Thursday, August 21, 2014

Pro-police demonstrations in Ferguson spin out of control

As soon as new evidence leaked out that Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson was viciously beaten by Michael Brown after Brown had robbed a store, the streets of Ferguson, Missouri began to clear and residents enjoyed a brief moment of calm. But just as it seemed peace was setting in, a new firestorm of protests hit the town, this time from supporters of officer Wilson.

The pro-police demonstrations soon spun out of control. Nicely-dressed police supporters, many of them from out of town, took to the streets and, marching in neat rows, politely called on justice officials to take their time, conduct a careful, deliberative process to find out exactly what had happened, and added that these were just suggestions and that they were in no way trying to force their beliefs on anyone else.

The protests  took a turn for the worse when several national religious figures arrived to show solidarity with the protesters.

Joel Osteen, taking time away from his church in Texas, grabbed a bullhorn and softly announced to the crowd, "God knows your value; He sees your potential. You may not understand everything you are going through right now. But hold your head up high, knowing that God is in control and he has a great plan and purpose for your life." He then urged everyone to join hands and sing "Kumbaya."

Nervous police in riot gear stood by with tear gas at the ready in case the shallow sentimentalism got out of hand. Several people reported seeing police in a canine unit having trouble restraining their dogs, who appeared more and more out of control with each succeeding life fulfillment principle.

The police were then pelted with what they first thought were rocks, but which turned out to be hundreds of "30 Thoughts for Victorious Living" tracts.

One protester reportedly confronted a police officer, yelling, "It’s vital that you accept yourself and learn to be happy with who God made you to be." The officer responded by threatening the man with his gun. The officer was immediately called back to headquarters and given a promotion. He has since been taken off the streets and given two weeks of extra vacation time.

Billy Graham too made a brief appearance. When the 96 year-old evangelist was wheeled up in front of the crowd, he slowly stood up from his wheel chair, raised a shaky fist into the air, opened his mouth, and then keeled over sideways.

Residents of Ferguson, many of whom had watched the earlier anti-police demonstrations with fear and trepidation, responded to the new demonstrations by quickly throwing a few essentials in their cars and permanently leaving town. "Molotov cocktails are one thing," said one fleeing resident, "but if I hear one more way to become a 'better you', I think I'll throw up." "Yeah," said an elderly woman in response. "Bring back the looters."

Police Chief Tom Jackson told the media that the new protesters posed a different kind problem for his force. "Within seconds of issuing a curfew," he told reporters, "Every single one of them left the area instantly, pausing only to pick up any trash they might have left on the ground." Many of the protesters, in fact, thanked the officers on the scene and apologized profusely for any inconvenience they may have caused. "No one can be this law abiding," said Jackson, "We think this is a trick."

Meanwhile critics of the new demonstrations, after having spent recent days criticizing Ferguson police for being too aggressive in dealing with anti-police demonstrations, called on local law enforcement to deal more aggressively with the pro-police demonstrators. "The cops need to start cracking some heads," said Al Sharpton to CNN's Anderson Cooper. He called for more military-style equipment for the Ferguson police force.

"This is a defining moment for this country," he said. "These demonstrators are going to give protesting a bad name."

Mob justice in Ferguson

Rich Lowry at Politico:
The chant “no justice, no peace” is an apt rallying cry for Ferguson, Missouri, where protesters don’t truly want justice and there has been no peace. 
What justice demands in the case of the shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown by Officer Darren Wilson in disputed circumstances is a full and fair deliberative process that goes wherever the evidence leads. But is anyone marching so that Wilson can go free if the facts don’t support charging him?
Read more here.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Journalists brave hail of earplugs in Ferguson

Courageous journalists on the front lines of Ferguson brave hail of earplugs to get their story, says Michelle Malkin:
The J.V.'s have been hailed for their "courage" on the "front lines" -- like veritable 21st-century versions of Audie Murphy and Ernie Pyle! Of course, Audie Murphy and Ernie Pyle would know real bullets when they saw them. But Reilly revealed his abject cluelessness this week when he hysterically tweeted a photo of what he thought were "rubber bullets." They turned out to be high-capacity... ear plugs.
Read more here.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Ferguson: When enforcing the law is "bad optics"

An example of "good optics"
Protesters in Ferguson, Missouri have experienced another night filled with a lack of sympathy for their irresponsible hooliganism and unjustified criticism for their violent and hysterical reaction to a questionable police shooting.

Many Americans apparently think the problem in Ferguson is out-of-control violence and threats to the safety of the local law-abiding population, when, in fact, the problem is a widespread lack of understanding for the needs of looters and bomb throwers.

Thankfully, more and more commentators on television news and talk radio are beginning to stand up to the larger public and are pointing out the inordinate attachment most people seem to have for safety and order.

Protesters in Ferguson (most of whom admittedly have no connection whatsoever with the alleged victim) are clearly upset about the shooting and have a need to express their feelings by throwing Molotov cocktails and stealing from convenience stores. Surely we can find it within ourselves to understand how they feel. Let's be honest: Think of all the times we have looted a store when we were were down or thrown a gasoline bomb at the local police when we woke up on the wrong side of the bed.

It is astounding how little understanding now only we, but the authorities in Ferguson are willing to give these protesters and how little of their pain the local police are willing to feel.

To make things worse, state and local law enforcement officials seem to think the problem is, well, the problem, when, in fact, the solution is the problem. As the defenders of the protests have argued, the reason for these protests has little to do with the fact that there are a bunch of hoodlums using the shooting as an excuse to destroy things and endanger other people's lives and a whole lot more to do with how prepared the police seem to be to deal with it.

Just what do the police in Ferguson think they are doing with riot gear and tear gas? When would they ever have to use that?

As Newsweek magazine has pointed out, the real problem is the "militarization of the police force." As it turns out the police in Ferguson have weapons. Real guns. As many liberal commentators have observed, it is a basic principle of law enforcement that crime is directly related to a police force's ability to deal with it should it happen.

In short, the better prepared you are to deal with crime, the likelier it is to happen.

Seen from this perspective, crime is a justified response to the preparations police have made to respond to it. It just so happens there is a theory called the "Elaborated Social Identity Model." It even has an acronym, ESIM―proof that it is scientific. ESIM, says Newsweek's Kurt Eichenwald , "is the leading scientific theory on managing a boisterous horde of people."

And what more accurate description than "boisterous" is there for is a bunch of fire bomb-throwing hoodlums?

Here's the idea, says this Eichenwald person:
What the ESIM shows is that an angry crowd can be driven to riot if they believe they are being treated unfairly—for example, by being confronted by cops decked out with military weaponry. When police treat a crowd justly and humanely, the chance of an uproar decreases and participants trust law enforcement more, the research shows.
If the police in Ferguson were only up-to-date on their knowledge of modern law enforcement theory, they would know that the equipment police need to deal with violence is not a response to violence but that, instead, violence is a response to the possession by police of the equipment they need to deal with it.

It's science.

Not only that but, as has been pointed out by liberal commentators, the police force's resort to tear gas and dogs doesn't look very good on camera. It's not nearly as great viewing as, say, watching some guy on a security cam walking out of a store with an armful of goods he hasn't paid for.

As it turns out, actually enforcing the law is "bad optics."

If we're going to use tear gas and rubber bullets, they ought to be used on the complacent civilian population that does not care about the rights of violent protesters who clearly need to be brought into line.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Why libertarianism is not conservatism

Thomas Hobbes
It's not hard to imagine why it is that more and more conservatives are converting over to libertarianism.

For one thing, it's a whole lot easier to be a libertarian. Like every other ideology, libertarianism dispenses with all other principles than one. It eliminates the need to think about anything other than the one political doctrine. In many ways, it's the path of least resistance.

Libertarians are the political world's One-Note Johnnys: Johnny can only sing one note/And the note is this: freedom of choice.

Freedom of choice has the political advantage of being a procedural belief. It is mechanical rather than organic. It is a political and social mechanism into which you can put a substantive belief on one end, and automatically get a specific policy prescription out the other. In this respect it is in complete alignment with the scientistic spirit of our time.

Classical conservative political philosophy requires thought and wisdom, but libertarianism, as a fully Hobbesian position, involves no real substantive thought at all, only a political calculation.

This position has gotten popular recently because by lopping off any substantive principles addressing the common good (such as those concerning marriage and the family) from their body of belief, they are absolved from having to engage in the difficult job of defending these essential institutions. Freedom of individual choice alone is insufficient as a basis for their defense and from this perspective marriage and the traditional family can be thrown to the political wolves with perfect political consistency and in seeming good conscience.

It also dispenses with the need for any intellectual heavy lifting.

Libertarianism cannot be considered a conservative political philosophy. A conservative political philosophy cannot be reduced to one axiom, to which all other considerations are subordinate.

Reductionist in its essence, libertarianism is an ideology, not a philosophy. In this respect, it is closer to American liberal socialism than to conservatism. In socialism's case, the one exclusive note is social justice (or, rather, their version of it) and to that one note the rest of their song must submit.

Libertarians are stillborn conservatives―as are socialists. This is what Allan Bloom meant when, in The Closing of the American Mind, he referred to "right-wing liberals" and "left-wing liberals." Libertarians are not conservatives at all: They are right wing liberals.

Libertarianism differs from conservatism in that it considers the freedom of the atomistic individual as an end; whereas conservatism considers freedom a means to the end of the common good. Libertarianism is John Locke for the non-thinker; it is Thomas Hobbes for Dummies.

The other means by which the common good is brought about include, among other things:
  • a belief in an permanent and perennial moral order that transcends the individual;
  • that tradition and custom are better indicators what is and what should be because they reflect the wisdom and knowledge of men over time and cultures rather than the narrow perspective of those who happen to be living now;
  • that political solutions require long-term thinking, not just a surrender to the individual whims of the hour;
  • that what works in one time and one place may not be the best thing in another time and another place;
  • that man is morally flawed and therefore Utopia is impossible;
  • that economic freedom presumes the respect for private property;
  • and that a properly operating society requires more than just the government and the atomistic individual, but also voluntary associations like the family, the church, and the civic group
These are, of course, restatements of Russell Kirk, the father of the modern conservative movement. But the Russell Kirks of conservatism have disappeared or fallen silent in the United States, and their place has been taken by the libertarian ideologues.

But libertarianism is an universal political solvent that will eventually destroy itself, largely because to justify itself it cannot depend on a calculus. It must have a substantive reason to ground its belief that the interest of the atomistic individual is supreme, but it cannot supply it.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

On Nature and Grace: The Role of Reason in the Life of Faith

St. Thomas' view of reason:
Reason should minister to faith, that is, serve faith. How does it do this? The simple answer is that it engages in theological science. Theology has many functions. It clarifies first principles and strictly distinguishes them from the conclusions drawn from faith. It removes apparent absurdities and obstacles to faith. It raises and seeks to answer questions that believers might have. It clarifies the content of faith and so gives the believer a detailed account of what he believes. It generates plausible but erroneous or at least partially true opinions in order to expose their shortcomings. In this way, it staves off various heresies. Theology inculcates in believers the habit of thinking clearly about the most important thing in their lives. It serves as a check on emotionality and sentiment, which tend to warp our judgment and lead us astray in matters of faith. Finally, it is a check on self-appointed reformers within the Church, who seek to remake sacred doctrine in the image of their own ideologies, whether theological, social, political, or economic.
The post On Nature and Grace: The Role of Reason in the Life of Faith appeared first on The Imaginative Conservative.

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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Bibles Booted from U.S. Navy Base Guest Rooms

Where is the outrage from the liberals who are always lecturing us about the evils of censorship?
The U.S. Navy will no longer allow Bibles and other religious materials in the guest rooms of Navy lodges, a decision that has infuriated some conservative groups, which recently learned about the new policy. 
The Navy’s decision came after the Freedom From Religion Foundation sent a letter questioning the constitutionality of religious literature in the Navy lodges’ 3,000 guest rooms.
The June 19 directive from the Navy Exchange Service Command, which runs the Navy’s 39 guest lodges in the U.S. and abroad, allows religious materials to be made available to guests. 
But it forbids religious items to be placed in guest rooms, aligning the command, known as NEXCOM, with U.S. Navy policy, said NEXCOM spokeswoman Kathleen Martin.
On Tuesday the American Family Association made the directive the subject of its latest “action alert,” asking members to call Navy officials to reverse the decision. The Chaplains Alliance for Religious Liberty has called on the Navy to do the same. 
But supporters of the Navy directive, said it rights a constitutional wrong, in that the Establishment Clause does not allow the U.S. government to promote or favor any particular religion.
read more


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Monday, August 11, 2014

Does JCPS need its head examined for hiring 15 more mental health counselors?

Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS) are hiring 15 more mental health counselors in order to "decrease barriers to learning." Of course, there are some who would say that JCPS itself is a barrier to learning.

Public school educators have somehow gotten the idea that if you divert your resources into non-academic areas, it will help academics. No one has apparently noticed that the more time and money we spend trying to make schools into umbrella social service agencies, the less well they seem to do.

One wonders about the relative benefits of 15 new mental health counselors rather than, say, 15 new math or reading teachers.

It makes sense to me, but, then again, I don't have an education degree.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Same-Sex Marriage Advocates Take Off the Mask: Takeaway line from yesterday's oral arguments before the 6th Circuit

"There is a limit to the democratic process,"

 ―Laura Landenwich, Louisville, Kentucky, attorney representing same-sex couples wanting to redefine marriage.

Glad we got that cleared up.

We don't need a study to tell us that machines are taking our jobs―and making life more difficult

I remember standing in the hallway of the Hilton-Netherlands Hotel in downtown Cincinnati one day waiting for someone from the hotel to come fix at least one of the several broken computers in the "Business Center" with which I had planned to print out a speech I was scheduled to deliver in about 30 minutes.

As I stood there waiting, I noticed on the wall several large framed photographs of the old Netherlands Hotel from what looked to be the 1930s or 40s. The one closest to me was a picture of the phone staff. These were the switchboard operators who managed the hotel's phone system at the time.

That was back in the days, of course, when you used the hotel phones to call someone other than the front desk.

The staff consisted of what looked to be about 10 or 15 employees and consisted mostly of women, young and old. All of them were dressed nicely―in a way that we now would dress only for a formal occasion of some kind (This was back in the day when your job was a formal occasion). These were women who probably didn't have college degrees and didn't need them to do the work they did (as opposed to now when most everybody does have a college degree and doesn't need it for the work they do either).

This kind of job is nonexistent now. Phone systems don't need manual operators anymore. The function these women served is now performed by computers.

Not only are these women gone now, so are their jobs.

As I stood there in front of the photo I started to think of all the jobs that once required actual people to do them that no longer require people because their function has been eliminated or because their job is now performed by something mechanical or digital.

I wondered if the Luddites were right after all in thinking that machines were eliminating jobs and whether those who told us that it would all work out were telling the truth.

We were told that the jobs lost to machines would be balanced by the jobs made by the need to make the machines. But that was when machines were made by people. They are now made by other machines.

The other thing we were told is that the increasing automation of life would make things easier and more pleasant. Well, think again.

I submit that we don't need studies to prove that jobs are being eliminated across the economy by machines. All we have to do is think about all the jobs there used to be that are now gone―thanks either to machines that now do them or by the expectation that we should do them ourselves.

Remember gas station attendants? I guess you have to be of a certain age to remember them, but I am old enough to remember the guys who came to the window of your car when you pulled up at the pump and asked, "Fill her up?"

They were polite. They wore uniforms. And they washed your windows for you and asked if they could check your oil. You paid for your gas and sometimes, if they did a really good job, you handed them a little extra.

They are gone. Replaced by the self-serve pump with the automated credit card processor, which is not nearly as polite. But at least it takes less time―if there is enough paper in the receipt dispenser, which, if there is not, you have to go inside and stand in line at the cash register to request one.

But I'm on my way to the airport. I park in long-term parking and make my way to the ticket desk where I tell the person that I need to check a bag. "Please use the kiosk, sir."

The last time I did this (Recommendation: don't fly American Airlines) there were four kiosks, and it was unclear whether there was one line or two―one for each set of two kiosks. An employee who could have been checking my bag announced that there were two lines. I chose one.

But when one of the two kiosks I was in line for became available, I couldn't get to it because the person standing at the first one was in the way. I did my best, but someone else from the other line―the one that was supposed to be for the other two kiosks got there first. When I finally got there, it took me almost ten minutes to get my bag checked in because the computer was so slow.

Oh, and I got my boarding passes too―which I didn't need, since I had printed them off the evening before from the Internet.

Some twenty-five minutes later, I got my bag checked in when a person finally got involved and gave me a label with a number. Then I was able to get in line at the security checkpoint. And we won't even talk about that.

But the kiosks have this advantage for the airlines: they eliminate the need for the people who once were able to check your bag in a matter of seconds. They don't require health care or a retirement package.

So you arrive safely in the next town, hungry because of the meager fare on the airplane. Plus you need a few toiletries. You stop at the grocery store, where you can now check yourself out, eliminating the need for human cashiers. Having an aversion to self-serve anything, I go do the human operated checkout. The one with the conveyor belt which efficiently transports my hair gel, granola bars, and a travel size shaving cream dispenser about two feet from where I am to where the cashier is.

It must have saved, oh, I don't know, one step, which I have to take anyway to pay for my stuff.

But there's no price on the hair gel and it doesn't seem to be listed on the computer. The cashier has to stop the whole process and call the manager, much to the chagrin of the three people after me in line. But they eventually get there, swipe some card that hangs from the lanyard around their neck, punch a few buttons that allows the process to resume.

While I am waiting I am remembering the ladies that used to punch the keys of the manual cash registers when my mother dragged us to the grocery story when I was little. I remember watching their fingers flying on the keys as they grabbed one item after another and threw them in a bag at a speed at least as fast as the automated checkout process you see now.

When they came to an item that didn't have a price sticker, it didn't matter. They knew the price. Apples? They were ten cents each that week. What competent cashier didn't know that?

If there was a price they didn't know, they didn't have to call a manager, stranding numerous people in line. I don't know exactly what they did do to determine the price, buy I imagine they  probably just made it up on the spot and no one ever knew any better. And when she was done (a brief process), the guy bagging the groceries helped you put them in your car, a favor for which you often gave him a couple quarters.

But these cashiers are all gone, replaced either by people who are entirely dependent on a machine to detect the price or by self-serve checkout machines which have replaced some person entirely. And at some grocery stores there's a bagger, but he's just there to bag, not to help you with your groceries to the car.

No quarters for him.

But this new process allows me to use a card that the store gives me to use when I make purchases that the computer records so I can save money in some way that I have not exactly figured out because I never have time to read the pieces of paper they give me that explain what I have saved. So when the cashier asks me if I have a ****** card, I tell her I do not have one because not only do I not have time to figure out the process by which the card saves me money, but if I had a card from every store that offered one to its customers, I would have to carry five wallets around with me.

If you remember back far enough, you can think of all kinds of jobs that used to exist that are simply no longer there: from the guy who shined your shoes to the boy that delivered your afternoon paper.

But I am not thinking about that right now. I am thinking that I need a place to stay.

But it turns out that checking into a hotel is now a very lonely experience. Where once there was a bellhop to help with the bags, there is a cart―if you can find it. In fact, the only person you usually see is a person behind the desk who puts your name into a computer.

Theoretically, this should be quick and efficient. And since the computer can easily record information, if you stay there again, it should be even quicker.

Theoretically.

But in fact, it is much slower. There seem to be multiple screens which the behind-the-counter person has to fill out, taking much longer than it theoretically should. If I didn't know better, I would think he was completely reprogramming the machine every time.

Every time this happens, and it is often, I think of the little motel I stayed at a couple of years ago in some little prairie town I stopped at late at night. An older gentleman took my card, swiped it on one of those old manual card swipers and handed my card back with a receipt, along with my room key.

Ninety seconds. Boom. No taking ten minutes to fill out useless computer screens. Just taking my money and giving me my key.

I stay at hotels in Louisville once every week or two. Sometimes I will stay at the same hotel several weeks in a row. I have yet to have the computer recognize me, despite the fact that I may have stayed at the very same hotel repeatedly. The hotel employee has to re-enter my information every time.

The process is slower and the only advantage the computer has over a manual process―that it can remember data―is not, in fact, an advantage.

And, by the way, where is the bellhop to help with the bags?

Tired from lugging my bags to my room with no help, I decide to arrange for a wake-up call. I'll call the front desk and the person there (assuming he's not reprogramming the computer again) will arrange it for me.

No need.

I pick up the phone and am confronted with a computer that allows me to punch in the time I need to be woken up. It should work. But then, so should my new smart phone alarm. But the last time I tried that, it never went off. Turns out there were multiple volume controls, one of which specifically controlled the alarm, and it was turned off. Since the last two wake-up calls I had arranged at a hotel never manifested themselves into actual calls the next morning, I set my smart phone alarm as well, increasing the chances that I would actually wake up on time the next morning.

But I am daydreaming. In reality, I am still standing there in the hall of the Netherlands Hilton, waiting for the human person to come and fix the non-human computer I need to print my speech. I am thinking that I could have spent that time rewriting my speech by hand.

I am still looking at the photo of all those ladies at the hotel phone switchboard.

I know that one of them would have remembered my wake up call.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Sexual reactionaries on the loose

Oooh. Look. Someone is sympathetic to "traditional sexuality." You remember that: when males had sex with females. No kidding. And they had children. And were raised by a mother and a father who were married.

I know: It's so retro. I mean, is this Ozzie and Harriet or whut?

As it turns out, there are people who actually believe this is, like, the best thing for children. Like it's natural or something.

Isn't there a law against this somewhere?

We go now to Damon Linker for a report on these outliers:
The objections aren’t trivial. Western civilization upheld the old sexual standards for the better part of two millennia. We broke from them in the blink of an eye, figuratively speaking. The gains are pretty clear — It’s fun! It feels good! — but the losses are murkier and probably won’t be tallied for a very long time.

Is the ethic of individual consent sufficient to keep people (mostly men) from acting violently on their sexual desires? 
What will become of childhood if our culture continues down the road of pervasive sexualization? 
Do children do best with two parents of opposite genders? Or are two parents of the same gender just as good? Or better? How about one parent of either gender? What about three, four, five, or more people in a constantly evolving polyamorous arrangement? 
Can the institution of marriage survive without the ideals of fidelity and monogamy? What kind of sexual temptations and experiences will technology present us with a year — or a decade, or a century — from now? Will people be able to think of reasons or conjure up the will to resist those temptations? Will they even try? Does it even matter? 
I have no idea how to answer these questions. 
What I do know is that the questions are important, and that I respect those who are troubled by them. 
And maybe you should, too.
HT: Rod Dreher.