Friday, October 17, 2008

Get Joe

An ordinary guy, a plumber named Joe Wurzelbacher, asks Senator Obama a simple question in a rope line and someone catches it on video. The candidate's answer reveals him to be pretty much of a Marxist socialist, and the revelation threatens to do Obama great political harm. So what does the left do? They do whatever they can to slime the poor guy who was only asking a sensible question. Naturally.

Joe the Plumber has become the center of media attention, and as with Sarah Palin, the subtext is that he must be discredited. A full scale investigation is launched by the left to dig up whatever dirt they can find on the guy who asked the question. Here's some of what they're publicizing now to embarrass him:

  • He doesn't really make $250,000 a year (He never said that he did. He said that he was thinking of buying a business that did $250,000 to $270,000 wiorth of business).
  • His name isn't Joe, it's Sam (His middle name is Joe).
  • He owes back taxes (So does Charlie Rangel).
  • He's a racist (He said that Obama's tap dance around the answer to his question was almost as good as Sammy Davis, Jr).
  • He's divorced (So is half the country).
  • He's not a licensed plumber (So what?).

I don't care if the guy is the incarnation of Lucifer, what does any of this have to do with his question about what Obama's tax policy will be for small businesses? It was Obama's answer that has gotten him into trouble, not the question. Obama's reply was that he thinks everyone is better off if we "spread the wealth around", a classic Marxist sentiment:

The left's attempt to smear an ordinary guy who asked a simple question just makes them seem mean, vindictive and moronic.

Meanwhile, as the media digs furiously to unearth whatever dirt they can find on Joe, they haven't shown any interest at all in probing into the life of, say, Bill Ayers or Jeremiah Wright. Why have there been no interviews with either of these men to help us learn a little more about their relationsghip to Barack Obama? Indeed, we now know more about Joe the Plumber than we know about Barack Obama's college years. I can't help but wonder why that is or what kind of people we have doing journalism in this country that they're more interested in humiliating an ordinary citizen than in learning more about who Obama is.


Kill Him

The story of the guy in Sarah Palin's audience who yelled "kill him" when one of the warm-up speakers mentioned Barack Obama's name has taken on the status of an urban legend. You can't read a liberal columnist or watch a leftist television talk show without hearing the story mentioned with embellishments and much agonizing over what this says about the dark and ugly passions to which the Republican ticket is appealing.

Now it turns out that like most urban legends this one has absolutely no warrant. Here's the story:

The agent in charge of the Secret Service field office in Scranton said allegations that someone yelled "kill him" when presidential hopeful Barack Obama's name was mentioned during Tuesday's Sarah Palin rally are unfounded.

The Scranton Times-Tribune first reported the alleged incident on its Web site Tuesday and then again in its print edition Wednesday. The first story, written by reporter David Singleton, appeared with allegations that while congressional candidate Chris Hackett was addressing the crowd and mentioned Obama's name a man in the audience shouted "kill him."

News organizations including ABC, The Associated Press, The Washington Monthly and MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann reported the claim, with most attributing the allegations to the Times-Tribune story.

Agent Bill Slavoski said he was in the audience, along with an undisclosed number of additional secret service agents and other law enforcement officers and not one heard the comment.

"I was baffled," he said after reading the report in Wednesday's Times-Tribune.

He said the agency conducted an investigation Wednesday, after seeing the story, and could not find one person to corroborate the allegation other than Singleton.

Slavoski said more than 20 non-security agents were interviewed Wednesday, from news media to ordinary citizens in attendance at the rally for the Republican vice presidential candidate held at the Riverfront Sports Complex. He said Singleton was the only one to say he heard someone yell "kill him."

"We have yet to find someone to back up the story," Slavoski said. "We had people all over and we have yet to find anyone who said they heard it."

Hackett said he did not hear the remark.

Slavoski said Singleton was interviewed Wednesday and stood by his story but couldn't give a description of the man because he didn't see him he only heard him.

When contacted Wednesday afternoon, Singleton referred questions to Times-Tribune Metro Editor Jeff Sonderman. Sonderman said, "We stand by the story. The facts reported are true and that's really all there is."

In other words, Sonderman is saying, it's a good story and we're not concerned that there's no evidence to support it. Even if it didn't really happen it could have, so what's the difference?


Without God (II)

This post is the second in the series on whether atheism or theism offers a more cogent explanation for the world and our experience of it. The second fact that's easier to explain on the theistic rather than the atheistic hypothesis is that the parameters, forces and constants which govern the cosmos are exquisitely fine-tuned. Here's one example of the dozens which could serve:

If the initial density of matter in the universe had deviated by as little as one part in 10 to the 60th power (a value referred to by scientists as the "density parameter"), the universe would have either fallen back on itself or expanded too quickly for stars to form. This is an unimaginably fine tolerance.

Imagine a stack of dimes stretching across 10 to the 30th universes like our own. Let the dimes represent calibrations on a gauge displaying every possible value for the density parameter. Imagine, too, that a needle points to the dime representing the critical value. If the initial density of our cosmos deviated from that critical value by a single dime our universe, if it formed at all, would not be suitable for life.

Or imagine a console featuring dials and gauges for each of the dozens, or perhaps hundreds, of constants, parameters, and other cosmic contingencies which define the structure of our world. Imagine that each dial face shows trillions upon trillions of possible values. Each of those dials has to be calibrated to precisely the value to which it is actually set in our world in order for a universe to exist and/or for life to thrive.

Of course, it could be an astonishing coincidence that all the dials are set with such mind-boggling precision. Or it could be that there are a near infinite number of regions in our universe (the multiverse hypothesis) having all possible values and that ours just happens to be one that is perfectly calibrated for life. But not only is this an extraordinarily unparsimonious hypothesis, it also elicits the question of what it is that's generating these universes, why they must be thought to possess all possible values rather than being identically calibrated, and what evidence we have that they even exist.

It's much simpler to apply Ockham's razor and assume that there's just one universe and that its structure manifests a level of engineering of breath-taking precision, a conclusion perfectly compatible with the idea that there's an intelligent agent behind it all. "It's crazy," as Richard Swinburne says, "to postulate a trillion universes to explain the features of one universe, when postulating one entity (God) will do the job."

One further point: Scientists assume as they study the universe that it's rational, that it lends itself to rational inquiry, but if so, then an entirely non-rational explanation for it seems less likely than an explanation which incorporates rational causes.

So, the explanation for what appears to be an amazingly brilliant engineering job is either the existence of trillions upon trillions of discrete regions in a multiverse, for which there's absolutely no evidence, or the existence of a transcendent engineer. It seems to me that the latter explanation is at the very least as plausible as the former. Indeed, it would seem far more plausible to most people were it not that they rule out the engineer hypothesis a priori because it doesn't fit their materialist worldview.