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  • Archive for the 'Morality and Philosphy' Category

    The Coming Murder of the US Constitution

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 18th November 2014 (All posts by )

    The most important issue is missing from debate over the coming Obama administration’s “Executive Amnesty for illegal immigrants.” If such an action is taken without even an attempt at impeachment, we will mark that day as the day the U.S. Constitution was murdered.

    Certainly some Constitutional forms will hold on another decade or two, but the relevance of Congress to federal policy making, Constitutional branch separation of powers generally, and ultimately the rule of law will be gone. Future generations of Americans will mark the Constitution as a dead letter from that day. Our American birth right to the rule of law and ordered liberty under the Constitution will have been traded for a blatant pursuit of power by any means necessary. Ultimately such power only comes from the barrel of a gun, and here only one side has guns.

    That President Obama is dissolving the Constitution for a faster influx of non-white voters so he can dissolve the current declining white majority polity shows a deep love of power, and a deep hatred of any past or current American cultural institutions, that gets in the way of his power.

    This isn’t new. Leftists in America have been heading down this road since before the Cold War between America and the Soviet Union started in the 1940’s.

    What is new, and the real test here, is acquiescence of the opposition party (Republican) elected elites to this turn of events. They have preemptively surrendered the only real counter to this Executive usurpation of the Legislative power, impeachment of the President, for purported fear of a voter backlash and loss of their new majority in Congress.

    The coming failure of the Republican Congress to do their Constitutional duty means the Republican Party is led by the same sort of narrow partisans who lead the Democratic Party, i.e., men more concerned with their fleeting power than their duty, America or freedom. Why should any of the American people obey the law when their elected officials openly defy it and their Constitutional obligations? Their elected representatives in Congress would replace the rule of law with the rule of men for the sake of their own power.

    It may be that impeachment of President Obama for his proposed unconstitutional mass amnesty of illegal immigrants costs the Republican Party its new majority in Congress. Not even trying is simply the short road to hell. “Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing” – John Stuart Mill. Failure by the GOP Congressional majority to even try to impeach President Obama here would be a clear and overwhelmingly powerful message to the Tea Party and others on the Right that only violence, and not the ballot box, is the answer to Executive tyranny.

    For while Democrats and current Republican leaders may not remember, the following words are the cultural DNA of the American people, and it only took 1/3 of them to win the Revolution and drive out a Superpower:


    “…And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”

    Posted in Anti-Americanism, Big Government, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Conservatism, History, Immigration, Miscellaneous, Morality and Philosphy, North America, Politics, Predictions, Uncategorized, USA | 75 Comments »

    “Why Partyism Is Wrong”

    Posted by Jonathan on 28th October 2014 (All posts by )

    This is one of David Brooks’s better columns.

    Politics is obviously a passionate activity, in which moral values clash. Debates over Obamacare, charter schools or whether the United States should intervene in Syria stir serious disagreement. But these studies are measuring something different. People’s essential worth is being measured by a political label: whether they should be hired, married, trusted or discriminated against.
     
    The broad social phenomenon is that as personal life is being de-moralized, political life is being hyper-moralized. People are less judgmental about different lifestyles, but they are more judgmental about policy labels.
     
    The features of the hyper-moralized mind-set are all around. More people are building their communal and social identities around political labels. Your political label becomes the prerequisite for membership in your social set.

    There is much to this, though I would disagree that “people’s essential worth is being measured” by their politics. It would be more accurate to say that among nonreligious people politics is becoming a substitute for religion, an idea not unfamiliar to readers of this blog.

    Where Brooks falls flat is in eliding the easily observable fact that the social politicization he discusses is much more characteristic of the American Left than of the Right. But there’s an election coming and the Democrats are set to lose big, so it’s time to anticipatorily attribute the outcome to societal problems rather than the policies of the losing party. Still, he makes good points and his column is worth reading.

    Posted in Deep Thoughts, Leftism, Morality and Philosphy, Political Philosophy, Politics, Religion, Society | 8 Comments »

    Quote of the Day

    Posted by Jonathan on 5th July 2014 (All posts by )

    From an Instapundit comment thread re genetic testing of newborns to confirm/disconfirm parentage:

    Carl Pham
    Come on. Who do you think calls himself “an expert in ethics?” Would you? Would I? Of course not. Anybody with a trace of common sense and humility understands that no mere son of Adam can possible be considered competent in ethics, let alone an expert. Isn’t the next article up about Native American torture? And then there’s the one on terrorists murdering five-month olds? No sane member of the H. sapiens species would consider it plausible that any one of us could be a mini-Christ, prepared to judge right from wrong, separate the sheep from the goats.
     
    So, ipso facto, who are the “ethicists?” They are those who lack genuine empathy, humility, or any deep awareness of the challege and subtlety of moral judgment. They are the narcissists, the borderline personalities, the grandiose who imagine themselves fit to be the stewards of God. In another age, they would join the Inquisition.

    There is something to this argument.

    Posted in Bioethics, Deep Thoughts, Medicine, Morality and Philosphy | 1 Comment »

    Book Review: That Hideous Strength, by C S Lewis

    Posted by David Foster on 24th June 2014 (All posts by )

    That Hideous Strength by C. S. Lewis

    —-

    This was the first thing Mark had been asked to do which he himself, before he did it, clearly knew to be criminal. But the moment of his consent almost escaped his notice; certainly, there was no struggle, no sense of turning a corner. There may have been a time in the world’s history when such moments fully revealed their gravity, with witches prophesying on a blasted heath or visible Rubicons to be crossed. But, for him, it all slipped past in a chatter of laughter, of that intimate laughter between fellow professionals, which of all earthly powers is strongest to make men do very bad things before they are yet, individually, very bad men.

    Mark Studdock is a young on-the-make sociologist, a professor at Bracton College, in an English town called Edgestow. He is is far more interested in university politics than in his research or teaching. and as a member of the “progressive element” at the college, he strongly supports Bracton selling a tract of property to a government-sponsored entity called NICE. The NICE is the National Institute for Coordinated Experimentation,which Lewis describes as “the first fruits of that constructive fusion between the state and the laboratory on which so many thoughtful people base their hopes of a better world.”  What excites Mark most about the NICE is this:

    The real thing is that this time we’re going to get science applied to social problems and backed by the whole force of the state, just as war has been backed by the whole force of the state in the past.  One hopes, of course, that it’ll find out more than the old freelance science did, but what’s certain is that it can do more.

    Trigger Warning: There is something in this book to offend almost everybody.  It contains things that will offend technologists and believers in human progress…social scientists…feminists…academic administrators…bioscience researchers…and surely many other categories of people.  It will probably also offend some Christians, for the way in which Christian theology is mixed with non-Christian magic. By the standards now becoming current in American universities, this book, and even this book review, should be read by no one at all.  But for those who do not accept those standards…

    The Basic Story. Mark has recently married Jane, a woman with strong literary interests and with vague plans for getting an advanced degree. She has recently started having disturbing, indeed terrifying, dreams, which suggest that she has a clairvoyant ability to see distant events in real time. Afraid that she is losing her mind, Jane seeks advice, and is told that her dreams are actually visions, they are very real, will not stop, and are of utmost importance:

    “Young lady,” said Miss Ironwood, “You do not at all realize the seriousness of this matter. The things you have seen concern something compared with which the happiness, and even the life, of you and me, is of no importance.”

    Miss Ironwood warns Jane that extremely evil people will seek to use her gift, and that she would do well–both for her own interests and those of the entire human race–to join the community of which Miss Ironwood is a part, located at a place called St Anne’s. Jane responds quite negatively to the invitation, afraid that membership in the St Anne’s group will limit her autonomy. She is not interested in the dreams’ meaning; she just wants them to go away.

    Mark, on the other hand, responds enthusiastically when he is invited to take a position at the NICE, temporarily located at an old manor called Belbury.  One of the first people he meets there is the Head of the Institutional Police, a woman named Miss Hardcastle (picture Janet Napolitano), nicknamed the Fairy, who explains to Mark her theory of crime and punishment:

    “Here in the Institute, we’re backing the crusade against Red Tape.”  Mark gathered that, for the Fairy, the police side of the Institute was the really important side…In general, they had already popularized in the press the idea that the Institute should be allowed to experiment pretty largely in the hope of discovering how far humane, remedial treatment could be substituted for the old notion of “retributive” or “vindictive” punishment…The Fairy pointed out that what had hampered every English police force up to date was precisely the idea of deserved punishment. For desert was always finite; you could do so much to the criminal and no more. Remedial treatment, on the other hand, need have no fixed limit; it could go on till it had effected a cure, and those who were carrying it out would decide when that was.  And if cure were humane and desirable, how much more prevention?  Soon anyone who had ever been in the hands of the police at all would come under the control of the NICE; in the end, every citizen.

    Another person Mark meets in his first days at Belbury is the acclaimed chemist William Hingest…who has also come down to investigate the possibility of a job at Belbury, has decided against it, and strongly advises Mark to do likewise:

    “I came down here because I thought it had something to do with science. Now that I find it’s something more like a political conspiracy, I shall go home. I’m too old for that kind of thing, and if I wanted to join a conspiracy, this one wouldn’t be my choice.”

    “You mean, I suppose, that the element of social planning doesn’t appeal to you? I can quite understand that it doesn’t fit in with your work as it does with sciences like Sociology, but–“

    “There are no sciences like Sociology. And if I found chemistry beginning to fit in with a secret police run by a middle-aged virago who doesn’t wear corsets and a scheme for taking away his farm and his shop and his children from every Englishman, I’d let chemistry go to the devil and take up gardening again…I happen to believe that you can’t study men, you can only get to know them, which is quite a different thing. Because you study them, you want to make the lower orders govern the country and listen to classical music, which is balderdash. You also want to take away from them everything that makes life worth living and not only from them but from everyone except a parcel of prigs and professors.”

    Nevertheless, Mark decides to remain at Belbury, and is drawn ever-deeper into its activities–which, as only those in the innermost circles of that organization realize, are not only consistent with the goals of the 20th-century totalitarianisms, but go considerably beyond them.  The NICE seeks to establish a junction between the powers of modern science and those of ancient magic, accessing the latter by awakening the medieval wizard Merlin and using him for their purposes.  At the same time, Jane–despite her reservations–becomes increasingly involved  with the company at St Anne’s and is entranced with its leader, a Mr Fisher-King. (His name comes from the Wounded King in Arthurian legend.)  The St Anne’s group is aware of the truth about NICE and its ultimate goals, and exists for the primary purpose of opposing and, hopefully, destroying that organization.

    I will not here describe the war between the forces of Belbury and those of St Anne’s (in order to avoid spoilers), but will instead comment on the characters of some of the protagonists and some philosophically-significant events in the novel, with appropriate excerpts. Hopefully this will be enough to give a sense of the worldview that Lewis is presenting in this book.

    Mark Studdock. His character is largely defined by his strong desire to be a member of the Inner Circle, whatever that inner circle may be in a particular context.  The passage at the start of this review where Mark agrees to engage in criminal activity on Belbury’s behalf is proceeded by this:

    After a few evenings Mark ventured to walk into the library on his own; a little uncertain of his reception, yet afraid that if he did not soon assert his right to the entree this modesty might damage him. He knew that the error in either direction is equally fatal.

    It was a success. Before he had closed the door behind him all had turned with welcoming faces and Filostrato had said “Ecco ” and the Fairy, “Here’s the very man.” A glow of pleasure passed over Mark’s whole body.

    That “glow of pleasure” at being accepted by the Belbury’s Inner Circle (what Mark then thinks is Belbury’s Inner Circle) is strong enough to overcome any moral qualms on Mark’s part about the actions he is being requested to perform.  Lewis has written a great deal elsewhere about the lust for the Inner Circle, which in his view never leads to satisfaction but only to a longing for membership in another, still-more-inner circle. In That Hideous Strength, there are concentric Inner Circles at Belbury, which Mark does penetrate–and each is more sinister than the last.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Academia, Anglosphere, Arts & Letters, Bioethics, Book Notes, Britain, Christianity, Civil Society, Conservatism, Crime and Punishment, Deep Thoughts, Human Behavior, Leftism, Morality and Philosphy, Philosophy, Political Philosophy | 12 Comments »

    Is the United States becoming a corrupt enterprise ?

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 22nd May 2014 (All posts by )

    The activities of the Obama administration have progressed into Mafia territory the past five years. I never thought things could change this fast but it seems I was wrong. The latest example ?

    Soon after the US Government sold the last of its stake in General Motors, the company began to announce a huge number of recalls. These safety defects were known for years but unreported until the federal government sold its interests, at a huge loss of course.

    Taxpayers, drivers, and investors who assumed the government would never fail to disclose rampant safety problems in a company it owned can rest easy, though. Instead of investigating fatally flawed GM components while the U.S. government was the company’s largest single owner, the NHTSA was busy harassing Toyota — one of GM’s top competitors — for an alleged malfunction that led to “unintended acceleration” in Toyota vehicles. Toyota was fined and eventually bullied into recalling 8 million vehicles over the issue.

    Toyota is probably the safest, highest quality auto maker in the world. I drive one and have bought Toyotas for my daughter.

    And what was the final result of the NHTSA investigation?

    Many drivers may have confused the gas and brake pedals a problem that may account for “the vast majority” of the unintended acceleration incidents the agency investigated, NHTSA deputy administrator Ron Medford said at Tuesday’s NHTSA press briefing.

    “What mostly happened was pedal misapplication where the driver stepped on the gas instead of the brake or in addition to the brake,” Medford said.

    The Toyota cases were always about driver error, not safety of the auto. Only the trial lawyers and a complacent government permitted this raid on a company to proceed.

    Is that the only case ?

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Crony Capitalism, Current Events, Health Care, Morality and Philosphy, Obama, Politics | 87 Comments »

    Meditations on Maoism — Ye Fu’s “Hard Road Home”

    Posted by T. Greer on 30th April 2014 (All posts by )

    This post was originally published at The Scholar’s Stage, 30 April 2013.


    A great divide separates the worldviews of the average Chinese and American. The most profound description of this divide I have ever heard came from the mouth of a friend who has never been to America and who was neither a historian nor accustomed to deep political reflection or debate. She concluded that Americans lived in a different world than the one she and her countrymen knew on the strength of a single observation: “In America all of your most exciting movies are about the future. In China, our blockbusters are all about the past.

    Her mundane observation points neatly to a paradox of modern Chinese culture. The people of China are steeped in history. Places, figures, and sayings from most ancient times fill their cinemas and televisions, inspire their literature and music, and find their way into both their daily conversation and clever turns of phrase. One cannot study the Chinese language or befriend the people who speak it without realizing how proudly the Chinese people trace their identity some three thousand years into the past. It defines who they are and what they want their country to be. When China’s heavy laden allow themselves a hopeful glimpse into the future they see first the glories of the past.

    Thus the dreadful irony: despite the high esteem which they hold for history and the strong affinity they feel with the triumphs and humiliations of their civilization, few Chinese feel any connection to–and in many cases, have no real knowledge of–their country’s more immediate past. As a society they honor the stories and glories of tradition, but have abandoned headlong the social order from which these stories sprang. This was not all intentional. Seven decades of war, famine, and revolution ripped Chinese civilization apart at its seams. The old order of family and clan, official and elite, emperor and loyal subject, is gone. The patterns which held Chinese civilization together for a millennium are acknowledged, but honored mostly as the creation of some mythical past whose connection to the present is more a matter of style than of substance. In between this golden past and frantic present lies a gaping hole. A swirl of confused details, loathsome slogans, and obscured calamities lies in this abyss, little talked about and, in the minds of many, best forgotten. The grim episodes of those days are but a dim image in a mirror, only tethered to the present with fading memories of tumult and terror.

    I did not fully appreciate how deep a gash and great a gulf this separation from the past has torn in the Chinese mental landscape until I read a newly translated set of essays and meditations published under the name Hard Road Home. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, China, History, Morality and Philosphy | 11 Comments »

    Quote of the Day

    Posted by Jonathan on 13th April 2014 (All posts by )

    Christopher Hitchens:

    Beware the irrational, however seductive. Shun the ‘transcendent’ and all who invite you to subordinate or annihilate yourself. Distrust compassion; prefer dignity for yourself and others. Don’t be afraid to be thought arrogant or selfish. Picture all experts as they were mammals. Never be a spectator of unfairness or stupidity. Seek out argument and disputation for their own sake; the grave will supply plenty of time for silence. Suspect your own motives, and all excuses. Do not live for others any more than you would expect others to live for you.

    This wears well.

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Civil Society, Deep Thoughts, Human Behavior, Morality and Philosphy, Quotations, Rhetoric, Tradeoffs | 6 Comments »

    Seth Barrett Tillman, “Purim & My Bangladeshi Friend”

    Posted by Lexington Green on 9th January 2014 (All posts by )

    Our good friend Seth Barrett Tillman has an excellent article, part personal narrative, part meditation on the basis of conflict between Arabs and Jews, based on thoughts on the book of Esther.

    The article, “Purim & My Bangladeshi Friend” may be found by clicking here.

    On the Jewish holiday of Purim the practice is to read the book of Esther. Purim is on March 15-16 in 2014. It is not a widespread practice, but I know Catholics who read the book of Esther on Purim, and I read it last year for the first time. If you have never read it, you should. It is only about 6,000 words, the length of a long article, not a book. You can find it here.

    As Seth notes, while the story is one of survival for the Jews, it also shows the sorrow and disgrace suffered by every defeated people at the hands of their conquerors.

    Every year at Purim, my co-religionists and I read Esther. The story, as customarily explained to children, is that Esther won a contest . . . something akin to the modern beauty pageant. The prize was that she was made queen – the wife of the Persian emperor. As a result, by pleading to her husband on behalf of her brethren, she was well-situated to save the Jewish community from the nefarious Haman, who actively plotted genocide against the Jews. Esther’s courage thwarts Haman and the community is saved, although it remained in exile. The story is presented as one with a happy ending.
     
    But, that is the story as it is told to our children.
     
    By contrast, an adult, who considered Esther, would understand that the story of Purim is also an intensely sad story.

    Highly recommended. RTWT.

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Islam, Israel, Judaism, Middle East, Morality and Philosphy, Personal Narrative, Religion | 2 Comments »

    David Ronfeldt’s In-Depth Review of America 3.0

    Posted by Zenpundit on 23rd September 2013 (All posts by )

    Cross-posted from zenpundit.com

     

     David Ronfeldt, RAND strategist and theorist has done a deep two-part  review of America 3.0 over at his Visions from Two Theories blog. Ronfeldt has been spending the last few years developing his TIMN analytic framework (Tribes, Institutions [hierarchical], Markets and Networks) which you can get a taste from here  and here or a full reading with this RAND paper.

    David regards the familial structure thesis put forward by James Bennett and Michael Lotus in America 3.0 as “captivating”  and “compelling” for  “illuminating the importance of the nuclear family for America’s evolution in ways that, in my view, help validate and reinforce TIMN”. Both reviews are detailed and should be read in their entirety, but I will have some excerpts below:

    America 3.0 illuminates significance of nuclear families — in line with TIMN (Part 1 of 2) 

    ….Bennett and Lotus show at length (Chapter 2, pp. 29-45) that the nuclear family explains a lot about our distinctive culture and society:

    “It has caused Americans to have a uniquely strong concept of each person as an individual self, with an identity that is not bound by family or tribal or social ties. … Our distinctive type [of] American nuclear family has made us what we are.” (p. 29)And “what we are” as a result is individualistic, liberty-loving, nonegalitarian (without being inegalitarian), competitive, enterprising, mobile, and voluntaristic. In addition, Americans tend to have middle-class values, an instrumental view of government, and a preference for suburban lifestyles. 

    As the authors carefully note, these are generally positive traits, but they have both bright and dark sides, noticeable for example in the ways they make America a “high-risk, high-return culture” (p. 38) — much to the bane of some individuals. The traits also interact in interesting ways, such that Americans tend to be loners as individuals and families, but also joiners “who form an incomprehensibly dense network of voluntary associations” — much to the benefit of civil society (p. 39). 

    In sum, the American-style nuclear family is the major cause of “American exceptionalism” — the basis of our freedom and prosperity, our “amazing powers of assimilation” (p. 53), and our unique institutions:
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Academia, America 3.0, Civil Society, History, Human Behavior, Markets and Trading, Morality and Philosphy, Organizational Analysis, Political Philosophy, Politics, Society, USA | 5 Comments »

    History Friday: The 1973 Yom Kippur War…Plus 40 Years

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 13th September 2013 (All posts by )

    There are few places in history where you see a stand unto death by western militaries that rivals that of the Spartans at Thermopylae. It takes a very special kind of “morale” and “moral” character for any military unit to fight effectively until killed. In 1973, on the Golan Heights, the IDF Armored Corps did just that.

    In western military writings you hear a great deal about Avigdor Kahalani’s 77 Regiment of the 7th Armoured Brigade holding off the Syrians with fewer than 25 tanks and almost no ammunition at the end on the Golan Heights. What you don’t hear about is the 188th (Barak) Brigade, which held the southern Golan Heights and was wiped out, but did the following before it died, from this link:

    http://www.historynet.com/yom-kippur-war-sacrificial-stand-in-the-golan-heights.htm

    Dead IDF Centurion Tank on the Golan Heights

    Dead IDF Centurion Tank on the Golan Heights

    The Syrian 1st Armored Division was advancing up the route toward the Golan HQ at Nafakh. Colonel Yitzhak Ben-Shoham, the Barak Brigade’s commander, realized his brigade was for all intents and purposes destroyed. He therefore organized and led a small group of surviving tanks in a holding action that slowed the Syrian advance on his HQ for several hours until he and the rest of the defenders were killed. With the brigade commander dead, no reserves in sight and two Syrian brigades advancing toward the Golan HQ–and with some units having bypassed the base on both flanks–the situation could only be described as grave. Lead elements of the Syrian brigades actually reached Nafakh and broke through the base’s southern perimeter. One Syrian T-55 crashed into General Eitan’s HQ, only to be knocked out by the last operational tank in Gringold’s platoon.
     
    At that point, Eitan evacuated his headquarters to an improvised location farther to the north. Those left to defend the base manned two trackless Centurions from the camp repair depot and fired bazookas in a final stand that knocked out several Syrian tanks until those last Israeli tanks were destroyed.
     
    The 188th Barak Brigade was no more
    .

    That was very much a “Thermopylae” any way you cut it. There is a reason the “Valley of Tears” happened in 1973 as it did.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in History, Holidays, Israel, Middle East, Military Affairs, Morality and Philosphy, War and Peace | 6 Comments »

    “Two American Families” – and their Legacy

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 15th July 2013 (All posts by )

    I recently watched the excellent “Frontline” documentary “Two American Families” which followed two families from 1992 onward in Milwaukee as they struggled to stay middle class. The movie started with the main breadwinners in each family losing solid middle class union jobs and then starting an odyssey of lower wage jobs with no benefits, often during non-standard hours (the night shift).

    While the families struggled, I actually was more interested in their children than the parents who were ostensibly the “stars” of the film. As the parents worked (both parents had to join the work force to make up for the lost wages) the children (three from one family, five from the second family) had to look after themselves since they were often left home alone after school.

    While in New York City on the subway I came across these billboards which warned (potential?) single mothers very directly that if they had a child out of wedlock they faced a high chance of being a single mother and in poverty. The sign I saw had the quote:

    If you finish high school, get a job, and get married before having children, you have a 98 percent chance of not being in poverty

    From the results of the documentary, one of the children finished a four year college, and he appeared to be the most successful of the 8 kids they followed up on. Earlier in the documentary they showed him (his name was Keith) in college, struggling to get by and pay tuition bills on a credit card. Keith was not married and did not have children and in interviews stated pretty flatly that he didn’t want to get married and have a child until he was ready to support them. A second child went into the navy and was there for many years, before leaving and then re-enlisting as a private contractor in Afghanistan since he couldn’t find work in Milwaukee. A third kid (a woman) got an associates degree and (miraculously) did not get pregnant, and she was doing OK as a medical biller at a hospital in Milwaukee.

    The other children didn’t seem to graduate high school or did and then didn’t go to college. Many of them had multiple children themselves (without getting married) from a variety of different partners. One of them was married (the girl who got an associates’ degree) but she was married to a guy who was out of work.

    Each of these children, who were the real legacy of the troubles cited in the documentary, fell right into that concept that if you finish high school, get a job, and get married, you won’t live in poverty. One slight “tweak” to this rule might be to marry a spouse who works themselves or has some capacity to be a positive parent; some of the partners were obviously sulking or already disgruntled at an early age. Nowhere in the documentary did they directly point this out, although it was the central lesson from the film.

    Cross posted at LITGM

    Posted in Economics & Finance, Education, Morality and Philosphy, The Press | 9 Comments »

    Socially transgressive cultural conservatives – our icky future

    Posted by TM Lutas on 3rd July 2013 (All posts by )

    Real social taboos cost you hits in the blogosphere. The persistent reduction in hit count every time I touched the subject of gay marriage finally twigged me to the fact that secular marriage has an entire set of cultural taboos associated with it and if you touch them, people run away. Your hit counts drop. Try analyzing why you have secular marriage at all and people suddenly turn dense, obtuse, and conflate religious with secular marriage at every opportunity. No fear, I won’t go into it in this post. This is more of a meta commentary.

    Gay marriage advocates have skillfully deployed those taboos to achieve what they want, a change in public consensus regarding marriage that is playing out in the slow motion avalanche in favor of gay marriage. They are winning in large part because nobody wants to discuss to consensus what is secular marriage for. It’s too icky.

    Once secular marriage’s split from religious marriage norms becomes large enough, courageous believers are going to dive into the ick and explain it, in great detail. There will be Catholics, Muslims, Jews as well as others explaining what they haven’t had to explain before because of the prior consensus that, if not perfect, was at least close enough to their beliefs to be acceptable. Social conservatives who look like your grandparents will be talking about sex, about dominance, about female and male emotional frailties that generally only come up in rare “moment of clarity” fashion for most people. It will be the biggest orgy of social transgressiveness to happen in decades and the traditional tribes of social transgressiveness are going to be running for the door with their ears plugged up crying out “la-la-la I can’t hear you” in an absolutely clarifying display of hypocrisy.

    I can’t wait.

    Posted in Leftism, Morality and Philosphy, Religion, Society | 13 Comments »

    Deconstructing a Nazi Death Sentence

    Posted by David Foster on 18th April 2013 (All posts by )

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Most readers will have at least heard of the anti-Nazi resistance movement known as The White Rose, which was centered around the University of Munich.

    On February 22, 1943, three leading members of the group–Hans Scholl, his sister Sophie Scholl, and their friend Christoph Probst–were tried by a “People’s Court” and sentenced to death. The sentences were carried out that same day.

    The transcript of the People’s Court’s verdict provides useful insight into the totalitarian mind. It can be found here.

    I have some comments on this document, but before posting them I’ll wait to see what others have to say.

    What, if anything, particularly strikes you about the transcript?

    Posted in Civil Liberties, Germany, History, Morality and Philosphy | 27 Comments »

    Some Observations on Gay Marriage

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 30th March 2013 (All posts by )

    I have been kind of neutral on the whole gay marriage issue. I think it began as an artifact of the AIDS epidemic and an attempt to curb the promiscuity of male gay life. In the early days of the epidemic, I had to inform a very nice nuclear engineer that he was HIV positive. This was well before treatment had developed and it was a death sentence. He told me it was impossible because he had been in a monogamous relationship with his partner for ten years. What could I say ? I once had to inform a nice lady who was a Christian Scientist that she had breast cancer. Her response was that she was losing her breast and her religion at the same time.

    It has been taken over by activists who are determined to validate their life style and to force conventional society to accept it as equivalent to heterosexual family life, which it is not. It is surprising the success they have had with the young who seem to accept the argument that it is a “civil rights” issue, which is, of course, nonsense. Mark Steyn usually has something worthwhile to say on most subjects and this time is no exception.

    Gays will now be as drearily suburban as the rest of us. A couple of years back, I saw a picture in the paper of two chubby old queens tying the knot at City Hall in Vancouver, and the thought occurred that Western liberalism had finally succeeded in boring all the fun out of homosexuality.

    He does have a sense of humor amid reflections on a dying culture.

    In the upper echelons of society, our elites practice what they don’t preach. Scrupulously nonjudgmental about everything except traditional Christian morality, they nevertheless lead lives in which, as Charles Murray documents in his book Coming Apart, marriage is still expected to be a lifelong commitment. It is easy to see moneyed gay newlyweds moving into such enclaves, and making a go of it. As the Most Reverend Justin Welby, the new Archbishop of Canterbury and head of the worldwide Anglican Communion, said just before his enthronement the other day, “You see gay relationships that are just stunning in the quality of the relationship.” “Stunning”: What a fabulous endorsement! But, amongst the type of gay couple that gets to dine with the Archbishop of Canterbury, he’s probably right.

    The problem, as pointed out years ago by Vice President Dan Quayle, is that the elites set the pattern for those whose lives cannot succeed without the structures of traditional society. They set the pattern, unfortunately, by what they say, not what they do.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Academia, Book Notes, Civil Society, Education, Human Behavior, Morality and Philosphy, Politics | 15 Comments »

    It’s Been One Year

    Posted by David Foster on 6th March 2013 (All posts by )

    …since we lost Neptunus Lex

    Here again are some of my favorite Lex posts, most but not all of which I linked last year at this time. All are very much worth reading.

    The captain wakes before dawn…with a feeling that all is not well with the ship

    Reading Solzhenitsyn at the US Naval Academy

    Movie vs reality. Lex, who served as executive officer of the Navy Fighter Weapons School (TOPGUN), answers some question’s from his daughter’s friend about the movie.

    Hornets, Tomcats, Scooters, Girls & Guys, Oh My!

    Lex, in a pensive mood

    Some reflections on a less-than-perfect carrier landing, a verbal interchange that probably shouldn’t have happened, and the nature of leadership

    Have you ever killed anyone? asked the massage therapist, after learning that Lex had been in the Navy.

    You’re having a dinner party and have the magical ability to invite 10 people–5 men and 5 women–from all of history. Who would you pick?

    A troubled pilot and an F-18: Maybe they saved each other.

    Colors and continuity.

    Tennyson’s Ulysses, personalized and hyperlinked. Created by Lex to mark his retirement from the Navy. Perhaps my favorite of all of Lex’s posts, and particularly appropriate today.

    Bill Brandt, a frequent Chicago Boyz commenter, has a tribute to the Captain at The Lexicans.

    Posted in Military Affairs, Morality and Philosphy, Obits, Poetry, USA, War and Peace | 11 Comments »

    The Republicans in opposition

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 19th January 2013 (All posts by )

    Bill Kristol (corrected thanks to Joe) has an excellent column today on where Republicans could go in the next four years. I have little confidence that the House GOP can bend Obama to their will on the deficit or spending. He is riding high with the aid of the mainstream press and TV. The public does not understand the spending issue, or at least not enough of us do. The Republicans represent the “Eat your vegetables or there will be no dessert” philosophy and that is not popular right now. What do we do ? Here is one suggestion.

    He quotes UN Ambassador Pat Moynihan in 1975.

    The United States goes into opposition. This is our circumstance. We are a minority. We are outvoted. This is neither an unprecedented nor an intolerable situation. The question is what do we make of it. So far we have made little—nothing—of what is in fact an opportunity. We go about dazed that the world has changed. We toy with the idea of stopping it and getting off. We rebound with the thought that if only we are more reasonable perhaps “they” will be. .  .  . But “they” do not grow reasonable. Instead, we grow unreasonable. A sterile enterprise which awaits total redefinition.

    I feel much the same way. I would have much preferred the GOP to have voted “present” when the “fiscal cliff” matter was before the House. I would like to see them do the same when the debt ceiling issue is voted on. Let Obama have his way but show that we do not agree.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Business, Conservatism, Economics & Finance, Middle East, Morality and Philosphy, Politics, United Nations | 64 Comments »

    Happy New Year

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 1st January 2013 (All posts by )

    I wish I were more enthusiastic but I still wish everyone a good year. The “fiscal cliff” talks have ended about as I expected. The Republicans have pretty much rolled over. The House has yet to vote and I wonder how that will go. If they all grew a spine (or some other anatomical parts) they would vote “present” and let the Democrats pass the bill by themselves. Drudge has a link to the Breitbart story.

    According to the Congressional Budget Office, the last-minute fiscal cliff deal reached by congressional leaders and President Barack Obama cuts only $15 billion in spending while increasing tax revenues by $620 billion—a 41:1 ratio of tax increases to spending cuts.

    When Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush increased taxes in return for spending cuts—cuts that never ultimately came—they did so at ratios of 1:3 and 1:2.

    “In 1982, President Reagan was promised $3 in spending cuts for every $1 in tax hikes,” Americans for Tax Reform says of those two incidents. “The tax hikes went through, but the spending cuts did not materialize. President Reagan later said that signing onto this deal was the biggest mistake of his presidency.

    “In 1990, President George H.W. Bush agreed to $2 in spending cuts for every $1 in tax hikes. The tax hikes went through, and we are still paying them today. Not a single penny of the promised spending cuts actually happened.”

    This will be another such fake compromise. However, The Gods of the Copybook Headings are coming.

    In the Carboniferous Epoch we were promised abundance for all,
    By robbing selected Peter to pay for collective Paul;
    But, though we had plenty of money, there was nothing our money could buy,
    And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “If you don’t work you die.”

    Then the Gods of the Market tumbled, and their smooth-tongued wizards withdrew,
    And the hearts of the meanest were humbled and began to believe it was true
    That All is not Gold that Glitters, and Two and Two make Four —
    And the Gods of the Copybook Headings limped up to explain it once more.

    It’s too long to post all of it and, for those who are unsure of the source of the title, copybooks were supplied for all school children in England, when it was still England. The copy books had traditional aphorisms on each page that children were expected to learn.

    Another expression that relates to the books was someone “blotted his copybook.” This meant making an error that was difficult to correct.

    The “copybook headings” to which the title refers were proverbs or maxims, extolling virtues such as honesty or fair dealing that were printed at the top of the pages of 19th-century British students’ special notebook pages, called copybooks. The school-children had to write them by hand repeatedly down the page.

    The work has been described as “beautifully captur[ing] the thinking of Schumpeter and Keynes.”[2] David Gilmour says that while topics of the work are the “usual subjects”, the commentary “sound better in verse”[3] while Alice Ramos says that they are “far removed from Horace’s elegant succinctness” but do “make the same point with some force.”[4]

    I don’t think I would agree that Keynes is an example of the copybook headings’ wisdom although his recommendations have been wildly distorted by politicians.

    We are coming to a period when math will be far more determinant than wishful thinking in terms of our lives.

    As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man —
    There are only four things certain since Social Progress began —
    That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
    And the burnt Fool’s bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire —
    And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
    When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins
    As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn
    The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!

    Hopefully, not this year. Happy New Year.

    Posted in Anglosphere, Civil Society, Economics & Finance, Education, Human Behavior, Leftism, Morality and Philosphy, Poetry, Public Finance | 5 Comments »

    Abortion: The Only Freedom the Democrats Will Leave You

    Posted by Shannon Love on 3rd November 2012 (All posts by )

    [Note: This post isn’t really about abortion itself but instead about the exception Democrats make for the issue of abortion in their ideology. It didn’t have to be abortion with all it’s related moral and legal complexity. It could have been some other medical procedure or anything that affects the human body. Don’t get distracted by the broader issues of abortion itself.]

    The 2012 Democratic platform states:

    The Democratic Party strongly and unequivocally supports Roe v. Wade and a woman’s right to make decisions regarding her pregnancy, including a safe and legal abortion, regardless of ability to pay. We oppose any and all efforts to weaken or undermine that right. Abortion is an intensely personal decision between a woman, her family, her doctor, and her clergy; there is no place for politicians or government to get in the way.. [emp added]

    The Democrats claim to support abortion, even to the extremes, because they believe that women own their own bodies and have the right to perfectly control anything that happens to those bodies. They argue that as long as any part of the fetus/infant remains inside the woman’s body, it directly affects her body and she has a right kill the fetus if she so chooses. Any interference in that choice is social and government violation of the principle of self-ownership and control.

    That sounds good … but the Democrats are obviously lying. The Democrats don’t really believe that women own their own bodies nor that women have an innate right to control what happens to those bodies.

    I state that with perfect confidence because once you stop to think about it, it becomes obvious that the Democrats commitment to “Our bodies, our choice,” begins and ends with abortion.

    Far from being the natural outgrowth of a broad philosophical commitment to the idea of self-ownership and control of our own bodies, the Democrats stance on the right to abortion is the sole and glaring exception to an ideology that otherwise treats the bodies of women like the bodies of government owned cattle.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Civil Liberties, Leftism, Morality and Philosphy, Political Philosophy, Religion | 7 Comments »

    Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and the US Trafficking in Persons Laws

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 1st November 2012 (All posts by )

    The Human trafficking scandal involving Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) raises further questions about the Obama Administration’s troubling record of selectively enforcing American law for political gain, and the Main Stream Media’s active cooperation with that agenda.

    The Drudge Report broke a scandal involving Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) going to a tier 3 Human Trafficking nation — the Dominican Republic — to visit prostitutes. According to the State Department here These are the following U.S. Laws on Trafficking in Persons that Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) is in jeopardy from —

    1. The Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000 (P.L. 106-386),
     
    2. The Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2003 (H.R. 2620),
     
    3. The Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2005 (H.R. 972), and
     
    4. The Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 (H.R. 7311), also known as the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act.

    The TVPA laws are set up for easy extra-territorial law enforcement as they are laws where guilt is a matter of fact and not intent.

    Statutory Rape Laws are an example of a law of fact. It does not matter if you didn’t know the person you were sleeping with was under age. If you slept with him or her, you are guilty. Being drunk or any other excuse only applies to the penalty phase, not the guilt or innocence of a felony sex offender conviction.

    Similarly, under the TVPA, if you are an American citizen and sleep with a 15-year old prostitute in a Tier 3 nation like Thailand or the Dominican Republic. You are going to be in jeopardy not just for sleeping with a prostitute, but the American age of consent applied to you over seas. Even if the local age of consent is very much under that of the American state the visiting American is legal resident of. [Sen. Menendez (D-NJ) is subject to age provisions of New Jersey Permanent Statues, Title 2C, Chapter 14, Section 2]
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Americas, Anglosphere, Crime and Punishment, Morality and Philosphy, National Security, Politics | 17 Comments »

    Who Really Cares – The Myth of the Compassionate Secular-Left

    Posted by Shannon Love on 22nd September 2012 (All posts by )

    Mitt Romney gave 29.65% of his income last year to charity and gave an average of 13.5% over the last 20 years.  No surprise. He’s a Mormon. That’s what they do along with wacky things like staying married, paying attention to their children, being involved in their communities and other things that Leftists find strange and disturbing. The people we should really be surprised to find generous are the only notionally religious Leftists like Kerry, Edwards, Biden and Obama.

    Surprise! The ironclad faith of Secular-Leftists in themselves as vastly more compassionate than anyone else, is, according to the best research, nothing but self-righteous, egomaniacal, self-aggrandizement. Leftists make the Pharisees of New Testament parable look pretty good in comparison. At least when the Pharisees bragged about their piety and how much they gave to the Temple, they actually performed the rituals and gave money. Leftists brag about how compassionate they are and then don’t give much from their own time and pocket books.

    This would be a good time to mention again Arthur C. Brooks’ Who Really Cares, which, as near as I can tell, is the only scientific (as much as sociology can be scientific) study of charitable giving in the US. Brooks was very careful in methodology correcting for variables of income, race, etc as well as breaking apart giving to religious versus secular charities.

    I found a summary online [PDF] that covers most of the findings of the book in condensed form..  It makes an eye opening read if you’ve always taken the Left’s self-mythology for granted.

    Some choice bits:

    Conservatives are more likely to give to charity than liberals, but only by a percentage point or two. Liberals, on the other hand, are more likely to volunteer their time than conservatives, but only by a percentage point or two. This might make it seem as if there really isn’t that much difference between the two groups when it comes to giving. However, when factors like average dollar amounts donated are examined, the differences become striking: “In 2000, households headed by a conservative gave, on average, 30 percent more money than a household headed by a liberal.” This, despite the fact that families headed by liberals earned more on average than conservative families. 

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, Leftism, Libertarianism, Morality and Philosphy, Political Philosophy, Religion, Society | 14 Comments »

    Harvey Mansfield on Elections and Democracy

    Posted by Zenpundit on 1st September 2012 (All posts by )

    Cross-posted from zenpundit.com

    Professor Harvey C. Mansfield of Harvard University and a fellow at the Hoover Institution is famous for his scholarship on classical political philosophy (I often recommend his edition on Machiavelli’s Discourses on Livy) as well as his provocative commentary on social and political issues.  While I liked his take on Machiavelli, I warmed to him further when, after his book on manliness came out and some reporter asked Mansfield if it was “manly” to carry a gun? He answered to the effect, “Yes, but not as manly as carrying a sword”.

    Mansfield has a new article out in Defining Ideas  on the nature of elections and democracy worth reading:

    Are You Smarter Than a Freshman? 

    ….Machiavelli believes that human beings are divided into the few who want to rule and the many who do not care to rule themselves but do not want to be ruled by others either. Then those who want to rule must conceal their rule from the many they rule if they wish to succeed. How can they do this? Machiavelli went about conceiving a “new mode of ruling,” a hidden government that puts the people “under a dominion they do not see.” Government is hidden when it appears not to be imposed on you from above but when it comes from you, when it is self-imposed.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Academia, Civil Society, Deep Thoughts, Elections, History, Human Behavior, Morality and Philosphy, Philosophy, Politics | 2 Comments »

    Uncomfortable Territory

    Posted by Ginny on 26th August 2012 (All posts by )

    Weekly Standard. Breitbart.

    This is difficult territory. But someone I deeply respect, whose background is evangelical, said he saw abortion in about any circumstances as deeply wrong; he’s also voting for Obama. The schism between sides may mean he hasn’t been exposed to audios like those linked above. Or he doesn’t want to know. So, this is difficult because that Illinois hearing and its transcripts define an in-your-face position.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Elections, Morality and Philosphy, Obama | 15 Comments »

    I’m More Awesome Than You CAN Imagine

    Posted by Shannon Love on 24th August 2012 (All posts by )

    Sorry I haven’t been blogging any during the last eight months but the truth is that I’ve been wrestling with a big decision that affects everyone and I didn’t quite know how to explain it. Now, I’ve come to a decision and I think it only right that I inform you all of it so that you have some time to prepare yourself.

    Here goes… I’m turning off the Universe.

    Yep, that’s right, the whole shebang, from littlest Higgs Boson to the greatest galaxy clusters. Say goodnight, Gracie.

    I know this will be hard to accept, but, you see, you’re not real. I mean, you are real as far as the experience of yourself and every other human being you know of but you aren’t, you know, real real.

    I’m not explaining this very well.

    You see, I wrote you. That is to say I programmed you.  I programmed you and every other person, place and thing in your universe. You’re just a simulation, a very big video game, based loosely on once-real people, places and things that I created. Not only did I create the simulation but I can start it, stop it, rewind it and alter it at will.

    And all that kinda makes me god. I mean not GOD god but just god of the universe you experience. Let’s just say, “god as far as you are concerned.”

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Christianity, Human Behavior, Morality and Philosphy, Religion, Science | 19 Comments »

    Bourgeois Dignity

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 4th August 2012 (All posts by )

    I was struck yesterday by a post on Ann Althouse’s blog, and by a Virginia Postrel piece that makes the same point, how wrong Obama was to say “You didn’t build that..”

    The incident, so characteristic of this leftist ideologue president, is the stimulus for theorizing about how economies work, and perhaps why this one is so stuck with Obama in the White House.

    There is an excellent analysis by David Warren printed last year in Canada and which I have saved. It is a comparison of Obama with Gorbachev and brings considerable light on the subject of success of nations.

    Yet they do have one major thing in common, and that is the belief that, regardless of what the ruler does, the polity he rules must necessarily continue. This is perhaps the most essential, if seldom acknowledged, insight of the post-modern “liberal” mind: that if you take the pillars away, the roof will continue to hover in the air.

    Gorbachev seemed to assume, right up to the fall of the Berlin Wall and then beyond it, that his Communist Party would recover from any temporary setbacks, and that the long-term effects of his glasnost and perestroika could only be to make it bigger and stronger.

    There is a corollary of this largely unspoken assumption: that no matter what you do to one part of a machine, the rest of the machine will continue to function normally.

    This brief discussion fits well with the book that was recommended by the Postrel piece.


    The Bad History Behind ‘You Didn’t Build That’
    By Virginia Postrel

    The controversy surrounding President Barack Obama’s admonishment that “if you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen” has defied the usual election-year pattern.

    Normally a political faux pas lasts little more than a news cycle. People hear the story, decide what they think, and quickly move on to the next brouhaha, following what the journalist Mickey Kaus calls the Feiler Faster Thesis. A gaffe that might have ruined a candidate 20 years ago is now forgotten within days.

    Three weeks later, Obama’s comment is still a big deal.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Britain, Business, Civil Society, Conservatism, Economics & Finance, Entrepreneurship, France, Human Behavior, Judaism, Leftism, Morality and Philosphy, Philosophy | 9 Comments »

    Grace and the Garage

    Posted by Charles Cameron on 29th April 2012 (All posts by )

    [ introducing the world of problem solvers and creatives to the world of theologians and contemplatives and vice versa — and then, Simone Weil — cross-posted from Zenpundit ]

    .

    I believe this is an important post in its own way, though a short one: because it links two areas that I believe are joined at the hip in “reality” but seldom linked together in thinking about either one.

    I mean, creativity, as in the guys working away in the garage on something that when it emerges will be the new Apple, and grace, the mysterious and mercurial manner in which inspiration touches down on us…

    *

    In the first part of this post, then, I would simply like to suggest that those entrepreneurial folk who follow their dreams — typically into garages or caves — and beg borrow and steal from relatives, friends and passing acquaintances the funds they need to continue their pursuit of some goal or grail under the rubric “do what you love and the money will follow” are, in fact, following a variant of a far earlier rubric, “seek ye first the kingdom of God … and all these things shall be added unto you” – and that creative insight or aha! is in fact a stepped down and secular version of what theology has long termed epiphany – the shining through of the eternal into our mortal lives.

    But this will get preachy if I belabor the point: what I am hoping to do is to open the literatures of the world’s contemplative traditions to the interest of “creatives” and the literatures of creativity, problem solving, and autopioesis to the interest of theologians and contemplatives…

    *

    And Simone Weil.

    Simone Weil, a philosopher I very much admire, wrote a book of superb beauty and wisdom titled Gravity and Grace. I must suppose that her title was somewhere in the back room of my mind, working quietly away behind the scenes, when the title for this post popped up.

    Weil is, shall we say, hard liquor for the mind and spirit — highly distilled, potent, to be sipped, no more than two paragraphs or pages at a time…

    A Jew who loved the Mass yet refused baptism, an ally of communists and a resistance fighter against the Nazis, a factory worker, mystic, philosopher. The poster at the top of this post is for a film of her life: I doubt it will be a comfortable film, but the discomfort will likely be of the inspirational kind.

    Posted in Entrepreneurship, Morality and Philosphy | 14 Comments »