Thursday, March 29, 2007
The arrest of two women teachers on charges of having sex with their male students has brought cries of lingering racism in one of South Carolina's most conservative counties and evoked some of the South's oldest and deepest-seated racial taboos.
As anyone who has been following World Net Daily's reporting of the issue, this isn't a new thing. The media went after Catholic priests who had sex with minors; they also went after the cowardly bishops who moved the perverts from diocese to diocese. Some Catholics felt that the media was being over-zealous, but while their vitriol for the Church as a body was unfounded, their indignation at both pedophile priests and those who enabled them was not.
Unfortunately, this zeal has yet to be applied at public school teachers, who, according to WND, are more likely to abuse children than even priests. Nor is such behavior regulated to teachers and Catholic priests. Pedophilia is a huge problem, and incidents of it are likely to be found in among any group of people who is allowed lengthy and private access to children.
Both women are white. The boys — six in all — are black...
Some blacks shudder to think what would have happened if the teachers were black men and the students were white girls.
I concur with the shudder, but for a different reason. If the teachers were black men and the students were white girls, there would be an uproar. But the same would hold true irrespective of race so long as the man was the teacher. I read into this a bias which breaks down, not according to race, but according to sex.
I may be completely wrong in this, but my statement is at least partially correct. From a legal standpoint women are treated as children all too often in this country. Later on in the article, the prosecutor insists that the only reason the bail was set so low was due to the lack of risk that the accused would run. Fine. That still does not explain the ridiculously light sentences passed on women who commit similar crimes.
I think the idea of an egalitarian society is one of humanity's more stupid ideas. If men had complained that women hold an inordinate amount of power, I would find the complaints unmanly, but at least admit that they were true. Women will probably never run most of the corporations; they will never hold a majority within Congress or the Supreme Court. They will eventually capture the presidency, but none of this is actually a good rubric for judging power. Where every women reigns supreme is in the home, and especially the bedroom. Behind every good man is a good woman goes the saying, but really, behind any man, be he good or bad, sits the woman, and no man can really ignore the advice of the fairer sex. Macbeth certainly could not.
Anyway, my problem with the whole idea of an egalitarian society is that those who had the power, the real power, sough to give it up to take their place in the bored halls of corporate boardrooms or the hallowed political halls where rubber stamps are given to ideas concocted somewhere else. It is a foolish thing to forfeit one's soul to gain the world as profit, but it is beyond foolish to trade it for nothing at all. No one with a brain trades real gold for fool's gold, but that is precisely what the feminists have attempted to do.
Today's story demonstrates, I think, that the egalitarian system will ever prove elusive. Should it ever arrive, I rather think that we will all find it to be disturbing and ridiculous. If next someone tries to do something to narrow the equality gap in the bedroom, I shall head screaming for the hills.
Two weeks ago, I wrote a column titled “The Morality of Gay” wherein I noted the diametrical opposition of Christianity to homosexuality. Allow me several points before moving onto other matters.
First, in referring to homosexuality, I am referring to manifestations thereof, not the orientation itself. A predilection to sin simply marks one among the brotherhood of men; a desire to do that which is immoral is the very definition of fallen man. It is the sin itself which proves problematic. The desire itself may exist, but it is not something one ought to always act upon. As Chesterton succinctly put it, “There are some desires that are not desirable.”
Second, I have something of a hard time bringing myself to understand how people can object to something so obvious as the fact that acts of homosexuality constitute sin according to the moral code posited by Christianity. From the beginning, God commanded Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply. Thus openness to procreation is an intrinsic element to Christian sexuality, one which homosexual union can never fulfill. There are also the passages both in the Torah as well as the New Testament, specifically the Pauline epistles, which condemn homosexual union explicitly, but anyone who cares for the matter can find such passages by utilizing a simply Google search. Suffice it to say, condemnations of homosexuality occur with a surprising degree of regularity in the Bible, and the Good Book is entirely free of even the most tepid endorsement of the behavior.
Now, although I firmly believe that homosexual acts are immoral, that was not the point of my article. Neither is it the point of this one. Christianity, like any religion which preaches truth concerning a transcendent spiritual reality, must be taken on faith. As such, it can also be rejected. Christianity may be no more valid than the mythological and philosophical systems of the ancient Romans and Greeks. But you can't simply pick and choose what you like out of a system of belief and pretend that the system is the same. You cannot pick up the ball and run around with it and insist that I am playing soccer. You can't make a sandwich consisting of wheat bread and mayonnaise and call it a reuben because it also contains corned beef and sauerkraut. You can't say you like what Jesus had to say about the meek and ignore what he said about divorce. You cannot accept Paul's teaching on homosexuality and ignore what he has to say about adultery. At least, you can do none of this and expect people to take you very seriously. You may form other games; you may create a new type of sandwich. You may even make other religions. But you should have the common decency to call the thing by a new name.
Tangentially, as atheists such as Bertrand Russell and James Joyce observed, this was the fundamental flaw of protestantism. Russell predicted that since protestantism allowed each man to be the judge of true Christianity, ultimately each man would constitute his own private church, leaving the Roman Catholics—to which I would add the series of orthodox churches who split during the Great Schism over a relatively minor theological matter and who may be approaching reunification with Rome—alone as a unified body of believers with a cogent philosophy. To keep with the old metaphor, protestantism is an attack on reubens. It may have created a wonderful array of new sandwiches, but I am of the opinion that truth, unlike sandwiches, should not contradict.
Joyce couched his more severe observation in the semi-autobiographical A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. The protagonist Stephen Dedalus declares to his friend Cranly that he will no longer serve God; he has lost his faith and no longer considers himself a Roman Catholic. “Then, said Cranly, you do not intend to become a protestant?”
“I said that I had lost the faith,” Stephen answered, “but not that I had lost self-respect. What kind of liberation would that be to forsake an absurdity which is logical and coherent and to embrace one which is illogical and incoherent?” But I digress, doing my best to leave off what Flannery O'Connor correctly termed “Catholic smugness”.
All of which brings me, at long last, to my point. I can't help but feel that homosexuals have gotten a raw deal as of late. I refuse to retract any of my statements from above. But I get the feeling that homosexuals know that they are sinners—or anyway, that a bunch of us think as much. There is something to be said about knowing when to shut up, and I think it is probably time for the conservative Christians to shut up about the homosexuals. Certainly an occasional summary of the facts is in order, as people tend to forget these things. But there is no shortage of sinners in the church, and, from a purely proportional perspective, sermons condemning the dreaded sodomites ought to be reduced in number.
I take, as if from a hat, the sin of divorce. I note shamefully in passing, that, at least in America, Christians have a higher rate of divorce than atheists and agnostics. Note too that this is an interesting juxtaposition to some of the statistics I mentioned in last week's article, though in my defense I will add that couples who use natural family planning instead of birth control have a divorce rate of just two percent. But the benevolence of birth control will be reserved for another day. Very strict Catholics aside, it seems that those who desire to divorce choose to ignore passages which illuminate the error of their intentions. Take, for instance, chapter 10 from the Gospel of Mark:
The Pharisees approached and asked, "Is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife?"... He said to them in reply, "What did Moses command you?" They replied, "Moses permitted him to write a bill of divorce and dismiss her." But Jesus told them, "Because of the hardness of your hearts he wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation, 'God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother (and be joined to his wife), and the two shall become one flesh.' So they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, no human being must separate." In the house the disciples again questioned him about this. He said to them, "Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery."
Strong words, and ones Christians should be hesitant to dismiss. There are two points I wish to leave in closing. Christians should not be entirely surprised that homosexuals do not take Christianity's provisions against sodomy seriously given that Christians who have no trouble condemning homosexual acts, acts which only a minority of them would even possibly be attracted to, do not take other tenants of their ostensible faith to heart. Blatant hypocrisy on behalf of adherents speaks poorly of their religion. Neither should they be surprised at the growing disdain, or stunning indifference, on behalf of non-Christians, homosexuals and otherwise to what was once the faith of all of Europe. Bashing gays over the head with a book does little good, for the gays or for the bashers. A daily walk with Christ, and an acceptance of his discipline, is sure to produce better fruit.
There is a saying that reads: “They will know we are Christians by the love we have for one another.” Might be nice to see it somewhere besides print. Meanwhile, as smugness is connected to the deadly sin of pride, I'll be taking a key from Dante, pushing a rock round and round a ledge. I reckon I might be here awhile.
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
Last week, my colleague Mr. John Tempey wrote a thought-provoking article. Therein he claimed: “religion does not hold a trump card when it comes to morality.” Needless to say, I was intrigued. I had heard such claims before, but perhaps Mr. Tempey would be able to shed light on a previously veiled platitude and explain to a simple religious fellow such as myself just why this was true.
He notes that “You would need to show that a significant percentage of people on one side or the other (statistically speaking) have committed a certain action that is deemed morally reprehensible by both parties...” He then notes that to his knowledge this has not yet been done. Actually, something very similar has been done, but before I get to that, I must point out an important matter He notes that the action must be deemed morally reprehensible to both parties, which is true. But he does not say how we are to determine this. Religious types will presumably find reprehensible that which is contrary to the tenants of their particular religious system. But he does not offer a basis for non-religious morality throughout the entirety of his article. This is a rather large flaw.
Anyway, Vox Day, a Christian libertarian columnist for WorldNetDaily, has been working on a book titled “The Irrational Atheist” wherein he attacks the logic of such renowned atheists such as Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Daniel Dennett. In the process, he has found some valuable information which applies directly to Mr. Tempey's criticism. This from Adherents.com, and also linked at Mr. Day's blog: “According to the DOJ Bureau of Justice Statistics (National Census of the Jail Population 12/31/95), while 72% affirmed affiliation with religious institutions (determined through answers to the question on "Religious Background" on the Penal entrance form) only 54% of Federal and State Prisoners actually consider themselves religious, and 33% can be confirmed to be practicing their religion.”
And there is more, again courtesy of Mr. Day: “A comparison of a 2000 survey of the British prison population with the 2001 national census revealed that whereas individuals claiming atheism or no religion make up only 15.5 percent of the British population, they comprise 31.9 percent of those imprisoned.”
Now, as Vox himself admits, it is not surprising that atheists would be incarcerated at a higher rate, given their rejection of religion—in the case of the United States and Britain we are speaking of Christianity. But one wonders how much of the benefit of the doubt atheists ought to be given. It is one thing to say that one opposes Christian morality, even if only in part. It is quite another to explain how—and why—one determines which pieces thereof one ought to reject.
Mr. Tempey's concludes his fine article by noting, “...ascribing morality based on something that we inherently have no ability to verify through any sort of fundamental reasoning process seems ludicrous, if not dangerous.” I'm not certain if he meant it, but these words apply perfectly to the non-religious as well. There was a reason the atheist Voltaire failed to embrace Nietzsche's conclusion of a wholly subjectively individualistic philosophy. On purely practical grounds, morality which is based on a religion which is centuries old is superior to one that cannot be delineated, and hence is fully mutable. The madness of morality is not mitigated by over-throwing the gods and replacing them with the individual conscience. If the previously quoted statistics suggest anything, it is that it is actually quite the contrary.
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
Hello, and congratulations on a great article in the LODE under
OPINION. Simply based on the fact that you wrote an Article on what
you believe but did not write the final Authority that you stand
upon. The Article does not clearly state your stand for or against
one who is gay, homosexual, lesbian or the like.
Please read the King James Bible, for it clearly stands against sin
such as being gay, Leviticus 20:13 which is under law, and Romans
1:28-32 which is under grace, most especially important to you is
Romans 1:22. The woman caught in Adultery where is that in the
Bible? Your article would have been better if it stated where,
unless you wanted the reader to over look the fact that Christ did
not condemn the woman like you said but it was because she was
repentful, and of course knew she had done wrong, SINNED to be exact.
It is also a truth that Christ that Christ forgave her because she
was under law, knew Adultery wrong, and wanted yes wanted
Eric Jackson also writes morality has "advanced" without any
references but the fact of the POPE, who supposedly stands for god
but which god I am not sure, with his mixture of religion and only
religion recongnized for being a country with ambassadors. Which
raises the question, does this advancement then ok other things like
child labor, sex with animals, human slavery, prostitution, killing
for disagreeing, marriage of a 40 year old man and a 12 year old
girl, terrorism, etc., etc...????
We know more about Sexuality?? What is your authority on that?
Paul wrote what GOD told him to, that is if you would read the King
James Bible. Paul was not against it, but he was for obeying the
very GOD who gave him power to heal, created him, and above all
saved him from hell. To know the LAW better does not change the LAW
but should give a better understanding of the LAW.
In closing, I do salute you on your courage to stand and present what
you believe, but also wonder what your authority is to which you
stand. I do not expect a rational and kind response, but what you to
Christ loves all: John 3:16
Christ hates Sin: Romans 6:23
Believe in his death, burial and resurrection and thou shalt be saved:
The King James Bible is my final Authority what is yours? Your opinion
came from something.
Thanks for your time and GOD Bless,
First, I would like to thank you for writing. I enjoy feedback because it
helps me in my quest to become a better writer.
My Authority is the Roman Catholic Church. As such, I draw from the
Church's teachings on issues of morality and doctrinal disputes. However,
being Catholic is a complicated matter, and one I feel cannot be
sufficiently explained in an aside in the midst of a short article. Thus
I referenced, but did not directly quote, incidents from the Bible. For
the record, I use the New American Bible.
My thoughts are somewhat conflicted concerning the use of references for
chapter and verse. In an age of technology, it's neither difficult nor
time-consuming to find particular passages in the Bible, and allusions
thereto seem sufficient for my purposes, especially as copious citations
clutter the source. But this is largely a matter of personal opinion.
I think you misunderstood large segments of my article. You write, "Eric
Jackson also writes morality has "advanced" without any references." I
did in fact write this, but I did so sardonically. Or so was my intent.
I do not believe that morality has advanced. I explained how one would go
about making the case for it however, and this was perhaps where you
Allow me to reiterate myself to make my case more clear:
"[T]he number of people who state, and apparently sincerely believe, that
the morality of yesteryear is no longer applicable in the modern world is
astonishing. Being an evolutionary skeptic and a moral absolutist, this
strikes me as peculiar..."
"Obviously an appeal to technological superiority is an illogical
recourse. It is a convenient ploy for the intellectually dishonest, and it
affords one a pass from surveying human history and philosophy. Like the
accountants of Enron, you can just make it up as you go along."
In short, like you I believe in Truth which does not change.
I didn't specifically condemn homosexuality because I feel that this
detracts from the issue at hand. By outing myself as one who views
homosexuality to be immoral, I risk losing a portion of the audience I
wish to convince of something. This shouldn't be the case, but it often
can be. My point was that Christianity and homosexuality (acts, not the
orientation) are opposed. My stance on the matter was thus essentially
Hope this clears a few misconceptions up, and thanks again for taking the
time to write.
Well that was fun. Next time I get mail we can do it again. Or not.
I guess I could go either way on this one. Your thoughts?
And yet -- no weapons, no matter how powerful, can help the West until it overcomes its loss of willpower. In a state of psychological weakness, weapons become a burden for the capitulating side. To defend oneself, one must also be ready to die; there is little such readiness in a society raised in the cult of material well-being. Nothing is left, then, but concessions, attempts to gain time and betrayal.As I have freely admitted, much to my shame, initially I fully supported every facet of the President's War on Terror. One reason for my duplicity was my disgust at the protestations of liberal peaceniks. It is one thing to oppose an interventionist war; in fact, it is a very sound thing. But it is quite another to pretend that Saddam was not a tyrant and to suggest that it was Bush who should be tried for war crimes. It is one thing to take a hammer to a horsefly. It is another to pretend the horsefly doesn't exist at all. It might be best to simply ignore the horsefly, just as it would have been best to simply ignore Saddam; but we do not ignore him because he isn't a dictator, but rather despite the fact. It is important not only to make the right decisions, but to make them for the right reasons.
About the time the punditry started clamoring for war, I listened to a great deal of talk radio. I have since graduated to books, though I still like to listen to Drudge when I have the chance, but much of my political philosophy was formed during these late night sessions of listening to various callers to the local radio show expound rather less than eloquently about the topics of the day. One of the points the callers and the hosts would make was that, essentially, liberals were cowards. They lacked willpower. And at the risk of generalizing completely, there is much truth to the statement. Liberals couldn't recognize the evil of Saddam just as they couldn't recognize the evil of the Soviet Union. If they do recognize it, they fail to stand up and condemn it.
And no, the internal combustion engine isn't evil, even if it might be unpleasant and obnoxious. But even here liberals lack the willpower to do something about the allegedly terrible problem. Even if everyone sees An Inconvenient Truth one hundred times, until people start acting to rectify the pending danger, we are still doomed.
This is not to say that conservatives are models of excellence. Even casually supporting such pathetic candidates as McCain, Giuliani, and Romney is itself an act of extreme cowardice. But conservatives still generally recognize the concept of evil, and however misguided they currently are, it's not hard to guess from which idealogical camp would come our saviors in the case of a genuine invasion. I'll bet their apartment that liberals in Manhattan wouldn't stand with the boys from Texas were genuine evil to creep into the United States. Of course this is infinitely worse in Europe where Islam will, in matter of decades, completely engulf what was once Christendom. This is not to suggest that Islam is, ipso facto, evil, that is a matter for another day; but without a resurgence in courage, it's not hard to guess what will become of once mighty Europe.
Western thinking has become conservative: the world situation should stay as it is at any cost, there should be no changes. This debilitating dream of a status quo is the symptom of a society which has come to the end of its development. But one must be blind in order not to see that oceans no longer belong to the West, while land under its domination keeps shrinking. The two so-called world wars (they were by far not on a world scale, not yet) have meant internal self-destruction of the small, progressive West which has thus prepared its own end. The next war (which does not have to be an atomic one and I do not believe it will) may well bury Western civilization forever.One of the more fascinating aspects of Solzhenitsyn's speech is his inability to conform to strict idealogical camps. He emphatically condemns Socialism, but does not come close to endorsing the Western way of thinking. He condemns liberalism as the road to Communist hell, pardon the redundancy, but he also correctly equates reactionary conservatism with cowardice.
Lest the reader think I fail to apply the obvious to myself, my conservatism stems, I think, largely from my feelings of the futility of political action. I have ideas, a few of them even contain value, but ultimately all revolutions must be cultural, not political.
I strongly object to the idea that humans are purely materialistic creatures. Capitalism has created levels of prosperity previously unheard of, and for a larger portion of the population, even considering the entire world, than had been done prior. But it has left a spiritual vacuum which conservatism and liberalism cannot fill, even supposing that either camp recognizes the existence of such a vacuum. Conservatives lack the willpower to fill this spiritual vacuum, even as their camp is more likely to take religion seriously. It is perhaps unkind to suggest, but the Evangelical movement seems to attempt to fill the spiritual vacuum by creating one in their heads. The process seems less than fortuitous.
Facing such a danger, with such historical values in your past, at such a high level of realization of freedom and apparently of devotion to freedom, how is it possible to lose to such an extent the will to defend oneself?I would answer that the shallower one's existence, the more value one places upon it. The saints seemed almost entirely unaware of their saintliness, or at least possessed the good sense to feign unawareness. When one lives in a world wherein the individual is the yardstick whereof all things are measured, the world is a terribly small place. But as small and perhaps even silly as it is, it must be clung to for it is literally all that there is. On the other hand, the saints had the sense that there was something else out there, and death, however horrible, was not the end, and in that sense not necessarily tragic.
Chesterton observed that "Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of a readiness to die." And so it is. But we do not possess a very strong desire to live, and until we find that basic passion for existence which is all but ubiquitous in less cynical times, neither will we possess a readiness to die, though die we certainly shall. This is how pitiful westerners die, not with a bang, but a whimper.
Monday, March 26, 2007
In between classes this morning, I glanced at a flier and read the list of events Keweenaw Pride would be hosting. On Tuesday, the event will be to "Guess the Straight Person". The game seems simple enough. I do not plan on attending, but I think I will offer a few thoughts before heading back to campus for more "education".
The motive behind the game, the lesson one is supposed to learn, I would guess, is that gays and lesbians look a lot like heterosexuals. Fine. I readily accept that. Some gay men wear clothes heterosexuals would never be caught dead in, but if we equipped a gay man with my signature corduroy pants, old t-shirt and baseball cap I rather doubt that there would be much of a difference between the two of us.
But I don't see where this gets us. I can make the same point concerning any number of behaviors and creeds. Libertarians generally look about the same as you and I do. Catholics are convincingly human. So are the Socialists.
Nor is this confined to philosophical schools. It may seem unfair, but it is important to get to where I wish to go, but petty thieves probably pass the test as well. So do forgers and adulterers and murderers and liars and cowards. For all have sinned. Of course, on a hopeful note, it is also true that just as sinners generally looked the part of mankind, so did the saints. And in the last words ever written by Saint Thomas Aquinas, "Nevertheless, all men may attain salvation." The quote is approximate. The idea is exact.
Now, in all this talk about appearances we are missing the whole point of the affair. It doesn't make a lick of difference to me what a man looks like, speaking purely philosophically. In reality, I am prejudiced like most of sinful mankind. What we wish to know, what is generally disagreed upon, is whether homosexual acts are sinful, and upon that point I am convinced, no matter how much a gay or--heaven forbid--a lesbian may look like me.
I feel a bit badly for homosexuals, mostly because the ire which they endure is so disproportionate. If we were living in an age of general holiness, mitigated only by a plague of sodomites, I would have no such qualm. But the fact of the matter is that sin is ubiquitous; in truth it always has been. What we presently lack is the knowledge that this is so. Of this, homosexuals are generally aware. That they choose to persist is beside the point; no gay or lesbian in America has any doubts about how conservative Christians feel about his or her little activities.
Perhaps it is time to get the message out to everyone else. I recall Christ having some very strong words to say about divorce. But the divorced do not have a pride week--as yet--and so I must deliver my little homily to the proverbial gay men's choir. Ah well.
For years, feminists have fought for equality, believing it is the key to a better society.
Now researchers have found that parity between the sexes may be bad for your health.A study in Sweden, arguably one of the most egalitarian countries in the world, discovered that men and women who are equal are more likely to suffer illness or disability.
Are they suggesting that humanity's latest attempt to create heaven on earth will lead to hell? Why I never!
The scientists, from the Swedish National Institute of Public Health, said a possible explanation for the link between equality and illness is that men's health may be adversely affected by a loss of what had been seen as traditional male privileges.Yes, we're really flummoxed about the fact that we no longer hold a monopoly on dwelling in cubes. In reality, the sexes function much better separately. This is not to say that men should never endure the presence of a woman, but incessantly mixing the two leads to displeasure, especially for men. As all men know, we need our time alone, away from women folk. Work used to serve this function admirably--pardon the nostalgia. Now it no longer does so.
They suggested that women's health could be damaged by greater opportunities for risky behaviour as a result of increased income combined with the stress of longer working hours.This part actually makes sense. Women have an aversion to decisions, especially important ones. I believe this aversion is innate; regardless is exists. This is not to say that women are incapable of making decisions, but it is not surprising that discomfort leads to stress and other decreases in general wellness.
My favorite part of the article comes next:
But the study, published in the journal Social Science and Medicine, also put forward the theory that equality has not yet been fully achieved in society and that these effects are part of a transitional process on the road to fairness.
Now where have we heard this before? Wasn't this the mantra of the Communists in power? If an increase in "equality"--a dubious concept, that--is proving less than benevolent, we must attempt to increase equality further. H. L. Mencken once observed that "the cure for the evils of democracy is more democracy." The cure for the evils of socialism was more socialism. So too the evils for ostensible equality is more ostensible equality.
If you are ramming your head into a wall, it is hardly prudent to increase your head's velocity. It is better to use your head to re-think matters and change course. If only feminists hadn't given up on thinking.
Sunday, March 25, 2007
Each day, thousands of pieces of intelligence information from around the world -- field reports, captured documents, news from foreign allies and sometimes idle gossip -- arrive in a computer-filled office in McLean, where analysts feed them into the nation's central list of terrorists and terrorism suspects.Called TIDE, for Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment, the list is a storehouse for data about individuals that the intelligence community believes might harm the United States.
Ostensibly this list is for the terrorists; in reality... it depends on how cynical one wishes to be. As I recall Stalin had a list of those who might do harm to his own country. But it's not as if Americans would ever put anyone on the list who wasn't a real threat to our way of life, is it? Then again, how radical must one be to present a threat to the American way of life? Better work lots of overtime and spend that dough just so They don't get too suspicious.
But in addressing one problem, TIDE has spawned others. Ballooning from fewer than 100,000 files in 2003 to about 435,000, the growing database threatens to overwhelm the people who manage it...
We'll chalk this up to improvements in intelligence. We may have gotten it wrong when it came to those danged WMDs, but I'm certain that we're doing better; hence every additional file represents another triumph for Freedom over Terror. It's called progress, and if you don't believe in its inevitability, you're a reactionary zealot, which is to say an idiot.
TIDE has also created concerns about secrecy, errors and privacy. The list marks the first time foreigners and U.S. citizens are combined in an intelligence database. The bar for inclusion is low, and once someone is on the list, it is virtually impossible to get off it. At any stage, the process can lead to "horror stories" of mixed-up names and unconfirmed information...
But what are a few horror stories in the grand scheme of things? You don't want the terrorists to win do you? For the Greater Good, sacrifices must be made. Freedom must triumph. England--I mean America--prevails.
I've been thinking about re-reading 1984, but I think I'll let it go so long as we're privy to an approximate reproduction of the thing. Enjoy the spectacle. This is seriously historic.
Saturday, March 24, 2007
[H]is [the scientist's] theory was "increased solar activity was heating the planet CAUSING increased CO2 levels which were mostly from seaweed or plankton or some such".
Man caused was insignificant, not a worry. Is this your belief?
He asks a valid question, and should be given a fair answer. Here goes. My belief is that while we know that the earth is warming, we do not know the reason why. Do I think the earth is warming? The current evidence seems to suggest as much, though I don't like to extrapolate into the future save in silly matters, such as the upcoming presidential election. Do I think that human beings cause warming? I'm honestly not sure. I wish we had more evidence. Do I think that people like Gore fallaciously lay claim to truth? Certainly. Do I think they ignore the aforesaid solar activity? Definitely.
Do I think that the government should attempt to solve the warming problem? No. Do I think that humans will be able to stop the earth from warming at all? Not really. It will sound simplistic, and even platitudinous, but the earth is bigger than we are--and I am not only talking about physical proportions. Even if I were not a Christian, I would like to think that there was something bigger than I am. It may be false, but it is a very comforting thought nonetheless. Is certainly discomforting believing that this is all that there is, and that we are the most important things on the earth.
Do I think that industrial capitalism has brought with it a disregard for the planet on which we live, and for the other creatures, who, though of less importance than the one species made in God's image, are nonetheless products of His same act of love? Emphatically yes. Do I think we need to go back to living in small agrarian communities so as to avoid doing ill toward the planet? Not exactly, though if people wish to do so than they should probably be encouraged in their endeavor.
The global warming debate has been insensibly polarized. On one side, Gore and company believe that we must scrap the entirety of the industrialized world--that which has enabled us to, for good or ill, populate the world to extents previous unimaginable; for that is the logical extension of his line of thinking--so that we do not over-heat the earth and (maybe) cause many people to die and wreck the environment for future generations. On the other, capitalism is the philosophy which allows us to worship at the throne of mammon. Environmentalists stand in the way of progress, which means strip-mining and strip malls and making man a materialistic creature.
I rarely stand in the middle on anything, but in this case it seems a practical place to reside. We should be stewards of the earth, but this earth is ultimately for our use. One perfectly good way of using it is to leave it as is, but it can also be good to clear land, especially if it is for something as essential as human homes. Ultimately, however, we are small creatures in a very big universe. We will probably never know what causes global warming. We do not even know how to accurately predict the weather a single week in advance. It seems terribly hasty to dismantle civilization for things that might come to pass. Our lives are not our own. There is something much bigger out there.
UPDATE: Troutsky, your word verification for commenting on your site isn't working for me. I had some thoughts to offer on your last post, but I won't be able to do so unless you turn the thing off. Sorry.
Thursday, March 22, 2007
"The planet has a fever," Gore said.
and the only prescription... is more cowbell!
Sorry, I couldn't resist. I'd write more but I'm working on reducing my carbon footprint. The rest of my day will be spent running on a wheel so as to power up my electric generator for future blog posts.
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
Over break General Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, gave support to the policy whereby active homosexuals are outed from military service. He then made the mistake of bringing morality into the mess, noting, “I believe homosexual acts between two individuals are immoral and that we should not condone immorality. I do not believe the United States is well served by a policy that says it is OK to be immoral in any way.”
Naturally Pace came under the fire of the tolerance brigade, this time led by the Washington Post. Conservative columnist Pat Buchanan spoke up for Pace, explaining: “[I]f declaring homosexual acts immoral is an "expression of intolerance," the [Washington] Post is charging the Catholic Church and traditional Christians with 2,000 years of intolerance, as well as all U.S. Armed Forces prior to 1993, when homosexuals were routinely severed.”
Silly Buchanan, history is bunk. But seriously, the number of people who state, and apparently sincerely believe, that the morality of yesteryear is no longer applicable in the modern world is astonishing. Being an evolutionary skeptic and a moral absolutist, this strikes me as peculiar, but it need not; laying claim to mutable truth is the easiest way to circumvent a particularly meddlesome facet of a previously accepted moral code.
The method works thusly. First, claim is made to the fact that the world of today is different than that of antiquity. This is easily substantiated; Aristotle didn't have YouTube and Marcus Aurelius couldn't listen to music on his iPod. Second, since we have made technological advancements over the years, it is postulated that morality has similarly “advanced”. Such silliness is not confined to the socially liberal. Papal objections to the War in Iraq were brushed off by neo-conservatives as the Just War Doctrine no longer applied in an age of Terror. Meanwhile those tolerant of homosexuality explain that while Paul condemns it in some of his epistles, we now know much more about sexuality than did the celibate disciple, so nothing he says concerning the love that dare not speak it's name will be heard.
Obviously an appeal to technological superiority is an illogical recourse. It is a convenient ploy for the intellectually dishonest, and it affords one a pass from surveying human history and philosophy. Like the accountants of Enron, you can just make it up as you go along.
What those who believe homosexuality to be morally acceptable ought to do is make a moral case for such. This they do not do. It is far easier to hoist platitudes such as "My God loves everybody." But it is not very loving to make no demands on the sinner; when Christ did not condemn the woman caught in adultery, He nonetheless commanded that she sin no more. It seems Jesus, unlike many of his present followers, knew something of the unquenchable fires of Gehenna. Christians, like Pace, have a two thousand year old example of how to treat sinners, an example first set by their Lord and Savior.
One need not accept that homosexuality is immoral. However, to disagree with Pace while claiming to agree with Christianity presents an insurmountable dilemma. A rejection of intolerance towards homosexuality requires one to reject the total of Christian teaching regarding sex. But cafeteria Christianity is of little to no use. Those who choose to ignore concepts which they deem repugnant start with pride and end with rejecting, not only of parts of the truth, but the very thought of its existence. I believe C.S. Lewis called them men without chests.
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
Although there are still a core of True Believers, as with any heresy, Communism is generally disregarded as a solution to the world's ills. It was not always so, of course, but Communism is all but extinct on the earth. Exceptions include Cuba, waiting on the death of Castro, China, a crude hybrid of Marxian theory and the market theory of the west, though still a closed society, and Vietnam, whose dark rule shows no sign of ending, and serves to remind the world what may happen to the friends of America once she chooses to go back on her word.
The death of Communism was a magnificent achievement. It was disheartening that the wretched ideology wreaked havoc for so long, but it was merciful that it had last ended. But the overthrow of a poisonous system of belief is of little use if it is replaced with another, equally poisonous. Many westerners assumed that the death of Communism was a triumph of capitalism. And so it was. But it need not be so. Capitalism is not, I am sorry to say, a wholly beneficent economic system, Ayn Rand to the contrary notwithstanding.
At heart, capitalism and Communism stem from the same line of thinking. Both tend to judge human affairs according to a wholly economic rubric. I should say rather that the latter always does so, and the former threatens to do so. And while men are economic creatures, we are far more. Communism professes that if goods were distributed equally amongst men, they would be happy. Ignoring the utter impracticality of men actually playing nice with each other, it is utterly preposterous to believe that having things makes one happy. Americans have more things than they know what to do with, and it has sometimes struck me that there must be happier people on this planet.
If Communism puts too much faith in men, Capitalism puts too much faith in the market. Capitalism often makes the same mistake. It does not suffer from the idyllic naiveté of its sister heresy, but it still focuses too acutely on things economic. Capitalism professes that if all men are allowed to work so as to get what they want, they will be happy. But in the utopia of Ayn-Rand, wherein everyone must work for everything, happiness is all but absent.
Men are not just machines, to set about working at tasks to buy things which we may consume.
Solomon, in all of his riches, did not declare himself happy. He found vanity in all things. Something is still very much missing, something capitalism cannot offer. May we find it.
Thursday, March 15, 2007
Minnesota Senator Norm Coleman (R) knows he is high on the Democrats’ wish list this cycle and the first Rasmussen Reports Senate poll for Election 2008 shows the incumbent starting off below the 50% level of support. A survey of 500 Likely Voters finds Coleman leading Al Franken (D) 46% to 36% with 10% saying they’d vote for a third party option.
Generally speaking, incumbents who poll below 50% are considered potentially vulnerable.I don't like Franken of course, but it won't be all that disappointing seeing Norm lose to the comedian. Political pragmatism always fails, and I can't help but believe that even swing voters hold a secret grudge against unprincipled hacks who always inhabit the middle of the always in flux political spectrum.
An admittedly premature good riddance Norm. Thanks for the Wild.
Before an editorial board of the Chicago Tribune, Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, not only endorsed presidential policy by which active homosexuals are discharged from the service, he declared that policy to be right morally.
"I believe homosexual acts between two individuals are immoral and that we should not condone immorality. I do not believe the United States is well served by a policy that says it is OK to be immoral in any way."Naturally Pace is under fire.
[I]f declaring homosexual acts immoral is an "expression of intolerance," the Post is charging the Catholic Church and traditional Christians with 2,000 years of intolerance, as well as all U.S. Armed Forces prior to 1993, when homosexuals were routinely severed.
Silly Buchanan, history is bunk. But seriously, the number of people who state, and apparently sincerely believe that the morality of yesteryear is no longer applicable in the modern world is astonishing. Being an evolutionary skeptic and a confounded moral absolutist, this strikes me as peculiar, but it need not. Laying claim to mutable truth is the easiest way to circumvent a particularly meddlesome facet of a previously accepted moral code.
Keweenaw Pride, the gay group on my campus, brought up a minister who gave a talk on why homosexuality and Christianity should be proud to hold one another's hands. Naturally I went along to offer my (sometimes) tactful criticism. Ultimately though, I fell far short. It's very difficult to convince a sophist of truth, and this woman was a sophist through and through. This isn't surprising of course. As lapsed Catholic Camille Paglia has pointed out, Christianity frames sexuality on the issue of procreation. There is more to it than that, but ultimately, acts which are intrinsically opposed to pro-creation are held to be immoral. Thus the opposition to homosexuality on behalf of Christians.
What those who believe homosexuality to be morally acceptable ought to do is make a moral case therefor. This they do not do. It is far easier to hoist platitudes: "My God loves everybody." But it is not very loving to make no demands on the sinner; when Christ did not condemn the woman caught in adultery, He nonetheless commanded that she sin no more. But Jesus, unlike many of his present followers, knew something of the unquenchable fires of Gehenna.
I am presently working my way through Camille Paglia's Sexual Personae. She postulates that Christianity has not conquered paganism, and that it never will because of the inability of Christians to understand sex. I happen to disagree, but her critique is fair, and backed up with several hundred pages of erudition, examining some of the more fascinating writers, poets, and artists in the (mainly) Western tradition. To Paglia, consensual sex is of itself moral. But in believing such, she is wise enough to know that she must first reject Christianity. And such a move brings with it many other consequences.
The moderns do not have the intellectual honesty of Paglia. Thus they will try to keep that which is good in Christianity, in a word what they like, and toss out all that infernal stuff about damnation and sin. What one does with such a core is anyone's guess, but this picking and choosing will serve to unravel the whole of Christian morality, and with it, the civilization in which we live and which is built upon that very system of morality.
Fifty years ago, only a handful of hippies believed that homosexuality wasn't immoral. Today, the slight majority--evidenced by the success of conservatives in defining marriage between a man and a woman in a number of states--is largely silent on the issue, not wishing to appear unchristian. Those who speak up, like Pace, face the wrath of the tolerant. Within another generation or two, those who believe that homosexuality is immoral will be confined to the fringes, where the believers of similar antiquarian ideals--the immorality of birth control springs readily to mind--presently dwell. There is something to be said for the periphery of a society which has lost its moral compass.
A teenager taken from her home and parents by German police officers and institionalized in a psychiatric ward for homeschooling is pleading with the international community for help so she can return home.
"I want to ask you for help, to get my right to go back to my family, as I wish," Melissa Busekros wrote in an English letter hand-delivered to the International Human Rights Group, whose lawyers have been working on her case.
More than six weeks ago she was taken "with more than 15 police men" from her home to a psychiatric hospital in Nuremberg, she wrote, and about a month she was placed in a foster home.
In Germany, Adolf Hitler was first to declare home schooling verboten. But the courts have recently affirmed that yes, home schooling is illegal, and punishable in ghastly ways. Even if one does not support home schooling, as I emphatically do, this case should be enough to make one's blood boil with rage. Taking a child from her parents to serve the state is straight out of any distopian novel, but as always, fact is stranger, and more terrible, than fiction.
I utilized a search engine to obtain a list of famous home schoolers. The list focused on Christians and others in the Judeo-Christian tradition, but to it I can add, offhand, Marcus Aurelius, noble pagan and Plato's desired philosopher-king, and Jesus Christ--superstar amongst other things.
Now, it is absurd to suggest that every home schooler will be a mover and shaker, even in his local community, to say nothing of the world at large. Nor is it true that being educated in the ignominious halls of the public schools mean one is destined to be a janitor, or live docilely in a cube. But it is emphatically true that the home as an educational institution provides the necessary environment to create a mover and a shaker. Individuals, not cogs in the corporate wheel, make history, and the former are infinitely more likely to be produces in home schools than in the abominable public schools. Hence the German fear of a little girl named Melissa. She might not grow up to be a good German, and the Aryan race cannot tolerate such weakness.
As always, keep thine eye on Europe. Its experiments in social control all but inevitably become ours. I only wonder whether home schooling will be made illegal before or after they implant the credit card identification systems into our hands--or foreheads.
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
Brian Flemming is a film director, a playwright, and an outspoken atheist. In 2005, he released the controversial documentary, The God Who Wasn’t There, a film not just arguing that Jesus wasn’t God, but that Jesus the man never existed at all. He’s also the creator of the faux documentary, Nothing So Strange,and the musical, Bat Boy.I've not seen the documentary, obviously, though I'm mildly intrigued by the concept. Ignoring the fact that the existence of Christ is well-established--see the Jewish historian Josephus for starters--he still needs to explain how a vast portion of the Roman Empire was duped into believing in the hoax of, evidently, Paul and the Twelve Apostles, sans Judas of course. This becomes a terribly dubious assertion especially given the likewise documented accounts of the deaths of the early evangelists. All but John became martyrs, and, barring madness, it is safe to say that they fervently believed that Jesus was the Christ. One does not often die for a cause which one knows to be false.
It is no secret that moderns who profess no need for religion are almost to a one completely ignorant of human history. For there is little more curious in the course of human events than that peculiar preacher from backwater Nazareth, who sent a handful of his friends to the corners of the earth to convert the whole world. And yet they had remarkable success at the most implausible of missions. If the Man who authored the great commission did not exist, I can't help but feel that what has befallen the world is a thing most terrible. And if the Prince of Peace did not exist, then a Prince of Darkness lurks in the shadows. Pleasant thought, that.
You would never know Sean Hannity is a pro-life Catholic by his interview March 9 with Father Thomas Euteneuer, president of Human Life International.
Euteneuer is a highly respected leader in the pro-life movement and a priest. He appeared on Fox's "Hannity & Colmes" by invitation to challenge Hannity on his unorthodox support of contraception. Euteneuer said he previously wrote Hannity in 2004 an unanswered request to meet...
If you haven't watched the video, you should.
Hannity used all of the tricks one must use when pressed up against the wall. There were at least three counts of "Judge not lest ye be judged," which is taken out of context more than almost any verse in the Bible. (If we're really not supposed to judge, Hannity had better stop offering judgments on the morality of birth control.) He offered the priest a false tautology, birth-control versus abortion, as if we ought to choose between two morally repugnant items. Hannity is used to cheering for the lesser of two evils, but as Catholics, we're not supposed to do this.
He talked about his time in seminary, during which, he apparently studied nothing, though he knows, evidently, some Latin. Going to school does not an education bequeath. I know plenty of engineers who don't know a thing about their field of study, and it is just as obvious that Hannity hasn't a clue when it comes to the Church's teaching on birth prevention, eloquently presented in Humanae Vitae, and recently expounded upon in Pope John Paul II's talks on the Theology of the Body.
Oh, and Sean even told the priest to clean up the corruption in his Church, as if 1) the individual priest was responsible for the shameful actions of a large number, but still a minority, of bishops and fellow priests and 2) that the sins of the aforesaid mean that the Church no longer has a legitimate claim to truth. It is also worth noting that it was liberal Catholics, which Sean could be construed as, who oversaw the seminaries which failed to weed out pedophile priests--though they certainly discouraged orthodox seminarians. Michael S. Rose lays it all out in Goodbye! Good Men, which was written before the priest scandal began to receive major media attention.
I don't mean to suggest that every liberal theologian was guilty of pederasty, or that conservatives are not prone to sin. Still, it's not hard to see who would be the more likely pedophile: a Hannity-esque theologian, who views the Church's stance on sexuality to be antiquarian, or a militant conservative such as Tertullian. Since Sean went to seminary, I am certain he is familiar with the early Church father Tertullian, but for the rest of the readers, Tertullian was found to be a heretic after he refused to offer the sacrament of Reconciliation to those who had committed sexual sins.
Hannity can sleep easily knowing that Fr. Euteneuer, for all his judgment, lacks the militancy of some of the early Church fathers. The good priest didn't even take him to task for his failure to conform to the Church's teaching on just war, the exercise in Iraq having been found a violation thereof by the last two Popes. Of course, when the Church lacks the courage to refuse Communion for even the most resolute of pro-abortion politicians, it's no surprise that most waffle on the less egregious matter of an unjust war. Maybe next week.
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
“I don’t want to pick on Al Gore,” Don J. Easterbrook, an emeritus professor of geology at Western Washington University, told hundreds of experts at the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America. “But there are a lot of inaccuracies in the statements we are seeing, and we have to temper that with real data.”
In other words, while his conclusion is correct--we're all going to die if we don't do SOMETHING--his data, that which allows him to make a conclusion, is not. Pardon me for not seeing this film as yet. I don't want to burn precious fossil fuels driving to the video store.
Global warming has all the makings of a good heresy, that is, a half truth. It replaced feminism, which replaced socialism, as the cause du jour for all enlightened people. And like its two predecessors, it will demonstrate its incorrectness in due time. Count on it.
An Episcopal minister will stop performing all wedding ceremonies to protest the denomination's prohibition of same-sex unions.
"We are called to join the fast that our homosexual brothers and sisters in Christ have had to observe all their lives," said the Rev. Robert Hirschfeld, rector of Grace Episcopal Church.
See, because failing to propagate worked so well for the Shakers. Moral reasons aside, heterosexuals will always be more valuable than homosexuals from a purely utilitarian perspective.
As James Joyce observed, Protestantism is both illogical and inconsistent. I bear no ill will towards by separated brothers and sisters in Christ, but it is becoming increasingly obvious that rejecting the guidance of the Church all too often means rejecting many of Christ's teachings as well.
Blood being the seed of the church, as Tertullian observed, Christianity is doing very well in the third world, even as it is dying in Europe, the heart of Christendom, and North America. It will survive its death only among the conservative types who seem to have no trouble in understanding and following God's command to "Be fertile and multiply." Embracing homosexual unions demonstrates a lack of comprehension regarding human sexuality, as defined by Christ. It is thus no surprise that such liberal churches trip up on that first command. Pro-creation is still very important. Dying churches will discover this some day.
U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, a Texas Republican known for his libertarian views, today announced he will vie for the GOP presidential nomination next year.
"We have lost our way and strayed from the free society our Founders secured for us in the Constitution, but there's no reason the principles that made us the greatest nation ever can't be restored," he said.
"We merely need to respect and follow the rule of law – the U.S. Constitution – and elect leaders determined to stand firm in its defense," he said.He won't win, of course, but I'm glad to see that someone with principles is actually running. If we could get the brain dead Republicans off of the real-conservatives-can't-win bandwagon, Paul could pull some sizable numbers. Remember that Pat Buchanan was leading the polls until the party opted for the "electable" Robert Dole. That worked out well now, didn't it?
The man already has my ear, if not my endorsement:
"My concerns for the future of our country are deeply held. The Republican Party has floundered in its effort to shrink the size of government and restore our constitutional republic," he said. "Instead, in recent years our deficits have exploded, entitlements are out of control and our personal liberties are threatened. We have embarked on a dangerous and expensive foreign policy, acting as the world's policeman and nation builder."
"Liberty once again must become more important to us than the desire for security and material comfort. Personal safety and economic prosperity can only come as the consequence of liberty. They cannot be provided by an authoritarian government. To expect the government to take care of us from cradle to grave undermines the principles of liberty," he said.
There's some words I can get behind. I know people are leery of the dreaded l-word, but we libertarians aren't so bad when you take the time to get to know us.
I wish good luck to Mr. Paul. He's going to need it.
Monday, March 12, 2007
Herein lies the moral danger behind global warming hysteria. Each day, 20,000 people in the world die of waterborne diseases. Half a billion people go hungry. A child is orphaned by AIDS every seven seconds. This does not have to happen. We allow it while fretting about "saving the planet." What is wrong with us that we downplay this human misery before our eyes and focus on events that will probably not happen even a hundred years hence? We know that the greatest cause of environmental degradation is poverty; on this, we can and must act.
The global warming "crisis" is misguided. In hubristically seeking to "control" climate, we foolishly abandon age-old adaptations to inexorable change. There is no way we can predictably manage this most complex of coupled, nonlinear chaotic systems. The inconvenient truth is that "doing something" (emitting gases) at the margins and "not doing something" (not emitting gases) are equally unpredictable.
Climate change is a norm, not an exception. It is both an opportunity and a challenge. The real crises for 4 billion people in the world remain poverty, dirty water and the lack of a modern energy supply. By contrast, global warming represents an ecochondria of the pampered rich.There is an oft-used but spurious Chesterton quote which reads, "When a Man stops believing in God he doesn't then believe in nothing, he believes anything." And though the phrase never emanated from his prolific pen, it is emphatically true. The hysteria surrounding global warming is all too often combated with fervor best reserved for those attempting to worship their God. Even the cause--saving the planet--reeks of moral righteousness. All we Christians are doing is trying to save a few souls from eternal hellfire.
Now, my disbelief in the pseudo-science known as global warming is founded on my insufficient credulity regarding the alleged facts. A slight rise in average temperature added to a slight rise in CO2 levels does not mean that humans are in tremendous peril, even when extrapolated over time, a dubious proposition for anyone truly scientifically minded. Moreover, I have yet to see an explanation for warmings past. It is unlikely that Noah and his contemporaries burned enough fossil fuels to earn the righteous wrath of mother nature.
But the writer's point is fascinating because even if global warming is happening, the Al Gore crowd is still very much in the wrong. I eagerly await Troutsky's taking on this, but I think any good liberal should be far more ready to mitigate poverty than eradicate the effects of CO2--even if conservatives continue to give more money to charity than holier-than-thou liberal types. A real revolutionary would of course use the impending crisis to dismantle industrial capitalism all together, a prospect which fills me with less dread than it probably ought, but even the more moderate of liberals ought to use this opportunity to strike out against poverty.
That they have failed to do so is striking. A child with AIDS in Africa is not worried about how warm the climate will be in twenty years; neither is his neighbor, who, though virus free, lacks food and water. Neither will be around in twenty years to see if the prophets of doom have forecast correctly.
Global warming isn't about the globe, and it's certainly not about helping those who live in despicable third world conditions, conditions which even now should be seen as intolerable. Instead, global warming is the cause of the "pampered rich" who must seek meaning in their shallow materialist existence. For God has parted and even the most despondent of disbelievers need a reason to be. Saving the planet is as worthy, and as ridiculous, as any such reason.
On his show tonight, Drudge commented on the ubiquity of recorded material in this presidential campaign. Anyone with any character at all is going to generate enough rope with which to be hung; only the most stoic will be able to avoid controversy. Cue the robot Hillary.
Lastly, on an unrelated note, I've found myself commenting on how-things-are rather than how-things-are-perceived far too often. The correct spin on the Edwards' story is that if he can't even handle Fox News, there is no way that people will believe he can be Tough on Terror. The fact that I am far more leery of the government's response to terror than I am of the terrorists themselves is irrelevant, since I am in the smallest of minorities on this one. Just thought I'd point that one out.
UPDATE: I watched the video. If he wins the nomination it's going to be positively riveting watching the republican commentariat explain why we need to vote for Rudy over Hillary. I know I'm not supposed to delight in the triumph of evil, but when it's inevitable, one may as well enjoy it. It's not as if the little man has a voice in this election after all, though I guess we'll get to see a third party candidate post some semi-serious numbers. The election of '08 may not be even vaguely important, despite suggestions to the contrary, except insofar as it provides another data point in the graphing of the ever increasing stupidity of the American public. Go Rudy!
Sunday, March 11, 2007
The Nevada State Democratic Party is pulling out of a controversial presidential debate scheduled for Aug. 14 in Reno and co-hosted by Fox News, according to a letter released late Friday from state party chairman Tom Collins and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev)...
Controversy has been brewing for weeks about the debate. Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards said Wednesday he would not participate, citing Fox's conservative ties as a factor. His deputy campaign manager, Jonathan Prince, sent an e-mail to the liberal website DailyKos, which was posted on the site.
As always, several points.
1) Calling a presidential debate controversial is redundant--or should be. Once upon a time, presidential candidates disagreed on a variety of issues, leading to genuine controversy. Now, the difference between the candidates is so slight that controversial is probably a misnomer, but what is really fascinating is that most Americans actually believe that this debate would have been controversial. Which, of course, leads me into my next point.
2) The political landscape is divided into "liberals" and "conservative". According to anyone who is "extreme" enough to shun either label, the camps are, for all intensive purposes, identical. But both liberals and conservatives suspect this. And this is, understandably, quite a bit frightening.
If a lib and a con sat down and talked about what they believe in, they would discover either that 1) individually, their views rarely, if ever, aligned with those of their respective party or 2) collectively, they may as well belong to the same party. I've given the litany of issues before, so I'll not do it again, unless requested to do so.
But the really interesting thing is this: two people who disagree on any number of issues but are reasonably well informed and intellectually honest may get along well enough, and have any number of discussions about their different viewpoints. But remove honesty and information, and one is left with only shouting words. You are now entering the political wasteland.
To convince someone of a truth, several things are necessary. First, you must really and truly believe in this truth. Second, you must continue to collect new information about the topic at hand, not in seeking to find facts which confirm one's view of truth, but instead with the greater truth in mind. In short, intellectual honesty, which requires an almost agnostic mind, is needed. Third, you must understand the views of the person with whom you are discussing. Fourth, you must be patient and charitable. This last requirement is very important, but it is utterly irrelevant without the first three.
I think that's a good list to start with. The obvious application is that politicians fail in regards to one, two, and three almost to a one, and most fail at the fourth as well. I think one reason for Obama's success is that he meets the partial requirements for one, and exemplifies the fourth.
My train of thought took off without me, but I'll close with two more things.
1) The angry words and harsh rhetoric may be an exposition, not of the large chasm which separates the two ideologies du jour, but of the pitiful gap which hardly does the same. Call it a paradox, to be expounded upon at a later date.
2) Intellectual honesty is, as always, sorely lacking. I don't see how mankind will ever see its lot improved without a return to care of truth. Or Truth.
Saturday, March 10, 2007
The FBI improperly and, in some cases, illegally used the USA Patriot Act to secretly obtain personal information about people in the United States, a Justice Department audit concluded Friday.
And for three years the FBI underreported to Congress how often it forced businesses to turn over the customer data, the audit found.
The USA Patriot Act: destroying freedom one false terrorist at a time.
Rest assured, the Patriot Act will never be used against you and yours. After all, you haven't done anything wrong. And the fact that Hillary will soon wield the power given to her by that most conservative of predecessors is in no way a cause for alarm.
"There is no excuse for the mistakes that have been made, and we are going to make things right as quickly as possible," the attorney general [Alberto Gonzales] said.
Why do I get the feeling that repealing the law is not an option Mr. Gonzales will be considering?
Thursday, March 08, 2007
Global warming is not coming; it is here. Greenhouse gases -- most notably carbon dioxide produced by burning coal, oil and gas -- are trapping solar heat that once escaped from the Earth's atmosphere. As temperatures around the globe increase, oceans are warming, fields are drying up, snow is melting, more rain is falling, and sea levels are rising.All of which is changing the way we play and the sports we watch.
What the deuce? If I read SI, which I usually don't, although I immensely enjoyed last year's front-cover story on Joe Mauer, I expect to find an analysis of all things sport. This should preclude WNBA coverage, but even that would be preferable to nonsense about global warming from a freaking sports writer.
When I write a column about politics, it's a given that whatever I come up with is only my opinion, and should be treated as such. I happen to have, I think, a fair amount of knowledge on the subject, at least in comparison to all the other commentators--common ignorance perhaps being that which unites us--and thus my ramblings usually have some legitimacy. Moreover, my posts on theology are a bit more credible, given that I know something about the topic.
But most importantly, I don't get paid for this--thank goodness--and I write, not to be read, but to help me organize my thoughts. I plan on keeping up with this thing for as long as I feel I have something interesting to write about, and I'm not particularly concerned with my limited traffic, though regular readers are of course much appreciated. If I did start making money for my writing, I'd have to squeeze out a lot of the unadulterated speculation and concentrate on that which I actually know. There is much bliss is ignorance.
But SI covering global warming? Are they serious? They ought to get back to sports before the only issue that sells is the swimsuit edition, featuring Beyonce this year. And no mother, I didn't buy a copy.
Wednesday, March 07, 2007
Republicans in 2007 may not remember 1964, but they remember their congressional losses in 2006. And they do not like losing. Which is why none of the solidly conservative candidates seems to be gaining any traction in the long run-up to the primaries. Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., Gov. Mike Huckabee, R-Ark., Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., and Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., are all solid conservatives, yet none of them shows up in Republican opinion polls...
They don't show up because they don't have the name recognition it takes to win a general election.
H. L. Mencken defines a platitude as "an idea (a) that is admitted to be true by everyone, and (b) that is not true." Outside most circles, no one knew who Obama was six years ago; now, by some accounts, he's the front runner for the Democratic nomination. It's absolutely ridiculous to pretend that name recognition is crucial at this stage of the game. We have a year and a half until the dang election for goodness sake! If the conservative commentariat would find their collective spine and get behind one of the no-name genuine conservatives, the people would soon follow. It's idiotic to pretend that in an age of the Internet and 24 cable "news" shows, people are having a hard time being recognized. But no, the only candidates who might do some good for the conservative cause are insufficiently recognizable. Maligning the only people who might actually enact a portion of one's agenda is a brilliant strategy.
My nomination for the unofficial Republican slogan for 2008: "Vote for the lesser evil. It worked in 2000." It lacks spunk, but I think it's a solid prototype. I look forward to the GOP minions contacting me. Maybe they'll even give me a column deal. I bet I can do as well as Shapiro.
The only social conservative in the field with significant national name recognition is former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., who has not declared his intent to run.
Let's pretend, for the sake of the argument, that Newt is a legitimate social conservative. Continuing...
Gingrich is reprising the Richard Nixon 1968 nomination strategy – wait it out, let the conservative base rally around you, secure the nomination by acclaim.
There is only one problem for Gingrich: This is not 1968. It is 1952. This time around, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani plays the role of Dwight D. Eisenhower.
[T]his is no normal time, and Giuliani is no Rockefeller. Yes, he's socially liberal. Yes, he's anti-gun. But...
Who cares about the but? Why should we support a man whose positions are antithetical to our own?
Republicans may be idealistic, but they are not fools. When it comes to the 2008 election, national security is the big issue – and national security is Giuliani's issue. For Republicans, it is more important that a Democrat stay out of the White House than that a Ronald Reagan conservative occupy it.
At last, the ubiquitous canard. The Republicans will keep us safe from the terrorists. Un-bloody-likely. Being a conservative used to mean you didn't trust the government to do anything proficiently. Your average bureaucrat is someone who needs help picking his nose and wiping his rear. As V observed, "People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people." Conservatives once knew this. No longer.
In twenty years, Shapiro, if he's still around, will be urging conservatives to vote for the Republican candidate who, unlike the Democrat, is opposed to ritual cannibalism. The Republicans will always be a shade less evil than their liberal brethren. That's a given. But a lesser evil is still evil, and it is especially pernicious to suggest that the lesser evil is actually good. I believe we used to call that lying, another thing conservatives used to oppose. Sometimes a body feels quite alone.
My favorite sports writer, Bill Simmons, aka the Sports Guy, recently returned from Las Vegas, host to this year's NBA all-star game and related festivities. In a mammoth column about his experience, he noted:
[S]ocial trends that I noticed in Miami (for the Super Bowl) and Vegas last weekend...
Instead of playing full songs, clubs now play one-minute samples of songs and barrage you with choruses. I like this trend because you never know what's coming next, although it's depressing that our attention spans have been whittled down to the degree that clubs feel obligated to change songs every 60 seconds.
Simmons' observation is hardly ground-breaking. The dearth in the attention span of Americans has been well documented. MTV, once home to, well, music, now plays, in between re-runs of Laguna Beach and Pimp My Ride, insignificantly short clips of music videos. But the stunningly embarrassing state of the average American attention span is of little concern, especially when it comes to things like television. It is unlikely, for instance, that the full video of whomever it is kids are listening to these days is of more value than would be a minute slice thereof.
But such is not true when it comes to other mediums. Take this column for instance. It is highly improbable that the reader will gather much from my limited efforts. A few hundred words will provide one a morsel to chew on between classes, but even were I a better writer than I am, my effect would still be slight. For a full meal, one needs to devour books.
For instance, reading a column which draws parallels between modern America and the Roman republic will give the foolish reader a feeling that he understands both ancient Rome and modern America, though he is almost certainly ignorant about the former—and probably about the latter as well. But if a reader picks up Edward Gibbon's The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, he cannot help but mitigate his ignorance concerning the mighty empire of yore, once he gets past the precarious prose. Put plainly, good books are of infinite more value than simple columns, even if the latter are well written.
Unfortunately, few read books anymore, still fewer read good books. I do not offer myself as a judge of good literature, though I will confidently assert that Dan Brown and Danielle Steel aren't fit to furnish the pen for James Joyce or Fyodor Dostoevsky. Still, one who can read a shoddy novel should be capable of reading a good one as well, with practice perhaps. At least the attention span is sufficient.
Spring break quickly approaches. The lobotomy box will no doubt offer wonderful programming for the vacuously inclined. And Cosmo promises to let the ladies know just when to start sleeping with the latest boy toy. But those who wish to learn something should throw out the tube and the magazines and get thee to a library. As for myself, I'll be continuing to read Camille Paglia's Sexual Personae with hopes to polish off Winston Churchill's memoirs. I just don't know if I'll have time to make it to the club.
Tuesday, March 06, 2007
Less than two months after ascending to the U.S. Senate, Barack Obama bought more than $50,000 worth of stock in two speculative companies whose major investors included some of his biggest political donors, the NYT will splash on Wednesday Page Ones.
The paper claims, according to newsroom sources: One of the companies was a biotech concern that was starting to develop a drug to treat avian flu. In March 2005, two weeks after buying about $5,000 of its shares, Obama took the lead in a legislative push for more federal spending to battle the disease...
A spokesman for Obama says the senator did not know that he had invested in either company.
For a Washington outsider, Obama sure seems to know how to work the system. Alternatively, he's so rich he doesn't need to worry about which companies he's throwing 50k at. I'm not saying he's guilty, but this does look a mite suspicious.
Count on more stories of this nature to break Obama's momentum in time for Clinton's ascendancy to power. If he can stay free from any real scandal, he should be able to get the nod for the vice presidency. Not bad for a freshman
An NAEP [National Assessment of Educational Progress] test of 12th-grade achievement was given to what the New York Times called a "representative sample of 21,000 high school seniors attending 900 public and private schools from January to March 2005."
What did the tests reveal?
- Since 1990, the share of students lacking even basic reading skills has risen by a third, from 20 percent to 27 percent.
- Only 35 percent of high school seniors have reached a "proficient" level in reading, down from 40 percent.
- Only 16 percent of black and 20 percent of Hispanic students had reached a proficient level in reading.
- Among high school seniors, only 29 percent of whites, 10 percent of Hispanic students and 6 percent of black students were proficient in math...
Factor the dropouts back in, and what the NAEP test suggests is that, of black kids starting in first grade, about one in eight will be able to read at the level of a high school senior after 12 years, and one in 33 will be able to do the math. Among Hispanic kids, one in 10 will be able to read at a high-school senior level, but only one in 20 will be able to do high-school math.
Yet, as columnist Steve Sailor writes on VDare.com, the Bush-Kennedy No Child Left Behind Act mandates "that all children should reach a proficient level of academic achievement by 2014."
We're not going to make it. We're not even going to come close.Given the incredible inability of the schools to perform, I have suggested that we simply burn them down. A bit drastic, to be sure, but reform isn't going to happen. It's just not. Parents, especially parents who aren't very involved in the education of their children, can't stand being told that their children aren't performing well enough. This tends to reflect poorly on them. "Are you saying my son ain't smart?" Neither do the teachers wish to be bringers of the bad news. "No ma'am. I guess he just doesn't test very well." Instilling self-esteem, not knowledge, is the raison d'etre of the infernal institutions.
Tangentially, how stupid do we think kids are? They know when someone else is better at something; and most times they know when we're tricking them into believing otherwise. When my brothers and I would play wiffle ball out in the yard, we'd have to pitch to the younger ones. If you threw a strike past them and then had the catcher whip it into the yard to signify a hit, the kid never bought it. "You hit it! Run the bases!" "No I didn't. You threw it!" "Oh, well, try again." A kid who stumbles through a reading of a Seuss masterpiece knows he's not getting things right if he has any sense at all. Telling a bloke that he did well when he didn't isn't going to help his self-esteem; it's going to make him resentful. But what the deuce do I know about kids? Thus I digress.
If you are a parent and you send your kids to the public schools, it had better be because you honestly can't afford to do otherwise. A good parent can augment the paltry education children now receive at the taxpayer's expense with the hope of mitigating the onset of dullness and brain-death, but be forewarned. The task is an arduous one. With careful attention, your child may be able to read chapter books some day. He may even know how to add and subtract numbers.
Things will become increasingly interesting in coming years when the GDP plummets because no one possesses the know-how to perform a nominally sophisticated job. Take engineering, which I happen to be studying: one needs to possess a plethora of skills, some of which are learned while in school, most of which are acquired on the job. An engineer who ceases to update his repertoire after graduating will soon be working in another field. Clearly, one must be able to read and do simple math in order to serve as an engineer. A piece of paper alone is useless; the entire value of a diploma is determined by the extent of the education upon which the degree is based.
But don't worry. In the future, we can all work at Wal-Mart and McDonald's. Watching the country's economy crumble will be a mite entertaining. Forgive me my decadent joy, but it's not every lifetime a fellow gets to see the collapse of a once mighty superpower.