September 29, 2013

Ha ha. Pelt them with rotten vegetables...

Most fun of the whole day, Study: Everyone hates environmentalists and feminists -

...Why don't people behave in more environmentally friendly ways? New research presents one uncomfortable answer: They don't want to be associated with environmentalists.

That's the conclusion of troubling [charming] new research from Canada, which similarly finds support for feminist goals is hampered by a dislike of feminists.

Participants held strongly negative stereotypes about such activists, and those feelings reduced their willingness "to adopt the behaviors that these activities promoted," reports a research team led by University of Toronto psychologist Nadia Bashir. This surprisingly cruel [accurate] caricaturing, the researchers conclude, plays "a key role in creating resistance to social change." [Social destruction]

Writing in the European Journal of Social Psychology, Bashir and her colleagues describe a series of studies documenting this dynamic. They began with three pilot studies, which found people hold stereotyped [accurate] views of environmentalists and feminists.

In one, the participants--228 Americans recruited via Amazon's Mechanical Turk--described both varieties of activists in "overwhelmingly negative" terms. The most frequently mentioned traits describing "typical feminists" included "man-hating" and "unhygienic;" for "typical environmentalists," they included "tree-hugger" and "hippie." [Couldn't happen to a nicer bunch of commies.]...
Posted by John Weidner at 8:24 PM

September 28, 2013

You don't have to read the complicated stuff...

This line pretty much sums up the latest report...

From Anthony Watts' roundup, Reactions to IPCC AR5 Summary for Policy Makers :

When it was warming, the reason was CO2 and climate was simple; now that it's not warming, the reason isn't known and climate is complex.

All is proceeding as Professor Akasofu has predicted. (The red dot is where we are now.) I expect the world to get worse before it gets better. BUT, my unhappiness will be leavened with shadenfreude, as the climate scamsters wriggle and squirm trying to avoid reality...

Akasofu's climate graph

Posted by John Weidner at 7:03 AM

September 23, 2013

This guy is worth 10,000 gun-grabbing lefty nihilists...

A true hero in a West turned sick and feeble!

England is dead, and my heart breaks every time I think of it. A friend there once told me she and her husband would visit Belgium to practice their sport, target-shooting at a shooting range! Guns are diagnostic, because the real sickness of our time is people who have been hollowed out. Empty souls, believing nothing. And they hate belief above all things, like orcs hate light. Guns are a symbol of belief; they stand for believing in something enough to fight for it.

I have shelves of English murder mysteries, but I can hardly bring myself to read them anymore.

Kenyan Mall Massacre: Off duty SAS soldier with handgun saved 100 lives:

An off-duty member of the SAS emerged as a hero of the Nairobi siege yesterday, after he was credited with saving up to 100 lives.

The soldier was having coffee at the Westgate mall when it was attacked by Islamists on Saturday. With a gun tucked into his waistband, he was pictured helping two women from the complex. He is said to have returned to the building on a dozen occasions, despite intense gunfire.

A friend in Nairobi said: ‘What he did was so heroic. He was having coffee with friends when it happened. ‘He went back in 12 times and saved 100 people. Imagine going back in when you knew what was going on inside.’ 

Sources said the soldier was with the Special Air Service, or SAS. He cannot be named for security reasons. The British Special Forces regularly train and operate out of Kenya, and have been involved in tracking UK citizens involved with hardline Islamists in Somalia and Yemen.

Former members work with both the UK and Kenyan governments and security firms across East Africa...


Saddest poem I know...

I am the land of their fathers.
In me the virtue stays.
I will bring back my children,
After certain days.

Under their feet in the grasses
My clinging magic runs.
They shall return as strangers.
They shall remain as sons.

Over their heads in the branches
Of their new-bought, ancient trees,
I weave an incantation
And draw them to my knees.

Scent of smoke in the evening,
Smell of rain in the night—
The hours, the days and the seasons,
Order their souls aright,

Till I make plain the meaning
Of all my thousand years—
Till I fill their hearts with knowledge,
While I fill their eyes with tears.
    --Rudyard Kipling
Posted by John Weidner at 8:11 PM | Comments (2)

September 21, 2013

Perfect simplicity...

This excerpt is from Bouyer's biography of Bl. John Henry Newman. It's about his preaching when he was Vicar of St Mary's, Oxford, while he was still an Anglican. He would preach at Evensong, because St Mary's was the University Church as well as a parish, and Sunday morning sermons were reserved for the grandees of the university...

...Sunday by Sunday, having nothing in view but the spiritual welfare of a few shopkeepers, charwomen, and college servants, Newman was accustomed at the close of day to mount the pulpit and to expound in the simplest language some text from the Bible...

...Every Sunday saw newcomers to St Mary's. In the porch with its twisted pillars surmounted by Laud's statue of the Virgin, one noticed few but youthful faces. First came undergraduates from Oriel, soon followed by men from other colleges. The congregation continued to grow, till at last all the most brilliant people in Oxford began to make a point of attending Evensong at St Mary's, rubbing shoulders there with pious shoeblacks, devout housemaids, and a few High Street shopkeepers, who did not think it right to let Sunday go by without a spot of church-going. Nothing in the preacher's tone or bearing, and little in the subjects treated, indicated that he had become aware of the change that had taken place in the character of his audience.

All the same he had noted it, and acted immediately. At first he had been a little mystified, not less by the comparative absence of his parishioners proper, than by the formidable invasion of eager listeners from elsewhere. Quit simply and plainly he made up his mind about the matter. Without deeming it necessary to make any drastic change in the subject matter of his sermons, he took upon himself, as a duty laid upon him by God the responsibility for these alien souls now coming to him in the place of his regular flock, who cared for little outside their business.

In view of the fact that they were mainly young people who kept coming to him in impressively increasing numbers, he did his best to touch on subjects appropriate to his audience, taking great care however never to go so far in this direction as to risk saying anything over the heads of his parishioners proper. Never did his sermons deviate from that perfect simplicity which had been their outstanding characteristic from the beginning. When great controversies came to be debated, people went to St Mary's curious to hear what the Vicar would have to say. As a rule they were disappointed to find that the preacher seemed to be quite uninformed about them. Never was there the most distant allusion to matters of topical concern. Never did Newman champion from the pulpit the cause of any particular party. He preached the Gospel; that and that alone. But the manner of his preaching, the way he brought the listener to the heart of the sacred word, did more to win disciples to the Movement than any amount of discussion and argument could have done.

More clearly than anything else, these sermons brought out what it was that the Tractarians were aiming to do, and that was, not to found a school, but to revive a religion. Whosoever came to hear him, in friendly or in hostile mood, realised, when the time came to depart, that what the preacher had above all things at heart, as not to label people, but to help them recognize God's will, and then, in due course, to fulfil it...
St Mary s Oxford South Laud Porch
Posted by John Weidner at 9:25 PM

September 14, 2013

Back to the old problem...

Politics without Foundations | The View from Alexandria:

...For about a decade I team-taught a course on Contemporary Moral Problems with a prominent philosopher of language. He argued the liberal side of each issue; I argued the conservative side. I had no shortage of philosophical material on which to rely. He and I both assumed, since liberalism is supposedly the position that informed, intelligent people occupy, that there were similar philosophical foundations for liberalism. We were both astounded that there were not. For someone who seeks to be a liberal, but not a totalitarian, there is Rousseau, on one interpretation of his thought. And that’s about it.

Of course, there are people trying to provide such intellectual foundations. But we were startled at how thin their theoretical constructs really are. Any competent philosopher can think of a dozen serious objections to Rawls before breakfast, even on hearing his views for the first time. We base our conception of justice on what people would do if in some hypothetical situation satisfying certain constraints? Really? The actual circumstance, the actual history, what people actually want and need—these don’t matter at all? Why that hypothetical situation, anyway? Why those constraints? Would people really reach agreement? Would they even individually come to any “reflective equilibrium” at all? And why would people choose those principles of justice? Is there actually any research indicating that people would choose those principles? People would divide liberties into basic ones, which matter, and others, which don’t? 

Everything in the end rests on the welfare of the least advantaged in society? Who’s that? Mental patients and prisoners, probably. So, we’re to judge a society solely on how it treats its mental patients and prisoners? And the welfare of everyone else in society ought to be sacrificed to improve their lot even a tiny bit? Why think, moreover, that liberalism maximizes the welfare of the least advantaged? Rawls speaks as if well-being is static, as if we can speak simply of what happens at some equilibrium state without worrying about dynamic aspects of the economy or of a person’s life trajectory. But that leads him to confuse well-being at a moment with well-being over a life. An extensive welfare state might maximize the well-being of the least advantaged at the lowest points of their life trajectories without thereby maximizing their long-term well-being. In fact, preventing people from experiencing real lows might undermine their well-being as measured over a life.

I don’t mean to pick on Rawls especially; the same is true of other liberal theorists. Their theoretical constructs don’t connect with deep-seated features of human nature or of human societies. Their theoretical assumptions seem arbitrary and open to overwhelming objections....

There never will be a guiding political philosopher for liberalism. Liberalism is , deep down, the idea that we humans can navigate ourselves by our own reason, without using any external landmarks or guide-stars. Liberalism can't have a "guiding philosophy," because its core idea is that we don't need one.

Liberals has often tried to follow some particular guiding idea. But this always fails unless the new philosophy is imposed by force. In which case it becomes yet another totalitarianism.

Libertarianism tries to solve the problem by adding in a lot of personal choice. Let people chose everything freely, and make mistakes and learn from them. This works better, at least in the short run. But it doesn't solve the real problem. If people are allowed to stub their toes, they will learn to walk better. But that will not help decide what path is ultimately the best. Maybe the smooth easy path that seems to work well leads ultimately to a morass. "Strive to enter by the narrow gate."

Posted by John Weidner at 8:44 AM | Comments (20)

September 9, 2013

A world like ours is coming to be...

An unfortunate result of our disinterest in history is that we are mostly unaware that Jesus lived in a Palestine drenched in blood from religious terrorism. A place with remarkable similarities to today's Islamic world.

Jewish terrorism was a big problem for the Romans for a couple of centuries. One terror group was the Sicarii (dagger-men), a splinter group of the Zealots. Their tactic was to mingle with a crowd, then suddenly draw daggers and start killing people. Then they would drop their knives and pretend to be innocent citizens outraged by this violence, and escape in the confusion. Think of them when you read about car bombs in Baghdad.

there were dozens of false messiahs, who were usually both religious rebels and bandits. A new one would arise every few years, raising an army to force the coming of the messianic kingdom. And the general Jewish population was on a hair-trigger. Mob violence could explode on the slightest provocation.

Rome pursued the same policies western governments are trying now, with the same disappointing results. Bribes and punishments, reprisals and negotiation, direct rule (Pilate) or supporting local strong-men (Herod). Nothing worked, until mass-slaughter was applied in the two Jewish wars. (The book to read is Empires of Trust, by Maddox.)

The terrorism and wars in the time of Jesus happened for the same reason Islamic terrorism happens today. The Jews were threatened by the possibility that their religion was false. Muslims in the Information Age can not avoid the evidence that their religion is false and their cultures are dysfunctional.

In the case of the Jews of the later Second Temple period, their "story" wasn't coming true. The story was exile-and-return, four centuries as slaves in Egypt, followed by return to the Promised Land, leading to the glorious kingdom of David and Solomon. But the return of the Jews from captivity in Babylon did not lead to the expected glorious Davidic/messianic kingdom. Palestine remained part of Persia, and after a short and not glorious period of independence, was absorbed into the Roman Empire. The feeling was that Jews were still in exile. So extremists started using force to make the new kingdom happen. Others went overboard with Jewish purity laws, for the same reason.

Violence is everywhere in the Gospels, but we mostly don't see it. For instance, when the people try to make Jesus a king by force, (John 6:15) they were in fact initiating a violent revolution against Rome. A WAR, starting immediately.

This is the background for understanding Jesus. We today don't quite understand sayings like "turn the other cheek" because it sounds sappy and weak--letting yourself get beat up. To understand, imagine a peacemaker in Damascus or Islamabad right now preaching such things. Preaching forgiveness of enemies. That would be a radical shocking new thing! A courageous act. And Jesus defying the Pharisees on purity issues might be like opposing Sharia in Pakistan or Afghanistan.

This is the sea of Galilee, from the trip Charlene and I took in 2008. It looks so peaceful! No true, of course. Nor was it when Jesus fed the 5,000, and almost started a war...

View of Sea of Galilee, from our hotel in Tiberias
After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias. And a multitude followed him, because they saw the signs which he did on those who were diseased. Jesus went up on the mountain, and there sat down with his disciples.

Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand. Lifting up his eyes, then, and seeing that a multitude was coming to him, Jesus said to Philip, "How are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?" This he said to test him, for he himself knew what he would do. Philip answered him, "Two hundred denarii would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little." One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, said to him, "There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what are they among so many?"

Jesus said, "Make the people sit down." Now there was much grass in the place; so the men sat down, in number about five thousand. Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, "Gather up the fragments left over, that nothing may be lost." So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten.

When the people saw the sign which he had done, they said, "This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world!"

Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself. When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, got into a boat, and started across the sea to Caper'na-um... (John 6: 1-16)
Posted by John Weidner at 7:56 AM

September 7, 2013

War dogs...

Good sense from Bookworm Room, As a Jew, why am I not more exercised about the use of poison gas in Syria?:

...What’s happening in Syria is a civil war.  In the hierarchy of wars, civil wars are always the most bloody and least humane, in much the same way that, in the area of law, the most vicious cases are divorces.  Your opponent is close enough for you to hate wholeheartedly.

In Syria, we are witnessing a fight between two closely-related, rabid dogs.  These war dogs can be put down entirely or they can be ignored.  They cannot be trifled with in an inconsequential way, or they will turn the full fury of their wrath on the trifler, even as they escalate actions against each other.  If America goes in, she must go in to destroy one side or the other.  Doing less than that is futile and tremendously dangerous, especially because these are Arabs....
Posted by John Weidner at 7:21 AM | Comments (9)