“She’s in the best shape of her life, and it’s still not good enough,” he said.
But in she goes anyway. Forward!
This pattern of subordinating vitally important standards to the doctrinal absurdities of a secular religion that prohibits all discriminations — even those that are obviously necessary to our own survival — does not confine itself to the merely physical. Earlier this year our Sandinista mayor, Bill deBlasio, agreed to pay a settlement of $98,000,000 for having required aspiring firefighters to pass a test that proved too difficult for many black applicants. Nobody alleged that the test itself contained any race-specific content; it was simply that black applicants couldn’t pass it at the same rate that white applicants did. That this might represent an actually existing statistical disparity between blacks and whites in the cognitive abilities the test sought to measure is, of course, an unspeakable hypothesis, and so the “disparate impact” of the exam can only be proof of — you guessed it — racism. And so the standards will be lowered, and we New Yorkers will be $98m poorer, while our lives and property are put at greater risk.
Thank you, Mayor deBlasio. Thank you, idiotic secular Puritans.
Here is an article about all of this by Cornell statistician William Briggs. (As you read it, be sure to follow the link to this item by Fred Reed.)

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Conservative vs. Progressive Views on Tradition

In the previous post, it was noted that Adam Swift thinks that families are a social construct (like an Amish barn...only not.)  This is a typical progressive position.  Part of the reason driving such a view is tied up with feelings (thoughts?) about human nature as well as traditions.  Much more could be said on the matter of tradition (and human nature), but Malcolm Pollack cuts to the heart of the disagreement:

In our recent discussion of the Supreme Court’s DOMA ruling, our reader Peter... made the following response to the suggestion that marriage was a tradition so ancient, and so universal, that some care might be warranted in tampering with it:
Tradition alone does not justify continuance in perpetuity.
Well, I don’t suppose many people would disagree with that: tradition alone does not justify continuance in perpetuity.
A far more interesting question, though, is what tradition does justify. Conservatives and liberals will give very different answers, I think, because they think about tradition in opposite ways.
To the conservative, traditions arise naturally from the workings of human nature, as part of the ontogeny and organic development of societies. They are not the result of scientific planning or sociological theorizing — and like biological species themselves, they only come into view in retrospect. They are, in a sense, part of the “extended phenotype” of our species and its various subgroups, as languages are; and just as languages do, they naturally adapt to, and come to represent, those things that actually matter to the various human groups from which they arise. (Many have been, at least up till now, more or less universal.) In this way they contain a great deal of deeply-buried knowledge about the optimal functioning of the human social organism, often for reasons, and in ways, that themselves need not be explicitly represented in the organism’s consciousness. Because of this, disrupting them will always have unknowable consequences — and so, at least, tradition justifies respect for its embodied wisdom, and caution as regards casual tampering.
To those on the Left, traditions are artifacts. Rather than being organic outgrowths and aspects of human nature itself, they are human creations; they are social technology, whose only purpose is to control and manipulate human behavior. In this view, human “nature” hardly exists at all, and traditions are wholly external things; indeed almost everything about human behavior and human life is external to the individual. This means that to mold human beings, or human societies, into any desirable configuration is simply a matter of discarding traditions, and inventing new ones, until we obtain the correct result. Because of this, tradition justifies very little indeed.
As we see all around us, these views of the world are not particularly compatible, and cannot easily coexist, at least within any given society.
As Peter reminded us, “the times they are a-changing.” Indeed they are: and the faster the rate of change, and the greater its amplitude, the more the strain increases.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Having a Family/Private Education Are Unfair Advantages

Philosopher Adam Swift knows that having a family gives children an advantage.  But lockstep with progressive ideology hellbent on upsetting traditional values, he follows it to its (il)logical conclusion: for the sake of the egalitarian utopia, we should be concerned about reading bedtime stories to our children because it gives them an unfair advantage; furthermore, private education should be abolished.  This is not the Onion, folks.  This is reality.

‘I got interested in this question because I was interested in equality of opportunity,’ he says.
‘I had done some work on social mobility and the evidence is overwhelmingly that the reason why children born to different families have very different chances in life is because of what happens in those families.’
‘One way philosophers might think about solving the social justice problem would be by simply abolishing the family. If the family is this source of unfairness in society then it looks plausible to think that if we abolished the family there would be a more level playing field.’   
‘It’s the children’s interest in family life that is the most important,’ says Swift. ‘From all we now know, it is in the child’s interest to be parented, and to be parented well. Meanwhile, from the adult point of view it looks as if there is something very valuable in being a parent.’ [So instead of abolishing the family...]
‘We could prevent elite private schooling without any real hit to healthy family relationships, whereas if we say that you can’t read bedtime stories to your kids because it’s not fair that some kids get them and others don’t, then that would be too big a hit at the core of family life.’
‘I don’t think parents reading their children bedtime stories should constantly have in their minds the way that they are unfairly disadvantaging other people’s children, but I think they should have that thought occasionally,’ quips Swift.
‘It’s true that in the societies in which we live, biological origins do tend to form an important part of people’s identities, but that is largely a social and cultural construction. [TB: Care to give an argument for that?] So you could imagine societies in which the parent-child relationship could go really well even without there being this biological link.’
‘Nothing in our theory assumes two parents: there might be two, there might be three, and there might be four,’ says Swift.
‘We do want to defend the family against complete fragmentation and dissolution,’ he says. ‘If you start to think about a child having 10 parents, then that’s looking like a committee rearing a child; there aren’t any parents there at all.’  [TB: Oh, good, seems we're in excellent hands.  Thanks for pulling us back from the ledge of lunacy.  The rational cutoff, according to our family expert, isn't two but nine.]
As I have noted numerous times on this blog, progressives like Swift conflate ("social") justice with fairness as well as equality.  But justice, fairness, and equality are not the same.  Judgments about fairness and equality necessarily involve making comparisons, whereas judgments about justice need not.  I can judge that I have unjustly given you too little money simply by noting that I have given you less than what I promised for the work that you did irrespective of what anyone else has made. You can judge whether I gave you an unjust grade simply by looking at your work and my rubric in the course syllabus irrespective of whether I gave a fair/equal distribution of grades to the entire class (e.g. everyone including you got a "C").  

Instead of fretting about reading bedtime stories to his children, perhaps Swift should consider reading them this Bible story.