Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The de Grasse Tyson Contretemps

A week or so ago I posted a piece on VP about Neil de Grasse Tyson's proclivity to stretch the truth past the snapping point. Tyson is the cosmologist, disciple of Carl Sagan, who hosted the recent remake of Sagan's Cosmos on PBS. The show was littered with misleading statements and outright errors about the history of the relationship between religion and science, and Tyson has come in for serious criticism for these and other whoppers he has been disseminating.

Much water has flowed over that dam since the original report of Tyson's tenuous commitment to the truth by Sean Davis at The Federalist.

Much has been revealed, too, about the intellectual dishonesty, not just of Tyson, but also his fans in the twitterverse and the disreputable tactics of Wikipedia which now wants to banish all mention of the controversy from its site in order to protect Tyson.

The consistently marvelous Mollie Hemmingway has a fine tongue-in-cheek summary of this bizarre episode here, and I recommend it to anyone who trusts scientists to be honest, objective, and non-political. If that describes you Hemmingway's column is sure to disillusion you.

The sordid account of Tyson's repeated disregard for objective facts tells us much about the view of truth in our post modern culture. What matters for many people is whether what is said reinforces or promotes the hearer's preferred narrative. If it does, then it's true - true for them - and that's the only truth that matters. What actually is the case is unimportant if it does no work in promoting an agenda or reinforcing a worldview that one just knows has to be correct, and can therefore be disregarded.

The ascension of secularism in the age of modernity eventually pulled out from under us any ground for believing that there is an objective moral right and wrong, and post moderns responded to this development by subjectivizing all values. Thus Tyson's mendacity is not wrong, in their eyes, and, if it's useful, if it works, the post modern will even say it's right.

This pragmatic view of truth - whatever works is right - is not only intellectually dishonest and lazy, it's dangerous. It reduces truth to a mere feeling and facilitates the reinforcement of our prejudices. It excuses our reluctance to hold our beliefs up to the light of objective facts to see if we really are right in what we believe. In this view, lying to people in the service of a larger truth - the truth of scientism, naturalism, or left-wing politics as in Tyson's case - is the morally proper thing to do.

Ideas have consequences and this inversion of common sense is one of the consequences of our embrace of the secular in the modern age.

Monday, September 29, 2014

The Problem with Naturalism

Richard Dawkins famously defined faith as "believing despite the lack of evidence," a crime against reason that he imputed to theists of all stripes. I submit that this is a better definition of "blind" faith and, ironically, it's as common, or moreso, among naturalists (i.e. atheists) as it is among theists.

Consider three beliefs naturalists hold for which there is not a shred of empirical evidence:

1. They believe that life somehow arose from non-living molecules (abiogenesis) purely by chance.
2. They believe that the universe spontaneously popped into existence ex nihilo and uncaused.
3. They believe that there's an infinite array of universes (the multiverse) in addition to our own.

There's scarcely a shred of evidence for any of these beliefs but naturalists are firmly committed to them because to yield on any of them is to open the door to a non-natural explanation which brings them perilously close to theism.

Perhaps the most ironic belief naturalists hold is their belief that reason is a trustworthy guide to truth. I say this is ironic because naturalists also believe in the evolutionary story of the development of the human species.

A consistent naturalist believes that we are the product solely of evolutionary forces that have worked blindly and randomly over the eons fitting us for survival in the environment in which our ancestors found themselves.

This is a charming story but there's a serious flaw in it if one takes it too seriously. As philosopher Alvin Plantinga has argued, one can believe in evolution or one can believe in naturalism, but it's irrational to believe in both. Why is that? Lots of people do, don't they?

The answer is simple. According to naturalism, everything evolves to increase the prospect of survival of one's kind, thus our reason has evolved as a tool to promote human survival. But if that's so, then the function of our reason is to promote survival, not necessarily to find or discern truth. Sometimes, knowing the truth may lead to survival, but sometimes falsehoods may promote survival.

Consider an ancient patriarch who carries a genetic mutation that generates a belief that the more children one has the greater will be one's prospects in the afterlife. Such a man is likely to have many children, most of whom will inherit the gene and who will in turn have many children of their own who will possess the gene. The belief has enormous survival value for the gene which triggers it and will spread through the genome even though the belief is completely false. In like manner, our brains and its functions have developed to optimize survival regardless of whether those functions lead us to truth or not.

Thus if one believes evolution is how we got here, he really has no grounds for believing that his reason is a trustworthy guide to truth, especially about metaphysical matters. It may lead us there sometimes and it may not at other times. Since naturalism is a metaphysical belief system, it follows that one who accepts evolution has thin grounds for believing naturalism to be true.

The only basis for confidence that our reason is trustworthy is if we believe that human reason is somehow instilled in us by a a transcendent, rational mind which superintended the process, evolutionary or otherwise, by which we came to be.

When a Darwinian atheist complains that theists are irrational he's essentially acknowledging that he doesn't understand the consequences of his own beliefs. The irony is that he trusts his reason purely as an act of blind faith. Indeed, the further irony is that theists, the very people he indicts for being irrational, are the only people who have solid grounds for believing that reason is a trustworthy guide to truth.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Another Myth Bites the Dust

Recently we ran a video which debunked the myth that we only use 10% of our brain's capacity. There's another myth circulating out there that has also been debunked for quite some time but which nevertheless persists as something of an urban legend. It's the notion that people can be meaningfully classified as either "right-brained" or "left-brained."

Here's a video featuring a rather frenetic speaker explaining that it just ain't so:
The speaker makes a good point that the terms "right" and "left-brained" do have rhetorical value as aptitude descriptors, as long as we don't take them literally.

Friday, September 26, 2014

The Holder Resignation

Eric Holder announced yesterday that he'll be stepping down from his post as America's chief law enforcement officer. I'm in no position to say where Mr. Holder ranks in the pantheon of American attorneys general, but I would be surprised were he not somewhere near the bottom.

A short list of his most egregious derelictions would include the following:
  • He secured clemency (as Deputy AG under Clinton) for 16 FALN terrorists as well as a pardon for wealthy donor and convicted felon Marc Rich.
  • He refused to prosecute New Black Panthers in Philadelphia who were intimidating white voters in the 2008 election. He said that they were "his people" and he wasn't interested in prosecuting them.
  • He illegally facilitated the flow of guns to Mexican criminals (Operation Fast and Furious), some of which were used in numerous murders including that of an American border agent, Brian Terry. Holder misled congress on this operation, stonewalled their investigation of it, and was subsequently cited for contempt of congress, the first sitting attorney general in history to merit this disgrace.
  • He refused to investigate the IRS which was illegally denying conservative groups tax-exempt status that was granted as a matter of course to similar liberal groups.
  • He refused to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the administration's handling of the Benghazi incident.
  • He dismissed his critics as racists and accused Americans of being "a nation of cowards" for not having a "conversation on race."
  • His DOJ illegally seized the phone records of journalists and, like a scene right out of the movie The Lives of Others which depicted how the East German secret police spied on dissenters, Holder's Justice Department secretly monitored the phone calls and emails of correspondent James Rosen.
  • He implemented Operation Choke Point which pressures banks not to grant loans or credit to legal gun shops which makes it very hard for these small businesses to stay open.
  • He blatantly refused to enforce laws against gay marriage and illegal immigration and has sued to overturn laws which would require voters to show that they're legal residents of the state they're voting in.
He has been, in short, a political hack in a position of great power, power that he has abused in order to protect the Obama administration and promote its agenda.

He won't be missed by anyone who values the rule of law and its unbiased enforcement on behalf of all Americans, black and white, liberal and conservative. National Review sums up his resignation this way:
Eric Holder’s legal mercies have typically been reserved for Clinton donors and unrepentant terrorists, but his decision yesterday to step down as attorney general of the United States after nearly six years is an act of mercy toward the American public.

In an administration characterized by outsized misadventures — from the use of the nation’s tax bureau to suppress political opponents to the use of secret waiting lists at government hospitals that killed American servicemen — Eric Holder managed to make his Justice Department a source of special, nay, historic attention: In June 2012, Holder became the first U.S. attorney general to be held in contempt by the House of Representatives. He earned every vote.

Achieving “justice” via the Justice Department may be an intrinsically unlikely prospect, but none of Holder’s recent predecessors — Janet Reno, John Ashcroft, Michael Mukasey, even the much-maligned Alberto Gonzales — exhibited his sheer contempt for the rule of law. Much to his preference was employing the law for political purposes; or, when necessary, dispensing with the law completely.
President Obama praised Mr. Holder on the occasion of his announcement of his resignation, and well he might since Eric Holder was Mr. Obama's "heat shield" and he performed that task assiduously. Having a friend as Attorney General certainly makes it easier for a president to exceed his constitutional authority himself and Mr. Obama has taken adroit advantage of Mr. Holder's complaisance.
It'll be interesting to see who the President nominates to succeed Mr. Holder and what drama those nomination hearings will produce.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Time to Die

Ezekiel Emanuel is so adamant that he doesn't want to live past the age of 75 that he's written a fairly lengthy article in The Atlantic explaining why. There's lots to say about this piece, and I recommend a column at The Federalist for an amusing critique.

I'd like to focus here on a few specific paragraphs in which he describes precisely what he will do when he turns 75. Emanuel writes:
At 75 and beyond, I will need a good reason to even visit the doctor and take any medical test or treatment, no matter how routine and painless. And that good reason is not “It will prolong your life.” I will stop getting any regular preventive tests, screenings, or interventions. I will accept only palliative—not curative—treatments if I am suffering pain or other disability. Once I have lived to 75, my approach to my health care will completely change. I won’t actively end my life. But I won’t try to prolong it, either.

This means colonoscopies and other cancer-screening tests are out—and before 75. If I were diagnosed with cancer now, at 57, I would probably be treated, unless the prognosis was very poor. But 65 will be my last colonoscopy. No screening for prostate cancer at any age. (When a urologist gave me a PSA test even after I said I wasn’t interested and called me with the results, I hung up before he could tell me. He ordered the test for himself, I told him, not for me.)

After 75, if I develop cancer, I will refuse treatment. Similarly, no cardiac stress test. No pacemaker and certainly no implantable defibrillator. No heart-valve replacement or bypass surgery. If I develop emphysema or some similar disease that involves frequent exacerbations that would, normally, land me in the hospital, I will accept treatment to ameliorate the discomfort caused by the feeling of suffocation, but will refuse to be hauled off.

What about simple stuff? Flu shots are out. Certainly if there were to be a flu pandemic, a younger person who has yet to live a complete life ought to get the vaccine or any antiviral drugs. A big challenge is antibiotics for pneumonia or skin and urinary infections. Antibiotics are cheap and largely effective in curing infections. It is really hard for us to say no.

Indeed, even people who are sure they don’t want life-extending treatments find it hard to refuse antibiotics. But, as Osler reminds us, unlike the decays associated with chronic conditions, death from these infections is quick and relatively painless. So, no to antibiotics.

Obviously, a do-not-resuscitate order and a complete advance directive indicating no ventilators, dialysis, surgery, antibiotics, or any other medication—nothing except palliative care even if I am conscious but not mentally competent—have been written and recorded. In short, no life-sustaining interventions. I will die when whatever comes first takes me.
Here's what disturbs me about this. Emanuel is a doctor, one of the chief architects of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), and a close advisor to President Obama (his brother, Rahm, was Mr. Obama's Chief of Staff during his first term). If he were simply making a personal decision about his own future health care that would be unremarkable, but why publish a personal decision in a national magazine unless there was a more far-reaching agenda?

Given Emanuel's status and history there's reason to worry that this is more than just one man's opinion. It sounds ominously like a prelude to something much more sinister. Maybe I'm wrong, but the subtext of Dr. Emanuel's essay seems to be that not only is this what he's decided to do for himself, but it's what you should decide for yourself as well. It's better for you, better for your family, and better for the country if we don't have to spend billions of dollars on keeping you alive once you're no longer productive.

From there it's not much of a leap to imagine that the policy he's advocating for himself will be advocated as national policy for everyone. The government, which, if the left has its way, will eventually become the single payer of health care costs, will simply decide not to cover the expenses associated with the procedures Emanuel lists above.

At that point Sarah Palin and others who predicted that Obamacare will lead to government bureaucrats - she called them "death panels" - deciding what procedures and tests will be covered and what won't be, essentially consigning those over 75 to the trash bin, will become a reality.

If you don't have time to read the original piece in The Atlantic read the shorter critique in The Federalist. It's quite good.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Know Your Enemy

I support the President's use of force against ISIS in Iraq (I have reservations, however, about what we're doing in Syria, although I certainly hope it works out well), but I think it was foolish of him to commit himself to not using American ground troops. That, like so many other promises Mr. Obama has made, may find itself being cast to the winds if it becomes clear that air strikes can't get the job done.

I also think it's both sad and funny that Mr. Obama is now doing pretty much what Mitt Romney was pilloried for predicting in 2006 that Mr. Obama would have to do if he pulled our troops out of Iraq, and it's also richly ironic that Mr. Obama, in launching a preemptive war in Iraq and Syria is really doing what he condemned Bush and Cheney for doing in the early years of the last decade.

The ironies mount when we recall that President Obama is a Nobel Peace Prize winner who is launching a war that will almost certainly result in civilian casualties, perhaps more casualties than Israel inflicted on the Palestinians in their recent engagement which outraged so many on the left (where is the anti-war left on this, anyway), but none of that is what I wanted to talk about in this post.

I wanted to comment that it'd be a lot easier to have confidence in our Commander-in-Chief's judgment in prosecuting this new war if we didn't have reason to believe that he doesn't really understand the nature of the foe. When he announced the other day that no religion condones the kinds of murders that ISIS and other Islamic radicals have perpetrated he showed that, despite his Muslim background in Indonesia, he doesn't really understand Islam.

I don't claim to either, but someone who does is the man in this video. He was raised a Muslim in Morocco and has studied the religion all his life, even though he left it some years ago. In this eight minute video he explains why Mr. Obama's understanding of Islam is at best incomplete:
If Brother Rachid appears nervous during his presentation, he has good reason to be. Apostates from Islam automatically incur a death sentence, and it's incumbent upon Muslims everywhere to kill him if they can.

One of the first principles of war-fighting, I'm told, is to understand your enemy. Until Mr. Obama recognizes that Muslims are taught to harbor an implacable hatred for their enemies, i.e. all non-Muslims, and that killing infidels - you, me and our children - is a notion woven into the warp and woof of Islam, taught in Muslim madrassas all around the world, including the U.S., and rarely renounced by practicing Muslims anywhere, we will always be at a disadvantage in whatever dealings we have with them.

This is not to say that any and all Muslims are our enemy. They certainly are not, and we should strive to treat them with dignity, respect and kindness, to the extent we are able. But ISIS has declared itself to be our enemy, and we need to realize that what they're doing to people everywhere they go - the beheadings, the crucifixions, the live burials - so far from being a violation of the Koran, is enjoined by it, as Brother Rachid points out.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Miscellaneous Oddities

Random thoughts on various matters:

Isn't it odd that....

  • ...when one of the most critical problems we face as a society is that too few fathers seem to care to even live in the same house as their children, much less discipline them, our media ignores that problem while seeking to destroy a man, Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, for disciplining too much? Why not just require him to take some parenting classes and let it go?
  • ...our media has developed an insatiable appetite for cases of spouse abuse in the NFL, an industry in which the incidence of spouse abuse is actually below the national average, but not among police officers, a profession in which spouse abuse is two to four times higher than in the NFL? Spouse abuse, it should be noted, is also pretty high in the media.
  • ...when conservatives declare that employers should not be compelled to buy birth control for female employees our political leaders sniff that Republicans are waging an unconscionable "war on women," but when we bomb the bejabbers out of ISIS in Iraq and Syria using all manner of explosive ordnance to blow the terrorists to smithereens, the administration refuses to call it a "war"?
  • ...the president and his administration claim ISIS poses a risk to our national security but if the air strikes don't stop them and if other Arab nations don't fight them we won't send ground troops in to do the job? How much of a threat to our security can Mr. Obama think ISIS is if he's not committed to doing whatever's necessary to stop and destroy them?
  • ...Lois Lerner, the woman at the center of the ongoing IRS scandal has had a hard time of it since news broke that that IRS was illegally using its power to hamper the activities of groups which opposed the Obama administration, but when given the chance to explain her role in this scandal Ms Lerner invoked her fifth amendment right not to incriminate herself? Very well, but in a recent Politico story she's reported to have said that she tunes out the news reports centered on her because “I probably would have lost my mind if I had read it all, because your reaction when this happens is, ‘Wait a minute, let me explain to you what happened.’”
    Well, wait a minute, didn't she have the chance to explain to us what happened and chose not to do so thereby preventing the American people from seeing whether its government is abusing its power or not?
  • ...despite all of the forecasts of precipitous global warming, polar ice cap melting, and unprecedented storms and meteorological chaos the global temperature has stayed roughly constant for the last twenty years, polar ice is actually thicker and more extensive than it's been in several years, and our weather has actually been fairly mild in terms of hurricanes and other storms. A story in today's LA Times also dampens concerns that higher summertime temperatures in the American Northwest are due to anything other than a shift in Pacific Ocean winds.
    Maybe conditions will still change all of a sudden, but science is based on empirical evidence, and there's precious little evidence from the last two decades to warrant the conclusion that catastrophic climate change is imminent.

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Perils of Whistleblowing

When Republicans were in the White House anyone who "blew the whistle" on government shenanigans was treated like a national hero by the media, but now that the Democrats are in control whistleblowers are sometimes treated more like terrorists.

Hot Air has the story of a man named Michael Lutz who exposed sleazy political chicanery by Wisconsin District Attorney John Chisolm who has been abusing his legal authority in order to harass Republican Governor Scott Walker.

About Chisolm the Hot Air piece says:
His efforts to tear down Walker are quickly becoming the stuff of legend. A longtime Chisholm subordinate reveals for the first time in this article that the district attorney may have had personal motivations for his investigation. Chisholm told [the source] and others that Chisholm’s wife, Colleen, a teacher’s union shop steward at St. Francis high school, a public school near Milwaukee, had been repeatedly moved to tears by Walker’s anti-union policies in 2011, according to the former staff prosecutor in Chisholm’s office.

Chisholm said in the presence of the former prosecutor that his wife “frequently cried when discussing the topic of the union disbanding and the effect it would have on the people involved … She took it personally.”
Lutz subsequently told several media outlets that Chisolm's criminal prosecution of Walker was purely political/personal and had no legal merit at all. After the news got out that a whistleblower in Chisolm's office had spilled the beans, Chisholm launched a massive hunt to find out who in the circle of those in the know was the source of the leaks.
After missing a scoop on Milwaukee District Attorney John Chisholm’s long-running investigation into Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writers, along with the district attorney’s staff, hunted down the key source who had asked for anonymity, fearing retaliation…

The source turned out to be Lutz, a former prosecutor in Chisholm’s office who feared his reputation and his law practice would suffer if he were unmasked.

The district attorney’s staff launched a Nixon-style “mole hunt” to find the anonymous source, a Journal Sentinel columnist said, and was annoyed that the description of the confidential source wasn’t precise enough to identify him. The staff developed a list of roughly a dozen suspects, the columnist said. The Journal Sentinel never reported this secret search.

They found their guy, in the person of Michael Lutz, a decorated and disabled-in-the-line-of-duty police officer who worked with John Chisholm, first as a police officer and later in the district attorney’s office. One “journalist” at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel got rather personal in rooting out the source.

The feared retaliation was not long in coming. The Journal Sentinel’s Dan Bice, whose “political watchdog” column is titled “No Quarter,” appeared after dark at [Lutz's] home on Sept. 11. Bice’s persistent door-bell ringing and heavy knocks awakened and frightened the [Lutz’s] sleeping 12-year-old daughter, he said. The noise was so loud that a neighbor came out to investigate the din.

When [Lutz], a decorated and disabled-in-the-line-of-duty police officer, came to the door, he opened it a crack to hear Bice demand to know if he was the person quoted in the story. He did not deny it.
So Lutz reveals the truth about the DA's attempts to get Walker indicted and removed from office on fabricated charges and the Journal-Sentinel retaliates not against Chisolm but against Lutz. Lutz's career is now in jeopardy:
The retaliation he feared was that the influence of Chisholm and his allies could affect his new career. He was right.

“I have relocated my kids to prevent them from being brought to tears by any more J-S reporters and to protect them from the onslaught that has already begun. All for telling the truth.”

The consequences for telling that truth are already being felt, Lutz writes. “My law practice .... is over in MKE [Milwaukee]. There is no doubt, as one person has put it, that I am already blacklisted. . . . . Supporting the family will be difficult. Of course, it has been a huge undertaking to go through 4 surgeries, take care of 2 children, drive back and forth to Madison daily in order to get my law license ... only to be persecuted for simply telling the truth.”
It's tragic, but sadly it's what often happens when powerful, corrupt people are revealed to be malfeasant. It'd just be nice if the left were as solicitous about protecting those who inform on liberal officials from retaliation as they are about those who inform on conservative administrations. It'd also be nice if the liberal media weren't complicit in the attempt to destroy the livelihood of men who do the right thing.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Killer Chimps

It's agreed by all scientific researchers that chimpanzees murder members of their own species. What's in dispute about this behavior, according to a recent New York Times story, is why they do so. Some who study these animals think they're under stress from humans and that this stress somehow pushes them to violence.

A new study, however, has concluded that chimp murders are a part of their natural evolutionary development. Here's the relevant excerpt from the NYT:
The study’s authors argue that a review of all known cases of when chimpanzees or bonobos in Africa killed members of their own species shows that violence is a natural part of chimpanzee behavior and not a result of actions by humans that push chimpanzee aggression to lethal attacks. The researchers say their analysis supports the idea that warlike violence in chimpanzees is a natural behavior that evolved because it could provide more resources or territory to the killers, at little risk.
If it's true that killing is a natural behavior for chimps, and if it's true, as Darwinian evolutionists assure us, that human beings are simply hairless chimps with a bit more brainpower, then is not murder natural for humans also? And if natural then not really in any sense a violation of how we should behave?

We balk at that conclusion, of course, but if we're naturalists (i.e.atheists) and if we embrace the Darwinian view of humanity, what do we think makes humans different such that murder should have a moral dimension for us that it doesn't have for those animals most closely related to us? Researchers in the field may be repulsed by chimp violence and saddened by the deaths, but do they believe that murderous chimps have transgressed some objective moral law? If not, why are human murderers thought to transgress such a law? If there is no such law for chimps and other animals why do we think there is such a law for humans?

It seems to me that the naturalist has no good answer to this. If we're just animals then there is no objective moral law. If, however, one insists on believing that there is an objective moral law, a genuine right and wrong, then that person must also accept the idea that there must be a lawgiver, a personal transcendent moral authority (PTMA), who promulgates the moral law and holds us accountable to it. Apart from this belief in what amounts to a God our conviction that it's wrong to murder, to be cruel, to torture, to abuse children, is completely without objective foundation. When we voice that conviction we're simply doing no more than stating our personal predilections, and our personal, subjective tastes can hardly be the standard for morality.

Once again, it seems to me, the naturalist is between a rock and a hard place, metaphysically speaking. Either he can give up his belief that there is an objective moral duty not to murder and embrace a nihilistic view of morality, or he can give up his naturalism and embrace the idea that there must be a PTMA.

If he does neither, if he clings to his naturalism while at the same time clinging to his conviction that murder is objectively wrong, then he's behaving irrationally. He may hold on to his atheism, but he can't claim that it's the reasonable position, and he certainly can't claim that either the nihilist or the theist are behaving less rationally than he is.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Silence of the Media Lambs

Readers who've been following matters for a couple of years will remember how the media sought to portray the tea party as a bunch of violent extremist kooks. Try as they might, however, every attempt to pin some act of violence on them fell flat because the violence was all in the fevered imaginations of the lefty press and their political allies.

I was reminded of this when I came across a report of an attempt recently to firebomb the office of a black congressman from Missouri named Emanuel Cleaver. The Molotov cocktail was thrown through a window of his office but failed to ignite and damage was minimal. News reports of this attack were even more minimal.

Why? I wondered. The perpetrator had been apprehended, and I knew, as everyone does, that had the guy been a tea party conservative, or any kind of conservative, or even a quasi-conservative Republican the episode would have displaced even Roger Goodell's handling of spouse abuse in the NFL on the news. It would've been "all hands on deck" for the media as they wrung every drop of anti-conservative propaganda out of their reporting on the attack. Allegations of violent racism on the right would've filled the airwaves.

But there was almost nothing. The episode flew like a stealth bomber right under the radar. No one said much of anything about it. So, again, why? Even Cleaver's office downplayed the incident and said it was no big deal, but surely, if the alleged spitting incident in which Cleaver claimed in 2010 that a tea party protestor spit on him was a big deal, and it was huge even though it never happened, then surely an attempted firebombing in which he or his staff could've been killed was a big deal, so why wasn't it?

Well, it turns out that the perp is a 28 year-old sympathizer of an organization called the "KC Fight Back Insurrectionist Collective," and a letter found in his belongings states in part that "The Missouri congress has been a willing partner in the US governments capitalist war hungry agenda." In other words, the reason not much was made of the bombing was that it was carried out, as so much political violence is, by a leftist, and leftist violence, though common, just doesn't advance the media myth that conservatives are the real villains in this country.
I don't know what punishment will be meted out to Mr. King, if any. After all, he's doubtless deranged, but maybe what courts sympathetic to the left will do is gently instruct him that Democratic congressmen are really his friends and nudge him instead in the direction of the offices of John Boehner as the proper target of his inept and futile lunacies.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Favorite Heretics

Richard Mouw, in a piece at First Things, writes about philosophical claims which, though false, are nevertheless illuminating. in the course of his post he also explains why Nietzsche and Sartre are his "favorite heretics." Here's part of what he says:
I tell my students that it is a good thing to have a couple of favorite heretics. Some false perspectives are illuminating, and it can be healthy for [people] who love ideas to be challenged regularly by perspectives that we can disagree with in productive ways.

For a while, especially when I was first learning the ropes in Anglo-American analytic philosophy, Bertrand Russell was one of my special favorite heretics. In his technical philosophical work in epistemology and logic, he changed his mind a lot, and showed no embarrassment about doing so. I admired that in him. But what I enjoyed even more were his popular writings, especially about religious matters.

Russell was boldly anti-religious. He saw no room for any substantive religious ideas in formulating an ethical perspective, or in investing oneself in social-political causes. But there were moments in his writings when he expressed a sense that to abandon religion is to lose something important—even if he was not clear exactly about what the loss amounted to.

One of my favorite Russell passages in this regard occurs in the context of some autobiographical reflections. As a gift for him on his twelfth birthday, he recounted, his grandmother gave him a Bible, which he still possessed. In the flyleaf she had written a couple of her favorite biblical texts: “Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil,” and “Be strong, and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be Thou dismayed. For the Lord Thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.” Then Russell makes this remarkable confession: “These texts have profoundly influenced my life, and still seemed to retain some meaning after I had ceased to believe in God.”

I find something admirable in that confession. It expresses a sense of loss, along with a corresponding sense of moral loneliness. Being one’s own autonomous moral legislator can be a lonely experience.
I'm reminded in reading this of Julian Barnes' opening sentence in Nothing to Be Frightened of, his book on death and dying. Barnes says, "I don't believe in God, but I miss him." I think it's true that our modern age has been eager to dispense with God, but having done so it realizes, if only vaguely, that it has lost far more than it thought it was giving up. Modernity, it seems, is like a rebellious child who runs away from home only to get lost in a spooky forest where all sorts of scary apparitions beset her and cause her to yearn for the home she left but feels she cannot return to.

Mouw goes on:
It is for similar reasons that I have come to count as my truly favorite heretics the existentialist thinkers, especially Nietzsche and Sartre. Nietzsche, for example, expressed that sense of moral solitude with a deeper sense of loss than we see in Russell. In The Will to Power he laments that to be a person of “destiny” is to join “a whole species of heroic bearers of burdens.” It is to join a company of “men of incomprehensible loneliness.”

Part of my fondness for Nietzsche and Sartre is that together we share some common philosophical dislikes, such as the Richard Dawkins kind of “happy atheism.” My favorite existentialist heretics get directly to the heart of the matter in their depictions of the human condition. The non-existence of God, they say, means that there is no sovereign divine Will that called the universe into being.

And since an objectively ordered reality—a cosmos—would require a divine “let there be” to create and sustain it, reality is, properly understood, a chaos. With no supreme Creator available, it is up to us to make the best of it as finite creators of our worlds of meaning.
Nietzsche was an atheist but unlike many among the contemporary sort of unbelievers, he was deeply troubled by the implications of the "death of God." It was in his mind at once both liberating and catastrophic. Sartre held similar opinions. He felt the death of God, which he embraced, drained life of meaning and made it all a Sisyphean exercise in absurdity.

In any case, Mouw makes an important point, I think, when he says it's good to have a couple of favorite heretics. He's right in saying that it's good to interact with ideas that run contrary to one's own beliefs. For some reason people on both sides of the divides that characterize our public discourse - Christianity/atheism, conservative/liberal, pro-life/pro-choice, etc. - seem afraid to expose themselves to ideas presented by the other side. It's as if we fear that if we read their books and listen to their arguments we'll be seduced by them.

This is an empty fear, however. If what people who hold opinions at odds with our own say is true then by listening to them we benefit from the exposure to the truth, even if it makes us uncomfortable, and if what they say is false, then we are confirmed in the truth of our own opinion by pointing out their errors to ourselves and others. Both of these outcomes are good. The only bad outcome would be if what our antagonists say is false, but we are nevertheless seduced into accepting it.

The remedy for this, though, is not to avoid contact with those ideas, but rather to make sure that we know as much as we can about the things we believe so that we're better able to discern the difference between good and bad arguments, true and false claims. That, in fact, is one thing we should get from a college education.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

De Grasse Tyson, Serial Fabricator

There's an attitude among some of the left-leaning intelligentsia that they are just so smart that telling the truth is beneath them. Honesty is for the common people. For many post moderns, I suppose, there really is no objective truth, so whatever you say, as long as it coheres with your worldview, it's true "for you."

Physicist Neil de Grasse Tyson appears to be such a man. Ensconced on the Olympian heights of modern science, like a Nietzschean superman unconstrained by bourgeois moral values like truth-telling, he apparently feels free to just make stuff up whenever it'll make him look good to do so and make people he disdains look bad. Since his fabrications reinforce the prejudices of many in the media, and because he himself is a media darling, he's given a pass. Truth is not so big a deal for many journalists anyway, and besides, who are they to judge someone else, unless, of course, it's Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson, or Ted Cruz?

Anyway, de Grasse Tyson's recent television series titled Cosmos was replete with historical errors, particularly on the topic of the relationship of the church and science, but that's not the only topic on which this prodigy of prevarication hones his yarn-spinning skills.

Sean Davis at The Federalist catalogues some of de Grasse Tyson's sundry dissimulations for us. He writes: Neil deGrasse Tyson may be a fabulous scientist, and a consummate showman, but he’s downright terrible at accurately quoting people. Or, if you’re a “glass half full” kind of person, you might say that Neil deGrasse Tyson is pretty amazing at needlessly fabricating quotes and scenarios to showcase his own brilliance.

After citing several examples of de Grasse Tyson's allegedly creative manipulation of facts Davis closes with this:
At this point, I’m legitimately curious if any quotes or anecdotes peddled by Neil deGrasse Tyson are true....These are normally the types of errors that would be uncovered by peer review. Blatant data fabrication, after all, is the cardinal sin of scientific publishing. In journalism, this would get you fired. In Tyson’s world, it got him his own television show. Where are Tyson’s peers, and why is no one reviewing his assertions?

Somebody seriously needs to stage an intervention for Neil deGrasse Tyson. This type of behavior is not acceptable. It is indicative of sheer laziness, born of arrogance. Please, somebody, help him before he fabricates again.
And while we're at it, maybe someone should check out his Ph.D dissertation. Who knows how much of that is just made up.

In any event, this is yet another illustration of a recurring theme here on VP. Suppose it is indeed the case that de Grasse Tyson is deliberately fabricating quotes, stories, and historical "facts." Why shouldn't he do this if it will promote himself and his agenda, whatever it may be? Most of us would probably reply that it's morally wrong to lie to people and those who do it are despicable, but that response must confront a critical fact. If, as philosopher Michael Ruse claims, our moral values are simply "an illusion foisted on us by our genes," if there's no objective basis for those values as moderns like Ruse often claim, then the yarns of de Grasse Tyson, our politicians, and our friends, are not really "wrong" at all. They're just unfortunate behaviors that some people, maybe an increasing number of people, engage in that perhaps we wish they wouldn't. We don't like it when they lie, we find it irritating, just as we find the behavior of the guy in the next booth in a restaurant who insists on talking loudly into his cell phone irritating, but lies transgress no moral law. How can they if there is no moral law to be transgressed?

Modernity, by dispensing with God, has taken down all the speed limit signs, turned off the street lights, pulled the cops off the job, and left everyone on the road of life to fend for themselves. Little wonder it's so hard to find someone you can trust.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The NFL's Hypocrisy

Until the video was released showing Ray Rice landing a left hook to his girl friend's jaw in an elevator he was given a two game suspension. Everyone knew even before seeing the video what happened in the elevator but the NFL evidently thought a two game suspension was a just punishment for an offense that didn't go to court and which the couple apparently resolved between themselves since they subsequently married.

Okay, I guess, but as Charles Gasparino asks at NRO, where is the fairness in Rice's relatively mild punishment when Miami Dolphins offensive lineman Richie Incognito was effectively banished from the league for doing nothing more than talking mean to another teammate, who, like Incognito, is a 300 lb. lineman? Gasparino supplies some background:
Richie Incognito, an All-Pro offensive lineman, was branded a thug, faced countless hours of interrogation by league officials and their lawyers, and now can’t get a job in the NFL because he was found guilty of “bullying” a fellow lineman of equal size and strength.

Ray Rice, an All-Pro running back, was suspended for a mere two games, faced no similar league inquisition, and was heralded by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell as a decent guy who made a simple “mistake” when he was caught on video dragging his unconscious fiancée out of the elevator after what appeared to be a physical altercation.

Welcome to political correctness, Goodell-style.
Incognito is banned from the league for saying mean things. Ray Rice was initially given the NFL equivalent of giving a child a timeout. Does the NFL really think that bullying and name calling are worse than assault and battery? Here's more from Gasparino:
Why did Goodell initially throw his support behind Rice after an obvious physical altercation with a woman but throw the book at Incognito for name-calling a 300-pound fellow lineman?

None of this is to excuse Richie Incognito’s conduct, which led to an unofficial banishment from football that continues to this day. But consider his actions and the response by the NFL. When e-mails and voicemails surfaced indicating that Incognito had, among other alleged improprieties, forced his Miami Dolphins teammate Jonathan Martin to attend team meetings at strip clubs, and used the n-word in one conversation with Martin (Incognito is white and Martin black), Goodell immediately launched a league investigation.

He even hired one of the country’s toughest attorneys, superlitigator Ted Wells, to conduct a probe into Incognito’s actions. The so-called Wells report called Incognito the ring leader of a gang of abusers who forced Jonathan Martin to flee the Dolphins mid-season last year through “a pattern of harassment.”

Incognito through a spokesman claimed that his actions and even the inexcusable racial language were more complicated than what the press had reported, saying he and Martin were friends. Martin through a spokeswoman said he played along with some of Incognito’s antics (including strip-club visits) to fit in with his teammates since Martin was a rookie and Incognito a seasoned veteran.

Goodell’s response: a massive report that made Incognito an untouchable in the NFL to this day for “bullying, taunting and constant insults.”

And his response to Ray Rice’s battery: Even after the second video has emerged, Goodell is leaving the door open for Rice’s eventual return to the league.
I'm just wondering here, but could the disparity between the treatment administered to Incognito, who must be something of a lout, and the treatment administered to Rice, who must be something worse, have anything to do with race? Is the NFL (i.e. Roger Goodell) so consumed by political correctness that he's eager to come down harder on a white player who bullies a black player than he is on a black player who bullies his wife? Maybe race has nothing to do with it, but the only other explanation, barring the existence of circumstances not made public about the two cases, is that Goodell is pretty much a capricious simpleton.

Monday, September 15, 2014

So What Is the Answer?

Jim Wallis at Sojourners writes that war in the Middle East is not the answer to the problem of radical Islamic barbarism. I wish he was right, but ironically, not even he thinks he's right. Here's Wallis:
I have always believed that any alternative to war must still address the very real problems at hand — just in a more effective way. To say that “war is not the answer” is not only a moral statement but also is a serious critique of what doesn’t work; wars often fail to solve the problems and ultimately make them worse. War has to answer to metrics, just as more peaceful alternatives do. The war in Iraq was a complete failure with enormous human and financial costs; ISIS is now one of the consequences.
Actually the war wasn't a failure. It didn't fail until President Obama decided to wash his hands of it, and, contrary to what we did after WWII and Korea, remove all of our troops from that country. That left a vacuum that ISIL predictably (George Bush predicted it) rushed in to fill.

Anyway, Wallis goes on to say that he thinks it's proper, sort of, to stop ISIL:
I agree with Pope Francis when he said it is legitimate to stop an unjust aggressor: "I underscore the verb 'to stop'. I am not saying 'bomb' or 'make war', but 'stop him.' The means by which he can be stopped must be evaluated. Stopping the unjust aggressor is legitimate."
This is sophistry. How does one stop ISIL if not by force? Does Mr. Wallis tell us how to stop them without using military force? Not really. Instead he just throws up a cloud of verbal octopus ink:
That the world, including the United States, needs to respond decisively to the real threats of ISIS is beyond dispute, but the practical and moral question is — how? Let’s remember the principle that alternatives to war must answer the questions that war promises to answer — but in a better way.

I give President Obama credit for wanting to respond in a “different way” than the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. His strategy will focus on air strikes but also relies on supporting and training Middle East partners on the ground, which will be necessary to defeat a force already as powerful as ISIS.
Well, this is disappointing. According to Mr. Wallis "the better way" than war is, in fact, to wage war by using other countries' soldiers. It seems Mr. Wallis' real objection is not that a military strategy might be employed, but rather he objects to a unilateral military effort. In other words, his objection is not moral after all, but rather tactical:
To forge solutions to conflict that are an alternative to the endless and failed habits of war demands a much stronger set of other strategies — which the White House has yet to fully understand or embrace. I applaud the president for seeking a multi-national coalition and a more international approach. But that could have begun with the United Nations, where the U.S. will chair the Security Council in just two weeks — rather than taking the American plan to the U.N. for support. Strong U.N. leadership could both recruit more Middle East partners and help take the United States out of the role of the most hated target of Islamic fundamentalism.
So war is the answer for Wallis, at least in the present circumstance, it's just that war fought under American auspices is, for some reason, not the best way to conduct it.

But what if no coalition could be formed? Would war against ISIL then be immoral or unwise? If ISIL is a threat to the U.S. shouldn't we stop them whether other countries join us or not? Moreover, Mr. Wallis' concern about incurring the hatred of Islamic fundamentalists seems naive. Islamic fundamentalists will hate us as long as we stand in the way of their dream of destroying Israel and creating a world under the boot of Sharia law. Pretending this isn't so won't make it less so.

Wallis then does what so many on the left do when discussing this question, he elides the whole question of what should be done in the short term and focuses instead on what should be done long term. He recommends cutting off cash flow to ISIL, an obvious measure which everyone has already said needs to be done, but then Wallis calls for a more draconian move:
Ultimately, we won’t see an end to our “war on terrorism” without dealing with the underlying causes, and not just targeting the consequences of growing terrorism. We must address the world of oil that the West has created, that has literally defined nations, changed geography, and institutionalized the injustices and hypocrisies that breeds the grievances of terrorism. Having justified the unjust structure of that oil world to accommodate our addiction to fossil fuels has produced both a profound threat to our planet and the rise of an angry terrorism that threatens our own children.
It would be helpful if Wallis backed up the claims of this last sentence with a few facts. It's not at all clear, for example, despite what the global warming people have alleged, that our use of fossil fuels is a "profound threat to our planet" nor is it clear that it has anything at all to do with "the rise of angry terrorism." Wallis just asserts these claims as if they're obvious, but they're not, at least not to anyone not already seduced by leftist rhetoric. He closes with this:
We must address the fact that 60 percent of the Middle East population is under 30 years of age, and many of them are unemployed, uneducated, aggrieved, and angry young men — too easily drawn to the rhetoric of revenge. To overcome terrorism we must address the grievances that give rise to it and are exploited by hateful extremists.
Wallis says something here most people can agree with, but it has nothing to do with the question whether we should go to war with ISIL now, nor does he offer any suggestions as to how we might address those grievances he talks about or even what those grievances are. His essay is just not very helpful.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Twilight of Progressivism

In the wake of the 2012 election many in the media were quick to pronounce a renascent conservatism dead in the crib. The young had rejected it in favor of the progressive and charismatic Barack Obama and conservatism may not recover for generations. The thing about the youth vote, though, is that unlike older generations, the young haven't had time to actually develop ideological allegiances. Young people are politically malleable and their support, given today, can be rescinded tomorrow if their own life experience causes them to grow disenchanted with those upon whom they once bestowed their favor.

James W. Ceaser, a professor of politics at the University of Virginia, thinks something like that is happening today, and not just among the young. A lot of Americans are coming to see that the liberal progressive leaders in whom they invested their hopes are, in a word, frauds. Ceaser writes in a piece for The Federalist that liberalism is facing the distinct possibility of collapse. The bad news for conservatives is that this doesn't necessarily translate into an increase in support for them.
Liberalism’s demise was unexpected. Healthy and vigorous until just recently, liberals were confident their cherished arc of History was at last bending in their favor. They imagined they would be dancing today on their opponents’ graves. Instead, they find themselves haunted by the prospect that the dry bones of their enemies might be reassembling. Liberals are at risk of incurring not just the usual electoral setback for the president’s party in a midterm election (which is traditionally more pronounced in an incumbent’s sixth year), but also a wound that touches the heart of the Progressive project.
For those unfamiliar with ideological taxonomy, a progressive is what a liberal calls himself when the word "liberal" falls into disfavor.

Progressives have ridden the horse of social justice for a hundred years and have managed to portray opposition as opposition to justice. It's a tactic which could only fool the uninformed, but there are plenty of uninformed folks out there who vote. Younger voters are still very concerned about social justice, of course, but the reason they're growing disillusioned with progressives is the failure of progressives to fulfill their promises:
Where liberalism has crossed a threshold, however, is in its repeated incapacity to achieve, by its own favored means, its highest priorities. From the farce of “shovel-ready” projects, to the disaster of the health care roll out, to the disgrace of mismanaging the socialized medical system for veterans, all but the most ideologically blinkered of liberals—which includes most in the media and academy—must have begun to experience doubts. If the smartest president ever, in consultation with the best experts ever, endowed with the most lavish resources ever, cannot get programs to operate, then, Washington, we have a problem.

Even among millennials, one of the progressives’ core constituencies, faith in the efficacy of government to manage complex affairs has plummeted. No wonder, then, that the idea of government administration no longer fires the imagination of today’s youth. Who among the talented next generation yearns to become a GS 15 in the Department of Health and Human Services?
It was the promise of intellectual brilliance and competent, efficient, honest governance that drew the young to Barack Obama - that plus the prospect of making history by voting for the first black president. Now a lot of people are asking themselves, like the guy awakening with a headache the morning after an alcohol-fueled binge, "what was I thinking?" Film-maker Michael Moore succinctly expressed the disillusionment many on the left are feeling when he said the other day: "A hundred years from now Mr. Obama will be remembered only for being the first black president."

Actually, I'm afraid he'll be remembered for far more than that, but that'll be the one good thing he's remembered for.

Ceaser continues:
Yet the greatest problem liberalism faces today does not result from doubts about government competence, but from a slowly dawning realization that liberals are increasingly disposed to sacrifice means to ends and impartiality to social justice. The result is repressive progressivism. Progressivism was born in a spirit of creating “good government,” which preached scrupulous fidelity to law, honesty, transparency, and separation of politicking from governing.

This concern was cast aside as naïve by Franklin Roosevelt and ignored by Bill Clinton, from whom no one ever expected more. Current liberalism, however, was supposed to return to its Progressive roots, and the public took Barack Obama at his word in his promise to do so. On every count, liberalism now disregards these procedures, whether in its routine presentation of erroneous or misleading facts, its outright lies, or its suppression of information. To see how certain agencies of government, beginning with the Department of Justice, treat whistleblowers, average citizens, or members of the media reminds one ever more of the behavior of authoritarian government.
Even worse is the tolerance, even coverup, of corruption and scandal. From Fast and Furious, to Benghazi, to the IRS, to the NSA, to the VA, to the lies and deceptions surrounding Obamacare and its implementation, as well as numerous lesser crimes, this White House has been the least transparent, most scandal-plagued administration in modern memory. Domestically, it has done little to improve the economy and much to thwart job growth. Abroad, after spending much of his career criticizing George Bush's foreign policy, Mr. Obama is adopting measures which look much like those Mr. Bush employed, and he's doing so on the basis of the same authorizations he criticized Mr. Bush for relying upon.

Ceaser ends with this: For the most part, accusations of abuse and irregularity are met with denials, which almost no one believes. Far more disturbing, however, is that these excesses are now tacitly justified by the argument that such measures now operate in the service of a higher cause and are excused by the existence of an emergency. “Emergency” is not used here in the usual sense of a threat of an imminent attack or of an impending economic crisis. It refers instead to the dangerous character of the opposition and to the possibility that the opposition might win power. Whether such ideas are limited to those who lead us today or have seeped down to become part of liberalism’s core is difficult to say. Either way, the prospect is frightening. The death we should fear most is not that of an ideology but of free government itself.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Why Was He Wrong?

There's one aspect of the Ray Rice contretemps that I find particularly interesting. Everywhere one turns the tv or radio tuner, at least everywhere there are people talking about news and/or sports, Rice is being roundly condemned, his behavior is deemed beyond despicable, and moral outrage fills the airwaves. Okay, but I have a question that no one in the media that I've heard has even attempted to answer. Why is what Rice did actually wrong?

Did he break a law? Yes, but people break the law all the time and the national media doesn't suffer collective apoplexy. Did he transgress some moral prohibition? Yes, but only if one thinks there are such things as moral prohibitions, and this is what I find interesting. So many of the people commenting on this matter simply assume that what Rice did to his wife was morally wrong, but no one I've come across has undertaken to explain precisely why. And for good reason. They can't.

Either they can't because to do so would be to introduce religious reasons into public discourse - i.e., reasons such as that people are made in the image of God and loved by God and therefore persons have dignity and worth and God demands that we not harm another on pain of divine sanction - but this is a serious no-no, a heretical transgression, in our secularized culture. Or, they can't because when they express their repugnance at Rice's behavior they're doing nothing more than emoting. They have no basis for saying that any behavior is morally wrong, but nevertheless they really don't like what he did, and they're so mad about it they could stamp their feet and spit, but, of course, not liking another person's behavior doesn't make it wrong.

This is the corner our culture elites painted themselves into when they abandoned traditional religious foundations for moral truth. They left themselves bereft of any grounds for making moral judgments. Of course, this doesn't deter them, they make judgments anyway, but they sound pretty silly when they do because they're hanging those judgments on philosophical skyhooks.

Earlier today I heard a news clip in which a bunch of media types were complaining about the fact that a lot of Baltimore Ravens fans, including a lot of women, were wearing Ray Rice jerseys at the game last night. The commentators were clearly flummoxed by this. They called the women "morons" and "idiots", but they never once tried to explain why these people were such odious human beings for supporting Rice.

They assume that their audience will just agree with them without the need for an explanation. At least that's their hope because if someone insisted they give an explanation they'd be unable to do it.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Is He Deliberate Or in Denial?

A friend sent me a link to an article at Capital Commentary by Bradford Littlejohn who argues that President Obama is taking some very unconservative criticism from conservatives for being too pokey in his response to ISIS. Littlejohn's point is that deliberateness is a conservative virtue and thus it's ironic that conservative Republicans are faulting him for dotting the i's and crossing the t's before taking action.

My friend asked my opinion on Littlejohn's piece, and I thought I'd share my thoughts on Viewpoint.

In short, I think Littlejohn misses the point. Conservatives aren't (for the most part) critical of Mr. Obama for being deliberate. They're critical of him for a foreign policy that's in shambles. Littlejohn's central passage is this:
the GOP has still lost no opportunity to excoriate President Obama’s dovish and slow-motion foreign policy. When he announced that “we don’t have a strategy yet” on how to systematically combat ISIS, some Republicans seized on the statement as more evidence of his incompetency and refusal to stand up to our enemies.
There are, in my opinion, at least five reasons for the GOP's frustration. Unfortunately, Littlejohn just ignores them.

First, Obama had been receiving regular briefings on ISIS for over a year. During that time he had every opportunity to formulate a strategy, but despite the recommendations of his military and intelligence people he dismissed ISIS as a "JV team" as recently as last January. There's a difference between being deliberate (which is good) and being in denial (which is bad). Mr. Obama has revealed himself, at least from outward appearances, to be the latter.

Second, the problem posed by the murderous savages of ISIS is largely one of his own making. He refused to insist on keeping American forces in Iraq, which he could've done, and was in fact anxious to assure everyone that he was going to pull them all out ASAP. Seventy years after WWII and Korea we still have forces in Europe and South Korea, but Mr. Obama couldn't wait to be seen as the president who got us out of Iraq. Now he's getting us back in. Had we never left it's doubtful that ISIS would have invaded Iraq. This is especially galling given his criticisms of Bush for warning seven years ago that everything that has come to pass would indeed come to pass.

Parenthetically, Bush's reason for going to war in Iraq was that he believed Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Obama thought that was insufficient reason to topple Saddam and he excoriated Bush for doing so. What, though, is Mr. Obama's rationale for bombing ISIS that did not also apply to Hussein?

Third, the president keeps insisting that our fight against ISIS is contingent upon the cooperation of other countries in the region. This is foolish. If ISIS is a threat to the U.S. we should do whatever it takes to end it regardless of whether other countries help or not. Is Mr. Obama saying that if no other nations assist us that we'll do nothing decisive to end the threat ourselves? He certainly seems to be, but then what's the point?

Fourth, Mr. Obama's record on foreign policy does little to warrant confidence in his leadership. He was largely responsible for the collapse of Mubarak in Egypt which precipitated the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood which, had the Egyptian military not intervened, would have been a disaster. He caused the fall of Qaddafi, and now Libya is in such a mess that we've had to abandon our embassy. He threatened to bomb Assad in Syria, declaring that Assad had to go, and now we're threatening to bomb Assad's enemies and save Assad's skin.

Meanwhile, Russia gobbles up Ukraine and Obama does nothing more than send the Ukrainian army food rations. His only success has been giving the "go ahead" to American forces to take out bin Laden, a mission he had nothing to do with, which he several times deferred from ordering, and finally signed off on. In other words, his only success was reluctantly signing his name to something that any other president would have done months earlier.

Finally, President Obama keeps telling us that there'll be no "boots on the ground" in Iraq. This reminds me of his guarantee that there was a Syrian "red line" which Assad better not cross. Why adopt a strategy that implicitly says to the world that if air power doesn't do the job of destroying ISIS we'll just go home and leave them to plan their attacks on our homeland? How does he expect to "degrade and destroy" ISIS without using American forces? Is he going to depend on the same Syrian "moderates" who only a few months ago he was deriding as "pharmacists and technicians"? Is he going to depend on the same Iraqi army that turned and ran when ISIS invaded leaving all their American weaponry for ISIS to confiscate?

And why tell your enemy what limitations you're placing on yourself in the first place? Why announce to the world that we're going to fight ISIS but we're going to tie one arm behind our back while we do it?

Machiavelli advised his prince that if you're going to attack your enemy you had better be sure to kill him. Otherwise, he will hate you all the more and be more resolved than ever to do you harm. Obama seems not to have learned that simple lesson.

So, contra Littlejohn, it's not Mr. Obama's deliberateness in formulating a strategy that concerns conservatives. It's the nature of the strategy which his policies have made necessary and which seems inadequate and unserious given the nature of the threat.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Convoluted Conflict

As a primer for the President's speech tonight on American strategy for dealing with ISIL here's an update on the state of things in Iraq courtesy of Strategy Page:
As of September 8 American air attacks have increased and put ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) on the defensive. There have been about 150 American air attacks since they began on August 8th and now occur everywhere ISIL has forces in Iraq. Thus in the last month ISIL has lost control of a major dam, a refinery and major oil fields around Kirkuk.

ISIL is also losing control of the oil smuggling operation it had established in Syria and western Iraq. The attack against the Haditha dam includes local Sunni tribal militiamen who have refused to join ISIL. Many Sunni tribes backed away from supporting ISIL or agreed to work with the government. Haditha is the second largest dam in the country in terms of hydroelectric power and water supply.

Kurdish troops, also backed by American air power (directed by American air controllers on the ground with the Kurds) are also taking back territory around Mosul. This is one of several operations in the last month where the Kurds have shown that, with the help of American air support, they are nearly invincible against ISIL forces. Even Iraqi Shia troops and Sunni militias have some success when aided by air support.

Most ISIL fighters now accept this new battlefield reality, but some less determined ISIL gunmen are discouraged and desertions are more common. There have also been several recent instances of ISIL gunmen fleeing after the first smart bomb or missile hits, not willing to shoot it out with the oncoming Kurds. This often involves abandoning vehicles, weapons, ammo and equipment.

More American and NATO trainers and advisors on the ground have helped reform the Iraqi security forces. There are now more Shia and pro-government tribal militias involved, but the most reliable local force remains the Kurds. However, most of the Kurdish troops are deployed on the border between Kurdish and Arab Iraq. The Kurds must continue to keep Arab Islamic terrorists out and that requires reliable troops. Thousands of Kurdish women have been mobilized for this, many of them combat veterans from past crises. The women generally take care of internal security to free up more men for duty on the border.

The U.S. is depending on the Kurds and Iraqi government to provide some help on the ground to identify targets in the urban areas (Mosul, Fallujah and Tikrit) the fighting is moving into. Out in the open it’s a lot easier to avoid civilian casualties since you can spot nearby civilians. In urban areas this is more difficult. The Americans want to avoid civilian casualties as ISIL can use this to generate media criticism of the military operations against the Islamic terrorists. The criticism causes political problems.

The American air strikes are expensive, costing about two million dollars each. The U.S. has managed to get nine other countries (Britain, France, Germany, Canada, Turkey, Italy, Poland, Denmark and Australia) to join an effort to destroy ISIL in Iraq and Syria. The coalition will provide more advisors, weapons, ammo and air power than the U.S. itself is currently providing. The Americans will probably continue to be the major contributor.
It also seems that American intelligence is providing intelligence on the location of ISIL commanders and troop concentrations to the Syrian air force, possibly via Iran. The Syrians have used this intel recently to target and kill a number of top ISIL commanders.

The world is certainly turning upside down if the U.S. is working with Iran to help Assad in Syria defeat the Islamists. Anyone trying to follow events in this region can be forgiven if they throw up their hands in despair at trying to figure out who the players are and what side they're on.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Who Would Pay a Materialist Ethicist?

A week or so ago Barry Arrington at Uncommon Descent asked why anyone would hire a materialist (someone who believes that matter and energy are all there is) for a job as a professional ethicist, a post which has a median annual salary of about $68,000. Arrington wrote:
I can understand how a theist who believes in the objective reality of ethical norms could apply for such a position in good faith. By definition he believes certain actions are really wrong and other actions are really right, and therefore he often has something meaningful to say.

My question is how could a materialist apply for such a position in good faith? After all, when pushed to the wall to ground his ethical opinions in anything other than his personal opinion, the materialist ethicist has nothing to say. Why should I pay someone $68,584 to say there is no real ultimate ethical difference between one moral response and another because they must both lead ultimately to the same place – nothingness.

I am not being facetious here. I really do want to know why someone would pay someone to give them the “right answer” when that person asserts that the word “right” is ultimately meaningless.
Actually, it's not hard at all to understand why a materialist would apply for such a position inasmuch as, on materialism, there's nothing "wrong" with committing fraud since there's nothing "wrong" or "right" with doing anything. The real mystery is why anyone would actually pay a materialist to be an ethicist.

In any case, Arrington goes on in a follow-up post to quote philosopher Peter Singer in order to illustrate the incoherence of any attempt to ground a materialist ethics. Singer claimed that:
Whatever the future holds, it is likely to prove impossible to restore in full the sanctity-of-life view. The philosophical foundations of this view have been knocked asunder. We can no longer base our ethics on the idea that human beings are a special form of creation made in the image of God, singled out from all other animals, and alone possessing an immortal soul. Our better understanding of our own nature has bridged the gulf that was once thought to lie between ourselves and other species, so should we believe that the mere fact that a being is a member of the species Homo Sapiens endows its life with some unique, almost infinite value?
Why is this incoherent? For the same reason, Arrington explains, as the work of post modern deconstructionists like Jacques Derrida is incoherent. Derrida writes long books in which he insists that "long books have no intrinsic meaning."

Singer is asserting that once we stopped believing that individuals were created in the image of God and possessing an immortal soul we no longer had any grounds for thinking they were inherently valuable. Very well, but then it follows that Singer himself is just an animal and as such has no particular value, thus neither do his ethical pronouncements. Arrington writes that according to Singer:
People have no more intrinsic worth than pigs. Indeed, there is no such thing as “intrinsic worth,” because “worth” implies the “good” and the “good” does not exist. Everything is ultimately meaningless. But if that is true – and here’s where the branch sawing comes in – why should anyone care what a particularly clever hairless ape who goes by the name of “Peter Singer” says about anything? Are not his pronouncements as ultimately meaningless as everything else? Isn’t his solution to ethics as arbitrary as any other solution?

Here Singer is part of a larger post-modern tradition that I call the “except me” tradition. The post modern literature is full of long books by deconstructionists like Jacques Derrida who insist that long books have no intrinsic meaning (except books written by Derrida apparently). Similarly Singer insists that concepts like “good” and “evil” have no intrinsic meaning, except, apparently, when he says something is good.
It certainly seems foolish to assert that moral claims are meaningless while exempting one's own moral claims from that assessment, but it's even more foolish for the man who makes moral judgments while denying that there's any real ground for those judgments to then declare that a man who grounds his judgments in a divine law promulgated by a perfectly just and powerful God is behaving irrationally. Which is irrational, to ground moral judgments in the will of the transcendent source of moral value or to deny that there's any ground for moral judgments while making such judgments anyway?

Monday, September 8, 2014

Political Correctness and the NFL

It seems that the contretemps over the team name of the Washington Redskins has subsided, much to the chagrin of liberals who think it terribly insensitive that a pro football team would actually refer to itself by the name “Redskins” even though it has been painfully difficult to find any Native-Americans who were actually offended by it.


We'll soon be heading into the month of October which means that all across the country, but especially in the NFL, football teams will be wearing those garish pink shoes and other paraphernalia in recognition of breast cancer awareness month. Isn't one Sunday a month enough to have to endure having one's aesthetic sense assaulted by the clash of team colors with pink accessories all so the NFL can claim to care about women? Couldn't they just hire a few more token side-line reporters instead?

And why is it only breast cancer about which the NFL is "raising our awareness"? Why is there no prostate cancer awareness month in the NFL, or, given the seriousness of head injuries in football, an Alzheimer's awareness month? I guess the reason is that these just wouldn't score points with women.


Speaking of scoring points with women, Ray Rice was cut by the Baltimore Ravens for punching his fiance in an elevator. Very well, that's certainly appropriate. A business should not employ people who bring shame and discredit upon their organization. But my question about this is, had Rice punched some guy in a bar would the Ravens have cut him? What if the guy was some wimpy weakling no more able to defend himself than was Rice's fiance? Would there have been anywhere near the outrage over Rice knocking out another man as has been unleashed by the video of him punching his bride-to-be? If not, why not?

In other words, is Rice being punished more severely for hitting a woman than he would've been for hitting a man? How can a feminist justify a disparity in punishment? According to feminists gender shouldn't matter in how women are treated, and yet many feminists (rightly, in my view) believe that it's somehow more wrong to have punched a woman than a man.

Maybe they just don't really believe what they say they believe when they say that gender doesn't matter.


When Michael Sam, the openly gay NFL draftee was released by the Rams the NFL was said to have intervened on his behalf to try to get another team to pick him up which the Cowboys ultimately did. Why did the NFL do that for Sam? Is it because he was gay? Aren't we told that a person's sexual orientation isn't supposed to matter? Isn't the NFL discriminating against the hundreds of players who fail to make a pro team but who do not have the league office seeking to secure them a position on another team? How is what the NFL did for Sam anything but preferential treatment for a man just because he's gay?

Did the NFL make similar efforts on behalf of Tim Tebow when he was cut? Well, someone might reply, that's different. After all, Sam is gay, a special class of person even though the class only makes up about 1.5% of the population. Tebow is overtly Christian and as such is an embarrassment to the league even though Christians of Tebow's stripe make up probably 40% of the population. The NFL apparently believes that it's appropriate to treat gays better than Christians. In the NFL some people are evidently more equal than others.


I actually think it's too bad that the Cowboys signed Sam. I was hoping the Redskins would have picked him up just for the fun of watching the left squabble among themselves over whether to hate the Redskins for refusing to change their name or to praise them for signing a gay player.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Intelligently Designed Robots

Watch this video and marvel at the brilliance of the people who designed and built this robot which can assemble itself and then walk away:
Our sense of wonder is only heightened by the description given by Mariella Moon at Engadget. Or at least it would be if what she says weren't flatly contradictory. She writes:
Folding robots are nothing new, but scientists from Harvard and MIT have taken it to the next level, by designing one that assembles itself and walks away to do its job with zero human input.
How can there be "zero human input" if the thing was designed by scientists?

Anyway, she goes on to say that,
It's far from being perfect, though, and still has a ways to go before anyone can use it for a particular purpose. For instance, the assembly process is triggered by slotting a battery in, but the researchers plan to modify the robot so that it starts folding itself based on environmental cues like changes in pressure or temperature. Also, the mechanical critters could use a different polymer other than polystyrene, one that requires less heat to start folding. At this point in time, the prototypes are prone to bursting into flames, since they use so much energy -- in fact, just the assembly itself depletes a whole AA battery.
It's still amazing, of course, even if it's not perfect, but here's the thing. Structures somewhat similar to this one are found throughout the biological world and they are perfect, or close to it. A beetle can flawlessly fold and unfold its wings in highly complex ways, for example. Isn't it remarkable that we think it requires enormous intelligence and purposeful activity to design and manufacture a foldable robot - which is to biological structures what a paper airplane is to a fighter jet - yet a lot of folks think that the biological structures could have happened purely through the action of random chance and blind physical forces?

If foldable robots can only be created by intelligent designers, isn't it at least plausible to think that infinitely more complex structures also require an intelligent designer? If not, why not?

Friday, September 5, 2014

Barbarians at the Gates

This video documents an amazing story of survival and escape by a Shiite Muslim from the Sunni savages in ISIS. Part of the fascinating tale is that this man would not have survived had he not been helped by Sunnis who risked their lives to help him.

The video gives a sense of what ISIS has in store for anyone - Muslim, Christian, and especially Jew - who disagrees with their particular brand of barbarism.
This second video should be an object lesson for those who still believe, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that the world is progressing toward increasingly higher levels of human moral behavior and civilization. In fact, a large part of the world is still living in the seventh century. If one needs further confirmation of the demonic nature of ISIS watch this shorter video put out by the State Department to dissuade American Muslims from signing up to join them:
What the fleeting pictures in the video show us of ISIS's evil is precisely what these cretins will do in Europe as soon as they get they chance and what they certainly wish to do throughout the world once the West, specifically the U.S., loses it's will to oppose them.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

The Myth of the 10%

The movie Lucy, I'm told, is making a big splash in some pools this summer. The film pushes the idea that we only use about 10%-15% of our brain capacity. You've probably heard this claim somewhere along the line yourself, even if you haven't seen Lucy. It's one of those factoids we absorb in our childhood and grow up just accepting, especially since it gets reinforced by our experience with certain of our classmates when we get into high school.

But, although this claim certainly seems sometimes as though it's true of at least some people we know, scientists insist that actually it's one of those "facts" everyone "knows" but which turns out to be false:
I do have to wonder, though, about the speaker's comment that our whole brain is always "whirring and humming" with activity. Maybe so, but I'll bet that students who have a really boring 1:00 class after eating a big lunch are probably thinking that "whirring and humming with activity" is probably not the most accurate way to describe what their brain's doing during that hour.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Anomalous Data

In science, data that don't fit a widely-accepted theory are considered to be anomalous and swept under the rug, so to speak, until the lump under the rug gets so big that the data can no longer be ignored. Not everyone is at the "can no longer be ignored" stage but we seem to be rapidly heading there. The data to which I refer is cited in an article in the Australian Herald Sun.

The article cites a paper by a climatologist named Ross McKitrick who points out that the stasis in globally average temperatures has lasted now for almost twenty years, and even longer in the lower troposphere. In other words, the predictions of the 1990s and the first decade of the 21st century that we were heading for runaway global warming have simply not been fulfilled. On the contrary, the globe in 2014 has about the same average temperature that it did in 1995.

This report comes on the heels of another report that shows that the predictions by Al Gore and others of rapidly melting Arctic ice sheets have also failed to be confirmed and that, in fact, the Arctic ice seems to be rebounding.

Here's a good rule of thumb. When scientists make predictions that have political implications take those predictions with a grain of salt. Some scientists are biased ideologues first and objective scientists second and they tend to see what their ideology makes them want to see.

The reliability of scientific theories is predicated on the theory's fruitfulness, i.e. its ability to generate confirmable predictions. So far, few of the predictions that have been served up about global warming have been confirmed. The warmists may still turn out to be right, something is happening to our glaciers, certainly, but as of now there's not much reason to think that whatever is causing the meltback has anything to do with rising global temperatures.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Preempting Disaster

Myron Magnet at City Journal asks what a responsible president would do, given the dangers that face us today:
When a British-educated Muslim terrorist beheads an American journalist to display the sentiments of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria toward the United States; when photos of a Chicago office building and the White House appear on social media with hard-to-deny evidence in the pictures that ISIS is here in our own country with ill intent; when a peace-preaching imam in Canada reports that ISIS is recruiting among his flock; when an experienced U.S. senator warns of ISIS plans to blow up an American city; and when a top ex-intelligence officer cautions that ISIS terrorists have “very likely” entered the United States along with the flood of illegal immigrants surging through our southern border, what would a responsible president do?

Surely, for starters, he would use the National Guard to seal the border with Mexico, as a matter of national security, let alone national sovereignty. He would surely order the Transportation Security Administration to stop at once allowing illegal aliens to board commercial airliners without the usual government-issued identification, as is now reportedly happening routinely, perhaps allowing terrorists to move freely throughout the nation. He would order the FBI to track down illegals who are already here, and at the very least deport the suspicious and the criminal, and he would aid and encourage local law-enforcement agencies to do the same thing, rather than hinder them.

He would insist that all legal roadblocks against scrutinizing jihadist websites and social media be cleared away, and he would then monitor vigilantly, sending investigators where appropriate. He would also encourage the efforts of local police and regional joint terrorist task forces to infiltrate mosques and campus centers, and to cultivate friendly Muslim informants, on the watch for jihadist recruiters.
The unspoken corollary to all this, of course, is that the current administration is doing none of these things.

At any rate, Magnet points out that Muslims in America are much more moderate than their co-religionists elsewhere in the world but that 1% of American Muslims think terrorism is often justified. This is alarming when one realizes that there are approximately 7 million Muslims in America, which means there are about 70,000 Muslims in this country who are potential terrorists. Pretty scary.

On a related topic, retired general Anthony Zinni made a very sensible observation regarding the need to eliminate ISIS on Sunday's Meet the Press:
“The boots on the ground question is always the toughest one,” Zinni said. “I wish we were not so paranoid about boots on the ground. We can’t even define it! There’s going to have to be special operations forces,” even with air strikes.

“Very simply put, if you put two brigades on the ground of U.S. forces, they would push ISIS back to Syria in a heartbeat and probably take less time, less cost, and I think in the long run fewer casualties overall.”
Every time someone talks about what we should do about ISIS they're quick to assure their listeners that they're not talking about putting "boots on the ground." It's like listening to people talking about race who always have to preface their comments by assuring us that they're "not racist, but."

If it takes infantry to destroy ISIS then send in the infantry. Mr. Obama seems determined not to arm the Kurds (or the Ukrainians) so that they can defend themselves so he leaves himself no other options but to do nothing (except air attacks when large numbers of civilians are in danger) or to insert American ground forces. Of course he's reluctant to do the latter because not only does it go against his normal aversion to the use of force, but it's also an admission of failure of his Middle East policy.

One objection to the assertion that we need to excise this cancer before it spreads is that raised by commentators like the estimable George Will who argue that the combined armed forces of Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq could easily overwhelm ISIS, so why should we sacrifice American blood to do it? Let the Arab countries take care of their own problems. This would be wise advice if ISIS were just an Arab problem, but it's not. ISIS is a threat to us, and eliminating them is not something we should do for the Arab world's sake, we should do it for ours. If the Arabs insist on doing nothing then we will suffer the consequences of an ascendent terrorist state of unprecedented violence and evil. It's galling that the Arabs are so feckless and cowardly, but to refuse for that reason to eliminate a clear and present danger to us would be folly born of spite.

Monday, September 1, 2014

The Left's Moral Cowardice

What happens when a society is so steeped in the dogmas of liberal multiculturalism that they're no longer willing to hold others to the same standard of behavior as everyone else because to do so, they fear, is to impose one's values on others, or to blame the victim, or to impose a tyranny of a majority over a minority, or to tacitly claim one's own values to be superior to those of other cultures, et cetera?

What happens when the authorities in a community are so morally pusillanimous that they recoil from making any judgments, moral or legal, about the behavior of members of other races or ethnicities? Where does such cowardice lead?

John O'Sullivan's article in National Review Online shows us where progressive multiculturalism has led the British. O’Sullivan writes:
Britain has felt real shock and horror over the report that 1,400 young women in the South Yorkshire town of Rotherham had been groomed, raped, prostituted, trafficked, and brutally abused in almost every possible way by a criminal gang for the last 16 years. In addition, the authorities — which in this case are the local government authority, the police, and the child-protection services — had been repeatedly informed of these crimes but had dismissed the reports as false or exaggerated and taken no action to investigate, halt, and punish them.
O'Sullivan goes on to describe some of the horrors these young girls endured. He also says, as hard as it might be to believe, that despite having almost full knowledge of what was going on the authorities did nothing to stop it. Why? The reason lies in part in these two facts:
The 1,400 girls were all white and of Christian background and English ethnicity while all but one of their exploiters were Muslims of Pakistani heritage. (The report describes the men delicately as “Asians,” but so far no Hindus, Sikhs, or Hong Kong Chinese are among their number.) As in other recent cases, the men targeted the girls in large part because they were white Christians, culturally speaking, and thus “worthless.” They actually told the girls that this was so.
There's another relevant fact:
But what explains the silence, the acquiescence, even the cooperation of the authorities? Their motives seem to derive from the rich stew of progressive absurdities that constitute official attitudes in modern Britain. The first is the fear of being suspected of racism. Again and again the police and the social workers shrank from intervening or responding to complaints because to do so would invite the accusation that they were “racist.”

Most people in the Muslim community were unaware of this criminal conspiracy (and, shocked and horrified like everyone else, they now condemn it). But when it was brought to the attention of “community leaders,” they too played the race card to suppress further investigation. To uncover such scandal would be not only racist, it would commit a sin against the ideal of multiculturalism that now actuates much official policy.

The Labour member of Parliament for Rotherham from 1994 to 2012, Dennis MacShane, admitted yesterday that as a Guardian-reading left liberal, he had shied away from looking into such topics as the oppression of women in “bits of the Muslim community.” He ought to have done something about it, but, well, you understand . . . “I think there was a culture of not wanting to rock the multicultural community boat, if I may put it like that.”
So much for the progressive's professed concern for the oppressed. You can bet that had the rapists been white and the victims young Pakistani girls the leftists would've been marching in the street proclaiming their outrage, but it takes no courage to condemn the crimes of the majority or to enforce the law against them. Leaders of the white community would not have called the politicians and police racist for arresting white rapists. For the left, the rape culture is just part of the wonderful multicultural mosaic, as long as the perpetrators are minorities and the victims are white.

O'Sullivan describes some of the crimes committed by the liberal authorities:
Some of the examples of this depraved official indifference are barely believable. In one case, a girl was found drunk in the company of her exploiters and was arrested while the men were let free. In another, a father found his daughter, tried to rescue her, complained to the police, and was himself arrested while the authorities took no action on his complaint.

It is not as if this series of crimes was hidden or unknown. No fewer than three official investigations (prior to this one) looked into these crimes. They reported the broad truth that we now know and called for further investigations and arrests. The police and child-protection services did nothing whatever about them. Indeed, they quietly pigeonholed the findings with dismissive comments. The local councilors looked the other way or, on some occasions, intervened to discourage investigations by the police. Only the general public was innocently ignorant.
This is where multiculturalism combined with liberal progressivism leads. Some people just get a pass if they're members of a minority because to enforce the law against them is to be seen as culturally chauvinist racists, or whatever.

There's much, much more to this story, and I encourage readers to go to the link to get the full effect of the left's bigotry against the class - white, middle class, and Christian - the majority of these girls came from.

Every single person in a position of authority who knew about these crimes and didn't do anything about them but instead let these girls be terrorized for years should be sent to jail. The prison yard is an environment rich in opportunities for multicultural experiences. Liberal progressives would like it there.