Wednesday, February 27, 2019

A Eulogy for My Father


Below is the text of the eulogy I gave for my father last Saturday, February 23, 2019.

My father grew up in the hills of South Carolina, in a place called Central, not far from Clemson University. It was a switching station for the railroad. His family's house, which his father had built, was on the other side of the cemetery from Mt. Tabor Baptist Church. He grew up there with his seven brothers and sisters.

His father, my grandfather, was a carpenter. He was one of the many workers who worked to build the textile mills in Greenville, South Carolina, mills that later shut down when the jobs went to other countries and which have in recent years been given new life as restaurants, shops, and office buildings.

When my father was five years old, he convinced his mother to let him go to school (that was apparently considered early back then). So early one morning, he turned from the window of their house, from which he could see the one-room schoolhouse across the street. He told his mother that the smoke was coming out of the school chimney. They had stoked up the wood stove, which meant school was about to start. He ran down the hill and snuck in the back door, sitting in a seat in the back row, near the water barrel. When the teacher asked him who he was, he wouldn’t tell her. The teacher had to find out from another student who he was.

He went home that night and read through the entire reader and brought it back to school. On days off, he would sit on a stool in the middle of the yard and loudly and obnoxiously read his schoolbook until the other children complained to their mother to make him stop.

He did so well at school that he was promoted ahead of his older sister. When his mother found out, she grabbed him by the arm and marched him down the hill to the school, where she demanded that the teacher put him back where he belonged.

In that time and place you had to grow up fast. Like his brothers and sisters, my dad helped in the farm chores from a young age. His first car accident was in a Ford Model A. He was six years old.

My grandfather was by all accounts a good person. He would frequently lend money to people. One day my grandfather was away--probably working at the mills, and my grandmother, who was apparently aware of who owed him money, drove my dad to the saloon, handed him a pistol, and told him to go in and collect. My dad, who was sixteen at the time, was told to leave the pistol sticking out of pocket, where people could see it. The strategy apparently worked.

The people who talk about strong women as if they were a recent thing had apparently never heard of my grandmother. In addition to being poor and raising eight children, she was known, when my grandfather would leave for any extended time, to walk out the back door and fire off a couple of shotgun rounds just to let the neighbors know that she was armed.

When we all came down for my grandmother's ninetieth birthday, I saw my father get down on one knee in front of her chair, take his mother's hand in his, and address her as "mother."

She was truly the matriarch of the family.

When my dad graduated from high school, he had no plans to attend college. One day he was at church (where he claimed he went only to meet girls), and an older couple who had taken a liking to him asked him if he had signed up at Clemson. He told them no, that he couldn't afford it. The man told him to go sign up, and that he would take care of the rest. 

He walked into the admissions office one day during a break from laying cement with a job crew on the Clemson campus. They told him to come back when he had a shirt and shoes and they would take his application.

That couple at church, Mr. and Mrs. Masters, paid for his entire college education. I met them once when we were visiting my grandmother.

After a couple of years at Clemson, my dad contracted tuberculosis, and was put in what was then called a "sanatorium." For whatever reason (probably because his mother had her hands full with his brothers and sisters) he had to take a taxi there. When the taxi driver pulled up in the driveway, there were people in pajamas, wandering around aimlessly and, he said, hanging from the trees. The driver had taken him, not to a sanatORium, but to a sanatARium. Fortunately they realized the mistake in time. 

When he got out of the TB hospital almost two years later, he returned to Clemson and got an engineering degree. Shortly thereafter, he met my mother, whom he married 1958. In 1960 he and my mother moved our family to southern California and he took a job at Convair Aircraft.

"I took that job," he once told me, "but I could have had forty others." It was the "space age," and the nation needed good men to build airplanes to take us across oceans, and rockets to take men to the moon. My father was among them.

One of my aunts tells the story of when my dad took the scraps of wood his dad brought home from his carpentry jobs and built an airplane, complete with wheels. He never got it to fly, but, she said, they had fun riding down the hill on it. It was a premonition of things to come.

When I was growing up, I never really knew what my dad did for a living, since his job involved mostly top-secret projects. In fact, I never once visited his office, which required a high-security clearance even to get in. But over the years, I did manage to piece together a few facts about what he did.

One day, when I was rummaging around in a supply closet, I came across a paperback book titled The Nike Zeus Propulsion System. It didn't sound too exciting, but at the bottom was a name: "Lawrence E. Cothran." When I brought it in and asked him about it, he snatched it from me and said, nicely but firmly, “You’re not supposed to have that.” The Nike Zeus was the nation’s first anti-ballistic missile (a missile that shoots down other missiles). He had apparently—I later learned—designed the rocket delivery system.

That explained his frequent visits to Vandenburg Air Force Base, from which test missile launches were frequent, their vapor trails visible in the south bay of Los Angeles County. And it explained why he could frequently be found in the garage at night, firing different materials to test their melting points.

And that explained why he said with such authority when we sat on our living-room couch watching CNN as the Israelis launched American-made Patriot missiles to shoot down the Iraqi SCUD rockets during the first Iraq War, “Oh, that’s nothing. That technology is at least twenty years old. You should see what we have now.”

I later found out, through various conversations with my father and others, that he had headed the project to put the first three spy satellites into space. After being released from their cargo bay, their wings folded out into a 150-foot wingspan that had to be positioned within the accuracy of the width of a nickel. “We nailed it every time,” he said. 

That explained why he occasionally came home in a dark mood, sometimes saying, "You wouldn't believe what's going on in the world."

Had I known all this at the time, I would have been even more comforted when, as a college student having just read an article on the nation’s missile defense system and the various strategies the Air Force employed to make sure we could launch our ICBMs in the face of a massive Soviet missile attack, my dad, to whom I was reading it while he was shaving, finally lowered his razor, looked at me, and said, “Marty, don’t worry about it. You have no idea what we have,” and calmly finished shaving.

One night, during the time when he headed payload processing for the Space Shuttle, my dad came home somewhat aggravated. As it turned out, there was a problem getting the cargo out of the Shuttle cargo bay if a launch had to be aborted. The cargo was inserted in the cargo bay with the Shuttle standing on its end, vertically, on the launch pad. If it had to make an emergency landing on some other continent, how could they get the cargo out of it so it could be transported back to the U.S.?

For three nights we heard hammering and drilling in the garage. After the third night, he came in holding a board with various hydraulics and pulleys and other things I would never be able to identify. “I figured it out,” he said.

In his later years, before he had lost the ability to speak, we were sitting, watching a television news report on the Iranian nuclear centrifuges, which are the only way to produce weapons-grade plutonium. “They must have somehow gotten a paper I wrote on that,” he said.

“What do you mean?” I asked. He proceeded to inform me that he had written the design specifications for the nuclear centrifuge.

 "I never told you that?" he asked.

"No," I said with some impatience, "I you did not tell me that."

Everything he did, from missiles to satellites to nuclear centrifuges, he did with a bachelor’s degree. He was part of the "greatest generation" of aerospace engineers--the people who devised the means of our safety during the Cold War, and sent probes to Pluto.

But those were all things I found out later. What I remember most vividly about my father was not the things he did for the country, but the things he did for me and our family, like going camping seemingly every weekend. My dad would strap our camping equipment and food to the top of our Ford LTD station wagon with fake wood side panels and we would set out for some national or state park in California, or Utah, or Colorado.

I remember hiking trails in the Sequoias, feeding bears in Yosemite, or watching the eruption of Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park.

When we went on vacation, we never seemed to have a plan. When I think about it now, it seems to out of character for a man who, in his professional life, was responsible for planning so much. We just got in the station wagon (and later the camper he put on the back of a pickup truck) and headed for the open road. There was no GPS then, of course, and we never knew where we would end up. 

We found ghost towns, and rivers, and sand dunes, and oases in the desert. We went to Kings Canyon, the Grand Canyon, Carlsbad Caverns, Lake Powell, Pismo Beach, Yellowstone, Hearst Castle, and countless other places.

I remember seeing a postcard with a bright Kodachrome picture from the 1960s of a station wagon with camping equipment strapped to the top, heading out on the great American road. That was us. We were in that car, full of excitement--and anticipation of what we might find around the next corner.

One day we went to the Palm Desert so my parents could look at rental property in the morning. On our way back in the afternoon, we stopped in the mountains and had a snowball fight, and later stopped by the beach and waded into the waves. All that in one day.

On one trip, we drove until after the sun went down. We ended up somewhere in California's high desert. I remember my dad taking a turn off the main road and driving along what seemed a precarious dirt road, looking for a place to camp. There were turns that brought us close to the edge, over which it was very dark. The next morning, when we got up and drove out, we discovered that what was over the edge of those dark places were ravines hundreds of feet down. We had just missed going over the edge in the night.

My father showed me how to pan for gold in the Kings River, and how to put up a tent; how to start a campfire and cook eggs and bacon on it. Later he taught me how to drive, so I could take my place behind the wheel on our expeditions.

My father showed us this country as his generation saw it: as a place of beauty and wonder. Many of us have sung about spacious skies, amber waves of grain, and the majesties of purple mountains. But we saw these things. It was gift I will cherish for the rest of my life.

It isn't in the big things the world knows (or in this case didn't) that constitute a person's real achievements. It's the little, everyday things that your family remembers about you that are the most important.

My dad helped design rockets—and showed me how to make a paper airplane. He launched satellites into space—and showed me how to drive a nail. He was on several space shuttle launch teams—and taught me how to throw a baseball.

When I got the word that he only had a few days left to live, I rolled up my clothes to conserve space in my suitcase like he taught me. When I tucked in my shirt before leaving for the airport, I did it like he told me they showed him when he was in the National Guard.

The tie I am wearing now is his.

My father's siblings all spoke highly of him. When she found out he had passed away, one my aunts texted me, saying, "He was my hero."

His three great passions were our house-- which he spent a good part his life remodeling, riding his Harley Davidson motorcycle, and Clemson football. 

He began remodeling our house when I was sixteen years old. I remember because I was dating the girl who would later become my wife. It turned into a life-long project, and more. In fact, he never finished it. Several years ago, when he could still walk, he took me around the house to show me the things that were left unfinished, in case anyone ever wanted to finish them after he was gone. After showing me around for a while, he said, "Let me show you one more thing." He led me over to a wall, where he pointed his old and shaking hand at a piece of molding that only came partway down. "This," he said,"is where I stopped."

The house remains unfinished, partly because my father was a perfectionist.

Several years ago, when I was visiting, he took me out to the pool, which he had just had redone and which was still empty of water. "Let me show you something," he said. We went down the steps and to the bottom of the deep end. He pointed up and said, "Do you see that?" Underneath the tile, which you could only see from underneath, was a small flaw. "What do you think?" he asked.

"Honestly? I said. "I think you are probably the only one who could ever possibly notice that, and you probably just need to let that go."

He nodded his head.

He loved his Harley. A number of years back, he and Donna decided to participate in the "Ride for the Wall," the national motorcycle trip to Washington, DC for Memorial Day. The motorcade was scheduled to stop at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Frankfort, Kentucky, just an hour from our home. So we went to meet them. 

A line of several hundred motorcycles snaked up the hill to the memorial, and we tried to spot them. We finally determined which one he was. And on the back of the bike was what looked like a biker chick he had picked up along the way, but who turned out in realty to be my step-mother Donna. 

We stood there talking for a while, and up walked the political reporter for the state's largest newspaper, a friend of mine. "Al," I said, "this," gesturing to my father, who was wearing a red head scarf, black leather pants and boots, "is my father." 

I'm not sure what he thought.

And he loved Clemson football. My dad and his friend Victor argued repeatedly over the relative football merits of Clemson, my dad's alma mater, and USC, Victor's alma mater.
I am glad that my father lived just long enough to see that issue finally settled.

We visited my grandmother a number of times when I was young, but I didn't know much about my grandfather, who had died when I was about 4. All I knew was from the stories my father told me. My favorite is the one about him being pulled over by a police car while he was coming home one day. He was drunk, so the officer took him to the Central Jail. Unfortunately for the jail, no one had bothered to take away the carpenters hammer in his work belt. The next morning he was back home, having hammered a hole in the jail's cement wall and escaped. The folks at the jail were not amused, and the next day they made him come back and repair the hole.

I mention my grandfather because I once asked my mother what he was like. She paused for a moment and then looked at me and said, simply, "He loved you." That was not the answer I was looking for, but it was all I needed to know.

Love is a funny thing. It is unbound by time, space, and circumstance. It is the one thing that is really infinite and never-ending.

My father died this last Sunday. This is where his life on earth stopped. This is where all of us stop. The project of our lives is never finished, not in this world.

My father was never an outwardly religious person. But God is merciful. Although the long illness surely seemed to him a trial, I believe it was also a mercy. I was there when the minister from Hospice stopped in and spoke with my father and told him the story of the Gospel. He explained to him who God was, and what He had done for him. But the most important thing the minister told him, and possibly the only thing my dad really understood at that point in time, was what God was like. "He loves you," said the minister.

My father accepted that. It was all he needed to know.

In the end, love is all there is. Whatever we have done, whatever we have thought, whatever we have felt--all these things pass away, and all we have is love. It is the first thing we know in life, and the last thing we can understand. When all our mental and physical powers have left us, when we have nothing that we can give anyone else, we have only love--and trust in the love of others.

My father suffered through a long disease that took its time in draining everything from him. But he was surrounded in the end by the people he trusted--my stepmother Donna; his neighbor Victor, who stopped in every day to see him and say a cheerful word (and sometimes eat a doughnut); his weekday caretaker Joey, who faithfully stayed by my father's side to make sure he was comfortable and content; and Linda, who arrived every Saturday morning like an angel from heaven, bearing small gifts of food and an unceasing smile that would brighten my dad's day.

I just want to say thank you all for everything you have done for my father. I know he not only trusted, but truly loved every one of you.

Thank you.

Friday, January 18, 2019

#Donald Trump may be down but he is not out

My most recent piece at Intellectual Takeout:
Trump's lack of popularity is no surprise. Of course, he has brought much of this on himself. With the help of a hostile media, it is understandable why he can't seem to break the 45 percent ceiling. The result has been predictions of an imminent loss of the White House by Republicans, and that explains the burgeoning crowd of Democratic presidential primary challengers we see blocking the horizon.
Under normal circumstances, the prognostications of Republican disaster would ring true. How can a president with popularity as low as Trump's have any hope at all? 
Writing in the Jan. 10 Wall Street Journal, columnist Daniel Henninger explains why it is the Trump shouldn't be counted out--at least not yet.
Read the rest here.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Why Books are Important

From my "Letter from the Editor" in the most recent issue of The Classical Teacher:
In 1929, children’s book author Anne Parrish was visiting Paris. She left her husband at a cafe to visit one of the city’s many bookstores. There she found a copy of Helen Wood’s Jack Frost and Other Stories, a favorite of hers from childhood. She returned to the cafe, sat down, and showed her husband what she had found. He opened the book, turned a couple of pages, and paused. He handed it back to her, opened to the flyleaf. There, in the hand of a child, she read, “Anne Parrish, 209 North Weber Street, Colorado Springs, Colorado. 
The book she had found half a world away turned out to be her very own childhood copy. It was as if she had found a long-lost friend 
A book is just a physical object. And yet, as every book lover knows, it is something more than that...
Read more here.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

The Pension Debate: Court Decisions and Double-Standards


When the Kentucky Supreme Court rendered its decision on the controversial case of the state's new pension law, the results were predictable: The (largely) Republican proponents of the pension bill assailed it and the (largely) Democratic opponents hailed it. 

As with most such things, it's a lot more complicated than that. In fact, both sides were wrong in major elements of their reactions.

The Republican Reaction
The Republicans argued that the decision was flawed and that it was some kind of power grab by the Court. It wasn't. To argue that the doctrine of separation of powers prohibits the Court from finding the General Assembly's actions unconstitutional is simply silly. In fact, the decision was quite correct in its conclusion that the General Assembly erred by violating the state constitution's provision that every bill must be read three times before its passage. The title of the bill was read, but the title was the title to the original version of SB 151, a sewer bill.

It inartful to say the least. But opponents of the bill characterized this as somehow malicious. It wasn't. Republican leaders were trying to get the bill through before the end of the session and they gutted another bill in order to do that. Democratic opponents of the law and their cheering section in the media cried their crocodile tears, but they were well aware that their own party has done this many times--and no tears were shed in those cases, nor was there any media outrage.

Pension bill advocates were trying to do the right thing and they did, they just did it the wrong way--a way that has been used many times in our legislature. In fact, I'm thinking there are lawyers out there searching the records to find out all the other laws we have passed this way that are now vulnerable to court challenge.

But in regard to the decision, the Court did what conservatives are always asking courts to do: Not to make policy, not to be a super-legislature, not to be activist, but simply to interpret the clear language of the Constitution.

What does the Constitution say? "Every bill shall be read at length on three different days in each House." (Section 46) Boom.

Why the Court Was Right
The court was right. As the majority decision declared:

... we agree that the mode chosen by the General Assembly to "read" a bill passes constitutional muster, we are constrained to the conclusion that SB 151, as finally enacted, never received such readings in either legislative chamber.

The Court said that, whatever else was the case, reading a title having to do with sewer legislation did not meet the criterion of "read in full." Again, the majority opinion:

The words "SB 151" were, indeed, "read" three times but the title read along with that designation each time was "AN ACT relating to the local provision of wastewater services." Although read only by title, the title by which SB 151 was read never had any connection with the subject matter of the measure enacted: "AN ACT relating to retirement," nor did it connote any information to signify that the act related to public pensions or the retirement benefits of public employees. Nothing in the utterance of the bill's numerical designation, SB 151, conveyed any information that the reading was related to a pension reform bill. The title as read in each chamber pertained to the local wastewater services measure that was discarded.

There is simply no disputing this. It didn't happen. Yes, everyone knew what bill they were voting on, whatever the title it bore. But the Constitution is the Constitution.

One Problem with the Decision
The only problem with the majority of the decision is that, if you read Section 46 literally, as they had to read it in order to overturn the pension bill, then no bill passed in the last session of the General Assembly in the last session or any session prior to it (unless you go back about a hundred years) was really read "in full." The only thing read is the bill's title. So, if we're getting picky, which the Court has to do to justify its ruling, then every piece of legislation passed in recent times is subject to being stricken down on Constitutional grounds.

The majority opinion clearly recognizes this, since it goes to Byzantine lengths to justify ignoring the full import of the language. After doing the Pepto Bismol dance for about three paragraphs, the opinion states:

We are satisfied that the common legislative practice of reading only the title of the bill and electronically publishing simultaneously the full text of the bill to the electronic legislative journal available on every legislator's desk satisfies the constitutional mandate of§ 46.

Oh, really? The problem with that just a few paragraphs later it rejects the identical argument from the state that gutting a bill and passing it under an incorrect title is common practice in the General Assembly. In almost thirty years of observing the Legisature, I have seen it time and again.

Is there a net you can make with holes small enough to capture bills read with the wrong titles but large enough to let through bills that are not, in fact, read "in full?" Probably. Gutless decisions can still be correct. But still, it weakens its rhetorical and judicial force. If you're going to use plain language to justify your ruling, you shouldn't equivocate on it elsewhere.

And if this sounds nit-picky, read Justice Vanmeter's concurring opinion, which makes just this point:

The primary concern advanced in this case is that the three-day readings requirement of§ 46 was not followed. I agree with that conclusion, but I also note other constitutional requirements regarding reading at length seemingly were not complied with either. "Reading by title" does not equate to "reading at length" as required by §§ 46 and 56. The Senate sessions are televised and are readily available through the Legislative Research Commission's website. Senate Bill 151, in its original form relating to the provision of local waste water services, purportedly had its first reading on March 12, 2018. It appears not to have been read at length. Are the plain provisions of our Constitution mandatory, or not?

Either be nit-picky or don't be nit-picky. But to do it one part of a sentence and not another looks like special pleading of a sort.

Would the result of observing the literal meaning of the Constitution in this context result in absurdity, as the Court says? Maybe. But Justice Vanmeter has a solution (different from the Court's, which was to fudge): 

A better solution to the concern that the exigencies of modern society make reading at length impractical is that contained within the Kentucky Constitution: amendment.

The Reaction by Pension Bill Opponents Was What We Have Come to Expect
Meanwhile the opponents of the pension bill, made up in large part by the credulous hordes commanded by the KEA and led by Attorney General Andy Beshear, made it sound as if the decision somehow implicated the content of the legislation, and, of course, it did nothing of the kind. The Court's objection was purely procedural. It had nothing to do with whether it was good or bad policy.

They also put on their outrage against a General Assembly that would (prepare yourself) pass important legislation by bending the rules. Um, ever heard of KERA? Where were these defenders of good government when the House physically stopped the hands of the clock in the chambers so they could, by violating the rules, pass the bill?

"[W"hy can’t Republicans govern openly and honestly? said Tom Eblen of the Lexington Herald-Leader. "[W]hy can’t they follow normal rules and procedures for enacting laws?" Really, Tom? Like the Democrats always did? Do you miss Greg Stumbo, the great paragon of political probity? Where do you hide your outrage when its the Dems do these things? Is it hard to do? Do you feel bad about it afterwards?

Eblen calls defined benefit pensions "traditional, secure pensions." Is that why the private sector is abandoning them? Someone who talks about "careful analysis" doesn't exactly have a lot of credibility when he talks about "thoughtful solutions" and "careful analysis" to policy problems.

The fact remains that our pension system is both horribly underfunded and antiquated in its design. When I worked in employee benefits in the 1980s, defined benefit plans were already largely a thing of the past and the ones that remained were being phased out in private companies. But state governments like Kentucky, always trying to catch up with the trends of the previous century (just take a look at their websites), marched contentedly on. 

The pension law struck down by the court was flawed in the process of its passage, but it was about the best course available. In fact, the Republicans ought to be congratulated for dispensing with the practice of kicking the can down the road of their Democratic predecessors and being willing to take the political hits for doing the right thing.

And the Governor's decision to call a special session of the General Assembly to pass the bill? Good for him. It was swift and decisive. And, given that it comes near the holidays means we won't have ill-informed people shouting insults from the back of the room at legislators trying to do their work (as happened in at least one hearing I saw).

No one can argue now, after several months of discussion about the pension bill, that passing it now is rushed. We've talked plenty about it. Now do it, with three readings, please.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Schools should be teaching history, not protesting it

My most recent post at Intellectual Takeout:
A number of teachers at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill have pledged to withhold more than 2,000 grades in protest over the university's plans to house "Silent Sam" in a separate on-campus building. Silent Sam is a statue of a Confederate soldier that stood in the quad at the university until students illegally toppled it earlier this year. 

... Any faculty or student protester wanting to participate in the desecration of historical monuments should have to take a history test.
When student or faculty mobs begin to gather on the green of a college or university, and indicate by their mindless chants and sloganeering that they wish to take down a monument, and when college administrators (not the most resolute or principled people) begin to experience anxiety and cowardice in the face of established rules of behavior, there should be a team of people ready to run out on the green with portable tables, pencils, and test forms.

... You can't topple the statue until you pass the test. 


Read the rest here.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Why is America Divided? Are contemporary political debates really more divisive?

My newest post at Intellectual Takeout:
In one sense political divisiveness has always been with us. The United States was birthed in political animosity ... 
... So why do we think the divisiveness of modern politics is so historically unique? How can some people say that the debates of our own time are worse than those which not infrequently consummated in two men firing pistols at each other? 
Is there some sense in which contemporary political debates are divisive in a way the older ones were not? How exactly does the attack on Fox News host Tucker Carlson's home differ from a duel?
Read the rest here.

Friday, November 09, 2018

#Logic and Meaningfulness: Do Truth Tables Imply a Limited View of Meaning?

I received an email the other day from someone who had come across my article "Logic and Reality Why Traditional  Logic Does Not Use Truth Tables" (an article that appears on this blog as "Why Traditional Logic Doesn't Employ Truth Tables"). He said that he understood me as suggesting that modern logic "isn't meaningful," and, if this was true, he didn't quite see how it could have value in scientific application or computer science as I seemed to suggest that it did. I thought I would share my answer to him, since posts on logic tend to be among my most read posts on this blog.

I think (and I have not thought this all the way through, so it is still a little experimental), broadly speaking, that the logical thinking that produces the truth tables (specifically Wittgenstein's early positivism) is a kind of thinking that inherently disallows meaning per se--or at least meaning as we think of it. 

When Wittgenstein, who invented the truth tables, says at the beginning of the Tractatus, "The world is everything that is the case," he seems to be positing a sort of sterile, Humean world in which there are things and relationships between things about which we make assertions that have "truth value." The truth tables, it seems to me, by virtue of the way they work, embody this view of reality. It would seem that meaning in such a world is problematized--or at least meaning as it manifests itself in such a world (rather than simply being read onto the world by the human mind) has little of the character we ascribe to it in normal mortal speech and thought.

In regard to modern symbolic logic's application to scientific application and computer science, I think the issue is how the tools of these disciplines limit their meaningfulness. Modern symbolic logic limits itself to the exclusively formal, and because of this limitation, it cannot encompass all we mean in our everyday speech (something Wittgenstein, if I understand him correctly, later realizes). Modern symbolic logic limits itself to the extensional or quantitative aspects of words and statements and does not take account of its comprehensional or qualitative character. 

Another way to say this is that the extensional use of language restricts us to seeing things only from the outside, while the comprehensional use of language allows us to see into the nature of things--and which kind of thing you are. Science, employing methodological naturalism, can only see things from the outside. Likewise computers, which are limited by their mechanical nature--the only difference between the two being that the scientist, being a human being with a soul, can step out of his scientific role and see into things (through philosophy, poetry, etc.), while computers, being mechanical, cannot. 

You have to have a very limited view of language to think that any language that can treated adequately in truth tables. Traditional logic does not limit itself in this way. It is comprehensional in a way that modern logic is not. Traditional logicians recognize that there are aspects of reality implicated in logic that are not purely formal, which is why it incorporates certain aspects of philosophical metaphysics in its study (mostly incidentally in formal logic, but fairly extensively in the branch of logic called material logic). 

So it isn't the kind of logic natural and computer science uses that would limit the meaning of what it expresses--it is rather the methodological limitation it imposes on itself that limits the meaning it can have, and the kind of logic it uses is used precisely because it suits their purposes.

In regard to conditional statements specifically, I'm not saying that the view of modern logic in which a conditional statement of the form "If P, then Q" is true when the antecedent is false is meaningless. I'm saying that viewing it that way is a denial of what we actually mean when we use such a statement. In other words, it may mean something, but it doesn't mean what we mean it to say in normal speech (or any other kind outside of the formalities of modern logic).

I don't think this is a matter of context; I think it is a matter of metaphysical assumptions. If you are a philosophical nominalist, then you will accept the truth conditionality of conditional statements and reject the everyday meaning of them. Whereas if you are a critical realist, you will accept the everyday meaning of conditional statements and reject the truth table view.

I think it's that simple. But I'm always open to another view that makes more sense.

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Dems who opposed #JeffSession's appointment now oppose his ouster

This is priceless:

Democrats today are protesting Trump's firing of Jeff Sessions. House Justice Chairman-to-be Jeff Nadler (D-NY) tweeted, "Americans must have answers immediately as to the reasoning behind @realDonaldTrump removing Jeff Sessions from @TheJusticeDept."

Huh?

Does anyone remember the Democrats position on Jeff Sessions when he was appointed? Anyone remember when all nine Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary committee voted against his nomination? Anyone remember all but one Democrat voting against him on the floor vote? Anyone remember then-Sen. Al Franken challenging his civil rights record?

Here is Elizabeth Warren on Jeff Sessions, circa June 12, 2017:
"He needs to be fired. He needs to be taken out of that job," Warren told “The Axe Files,” a joint podcast between CNN and the University of Chicago Institute of Politics that is hosted by Democratic strategist David Axelrod.
Here was Warren's tweet today, November 7, 2018 AD:
.@realDonaldTrump’s firing of Jeff Sessions brings us one step closer to a constitutional crisis. Congress must act to ensure that Special Counsel Mueller can do his job without interference.
It has been said that Democratic positions are determined purely by Trump's positions: If he is for something, they are against it; if he is against something, they are for it. Today provides further evidence of this thesis.



Friday, October 05, 2018

What Anti-Black Lynch Mobs and the People Chanting "#BelievetheWoman" Have in Common


From Rod Dreher at the American Conservative:
In my rural Southern town, back in the 1940s, a black man and a white woman were discovered in sexual congress. The woman accused him of rape. The sheriff and two deputies hunted the black man down through the woods, captured him, dragged him back to the jailhouse, and lynched him. Days later, the white accuser broke down under the weight of her conscience. She confessed that the black man had been her lover. She had accused him of rape to save her own reputation in that white supremacist culture.
They "believed the woman." I guess that made it all okay.

The Bonfire of the Legalities: Niall Ferguson on the #KavanaughHearings

Oxford historian Niall Ferguson on the feminist Sharia law that White male-hating feminists seem to want to impose:
Having watched Ford testify, I have little doubt that she believes the truth of what she said. But as an historian who has spent many long hours interviewing people about past events, including in some cases highly personal matters, I do not regard that as good enough to destroy the reputation of a distinguished judge.

Human memory is, generally speaking, bad at history. Were I writing Kavanaugh's biography, I could not possibly depict him, on the basis of uncorroborated testimony provided long after the fact, as a man who attempted rape in his youth and lied about it later. His memory is also unlikely to be perfect. But his story — that, as a young man, he glugged beer and had the usual Catholic hang-ups about sex — is more plausible.

"Maybe so," comes the response, "but the Republicans used devious delaying tactics to keep Merrick Garland off the Supreme Court." The difference is that Garland's reputation was not destroyed in the process.

The #MeToo movement is revolutionary feminism. Like all revolutionary movements, it favors summary justice. Since April 2017, more than 200 men have been publicly accused of some form of sexual offense, ranging from rape to inappropriate language. A few of these men seem likely to have committed crimes and are being prosecuted accordingly — notably the Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein. But #MeToo seems to have created a single catch-all crime, in which rape, assault, clumsy passes, and banter are elided into one.

With a few exceptions, reputations have been destroyed and careers ended without due process. "I believe her" are the fateful words that, if uttered by enough people, perform the roles of judge and jury.
Read more at http://www.jewishworldreview.com/1018/ferguson100418.php3#JABxeUIQT0wK8TpO.99

Monday, October 01, 2018

The "It's Not a Court Proceeding" Argument: The Left's Mob Mentality

I can't count how many times I have heard it during the Kavanaugh discussion: Someone points out the importance of due process and the presumption of innocence and the response is, "This is not a court proceeding. This is a job interview."

Uh huh.

Let's talk about the first issue, the presumption of innocence and due process. Why do these things characterize a court proceeding? Because they help assure that justice will be done. The consequences of a court decision are, in many cases, life-changing, and so we utilize rules that bring the greatest assurance of justice.

Of course a congressional hearing is not a court hearing, but does that mean its proceedings should not be just? Shouldn't the process of selecting a judge (who presides over court hearings, the whole point of which is justice) be just?

What exactly is the liberals' argument against justice?

You can have courtroom justice or mob justice. You can have the kind of justice you see in our justice system or you can have the kind of justice you see on The View.

In my opinion, anyone who doesn't believe that confirmation processes for judges should be just doesn't belong on a legislative committee that approves judges.

And a job interview? Yes, we all remember being asked by our prospective employers to submit our high school yearbooks for scrutiny.



Monday, September 24, 2018

It's time for the Republicans to show what they're made of


As I write this, another accuser has come forth accusing Kavanaugh of sexual impropriety. This one from college. Like the Ford charge, there are manifold problems, among them the lack of corroboration. They are charges that would have no force in a court of law and the Ramirez charge shouldn't even have been published by the normal standards of journalism (or at least the ones that used to be normal until ideology completely consumed ethical considerations among America's left-wing media).

In fact, there was a reason several other major mainstream news sources passed on the Ramirez charges (at least according to several reports): There was simply no corroboration of the charge and she wasn't even certain of what had happened until she had six days with people who had a political interest for her to remember it just right before she had any "clarity."

If these charges prove enough for Republicans to back down, then no one is safe. No conservative nominee will ever be confirmed.

Let's be clear on a couple of things.

First, we would not be where we are if Republican leaders in the Senate had done what they were supposed to do, which was to stick with proper protocol and go ahead with the originally scheduled vote. In diddling around they have lent credence to charges that of themselves have little credibility.

This is what happens when you don't have the courage of your convictions and instead start putting political calculation above what you know to be right. If they had gone ahead with the originally scheduled vote, the Ford charges would rightly be receding in the rear-view mirror of ignobility, and Ramirez would still be sorting out whether anything really happened.

Second, Tucker Carlson is right. I normally refrain from quoting Fox News hosts, since journalistic standards there can sometimes be as low as those at CNN. But it's a fact: If congressional Republicans can't confirm Kavanaugh, then there is no reason to vote for them.

In fact, Republican voters should pledge not to vote for any candidate who doesn't support Kavanaugh. Some of these people don't come with backbones and they need to be provided with them by the voters. Kavanaugh does not deserve having his life destroyed because Republicans couldn't stand up for him

Yes, Republicans are in a dilemma, but they are the ones who put themselves in it in the first place. Now their choice is between placating the left or responding to their conservative constituency. Choosing the former means they're irrelevant. Choosing the latter will cost them, but they will only have themselves to blame. 

Letting the left win now will only mean that they will win again and again and again.