Saturday, October 30, 2010

Slime and Violence

ABC's Jonathan Karl laments the incivility and mendacity of the political ads with which we've been barraged this election cycle and puts the blame squarely where it belongs:
In one typical example, Democratic ads have transformed Kentucky Republican House candidate Andy Barr into "a convicted criminal" -- complete with images yellow police tape and fuzzy video of crime scenes. Not mentioned is his crime: As a college student 19 years ago, he was caught using a fake ID during spring break.
As you watch this year's ads -- and I've been watching all too many lately -- you'll notice a striking difference between Democratic and Republican attack ads: Democrats are attacking over personal issues, Republicans are attacking over policy.
A recent study by the Wesleyan Media Project actually quantifies this. They looked at 900,000 airing of political ads this year and concluded: "Democrats are using personal attacks at much higher rates than Republicans and a much higher rate than Democrats in 2008."
Karl's report gives lots of examples of how the Democrats have resorted repeatedly to personal insult and slander in a desperate attempt to discredit their opponents in the eyes of the voters.

With so many to choose from, of course, Karl couldn't list them all. Daily Beast columnist Howard Kurtz has videos of several more. Neither ABC nor The Daily Beast, it should be noted, can be said to be Republican media organs.

Sliming one's opponent is the sort of thing that sixth graders do in a student council election. It's done because they have no issues to discuss, or, as in the case of the Democrats, they have no desire to discuss the issues nor their record on them.

Somewhat related to the Democrats' use of personal attack is the absolutely appalling performance of MSNBC's Chris Matthews on his Hardball show the other night. Matthews is either one of the most uninformed cable talk show hosts or he's one of the most dishonest, and his guests seem no better informed, or truthful, than he is. Here's the segment from his program a couple of nights ago. The relevant discussion starts at about the 9:30 mark:
Since neither Matthews nor his interlocutors can recall anything on the liberal side remotely similar to a man pressing his boot onto a disruptive protestor's shoulder - since Matthews believes we'd have to go back 60 years to find a commensurate example of such violent behavior on the Left - let us at Viewpoint remind him of just a few episodes that have occurred in the last year or so, each of which is at least as bad, and some much worse, than the incident that has him worrying that the Tea Party is on the brink of Kristallknacht.

First there was the sad case of Kevin Gladney, a black man who was beaten and kicked by SEIU thugs outside a Town Hall meeting held by a Democrat congressman. Gladney was attacked because he was selling Tea Party paraphenalia.

Then there was the incident last summer of North Carolina congressman Bob Ethridge who physically assaulted a student who was questioning him on a Washington D.C. street. The video of this encounter is at the link.

And we can't forget the poor guy who had his finger bitten off at a health care rally about a year ago. The victim was a 65 year old man who was peacefully protesting health care reform when he was attacked by a supporter.

And just the other day another thug grabbed a man around the throat and choked him. The video can be seen here. Finally, if it's uniforms that has Matthews in a swivet as he frets for our future perhaps someone should remind him of these fine citizens who were charged and found guilty of intimidating white voters at a Philadelphia polling place, until the Obama Justice department decided that since they were black the charges would be dropped:
Maybe Matthews and his two guests, both of whom are putative journalists, don't keep up on the news and are merely professionally incompetent. That's always a possibility. On the other hand, maybe they're just dishonest.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Great Books

What makes a great book great? At Biola College they offer an honors program in which students read, by the time they graduate, about one hundred of the books considered to be among the very best ever written, but how do they determine which works should be included? Fred Sanders, at The Scriptorium, lists and discusses eight characteristics or criteria of a great book. I've listed the eight, but to read his discussion of them you'll have to visit his article:
  1. A great book speaks from an important original setting.
  2. A great book is written in a way that is relevant for readers today.
  3. A great book is well-crafted.
  4. A great book is one that provokes excellent discussion.
  5. A great book is inexhaustible, so no reading of it is the final reading, and no discussion ever runs it dry.
  6. A great book is time-tested. People from multiple generations have had their hands on it, and have judged it to be worth passing along.
  7. A great book is weird. It’s got angles, edges, textures, and stuff sticking out that you wouldn’t have predicted.
  8. A great book is smarter than the best teacher, but within reach of the average student.
How many books have you read that meet these criteria? Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series doesn't count.

Bad Faith

Shelby Steele is no bitter, white redneck resentful that we have an African American president. He is himself an African American, a former college English professor, an accomplished author (Affirmative Action Baby and White Guilt), and is currently a senior fellow at Stanford's Hoover Institution.

In a recent Wall Street Journal column Mr Steele plumbs the mind of Mr. Obama, seeking to understand the assumptions that guide his presidency. It's a very good essay of which the following is a part:
How is it that Barack Obama could step into the presidency with an air of inevitability and then, in less than two years, find himself unwelcome at the campaign rallies of many of his fellow Democrats?
The first answer is well-known: His policymaking has been grandiose, thoughtless and bullying. His health-care bill was ambitious to the point of destructiveness and, finally, so chaotic that today no citizen knows where they stand in relation to it. His financial-reform bill seems little more than a short-sighted scapegoating of Wall Street. In foreign policy he has failed to articulate a role for America in the world. We don't know why we do what we do in foreign affairs. George W. Bush at least made a valiant stab at an American rationale—democratization—but with Mr. Obama there is nothing.
Barack Obama .... is a child of the 1960s. His coming of age paralleled exactly the unfolding of a new "counterculture" American identity. And this new American identity—and the post-1960s liberalism it spawned—is grounded in a remarkable irony: bad faith in America as virtue itself, bad faith in the classic American identity of constitutional freedom and capitalism as the way to a better America.
So Mr. Obama is very definitely an American, and he has a broad American constituency. He is simply the first president we have seen grounded in this counterculture American identity. When he bows to foreign leaders, he is not displaying "otherness" but the counterculture Americanism of honorable self-effacement in which America acknowledges its own capacity for evil as prelude to engagement.
Bad faith in America became virtuous in the '60s when America finally acknowledged so many of its flagrant hypocrisies: the segregation of blacks, the suppression of women, the exploitation of other minorities, the "imperialism" of the Vietnam War, the indifference to the environment, the hypocrisy of puritanical sexual mores and so on. The compounding of all these hypocrisies added up to the crowning idea of the '60s: that America was characterologically evil. Thus the only way back to decency and moral authority was through bad faith in America and its institutions, through the presumption that evil was America's natural default position.
Among today's liberal elite, bad faith in America is a sophistication, a kind of hipness. More importantly, it is the perfect formula for political and governmental power. It rationalizes power in the name of intervening against evil — I will use the government to intervene against the evil tendencies of American life (economic inequality, structural racism and sexism, corporate greed, neglect of the environment and so on), so I need your vote.
Read the rest of Steele's essay at the link. It contains several excellent insights into the mind of Mr. Obama and, by extension, that of many another modern liberal progressive.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Liberal Genes

A recent study reveals that some people have a gene that predisposes them to be liberals. I don't know what to make of this. Does that mean that if liberalism is genetically determined liberals can't be held responsible for the damage they do? Does it mean that liberals are a kind of mutant? I don't know. Here's an excerpt from the article:
Is political ideology derived from a person's social environment or is it a result of genetic predisposition? It's an interaction of both, according to a recent study on our political leanings that boosts both sides of the nature versus nurture debate.
Scientists at the University of California San Diego and Harvard University determined that people who carry a variant of the DRD4 gene are more likely to be liberals as adults, depending on the number of friendships they had during high school. They published their study in a recent issue of The Journal of Politics.
The 7R variant of DRD4, a dopamine receptor gene, had previously been associated with novelty seeking. The researchers theorized novelty seeking would be related to openness, a psychological trait that has been associated with political liberalism.
However, social environment was critical. The more friends gene carriers have in high school, the more likely they are to be liberals as adults. The authors write, "Ten friends can move a person with two copies of 7R allele almost halfway from being a conservative to moderate or from being moderate to liberal."
I wonder if Obamacare will cover gene therapy.

Good Without God

Frans de Waal has a piece at The New York Times' Opinionator blog in which he argues that God is not necessary for human morality. Professor de Waal holds that morality is hard-wired into us by evolution and therefore appeals to a Divine sanction for morality are superfluous. There's so much wrong with his reasoning that one scarcely knows where to start, but perhaps this paragraph would be a good place to focus our attention:
Perhaps it is just me, but I am wary of anyone whose belief system is the only thing standing between them and repulsive behavior. Why not assume that our humanity, including the self-control needed for livable societies, is built into us? Does anyone truly believe that our ancestors lacked social norms before they had religion? Did they never assist others in need, or complain about an unfair deal? Humans must have worried about the functioning of their communities well before the current religions arose, which is only a few thousand years ago. Not that religion is irrelevant — I will get to this — but it is an add-on rather than the wellspring of morality.
The question to ask Mr. de Waal is how it helps his case if morality is somehow built into us? If we've evolved to act in certain ways how does that make those ways "morally right"? If what we call morality is indeed part of our genetic inheritance then it has been encoded into our genes either by Divine agency or by impersonal natural forces. If it's the latter, which is Mr. de Waal's position, how could this innate moral sense possibly obligate us to conform to it? How can blind, purposeless, impersonal forces impose upon us a moral duty to do anything?

If, on the other hand, the moral sense is instilled in us by Divine agency then the rest of Mr. de Waal's paragraph is pointless. If God gives us the moral law, writes it on our hearts as Paul puts it in his letter to the Roman church, then of course people could have followed it before they had formal religion, but that doesn't mean that God is any the less necessary for its existence.

Furthermore, that humans worry about their communities and contrive laws to facilitate their survival has nothing to do with whether it would be right or wrong to break those laws or to do anything that would harm the community. In a godless universe there's no reason why I should care about the community, especially if it's in my own interest to act in ways that harm others but benefit me. Why would it be wrong to treat others unkindly if I prosper from it? What imposes the duty upon me not to behave this way?

Mr. de Waal says that whatever it is it's not God, but, in fact, it's either God or it's nothing at all.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Taliban Woes

The problems and difficulties faced by the Taliban in Afghanistan continue to mount. An article at Strategy Page explains why. Here's the lede:
The massive movement of intelligence gathering and analyzing forces from Iraq to Afghanistan in the last two years is paying off by cutting Taliban supplies of weapons, and money. More and more captured (often from dead Taliban) weapons and ammunition is of poor quality. Explosives, even the stuff made from ammonium nitrate fertilizer, is harder to get, and often used in smaller quantities in order to make more roadside bombs.
That, in turn, is just getting more Taliban killed, including many more leaders. That's because the largely illiterate Taliban have fewer skilled people for tasks like planting bombs (and rigging them to go off on cue). Guys who get promoted often find themselves one of the few people who knows how to rig a bomb, so they have to go out on the bomb planting missions.
These are increasingly more dangerous because the Americans have more UAVs, along with camera towers and aerostats (tethered blimps) that can see for long distances, day or night and in any weather. It's not just that the cameras can pick up some guys planting a bomb (and call in an air strike), but can detect suspicious movement of any kind.
There's much more at the link about how difficult things are getting for the Talibs in Afghanistan and why. Check it out.


I don't know what's more outrageous, what this boneheaded Rand Paul supporter did to this woman, or the attempt by MSNBC talking heads to blame Glenn Beck and other talk radio hosts for his actions. In any case, the man has been condignly fired. The woman was a provocateur, to be sure, but that's not an excuse for this sort of treatment. She apparently needed to be restrained, but once she was on the ground, stepping on her was gratuitous and excessive.
The edited video makes it look like the man repeatedly stomped on the woman (he didn't), but just placing his foot on her shoulder was bad enough. Indeed, it's about as bad as Joy Behar on The View calling Sharron Angle a moron, evil, and a bitch (three times) and insisting that she's going to hell:
Anyway, the stomper has since apologized, but his behavior has no place in a civil polity and should not be tolerated in our political debates. The Paul campaign was right to sever their ties to the guy. Now, if only the Democrats would sever their ties to Joy Behar, or, for that matter, the SEIU thugs who beat and kicked Kenneth Gladney at a town hall meeting in August of 2009.

I know, I know, but one can still dream.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Irreducible Complexity

In the debate between intelligent design advocates and their Darwinian opponents, the claim is made by the IDers that there are systems in living things that are irreducible complex, i.e. they could not have evolved step by gradual step because they cannot function until all the parts are in place and operating. The bacterial flagellum is considered the paradigmatic example of IC but there are numerous others.

This site, for example lists a couple dozen systems or structures that are alleged to be irreducibly complex. Whether they are or not may be debated, but I'll leave that debate to others more qualified than I. Here are some examples for which the article offers brief explanations:
  1. Bacterial Flagellum
  2. Eukaryotic Cilium
  3. Aminoacyl-tRNA Synthetases (aaRS)
  4. Blood clotting cascade
  5. Ribosome
  6. Antibodies and the Adaptive Immune System
Students of biology will find the complete list interesting reading.

Psychological Egoism

Here's a question: Does genuine altruism exist in human beings? By this I mean, do human beings, or better, can human beings, act for the benefit of others if there's no benefit in the act for the doer? Do we do what we do for others only because we believe, if even subconsciously, that there's some benefit in the act for us?

Before you answer you should read a brief essay by Georgetown philosophy professor Judith Lichtenberg on just this question.

Lichtenberg notes that psychological egoism (PE), the view that all our actions, including those ostensibly done for others, are really done for self-benefit, is impossible to falsify. This means that one cannot imagine a circumstance which, if it obtained, would prove PE wrong. The inability to think of such a circumstance means that the theory can't be tested and this is, in fact, a detriment. Immunity to testing is a weakness in a theory, not a strength.

Lichtenberg might have also mentioned that PE is ultimately based upon circular reasoning. To see this consider the case of Wesley Autrey which she discusses in the beginning of her piece. Autrey risked his life in 2007 to rescue a man who had fallen onto the subway tracks in New York City as a train bore down upon him.

To the question, what was in it for Autrey the PE might reply that Autrey hoped for a reward, either monetary, psychological or perhaps even eternal, for doing what he did. Suppose, though, that upon being interviewed Autrey denies that any of those considerations ever entered his mind. He didn't have time to think, he attests. He saw the man fall, he saw the train approach, and he reacted.

The PE might then resort to this fallback position: "There must have been some self-benefit in saving the man that Autrey felt." If asked why there must be such a motive, the PE can only answer, "because saving the man is what he did and everything people do they do in their own self-interest."

In other words,

  1. We always act for our own benefit
  2. Cases where people seem to act genuinely for others only seem to be altruistic. There's always a self-beneficial purpose buried somewhere in the person's motivations.
  3. We know there must be a self-beneficial motive driving the person's act because we always act for our own self-benefit.
This is a circular argument and circular arguments are logically invalid. Thus, although PE seems formidable, it's ultimately based on fallacious reasoning.

Anyway, read Lichtenberg's column and see what you think.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Unequal Justice at the DOJ

The Washington Post has conducted an investigation into the Justice Department's handling of the New Black Panther Party case and has concluded what was pretty obvious to anyone who had followed it from the beginning: The DOJ is not interested in pursuing voting rights abuses when the victims are white and the perpetrators are black.

The article presents a good summary of what the case is about, and those not familiar with the details are urged to read it. For those who are acquainted with the case here are some excerpts that give a sense of the culture the Post found at the DOJ:
Civil rights officials from the Bush administration have said that enforcement should be race-neutral. But some officials from the Obama administration, which took office vowing to reinvigorate civil rights enforcement, thought the agency should focus primarily on cases filed on behalf of minorities.
"The Voting Rights Act was passed because people like Bull Connor were hitting people like John Lewis, not the other way around," said one Justice Department official not authorized to speak publicly, referring to the white Alabama police commissioner who cracked down on civil rights protesters such as Lewis, now a Democratic congressman from Georgia.
Before the New Black Panther controversy, another case had inflamed...passions. Ike Brown, an African American political boss in rural Mississippi, was accused by the Justice Department in 2005 of discriminating against the county's white minority. It was the first time the 1965 Voting Rights Act was used against minorities and to protect whites.
Coates and Adams later told the civil rights commission that the decision to bring the Brown case caused bitter divisions in the voting section and opposition from civil rights groups.
Three Justice Department lawyers, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they feared retaliation from their supervisors, described the same tensions, among career lawyers as well as political appointees. Employees who worked on the Brown case were harassed by colleagues, they said, and some department lawyers anonymously went on legal blogs "absolutely tearing apart anybody who was involved in that case," said one lawyer.
"There are career people who feel strongly that it is not the voting section's job to protect white voters," the lawyer said. "The environment is that you better toe the line of traditional civil rights ideas or you better keep quiet about it, because you will not advance, you will not receive awards and you will be ostracized."
In the months after the case ended, tensions persisted. A new supervisor, Julie Fernandes, arrived to oversee the voting section, and Coates testified that she told attorneys at a September 2009 lunch that the Obama administration was interested in filing cases - under a key voting rights section - only on behalf of minorities. "Everyone in the room understood exactly what she meant," Coates said. "No more cases like the Ike Brown or New Black Panther Party cases."
If this is not racism then the word racism has no meaning. It's ironic that President Obama, who campaigned as a man who would heal our racial divisions, has done more, either directly or indirectly, to exacerbate those divisions than has any president in the last fifty years.

The principle here is clear, or should be: If it would be unjust for the federal government to wink at white crimes against blacks then it's equally unjust for federal officials to excuse black crimes against whites. As soon as that principle of equal treatment under the law is no longer honored then this country is going to go up in flames, just as it did in the 1960s. Unfortunately, too many on the Left see the ascendancy of a black man to the presidency as an opportunity for blacks to do to whites what had long been done to them. If the Department of Justice and other federal agencies are actually going to abet this attitude then we stand on the brink of social upheaval.

It's getting monotonous, I know, but it must be said yet again: None of this is surprising. It's precisely the sort of racial bias we can expect as long as we keep putting leftists and liberals into positions of power.

Saturday, October 23, 2010


Tobin Hartshaw at the New York Times Opinionator blog offers a good overview of the controversy swirling around NPR's decision to fire Juan Williams for giving voice to feelings probably shared by the vast majority of air travelers around the world, including many Muslims.

If you haven't been following this story you can catch up there, if you have been following it you've perhaps noticed that it serves to expose a couple of myths about liberals to which some Americans still cling. The first myth is that liberals are tolerant of diversity. NPR fired Williams because, though he is himself unquestionably liberal and NPR is a decidedly liberal broadcast network, Williams has on occasion ventured to express ideologically heterodox ideas which have raised eyebrows among the left-wing thought police. Diversity is only tolerated and celebrated on the Left when it's diversity of appearance. Diversity of thought is definitely prohibited.

The second myth is that liberals are invariably compassionate. There was nothing compassionate about the way NPR CEO Vivian Schiller handled this fiasco, but the worst part of it was her insinuation that Williams said what he did because he was either mentally deranged or simply seeking publicity. She fired him over the phone, without the courtesy of a personal meeting, and then publicly insulted him, all because he said on the Bill O'Reilly show that when he boards a plane and sees Muslims on the plane it makes him nervous. Well, if that's a sign of insanity then an awful lot of Americans need to see a psychiatrist.

Schiller has sought to justify her deplorable treatment of Williams by piously insisting on the need for NPR's journalists to refrain from damaging their credibility by expressing their personal feelings. However, Stephen Hayes is quoted by Hartshaw as observing that other reporters and journalists at NPR are not shy about giving their personal assessments, and they haven't fallen afoul of Ms. Schiller's axe. Here's Hayes:
If that’s true, NPR legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg might want to start looking for a new job. Over the past month, in her regular appearances on “Inside Washington,” she has: criticized a ruling of the Roberts Court as scandalous; claimed that Michelle Obama gives people “warm and fuzzy” feelings; called Bill Clinton “the most gifted politician I’ve ever seen;” and lamented that the Democratic Party is diverse enough to include moderates that want to extend all Bush tax cuts.
Totenberg won't be fired, though, because these personal opinions are all well within the acceptable range of liberal good-think. Expressing anxiety about potential terrorists is not.

The fact of the matter is that the Left simply won't tolerate independent thinking, what the communists used to call "deviationism," and anyone who transgresses the approved dogma in any one point, no matter how minor, is anathema. Lanny Davis, perhaps the most liberal member of the Clinton White House, was condemned by his fellow liberals for supporting the campaign of Senator Joe Lieberman, another liberal who happened to support the Iraq war and who was thus almost literally excommunicated from the Democratic party by the keepers of the true faith. Lieberman is the godfather of Davis' child, but such bonds of affection matter not at all to the Left when ideological purity is at stake.

If you'd like a glimpse of where many on the Left would like to take the country read George Orwell's 1984. Few writers have plumbed the psychology of the Left so incisively as did Orwell. If you don't have time for a book then rent the film The Lives of Others. It's a powerful story of what it's like to live in a country run by people who think like Vivian Schiller.

PA Senate Race

Recent polls report that the race for Arlen Specter's U.S. Senate seat in Pennsylvania is tightening to a dead heat. Not so, says an expert analyst cited by Jim Geraghty at National Review. His conclusion, after a lot of number crunching, is that Republican Pat Toomey is still ahead of Democrat Joe Sestak by between 9 and 12 points.

If you enjoy the statistical arcana of political polls you can read the analysis here.

The interesting thing about this race is that it presents us with perhaps the clearest referendum on the Obama, Reid, Pelosi agenda of all the races in the country. As a congressman, Sestak voted for everything his party proposed over the last two years. Toomey has opposed all of it. Neither man brings any ethical or personal liabilities to the campaign so the vote should reflect Pennsylvania's endorsement or repudiation of the ideology of high debt, high taxes, and economic stagnation (Sestak), or low taxes, low spending, and economic growth (Toomey).

No doubt this race, like so many others this election, will be settled by who turns out to vote two Tuesdays from now. If the Democrat base consisting of minorities and 18-21 year-olds stays home, as they are wont to do in mid-term elections, then the Republican Toomey will win. If they turn out in good numbers, it'll be close. We'll see.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Why Big Government Is a Job Killer

Arthur Brooks at the Washington Examiner has a column on the ten ways big government stifles job creation.

"In general," Brooks says, "the worst thing for job creation is a poor entrepreneurial climate. Such a climate is brought on by the large fiscal debt, unpredictable health care costs, and a generally anti-business and pro-regulation approach by government."

He goes on to list and discuss ten ways government policies create this poor climate. Policies such as are favored by contemporary Democrats in general, and President Obama in particular, almost always do the following:
  • Increase business uncertainty
  • Increase consumer uncertainty
  • Impose high corporate taxes
  • Raise health insurance costs
  • Strengthen unions
  • Make it harder to hire and fire
  • Impose trade restrictions
  • Tighten credit
  • Increase unemployment insurance
  • Encourage frivolous lawsuits
Brooks goes on to give a brief explanation how each of these stifles job creation. It's a good lesson in economics and also affords a good insight into why, under the current administration, it has been very hard to climb out of the current recession. Those readers who expect to be testing the job market soon might pay special heed to Brooks' essay.

Gay Marriage and Polyamory

One of the very first posts we did at Viewpoint, way back in May of 2004, addressed the consequences for traditional marriage of legalizing gay unions. We argued then, and have argued since, that legalizing gay marriage would all but extinguish traditional marriage.

The reason is that traditional marriage has been for millenia, at least in the Judeo-Christian world, considered to be a union of one man and one woman. Once we accept gay marriage we're acknowledging that the gender of the people in a marriage is no longer legally relevant, but as soon as we make the gender of the participants irrelevant we no longer have any logical grounds for insisting that the number of participants in the union should be legally relevant.

Thus, gay marriage will almost certainly lead to the legalization of polyamory (i.e. group marriage) and that would bring about, in my opinion, the end of both the traditional family and traditional marriage (except, perhaps, in some religious enclaves). Marriage would be pretty much whatever anyone wanted it to be, and when marriage is no longer anything special it will not survive the demands it places upon its participants for very long.

The argument has been rebuffed by some readers who dismiss it on the grounds that they can't imagine people wanting to form group marriages. This is a bit naive, in my opinion, since there will always be those who will do whatever they can do, as this report attests:
A group calling itself the Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association (CPAA) has asked Chief Justice Robert Bauman of the British Columbia Supreme Court to declare whether polyamorists might be prosecuted as a result of the hearing, scheduled to begin Nov. 22, on the constitutionality of the ban on polygamy.
The lawyer for the CPAA, John Ince, told Chief Justice Bauman that polygamy is a patriarchal system of male dominance where one man has many wives, whereas polyamorous (group love) relationships are "postmodern" consensual relationships that can involve groups of males and females that can be heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual or transgendered who may or may not live together, and thus should not be considered subject to the same laws as polygamy.
"We're not patriarchal. We're not intergenerationally normalized. We're postmodern,” Ince told the media after meeting with Chief Justice Bauman. "We clearly fall outside the definition of the offense (of polygamy). We oppose laws that oppose loving, consensual relationships,” he said.
Pro-family advocates have long warned that the institution of homosexual “marriage” and civil unions in Canada, as well as in other western countries, would lead to the legalization of polygamy and any other form of relationship which participants want to legitimize.
Winston Blackmore's lawyer Blair Suffredine, a former member of Premier Gordon Campbell's Liberal government, remarked at last year's hearing that "If (homosexuals) can marry, what is the reason that public policy says one person can't marry more than one person?"
Opponents of same-sex “marriage” have warned that once homosexuals are permitted to “marry,” there is nothing stopping polygamous marriages, or any type of relationship, from being legally recognized as marriage as well.
“It’s like this,” explained Stanley Kurtz in a 2006 National Review article. “The way to abolish marriage, without seeming to abolish it, is to redefine the institution out of existence. If everything can be marriage, pretty soon nothing will be marriage. Legalize gay marriage, followed by multi-partner marriage, and pretty soon the whole idea of marriage will be meaningless.”
Just so. Resistance to gay marriage is often portrayed by its advocates as a symptom of homophobia, but this is simplistic. For many, their opposition to the legalization of gay unions is borne of a desire not to oppress gays but to preserve traditional marriage. Traditional marriage is essential to the health of a society - many of the dysfunctions we see among the poor in our inner cities are the consequence of the breakdown of traditional families - and gay marriage will almost certainly undermine it.

The next time someone challenges you to explain how it harms you if two gays or lesbians who love each other are allowed to marry you might explain to them that it's not that it harms you, it's that it harms everyone.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Out of Gas

As this very important election approaches, and as I listen to the political rhetoric on the liberal cable talk shows and watch the Democrats' ads on television a number of questions run through my mind:

I wonder, for example, if there are there any Democrats out there who are actually campaigning on ideas. Are there any Democrat candidates who have not referred to their opponents as "extremists"? Are there any Democrats who are running on the accomplishments of the last two years, or who are willing to have themselves associated with Nancy Pelosi or Barack Obama? Are there any Democrats who are proud to proclaim that they're liberals and are not trying to convince the voters that they're in fact conservatives who really oppose Pelosi and/or Obama? Is there any Democrat willing to campaign on Obamacare, cap and trade, card check, open borders, higher taxes, etc?

I ask the questions sincerely. There may be some, but if so I haven't encountered them, and I'm wondering why not. If it's because there really aren't very many candidates who are willing to campaign on ideas, the record of the Democrat party, or the ideology of liberalism then I have to wonder whether they really believe in what they're doing, what they're saying, and who they are. Are they running because they want to represent the people or because they want to milk the people, or because they want to control the people?

They seem like people who are completely out of intellectual gas and feel the only chance they have is to keep portraying Republicans as kooks and radicals. It's dishonest, but when you have no positive reason to give to voters for supporting you then smears and slander are your only hope.

Letter to Young Students

Stanley Hauerwas, professor of theological ethics at Duke Divinity School, has penned a marvelous letter, packed with good advice, to young students headed off to college. The letter is directed specifically at Christian high schoolers and college undergrads but could be read with profit by any bright young man or woman beginning his or her undergraduate experience. Here's a portion of it:
To be a student is a calling. Your parents are setting up accounts to pay the bills, or you are scraping together your own resources and taking out loans, or a scholarship is making college possible. Whatever the practical source, the end result is the same. You are privileged to enter a time—four years!—during which your main job is to listen to lectures, attend seminars, go to labs, and read books.
It is an extraordinary gift. In a world of deep injustice and violence, a people exists that thinks some can be given time to study. We need you to take seriously the calling that is yours by virtue of going to college. You may well be thinking, “What is he thinking? I’m just beginning my freshman year. I’m not being called to be a student. None of my peers thinks he or she is called to be a student. They’re going to college because it prepares you for life. I’m going to college so I can get a better job and have a better life than I’d have if I didn’t go to college. It’s not a calling.”
But you are a Christian. This means you cannot go to college just to get a better job. These days, people talk about college as an investment because they think of education as a bank account: You deposit the knowledge and expertise you’ve earned, and when it comes time to get a job, you make a withdrawal, putting all that stuff on a résumé and making money off the investment of your four years. Christians need jobs just like anybody else, but the years you spend as an undergraduate are like everything else in your life. They’re not yours to do with as you please. They’re Christ’s.
Christ’s call on you as a student is a calling to meet the needs of the Church, both for its own life and the life of the world. The Resurrection of Jesus, Wilken suggests, is not only the central fact of Christian worship but also the ground of all Christian thinking “about God, about human beings, about the world and history.” Somebody needs to do that thinking—and that means you.
Don’t underestimate how much the Church needs your mind.
Indeed. And if you're not a Christian that last sentence still applies if you substitute the word world, or nation, for Church. If you're in high school or college, or know someone who is, you really should read the whole thing.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Failure of "Multikulti"

We've often argued on Viewpoint that the postmodern infatuation with multiculturalism is a colossal mistake. A nation, to be a nation, needs cohesion, and it cannot achieve cohesion when its citizens are constantly reminding everyone how very different they are from each other.

People are united by the things they share in common - a common language, a common history, a common set of political values, a common set of moral principles - to name the most important. Race and religion are also factors, but the divisions engendered by racial and religious diversity are suppressed when those other commonalities are present, as they have been throughout much of our nation's history.

When people share common values and a common language they can, and do, overlook racial and religious differences, but when none of those commonalities exist society becomes Balkanized into ethnic, racial and religious interests groups all seeking to achieve power over the others. Each group becomes a tinder box of resentments, grievances, and hatreds.

This, apparently, is what we see happening in Europe, and the Europeans are starting to admit publicly what they used to try to sweep under the rug - multiculturalism is a failure. The most recent European leader to make this unpleasant admission is Germany's Angela Merkel:
Germany's attempt to create a multi-cultural society has failed completely, Chancellor Angela Merkel said at the weekend, calling on the country's immigrants to learn German and adopt Christian values. Merkel weighed in for the first time in a blistering debate sparked by a central bank board member saying the country was being made "more stupid" by poorly educated and unproductive Muslim migrants.
"Multikulti", the concept that "we are now living side by side and are happy about it," does not work, Merkel told a meeting of younger members of her conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party at Potsdam near Berlin.
"This approach has failed, totally," she said, adding that immigrants should integrate and adopt Germany's culture and values.
"We feel tied to Christian values. Those who don't accept them don't have a place here," said the chancellor.
"Subsidising immigrants" isn't sufficient, Germany has the right to "make demands" on them, she added, such as mastering the language of Goethe and abandoning practices such as forced marriages.
There's more at the link. The United States is a nation of immigrants, of course, but until relatively recently those immigrants insisted that their children speak the language, embrace the traditions, and value the freedoms enshrined in the Bill of Rights. That has changed, however. The concept of assimilation has fallen out of favor. The Left considers it an expression of cultural chauvinism and takes every opportunity to denigrate those very values and traditions. If this trend continues, and it will as long as the Left maintains its cultural hegemony, it will not be long before the U.S. starts looking like Bosnia.

Open Letter to Hispanics

In a recent column Dennis Prager, perhaps the most consistently insightful columnist in the country today, writes an open letter to Hispanics about immigration. It hits all the right notes and says what I wish I had had the wit to say myself. He begins with this:
I am writing to you as a concerned and sympathetic American who is a Republican. My sentiments do not represent every American -- that would be impossible. But I believe the following represent most Americans.
First, a message to those of you here illegally:
You may be very surprised to hear this, but in your position, millions of Americans, including me, would have done what you did.
If I lived in a poor country with a largely corrupt government, a country in which I had little or no prospect of hope for an improved life for me or my children, and I could not legally get into the world's freest, most affluent country, the country with the most opportunities for people of any and every background, I would do whatever I could do to get into that country illegally.
Mexico and many other Central and South American countries are largely hopeless places for most of their people. America offers hope to everyone willing to work hard. Who could not understand why any individual, let alone a father or mother of a family, would try to get into the United States -- legally preferably, illegally if necessary?
Now that I have made it clear that millions of us understand what motivates you and do not morally condemn you for entering America illegally, I have to ask you to try to understand what motivates us.
Please take the time to read the rest of the piece. It's excellent.

His conclusion is particularly insightful. He turns his attention to Hispanics who are American citizens and says this:
Finally, and most important, by voting for Democratic Party candidates, you are voting for a type of government more like the ones most Latinos fled. Take the Mexican example. The Democratic Party is, in most important ways, an American version of the PRI [Mexico's ruling party]. For 70 years, the PRI governed Mexico and brought its economy to its knees because of vast government spending, the squashing of individual initiative, a bloated bureaucracy, unsustainable debt and the subsequent devaluing of the Mexican peso.
Why, for God's sake, would you want to see that replicated in America? The very reason America has been so prosperous and so free -- the very reasons you or your ancestors, like almost every other American's ancestors, came here -- is that America has had more limited government and therefore more liberty than any other country in the world. The Republican Party represents all that you or your parents came to America for -- and why you left Mexico and other countries: individual opportunity and individual responsibility. It is also the party that represents your social values.
Admittedly, the Democratic Party appeals to your emotions. But a vote for the Democratic Party is a vote to make America like the Mexico of the PRI. And a vote for the Democratic Party is a vote to undo the great American achievement of uniting the children of immigrants from all over the world as Americans.
Although I don't place as much confidence in the GOP as Prager seems to, and often think that those who accuse Republican politicians of being just a paler shade of Democrat are right, Prager's column is nevertheless powerful, must-read stuff.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Gay Parents

A new study is sure to stoke the controversy over the issue of gay marriage:
Walter Schumm knows what he's about to do is unpopular: publish a study arguing that gay parents are more likely to raise gay children than straight parents. But the Kansas State University family studies professor has a detailed analysis that past almost aggressively ideological researchers never had.
When one such researcher, Paul Cameron, published a paper in 2006 arguing that children of gay parents were more likely to be gay themselves, the response from the academic press was virulent, to say nothing of the popular press; the Southern Poverty Law Center, for instance, equated Cameron to a Nazi.
The gay press, as far back as the 1980s, labeled Cameron "the most dangerous anti-gay voice in America." Though Cameron was the first to publish papers on the dangers of secondhand smoke, the scientific community has abandoned him. The American Psychological Association long since dropped him from its membership for an "ethical" violation.
Schumm seems to have done a pretty thorough analysis of the available data and what he's found has implications not only for the question of gay adoption but also for the debate over what role genetics plays in one's sexual orientation.

One thing that isn't clear from this article is whether the children studied were biological children of gays or adoptive children. I assumed the latter but they certainly could be the former, and it makes a difference.

Anyway, Schumm, anticipating a firestorm of outrage over his having conducted a study that does not arrive at the socially approved conclusions, and which indeed treads on the far side of the line separating orthodoxy from heresy, takes comfort in a quote from philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer. "All truth passes through three stages: First it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident."

Exit question: If it turns out that gay parents are more likely to raise gay kids why should a society that holds as dogma the belief that homosexuality is a legitimate alternative lifestyle find that upsetting?

Marriage and Poverty

Statistics cited in a column by Mona Charen suggest that a big part of the solution to the problem of poverty in America is marriage. Not "living together" but marriage. I copy her column at length because the information it contains is so important:
But cohabitation doesn't begin to confer the benefits that marriage does. In "The State of Our Unions," scholars associated with the Institute for American Values outline some of the advantages married couples enjoy over their single counterparts.
"Men who marry," writes Alex Roberts, "typically earn more because marriage itself leads to increases in income; that is, men who marry work harder, work smarter, and earn more than their unmarried peers ... Cohabiting couples ... are less likely to pool resources, feel obligated to spend wisely and save, or invest in the future of the household." Married men earn between 10 and 40 percent more than their single counterparts with similar educational and job histories.
Married couples also create more wealth than single people or cohabiting couples. "A 1992 study of retirement data concluded that 'individuals who are not continuously married have significantly lower wealth than those who remain married throughout their lives.'"
A study of 7,608 household heads between 1984 and 1989 found that those who married saw income increases of 50 to 100 percent, and net wealth increases of 400 to 600 percent. "Continuously married households had about double the income and four times the net worth of the continuously divorced and never-married, on average."
Marriage also bestows more emotional well-being. A study by W. Bradford Wilcox and others, "Marriage and Mental Health in Adults and Children," reports that "Married Americans were more than twice as likely as divorced or separated Americans to say they were very happy with life in general. Cohabiting, never-married, and widowed individuals' happiness resembled that of divorced and separated people more than married people."
Married people were also less likely to suffer from depression and other forms of mental anguish: "Married men and women report fewer symptoms of mental illness and psychological distress than do otherwise similar individuals who are not married. Longitudinal research shows that it is not merely that mentally healthy people are more likely to get or stay married. Instead, marriage itself appears to boost mental health. Remaining unmarried or getting divorced seems to result, on average, in a deterioration in mental well-being."
Children of married couples are far healthier mentally and physically than the children of cohabiting, divorced, or never-married couples. Wilcox et al cite one study suggesting that the tripling of the teen suicide rate over the past half-century is closely associated with divorce, while married men are half as likely as single men to kill themselves.
Marriage knits the couple into a kinship network in which interest-free loans, baby-sitting, elder care, and other forms of assistance in hard times are more readily available. Sadly, among those most in need of these added supports — those with lower levels of education — marriage is in steep decline. More than 50 percent of new mothers without college degrees are unmarried, compared with only 7 percent of mothers with college diplomas. In fact, among the college-educated, marriage has strengthened over the past several decades, leading to a "marriage gap" that goes a long way toward explaining the slowing of growth in family income over the past generation. Married-couple families have become a rapidly diminishing segment of total families over the past 20 years.
The young adults who move in together imagining that a wedding is too expensive are paying a far higher price than they recognize.
Another advantage of marriage Charen doesn't mention but could have is that a married couple and their children are much likely to be better off because of the grandparent effect. Grandparents who stay married tend to accumulate much more wealth than they would have if they had separated. This wealth is often made available to their children and grandchildren for college educations, cars, home mortgages, inheritances, etc. A married couple with four parents to fall back upon is in far better shape than a single mom whose own mother was a single mom.

One reason the poor often can't rise out of poverty is because when single motherhood becomes the norm, as it has among African Americans, for example, every generation has to start over in their struggle to rise into the middle class. Among families who get married and stay married, on the other hand, most of the struggle to get into the middle class is undertaken by the first generation. Subsequent generations are then well-positioned to reap the benefits.

Monday, October 18, 2010

More Intrigue in Iran

On top of a cyber attack on Iran's nuclear weapons development program by the mysterious Stuxnet worm, now comes word of an explosion of unknown provenience at a launch site for missiles targeted on Israel and American forces in Iraq. The report is at debkafile which has not always been accurate in the past, but if it's correct this time it suggests that someone has decided that the best way to stop the Iranians is by covertly taking out their ability to threaten Western troops and assets.

Here's debkafile's lede:
A top-secret Iranian military installation was struck by a triple blast Tues. Oct. 12 the day before Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad arrived in Lebanon. debkafile's military and intelligence sources report the site held most of the Shehab-3 medium-range missile launchers Iran had stocked for striking US forces in Iraq and Israel in the event of war - some set to deliver triple warheads (tri-conic nosecones). The 18 soldiers officially reported killed in the blasts and 14 injured belonged to the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) main missile arm, the Al-Hadid Brigades.
The Imam Ali Base where the explosion occurred is situated .... 400 kilometers from Baghdad and primary American bases in central Iraq and 1,250 kilometers from Tel Aviv and central Israel. Both are well within the Shehab-3 missile's 1,800-2,500-kilometer operational range.
Iran is saying that the blasts were the result of an accidental fire at the base and did not result from a deliberate attack.

Well, maybe.

Moral Clarity and Missing the Point

Perhaps no descent into the valley of death in the last couple of decades has been as remarked upon as has that of Christopher Hitchens, the notoriously brilliant atheist and journalist. Michael Gerson makes his contribution to the ouvre in a column that can be read here.

Hitchens, the author of an attack on Mother Teresa, of all people, and of a book titled God is Not Great, is dying from esophygeal cancer, and one of the remarkable things about his experience, which he seems to be handling with considerable grace and dignity, is the outpouring of love and prayers he has received from members of the very faith tradition he despises.

Gerson's column addresses Hitchens the moralist, and in it he says this:
But Christopher Hitchens is weaker on the personal and ethical challenge presented by atheism: Of course we can be good without God, but why the hell bother? If there are no moral lines except the ones we draw ourselves, why not draw and redraw them in places most favorable to our interests? Hitchens parries these concerns instead of answering them: Since all moral rules have exceptions and complications, he said, all moral choices are relative.
The best answer that Christopher Hitchens can offer to this ethical objection is himself. He is a sort of living refutation -- an atheist who is also a moralist. His politics are defined by a hatred of bullies, whether Kim Jong Il, Saddam Hussein or the mullahs in Iran. His affections are reserved for underdogs, from the Kurds to Salman Rushdie. The dreams of totalitarians are his nightmares -- what W.H. Auden described as: "A million eyes, a million boots in line / Without expression, waiting for a sign." Even Hitchens' opposition to God seems less of a theological argument than a revolt against celestial tyranny.
All this is true about Hitchens, but I think Gerson somewhat misses the real issue. He's saying that Hitchens is moral even without having a belief in God, but what he means is that Hitchens holds the same values that theists would describe as Good. This, however, is to assert what no one denies. No one questions whether atheists can hold the same values as theists. The point is that, if atheism is true, whatever values they hold are totally arbitrary and subjective and neither good nor bad. If someone holds the opposite values as does Hitchens then those, too, on atheism, would be neither good nor bad. They would just be alternative principles one could live by if one wished. Unless there is a transcendent moral authority who is Itself the source of all Good then there simply is no such thing as moral "right" or "goodness."

David Hart has an excellent column on this topic at First Things which I highly recommend to those interested in trying to understand why this is so.

We can be glad that Hitchens, for whatever reason, agrees with us that bullies are bad, but it is simply false to say, as Gerson does, that this is somehow a refutation of the claim that God is necessary for there to be moral good. This is important because it follows that atheists like Hitchens have no grounds for condemning those things he despises. His denunciations of them are no more than expressions of personal bias. To say that someone is evil, if atheism is true, is to say only that we don't like that person's behavior, just like we don't care for the idea of eating dog food. Nothing more.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Another Blow to Mr. Obama's Image

It's being reported that New York Times columnist David Brooks has acknowledged that he was told a year ago by the President, off-record, that he, the President, knew that the idea of shovel-ready projects was a crock. In other words, even though Mr. Obama knew there were no such jobs he still pushed the $800 billion stimulus bill, a bill that has caused our debt to skyrocket, on the grounds that we needed to fund these projects in order to get America back to work.

Some commentators are wondering why Brooks is just revealing this now. If he knew all along that Obama didn't really believe what he was telling the American people why didn't he tell us back when it mattered? Since the President revealed this to him off the record, however, Brooks probably felt that he had no right to report it. In any event, Brooks isn't the issue here. What's at issue is President Obama's integrity, and that seems to be hovering around "minimal" on the honesty meter.

A Parable of a Distant Sun

David Hart's fine essay on atheism and morality at First Things moves me to relate a parable:
Once a race of men, men like us, dwelt on a beautiful planet which orbited a distant star. The star bathed the planet in heat and light sustaining lush forests, beautiful lakes and oceans, and crystal blue skies. Agriculture flourished and food was abundant.
One day, though, the planet's intellectuals gathered together to complain amongst themselves about their sun. It was too hot and oppressive, they bemoaned. There were sometimes droughts in which people died of thirst and the crops withered. People exposed to the sun suffered from cancers of the skin and other maladies that were cited as evidence of the sun's capricious cruelty.
Resentments grew. Then, at a time oddly enough called the age of enlightenment, the intellectuals sought ways to kill the sun. They didn't need it, they cried. It was a burden on their existence. They wanted to liberate themselves from the tyranny it imposed. There was enough energy stored in the wood, coal and oil to drive their civilization for thousands of years.
In their feeble attempts to slay the sun they threw stones at it. They shot arrows at it. Meanwhile, the common folk just shook their heads at this foolishness and conformed their lives to the sun's nature and courses, but the intellectuals were resolved to succeed in their quest to snuff the sun out.
Then, one day, the sun began to gutter. It's light suddenly dimmed to a reddish glow, and the planet was shrouded in darkness. "We have killed it," the intellectuals exulted. "It is a marvelous thing we have done. Now we are free to show what human ingenuity and reason can accomplish as we use our wits to build a glorious civilization without having to sweat under the scorching fires of a sun.
At first everyone put their shoulders to the work of collecting firewood and coal, but soon it became clear that something was terribly wrong. The planet was growing colder, the oceans were freezing, the vegetation was dying. The beauty of the planet was disappearing and the globe was turning into a rocky, barren, frozen wasteland.
Civilization was driven underground. Food became scarce. There was not enough light to grow crops in the subterranean greenhouses. Children shivered in the cold. The intellectuals insisted that everyone was better off that men could create their own light if only they tried harder. They demanded that the people redouble their efforts to mine the stored energy, but it was plain that it was running out. The sun had all but abandoned them and with every day it became clearer that the people could not long survive on what energy was left.
Then the people began to cry out, "Who told us we could kill the sun and be liberated from it's oppressive heat?" "Who told us we no longer needed the sun to live as men?" The intellectuals, so haughty and arrogant before, now hid in their underground caves in fear of the people's wrath. Their own fires were flickering and sputtering and would soon burn out. The once gorgeous planet and the glorious civilization it sustained would soon be a dead, lifeless, frozen husk.
The moral of the parable: Modern man is like the men living on a planet whose sun has gone out. He has "slain" the source of the energy which gave rise to his rich civilization. He has slain the source of his moral light and vitality, and he's trying to survive on the leftover capital bestowed by that once mighty star. Someday, though, all of that will be used up as well. Then his civilization will die of spiritual inanition.

Re: The Chilean Miners

In a recent post we lamented the fact that the real heroes in the rescue of the Chilean miners were being largely ignored while the miners themselves were being celebrated and smothered with gifts, endorsements and other emoluments.

Micah writes to let us know of a couple of stories that do, in fact, give some credit where credit is due.

They can be found here and here. They're pretty interesting, and I hope you'll take the time to check them out.

It seems to me that in this incident we've gotten things exactly backward. If we want our talented young people to aspire to careers like engineering in which they use their minds to make life better for all of us then we should be directing our gifts and praise toward the wonderful thing those professionals have accomplished in this rescue. If we're going to be showering rewards on people let it be primarily upon those responsible for the rescue and only secondarily on the men whose main achievement, though certainly not insignificant, was to endure patiently until they were rescued.

Friday, October 15, 2010

God and Evolution

The other day we mentioned a book by philosopher Jay Richards titled God and Evolution which seeks to explain the differences between intelligent design, theistic evolution, creationism, and Darwinism. It also promises to illustrate why traditional theism is incompatible with Darwinian evolution.

Richards and several other contributors to the volume discuss it in this promo:
Thanks to Evolution News and Views for the video.

Is That the Best You've Got?

Presidential advisor David Axelrod demonstrates that he could hold his own in a debate with any sixth grader if ever he had to. The White House, as you've probably heard by now, has been smearing the Chamber of Commerce, a coalition of mostly small businesses, for allegedly using foreign money to fund campaign ads.

Bob Schieffer, himself an Obama sympathizer and host of Face the Nation, last Sunday asked Axelrod if he had any evidence to support these charges. Axelrod's answer, a real stunner, was essentially, "Do you have any evidence that the CC is not using foreign money, Bob?"

Not only is Axelrod's reply monumentally dumb, it's also malicious.

Suppose you hear someone allege that a friend of yours is cheating on his spouse. The appropriate reaction would be to demand that the accuser produce the evidence his allegations are true. If the accuser replied to your demand by asking whether you have any evidence that the husband is not unfaithful I'm pretty sure you would dismiss the accuser, scornfully and rightfully, as a boneheaded slanderer.
Axelrod asks why the CC won't release the names of their donors, but there are two good reasons for not doing so. First, they're under no legal obligation to disclose their contributors' names, but second and more importantly, once those donors are identified they would be subject to the sort of harrassment and intimidation the thugs at SEIU and ACORN are so good at, and Axelrod knows it. It would be completely irresponsible of the CC to release their donor list.

What Axelrod and others in the administration (VP Biden, has also made this allegation about the CC) are doing is the sort of tactic that the Obama circle learned from their radical guru Saul Alinsky. Do whatever you can to smear and discredit your opponent. The end of winning justifies whatever means are necessary to achieve it. It's pretty tawdry stuff.

By the way, Schieffer's question at the 3:25 mark of the video is lapidary. Look for it to show up on signs and ads everywhere.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Chilean Miners

I am certainly delighted that the Chilean miners are safely home, but I have to say that I'm a little disgusted with the media coverage of the ordeal. The media, or at least that part of it that I've seen, is treating the rescued men like heroes and transforming them into celebrities when in fact they're not the real heroes in this narrative at all. Sure, they endured their difficulties while trapped in the mine with a grace and stoicism that is admirable, but the people who should be celebrated, the real heroes, are the people whose ingenuity and determination got them out.

Of these people we've heard next to nothing. The miners have been swamped with job offers, book deals, movie contracts, and gifts of all kinds. Have the engineers who masterminded this rescue been offered such rewards? These men of genius (forgive me if that sounds a bit too Randian) planned and executed an astonishing rescue, and then in anonymity they probably drove home to their families, turned on the television and watched the Chilean equivalent of the baseball playoffs. No one knows their names and the media doesn't seem to care who they are. Instead, the men who simply survived are feted as though they're the ones who did something extraordinary, when in fact they'd all be dead today if it weren't for the brilliance of the engineers and others whom the media seems to have ignored.

It's another example of how much of the media trivializes, diminishes, or otherwise gets wrong just about every story it covers. They simply seem to lack the ability to discern importance.

What Then?

Now he tells us. After repeatedly trying to justify spending almost a trillion dollars of "stimulus," much of which, we were told, was allocated to "shovel-ready jobs," the President now acknowledges that he didn't realize there are no such jobs:
Mr. Obama reflects on his presidency, admitting that he let himself look too much like “the same old tax-and-spend Democrat,” realized too late that “there’s no such thing as shovel-ready projects” and perhaps should have “let the Republicans insist on the tax cuts” in the stimulus.
Great. What else is the President going to learn after the damage has been done? That global warming is largely a fraud? That raising taxes and increasing regulations on business is no way to stimulate an economy? That bowing to people is no way to win their respect? That taking money from those who earn it and giving it to those who don't doesn't make anyone less poor?

Perhaps he'll also learn that the reason he appears to be "the same old tax-and-spend Democrat" is because he is the same old tax-and-spend Democrat. How else could he have expected to appear?

There really is a problem in this White House. Either the President was deliberately lying when he promised that "shovel-ready jobs" would be created by the $800 billion stimulus or he really didn't know that there's no such thing. If it's the former then he's malicious. If it's the latter he's incompetent. In either case he's unsuited for the office he holds.

There's a scene in the movie A Serious Man in which an adolescent Jewish boy visits an elderly rabbi for counsel. The rabbi poses a question to the boy by slowly and incongruously reciting a line from an old Jefferson Airplane song:
"When the found ... to be lies ... and all the hope ... within you dies ... What then?"
It was an amusing scene in the movie, but I think a lot of Obama supporters are feeling the despair in this very question today, and they're not finding it so amusing. An electoral tsunami appears to be building on the horizon and is threatening to wash Mr. Obama's party into political oblivion. They're going to pay an awful price for his on-the-job training.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Guilty Parties

David Brooks, writing for the New York Times, puts his finger on the reason why so many states have such a bleak economic future - their public employees unions and the Democratic Party that has been bought and paid for by those unions. Here's the heart of Brooks' column:
New Jersey can’t afford to build its tunnel, but benefits packages for the state’s employees are 41 percent more expensive than those offered by the average Fortune 500 company. These benefits costs are rising by 16 percent a year.
New York City has to strain to finance its schools but must support 10,000 former cops who have retired before age 50.
California can’t afford new water projects, but state cops often receive 90 percent of their salaries when they retire at 50. The average corrections officer there makes $70,000 a year in base salary and $100,000 with overtime (California spends more on its prison system than on its schools).
States across the nation will be paralyzed for the rest of our lives because they face unfunded pension obligations that, if counted accurately, amount to $2 trillion — or $87,000 per plan participant.
All in all, governments can’t promote future prosperity because they are strangling on their own self-indulgence.
Brooks concludes with this indictment:
This situation, if you’ll forgive me for saying so, has been the Democratic Party’s epic failure. The party believes in the positive uses of government. But if you want the country to share that belief, you have to provide a government that is nimble, tough-minded and effective. That means occasionally standing up to the excessive demands of public employee unions. Instead of standing up to those demands, the party has become captured by the unions. Liberal activism has become paralyzed by its own special interests.
Brooks' article is informative but if you're looking for an exhaustive treatment of the problem read the paper by political scientist Daniel DiSalvo to which Brooks links.

Here's a summary: Your chances of enjoying as high a standard of living as your parents did are severely curtailed by the fact that your state pays its retired employees benefits that are about as hefty as those employees paychecks were when they were working. In order to meet these obligations you and your future employer, if you ever have one, will have to be heavily taxed and you will thus have less money to live on than your parents did.

This state of affairs came about because state legislatures are often controlled by liberal Democrats who count public workers as part of their political base and who've been very compliant in acceding to their legislative wishes.

So, there you have yet another good reason to vote for the Democrats' opponents on the first Tuesday in November.

Are God and Darwin Compatible?

Is Darwinism compatible with orthodox belief in God? Philosopher of science Jay Richards has released a new book in which he discusses the reasons why the answer to this question is "no."

I haven't seen the book, but I'm sure that the main reason why the two are incompatible has nothing to do with evolution as such and has everything to do with the metaphysical view called materialism. One can be an orthodox theist and still believe that God employed and directed an evolutionary process in order to produce living things, but Darwinism doesn't allow for such a belief. Darwinism insists that there were no forces but natural forces, no direction, no guidance, no intelligence involved in the evolution of life's diversity.

In other words, the Darwinian view is that there's no need for a superintending mind to front-load the evolutionary development of life or to direct it at any point along the way. God is superfluous. Nature can, and did, do it all, according to the Darwinian.

Thus, a theist can be an evolutionist, but it's hard to see how a theist could be a Darwinian evolutionist.

Richards' book looks like it would be very useful in helping laypeople to understand why this is so.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Good Campaign Ad

Would that we'd see more campaign ads like this one. No sneering, sinister, disembodied voice offering half-truths and innuendo. No slamming one's opponent for things that have no bearing on his/her suitability for office. Just a simple, straightforward challenge to debate the issues.

"Melissa" is Melissa Bean, the Democrat incumbent in the Illinois 8th District.
Actually, Mr. Walsh has probably won the "debate" already since an ad like this is going to be seen by far more people than a debate would. If Ms Bean continues to evade a debate that in itself is going to turn off a lot of voters who are already fed up with politicians who have forgotten to whom they're supposed to be answerable.

Liu Xiaobo

The Nobel Peace Prize committee, after inexplicably squandering its prize on Al Gore and Barack Obama, has this year bestowed its Peace Prize on someone who actually merits it. The recipient is the Chinese freedom advocate and political prisoner Liu Xiabo. City Journal says that:
Liu Xiaobo is only one among many so-called Chinese dissidents, but he happens to be the most articulate and the most unbending. He has been offered many opportunities to leave China and live comfortably on some American campus. Liu, however, knows that the good fight must go on, and he has no desire to lose contact with his fellow Chinese citizens or squander his legitimacy by going into exile. Moreover, Liu has articulated most explicitly what many Chinese want: a normal life in a normal country. What Liu calls “normal” is genuine democracy and free markets, not the corrupt Chinese version of those concepts.
The Chinese apparently have a very attenuated sense of irony. Outraged that one of their political dissidents should be given international honor they've now retaliated by confining Liu's wife to house arrest.
You can read about Liu's fight for human rights here. The bio will also give you a pretty good idea why you should not allow yourself to think that China is on the way to being anything like a free and open country.

Brave souls like Liu and so many others whose names we'll never know struggle in anonymity to bring a flicker of the light of freedom into the nightmarish darkness of oppressive regimes like those in China, North Korea, Cuba, Venezuela, Iran, and much of Africa. Most of these people will never be recognized in this life, but they are heroes and saints all the same. What Gore and Obama ever did to be ranked among them is something I'll never understand.

Monday, October 11, 2010


I received several emails taking exception to my claim that people who are different are less likely to be "bullied" in a Christian school than a secular school. One of the more forceful objections included this explanation:
[T]he article states later that this would be much less likely to happen at a Christian school than a secular school. I am sorry to say that I have been in both settings and this is entirely and utterly false. As a Christian I would greatly appreciate if Christian schools, like [my college] and my Christian high school fought against things like intolerance of homosexuals while acknowledging they are in the wrong. Unfortunately, this is just the opposite at a Christian school and it is naïve to think otherwise. [My college] is a place for hatred of homosexual students, almost to the point where there is no way these students can come out of the closet to receive the proper help they need.
In my high school and many other Christian high schools within my area, the small minority of homosexual students were treated so poorly on our school grounds that I felt ashamed to call my fellow students Christians as they mistreated these individuals. Conversely, in the time I spent at a public high school, gay students were treated with respect and not necessarily liked, but no students were harassed in the ways I have seen in Christian settings.
The bottom line is that I have seen far too many hypocritical Christians in my life to say that gays are safer or treated better in a Christian setting than a public school setting. While I agree that there are many things to be improved about the public school system, the harassment of homosexuals is really not one of the issues. This case was a rare exception of an intolerant bigot doing something harmful to a college roommate that caused his death. As Christians we need to look ourselves in the mirror and do what we can to act more CHRIST-LIKE every day of our lives, and that includes treating homosexuals with the respect they deserve.
If this writer is correct it is very disappointing, but is he correct? Is it naive to think that people who deviate from the norm are treated with more respect in Christian environments than in secular settings? I hope not, but I invite others to share their opinion. If the experience shared above is typical then, it seems to me, Christian schools have a lot of work to do to teach their students what it means to be a Christian.

I know anecdotes don't prove anything, but I'll share one anyway. I have attended and taught at both secular and Christian colleges over the last 45 years. It was common in the secular schools to walk into a lavatory and find anti-homosexual graffiti on the walls, but I can't recall ever seeing that in the Christian colleges at which I've taught (In fact, I can't recall seeing much graffiti at all in these schools). What does that mean? Maybe nothing, or maybe it just means that the custodial crews are more efficient in cleaning the lavatories in the Christian schools, but it also might be a reflection of the different atmospheres toward one's fellow human beings in the two types of schools.

One thing I think I can say about this, though, is that if Christians torment someone for being homosexual they're violating the principles laid down by the Christ whom they claim to follow and upon which they claim to base their lives. However, if secular students bully a gay kid those students aren't violating any principle of secularism. There's no principle that one can derive from a secular or atheistic worldview that could provide any reason to think that demeaning people who are different from and weaker than oneself is wrong. All that's being violated is an arbitrary code of conduct that reflects the tastes and predilections of the administration of the school.

Honeybee Collapse

For years scientists have been mystified and agriculturalists have been alarmed by honeybee die-offs. The collapse of the population of these essential crop pollinators in North America, estimated at about 20% of the bees, has variously been blamed on a mite, on pesticides, and on cell-phone radiation.

Now, it seems, scientists have finally discovered the real cause - a virus working synergistically with a fungus in the gut of the bees. Neither the virus nor the fungus are harmful by themselves but together they're apparently lethal.

You can read about this discovery here.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Can You Be Happy in a Vat?

David Sosa has an interesting column at The Stone in which he writes this:
In 1974, Robert Nozick, a precocious young philosopher at Harvard, scooped “The Matrix”:
"Suppose there were an experience machine that would give you any experience you desired. Super-duper neuropsychologists could stimulate your brain so that you would think and feel you were writing a great novel, or making a friend, or reading an interesting book. All the time you would be floating in a tank, with electrodes attached to your brain. Should you plug into this machine for life, preprogramming your life experiences? [...] Of course, while in the tank you won’t know that you’re there; you’ll think that it’s all actually happening [...] Would you plug in?"
Nozick’s thought experiment — or the movie, for that matter — points to an interesting hypothesis: Happiness is not a state of mind.
“What is happiness?” is one of those strange questions philosophers ask, and it’s hard to answer. Philosophy, as a discipline, doesn’t agree about it. Philosophers are a contentious, disagreeable lot by nature and training. But the question’s hard because of a problematic prejudice about what kind of thing happiness is.
Sosa concludes that hooking oneself to the machine would not make one happy and that he doesn't think it should be done. For my part, I don't think he makes a persuasive case, but read his argument at the link and see what you think.

In my opinion, refusing to be connected to the machine only makes sense given a theistic worldview which includes immortality. If there's no life after death then I can see no reason why one shouldn't allow oneself whatever pleasures, no matter how existentially empty, one can glean from the time we are here. In a world in which materialism and naturalism are true, connecting to the machine makes perfect sense. At least to me.

Re: The Culture of Death

A reader responds to our post on The Culture of Death with an account of her own experience:
Maybe someone should break both of Virginia Ironside's legs and then hold a pillow over her head and see how she likes it. I'm thinking she wouldn't be in favor. This is a situation that pregnant women today are frequently facing. If the child is found to have a disability, it is recommended that the mother terminate the pregnancy. It is such a ridiculous notion.
I was born with Spina Bifida, a birth defect of the spinal cord. My form of Spina Bifida was closed, so the doctors didn't discover it until I couldn't walk normally at age two. However, had my case been the norm, it would have been discovered during an ultrasound, and my mother would have been given the option to abort me. There would have been no explanation of how it is possible for someone to live a long productive life with Spina Bifida.
I think of the story of Gretchen Voss' abortion. This woman chose to abort her child because she thought the child would suffer. Suffering is a fact of life. I've met so many people with the exact same diagnosis that are not only living happy lives, they're walking. By aborting her child, Voss denied him the right to live. Sure, the child may have suffered, but he may not have, too. Even in that suffering, most children with Spina Bifida are the happiest children you'll ever meet. They love living life because they see it in such a different way than everyone else, especially when it comes to walking.
I "suffer" with extreme back and leg pain on a daily basis (even just sitting in class in difficult). I struggle some days to get out of bed, to stand up, to walk, but I am more grateful for it than almost anything else. It reminds me that I'm living. I've never once stopped and asked "why me?" This so-called "suffering" doesn't make me regret life; it makes me a stronger person who thrives in life.
If we continue to do this, to kill babies that we believe will be born into "suffering," will we not just be continuing Hitler's work? Hitler wanted the ideal race, the survival of the fittest. If it was wrong for Hitler, it is just as wrong for us. These babies deserve a chance at life. To take that away is not merciful, it is inhumane.
Here's a question about what Virginia Ironside said on the video at the link: If it would have been legal for a mother to have had the baby ripped apart moments before it was born, as it is according to our current laws, why is it wrong for a mother to kill it by asphyxiation moments after it's born? And if it shouldn't be illegal to kill it moments after birth why not, if the child's suffering is the reason for ending its life, when it's three years old? Or twelve? Do you see the slippery slope we've put ourselves on? Ms Ironside is coldly but rationally working out the logic of legalizing abortion on demand.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Making Friends in the Middle East

A very bright and well-informed student writes to suggest that America's foreign policy vis a vis the Muslim world is wrong-headed, and he offers an alternative:
There is a way for the middle east to become prosperous and friendly to the U.S. These steps include not bombing civilians (which have become too frequent due to drone strikes), becoming a neutral party (which it is obviously not) in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and not supporting military dictators in the region (like the U.S. did with Saddam Hussein and Musharraf). If we didn't look out for our own interests overseas and rather focused on building a truly free and independent middle east we could see large improvements in the region.
Here's my reply:

I don't think this is true. Those Muslims around the world who hate us will hate us no matter what we do. We liberated the Kuwaiti Muslims from Saddam, but still millions of Muslims hate us. We rescued the Kurds from Saddam (albeit clumsily and late) and saved the Bosnian Muslims from genocide, but still millions of Muslims hate us. We liberated 25 million Iraqi Muslims from Saddam's tyranny and 25 million Afghan Muslims from Taliban tyranny, and still millions of Muslims hate us. We are the main hope of Iranian Muslims who look to us to somehow rescue them from the tyranny of the mullahs and ayatollahs, but still millions of Muslims hate us. We gave hundreds of millions of dollars to help Muslims in the Indian Ocean basin recover from a calamitous tidal wave, we send doctors and teachers and relief workers all through the Muslim world to bring relief to suffering Muslims, we spend millions to spare African Muslims from starvation and the scourge of AIDs, and still millions of Muslims hate us.

They do not hate us because we have done too little to help Muslims. Nor do they hate us because civilians have died in the wars we've fought in the Middle East (After all, far more civilians have died at the hands of their fellow Muslims who intentionally murdered them than have died by the inadvertent bombing of innocent civilians by Americans). They hate us for two reasons in particular:

First, we are all that stands between them and the destruction of Israel, and second, we ourselves are not a Muslim nation and they see our culture and our freedoms as a threat to their values and religion. The radicals among the world's Muslims dream of a world-wide caliphate and they are prepared to kill anyone - Christian, Jew, or Muslim - who prevents them from realizing their dream.

Banned in Berkeley

There's not much that's frowned upon in the far left-wing precincts of Berkeley, California, but "Robin of Berkeley," a former secular lefty herself, suggests that there is one thing that will earn you the contempt of that fair city's enlightened citizens - a profession of belief in God. According to Robin, God is not just dead in this city named for a pious Irish prelate and philosopher, He's openly despised. She goes on to conclude that this contempt for God has had consequences that should surprise no one. Here's the heart of her column:
"God is dead," according to the existentialist Nietzsche. He might as well have been talking about Berkeley, California.
Think I'm exaggerating? Take a trip out west and spend a few days on Telegraph Avenue. Then wander over to the downtown area, Shattuck and University. If you're really the daredevil, do so after dark, when the mean streets look positively Kafkaesque.
When I say God is dead in Berkeley, I don't mean just that parts of the city look like a hellhole. I'm referring to the militant anti-God vibe.....
While it's perfectly acceptable in Berkeley to live openly as a bisexual, transgendered, or crossdresser, don't dare divulge a love for God. If you do so, expect public disapproval, even contempt.
And yet, why don't residents see the obvious: that's there's a connection between abandoning God and the un-Godliness of Berkeley's streets? The streets are filthy and uncivil; the crime rate spirals out of control. Because if God and His followers are chased out of town, what is left?
The radicals would argue that without a pesky, oppressive God, people are liberated. With no repressive authority spoiling the fun, the world becomes idyllic. But when you obscure the sunshine, only darkness remains. Seal the windows, close the blinds, and what do you have? People alone in a pitch-black world, with nothing to shield or soothe them.
And the estrangement is palpable not just in Berkeley, although the alienated are concentrated here. The militant atheists are saturating the media, the schools, the entire culture with its witch's brew. The Left, as always, is at the helm. Obama covers up crosses at Notre Dame University; he deletes the Creator from the Declaration.
Obama and the Left want our country untethered from the steadfast grip of God. Spiritually impoverished, lost in space, the masses will cling to the teat of the government. Bereft of the Divine, they're shackled to the Gospel of Obama.
There are inevitable, and disastrous, consequences for slamming the door on God. See for yourself. Come walk the streets of Berkeley, or the nearby cities: San Francisco, Oakland, or Richmond. Look deeply into people's eyes and behold the anger, the desperation...or see nothing at all.
Because when a city, or a nation, buries God, what is left is an excruciating, unfathomable void. And in the ever-widening chasm, dark forces -- the evil squatters -- take up residency.
Pretty powerful indictment coming from a former member of the atheistic left.