July 25, 2011
Thoughts for Hale Adams...
Hale Adams is in a foul mood, which is always good for the creative juices! Me, I'm in a pretty cranky mood too, and for some of the same reasons. This is a hasty answer to a comment he posted here. (Other comments deserve answers, but this may use up my limited amount of time and energy--sorry.)
Um, John, maybe it's you who should think. How does the State allowing gays and lesbians to enter into a marriage contract make you and Charlene any less married? How are the two of you injured?
That wasn't my point at all, but yes, we are "less married." We have invested the bulk of of what we are and possess in an institution, and now the terms of the contract are being downgraded. In libertarian terms, it might be like spending all your money to join an exclusive club, and then having the government say that other people must be admitted for free.
The State has to define marriage because it is, in its civil aspects, a partnership.
No, the state has never even considered doing that until recent decades. It merely adumbrated the tradition of all of Western Civilization. Likewise, the early Republican opposition to Mormon polygamy was really saying: "No, you cannot change the definition of marriage."
Now, I understand your impulse to say "Ick!" at the idea of gay marriage. But what two consenting adults do in private ain't my business or yours. If those two consenting adults are doing something the Church doesn't like, and they are members of the Church, then the Church has the duty to impose discipline.
You insult me. I'm talking ideas, not "Ick!"
If they aren't members of the Church, the Church can certainly say its piece, but it doesn't get to use the power of the State to impose any kind of penalty on them. Allowing the Church to impose such penalties, or to prohibit the conduct outright only gives power to the Church, "power which is not going to deployed to make you more free. No way," if I may hurl your words back at you.
If this was a case of "the Church" as a human institution coming up with a rule or discipline and imposing it on people using the power of the state, I'd agree with you. I don't think you should be forced to eat fish on Friday! But that's not the issue here. The theory is that God defined marriage. (And just FYI, he didn't define it in the sense of an arbitrary rule; rather, this is an expression of the moral law woven into the fabric of the Universe, and even God can't change it unless he abandons his character as the Divine Lawgiver.)
So, why should a libertarian care? I'd answer, "In what sense do we have rights?" The founders wrote: "...endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights." Do you believe that that's true? I assume not. So do we have "rights?" Our country is founded on the that rights are "unalienable." That means they CANNOT be taken away. A tyrannical government can deny you the enjoyment of them, but they still exist, and always will.
In the libertarian worldview, I suspect, we do not have any rights. Not in that sense. Humans can pass a law that says we have such-and-such a "right," but next year other humans can repeal that law. That's why I tend to say the libertarianism is a form of liberalism. Liberalism is always, on a deep level, the idea that we humans can navigate ourselves, without reference to fixed landmarks outside our system.
Our founding fathers explicitly rejected this. As John Adams put it, "The rights of Englishmen are derived from God, not from king or Parliament..." And they also wrote, "We hold these truths to be self-evident." Which is to say, you can't get there by human powers of reason. You just have to dig it. (And this is exactly what I mean by a "fixed landmark.")
That, I think, is the crux, for any American in politics. That's what really bugs me about Gov. Perry's statement. (Thank you Hale for stimulating me to ponder this.) He is rejecting the essence of our American system, without thinking! Our system rests on the idea of God as the Divine Lawgiver. Our rights exist in exactly the same way that the ancient theory of Judeo-Christian marriage exists. Our Bill of Rights is just a local and human instantiation of moral laws that are baked into the structure of the universe. Human rights and the definition of marriage stand or fall on the same theory.
I think Perry is a good example of what I consider a fundamental rule: Your "philosophy" is the most important part of your mental equipment, because if it is not rock-solid, sooner or later you will be swept away by the world's torrents of fad and fancy and change.
I won't go into the rest of your comment, which I mostly agree with. As the old saying goes, "The road to Hell is paved with the skulls of bishops." Fortunately our younger priests are a lot more solid than the baby-boomers in charge now. So time may improve things a bit.
July 24, 2011
This is why Conservatism doesn't work...
...because most people who label themselves "conservative" refuse to think. And therefore the world thinks for them, and they drift along with whatever ideas are popular at the moment.
Rumored Republican presidential candidate and Texas Gov. Rick Perry said he's "fine" with New York's recent passage of gay marriage — because he supports states' rights.
Speaking at an Aspen, Colo. forum Friday, Perry called himself an "unapologetic social conservative" who personally opposes gay marriage, but is also a firm believer in the 10th Amendment, the Associated Press reported.
"Our friends in New York six weeks ago passed a statute that said marriage can be between two people of the same sex. And you know what? That's New York, that's their business, and that's fine with me," Perry said. "That is their call. If you believe in the 10th Amendment, stay out of their business."...
This is so philosophically insane, I hardly know what to say. Perry says he's an "unapologetic social conservative." So Governor, where does that come from? Hmm? What is it, precisely, that you are conserving?
The odds are that Mr Perry bases his "unapologetic social conservatism" on Christian and Jewish teachings. (I suppose it is possible to be an atheist social conservative, but that has to be fairly rare.) Right, Mr P.? But Christianity unapoligetically says that there is TRUTH, Including Truth on marriage. In fact, Christianity says that marriage was instituted by God. It is right there in the beginning, in the book of Genesis.
Now Christian teachings on marriage are either true or false. There is no fuzzy middle ground. If true, then what New York is doing is catastrophic folly and wickedness. At the very least, a Christian should strongly protest against self-destructive behavior. It's a Christian duty!
(If Christianity is false, it is still an open question whether we ought to be mucking around thoughtlessly with an institution that's at least 10,000 years old.)
(Oh, and for my Libertarian friends. You ought to be thinking more too. Allowing the state to define what marriage IS, is to yield to the state enormous power. Power which is not going to deployed to make you more free. No way. )
July 23, 2011
Git me back to Mt Pisgah!
Fr. Dwight Longenecker, Truth in Advertising:
I notice as I toot around Greenville how the local Protestant churches are shifting away from honest self description. It used to be that they put out a sign stating just exactly who they were so you knew what you were getting when you went church shopping.
The old way was often friendly and inviting so churches were called: Friendship Baptist Church, Fellowship Baptist Church, Welcome to All Bible Church. Other church names were linked with a locality making it homey and easy: Pebble Creek Baptist or Pumpkintown Presbyterian or Silver Falls Church of God or Reedy Fork Methodist or Hudson Road Bible Church. Even the old names of First Baptist, Second Presbyterian or Hortonville United Methodist had clarity, integrity and honesty in advertising. Furthermore the churches looked like churches. They had a porch with pillars and a steeple on top. Even if they were inexpensive warehouse type buildings they plopped a steeple on top and put a cross on the front and made it look like a church.
You also had the churches named with quaint, but obscure Biblical references. These made you feel a little bit confused or perhaps a bit happy because you recognized the Biblical reference and felt you might be privileged enough to be on the inside. Thus, Beulah Baptist Church or Mount Pisgah Church of God or Bethany Baptist or Church of the Nazarene or Zion United Church or Mount Moriah Church of God Prophecy....
....Not anymore. Now the church buildings are indistinguishable from a retail shopping strip or a warehouse or a movie theater. The names are totally misleading. What if you went looking for a church with one of these 'creative' names? It could be a church. It could be something else. Furthermore, they not only don't call themselves a 'church' (that would be so alienating to the unchurched you know) they also don't tell you what denomination they are. The local community church named 'Heartrock' or some such might be Presbyterian or Baptist or Methodist or most anything. This is because most Evangelical Protestant theology is now post-modern eclectic (which is another words for relativistic cafeterianism) But that's the stuff of another post. Instead I'm observing the confusion that arises in their current penchant for creative groovy but goofy Protestant church names. Here's a list of 'community church' names which could lead the consumer to something totally different....
I recently learned that the church of my childhood, Temple Baptist, of La Habra, Californina.... is now "Crossroads Community Church." "Crossroads Community Church is a faith community where the doors are open wide to people from all backgrounds regardless of where they are on their spiritual journey. We have exciting things going on for people at every stage of life. Come enjoy great music with our live band and practical, life-changing messages."
Sorry, not buying it. Sounds like floofy BS to me. "Crossroads." What does that mean? Nothing. Mush.
The cool thing about being Catholic is not that we don't have problems--we have a list of problems as long as my arm. But our problems are not the permanent type. Christ founded his Church upon a rock, and promised that the Gates of Hell would not prevail against it. and so it has worked out, for 2k years, and counting. Nothing else, nothing human, has lasted so long. (That doesn't mean that my particular little corner of the Church can't perish, though I wish it did. But I'm not an island, I'm part of the maine.
...It is the peculiarity of the warfare between the Church and the world, that the world seems ever gaining on the Church, yet the Church is really ever gaining on the world. Its enemies are ever triumphing over it as vanquished, and its members ever despairing; yet it abides. It abides and it sees the ruins of its oppressors and enemies. "O how suddenly do they consume, perish, and come to a fearful end."
Kingdoms rise and fall; nations expand and contract; dynasties begin and end; princes are born and die; confederacies are made and unmade, and parties, and companies, and crafts, and guilds, and establishments, and philosophies, and sects, and heresies. They have their day, but the Church is eternal; yet in their day they seem of much account...
--John Henry Newman
WORD NOTE: People commonly take the phrase: "and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" as a sort of poetic way of saying that the power of Hell will not defeat the Church. (Example.) But Jesus said that in the days of siege warfare against walled cities. There's nothing cutsey or poetic about it; he meant something tough. It's the Church which is attacking Hell, not the other way around. And the Gates of Hell will be battered down, be they never so strong!
July 22, 2011
...The Heritage Foundation's James Sherk writes, "Private-sector job creation initially recovered from the recession at a normal rate, leading to predictions last year of a "Recovery Summer." Since April 2010, however, net private-sector job creation has stalled. Within two months of the passage of Obamacare, the job market stopped improving. This suggests that businesses are not exaggerating when they tell pollsters that the new health care law is holding back hiring."
Sherk writes that Obamacare "discourages employers from hiring in several ways:�...
I'd add all sorts of comments, except that I have a bit of my work in hand right now, and have to go all-out. Who knows when there will be more? But really, there's not much to say, at least to people who understand how business works. The government is doing everything in its power to kill jobs.
And for the people who don't understand how business works, it's probably hopeless to try to get through to them...
July 19, 2011
The new Gorbachev...Charlene recommends this, and mentions that it actually fits rather well with my 70-Year Cycle theory...
...But it doesn't matter. The long-term trends are almost all bad news for the left wing of the party.
This week's fight over raising the federal debt limit exposes a key weakness in the warfare-welfare state that has bestowed power onto the Democratic Party: Without an ever-growing share of the economy, it dies. Every vital element of the Democrats' coalition — unions, government workers, government contractors, "entitlement" consumers — requires constant increases in payments, grants and consulting contracts. Without those payments, they don't sign checks to re-elect Democrats.
Like it or not, Obama is not the new FDR, but the new Gorbachev: a man forced to preside over the demise of a political system he desperately wants to save.
Democrat champions in the punditocracy confidently predict that the future of the world's oldest political party is bright. But in fact, the coalition that is the modern Democratic Party is doomed. Every pillar upholding its heavy roof is crumbling.
The Democratic and Republican parties are structurally different.
The Democrats are a coalition, forged in the New Deal, of diverse interests that do not get along well. Imagine the deer-hunting union member sitting down with the vegetarian college professor and the lesbian lawyer and you will begin to see the trouble party leaders have holding the horde together. So far, money and government preferences have been essential. It is largely a party of unions, government workers and retirees, "green" industries, "entitlement" payees, professors, teachers and social-change activists — all of whom require government payments in one form or another. The only major element of the Democratic base that doesn't receive government payments is the professional class (lawyers, engineers, stock brokers and so on). These high-earners amount to less than 5% of the population and are not reliable Democrat donors.
On the other hand, the Republicans are a consensus party. Activists and leaders fight like hell — leading Democrats to periodically predict the Republicans' demise — only to settle on some principle that is then adopted by the majority. Tax cuts and preemptive invasions were once battlegrounds, now they are cornerstones. Significantly, very few of its supporters receive government payments. Yes, defense firms, farmers and small-business owners get contracts, subsidies or loans. Yet the overwhelming majority of Republicans pay more than they receive. They want to pay less, not get more....
July 18, 2011
It will be interesting to see how this works out...
Science writer Nigel Calder, "No, you mustn't say what it means!"� — Calder's Updates:
Although still very busy with other work, I keep looking out for results from the CLOUD experiment at CERN in Geneva, which is testing Henrik Svensmark's hypothesis that cosmic rays help to make clouds. They are due for publication this summer. All I have just now is a startling remark by Rolf-Dieter Heuer, Director General of CERN, in an interview by Welt Online a few days ago.
Here is a tidied-up Google Translate version of the relevant exchange.Welt Online: The results of the so-called CLOUD experiment, exploring the formation of clouds, are awaited with great excitement. Could these results still be important for understanding global climate change? Heuer: This is indeed a matter of understanding better the formation of clouds. In nature there are many parameters at work – including temperature, humidity, impurities and also cosmic radiation. In the experiment, CLOUD investigates the influence of cosmic rays on cloud formation, using radiation [meaning particles] coming from the accelerator. And in an experimental chamber one can study, under controlled conditions, how the formation of droplets depends on the radiation and particulate matter. The results will be published shortly. I have asked the colleagues to present the results clearly, but not to interpret them. That would go immediately into the highly political arena of the climate change debate. One has to make clear that cosmic radiation is only one of many parameters.Four quick inferences:
1) The results must be favourable for Svensmark or there would be no such anxiety about them.....
I've been meaning to post this with some thoughts, but the time just isn't there.
July 15, 2011
Stone Age, Bronze Age, Iron Age...
There are a lot of gems in The Diamond Age. I thought you would particularly like the way personal repression is tied to societal success (e.g. the neo-Victorians vs. the fringe).
I assure you I found it fascinating.
I would not myself use the term "repression." Maybe "self-discipline," or "moral virtues."
My recollection is that the neo-Victorians in the book just decided to form that sort of society ab initio. I'm pretty sure that will not happen, and would not work.
Liberalism, on a deep level, is the idea that we humans can navigate ourselves, using reason, without recourse to landmarks or guide stars outside of our own human realm. (Libertarianism is just a sub-set of this idea.) I've posted some thoughts on this here.
If liberalism is true, one would expect phenomena like the neo-Victorians. That is, one would expect the commonly seen "entropy" and decay of inherited societal virtues to reverse from time to time, by purely human decision. (As opposed to, say, religious conversion.) I haven't seen it, and I predict that it won't happen.
Show me I'm wrong!
From another angle, the neo-Victorians are a fictional example of the common liberal idea that humans can invent and use workable systems of morality without recourse to religion. I haven't seen that fly either. How's that Ethical Culture movement workin' out for ya?
(Disclaimer: I really sought to re-read Stephenson's book. I'm going on memories from the 1990's, and that's a way long time ago!)
Pet peeve (re-posted from 2003)
Something that really bugs me is Science Fiction writers who are afraid of the future, or at least don't want to deal with it.
I just noticed an SF book that (in the blurb) was about a "grey, gritty industrial future." Gimme a break. That's the industrial past. We're IN the industrial future, and the result is an almost nauseating riot of garish color. Just pay a visit to Toys 'r Us...You will wish we we were still in the grey industrial stage...Thank God my children are now old enough that I can avoid that swamp...
For the real future, there's that guy in Neal Stephenson's The Diamond Age who makes his mark by inventing animated ads that appear on disposable wooden chopsticks!
I'd post an Amazon link to The Diamond Age, and whatever else struck my fancy.... except that my Amazon Associates account is stopped, due to a new California law that tries to apply sales tax to our sales, though of course I ship nothing from California--I just refer business elsewhere. Pfoooey. Reason #23,099 why I loathe Democrats. (Or rather, their evil stupid ideas--many Dems are personally quite acceptable. But brain-dead.)
Lefty Democrats, you not only stink, your day is just about over. You are the thecodonts, we are the dinosaurs!
July 13, 2011
Timor Palin Conturbat Me...
In June we attended the Printer's Row Literature Festival in Chicago. City blocks were closed off for tents and booths full of all types of literature. We presented a board with a selection of well known book covers and asked visitors of the event if they could choose to ban any of the books on the board, which if any, they would in fact ban. They were allowed to choose any three of the eleven choices.
The authors of the books we offered to ban were Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, Ann Coulter, Andrew Breitbart, Ayn Rand, Michael Savage, Bill Clinton, Michael Moore, Karl Marx, Adolf Hitler and Barack Obama. While there were in fact less than two handfuls of individuals who did tell us they don't think any books should be banned, unfortunately there were a shocking amount of guests at this book fair who were quite open to the idea, and in fact lined up quite excited for the opportunity to voice their opinion.
Participants overwhelming chose Sarah Palin who received 53 votes putting her at 36% overall, Glenn Beck at 23% and Ann Coulter at 22%....
Truly fascinating, considering that Governor Palin is nowhere near being the kind of vociferous in-your-face conservative that Beck and Coulter are. My guess is that people realize that the Becks and Coulters are basically playing assigned roles within the current game. A game where liberals set the ground rules, and conservatives react within that framework. They are a sort of "loyal opposition." Or maybe court jesters.
Palin symbolizes the possibility that the old game is over, and a new one is starting.
(The title is fooling with "Timor mortis conturbat me.")
July 10, 2011
Catholic Word Note...
From Fr. Z's Blog, Card. Levada opines about the upcoming Assisi meeting. (Cardinal Levada is attempting to defuse some of the worries that the upcoming "inter-faith gathering for peace" will give off the same mushy symbolism as the last two.)
...The meeting, to be held in October, follows upon two similar events hosted by Blessed John Paul II. All three of the meetings have caused a stir among certain ecclesial circles, with some people accusing the Popes of syncretism, or giving the impression that all religions are equal....
The word Syncretism actually means the blending of religions. That was the way things were in the Classical World, where you could offer incense at various temples, and join a mystery cult, and maybe attend a Jewish synagogue now and then. The same blending is also seen in today's "New Age" concoctions, in which Jesus is but one of many religious sages. Syncretism was not what the Assisi meetings were criticized for. What is the word for the idea that all or various religions are equal?
Cardinal Newman wrote:
Liberalism in religion is the doctrine that there is no positive truth in religion, but that one creed is as good as another, and this is the teaching which is gaining substance and force daily. It is inconsistent with any recognition of any religion, as true. It teaches that all are to be tolerated, for all are matters of opinion. Revealed religion is not a truth, but a sentiment and a taste; not an objective fact, not miraculous; and it is the right of each individual to make it say just what strikes his fancy. Devotion is not necessarily founded on faith. Men may go to Protestant Churches and to Catholic, may get good from both and belong to neither. They may fraternise together in spiritual thoughts and feelings, without having any views at all of doctrine in common, or seeing the need of them. Since, then, religion is so personal a peculiarity and so private a possession, we must of necessity ignore it in the intercourse of man with man. If a man puts on a new religion every morning, what is that to you?...
The word Cardinal Levada should probably have used was "liberalism," but I'm sure he would have found that word to be more of a hot potato than the issue he is dealing with.
July 9, 2011
Just go borrow another cup of sugar...
"New leaders." Hmmm. Uh, didja have anyone specific in mind, gov'ner?
...The same "experts" who got us into this mess are now telling us that the only way out of our debt crisis is to "increase revenue," but not by creating more jobs and therefore a larger tax base; no, they want to "increase revenue" by raising taxes on job creators who are taxed enough already! As Margaret Thatcher said, "The trouble with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people's money." That's where we are now. Hard working taxpayers have been big government's Sugar Daddy for far too long, and now we're out of sugar. We don't want big government, we can't afford it, and we are unwilling to pay for it.
This debt ceiling debate is the perfect time to do what must be done. We must cut. Yes, I'm for a balanced budget amendment and for enforceable spending caps. But first and foremost we must cut spending, not "strike a deal" that allows politicians to raise more debt! See, Washington is addicted to OPM – Other People's Money. And like any junkie, they will lie, steal, and cheat to fund their addiction. We must cut them off and cut government down to size.
To paraphrase Hemingway, people go broke slowly and then all at once. We've been slowly going broke for years, but now it's happening all at once as the world's capital markets are demanding action from us, yet Obama assumes we'll just go borrow another cup of sugar from some increasingly impatient neighbor. We cannot knock on anyone's door anymore. And we don't have any time to wait for Washington to start behaving responsibly. We'll be Greece before these D.C. politicians' false promises are over. We must force government to live within its means, just as every business and household does.
We can't close our $1.5 trillion deficit overnight, but we must get as close as we can as soon as we can. Little nibbles here and there over 10 years (spun to sound like they're huge budget cuts) aren't anywhere near enough. I know from experience that cutting government spending isn't easy....
"We must cut." Yeah, well everybody says that, but she'd do it! Just whip out the old scalping knife and go to it.
(Thanks to Kami for the picture)
July 7, 2011
I hate Facebook, and don't even look at my account anymore. But Google+ sounds intriguing.
...In Facebook, you cannot friend someone unless they friend you back. And once that person does friend you, for the most part they see all of your updates and you see all of their updates. The result is a privacy nightmare and a news feed filled with everybody's junk. Most of us have not fully appreciated these glaring problems at Facebook because until Google+ came around there was no other game in town to show us how bad they were. Now we know better.
Instead of treating all of your friends as equals, Google lets you put them into different groups, called circles, such as "friends", "acquaintances", "family", "sports fans", and so on. These circles represent a powerful innovation. They allow us to send more personal updates just to our closest friends instead of forcing us to share with all of our hundreds of acquaintances. This simple task is not easy to do within Facebook. Furthermore, Google+ allows us to chop up our incoming news stream based on what circle they are coming from, so that we can focus on just the updates from our family or just the updates from our coworkers...
My real problem is that I'm such an oddball, the stuff I really want to publish doesn't grab anybody. The nice thing about a blog is that I know I'm not imposing. No one has to read, not even friends and family. So I probably won't get into this new thing.
It's like, you know, people post on Facebook about their trip to the pizza parlor... and then about what they are going to order... and then about how it tastes. And I'm thinking, "What is the underlying philosophy here? What does pizza symbolize? How should we think through the process of choosing toppings?" Somehow, mysteriously, those musings don't seem to be a "fit" on Facebook.
I'd guess they won't fit on Google+ either.
July 5, 2011
President Lyndon Johnson and the "best and the brightest" who staffed his administration led this country into three quagmires. By far the most famous, but perhaps not the most expensive and dangerous resulted from LBJ's escalation of the Vietnam War. More than 50,000 Americans and many more Vietnamese died as a result of that policy; our country was bitterly divided in ways that still weaken us today, and the economic cost of the war was immense. It contributed to the wave of inflation that shook the country in the 1970s and in addition to the interest on the debt from this ill-starred venture we are still paying (as we certainly should) pensions and medical costs for the vets and their spouses.
The Second Great Johnson Quagmire now destroying the nation is the Medicare/Medicaid complex. These entitlement programs are the biggest single financial problem we face. They dwarf all the Bush-Obama wars; they make TARP look like small change. They not only cost money we don't have — and are scheduled to cost inexorably more until they literally ruin the nation — they have distorted our entire health system into the world's most bloated and expensive monstrosity. Thanks to these programs, we have a health system that marries the greed of the private sector to the ineptitude of government, and unless we can somehow tame these beasts America and everything it stands for could be lost. (Note, please, that by comparison Social Security can be relatively easily reformed to be solvent for the next 75 years. The New Deal, whatever its shortcomings, was almost infinitely more realistic and sustainable than the Great Society.)
But that is a subject for another day. The third Johnson Quagmire is the War on Poverty, and specifically the attempt to treat inner city poverty primarily as a racial problem. After the Medicare/Medicaid catastrophe the single greatest policy failure of modern America is urban policy. ...
In the Seventy-Year Cycle theory of American politics something like this was to be expected. The first generation of the cycle was raised in the previous cycle, and is grounded and limited by it. (In this case the New Dealers.) The second generation was raised amidst the successes of the first generation, and imagine that the sky's the limit. Johnson and his cohorts were youths during the Roosevelt era, and became drunk on the possibilities they saw...