Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Battle of the Red Books and the Blue Books: The literature of the town vs. the literature of the country

After the 2004 presidential election, someone posted a map showing, county by county, who voted for which candidate. Whoever made the map (I have forgotten now) chose to represent the counties that voted for George W. Bush, the Republican, in red, and the counties that voted for Al Gore, the Democrat, in blue. The map has become a familiar part of the American political lexicon, invoked now by pundits on an almost daily basis.

If you look at the map, the association is as clear as day: the denser the population, the more liberal the political leanings—and the sparser the population, the more traditional. But it is more than just politics that divides the red states and the blue states.

From before most of us can even remember, we are soaked and steeped in the distinction between the town and the country. As far back as Aesop, we are told that the ways of the city are not the ways of the country, and that, in fact, the country life is more solid, more stable, and more satisfying.

Aesop's Town Mouse, having visited the Country Mouse’s home and found the lifestyle too quiet and the cuisine too plain. He convinces the Country Mouse to return with him to the city, where there are “sweetmeats and jellies, pastries, delicious cheeses, indeed, the most tempting foods that a Mouse can imagine.” On its face, the city offers luxuries unattainable in the country, and the country mouse is dazzled. But as soon as he has availed himself of these delicacies he is confronted by the servants, the dog, and, worst of all, the cat. The Country Mouse stopped in the Town Mouse's den only long enough to pick up her carpet bag and umbrella.

"You may have luxuries and dainties that I have not," she said as she hurried away, "but I prefer my plain food and simple life in the country with the peace and security that go with it."

I think I understand the Town Mouse’s impatience with the country. Shortly after we were married, my pregnant wife and I moved from the suburbs of southern California to the rustic environs of small town Kentucky. When we first visited the small town in which we still live, we were charmed by the old-fashioned main street, with the bandstand in the park in front of the courthouse and the classic beauty of the little college in town—not to mention the lush green of the fields and horse farms that seem to go on forever.

But it wasn’t long after we moved when other things began to loom large: There was little in the way of restaurants, fewer choices at the grocery store, and if you wanted to shop for clothes, you had to drive for an hour to Lexington to do it. Everything seemed to close at 5:00 p.m. And don’t even ask about Sunday: Nothing was open, and you were on your own.

We traveled back home frequently with our two, three, and then four children. And, for a time, we might have moved back to what we perceived to be civilization if we could. We missed the luxuries and dainties.

But the years began to tell on our way of looking at things. The trips back to California became less frequent and less gratifying. The polluted air, the crowded roads, the endless asphalt—I don’t remember noticing them much when I lived there, but they came to seem chief features of the landscape. Where were the cows? Where were the corn fields? Where were the patches of woods and the occasional deer crossing the road? Why did no one wave to you when you drove by?

Our three boys had by then spent a good part of their childhood tromping through the creek that ran through our backyard (or fishing in it), and our daughter had already taken to horseback-riding (which eventually became her profession). We left as unwitting town mice, but every successive trip contributed to our transformation into country mice.

There was something about the country that seemed more solid, satisfying, and safe—and there was something about the city that was artificial, anxious, and threatening. And this was not our judgment only, but the judgment of time and civilization.

The ancient Romans loved to tell the story of Cincinnatus, who, after serving as Roman consul, retired to his country estate. When Rome’s enemies later began to rise against them, the Roman senate sent a delegation to his farm to beg him to return to lead the country out of its crisis. They found him, the story goes, at work with his plow. He returned to Rome and led it out of one of its darker moments and, as soon as he had accomplished his purpose, gave up the absolute powers they had granted him and returned to his farm in an act that George Washington consciously copied when he resigned after his second term as first president of the United States.

Washington, a farmer himself, saw in Cincinnatus the same agrarian virtues that animated the many Virginia planters who attended at the birth of this nation. In fact, if you visit the Capitol Rotunda today, you will find the famous statue of Washington. He is leaning with one arm on the fasces, the cylindrical bundle of bound rods and axes that represents civil authority, and behind him is a plow. Jefferson too extolled the virtues of agrarian life. If you ever visit the Jefferson Memorial, walk to the back of his giant bronze statue and notice the two things sitting behind him: a column of corn and column of tobacco.

Once you notice the prevalence of these symbols on almost every statue and pediment in this nation’s capitol city, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that this nation’s founders saw the agrarian life as anything other than the seedbed of virtue.

And literature joins history in its testimony to these values. The story of the Town Mouse and the Country Mouse is joined by innumerable others in the case for the country. Children’s literature in particular is full of it. It is hard to imagine Laura falling asleep to the sweet strains of Pa’s fiddle in mid-town Manhattan. Wilbur was “some pig,” but would not have been so “terrific” in a place other than the barn in which he lived. And good luck finding blueberries for Sal in the cement jungles in which many of us live.

In fact, it is striking when you consider how few children’s stories take place in a city. The lessons which we are admonished to learn (or which, more frequently, are taught implicitly) are country lessons. When Almonzo’s father in Farmer Boy is showing him how to plant a wheat field, he tells him the story of a “lazy, worthless boy” who was sent to sow a field, but who instead poured the seeds on the ground and went swimming, thinking no one would ever know. “But the seeds knew, and the earth knew,” and in time, when the weeds finally grew, they would tell of his wickedness when even the boy had forgotten it.

It is hard to imagine what urban analogy could be employed to make a similar point. There is something about the fields and forests that allow the moral imagination to run free, and something too particular and artificial about the things of the city to allow what happens there to be universalized. What F. Scott Fitzgerald called the "urban distaste for the concrete" seems to militate against the poetic. For some reason we seem to know ourselves better when we are closer to the soil. In fact, it is worth observing that the word “human” comes from the Greek word humus, which means “earth” or “soil”—that from which, according to Genesis, we are made.

We are more and more in thrall to the artificial, as Levin, the protagonist of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina sees when his city-dwelling brother comes to visit him at his country estate. His brother sees it as a place to escape to for leisure, while Levin sees it as a place to work and live in. Shoulder to shoulder with the peasants mowing the fields Levin finds “a remedy … for every folly,” and finds in his wife, Kitty, who also loves the country, a down-to-earthness that grounds his life in reality. So too in Alan Paton’s Cry, the Beloved Country, a story in which Stephen Kumalo, an old, Black Anglican priest leaves his tribal home in the country on a mission to find his son who has left for the fleshpots of Johannesburg, and who is in trouble. Johannesburg in Alan Paton’s story is a modern Babylon that has taken and corrupted his son.

Our modern lives are spent more and more in company with man-made things. We build man-made houses in man-made subdivisions in which we watch our man-made television sets and eat our increasingly man-made food, enabling us to lead our man-made lives and think our man-made thoughts. The country life, far from being “at odds with God and man,” as the pastor tells the reclusive Uncle Alp in Johanna Spyri’s Heidi, is a life closer to the things that God made.

There is a distinction made in the old material logic of the medievals between man-made artifacts, whose pattern and purpose are imposed on them from without, and natural objects, whose pattern and purpose are really in them. The wood of a tree has its formal and final cause buried within its very being, whereas a bed has its pattern and purpose imposed on it from the outside by man. This is why, said Aristotle, if you were to bury a wooden bed in the ground and it sprouted, it would sprout a tree and not a bed.

In the old classical conception of the cosmos, natural things not only seem more real, but really are more real. So when we surround ourselves with unnatural things, we should not be surprised when we find that we have been distanced from our natural selves.

Heidi, who is being raised by her grandfather in the mountains, is taken to Frankfurt, Germany to be the companion of Clara, a young disabled girl where she turns the house upside down with her impulsiveness, driving the stuffy Miss Rottenmeier to consternation and the more good humored servant Sebastian to fits of suppressed laughter. Used to going out first thing in the morning “to see whether the sky was blue and the sun shining, and to say good morning to the trees and flowers,” Heidi finds the doors of Clara’s house nailed shut and no view at all from the open front door. She was “like a wild bird in a cage, seeking a way through the bars to freedom.”

She is sorely unhappy there, and her very health deteriorates. Clara’s doctor recommends returning Heidi to her mountain home—and after later visiting Heidi and her grandfather, the same doctor ends up recommending that Clara too be taken to Heidi’s mountains.

There are stories set is small towns, but seldom in big ones. Small towns are towns in which humans not only live, but, being human-sized towns, they are towns into which they can comfortably fit. Margaret Wise Brown’s Mike Mulligan, Jane—Eleanor Estes “middle Moffat,” Robert McClosky’s Homer Price—all live in the kind of small towns that still dot the red state landscape.

The nihilist modern adult stories that make up so much a part of modern literature are set exclusively in the city. All the modern tales of alienation and despair—Gogol’s Overcoat, Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment , Tolstoy’s "Death of Ivan Ilych," Kafka’s Metamorphosis, Sartre’s Nausea, Camus’ The Stranger—They all take place in an urban setting, far away from the hundred acre wood.

But the allure of the city is strong, and more and more of us eventually end up there at some point. The boy in Robert Penn Warren’s “Blackberry Winter” sees a strange man walking down the road and onto their farm. He is an outsider who asks for work, but he is a threatening presence, invading the innocence of the life of the boy and his family. He wears tattered city clothes and seems to represent the more modern industrial life. After he is told to move on by the boy’s father, the boy follows him for a ways down the road. Finally, the tramp turns to him, saying “You don’t stop following me and I’ll cut your throat …”

“That was what he said,” said the boy, “for me to stop following him. But I did follow him, all my days.”

There are exceptions to this thesis of course, even among children’s books. Curious George, Mary Poppins, Peter Pan, and Trumpet of the Swan are all set in the city, although even in these the country is often resorted to as a moral refuge and for spiritual relief.

In fact, much of the country life that once thrived in America has atrophied. Anyone who drives the side roads of America can see it: small towns which have been bled dry by the nearby interstate and commercial districts which have taken away the thriving commerce that the main streets of this country once enjoyed. In my home state of Kentucky, the demise of the tobacco culture has left ghost towns where there were once thriving townships .

Conversely, there are many cities which enjoy a more thriving culture, with their burroughs and smaller districts. In these places the very density of the architecture has prevented the larger stores like Wal-Mart from luring people away from the smaller businesses. Here small groceries and corner hardware stores still thrive in a way that is no longer possible in small towns, where the siren song of the strip malls lures many a shopper to her ruin. There is still a community in which you know the butcher at the market, and the waitress at the local coffee shop, and where you are on a first name basis with your doctor, and your mechanic, and where the barber who cuts your hair is the same one who cut it when you were a kid.

You can find a little bit of the country even in many cities.

When Heidi’s grandfather is asked what will become of Heidi if she never goes to school, he responds, “She’ll grow up with the goats and the birds. They won’t teach her any bad ideas and she’ll be very happy.” Most of us wouldn’t go that far. Still, some of us are sympathetic to the judgment of Beatrix Potter, who, after telling of Timmy Willie, the country mouse in The Tale of Johnny Town-Mouse, remarks, “One place suits one person, another place suits another person. For my part, I prefer to live in the country, like Timmy Willie.”

The Apologetics of Transcendence

Thomas' new article for First Things "On the Square" is now up. An excerpt:

... Yet even if future developments in the sciences vindicate this faith in a unified “theory of everything,” such a theory could never be more than a relative expression of the truth. A comprehensive theoretical framework can never, even in principle, fully account for natural phenomena, because a unified theory must oscillate between abstraction, which does not explain the whole of the natural world, and description (or prediction), which encompasses more of appearance but lacks explanatory power ...

Read the rest here.

Friday, October 26, 2012

PRESS RELEASE: Williams appointment an attempt BY governor to decapitate anti-gambling forces in legislature

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 26, 2012

LEXINGTON, KY—"The shortest path to a judicial appointment in Kentucky is to become a legislative impediment to Gov. Beshear's pro-gambling agenda," said Martin Cothran in reference to today's appointment of Senate President David Williams to a judgeship by Gov. Steve Beshear. "If lawmakers are smart, they will be lining up to oppose the Governor, hoping for a regular paycheck and a good retirement package. This provides us with a great recruitment tool in the General Assembly."

Cothran, spokesman for The Family Foundation, said (seriously) that he didn't blame Williams for taking the position, adding that the state is losing "one of the best lawmakers it ever had." But he questioned the Governor's motivations for the move. Williams is the third high-profile, anti-expanded gambling conservative in the General Assembly that the Governor has lured away with an administrative or judicial appointment in the last couple of years.

"This is an attempt by the Governor to decapitate the opposition to his expanded gambling agenda in the General Assembly."

"The Governor is clearly executing his marching orders from the gambling industry. If we didn't know better, we'd be expecting the next announcement from the Governor to be that Churchill Downs was moving its executive offices to the State Capitol."

Cothran lamented the loss of Williams, whom he called "a staunch defender of the family." "David Williams will go down as one of Kentucky's great legislative leaders," said Cothran. "He will be sorely missed."

###

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Breaking News: Parrot imitates human speech

Not really. Actually, it was a beluga whale, according to atheist biologist Jerry Coyne. And this is supposed to be further evidence of how highly intelligent whales are and more cause for thinking that we shouldn't keep them in captivity.

I can't remember anyone arguing that parrots should be set free because they can imitate human speech. [queue up Lynard Skynard's "Free Bird" here] In fact, if anything, the ability to talk would be a reason to keep a bird rather than to free it.

But it is obligatory for scientific materialists like Coyne to take note of any instance in which an animal does anything remotely like a human, however unenlightening and uninformative it might be, since they think it bolsters atheist dogma that humans are not essentially different from brute animals.

Repeat after me: "It doesn't prove anything."

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Keep procedures where babies brains are sucked out safe and legal

The Republicans need to offer Democrats a deal: They'll stop supporting the campaigns of candidates who think that killing an unborn child who was the product of rape should be illegal if the Democrats will promise not to support the campaigns of candidates who support partial birth abortion, a procedure in which a doctor partially delivers a baby and sucks out its brains.

Of course that would be difficult, given that the Democrats platform would prevent making it illegal and President Obama has supported keeping it legal.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

An American Hero: George McGovern, RIP

To the conservatives of my generation--those who held Ronald Reagan in high regard well before it became fashionable to do so--the great embodiment of liberalism was George McGovern. The public had not really heard of him until the 1972 presidential campaign. What people remember about him is that he ran against the Vietnam War, won the Democratic nomination, and lost to Richard Nixon in a landslide.

That Nixon was the conservative face of the era seems strange today in the post-Reagan political world, but that McGovern should have been its liberal face does not seem strange at all. In fact, McGovern defined modern liberalism and continues to do so, even though our memory of the man himself has receded into the mists of the political past.

I grew up in a family of conservative Democrats who were increasingly at odds with their party, and who mostly abandoned it on election day in November of 1972 to vote for Nixon. They voted for the crook: it was important. None of them liked McGovern's politics, a dislike that overshadowed anything they felt about him as a man. His personality was lost in the distaste for his political positions.

But there were two things that later rehabilitated him in my mind, and brought me to an appreciation of him that has stayed with me ever since. The first was seeing him speak when I was in college. He co-taught a class at the University of California, Santa Barbara in the early 1980's. As part of that class he gave a lecture at Campbell Hall which my girlfriend (who was later to become my wife) and I went to see. The stereotypes that I had formed over the years were exploded when I saw a man who was incredibly intelligent, witty, and well-informed. This was not the political demon I had been raised to revile. We attended a number of lectures during my junior and senior years, and the three that stood out as truly outstanding were those by Gore Vidal, William F. Buckley, Jr., and George McGovern.

The second was a book I read about 5 years ago; it was a book that anyone who wants to make a judgment of George McGovern the man should read. I began reading The Wild Blue, by Steven Ambrose with no idea who it was about. Its subtitle, The Men and Boys Who Flew the B-24s Over Germany 1944-45, gave no hint that it concerned anyone other than a group of mostly unknown men. Ambrose tells the story of a number of B-24 pilots, but, in fact, much of the book is about McGovern.

I had no idea (and don't remember it ever being discussed during the '72 presidential campaign although I'm sure it must have come up) that George McGovern was a war hero.

McGovern became a B-24 pilot when he was only 22. He was a member of the 741st bomber squadron which was based in Cerignola, Italy. He flew 35 missions over Germany and every mission was a journey into Hell. Flying a B-24 was like flying a large metal chicken coup, and the pilots maneuvered them through harrowingly intense anti-aircraft fire from German batteries that resulted in gruesome casualties for those who were hit. They returned back to their bases to land, having to put all their strength into manipulating the primitive manual controls in order not to suffer the fate they had just avoided over Germany. So difficult was it to manage these planes that the pilots were often drenched in sweat when they got to the ground, despite cockpit temperatures that could reach as low as 50 below zero.

The 35 missions that George McGovern flew were the maximum number a pilot could fly. After 35, you were done: They sent you home. Very few reached that number. When I read this, I thought back on his opposition to the Vietnam War, a position I strongly disagreed with as a very confident but fairly ignorant adolescent. It took on a completely different color. A man who flew 35 missions in a B-24 over Germany, I concluded, has won the right to say anything he wants to about war and he has earned the right to be listened to.

Ambrose's book doesn't stop at the events of the war, it tells the story of McGovern's courtship, marriage, and later life. Out of this story comes the picture of a fundamentally decent and religiously devout man who cared deeply for his family and his country.

I have said before that the problem with liberals is not that they're evil; the problem is that they are good, too good. They are so good they are a danger to themselves and others. As a true liberal, McGovern possessed the fault characteristic of his political tribe: he projected his goodness onto his fellow men and assumed that they would what he would do under the same circumstances. Modern American liberalism (messianic, meliorist, and utopian) fundamentally rejects the Christian doctrine of original sin, and premises its policies on human beings that do not exist. Liberalism is a prelapsarian political philosophy for a postlapsarian world.

We forgive dead men for their badness. Can we forgive them for their goodness?

One story about McGovern from the book particularly struck me. On one of their missions, they had to turn back from their target without releasing their load of bombs. So McGovern turned the plane out into the Italian countryside to drop their load of explosives in order to allow them to land the plane. When they thought they had gotten to a safe place where they could release the bombs without harming anyone, McGovern gave the command to release them. But just as the last bomb had left the bomb bay, McGovern looked down and realized there was a farmhouse right in the path of the explosives. There was nothing he could do.

After washing up from the mission, a downcast McGovern entered the canteen, where he found one of his crew members laughing about the farmhouse they had just destroyed. I can't remember exactly what McGovern did, but I recall that he grabbed the airman's collar and slugged him. If he didn't, he should have. In any case, the guy got the message, and everyone in the canteen saw the righteous indignation of a good man.

McGovern carried that guilt for years.

Then, decades later, McGovern and his wife visited Europe, where, in the midst of sightseeing, he appeared on a radio show where they discussed his service flying B-24s. He told the story of the farmhouse, and expressed his sorrow to no one in particular for a family he never intended to harm. A few minutes later, a man called in: It was the owner of the farmhouse the bombs had destroyed. The man explained that he and his family had heard the plane coming and had sought shelter in a nearby ditch. When the bombs hit and destroyed the house, the family was safe. They had survived. Not only was the man not angry, he said he hated the Nazis, and that, though his house was destroyed, he would gladly give it up in order to see the destruction of the Germans and what they stood for.

George McGovern was not only a hero: He was one of the greatest men of the Greatest Generation. May he rest in peace.

Tolerance Police strike again, this time at Tufts University

The Tolerance Police have struck again, this time at Tufts University, where, in the name of Tolerance and Diversity, they are rooting out student groups with which they disagree. We go now to Daniel Halper of the Weekly Standard for a report on this group that was (prepare yourself) requiring that its members actually believe in what the group stands for:
Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts has banned a Christian group from campus because the group requires student leaders to adhere to "basic biblical truths of Christianity." The decision to ban the group, called the Tufts Christian Fellowship, was made by officials from the university's student government, specifically the Tufts Community Union Judiciary.
Members of this group probably drink blood and sacrifice chickens too.

We'll all be better off when every organization has to accept even those who disagree with it. Well, okay, everyone except colleges and universities.

The Clinch: The last presidential debate

Clearly, Obama won the third debate. The question is whether it was a Pyrrhic victory. On points, I don't think there is any question that Obama won and won fairly easily--largely because he was more aggressive. The question is whether it matters.

Several observations: 

  • Whatever happened to Libya? The glaring thing about the debate was Romney's decision not to mention Libya. And it was very obviously his decision. It was clearly intentional. It floors me that Romney did not use this, since it couldn't have failed to score. As the debate went on, I kept thinking, I wonder, since Romney got the coin toss, if that meant he was speaking last. That would be the perfect time to launch the criticism, since Obama could not respond. What a brilliant tactic! So when Obama gave his closing remarks and it want back to Romney, I thought, okay here goes. He's going to nail him. But ... nothing. I think this was a huge missed opportunity. 
  • The gravitas game. The Romney's clear strategy coming into the debate was to look Commander-in-Chiefish. I do think he succeeded here. He looked an awful lot like the guy who already was. I think Charles Krauthammer was right: Obama looked small; Romney looked large. Chris Wallace made the remark that if he had been parachuted in from another planet into the audience of this debate, he would have thought that it was Romney who was president, not Obama. This was an atmospheric consideration that does not get detected by debate judges, but it matters nonetheless. 
  • A kinder and gentler toughness. Then there was Romney's peace offensive. If you put this together with the fact that Romney toned down the aggressiveness all around, I think this bolsters David Gergen's contention that Romney was trying to appeal to women voters. All of the Romney's agreements with Obama and his mentions of peace don't really get my blood pumping, but maybe Gergen's right and it will do that for women. If it does, it will have been the first time anyone looked more like a good commander-in-chief by sounding dovish.
  • They still use bayonets, don't they? I winced when Obama said, in response to Romney's charge that the number of ships has gone down since 1917, that we don't use horses and bayonets any more either. I say this comes back to haunt him. It won't help him in the shipyards of North Carolina--or in the Navy at large. If I were the Romney campaign, I would immediately get out an ad, showing a series of Marines (who still use bayonets), saying, "Mr. President, I still use a bayonet."
  • And that's why I want to talk about ... the economy. Romney repeatedly turned this issue back to his chief issue. I think this helped him.
  • The staredown. I know these things aren't supposed to matter, but, thanks to this new split-screen view where we see both candidates facial expressions at every moment (will someone please pass a law banning this?), I think Romney won the grimace battle. Romney has a strange kind of smile that I don't find particularly attractive, but people are apparently used to it. Tonight, Obama unveiled The Glare. It was this intense, head-stuck-forward, jaw-jutting grimace that he was clearly trained to use by his handlers in this debate. I thought it was kind of creepy. I can just see John Stewart making fun of this. I don't think it looked good.
I'm also wondering if this was some kind of clinch. Romney figures he's ahead on points and all he has to do in this round is come out roughly even. We'll see.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Medial Pre-Frontal Cortex Did It: A Review of Free Will, by Sam Harris, Part III

Click here to see Part I of this review and here to see Part II

Much of Harris' argument against free will is fueled by assertions--assertions that simply assume what he is trying to prove. In fact, much of his case consists of sheer bluff, as if saying what he is trying to prove with enough bravado is sufficient to prove his case:

"There is," he says, "simply no intellectually respectable position from which to deny this." No denying this. Check. "There is no question that (most, if not all) mental events are the product of physical events." No question. Got it. "My mental life is simply given to me by the cosmos." Right. Blessed be the Almighty Cosmos.

He argues that we are not aware of the neurological events that produce our thoughts, moods, perceptions, and behavior, and that, since we are not aware of them, they must produce our thoughts. Not only does this not logically follow, it simply assumes that these things are "produced" by neurological events, when this is the very point at issue.

He is singularly impressed with the evidence that neurological events seem to precede the thoughts they "produce":
The physiologist Benjamin Libet famously used EEG to show that activity in the brain's motor cortex can be detected some 300 milliseconds before a person feels that he has decided to move ... More recently, direct recordings from the cortex showed that the activity of merely 256 neurons was sufficient to predict that 80 percent accuracy a person's decision to move 700 milliseconds before he became aware of it.
"These findings," he adds, "are difficult to reconcile with the sense that we are the conscious authors of our actions." Why? He argues that this shows that "some moments before you are aware of what you will do next, your brain has already determined what you will do." But before we can decide what we can infer from the evidence we have to ask exactly what the evidence is.

He appears to be saying that there are two chemical events being detected by scientific instruments: one which is the physical event that causes the decision, and one which is the physical event that constitutes our awareness that we are making the decision.

The first question is how we know which event--the one that Harris identifies as pre-determinative and the one that he identifies as the awareness of making the decision--is the decision itself. He seems to identify the latter event--the awareness of the decision--as the decision itself. But an awareness of a decision isn't necessarily the decision. In fact, on the face of it, it would make more sense to think that the awareness of making a decision is a separate act from the decision itself. The mental act of thinking about something and the mental act of thinking about your mental act of thinking about something would clearly be two mental acts.

In other words, by what reasoning does he say that the first chemical event is pre-determinative and the second what is pre-determined? Why couldn't the first event be the decision and the second the awareness that we have made the decision? Given Harris' penchant for making assumptions he has not justified, it seems like we are justified in being suspicious. There may be some reason to interpret it the way he does, but he does not give us enough information to know what it is. It is not even clear that he has considered any alternative interpretation than the one that favors his case.

So when Harris asks us what we should think about a situation (which he clearly considers possible) in which   experimenters could know, a split second before you made it, what your decision would be, we could simply ask what justifies them in thinking that the neurological event they had thought was the event which caused the decision was not the decision itself, and the latter the neurological event co-incident with awareness of the decision they had just made?

In fact, one question is whether we can ever reliably know the answer to this question at all.

And then Harris makes this rather strange statement:
Consider what it would take to actually have free will. You would need to be aware of all the factors that determine your thoughts and actions, and you would need to have complete control over those factors.
You would? Think of what would be necessary, if what Harris says here is true, to drive a car: You would need to be aware of all the factors that make the car go, and you would have to have complete control over them. Now I'm pretty sure most people on the road have no clue how their engine was put together or how it works, and they have very little control over how these factors work together at any given moment. But they seem to get around just fine. In fact, Harris' assertion here is just silly.

Then Harris makes statements which are simply ludicrous. He says, "If you don't know what your soul is going to do next, you are not in control." Huh? You have to know what your decision is before you make it in order for it to be a free will decision? Why? And if this is the case, then what about the neurological event that Harris would say would have to constitute the knowledge of what the decision will be? Would we need to know what that knowledge would be before we had it too? How far back do we need to go?

Then there are the statements full import of which one must meditate on for long periods of time in highly oxygenated air in order to fully appreciate: "A voluntary action," he says, "is accompanied by the felt intention to carry it out." No kidding? Really? "We do not know what we intend to do until the intention arises." No! Get out!

And all this in preparation for the next chapter, in which we are told that it is those who believe in free will who are not being rational.

To be continued in Part IV.


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Why NOT politicize Benghazi?

We heard once again in last night's debate that the Romney campaign should not politicize the terrorist attack in Benghazi that was not a terrorist attack then, but which is now that we know more, even though we still don't have a complete enough investigation into what happened there to say exactly what it was even though that didn't stop us from saying that it was a protest over a movie.

Okay, well let's just say Romney is politicizing the issue. The first question then is how Mr. Romney is politicizing the issue any more than people in Obama's administration already politicized it when they portrayed it as some sort of popular protest over a movie in order to make it agree with the Obama political narrative about the improved U.S. relations in the Middle East.

The second question is what moral rule we are employing here to say that anyone shouldn't politicize it. Is the rule that we shouldn't politicize any incident in which Americans are being killed overseas? Where were the Democrats who are saying that now when George McGovern ran an entire campaign over the Vietman War, an incident in which many, many more people were dying than died in Benghazi.

In fact, where were these self-righteous Democrats when they themselves were criticizing George Bush over the Iraq War? Weren't people dying there?

The Democrats (and the Republicans, for that matter) politicize everything that it is to their advantage to politicize. So why not politicize this?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

What we know after the second presidential debate

A few things we know after tonight's presidential debate:
President Obama performs better when he is not comatose. 
He is not always comatose
The debates are better when the moderator is not comatose 
The failure of Obama's policies in his first term looks no better when he is not comatose than when he is 
The exact nature of Obama's economic plan for his second term is no clearer when he is not comatose than when he is 
Oh, and since when is it the moderator's job to point out when she thinks the Republican candidate is wrong (whether he is or not)? And if she is going to do this, then why doesn't she do it for the Democratic candidate as well?

Nevermind. I know that answer to the question.


The Pre-Frontal Medial Cortex Did It: A review of Free Will by Sam Harris, Part II


See Part I of this review here.

Harris sets forth his position as follows:
Free will is an illusion. Our wills are simply not of our own making. Thoughts and intentions emerge from background causes of which we are unaware and over which we exert no conscious control. We do not have the freedom we think we have.
The first problem in statements like this is who exactly "we" is. This word appears here six times in four sentences (if we count "our," its genitive form). Harris is arguing that there is no volitional locus from which decisions emanate: Our minds do not exist as any kind of independent entity, but are rather a part of a network of physical and chemical circuitry that operates according to rules that exclude any part of that circuitry from defying those rules (This is one of the many implications of saying that there is no free will). But the very use of the word "we" implies that there is some part of that circuitry which can operate outside those rules--some volitional locus which, being volitional, can escape from the deterministic matrix. But his whole case is that there is no such thing.

In the choice between the blue pill and the red pill, Harris continually hedges his bets. He wants to be seen as a brave and steely rationalist, biting the intellectual bullet and accepting conclusions that are clearly not attractive, but which, being a materialist, he must accept. But his language keeps betraying him: if he is right, there is no "we," so why keep using it? He pretends as if he's taken the red pill, but he keeps using blue pill language (i.e., "we," "our," "us").

Harris and his New Atheist friends like to cast themselves in the role of the existential hero. The problem is that they are precisely the opposite: the existential hero not only can choose, but is defined by his ability to choose to act in a way that takes him out of the matrix altogether. He doesn't defend the machine; he defies it.

New Atheists like Harris want us to see them as Neo defying the traditional religious matrix. But in their scientistic mythology, there are only Agent Smiths. In the debate about free will, it is Harris who wears the dark suit and black glasses.

To be continued in Part III.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Drugs over Discipline

A report from the University of Kentucky says:
Antipsychotic drugs given to poor children under Kentucky's Medicaid program jumped 270 percent from 2000 to 2010, according to a report prepared by the University of Kentucky's Center for Business and Economic Research.
Poor children are being drugged at an increasingly alarming rate. And that's why we need to ... stop corporal discipline.

The Medial Pre-Frontal Cortex Did It: A review of Free Will, by Sam Harris, Part I

This is the first part in a week-long series of posts on Sam Harris' recent book, Free Will:

In a recent article in Britain's New Statesman, Steven Poole lamented the glut of what he calls "neurotrash"--the attempt to explain every human thought and action in terms of neuroscience and cognitive psychology:
An intellectual pestilence is upon us. Shop shelves groan with books purporting to explain, through snazzy brain-imaging studies, not only how thoughts and emotions function, but how politics and religion work, and what the correct answers are to age-old philosophical controversies. The dazzling real achievements of brain research are routinely pressed into service for questions they were never designed to answer. This is the plague of neuroscientism – aka neurobabble, neurobollocks, or neurotrash – and it’s everywhere.
Free Will, by Sam Harris, must now take its place in this plague of panegyrics to the pre-frontal cortex.

The first thing we must get clear is something that Harris himself, given his thesis, must certainly agree with: he had no choice in writing this book. But it has little to do with the neurological state of his brain. He operates under a necessity only a little less deterministic: the necessity that follows on the nature of his dogma.

As an atheistic materialist, Harris really has no choice but to champion the idea that free will is a delusion. The materialist, said Chesterton, "is not allowed to admit into his spotless machine the slightest speck of spiritualism or miracle." Materialists like Harris keep asking why we make the decisions we do, and what other explanation there could be than the physiological. The answer, of course, is the psychological, the philosophical, the whimsical, and about a thousand others.

But these violate the central tenets of his narrow atheistic dogma, and so have been dealt with severely by his materialistic philosophical Inquisition.

There is something ironic about the position of atheists like Harris on issues like this: they claim that their position is the result of the irresistible necessity of logic (in fact, they pride themselves on their logic). Their belief is the consequent, in a ground/consequent relation between their evidence and their conclusion. But their very stated position is that any mental state--including their position on this issue-- is the effect of a physical, not logical cause.

By their own logic, it isn't logic that demands their assent to the claim that free will is an illusion, but the prior chemical state of their brains. The only condition under which we could possibly find their argument convincing is if they are not true. The claim that free will is an illusion requires the possibility that minds have the freedom to assent to a logical argument, a freedom denied by the claim itself. It is an assent which must, in order to remain logical and not physiological, presume a perspective outside the physical order.

And this is not only a mortal consequence for Harris as the one trying to prove his point, it is also problematic from the reader's perspective: If we are convinced by Harris's logic, we would have to consider this conviction as something determined not by the rational strength of his logic, but by the entirely irrational arrangement of the chemicals in our brains. They might, as Harris would have to say, coincide, but their relation would be completely arbitrary. If prior physical states are all that determine our beliefs, that any one physical state is no more rational than any other. It isn't rational or irrational, it just is.

If what Harris says is true, then our assent to what we view as the rational strength of his position may appear to us to involve our choice to assent or not to assent to his ostensibly rational argument, but (again, if it is true) in truth cannot be any such thing, since we do not have that choice--or any other.

Indeed, it is hard to see how, if free will is an illusion, we could ever know it.

But this complication does not appear to have occurred to Harris, so let us confine ourselves on those that have occurred to him and see what we can make of them.

To be continued in Part II


Friday, October 12, 2012

The VP Debate: Next time give Martha Raddatz a tranquilizer gun

Before last night's debate, there were surprisingly few people in downtown Danville, just down the street from Centre College, where the debate was going to take place. I live about six miles from the campus, and I was supposed to give a little five minute speech for a joint Heritage Foundation/Family Research Council press conference in Constitution Square.

I was dreading the crowds and the traffic I would encounter when I got there. But when I drove over the railroad tracks and crossed over Maple Avenue and drove through the campus, I didn't see much of any activity. There were plenty of parking spaces on Main Street and I parked in one of the many parking spots around Constitution Square.

Centre College is an absolutely beautiful campus, but whoever was in charge of the debate had completely cordoned off the College green with a chain link fence, and apparently all the visitors were inside this area. It's too bad. The 2000 VP debate there really involved the whole town, but the ridiculous security precautions forced everything into one little area, and kind of left the town out.

I just ended up watching the debate at home.

I think Charles Krauthammer had it exactly right in saying that, if you were reading it on the transcript, it was a tie; if you were listening to it on the radio, Biden won; and if you were watching on TV Ryan won.

I'm sure Biden's orders were to put on something more than the moribund performance of Obama, and he did. All Ryan had to do, on the other hand, was to force a stalemate by looking unscary, well-qualified, and vice presidential--which just means presidential, really. He succeeded too.

I think the only thing that differentiated the two was Biden's manner, which was condescending and, quite frankly, a little goofy. He's mastered the forced smile over the years, but it was just a little too aggressive, I think in the interruptions and guffaws. I don't know how many people that will bother, probably not many. It's always bothered me.

The split screen view is a new thing this year, and quite frankly I don't like it. I try to find a channel that doesn't have it so I can focus on the guy who's talking. But I don't think it favors Biden. Ryan seemed polite; Biden seemed, despite his age immature. It was a contrast that favored Ryan.

But the bottom line practically speaking is that if the challenger draws, he wins. And that's what happened.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Tolerance Police punish one of their own

The chief "diversity officer" at the Gallaudet University has been put on paid leave after the university discovered that she had signed a petition putting a gay marriage referendum on the Maryland ballot.

Apparently Angela McCaskell thought that diversity meant, like, allowing for people to be different or something. It's an easy mistake for people to make, since this is what it means to normal people who have not yet fallen down the rabbit hole of modern higher re-education. McCaskell clearly needs some sensitivity training in order to gain an understanding of the proper definition of "diversity."

In the interest of beginning this process of re-education, we would like to have her memorize the following formulation that appears on the front wall of the liberal Ministry of Truth:

DIVERSITY IS UNIFORMITY
EQUALITY IS FAVORITISM
TOLERANCE IS BIGOTRY

A little sleep deprivation would help in this process. Water-boarding wouldn't hurt either.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Yellow Peril

The campaign that is criticizing Mitt Romney for not offering substantive proposals is now making Big Bird a campaign issue. The very people who have been asking "Where's the beef?" have themselves taken up poultry as a political cause.

But I suppose it's better than championing pork, which, up until Big Bird showed, was the Democrat's favorite political meat.

If you think about it, this campaign season has already seen chicken become a political symbol. Many conservatives (no doubt mostly Republican) were just several weeks ago proudly mobbing Chik-fil-a restaurants all over the country in order to make a political statement. But they at least were paying for their chicken themselves and not asking taxpayers to borrow money from China to pay for it. And at least they were eating it.

Then again, a Spicy Chicken Sandwich can't talk back.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Big Bird eats twice his weight in taxpayer money every day

Why are we subsidizing with taxpayer money a bird that can't even tell you what kind he is? In fact, Big Bird is the very personification of species confusion. According to Wikipedia, he is officially a canary. But when asked on on episode of Sesame Street if he was a cassowary, he replied, "I'm more of a condor."

A condor? Aren't they a kind of vulture? Don't they eat dead things? We're borrowing money from China to subsidize a talking yellow buzzard?

In 1976, he told host Peter Marshall on the Hollywood Squares that he was a lark. In one film he is called an Ibis. Wikipedia says he looks more like a chicken. We have made an educational icon out of a taxonomically-challenged bird. Big Bird deserves to go the way of the raphus cucullatus.

In case you're wondering, that's a dodo.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Headline of the Day: "Does Obamacare cover butt-kickings?"

Read it here.

Al Gore: The altitude hurt Obama. No kidding

Romney's Finest Hour

When James Carville tells a Democratic presidential candidate in the post debate analysis that he "didn't bring his A game," it's bad. In fact, almost all the Obama apologists were left defenseless after last night's debate in which Romney dominated Obama at every turn.

I say "almost all" because there were still a few hardy souls in Obama's campaign who held forth manfully in the spin room after the debate. One of them was David Axelrod, who did his best to answer Candy Crowley's post-debate question, "David, what happened?"

David Gergen declared, "This is now a horse race." Wolf Blitzer was left without much to say. Even Rachel Maddow, was relatively subdued. Rachel Maddow. Subdued. I'm going to cherish the moment.

Folks, these are the people Obama depends on to spin these things so that Obama looks good. They were clearly embarrassed. I think this debate was the most dominating performance by any candidate in a modern presidential debate. Yes, Reagan's "youth and inexperience" remark won him a clear cut victory over Walter Mondale in 1984, but it was just one line. The rest of that debate was fairly pedestrian. What sets Romney's win over Obama apart was that he dominated his opponent over almost the entire debate.

There wasn't just one line that distinguished Romney, but multiple lines--and they kept coming.
  • "Mr. President, you're entitled to your own plane and your own house, but not your own facts..."
  • "Sorry Jim, I'm going to stop the subsidy to PBS, I'm going to stop other things. I like PBS, I love Big Bird, I  actually like you too, but I'm not going to keep spending money on things to China to pay for it. That's number one."
  • "I will not reduce the share paid by high income individuals. I know that you and your running mate keep on saying that, and I know it's a popular thing to say with a lot of people, but it's just not the case. Look, I've got five boys. I'm used to people saying something that's not always true, but just keep on repeating it, but ultimately hoping I'll believe it."
  • You say that you get a deduction for taking a plant overseas? I've been in business for 25 years. I have no idea what you're talking about."
  • "I don't want to go down the path of Spain. I want to put more Americans to work."
  • "It's frankly not moral for my generation to keep spending massively more than we take in, knowing burdens will be passed on to the next generation and paying interest and principal all their lives."
And so on and so forth for an hour and a half.

Obama had a few memorable lines, but unfortunately one of them was, "You know, four years ago, I said that I'm not a perfect man, and I wouldn't be a perfect president, and that's probably a promise Governor Romney probably thinks I've kept." To borrow a line from Winston Churchill, Obama is a modest man with much to be modest about.

From the very beginning Romney was on his game. There were several things he did which set him apart in this debate:

  • He used personal stories. Obama only got personal only once, and that was when he invoked his grandmother. That was it. The rest was wonkishness. Obama needs to show his human side.
  • He said things clearly, simply, and memorably. Romney has always been efficient in this presentations. But last night he was ruthlessly efficient. I wondered if it was just me, but as I listened to the debate, I didn't have to expend much energy to hear what Romney was saying, but I had to focus very carefully to understand Obama's points. This was not good for the President.
  • He was aggressive. Romney seemed like the master disciplining his student. And Obama just stood there and nodded! Obama returned fire a few times but, but he seemed overwhelmed by the amount of fire he was taking from Romney.
  • He was informed. Whether his facts were correct is for the fact-checkers, but Romney repeatedly threw out simple statistics, and point by point statements--with thankfully only three to five points.
  • He was presidential. And this is surprising. Few people can be as aggressive as Romney without looking mean. He didn't look mean. He just looked authoritative.

He even managed to use the opportunity to congratulate Obama on his anniversary to humanize himself and get a good-natured laugh.

A CBS post-debate poll of uncommitted voters had Romney winning 46% to 22%. That's over 2-to-1. CNN's poll of uncommitted, registered voters gave it to Romney 67% to 25%.

That's arithmetic.

As one commentator said, this debate was not about Barack Obama; it was about Mitt Romney. And all he had to do was look like he was on the same level as the President. That's the one advantage the challenger has. But Romney did much more than that. He won the debate decisively, and, perhaps more importantly, he won the post-debate analysis. Even Obama's allies were left admitting he had been whooped.

This will result in new momentum for what has been a lackluster campaign. It will re-energize his campaign workers. And it will open up pocketbooks.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Live-blogging the Presidential Debate Here

LIVE BLOGGING HERE! SCROLL DOWN

I will be live-blogging tonight's Presidential Debate  at Chris Jeub's debate website with several others, including Andrew Pudewa.

The address is http://www.chrisjeub.com/presidential-debates. I notice that there is a 404 error at that site right now, but I assume that will change closer to debate time. If there is a better address, I will post it here for those interested.

UPDATE: The link above still does not work. If it is not working by debate time, I will be live-blogging on this page.

9:10: OBAMA: We've heard the "luckiest guy" in the world thing before. Auto industry again (we heard a lot about this at the convention). "Question is not where we've been but where we're going." ROMNEY: Great response by Romney on Obama's anniversary. Romney scores on the personal story he told. Five points is still too many points (he needs three), but it's better than the 50 something he had in the primary. Solid beginning for Romney.

9:15: Emphasizing middle income Americans a great point for Romney. It addresses his weakness, and he doesn't sound defensive in making the point. He needs to avoid sounding defensive after his "47%" debacle and so far he's doing it. Good score for Romney on Obama's oil policies. He's on the offensive--great for Romney.

9:20: Obama charging Romney with too many tax cuts? This is supposed to be damaging to Romney? Obama making telling technical points (and not illegitimate ones), but they're going to be a little too technical. Romney's corrections (whether they're accurate or not) at least sound good. He sounds good correcting Obama. Romney again goes personal, talking about how he's used . I will not under any circumstances raise taxes on middle income Americans." Good for Romney, again.

9:25: Romney again gets concrete: talks about a small business guy he knows and what high tax rates do to him. So far, Obama hasn't talked about a real person yet. Romney successfully turns Obama's point around appealing to jobs. Obama answers in technical terms again. He's using abstractions: Romney's using stories. Stories beat statistics every time.

9:27: All the discussion is on Romney's plan and Romney is convincingly defending it. What is Obama offering? He hasn't made a case for the future he said at the debate's beginning that was so important.

9:32: The deficit a "moral problem." Another point to Romney. "Is the program so critical that it's worth borrowing money from China to pay for it." Great line! He's not going to pay for PBS, but likes Big Bird. President promised to cut budget in half, but doubled it. Good point by Obama on the deficit he faced when coming in from the Bush administration.

9:35: Romney looking authoritative in calling Obama on the carpet on saying he would cut the deficit but raising it instead. "You raise taxes, you kill jobs." I get more money by more people paying jobs. Romney making the case for his plan and sounding optimistic in a Reagan sort of way in doing it.

9:40: "I've been in business for ... years, and I don't know what you're talking about" on tax credits for moving jobs overseas. Romney sounding like he knows what he's talking about and the President doesn't. "Let states do this."

9:47: Obama finally refers to a real person (Grandma). Great defense by Obama of Social Security (because it puts a face on the issue), but it doesn't necessarily tell against Romney. Romney calls Obama on Medicare cutting funding for current retirees. Putting back $716 billion in Medicare. Romney sounds more pro Medicare than Obama. Good move. Obama attacks Romney on voucher idea on Medicare. Costing $6,000/year per retiree. Obama defending Grandma again. Romney needs an old person to match Grandma, but he hasn't introduced one yet. Romney needs a Grandma, quick.

9:50: Romney's response good because it sounds simpler than Obama's point, but this issue is not a good one to stay long on for those viewers from Florida. There's just no way to phrase it from Romney's perspective, no matter how good the plan is for Grandma. Grandma just wants her Medicare. Romney wants to stay on Medicare. Noooooo! This is not Romney's strong suit, even though I agree with him.

9:55: "I wouldn't designate five banks as too big to fail." "Try to get a mortgage these days." "I want to bring back housing and good jobs." The memorable lines are coming from Romney.

9:58: "Expensive things hurt families." "An economic crisis at the dinner table." "It (Obamacare) has killed jobs." Romney keeps saying thinks simply and memorably. Obama using subordinate clauses. BAD MOVE.

10:02: Obama defending Obamacare. Obama: "Gov. Romney did a good thing..." Great criticism by Romney on Obama not being bipartisan. Romney sounding convincing on favorably comparing his Massachusett's health care plan to Obamacare.

10:10: The government is not effective in bring down costs on almost anything." Romney scoring points on board of bureaucrats making medical decisions for people. Obama denies they can do this. Charges Romney's plan doesn't take account of pre-existing conditions. "Is Romney keeping secret his plan to replace Obamacare because it's so good?" Good line.

10:13: So far nothing about the 47%. Is Romney not going to bring it up? So far, none of the gotcha stuff. This may be the most substantive presidential debates ever.

10: 17: Romney uses taking care of those who cannot care for themselves into the religious liberty point. Romney talking about happiness, dreams, making the case for freedom, putting Obama on the wrong side of the issue. College graduates can't find work, more food stamps. Good points.

10:20: Obama goes after Ryan budget. Doesn't answer Romney's list of Obama's economic sins. Obama's been allowed to talk for three more minutes total than Romney.

10:28: $90 billion would hire ... teachers. Good point. Romney winning on government control issue. Making education more effective and efficient. Massachusett's schools among most successful in the nation. Good points. Romney will be bipartisan. We need leadership. Romney arguing obvious, irrefutable points. Repealing Obamacare won't be popular with Democrats Romney wants to be bipartisan with. Good points on both sides.

10:30: This has been a wonkish, but substantive debate and Obama gives wonkish conclusion. Obama admits being imperfect, but has good intentions. Weak appeal: "If you re-elect me, I'll be just as sincere and well-intentioned as I was during the first term." [my words] Is this the best he can do? Romney points to specific be effects of Obama first term, talks specifically about what he will do. Romney has made clear points throughout the debate, saying "First, ... Second, ... Third." He does it here. Still wonkish, but clearer points.

Final Comments: Romney clearly won this debate. He was more energetic, more confident, clearer and simpler in his points, was on the offensive the whole time (in stark contrast to the media coverage of the campaign), used more personification. I don't think there was a single area in which Obama did better than Romney. Romney didn't even need to win to win. He just had to hold his own and look equally good as the President. That's all. He did more than that. He needed to exceed expectations, he did more than that. This was Romney's finest hour.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

A funny thing happened on the way to gender equality in the military

Having women in the military was really great because, after all, women can hand tough assignments--even combat roles--just as well as men. Oh, except they are now being sexually victimized by their male colleagues, which just doesn't make sense. I mean, if they're equal to men and all.

The problem, apparently, is that some commanding soldiers out there have a "combat persona." That's right. A "combat persona." In the Army, of all places. The next thing you know, they'll start training soldiers to, like, kill people.

The biggest concern, of course, is that all those wackos out there who thought that putting large numbers of women in close quarters with men in military situations would cause problems, like, um, sexual victimization. We can't let these people be proven right.

In order to make sure the critics of women in the military aren't vindicated, we don't need to talk about how women are sexually victimized, since that would give the impression that men and women are different in some way, and that women are physically weaker than men, which we now know to be a myth brought about by an unhealthy exposure to biology, anatomy, history, anthropology, and the literature of basically every civilization that has ever existed.

The first thing we need to do is to make sure that, when we report on things like the lawsuit filed in federal court in San Francisco, we phrase it very carefully. Make no reference to the proportion of women to men involved in the suit so that it appears as if men are being sexually victimized by women every bit as much as women are being victimized by men.

Oh, wait. They did do that.

Anywa, secondly, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta needs to say something like, "I have men and women in the military who put their lives on the line…to protect this country. Surely we owe it to them to be able to protect them.”

Oh, shoot. In fact, he did say that.

Nevermind.