Monday, December 30, 2013

Pope against gay adoption. Liberals shocked. World amused.

It is rather interesting to watch the reaction of liberals as they discover that there are people in this world who disagree with them. They were apparently unaware that this was allowed.

A journalist at the Guardian has discovered that Pope Francis is opposed to gay adoption. Just wait until he finds out that he's also in favor of God, against the Devil, and kind of partial to holy water.

That'll really shake him up.

The comments by the Pope to the Maltese Archbishop have rocked the world of those in the Politically Correct community who had convinced themselves that he was actually a Western secular liberal bent on turning the Church upside down. Damien Thompson (Hey, wasn't "Damian" the name of the Anti-Christ in the movie, "The Omen"?) criticizes Time magazine for not doing its research before naming him "Person of the Year."

I mean, if they had only known the Pope was a Catholic. What were they thinking?

Isn't there a television show we can kick him off of? On the other hand, maybe that's not such a good idea: His family is slightly larger than the Robertsons.

Climate change expedition trapped in Antartica. In the ice. In summer.

A funny thing happened on the way to global warming: namely, everybody froze.

An expedition of twenty-some climate scientists and their groupies were going to Antarctica to conduct some wildlife and weather observations when their boat got stuck in the above normal amounts of summer sea ice. As it turns out, the ice extent in Antarctica has reached record levels this year.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

A&E returns Phil Robertson to his family, trades in one kind of hypocrisy for another

Every couple of years, the curtain is accidentally pulled back and we see the gay rights movement for what it is and the real intolerance of their agenda is laid bare. The Chick-fil-a episode a while back was one of these. Several colleges (including the University of Louisville) as well as at least one whole city were poised to prevent the stores from operating simply because the owner believed in traditional marriage.

The cheerleaders for Tolerance and Diversity were exposed as players for the other side. When they realized they had been discovered, they backed off and went away.

This is the significance of the firing of Phil Robertson at the behest of groups like GLAAD by A&E: They want to silence those who disagree with them and they want the power of government to help them do it.

As in the Chick-fil-a episode, they have been foiled again. But they will be back.

Yesterday's decision by A&E to return Phil Robertson to his family is being called hypocritical by the people who hypocritically talk about tolerance but don't want to practice it. Their critics are right, of course, A&E is simply caving. 

Gay rights groups are now running a left-wing political protection racket wherein they pressure cultural institutions to demonstrate their loyalty to the gay rights cause by suppressing any expression of dissent from the New Intolerance in return for political support. Domestic partner benefits, mandatory "diversity training," support for same-sex marriage—these are some of the payoffs.

And for most institutions most of the time, this is a fairly painless process. But every once in a while, it proves costly, as it now has for A&E. It was willing to go along with the demands until it actually threatened to disturb their bottom line. 

Now they've not only made conservatives mad by attempting to silence Phil Robertson, they've made groups like GLAAD furious by reversing their decision. And the bone they're throwing to GLAAD—public service announcements on "promoting unity, tolerance and acceptance among all people"—isn't going to mollify them.

Besides, are these public service announcements to be taken as acknowledging that in silencing Phil they were violating these principles and are now following them or another threat that anyone who deviates from the politically correct position on such issues is still on notice?

A&E won't suffer financially from this, in fact, they'll probably benefit. If people didn't know about Duck Dynasty before, they do now. The ratings juggernaut will only gather steam and Phil Robertson is going to continue talking without much risk of future repercussion.

Good for him.

But the executives at the cable network will probably have to keep a low profile at those fashionable Hollywood parties they go to with all the other tolerant people who want to profit from portraying the average American in their programming but don't actually like them. 

At least they can eat caviar while they're being shunned.

The dissenting position on gay rights issues wasn't terribly controversial back when I started this blog, but ever since then many so-called conservatives have caved on this issue every bit as ignominiously as A&E did in firing Robertson—and in reinstating him.

Did anyone notice how the conservatives who have run and hid on these issues over the last several years suddenly got a backbone when a chorus of Americans protested Robertson's firing? And even in defending Robertson, they have mostly hidden behind the First Amendment and punted on what Robertson actually said.

And what did he say? Not much more than what the Apostle Paul said. In fact, part of it was a direct quote. But Paul won't find many defenders now on either side of the political spectrum. Many on both sides will talk about Christian kindness but very little about what the Bible actually says about things like homosexuality.

If you're not reading the Bible as if it were just another motivational bestseller—and pretending that Paul is saying nothing different than Joel Osteen—why, then, then you're just misinterpreting it.

And, of course, just as soon as they have finished their tiresome sermon on the evils of hating people because they are different, they turn right around and hate on people like Robertson. By the same logic that Robertson was making anti-gay remarks in saying he considered homosexuality a sin, remarks by gays that Christian beliefs are "bigoted" should be considered anti-Christian. But, again, these are people who expect others to live up to expectations they don't impose on themselves.

The more careless critics claim that Robertson "compared homosexuality to bestiality." C'mon. He gave a list of sins, some bad, some worse. If he was comparing homosexuality to bestiality, then he was also comparing heterosexual philandering to bestiality—and idolatry, greed, slander, and swindling. 

And what's the liberal argument against bestiality anyway? That it's cruel to animals? Why isn't it just a taboo like they've categorized just about every other traditional sexual restriction? Ultimately it won't matter: After their morally corrosive logic has been extended to polygamy (I give that two years, max), then there will be rights for incestuous couples and then those who practice bestiality. 

When the long march of permissivism is over, the people now pushing gay rights will be scratching their heads wondering why anyone would have made all these blue laws in the first place—and denying that they were once against them too. 

This was a defeat for gay rights groups, no doubt about it. But who knows how long the embarrassment over this blatant act of intolerance will last for the folks at A&E. Probably not long in these days of lightening quick news cycles. The Tolerance Police will retreat to their barracks to sulk for a while, but they will reassert themselves and the conservatives who have experienced this brief bout of courage will disappear back to their hiding places, leaving people like Phil Robertson to do their work for them.

In the meantime, it's nice that the good guys won for a change.


Monday, December 23, 2013

The "true Christians" at GLAAD

Okay, maybe someone could explain this to me. The folks at GLAAD (who by the way were very UNHAAPY by the negative response they got to their recent attempt to silence Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty) say that Roberton's remarks about homosexuality "fly in the face of what true Christians believe."

But precisely the thing that got him in trouble was quoting the Apostle Paul. Now let's see if I've got my logic right here:
No true Christian believes that homosexuality is wrong
The Apostle Paul believes that homosexuality is wrong
Therefore, The Apostle Paul is not a true Christian
Hmmm. Strange, but it seems to be a direct application of GLAAD's reasoning.

So I guess that leaves us with a choice as to which is the true Christian, the amateur theologian at GLAAD or the Apostle Paul. It's such a hard choice.

In fact, every time Phil quotes the Scriptures on the issue he gets accused by someone of not being a "true Christian." Maybe if he paid less attention to the Bible, he could be a better Christian. That, in any case, seems to be GLAAD's idea.


The Siren Song of Education Technology

The following article appears in the current issue of The Classical Teacher magazine:

In the world of education, there are many temptations that would lure us to our destruction, and none greater than the siren song of education technology. The computer is, of course, only one form of education technology, and education technology is anything but new.

Those of us educated in the 60s and 70s will remember the mimeograph machine, which spat out pages of blue type the teacher then handed to her students. Some of us still remember holding the fresh sheets of paper to our noses for the unique and pleasant smell of the ink. And some of us can still hear the distinctive sound of the film projector, rattling as it threw up on the screen some poorly animated attempt to inculcate a bit of knowledge or impart some important principle.

As Neil Postman has pointed out, even writing is a technology. In his book Technopoly, he recounts Plato’s story of Thamus, King of Egypt, who was said to have once entertained the god Theuth, the inventor of many things. Theuth exhibited his many inventions to Thamus, but his proudest invention was that of writing, which, Theuth claimed, would improve both wisdom and memory.

But Thamus responds to Theuth, saying:
You, who are the father of writing, have out of fondness for your offspring  attributed to it quite the opposite of its real function. Those who acquire it will cease to exercise their memory and become forgetful; they will rely on writing to bring things to their remembrance by external signs instead of by their own internal resources. What you have discovered is a receipt for recollection, not for memory. And as for wisdom, your pupils will have the reputation for it without the reality: They will receive a quantity of information without proper instruction, and in consequence be thought very knowledgeable when they are for the most part quite ignorant. And because they are filled with the conceit of wisdom instead of real wisdom they will be a burden to society.
In this older, oral culture, wisdom was upheld and informed by unaided memory. It is not recorded what Thamus (who spoke for and against each of Theuth’s other inventions) may have said in its favor. There is obviously much to say in favor of writing, but we cannot but admit that Thamus was wise in seeing the costs of the new technology.

Every technology has both its benefits and its characteristic costs, and before we can make intelligent decisions about computers in the classroom, we need to know both.

We all know what the benefits of education technology are ... or do we? In practical fact, education technology has become a fad with many schools. Some want it only because it is the newest thing―the educational equivalent of a fashion accessory.

One of the problems in the discussion of education technology is not just that we do not know the reasons why educational technology might not be a good idea—we have a hard time even saying why we want it in the first place.

 But what are the proposed educational benefits of education of technology? Larry Cuban, author of Oversold and Underused: Computers in the Classroom, delineates three distinct goals for education technology: The first is to "make schools more efficient and productive than they currently are"; the second is to "transform teaching and learning into an engaging and active process connected to real life"; and the third is to "prepare the current generation of young people for the future workplace."

It is easy to see how administrators could use computers for more efficient record-keeping, how teachers could use them to more easily keep track of grades, and how students could conduct research more efficiently. Many schools already do this.

But it is more problematic than most people think for schools to use technology to prepare students for the future workforce. For one thing, because of bureaucratic red tape, elementary and secondary schools are themselves seldom outfitted or even familiar with the most recent technology. In addition, schools have shown themselves to be poor prophets when it comes to predicting what will be needed in the economy of the future. The students of my generation who were taught Fortran and Pascal can tell you how that came in handy when they graduated and discovered that those computer languages were already on their way out. Seymour Pepert once called the computer the "Proteus of machines": He can foretell the future, but will change  his shape to avoid having to.

Every technology has both its benefits and its characteristic costs.

And as for "transforming teaching and learning," how would computers do this? In fact, the goal of education technology in the classroom is about as hostile to traditional education as it is possible to be. Cuban, a progressive educator himself, laments that technology has not changed the teacher's role in the classroom. Cuban is one of many promoters of technology who want to move teachers out of their traditional role of imparting knowledge, understanding, and wisdom to being mere "coaches."

Both Cuban and Postman understand that the computer has an agenda and that it is not friendly to the traditional conception of the classroom. Cuban is disappointed that it has not weakened the role of the teacher and Postman is concerned that it will.

"What we need to consider about the computer has nothing to do with its efficiency as a teaching tool," says Postman. "We need to know in what ways it is altering our conception of learning, and how in conjunction with television, it undermines the old idea of school." Postman is writing these words in 1993, and so perhaps he would now have more concern with technologies like the Internet.

Classical educators needn't be conflicted about the use of computers as tools that can enable more efficient administration, and they can have a limited comfort level with a limited use in preparing students for the workplace, but they should be positively alarmed by any technology that presumes to replace them.

Schools need to think through what education technology can and cannot do for them, and in the process of determining what it can do for them, they need to realistically assess what it can do to them. In this regard, classical educators especially should be concerned with a technology that aspires to disarm them from doing the very thing their students need them to do: make sense of their world.

One of the most important things we should expect education to do is to order our experience. The world has an inherent structure―not just the natural world, but the larger reality within which we live, think, decide, and feel. There is a natural reality we can apprehend through mathematics and the sciences, and there is also an ontological reality which we apprehend through literature and philosophy.

St. Thomas Aquinas defined the wise man as that man who "orders things rightly." It is in showing students how to do this that we make them wise. Ordering reality is an essential part of education, and that job has been helped by the advent of the computer, but it has also been made more difficult. Modern culture does not suffer from a lack of information; it suffers instead from the inability to make sense of too much information.

The very relation between information and human purpose, says Postman, has been severed:  "[I]nformation appears indiscriminately, directed at no one in particular, in enormous volume and at high speeds, and disconnected from theory, meaning, or purpose."

These words were written in 1992, before the rise of the Internet, and the mention of only one word is required to show that Postman's prophecy has been completely fulfilled: Google.

Digital technology holds out to us the promise of power over information, but at the same time threatens to give information power over us.

The computer can help us order reality, but more often it does the opposite―and it is more likely to do the opposite if the teacher is sidelined by a machine. The computer has done a lot to open the floodgates of random information, and very little in the way of ordering and integrating it. When a school simply hands out iPads to its students, it has made it more likely that students will be buried further under the modern avalanche of disordered information, and less likely that they will be able to make sense of a complicated world.

The computer can help us order reality, but more often it does the opposite.

But it is not only the vertical order of truth that the unchecked use of the computer can separate our students from, but the horizontal ordering of time. In his book Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now, Douglas Rushkoff argues that the new technology has brought about what he calls "presentism." The digital age not only doesn't help, but actually militates against many of our stated educational goals, which include teaching a knowledge of the past and how to prepare for the future. It is a "diminishment of anything that isn't happening right now―and the onslaught of everything that supposedly is":

It's why the world's leading search engine is evolving into a live, customized, and predictive flow of data branded "Google Now," why email is giving way to texting, and why blogs are being superseded by Twitter feeds. It's why kids in school can no longer follow linear arguments; why narrative structure collapsed into reality TV; and why we can't engage in meaningful dialogue about last month's books and music, much less long-term global issues.

When we respond to the siren song of education technology, there are some things we should demand, and among these are that it not cut us off from the past―or the future.

There are two functions of technology in our schools. The first is as a means to teach other things, and the second is as a thing to be taught. The two things we should be most concerned to teach are wisdom and virtue. But the best means to teach these are not computers. The computer can help in a limited role, but it will not do the job for us.

The best education "technology" is the liberal arts: the set of language and math skills that allow us to learn everything else. If we spent half as much time talking about these technologies as we now talk about computers, our students would be a lot better off.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Gay rights groups defend Duck Dynasty firing with fractured logic

It is truly amazing what passes for logic in the Orwellian world of gay activism.

The firing of Phil Robertson from Duck Dynasty isn't about free speech, says Time Magazine's James Poniewozik. So I guess that means that the firing of gays isn't about discrimination either, right?

The arguments now being deployed by gay rights groups to defend A&E's treatment of a Duck Dynasty star are completely at odds with their stated positions about how everyone else should be required to treat them.

Here is the statement of a representative of GLAD,a gay rights group, on the Megan Kelly' show on Fox News last night in defense of the firing of Robertson: "We all have to answer to our employers."

Say whut?!!!

That is precisely the exact and utter opposite of their position on the treatment of gays themselves. In other words, their position is that it's absolutely unacceptable to fire someone (this is the whole point of gay rights laws) because they engage in homosexual behavior, but it's perfectly fine (and in fact laudable) to fire someone because he doesn't agree with the lifestyle gays lead.

If you're gay, no one can fire you for it. But if you disagree with gays, not only can they fire you for it, but they should.

In case you haven't read 1984 lately—or if you have just forgotten your Orwellian terminology, this is called "Doublethink": the holding of two mutually exclusive thoughts in your mind at the very same time.


Thursday, December 19, 2013

Duck Dynasty targeted by Tolerance Police: Phil Robertson fired by yuppies at A&E

Liberals are always talking about how they stand for the little guy. The normal American. The folks back home. But when someone finally finds an authentic, salt of the earth, real life, down home American and puts him on TV, all of sudden he opens his mouth and ruins everything.

Far from being the dreamy liberal ideal of the politically obedient, union-loving, fuel-efficient car-driving Democrat with a "ΟΎe۞ist" sticker on her bumper who controls the population of her family, the normal American turns out to be a gun-toting, duck hunting, camouflage-wearing, Bible-toting redneck.

With a prodigious beard.

If liberals got out more they would know this. But they have a singular penchant for deceiving themselves on such things.

So one day the liberals get their wish and the Robertsons, a country family that lives in rural Louisiana and that struck financial gold by inventing a popular duck whistle, was ensconced on A&E and given its own reality show. But instead of the liberal idea of what such people should be like, they turn out to consist of a whole extended family of bearded men who like to fish and hunt and women who cook and help their men do what they like to do. And most disappointing of all, they go to church and quote the Scriptures.

And they're hugely popular. Duck Dynasty is A&E's most popular show. Ever. Not only that, but according to TV by the Numbers, its fourth season premier episode attracted 11.8 million viewers, making it "the number one nonfiction series telecast in cable history."

How could this have happened? What went wrong? How could a show featuring a bunch of socially conservative, duck shooting, religious rednecks be this big?

But there's something even worse than that. Something so unthinkable, so outrageous, so outlandishly awful, so perniciously ... pernicious that it's hard to imagine it could have happened in this day and age. It turns out that the head of this pickup truck-driving, socially conservative, church-going family ... disagrees with homosexuality.

Who could have seen this coming?

And so the liberals did what they always do when someone disagrees with them on the issue of homosexuality: They blow their Diversity whistles and put out an all points bulletin to find and punish the offender.

So now the Tolerance Police have busted Phil Robertson, the father on the show, for allegedly "homophobic" statements he made which are not even remotely offensive except to liberals who want to show off their Politically Correct merit badges to their similarly closed-minded friends at the weekly neighborhood meeting of the Diversity Patrol.

Why should we be surprised that one of the few shows on television that is not only inventive and truly funny, but manifestly wholesome, would be targeted by the liberals increasingly tiresome Tolerance Enforcement Unit?

The advocates of Tolerance have got to be among the most intolerant people on the face of the earth. They spout the virtues of Diversity out of one side of their mouths while out of the other they're shouting orders to their cultural storm troopers.

Someone needs to stand up to these people and the Robertson family is ideally suited to do it.

I hope the family calls A&E executives out to their trailer (or whatever is--it looks like a trailer), sits them down and says,
Listen up Mr. Yuppie TV executives: Reinstate the old man or we're pulling the plug on the show that's helping to fund your multi-million dollar golden parachutes. We're already rich from making duck calls and so we don't need your Politically Correct Hollywood cash--not like you need our family to lead your ratings. Now go back to your fancy offices for a day or two and think it over. You can put Pops back on the show--or go back to your regularly scheduled and ratings-challenged line-up of trashy TV. Now git, before we feed you to the alligators!
What was it Phil Robertson said that prompted the directive from Ideological Uniformity Headquarters (undoubtedly located in some hoity toity, designer drug-infested New York high rise)? What did he say that caused Volvos nationwide to swerve into the next lane when broadcast from the car radio (tuned to NPR)? What words, so horrifying to the ears of Guilty White Liberals, did the old man utter?

Here is what Robertson said, with some censoring because this is a family blog (sort of):
Everything is blurred on what's right and what's wrong… Sin becomes fine. Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men. 
... Don't be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers—they won't inherit the kingdom of God. Don't deceive yourself. It's not right. 
... It seems like, to me, a ******—as a man—would be more desirable than a man's ****. That's just me. I'm just thinking: There's more there! She's got more to offer. I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I'm saying? But hey, sin: It's not logical, my man. It's just not logical.
Now there's no doubt that this is going to raise the hair on the back of the necks of the brie and white wine crowd. And the mention of actual bodily orifices, so acceptable to Hollywood under any other circumstance, was probably not a good idea. But you know what? If the people living in fancy urban townhouses and flats in Greenwich Village got out of their blue state and into the much redder country, they'd find out, if they actually talked to people at the local diner, that this sentiment wouldn't be that terribly unusual.

Robertson's remarks were one part Bible and one part Louisiana back country candor.

What's he saying? First, that he doesn't think homosexuality is moral according to his religious beliefs. And second, that he thinks what homosexuals do is kind of icky.

This is what gets you fired from your job in the land of the free and the home of the brave? Seriously?

Precisely which one of these two things is illegal? If neither, then which of the two is unethical--and by what moral standard derived from what divine or human source are they to be considered offensive? He's not allowed to have a religiously-grounded belief that homosexuality is wrong? He's not allowed to think that certain orifices are uniquely reproductive and others uniquely digestive and that treating one like the other is not only unpleasant to think about and in violation of the fairly obvious dictates of hygiene and biology, but in violation of the dictates of his religion?

If they're not illegal and not unethical, then what are they? Impolite? You get fired for being impolite in Hollywood?

Come again?

In fact, it would be interesting to find out how much offensive language and gratuitous violence is shown on the very network (or other networks owned by the same company) that fired Phil Robertson because it thought that his religious beliefs were beyond the pale.

People who have these religiously-based sentiments are insulted every day on American television as a matter of course. But if you say the least little thing in opposition to the Politically Correct view of gay sex, you're out of there. When was the last time Bill Maher was fired for offending religious people? In fact, the least offensive part of Maher's show is more offensive to more people than the most offensive thing Phil Robertson said.

Where are the Thought Police to set him straight? Where are the network executives to knock on his dressing room door and tell him to hit the road?

If any conservative network did anything remotely like what A&E did to Robertson in the interest of stifling a an opinion in favor of the views he is against, there would wailing and gnashing of teeth and cries of "censorship!" But when a liberal network does it to a conservative it's just a simple matter of cultural hygiene.

When social conservatives express offence at what they see or hear on TV, the same liberals who have now silenced Phil Robertson are told, "Then don't watch it." If the same liberals who are always giving conservatives this advice don't like what Robertson said, THEN DON'T WATCH THE SHOW.

Are you listening liberals? Just turn it off. You wont' like it anyway. The family is too normal for you. There's no scantily clad women. There's no sleeping around. There's nobody cooking meth. Just lots of facial hair and guns. Isn't this the kind of thing that you have nightmares about?

Oh, and if you watch, you will have to endure them saying grace before dinner. Trust me. I'm tellin' you: Just don't do it.

And LGBT advocates and your sympathizers, can we talk?

This business of forming the cultural equivalent of a lynch mob every time someone says something publicly that you disagree with is going to start getting real old real fast. This is the kind of thing that people tolerate for a while and then slowly start to see as mean-spirited and petty.

You talk a blue streak about tolerance and diversity. You ought to try to practice it some time. If you did, everyone would be happy, happy, happy!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Phillip Carey on what Genesis says about men and women

Christian philosopher Phillip Carey is in the midst of a series of posts at First Thoughts on what the Book of Genesis tells us about men and women (under the assumption, apparently, that they are different—is this allowed anymore?):
It’s striking—or it should be—that Genesis does not mention “male and female” until it comes to the human creation (1:27). Before that there’s seed bearing fruit and the blessing of procreation, “be fruitful and multiply,” which establishes the sexual reproduction of the beasts of the field and the birds of the air. In that sense it’s obvious that male and female are present before the creation of Adam. So why is it first mentioned then?
Read the rest of the excellent series here.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Should West Virginia remove Robert C. Byrd's name from public roads and buildings because of his KKK past?

Now that schools such as this one in Jacksonville, Florida are removing Nathan Bedford Forrest's name from the mastheads of their institutions because he was a KKK Grand Wizard (an assertion about which there is more than a little doubt) can we remove the name of the late Democratic President Pro Tem of the Senate Robert C. Byrd from all those government roads and buildings in West Virginia since he was a KKK "Exalted Cyclops" (an assertion about which there is very little doubt)?

Like Robert C. Byrd, Forrest was a Democrat. Does that (and did I mention George Wallace was a Democrat?) make the Democrats (and did I mention that Stephen A. Douglas was a Democrat?) a party from which one should remove one's name?

Rush Limbaugh criticizes Jesus for being a Marxist ... er, wait a second

A prominent conservative pundit today condemned Jesus Christ for expressing what he said were clearly Marxist sentiments in a recent statement. According to a reporter named "Matthew" (no last name was included in the byline), Jesus said "You cannot serve both God and mammon." The comment has set off a firestorm of protest from prominent conservatives.

On his radio show, Rush Limbaugh responded, "This is just pure Marxism coming out of the mouth of the Savior of the world." He criticized Jesus' understanding of economics and added, "If it weren't for capitalism, I don't know where Christianity would be."

Limbaugh went on to ....

Um, wait. Let me check this again. Hmmm. I, ... er, think maybe I've got a couple things wrong here.

It wasn't actually Jesus Limbaugh was criticizing. It was actually the Pope he was taking to task ... for saying pretty much the same thing.

Never mind.

I will be on the "Mike Allen Show" today at 5:00 p.m.

I will be on the "Mike Allen Show" today on Real Life Radio 1380 in Lexington, KY from 5:00 - 6:00 p.m. to discuss the Pope and economics.

More information here.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Same-sex marriage advocates: The Warren Jeffs of the world thank you

The logic of same-sex marriage is now asserting itself. Proponents of the New Doctrine of Marriage—that difference in gender should not militate against the ability to marry—have long said that they oppose polygamy—the idea that difference in number of participants should not militate against the ability to marry. The distinction is, of course arbitrary.

Now comes Al Mohler to report the result:
As most Americans were thinking thoughts of Christmas cheer, a federal judge in Utah dropped a bomb on the institution of marriage, striking down the most crucial sections of the Utah statute outlawing polygamy. Last Friday, Judge Clark Waddoups of the United States District Court in Utah ruled that Utah’s anti-polygamy law is unconstitutional, violating the free exercise clause of the First Amendment as well as the guarantee of due process. 
In one sense, the decision was almost inevitable, given the trajectory of both the culture and the federal courts. On the other hand, the sheer shock of the decision serves as an alarm: marriage is being utterly redefined before our eyes, and in the span of a single generation.
Big Love. Brought to you by same people who brought you same-sex marriage. Read the rest here.

Friday, December 13, 2013

One of the most famous Christian churches in the world converted into a mosque?

The government of Turkey is apparently thinking about again turning the Hagia Sophia, one of the most significant Christian sacred structures in the world (it was the seat of the Patriarchate of Constantinople), into a mosque.

I am tempted to wonder what would happen if a Christian government were to even think of converting a historically significant mosque into a Christian church.

I think I will resist the temptation.


Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Bluegrass Brawl

That's my son, Timothy, in the picture on the new poster promoting the Bluegrass Brawl, the major mixed martial arts promotional in the Lexington, Kentucky area.

The picture is from his bout at the Bluegrass Brawl 8, which he won in a TKO in the second round. He is now poised to bring further martial honor to the family.

Strength and Honor!

Liberal media discovers source of false reports that Pope is changing everything about the Catholic Church

The liberal media is now beginning to react to the almost universal misrepresentation of the Pope as someone bent on the wholesale change in Church dogma and practice. When he was installed as Pope, we began hearing that Francis was going to overturn all prior Catholic Church precedent that came before previously. 

In addition to changing a whole lot of things it believed in the past antecedent to the present.

So for months we have been subjected to reports that the Pope is doing things the Church has never, ever done before in the history of existence. Not even once.

Such as helping the poor. Reaching out the underprivileged and downtrodden. Empathizing with sinners.
And preaching the gospel.

The Catholic Church? Preaching the gospel? Who woulda' thunk it?

But through what must have been some pretty involved sleuthing, the liberal media has now discovered, not only that the Pope has not repudiated the Church's past beliefs—not only that the things he is saying have actually been said and done before, but it has also discovered who is responsible for the widespread belief that he has.

That's right: The liberal media has finally isolated the source of the erroneous reports about the Pope. The perpetrator of these falsehoods is ...

... Now let me just verify this here just to make sure its is accurate ... hmmm. Now this is interesting. The source of the mis-portrayal of the Pope, according to the liberal media, is ... The liberal media!

That's right.

The Atlantic Wire runs a Reuters report that takes Time Magazine to task for perpetuating the myth that the Pope is engaging in a wholesale makeover of the Church in its article naming the pontiff "Person of the Year":
Francis, a socially conservative religious leader, was chosen as the most influential person on Earth in the same year as a landmark Supreme Court decision throwing open the doors for equal marriage rights in the U.S., a right that Francis, and his church, officially oppose. In a just few short months since his election, the new Pope has transformed how many people, including the media, talk about the Church — without actually modifying what the church believes. 
... The Pope's tenure so far includes a series of highly symbolic moments and quotes that seem to challenge and sometimes rebuke Church tradition. ... The power of those symbolic moments dwells in anticipation of what the Pope might do in the coming years. His most media-friendly moments haven't translated into the reforms many on the left seem to assume are around the corner. There have very few official pronouncements from his office, and none have deviated greatly from previous Popes. And chances are, they won't. 
The report points out that Time had to issue a correction of its previous report: ""An earlier version of this post suggested that Pope Francis rejected some church dogma. He does not."

Well, I guess that's all cleared up. Now that the liberal media has discovered that Francis is actually just riffing off of what the Church has always done, they won't ever misrepresent him again. Ever.

Promise.


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Reports of the Pope's death greatly exaggerated

Despite all the cultural dirt heaped upon the Catholic Church, it somehow manages to elude the perennial pronouncements that it is dead.

In my RSS Reader today I have at least three blog posts from prominent atheists bemoaning today's naming of Pope Francis by Time Magazine as "Person (we can no longer say "Man") of the Year." How can this be? asks Larry Moran: "It's hard to think of anyone who's more irrelevant to my life or the life of my friends and neighbors."

Time editors apparently neglected to consult Larry as to who is relevant to his life—and completely forgot to survey the people who live on his block.

And then there is the inimitable P. Z. Myers, in dire need of a mother to wash his mouth out with soap:
You have got to be ****ing kidding me. They’ve got this great pulpit with mass media attention to actually highlight the important events and people on the planet, and they pick the pablum-spewing head of an antique organization that demands its followers adhere to obsolete and dangerous beliefs, and this is what they say about it?
I mean, how does this guy rate anyway? Helping the poor? Championing the cause of the dispossessed? How does that add anything to the world?

If atheists want to convince people the Pope is irrelevant, then they might want to stop talking about him so much.

Monday, December 09, 2013

Judging Nelson Mandela

There is a lovely road that runs from Ixopo into the hills. These hills are grass-covered and rolling, and they are lovely beyond any singing of it. The road climbs seven miles into them, to Carisbrooke; and from there, if there is no mist, you look down on one of the fairest valleys of Africa. About you there is grass and bracken and you may hear the forlorn crying of the tithoya, one of the birds of the veld. Below you is the valley of the Umzimkulu, on its journey from the Drakensberg into the sea; and beyond and behind the river, great hill after great hill; and beyond and behind them the mountains if Ingeli and the East Griqualand.
The grass is rich and matted, you cannot see the soil. It holds the rain and the mist, and they seep into the ground, feeding the streams in every kloof. It is well-tended, and not too many cattle feed upon it; not too many fires burn it, laying bare the soil. Stand unshod upon it, for the ground is holy, being even as it came from the Creator. Keep it, guard it, care for it, for it keeps men, guards men, cares for men. Destroy it, and man is destroyed.
These are the opening words of Cry, The Beloved Country. It is a book that will strike you dumb with its beauty—and it will tear your heart out with the tragedy that was and is South Africa. In the process, it will give you a profound and intimate picture of the heart of this rich and tortured country.

No one has any business either praising or maligning Nelson Mandela until he has read it.

The land it speaks of is a metaphor for the souls of South Africa's people which, like the land itself, were once naturally rich and well-tended but have since been both exploited and neglected.
Where you stand the grass is rich and matted, you cannot see the soil. But the rich green hills break down. They fall to the valley below, and falling, change their nature. For they grow red and bare; they cannot hold the rain and mist, and the streams are dry in the kloofs. Too many cattle feed upon the grass, too many fires have burned it. Stand shod upon it, for it is coarse and sharp, and the stones cut under the feet. It is not kept, or guarded, or cared for, it no longer keeps men, guards men, cares for men. The tithoya does not cry here anymore.
The book is the story of two brothers. Stephen Kumalo is an elderly Black Anglican minister who in the course of the story sees the fate of his country in his own experiences. He leaves his rural Ndotsheni to go to Johannesburg—a sort of industrial Babylon that lures the people from their rural villages to look for jobs that aren't there—to find his sister, Gertrude, and his son, the appropriately-named Absalom Kumalo.

But Stephen is robbed at the bus station when he gets there and finds that his sister has become a drug-addicted prostitute. He finally discovers that his son, who had left the village and hadn't been heard from for two years has killed a white man during the burglary of a home—a white man who, ironically, is a spokesman for the cause of South African Blacks—and is being hunted by the police.

Johannesburg has also done its work on Kumalo's brother, John, who has become a powerful political leader who preaches revolution. John Kumalo has also left his native village of Indotsheni and gained his freedom from the tribal chief, but he has now enslaved himself to political ideology. It is John Kumalo's son who has helped to corrupt his cousin, Absalom.

In one of the most moving scenes in literature, Stephen Kumalo, old and weak, must go to the home of James Jarvis, the rich white father of the man whom Kumalo's son has killed. He is there on other business, and doesn't expect to find Jarvis at home, but he is there, and Kumalo is stricken with fear. Jarvis, who doesn't know who Kumalo is, asks him why he is afraid.
"There is something between you and me," says Jarvis to Kumalo, "but I do not know what it is."
"It is true umnumzana. You do not know what it is."
"I do not know, but I desire to know."
"... this thing which is the heaviest thing of all my years," says Kumalo, "is the heaviest thing of all your years also, ... It is my son that killed your son."
Jarvis is rendered speechless: Despite this disturbing reminder of the loss of his son, he looks at Kumalo and sees a broken and weak old man. Kumalo, a Christian minister, has never had any anger for the wealthy White men whom Jarvis represents (and whom his brother John is so eager to divest of their power, if not their lives), and Jarvis, seeing Kumalo in all his humanity, has pity on him. Later in the book, Jarvis will help Kumalo to rebuild Ndotsheni.

Paton's story is not a vindictive tale meant as an indictment against those who exploited its land and abused its people. There are good Whites and bad Blacks—and bad Whites and good Blacks. He makes us see and understand both sides, but through this we, the reader, see the requirements of justice--and mercy.

The hills above Ixopo, Stephen Kumalo's village, symbolize what South Africa once was, and Johannesburg what it has become. And Stephen and John Kumalo represent the two paths that could have been taken in the reformation of South Africa after the demise of apartheid.

It is ironic that Nelson Mandela began his political career in this same Johannesburg, where, after beginning peacefully, he learned his violent politics. But he transformed himself into a forgiving and peaceful leader: He entered jail in 1962 as John Kumalo, and came out in 1990 as Stephen Kumalo.

A plowshare that had been beaten into a sword was fashioned back into a plowshare.

"There is a new thing growing here," John Kumalo tells his skeptical Christian brother when Stephen finds him in Johannesburg. "Stronger than any church or chief. You will see it one day," he says, threateningly. Thanks to Mandela, South Africa has not seen the fate John Kumalo predicted for it and it has so far avoided the worst effects which have attended the handing over of power from Whites to Blacks in other African countries.

When Paton gave a lecture in America after writing Cry, the Beloved Country in 1948, he clearly believed that South Africa could and would grow out of its racial problems. He believed this because he believed the country could not continue to live with its racism. Why? Because, he said, South Africa was a Christian nation—a Christian nation with a Christian conscience that would not leave it in peace until it came to terms with how it treated its own people.

The secular media claims that Mandela was not religious, but others have pointed to his education in Methodist schools and his explicitly Christian remarks at several religious gatherings in the 1990s. I am skeptical of both of these claims. But we do know this: Whether he was a Christian or not when he left his cell in 1990, he acted like one, and for that he should be praised.

Liberals are hailing Mandela as a saint and emphasizing what he was transformed into, while many conservatives are calling him a sinner and emphasizing what he was transformed from. Nelson Mandela was a true representative of his country because he was both these things. He deserved the punishment he received because of his terrorists acts. But he also deserves the praise he's receiving now.

Mandela leaves a country that, thanks in large part to him, has dealt successfully with its past. But many of those in the ANC who came to power under Mandela's leadership do not share his integrity or his essentially Christian vision. The ANC-led government has been charged with widespread corruption, and whites are leaving the country in droves.

Mandela's death is to be mourned. But what we should mourn even more is that the man who led the country out of its past will not be there to help it as it faces its future.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Zombie Logic: Should we be teaching our children how to think like computers?

The following article will appear in the upcoming Classical Teacher magazine.

In 1969, philosopher Henry Veatch wrote a book called Two Logics: The Conflict Between Classical and Neo-Analytic Philosophy. It scandalized the philosophical establishment of the day. The book challenged the underlying assumptions behind the system of modern logic that had been taught in colleges and universities for over fifty years.

The issues addressed in the book were complex, but the main issue was clear: There was a difference between modern and classical logic, and this difference constituted a clash of worldviews.

Most people who have been to college have encountered modern logic somewhere along the way, usually in a mathematics class. While traditional or classical logic sticks close to human language, modern logic favors formulations such as

  • "P ⊃ Q" (which means "If P, then Q")
  • "P ∨ Q" ("Either P or Q")
  • and "P ∧ Q" ("P and Q")

In practice, the systems look very different. The symbolic, mathematical look of modern logic is a striking contrast to the traditional logic's emphasis of ordinary human language. It was Veatch's point that the difference between the two systems was not just cosmetic—that, in fact, modern logic reflects a particular worldview, one much different than that assumed by traditional logic.

Modern logic was a product of the logical positivism that became popular in the 1920s through the work of Bertrand Russell, Ludwig Wittgenstein, and A. J. Ayer (this was the "neo-analytic philosophy" of Veatch's title).

In one sense, logical positivism was an outworking in philosophy of the religion of science—the idea that the only legitimate avenue to truth was through either mathematics or natural science. In the case of the positivists, this took the form of the belief that the only logically meaningful statements were either statements that were true by definition or statements that could be empirically verified.

Under this belief, a statement like "A bachelor is an unmarried male" is logically meaningful because it is true by definition. And the statement "All crows are black" is logically meaningful because it can be checked out scientifically. But the statement "God exists" is not logically meaningful because it is neither true by definition nor can it be empirically verified. The statement "God exists," in other words, is neither true nor false: It is simply meaningless.

It was this view of meaning and language that flowed into the development of modern logic. Its central manifesto was the book Principia Mathematica, written by Bertrand Russell and Alfred North Whitehead, a book that became required reading in philosophy programs until the late twentieth century. And lurking in the authorial background was Wittgenstein, whose book Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus had infiltrated the thinking of the two authors.

The Tractatus, as it came to be known, cast a sterile and frightening vision of a world bereft of meaning and purpose. "The world," said Wittgenstein, "is everything that is the case." In other words, the only meaning in the world is formal logical meaning, which consists exclusively of definitional and scientific truths as they are expressed in logical propositions.

For the logical positivists, truth was merely a property of propositions. Under this philosophical regime, "truth" became "truth value"—the assigning to a statement of either a "T" (True) or an "F" (False). In fact, it was Wittgenstein who invented "truth tables," a mechanism of modern logic whereby the truth or falsity of a statement could be determined solely on the basis of the truth value of its components.

In other words, the truth of a statement like "It is sunny (P) and hot outside (Q)" is true if, on the one hand, P is true, and if, on the other hand, Q is also true. But if either P or Q are not true, or if neither is true, then the whole statement is false. This works with some propositions (such as conjunctive statements like "It is rainy and cold outside"), but it does not work with many others (such as conditional statements like "If the moon is made of green cheese, then ducks can swim").

Quantifying language in this way allowed the positivists to make all meaningful language into a sort of calculus: You could "solve" for the truth in the same way you "solve" an equation in mathematics. In fact, all computer languages are based on modern logic.

The positivists, of course, were mostly atheistic as well, and so there was the additional benefit that religious language was rendered meaningless.

What Russell and Whitehead thought they had discovered was a purely scientific language what encompassed all meaningful statements which could then be used to solve all scientific problems. Such a language had been a dream of modern philosophers since at least Gottfried Leibniz in the eighteenth century.
Although this system of logic went on to displace the old Aristotelian system in colleges and universities, at least one of the original authors, as well as Wittgenstein himself,  later repudiated many of the key assumptions behind the Principia.

Not only that, but the philosophy that produced it (logical positivism) has since gone out of fashion among many professional philosophers.

The philosophical establishment never answered Veatch's challenge 40 years ago, and the system of modern logic he defied is still studied and taught today, but with little understanding of its now-mostly rejected foundation. It continues to live on in a kind of zombie existence: It has lost its soul, but it lives on anyway. It has become the philosophical equivalent of The Walking Dead.

Traditional logic is not a calculus by which we can "solve" for the truth. Modern logic speaks the language of the computer, which was created by men; traditional logic speaks the language of men, who were created by God. While modern logic is how computers think, traditional logic is how human beings think. We are not computational beings and our language is not some kind of mathematical calculus. When we think and speak and write, we do it not as human machines, but as logocentric creatures. And we need a logic that takes this into account.

Monday, December 02, 2013

Philosopher Ed Feser has responded to Thomas Cothran's recent article on natural law

Philosopher Ed Feser (who we have, at times, referred to as simply "The Philosopher" for his outstanding treatment of Aristotelian Thomism in The Last Superstition) has responded to Thomas' article in the most recent Anamnesis journal, "Nietzsche and Neo-Scholasticism: The Dangers and Promise of Natural Law" in a post at his blog titled, "Nietzschean Natural Law?"

I've had to argue with him around the dinner table his whole life. It's about time someone send reinforcements. Seriously, it's an interesting debate if you have an hour or two to think through some complicated philosophical issues related to natural law.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Conservatives and the Religion of the Free Market

Russell Kirk often used to make the point that conservatism (properly so called, as George F. Will would say) is not an ideology. This was implicit in his deeming of conservatism as the "politics of prudence." An ideology is a political philosophy operating like a religion: It is apocalyptic, messianic, utopian, and radical.

You know you are a ideologue if, solely on the basis of your political views, you can fill in the blank of the following question: "The world will be brought to perfection when ____________."

A conservative can complete this statement on the basis of his religion, but he cannot answer it on the basis of his politics. From a political perspective, he has to completely beg off. The world, until it is redeemed by something transcendent, will never be perfect. It is the place of imperfection. It is a place of good and evil and the good we can only see through a glass, darkly.

Modern left-wing liberalism has always been ideological in this sense. They can complete the statement above. For them, the world will be perfect when the society no longer interferes with our advance toward self-fulfillment. There can be a utopia if we take radical action to bring it about. It will be established in that Last Battle, when the forces of political darkness (conservatives) are defeated by the forces of the political light (left-wing liberals). In the meantime, we must settle for passing government programs.

This is what William F. Buckley (quoting Eric Voegelin) meant when he accused liberals of "immanentizing the eschaton": They want to bring about in the here and now what can only be brought about in the afterlife or in the religious apocalypse that will ensue before a Last Judgment they don't believe in.

Left-wing liberalism being a religious belief masquerading as a political one, it only makes sense that its most central belief would be theological: The denial of Original Sin. Left-wing liberalism is the political analog of the Ghost Dance movement, the cargo cults, and the Shakers, only without the religious trappings. They all sought a heaven here on earth and thought that through their actions they could either prepare for it or help bring it about.

Jean Jacques Rousseau, not Karl Marx, is the left-wing liberal's patron saint. Rousseau's "natural man," uncorrupted by civilization contrasts with the conservative idea that civilization is the only thing keeping man from destroying himself and everybody else.

Left wing liberalism's view that utopia is possible and that man is perfectible--and that all this can be accomplished through the right policies--is an idea that is increasingly characteristic of modern conservatism. And this is why we had the knee-jerk reaction of so many so-called conservatives to Pope Francis' comments that the free market was not sufficient to accomplish what needed to be accomplished with the poor.

The idea of the free market now serves the same role for many conservatives as government action serves for many liberals: It has become the policy by which we can reach an earthly Nirvana. Conservatives now seem to see the right set of policies as the route by which we can reach terrestrial perfection. The way to do this, they say, is a completely free market.

Traditional conservatives do not view the free market in this way. It does not view it as a cultural panacea. Free market capitalism is indeed the most efficient economic system, but that doesn't mean that it's perfect. It is the worst economic policy ever developed by mankind, to borrow an expression from Winston Churchill about systems of government, except all the other economic policies that have been developed from time to time throughout history.

All the Pope was trying to say was that the free market was not a panacea and it didn't release us from the obligation to help the poor. Many conservatives interpreted this as the Pope attacking the free market per se. But an attack on the idea that the free market is not a panacea is not an attack on the free market. It is an attack on a mistaken belief about the free market.

It is a plea from a religious leader not to make politics (or economics) into a religion.

This is why many conservatives do what traditional conservatives would never have done: called their political position an ideology--a "conservative ideology." They too place celestial faith in earthly things. Conservatism is not an ideology and when it becomes one, then it isn't conservatism any more.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

George Washington's Thanksgiving Day Proclamation

New York, 3 October 1789

By the President of the United States of America, a Proclamation.

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor, and Whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me “to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.”

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be. That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks, for his kind care and protection of the People of this country previous to their becoming a Nation, for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his providence, which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war, for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed, for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted, for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions, to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually, to render our national government a blessing to all the People, by constantly being a government of wise, just and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed, to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shown kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord. To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among them and Us, and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.

Go. Washington

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

It's Not About the Pope: Modern conservatives need to get back in touch with their traditional economic selves

The Pope's comments in an official Vatican document yesterday are being portrayed as an indictment of free market economics by the liberal media—and the misrepresentation has been swallowed whole by many conservatives. They're wrong. In fact, it isn't the Pope who's a liberal: It's conservatives who have abandoned their own traditions and whose liberalism on economic issues is now being shown up.

Any school of philosophical thought suffers from popularity, and conservatism is no different. Ever since conservatism grew out of its remnant status about 35 or 40 years ago, it has been in a process of degradation that continues to this day. It has been victimized by its own success.

The conservatism that produced Ronald Reagan and that in large part dominated the old National Review magazine until somewhere along in the 1990s has been beset with what can only be called a liberal infection.

The conservatism of Edmund Burke has been quietly traded in by modern conservatism for the liberalism of John Stuart Mill, Thomas Hobbes, and John Locke. The problem is aggravated by the fact that, due to almost universal philosophical illiteracy, most modern conservatives don't even know who these thinkers are.

Utilitarianism has replaced respect for custom and tradition. Raw libertarianism has replaced ordered liberty. Free market ideology has replaced a common sense economic liberty that once understood the difference between the empirical laws of economics and the normative obligations of a Christian culture.

The process has been helped along by conservative talk radio and now Fox News. People like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, right as they are on many issues, are now seen as the standard bearers for conservatism when, in fact, their political philosophies are at serious odds with the conservative tradition itself.

A large part of the problem with modern conservatism has to do with the fact that conservatives have forgotten their own tradition. Just look at the most popular conservative books (and weep). No movement that takes as its chief intellectual nourishment itself on people like Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, and Bill O'Reilly deserves to be taken seriously.

This was not the case with the old conservatism. There were no popular conservative authors back in the conservative day, so we couldn't be corrupted by them. We had to resort to Russell Kirk, Richard Weaver, Michael Oakeshott, and F. A. Hayek, and T. S. Eliot for our political nourishment. Even the conservative journalists were intellectuals, not former disc jockeys and beauty queens: Wilmore Kendall, Frank Burnham, Joseph Sobran, and William F. Buckley, Jr.

These were people who a) knew what they were talking about, and b) actually authored the books that they claimed to author.

Modern conservatives can see conservatism from their house.

I have a simple rule for any conservative who wants to learn better what conservatism is: Don't read any book by anyone claiming to be a conservative that purports to explain it who didn't actually write the book that bears their name.

That would eliminate just about every popular conservative author with the exception of Charles Krauthammer, a liberal-turned-conservative (what we used to call a "neoconservative") who only had to change half his political philosophy in order to fit in to the new modern "conservatism" that is only half conservative. And we'll make an exception for Ann Coulter, any of whose lapses from true conservatism are more than made up for in sheer wit.

Allan Bloom once famously divided the political public into right-wing liberals and left-wing liberals. Modern conservatism is right-wing liberalism.

And this is why so-called conservatives have a problem with Pope Francis: He has challenged the liberal element within their thinking that has developed during a 40 year-long gestational period and has now experienced a coming out like the monster in the movie "Alien."

Conservatism has traditionally fought for a proper balance between justice, order, and freedom; and a belief in an economy that is free, but still subordinate to these goals. They believed freedom was a means, not an end.

What modern conservatism has done is to subordinate every other aspect of political conservatism to one thing and one thing only: free market economics. Everything else is dispensable.

Marriage for example.

Just look at the number of "conservative" leaders who, as soon as the political winds changed, abandoned ship on conservatism's central cultural position. It's pretty sad.

You can take my culture, but don't mess with my free market economics.

Once upon a time, conservatives advocated ordered liberty—both as a political and an economic principle. They were never in favor of unrestricted market actions. Never.

What the current critics of Pope Francis who think they are conservatives need to do is take account of Russell Kirk, the author of the most influential and authoritative book on conservatism, The Conservative Mind: From Burke to Eliot (the Ur text of modern conservatism), and legendary defender of the free market, who writes in another book:
Sometimes, indeed, vociferous American devotees of "American capitalism" and the "American standard of living" do more mischief and benefit to their own cause, generating more heat than light, and substituting facile slogans for first principles ... 
... We ought not to exaggerate the importance of our economic arguments or of our American economy. In many ways the free market economy of the United States is a good thing in itself; yet it is not the whole of life. No economy, however productive materially, could be a good thing if it were founded upon injustice, disorder, slavery, and dishonor. The slave-labor camps of the Soviet Union were efficient, after a fashion—but only because they took no reckoning of human lives or moral principles. Thus our American economy, though good in itself, is important not merely for its own sake: its real importance is the contribution it makes to our justice and order and freedom, our ability to live in dignity as truly human persons. Our "standard of living," though often enjoyable in itself, is not the be-all and end-all of life. Economic production is merely th e means to certain ends. One of those ends is the satisfaction of man's material wants. And there are other ends served by this means of economic production: the satisfaction of certain profound desires in human nature, such as the desire for fruitful work and sufficient leisure and hopeful competition, for one; and the maintenance of a decent society for another.
Now take this view and the read what Pope Francis said again, and ask yourself where there is any contradiction between this and what the Pope said.

Modern conservatives have made a religion of the free market in a way traditional conservatives never would have done. The free market is not the sum and summation of conservatism; it is rather one principle to be balanced with others. As C. S. Lewis once said, "Second things suffer from being put first." This is what modern conservatives have done with economics.

Conservatism is not an ideology, it is a set of political first principles in constant tension. There's a big difference.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

So-called "conservatives" get in on the act of misrepresenting the Pope

The supply of mischaracterizations about today's remarks on economics by Pope Francis is creating an even greater demand for people to point out what the Pope actually said.

Todd Zywicki at the Volokh Conspiracy takes the Catholic Church to task for being against free market economics on the basis of remarks Pope Francis made in an Apostolic Exhortation earlier today opposing the idea that invisible hand of the free market is sufficient for the bringing about of justice:
It appears that he is agin’ it (full document here). 
I’m not going to go into the wrongheaded economics here. Instead, what I think is curious about this document is a longstanding peeve of mine. Ever since the Galileo incident, the Catholic Church has generally tried to be careful to get its science right before it opines on ethical matters related to science. It takes seriously questions of bioethics and has developed internal expertise on those issues. Yet when it comes to economics, the Church seems to have no qualms about opining on issues of economics without even the slightest idea of what it is talking about.
Now first of all let's take note of the assumption implicit in this charge: that economics is some kind of hard science. Really? I would love to hear the argument for that. Economics is surely a moral science (Adam Smith was, after all, a moral philosopher), but it is hardly a hard science. If it were, you wouldn't see the wide divergence of economic opinion on even basic economic questions.

But  more importantly, Zywicki's criticism betrays the fact that he isn't to make even basic distinctions. The Pope is primarily making a moral point here, and where he does make economic assertions (as he does about the empirical fact that a free market does not automatically produce a just society), they're clearly accurate.

Of course Zywicki, who claims the intellectual high ground in relation to the Church, doesn't even bother to argue that the Pope is wrong--either on the ethical fact that we should take some kind of action in addition to just letting the free market work or on the economic fact of what the free market does and doesn't inevitably do. All he does is make snide remarks over what he thinks the Pope said.

In instead of an argument Zywicki simply employs and assumption about what the Pope said that is clearly inaccurate. The title of his post was "The Pope doesn't heart the free market." And he links to an equally inaccurate post titled, "In which the Pope informs us that the free market is very, very bad."

But the Pope didn't say the free market was bad; he said the free market was insufficient.

In order to criticize something, you have to be accurate about what you are criticizing. The Pope thinks that a just society requires more than just watching the invisible hand do its work. So what's Zywicki's refutation of this? He needs to offer one if he wants to appear as something other than what many supposedly conservative economic thinkers seem to be, which is not advocates for the free market, but apologists for large corporations.

Economics in its limited, social science sense has to do with the "laws" (as that word is loosely used in economics) of production, consumption, distribution, and so on. If a person or group of persons does X, then Y happens. But economics, in the larger sense of being a moral science, has to do with the normative decisions we make on the basis of these economic "laws." The former is empirical, the latter is ethical.

Writers like Zywicki would do well to understand the difference.

Link for my debate last night on KET on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA)

Here is the video link for the debate on "Kentucky Tonight" on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which is now before the U.S. Congress.

Guests were:

  • Enid Trucios-Haynes, president of the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky
  • Martin Cothran, senior policy analyst for The Family Foundation of Kentucky
  • Chris Hartman, director of the Fairness Campaign
  • Richard Nelson, executive director of the Commonwealth Policy Center


Saturday, November 23, 2013

Anthony Esolen on the Common Core Standards for literature and English

Anthony Esolen assesses the best of the model essays recommended by the authors for the Common Core State Standards in literature and English and discovers it is riddled with errors:
The best essay by far, for both style and organization, is a report on the economic effects of the Spanish Flu, in the United States after the First World War.  No other essay in the set comes close.  To read the others, after this one, is to stumble down the side of a ravine.  Yet I would not want one of my students to have written this essay, not in a hundred years.
The writer, however, makes a number of assertions about the Spanish Flu that are either plainly wrong or just contradictory:
These problems, which do not have to do with the style of the essay, are pretty easy to notice.  They are boulders in the reader’s path.  All you have to do is to pause and look.  But the author did not do that, nor did his teacher, nor did the mechanics of the Common Core Curriculum.  For the mechanics, the crucial thing is that the author presents “evidence” for his claims, and not whether the evidence is really evidence, or whether the pieces of evidence are consistent with one another, or whether the author draws just conclusions from the evidence.  They apply the rubric of their very badly written checklist: the author “develops the topic thoroughly by selecting the most significant and relevant facts, extended definitions, concrete details, quotations, or other information and examples appropriate to the audience’s knowledge of the topic.”  Again, this is their model essay, and it is the best of them all, written with no time constraints and with opportunity for “feedback” (note the mechanical term) from the teacher.
In the process of critiquing the essay, Esolen, an English professor at Providence College, points out the sophistical view that Common Core takes of literature:

The authors believe that the humanities are subordinate to rhetoric.  We read a poem by Keats in order to see, or to pretend that we see, how he uses images or odd words or a cunning series of expressions to persuade us of some peculiar point of view.  The authors do not read poems at all, really.  They read texts, or, as they put it with the air of technicians, text.  When you read a passage by Dostoyevsky, or a poem by Donne, or the maunderings of a politically correct doyen, you are reading text, and reading text requires the same techniques, always and ever, just as there is a correct way to dissect a dead cat on the laboratory table.  But I and my comrades believe that rhetoric is subordinate to the humanities.  We attend to Keats’ words and metaphors so that we will better see what he is saying to us about what it means to be human.  We do not invert the order of ends.  We care ultimately about the good, the true, and the beautiful, and what vision of those that Keats was granted to see.  We read poetry as poetry, and we rejoice in its truth and its beauty, nor do we presume to know all about it.

Read the rest Anthony Esolen on the Common Core Standards in literature and English.


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Is there anyone other than Richard Day who thinks that public schools are a measure of efficiency?

Richard Day, an education professor at Eastern Kentucky University, criticizes the Bluegrass Institute for financial inefficiency and contrasting it with what he apparently thinks is the efficient use of money by the public education system:
Combined fundraising and administrative costs at the Bluegrass Institute, however, exceed 50%, a level of inefficiency not seen in the public school system since the removal of the highly localized Trustee System, where an almost complete lack of government regulation led to the misuse of untold thousands of Kentucky taxpayer dollars in the early 20th century.
Now, I'm trying to fathom the level of delusion one must be under to seriously suggest that the public school system is any kind of standard when it comes to financial efficiency.

Ask yourself how much money we have spend on the education of a high school graduate. This would involve taking the annual amount we spend in state money per year per student, which is a four-figure number, adding in all the federal money and grant money that this spent on students annually in various ways, which results in a five-figure number, and multiply by twelve.

The amount you will eventually come to if you add all of this together is probably going to be well in excess of $100,000.

Then take the average person who graduates from high school in a Kentucky public school you run into every day. I run into them, and I know what I see. They mostly don't read very well or very often, they mostly can't add, subtract, multiply, or divide very well (if at all), they are almost entirely ignorant of our literary tradition, and don't know basic things about history the my generation took for granted.

Then ask yourself how an efficient system could spend this much money and get so little for it.

Whatever problems the Bluegrass Institute has, comparing it to the public education system isn't going to inspire anyone to trust your analysis.

Friday, November 15, 2013

The Democrats Deadly Dilemma: Why Obama and his Democratic allies are doomed

President Obama has committed the one unpardonable political sin: embarrassing your friends.

So far he has gotten away with anything he wanted no matter how much it cost the country. But now it is not just costing the country; it is costing his political allies. You can do just about anything in politics but that.

And because of this they are fleeing the sinking political ship like rats. Today, 39 Democrats broke ranks to vote for a Republican-sponsored bill that would do what Obama said he wanted to do in his speech yesterday (and what he promised before Obamacare was passed): keep your current health care policy.

But Obama says he is going to veto it if it comes to his desk. Why would the President veto a bill that would ensure that insurance companies could do what he promised they could do yesterday?

There is a very simple answer to this question: Although he wants to appear as if he wants insurance companies to be allowed to do this, he doesn't really want them to do it.

If insurance companies continue to offer the same health policies they offered before, then fewer healthier people will join the exchanges. And if they fewer healthier people don't join the exchanges, then, because of the high percentage of high-risk participants, rates on policies purchased through the exchanges will increase.

In other words, the very success of Obamacare depends on the success of driving people now insured through the individual market into the exchanges. But it also depends on people being able to keep their policies like Obama said they would.

In other words, the two criteria necessary for Obamacare to succeed are mutually exclusive:

If people are allowed to keep their current policies, then rates will increase, which will doom Obamacare. If, on the other hand, people are not allowed to keep their current policies, then they will rebel, which will also doom Obamacare. Since either people will be allowed to keep their current policies or they won't, either rates will increase or people will rebel. In either case, Obamacare is doomed.

There does not appear to be any way around the horns of this dilemma. In fact, something even worse is likely to happen.

In fact, the pressure of this dilemma has been to increase even more by the failure of the Obamacare website. What the failure of the website has done is bring about the worse possible outcome of the President's health care legislation. In most dilemmas, you are forced to make a choice between two unacceptable alternatives--in this case raising health care insurance rates or making people angry by throwing them off the plans you told them they could keep.

What the failure of the website has done is ensure that the President and his Democratic allies are impaled, not on one horn of the dilemma or the other--but on both of them.

Because of the technical problems that are preventing people from signing up for health care, it is everything but an absolute certainty that people will not get back their cancelled policies. Under the Presidents plan--and the Republican bill passed today--insurers are not required to keep offering these policies and there is no incentive for them to continue to offer them.

In addition, it will be almost impossible for the exchange to sign up enough people to keep rates low, even if the site is fixed before the end of this month--another promise Obama made which he cannot keep.

And the timing of things couldn't be worse for Democratic congressmen: The announcements of rate increases will arrive next September or October, right before mid-term elections.

High rates and lack of choice. Oh, and one more thing, because of the inauspicious timing of the Obamacare schedule, many people will be without health care policies on January 1, when, under Obamacare, they are required to have them.

If this political coffin needed another nail, there it is.

I'm trying to think of what is going on right now in the minds of those people who predicted just a week or so ago a drubbing of the Republicans at the polls next year because of the threatened government shutdown. In fact, does any even remember that now?

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Lou Reed and the art of being bad

Whenever a popular culture icon dies, we're all supposed to stop and take notice. Even if the popular culture icon was not very popular.

Lou Reed died last Sunday, and so now the people who we have given the job of telling us who is popular are telling us that Lou Reed was popular even though he demonstrably wasn't.

Lou Reed was never popular, however much the idea of Lou Reed was.

Lou Reed, in case you didn't know, was a rock 'n roll star. His most famous song was "Take a Walk on the Wild Side." It was also his best song, as measured in relative terms by all his other songs, most of which were much worse.

He started out his musical career with the band the Velvet Underground, a cult band whose popularity defied, ... well, their popularity. The people who have heard of the Velvet Underground far exceeds the people who have actually heard the Velvet Underground, which for these latter people is (probably unbeknownst to them) a good thing. Its members wore black leather, played long interminable songs about sex and drugs, and generally made a cultural nuisance of themselves.

Reed himself played guitar only passably, and sang mostly off key. He said he learned to play the guitar from listening to the radio. I think we can safely assume the the radio from which her learned to sing and play didn't have very good reception.

Since he was not very good, his mourners have had to resort to saying things like, "He was prophetic," although exactly why he was prophetic or what he was prophetic of remains a mystery.

Reed's publicist Bill Bentley claims that the reason no major label would sign the Velvet Underground was because their songs were seven minutes long, rather than three. Maybe. On the other hand, maybe they couldn't get signed because they stunk--not that I would have complained if we could have subtracted four minutes of bad music from the world.

Lou Reed was a musician we were all supposed to like. Which accounts for all of the Twitter eulogies coming from celebrities, most of whom probably never heard more than a song or two from him, if that, but know that it's just one of the things you're expected to say to be thought fashionable in the world they inhabit--a world that, unfortunately inhabits many of us.

I mean, Miley Cyrus (who tweeted, on Reed's death, "noooooooooo notttttttttt LOU REED")? Really? She probably thinks her music is good too.

Reed once said of his album Metal Machine Music, which even his admirers admitted was really bad, "No one is supposed to be able to do a thing like that and survive." But he underestimated the bad taste of his admirers and the depths to which they would descend in order to retain their avante garde cultural status.

Oh, and, by the way, in case you did't notice, he didn't survive after all. That's why we're talking about him right now.

Or maybe it wasn't just bad taste. No. He was one of those cultural heroes who gets more popular the worse he is. Badness is a quality greatly valued by those who those who don't have any real aesthetic standards think have them. They can't do it themselves quite as well and admire anyone who can. If you can sing badly, write bad songs, flaunt your homosexuality (at a time when it is not celebrated like it is now), take drugs and write songs about how good it is and get away with it all, then you can take the final step to pop cultural apotheosis and insult the people who admire you for doing it.

That's what really throws them into an ecstatic frenzy. Just look at the life of J. D. Salinger.

Terry Gross, host of NPR's "Fresh Air" did an adulatory show on Reed earlier this week. She admitted that she had no past recordings of Reed on her show because the one time he was scheduled to be her guest, he walked off after several minutes because he didn't like her questions. Gross said the incident did not detract from her admiration for his music, but you've got to know it probably only increased it (something other than the music itself just has to account for anyone's admiration of it). Such is the masochistic tendency of those R. Emmett Tyrrell once termed the "chi chi intelligentsia."

Ah, yes. Masochism. Did I mention that the title of Lou Reed's biography was Please Kill Me?

Lou Reed wasn't nice to people and said and did a bunch of bad things, including being rude and selfish, walking out of interviews, and once held a gun to his military superior's head (for which he got kicked out of ROTC at Syracuse University).

But, said one of his cultural entourage, that was "just Lou."

Here is an excerpt from Terry Gross' interview with Mary Woronov, who did the "whip dance" in the "Exploding Plastic Inevitable," a series of multimedia musical performances thought up by Andy Warhol, featuring the Velvet Underground in the late 1960s (And, by the way, were the 1960s really necessary?):
There was tremendous antagonism between New York and L.A. L. A. was, you know, um, full of color, full of acid, full of hippies, and we were not like that.
No way. They (Mary Woronov and her friends) had, you know, standards. They were, um ...
... dressed in black and white, uh, we did not like free love, we liked, uh, S&M, real, uh, restraint, uh, perversion too, um, we took amphetamines. We took LSD, They were, you know, sort of loving and happy, and, uh, we weren't, uh, really evil, we were more intellectual, more about art.
Mmhmm. Intellectual. About art. I think I see the problem now.

In his interview with Terry Gross, Bentley says that Reed was "tortured." She could have pointed out that, if you want to talk about being tortured, you should try to listen to Reed's music. But it apparently didn't occur to her.

But being tortured is also a good thing to be if you aspire to occupy a spot in the pop cultural pantheon. They said this about Johnny Cash too--who, if he hadn't been a "tortured soul," would have been way too Christian to have gotten any attention from those who tell us who we should give attention to. Of course Cash was, by his own account, tortured by the Devil. Reed didn't need the Devil to torture him: He had himself.

I hope he found some kind of peace in the end. Death isn't the kind of place you want to be walking on the wild side of.