Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Alt Right Is Not All Right

Denyse O'Leary writing at Mercator Net notes that the media has become fixated during this election season on a group calling itself the alt right (alternative right) and points out an interesting fact about their views. The alt right is comprised of white supremacists and those who practice sundry other bigotries and they've placed some in the liberal media, O'Leary argues, in a bit of a bind.

The difficulty is that those who call themselves alt right rely for their racist rationalizations upon Darwinian assumptions about human evolution. The conundrum for the liberals is figuring out how to criticize the racism without criticizing the Darwinism which undergirds it.

After explaining who the few dozen adherents of the alt right are, and arguing that it's at most a fringe movement, she goes on to explain its connection to Darwinism:
Alt right figure Frank Hilliard, writing at movement journal Counter-Currents, states that, “The Alternative Right Belongs to the Darwinians”:
It’s because, as Darwinians, we think the nation should exist as a gene pool, since we come from a European background, a European gene pool. We think the same argument should apply to other ethnic and racial groups. Thus, we support the Kurds in their demand for a country of their own. We support Israel as a land for the Jews, Japan as a land for the Japanese, Congo for the Congolese, and so on. Each race/ethnic group is like an extended family for the people in it, and this large extended family should have a home of its own.

If that sounds vaguely like different species of animals having different ecological niches, well yes, it’s more or less the same idea.
One of the libels being flung around by the media is that Christians are drawn to the alt right, but this is a witless libel. The ideas of human equality and the imago dei are Christian concepts that preclude any serious Christian from aligning with any supremacist movement, whether white or black. Those concepts form the intellectual springboard for the modern rejection of racism, but, crucially, they're unsupportable given the naturalistic worldview of which Darwinism is one of the chief buttresses. Not only was Darwin himself a white supremacist, but on Darwinian naturalism, there's no moral basis even for saying racism is morally wrong.

Moreover, many Christians are one or another sort of creationist, and creationists are going to view any attitude or behavior that finds its justification in Darwinism with intense suspicion. Thus, O'Leary writes:
Clearly, few American Christians — or middle Americans generally — identify with the alt right. But mainstream media suspect they do. Coming to terms with defeat [in the past election], they will continue to react by lumping creationist Christians who oppose mandatory unisex washrooms with Darwinian racists as an "alt right" menace.

[So] how should we respond to the use of the term “alt right” in a way that implies that all social conservatives (or suspected Trump voters) are racists? We might begin by asking what, exactly, the speaker understands the term to mean. If it is used as the alt right proponents themselves use it, then anyone who is not committed to Darwinian survival of the fittest cannot be alt right. For example, no creationist of any kind could be alt right.
Darwinists have long argued vehemently that it's a perversion of their theory to attach racist implications to it, yet Darwin himself was clearly a racist. He wrote this in the Descent of Man in 1874:
At some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilised races of man will almost certainly exterminate, and replace, the savage races throughout the world. At the same time the anthropomorphous apes, as Professor Schaaffhausen has remarked will no doubt be exterminated. The break between man and his nearest allies will then be wider, for it will intervene between man in a more civilised state, as we may hope, even than the Caucasian, and some ape as low as a baboon, instead of as now between the negro or Australian [aborigine] and the gorilla. (p.178)
If the alt right is comprised of people who wish to take Darwin to his logical conclusion to justify their racism, how do his philosophical acolytes in the media criticize them without criticizing Darwin and Darwinism? It's an awkward position they find themselves in to be sure.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

A Theory in Crisis

The Spectator, a weekly British political magazine, has published a column in which various contributors list their "best books" of 2016. Novelist and biographer A.N. Wilson was deeply impressed with a book that I also found to be a fascinating read - Michael Denton's Evolution: Still a Theory in Crisis. Denton is a geneticist who argues in his book that Darwinian mechanisms like natural selection and genetic mutation are wholly inadequate to explain features of living things like the diversity of leaf shapes, the pentadactyl limb, feathers, the emergence of language and much else.

For example, human cognitive capacities like sophisticated mathematical ability seem to have been present in the brains of the earliest humans and yet were dormant for perhaps hundreds of thousands of years until relatively recently. This persistence of an ability that was never used is inexplicable on the Darwinian view that no function can either emerge or persist if it is of no benefit to the species.

Here's what Wilson writes about Denton's book:
Michael Denton’s Evolution: Still a Theory in Crisis (Discovery Institute Press, £16.80). A sequel to his 1985 book — Evolution: A Theory in Crisis — this takes us up to date with the dazzling developments of life sciences over the past 30 years. Denton is a sceptic about Darwin’s theory of evolution on purely scientific grounds.

It is hard to see how anyone reading his book could not be persuaded. Paleontology provides abundant evidence of evolution within species, but none of one species morphing into another. Denton is fascinatingly clear in his exposition of the science of genetics, and how it destroys the Darwinian position. A truly great book.
Despite its scientific subject matter Denton's book is surprisingly accessible to the intelligent layman and would make an excellent Christmas gift for anyone who is both a reader - admittedly a vanishing breed - and/or scornful of contemporary challenges to the Neo-Darwinian orthodoxy, a type which also seems to be diminishing given the cogency of so much of the current criticism of naturalistic Darwinian explanations in biology.

Monday, November 28, 2016

A Tyrant Has Passed

Young people might be wondering why Miami's Cuban community is jubilant at news of the death of Fidel Castro, the Cuban President for Life. The reason has to do with why there are so many Cubans in Miami in the first place.

Castro came to power in Cuba in 1959 after a bloody revolution, and the blood never stopped flowing. Thousands of Cubans were executed, tens of thousands more languished and died in hellish prisons. The island nation which had been a popular resort became under Castro a concentration camp for its citizens who never stopped trying to flee even though for many it meant death in the Gulf of Mexico. Many others made it across the water to Florida where they, their children and grandchildren have made their homes for the last fifty years, separated from family members, many of whom remained behind to be slaughtered by Castro's firing squads.

Despite his horrific oppression of the Cuban people Castro was a hero to the American left, just as was the cold-blooded mass murderer Che Guevera. Even as Castro was torturing and killing those who sought to flee or who opposed his communist policies, he was receiving fawning coverage from our liberal media and celebrities in the U.S.

Liberals pooh-poohed reports of his bloody tyranny and reminded us that, after all, the Cuban people enjoyed high literacy rates and good health care under Fidel's dictatorship, as if that made acceptable in their minds his brutalities and cruelties.

William Doino Jr. writing in First Things quotes Yale historian Carlos Eire who was angered by President Obama's decision a year ago to reestablish diplomatic ties with Cuba:
I am furious, in pain, and deeply offended by those who laud this betrayal of the Cuban people as a great moment in history. My family and native land were destroyed by the brutal Castro regime. In 1959, as an 8-year old, I listened to mobs shout ‘paredon!’ (to the firing squad!) I watched televised executions, and was terrified by the incessant pressure to agree with a bearded dictator’s ideals.

As the months passed, relatives, friends and neighbors began to disappear. Some of them emerged from prison with detailed accounts of the tortures they endured, but many never reappeared, their lives cut short by firing squads.

I also witnessed the government’s seizure of all private property—down to the ring on one’s finger—and the collapse of my country’s economy. I began to feel as if some monstrous force was trying to steal my mind and soul through incessant indoctrination.
Doino goes on to write:
Eire escaped the regime when he was eleven, one of the lucky 14,000 children able to get out through Operation Pedro Pan. Some were joined by their parents later, but many were not. “Although my mother did manage to escape three years later,” writes Eire, “my father remained stuck for the rest of his life. When he died, fourteen years after my departure, the Castro regime prevented me from attending his funeral.”

The basic facts of Fidel Castro’s fifty year reign-of-terror... are these:

As soon as Fidel emerged from the Sierra Maestra Mountains with his band of revolutionaries, having overthrown the corrupt and widely detested General Fulgencio Batista, Castro was treated as a conquering hero. His romantic image as a liberator of the oppressed convinced many reporters, academics, celebrities and even religious to believe he was a genuine social reformer, when he was anything but that.

As Georgie Anne Geyer reveals in her biography, Guerilla Prince: The Untold Story of Fidel Castro, Fidel has always been a deceiver, an egoist and a thug. From his earliest days as a radical university student, Castro had an attraction to violence and totalitarianism (modeling himself after Mussolini), and once his ambitions to take over Cuba came true, he put his beliefs into practice.

The first to fall victim to his violent impulses were his political opponents, who were executed en masse, after show trials, by Nazi-like firing squads. But Castro’s long-time allies also became targets. Huber Matos, Manuel Urrutia and Carlos Franqui—who all worked with Castro to overthrow Batista—were soon demonized, jailed or exiled because they opposed Communism and envisioned an independent Cuba. Castro, who had assured the world in 1959 that he was not a Communist, immediately proved he was exactly that, suddenly announcing he was a Marxist-Leninist and would be till his dying day.

The consequences for Cuba and the world have been profound. Once in power, Castro banned the democratic elections he once promised, expropriated private property, created a one-party Communist state, and ruthlessly suppressed all forms of dissent and opposition. He dismantled the once thriving Catholic Church, crushing its educational system, expelling hundreds of priests, and forcibly indoctrinating baptized believers with atheism and Marxism. It is this fractured and persecuted Church that Pope Francis is now trying to revive, against huge obstacles in a police state.

Having willfully turned the island into a Soviet satellite (and well before America’s ill-advised Bay of Pigs invasion), Castro welcomed the shipment of Soviet nuclear missiles there, provoking a crisis that nearly incinerated the world. He sent his troops to fight—and needlessly to die—for tyrannies abroad, and supported anti-American terrorist and revolutionary movements across the globe. He allowed desperate Cubans to drown at sea, rather than allow them to properly emigrate. And all the while, he lived a life of luxury, even as he bragged about being a champion of Cuba’s poor.

The number of deaths attributable to Castro’s regime is thought to be in the tens of thousands, though some say that is a conservative estimate. The attempt to erase these memories is a crime, and no one who cares about the Cuban people, past or present, should allow a diplomatic accord to succeed in doing so.
Anyone wishing to understand what Cuba was like for anyone Castro saw as an enemy might read Armando Valladares' account of his own experience titled Against All Hope: A Memoir of Life in Castro's Gulag. It's hard to imagine that human beings can be as cruel as were Castro and his henchmen to Valladares and thousands of others.

Meanwhile, Pope Francis and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sent condolences and expressed their sadness that Fidel is dead. I wonder if they'd have done as much for Adolf Hitler.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Readers

The Pew Research Center has some dispiriting news for those concerned about the future of the American republic:
About a quarter of American adults (26%) say they haven’t read a book in whole or in part in the past year, whether in print, electronic or audio form.

Several demographic traits correlate with non-book reading, Pew Research Center surveys have found. For instance, adults with a high school degree or less are about three times as likely as college graduates (40% vs. 13%) to report not reading books in any format in the past year. A 2015 Pew Research Center survey shows that these less-educated adults are also the least likely to own smartphones or tablets, two devices that have seen a substantial increase in usage for reading e-books since 2011. (College-educated adults are more likely to own these devices and use them to read e-books.)

Adults with an annual household income of less than $30,000 are about twice as likely as the most affluent adults to be non-book readers (33% vs. 17%). Hispanic adults are also about twice as likely as whites (40% vs. 23%) to report not having read a book in the past 12 months.

Older Americans are a bit more likely than their younger counterparts not to have read a book. Some 29% of adults ages 50 and older have not read a book in the past year, compared with 23% of adults under 50. In addition, men are less likely than women to have read a book, as are adults in rural areas compared with those in urban areas.
I know people are busy, but it's disappointing to learn that one in four Americans hasn't had the time or inclination to read at least one book in the past year, especially when one factors in the suspicion that those who report that they have read a book have read something like Fifty Shades of Gray.

In any case, permit me a suggestion. The New Year is just a bit over a month away. One marvelous resolution we could all make would be to read at least six books in the coming year or, even better, to join a monthly book club. The mind is a wonderful gift, and reading and talking about what one has read is a great way to keep it strong and fit.

Thomas Jefferson once said that "If a nation expects to be ignorant and free ..., it expects what never was and never will be. If we are to guard against ignorance and remain free, it is the responsibility of every American to be informed."

A healthy nation requires that its citizens be people enthusiastic to learn and committed to the life-long project of cultivating their minds. Books are a great way, perhaps the best way, to accomplish that.

Friday, November 25, 2016

12%

One of the pressing questions bedeviling political observers in the wake of the recent election has been why so many people whose values seem to be antithetical to those of Mr. Trump nevertheless voted for him. Indeed, he received 84% of the evangelical Christian vote while Hillary Clinton received only 12% of that demographic. Why? Perhaps it's largely because Christians have watched their values and liberties wash away like bare topsoil in a rainstorm over the last eight years and they believed a Clinton presidency portended four more years of the same. Donald Trump may not be much of a Christian, he may represent a lot of what evangelicals reject in contemporary culture, but they saw in him the only hope for stanching the erosion.

Another reason so many evangelicals voted for Trump, I think, forms the implicit subtext in an article at The Federalist by Mary Katharine Ham.

Ham points out that when Christian business men and women refuse to participate, as a matter of religious principle, in gay or lesbian weddings they're socially excoriated and legally crushed by courts unsympathetic to religious freedom.

But when a fashion designer declares that she'll refuse as a matter of political principle to sell her clothing to Melania Trump she's hailed as a heroine.

This kind of hypocrisy has frustrated evangelicals for a long time and they didn't believe a Clinton administration would be likely to do anything to change it. Indeed, many were convinced it'd only get worse under a President Clinton.

Here are some excerpts from Ham's essay:
Of the many things the Trump administration in waiting has made cool again, add private businesses refusing service to customers based on moral objections.

Friday, fashion designer Sophie Theallet, who has dressed the current first lady Michelle Obama, offered a preemptive refusal to hypothetically dress the next first lady, Melania Trump, should she ask for some of her clothes— presumably not the ones available at The Gap. In her unsolicited letter, Theallet informed the world that a person who did not ask for any of her clothes would not be getting them.

“As one who celebrates and strives for diversity, individual freedom and respect for all lifestyles, I will not participate in dressing or associating in any way with the next First Lady,” the letter reads. “The rhetoric of racism, sexism, and xenophobia unleashed by her husband’s presidential campaign are incompatible with the shared values we live by.”

“I encourage my fellow designers to do the same,” it goes on.
Of course, among those shared values is the right to live by one's own conscience and religious liberty, but should someone choose to make a floral arrangement for a gay wedding I wonder if Ms Theallet would champion their right not to participate in an event they see as immoral.
In refusing service to Trump, Theallet appealed to “individual freedom” and the idea of her art as an expression of the company’s “artistic and philosophical ideals.” Her announcement was called “noble,” “patriotic,” and “admirable integity.

But these are the same arguments the left and media have dismissed from Baronelle Stutzman, a Washington florist who thinks making custom bouquets for a same-sex marriage doesn’t comport with her personal beliefs. In appealing to the state Supreme Court after a three-year legal battle, Stutzman’s lawyer argued this week “that arranging flowers is artistic expression protected under the First Amendment. Stutzman — a Southern Baptist — would have been more than happy to sell prearranged flowers out of the cooler because that was ‘not custom expression.'”

A judge “questioned just what message is being expressed when Stutzman creates her floral designs.” No doubt no one will wonder whether Theallet’s expression is art and entitled to the protection of individual liberty and conscience against government compulsion.

A pair of New Mexico wedding photographers learned their photography was not deemed artistic expression enough when they lost a state Supreme Court appeal to a ruling compelling them to photograph same-sex wedding ceremonies.

Theallet’s triumphant and unnecessary announcement is also the mirror image of the Memories Pizza saga of 2015. In the spring of 2015, the proprietor of a tiny business seeking no publicity whatsoever, and located in the middle of Indiana, was approached by a member of the press about hypothetically catering the hypothetical wedding of a hypothetical gay couple.

Crystal O’Connor politely declined this nonexistent request while making clear the business has no trouble serving gay customers outside a wedding ceremony: “If a gay couple came in and wanted us to provide pizzas for their wedding, we would have to say no,” she told WBND-TV after Indiana passed a religious freedom bill protecting such objections.

O’Connor’s expression of her own philosophical ideals was met with such negative national attention and aggressive backlash that the family-owned pizzeria closed for more than a week.
Ham's article features a number of tweets from Theallet's admirers all praising her for taking such a bold and principled stand. Meanwhile, Christians are facing bankruptcy, loss of their businesses, or enormous fines if they take a stand for what they believe. I wonder how much Theallet's "courageous" posturing is costing her.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thanksgiving Wishes

I'd like on this Thanksgiving Day to wish all of our readers a wonderful holiday and to express my hope that we'll all take time to reflect upon the significance of the day. Perhaps one way to initiate that meditation is to cite the words of President Ronald Reagan on the Thanksgiving of 1985. Reagan said this:
Good morning, everyone. You know, the Statue of Liberty and this wonderful holiday called Thanksgiving go together naturally because although as Americans we have many things for which to be thankful, none is more important than our liberty. Liberty: that quality of government, that brightness of mind and spirit for which the Pilgrim Fathers braved the seas and Americans for two centuries have laid down their lives.

Today, while religion is suppressed in perhaps one third of the world, we Americans are free to worship the Almighty as we choose. While entire nations must endure the yoke of tyranny, we are free to speak our minds, to enjoy an unfettered and vigorous press, and to make government abide by the limits we deem just. While millions live behind walls, we remain free to travel throughout the land to share this precious day with those we love most deeply – the members of our families.

My fellow Americans, let us keep this Thanksgiving Day sacred. Let us thank God for the bounty and goodness of our nation. And as a measure of our gratitude, let us rededicate ourselves to the preservation of this: the land of the free and the home of the brave.
I think it is true that when we cease to be grateful for the liberties President Reagan mentions we'll soon cease to have them. Liberty is a fragile thing, and there will always be those who wish to limit it or to deprive us of it altogether. Only a people who appreciate their liberty are worthy of it, and only a people who are grateful for it deserve to keep it.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

How Thanksgiving Became a National Holiday

Ever since the presidency of George Washington Americans had been celebrating days of thanksgiving, but they had been declared mostly by the states for the states. On September 28th, 1863, a 74 year-old magazine editor named Sarah Hale wrote to President Abraham Lincoln urging him to declare a nation-wide observance.

During his administration President Lincoln had issued many orders similar to this. For example, on November 28, 1861, he had ordered government departments closed for a local day of thanksgiving. Hale, however, wanted him to have the "day of our annual Thanksgiving made a National and fixed Union Festival," an observance for which she had campaigned in her magazine, Godey's Lady's Book, for 15 years.

She explained, "You may have observed that, for some years past, there has been an increasing interest felt in our land to have the Thanksgiving held on the same day, in all the States; it now needs National recognition and authoritive fixation, only, to become permanently, an American custom and institution." Prior to this, each state scheduled its own Thanksgiving holiday at different times, mainly in New England and other Northern states. President Lincoln responded to Mrs. Hale's request immediately, unlike several of his predecessors, who ignored her petitions altogether.

According to an April 1, 1864, letter from John Nicolay, one of President Lincoln's secretaries, this proclamation was actually written for President Lincoln by Secretary of State William Seward. A year later the manuscript, in Seward's hand, was sold to benefit Union troops. Here's Lincoln's proclamation:
Washington, D.C.
October 3, 1863
By the President of the United States of America.
A Proclamation.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.

In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore.

Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People.

I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.

And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln
William H. Seward,
Secretary of State
In some respects the proclamation reads as if it could have been written today. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Undercutting Defeater?

Scott Adams who draws the Dilbert cartoons said several things on his blog in the wake of the Trump election that I thought were interesting. His main point was that the aspersions being cast on Trump voters by those who voted for Hillary make little sense, which was itself an interesting argument, but not what I want to talk about in this post. What I want to think about here are these sentences:
Humans did not evolve with the capability to understand their reality because it was not important to survival. Any illusion that keeps us alive long enough to procreate is good enough.
This is a revealing assertion for two reasons. It's a view widely held by Darwinian thinkers and, if it's true, it casts grave doubt on the rationality of belief in evolution. It actually undercuts that belief.

If Adams is correct then the vast majority of our beliefs about reality could be, for all we know, illusions which have become fixed in the human population because they promote the survival of the species. If this is so then we really can't trust any of them, especially our metaphysical beliefs, to be true. And, since our belief in evolution is one such belief, we have no grounds for believing it itself is true.

In other words, the belief that nature selects traits or beliefs that promote survival rather than truth undercuts belief in natural selection. It could well be just another of Adams' illusions.

I don't want to make too much of this because Adams, though a very bright guy, is a cartoonist and not a scientist or philosopher of science, so he doesn't speak with any special authority on matters in these fields. Even so, to the extent his words reflect a common assumption about Darwinism, they should give Darwinians pause.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Who Said This?

Of the following American presidents or presidential candidates - A. Donald Trump, B. Hillary Clinton, C. Barack Obama, D. George W. Bush, or E. Bill Clinton - which one said this:
All Americans, not only in the States most heavily affected but in every place in this country, are rightly disturbed by the large numbers of illegal aliens entering our country. The jobs they hold might otherwise be held by citizens or legal immigrants. The public service they use impose burdens on our taxpayers.

That's why our administration [will move] aggressively to secure our borders more by hiring a record number of new border guards, by deporting twice as many criminal aliens as ever before, by cracking down on illegal hiring, by barring welfare benefits to illegal aliens.

In the budget I will present to you, we will try to do more to speed the deportation of illegal aliens who are arrested for crimes, to better identify illegal aliens in the workplace ....

We are a nation of immigrants. But we are also a nation of laws. It is wrong and ultimately self-defeating for a nation of immigrants to permit the kind of abuse of our immigration laws we have seen in recent years, and we must do more to stop it.
If you answered E. Bill Clinton give yourself a star. He delivered these words in his 1995 State of the Union Address.

If you thought that surely it must have been Donald Trump don't feel bad, it could've been, but the point is that Trump's views on illegal immigration today are pretty much where the Democratic party was twenty years ago. In fact, Bill Clinton got a standing ovation by his fellow Democrats when he spoke those words.

So why does Trump get booed and Clinton get cheered when both men hold very similar views on illegal immigration? Is it that people think Trump is serious about stopping it but Bill Clinton wasn't? Or is it that some people either simply don't recognize their inconsistency or don't care about being consistent?

Here's video of the relevant portion of President Clinton's speech:

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Moral Dissonance

A 25 year-old British woman named Zara-Jayne Moisey was arrested in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates on charges that may astonish you. What happened was this: Miss Moisey was staying in a hotel in Dubai where she was raped by two British men. She reported the rape to the authorities and they promptly arrested her for having had extra-marital sexual relations which is a crime in UAE. Here's an excerpt from the story in The Mirror
After posting an online appeal for help, Zara's mum Sue Barber wrote: “Please help my daughter. She was raped while on holiday. She reported this to the police and now she is being held on the grounds of sexual activity outside marriage. We are not a rich family and cannot afford to pay for the defence she so desperately needs. I am going out of my mind with worry.”

Radha Stirling, founder and director of Detained in Dubai, said the nation's treatment of rape victims is "tremendously disturbing". She said: "The UAE has a long history of penalising rape victims. It is still not safe for victims to report these crimes to the police without the risk of suffering a double punishment. Police regularly fail to differentiate between consensual intercourse and violent rape. Victims go to them expecting justice, and end up being prosecuted. They not only invalidate their victimisation, they actually punish them for it."

The Foreign Commonwealth Office has confirmed it is "supporting a British woman" and will "remain in contact with her family."
Her parents are of course frantic and have been able to visit their daughter who has been released on bail, but they need money to finance her legal fees. The two accused rapists are also out on bail. You can read about it at the link.

The question I'd like to ask in relation to this is, why do we think it's wrong to imprison this woman for being raped? Is it not because we believe that even though Arab culture is in many ways different from our own, justice is a universal moral imperative and injustice, in any culture or society, is wrong? Yet many Americans have accepted the idea that we have no right to judge what other cultures do, or that we have no right to say that our ways of doing things are better than other ways of doing things.

If this is one's conviction, if all cultures and cultural practices are "valid" within that culture and we have no right to criticize them, then the person who believes that has disqualified him or herself from saying that even an injustice such as we see in the Moisey case is wrong. If someone nonetheless believes that it is indeed wrong to imprison a rape victim then their moral sentiments are at war with their cultural or sociological convictions, and they can't rationally continue to hold these two contradictory sets of beliefs.

Unfortunately, a lot of people will resolve the tension in circumstances like these by suppressing their moral intuition that justice is an imperative in every cultural setting. Their commitment to relativism and multiculturalism prohibits them from giving voice to what deep down they truly know: It's wrong to do what's being done to Zara-Jayne Moisey whether it's done to her in Beijing, London, Zimbabwe, New York, or Dubai.

Maybe a better way to relieve the dissonance in situations like this is to conclude that one's commitment to relativism and multiculturalism, though well-intentioned, is simply wrong.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Post-Truth America

Denise McAllister at The Federalist puts her finger on one of the tragedies of our post modern age - the loss of belief in objective truth.

The present age, she points out, has come to be labelled the post-truth era and to the extent the designation is accurate it has been calamitous in numerous ways.

McAllister writes:
Oxford Dictionaries has picked “post-truth” as its word of the year, citing that “a year dominated by highly-charged political and social discourse” was the driving force that increased the word’s use by 2,000 percent.

It defines post-truth as “relating or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.” This word, publishers say, has “become ‘overwhelmingly’ associated with politics.”

.... What I find particularly fascinating regarding Oxford Dictionaries’ announcement is the reaction from liberals. Suddenly, people who hold to philosophies that actually undermine and reject objective truth are deeply concerned about emotions dictating facts.
This last sentence is important. Several generations of students have been taught by liberal post modern professors to be skeptical of any and all truth claims. Now, with Trump's ascendancy and the evidence that his lies didn't mean much to his supporters, some of these same people who were so eager to abandon the notion of objective truth in their academic work are now wringing their hands over the apparent fact that truth no longer matters to a large segment of our population.

McAllister drives home the irony of this crucial epistemological development:
I’d like to cut through the fog and focus on a foundational issue that is driving this chaos.

I have to ask [all those] fretting about fake news and post-truth in this election season: Where have you been all these years as America has abandoned truth for relativism especially in higher learning (and now in all levels of education)? Haven’t you been paying attention as we have put emotion over facts in just about every sphere of society? Our nation has been abandoning objective truth for more than a century! What did you think would result?

This sudden outcry against post-truth reminds me of the vapors so many had when they heard the [obscene Trump] tape. Suddenly, people who had been telling us there’s no right and wrong—no objective values or morality by which we can judge others—switched gears and became Puritans in a flash. This is the phenomenon I find truly amazing, and it’s just more evidence of the subjectivism that has been consuming our country for decades like cancer, eating away every part of civil society.

My response to those to those now worried about this “post-truth society” is “You reap what you sow.” This abandonment of objective facts for emotion is the inevitable result of our culture’s unrelenting commitment to moral relativism. This is the chaos that comes as a result. Look at it, soak it in, and maybe you’ll learn something.

Post-truth is not the fault of social media or of current politics. These are symptoms, not the disease. The disease is an American society that has closed its mind to objective truth and is now being forced to live with the conflict and chaos that ensues.

Relativism, subjectivism, and materialism are all bankrupt philosophies. Yet these are what drive our culture and politics. When objective truth and values are abandoned, there are no unifying principles of truth or morality that bind together the vast number of disparate individuals and groups that inhabit our nation.

Reason, objective morality, and principles of equal justice, truth, love, freedom for the individual, and limited government (to name a few)—these are objective realities. But we turned our backs on objective truth and embraced subjectivism, pluralism, and relativism, hiding them under the cloak of tolerance. We abandoned our principles. Now all we have is the many, with nothing to make us “one.” America’s greatness stems from its commitment to e pluribus unum—out of the many, one. Out of the many states, one nation. Out of the many races, religions, and backgrounds, one people. To achieve that—to bind together all these subjective entities into a functioning and civil whole—we need objective principles to which we are all committed.
Of course, our abandonment of objective truth has a cause - secularism. There can only be objective values if those values are rooted in the transcendent. Eliminate all reference to transcendence and society's left with nothing in which to anchor its moral, political and aesthetic values. They simply float like untethered balloons drifting along on the breezes of social fashion.

McAllister goes on:
The fact is when everyone defines truth for himself, there are no ties that bind. If I decide something is true for me, based on how I feel, then it is true. This is all I have if I have rejected objective truth. All I have are my subjective experience, feelings, and natural impulses. These become truth for me, just as your subjective feelings become truth for each of you. In the end, we are ruled, not by a common commitment to truths to which we all are bound or a commitment to exercise reason as we pursue truth, but by our own individual feelings.

The result is chaos and conflict, because there is no real common ground. For there to be common ground, you would have to be committed to something objective, a truth outside of yourself that is the same for everyone. This conflict can’t be avoided if society rejects objective truth and reason.

What is truly frightening is that human beings can’t remain in a state of chaos, so they look to a savior for peace, unity, and security. In a world that has abandoned a common commitment to objective truth, the only savior, the only path to unity, is an individual or group of individuals with enough power to control everyone else. The motivation of their will to power, just as with all who abandon truth, is to satisfy their own feelings and feed their own natural appetites. Principles and truth play no role. “The object of power is power,” George Orwell wrote in “1984.”

“Either we are rational spirit obliged for ever to obey the absolute values of the Tao [objective truths and values],” C. S. Lewis wrote in “The Abolition of Man,” “or else we are mere nature [creatures ruled by emotions and natural impulses] to be kneaded and cut into new shapes for the pleasures of masters who must, by hypothesis, have no motive but their own ‘natural’ impulses.”
There's much else of value in McAllister's essay, and I urge you to read it all. She concludes with this thought:
If we truly want to make America great again, if we really want peace and prosperity, we must return to the foundational principles and truths that made our nation great in the first place. If we want unity—e pluribus unum—we have to abandon subjectivism and once again embrace objective truth and morality. If we don’t, America will be transformed into a brave new world where truth is defined by the powerful.
Her words are, if you'll pardon the pun, objectively true, and they're certainly worth reflecting upon.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Meaningful Gift-Giving

We've spoken on this site before about the wonderful work that the Preemptive Love Coalition is doing with refugees from ISIS in Iraq. PLC is a marvelous relief agency which, in addition to the heart surgeries and other medical care it provides for Iraqi children, seeks to help refugees get on their feet and become self-sufficient.

This year they've come out with a modest catalog of gifts crafted by refugees which are available for purchase and which would make Christmas giving extra-meaningful this year.

Their crafts may seem a little pricey, but keep in mind that what you spend on the gift is actually a contribution to the well-being of the men, women and children who make them.

You can view the catalog here, but if you scroll down on the catalog page you can view an expanded, downloadable catalog.

PLC makes this promise:
Empowerment starts with listening. Displaced families know better than we do what they need to rebuild their lives. We seek to empower them in ways that honor their vision for the future and complement the skills they already possess.

We also believe in honoring your generosity, as you share your heart for remaking the world with us. That’s why we make every effort to use your gift for the purpose or item you indicate. If we receive additional donations beyond what’s needed for a specific area, we will use the excess amount to empower refugees where needed most.
I'm sure that the recipient of one of these gifts, no matter how simple, would find their heart warmed to have it explained to them where it has come from, who made it, and why you chose to give it to them on Christmas.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Hate Trumps Love

At least that's the way it appears in much of our country.

The CEO of a cyber security firm has resigned after posting his intention on social media to assassinate President-elect Trump:
The CEO of a San Diego cyber-security company has resigned after he said he planned to assassinate President-elect Trump on social media. Images of Matt Harrigan’s comments began circulating on social media Sunday. They included the statement “I’m going to kill the president. Elect.” He also wrote, “Bring it secret service,” and “In no uncertain terms, f*** you America. Seriously. F*** off.”
This man shows signs of being seriously deranged, and we should probably pray for him rather than laugh at him. More serious than his moronic posting was the beating of a fifteen year old student by four thugs at an anti-Trump demonstration at a Rockville, MD high school:
Hundreds of students from Richard Montgomery High School were carrying signs reading, “Love Trumps Hate,” and chanting near the Rockville courthouse on Maryland Avenue in a protest that began at about 10 a.m. when a 15-year-old boy wearing one of the Trump campaign’s “Make American Great Again” hats was attacked by about four students.

The group surrounded the teen, punching him repeatedly, then threw him to the ground and kicked him repeatedly in the ribs. It is not yet clear what led up to the incident, but Maj. Michael English with Rockville police said the victim was not the aggressor.
There's been a great deal of hand-wringing in the media about Trump supporters allegedly saying mean things to minorities and playing nasty tricks on them, like subscribing them to racist websites, but has there been a single report of brutal beatings perpetrated by Trump supporters against anyone? I'm sure there has been, but they're few and far between.

The lunacy and the violence seems to be predominately a feature of the left and other anti-Trumpers, and it simply confirms in the minds of the people who voted for him, many of whom certainly had their doubts about the man, that they did the right thing. It also goes a long way to ensuring that the party these people implicitly support will not be returned to power anytime soon.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Let's Condemn All of It

There's considerable concern being voiced this week over acts of intimidation perpetrated by putative Trump supporters, and, to the extent that these occur, they must be categorically condemned by everyone dedicated to justice and democracy. Democracies are fragile and cannot long endure if the people are not free of intimidation. It's unfortunate, though, that there seems to be much less concern being expressed over the far more violent threats and physical attacks being perpetrated by leftist opponents of Donald Trump.

Consider just a few examples of the threats and intimidation first. The CEO of Grubhub has told his employees that if they supported Trump they should tender their resignations forthwith.

Film director Joss Whedon tweeted ominously that Donald Trump must not be permitted to serve a term in office. Exactly what does this mean? Is Whedon calling for Trump's assassination? An awful lot of his political allies are.

Assassination threats against Trump are flooding Twitter. Leftist protesters are calling for violence. One site has even been set up to encourage the rape of Trump's wife. The disgusting website is called "Rape Melania."

Add to the threats against Trump and his supporters the riots and numerous instances of actual physical violence that is being visited upon Trump supporters, and one wonders why, if the intimidation of minorities by threatening signs and slurs is worthy of our condemnation, and they emphatically are, why don't these other examples of even more horrible behavior also merit our condemnation? Why is the liberal media seemingly indifferent to them?

Donald Trump was called upon by some in the media to publicly condemn acts of intimidation carried out in his name, and on national television he forcefully responded by telling people to just stop it. Why aren't similar and worse behaviors on the left being condemned by President Obama, Mrs. Clinton and other prominent Democrats? Why aren't the print and broadcast media demanding that the leaders of the Democrat party forcefully repudiate these despicable attacks and threats?

Do they have a partisan or ideological blind spot so large that they can't see evil when it's manifested on the left? Is not the perception that they do indeed have such a blind spot one of the very reasons Trump won the support of so many voters who were fed up with one-sided media outrage? When will the media learn to practice simple fairness?

Monday, November 14, 2016

The Electoral College

For the fourth time in history the candidate who lost the presidential election actually received more votes than did the winner (The previous elections in which this occurred were in 1876, 1888, and 2000).

This has caused some to question why we use the Electoral College rather than simply electing the winner by popular vote. The reason is that the founding fathers created the current system because they wanted the president to be elected by the states, not directly by the people. The founders had a healthy fear of the mob and how easily it could be swayed, so just as they set up a system of checks and balances in the government they also set up something of the same thing in the electoral process.

Josh Gerlernter writing at National Review Online points out one effect of the Electoral College:
[O]ne thing about the Electoral College that is inarguable is that it delegitimizes the popular vote as a measurement of the candidates’ popularity. There is no basis for saying that Clinton was ultimately the more popular candidate because more people voted for her. Because the Electoral College means non-swing states are taken for granted, their constituents are more likely to take the outcome for granted, and not bother to vote.

Obviously, this doesn’t mean that more Trump supporters than Clinton supporters didn’t bother voting. It means that there’s no way of knowing one way or the other. Though you could argue that, since Republicans were defending 24 senate seats to the Democrats’ nine, there was more reason for Democrats to vote in likely Republican states than the other way around.

With votes still being counted, Clinton leads Trump by just under 300,000 votes. In California, where — unlike in 2012 — there was no Republican senate candidate on the ballot, Trump won 1.8 million fewer votes than Romney. Is that because Trump is 1.8 million votes less popular in California than Romney was? Maybe. But it could also be that Republicans had less reason to vote in a state whose electoral votes were never in doubt.
In other words, in a state like California where there was no chance of Trump winning and no real major office candidates on the ballot, it could well be that a lot of Republican voters simply stayed home, telling themselves that their vote wouldn't make any difference anyway. If so, the fact that Hillary had more total votes doesn't really mean that she's more popular.

Should we abandon the Electoral College? Arguments can be made pro and contra, but it would in any case be very difficult to accomplish since it would require a Constitutional amendment, and that, as proponents of the Equal Rights Amendment will tell you, is next to impossible to achieve. It would be especially difficult in this case since the current system has almost two hundred and forty years of political inertia behind it and no human rights issues are at stake. It's just easier to live with the current system than to try to change it.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Hot Button Issue

Several days ago (11/8/16) I posted a piece on VP titled I Bet You Didn't Know This which explained that, contrary to the impression we get from our media, a majority of Hispanics actually want stricter immigration laws and enforcement of those laws.

In response to that post a reader shared an anecdote which I thought would be of interest to other readers. I've edited her submission only slightly. She wrote:
I worked in retail up until this past August and one of my favorite co-workers is a Haitian. He has been in America for the last 6 years. He is married and has two children. His wife and children were already citizens and had been so for a very long time. My Haitian friend worked as a professor in Mexico for many years and he taught law. He speaks four different languages and has traveled extensively through the world. He has friends from all over and good friends that are Hispanic.

He was the first one to start talking about his frustration with the laws in the United States when it came to immigration issues. He was studying and working hard to become a citizen here 2 years ago and he and I were talking about the laws and the immigration policies. He was quite angry at the fact that he knew there were illegal immigrants who worked “under the table” did not pay taxes and yet had their driver’s license and were “taken care of” by our government.

He said he loved these people but still believed exactly what this Viewpoint post states, “there has been “too little” done to enforce immigration laws.”

He would appreciate this post, and I can hear him now in his accented French saying, "Yes, yes now this makes sense. I agree with him and this post." I wonder how my friend would feel about the findings of this research saying, "more Hispanics support a deportation policy for illegals." I have a huge heart for helping people, but I also get frustrated when I feel taken advantage of, and I do believe there are a lot of immigrants that are here illegally and taking advantage of the system.

The media leads us to believe all Hispanics want open boarders and want all of us to welcome them with open arms. I think putting "a cap of 500,000 immigrants a year, about half the current level" is good idea.

Once again it appears the media has fed the wrong information to the readers, “if you only get your news and insight from the major media what you think you know is probably wrong” is a true statement. If I didn’t believe that before ..., which I did, the posts on Viewpoint have certainly opened my eyes to more of it.

Immigration is a hot button for a lot of people, myself included. This point was a part of what influenced my voting choices. I’m not sure a wall is the way to go as Trump has said he will do, but I know that having the “open borders policy” is not a good idea and the fact that the media has led people to believe that is what “all Hispanics are in favor of” is stunning, although it should not be. No doubt they get their information from the very people they want to get it from to support what they want the readers to read and, once again, mislead the people with inaccurate information.
Trump may in the end choose not to build the wall that he promised he would build during the campaign. Who knows? But he will be forgiven for not keeping that promise only if he makes the wall unnecessary by restoring the integrity of our borders by other means. If he fails in this task he'll almost certainly be a one-term president.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Thank Obama for Trump

The same left which howled in outrage when Trump suggested in a debate that he might not accept the results of the election if there was reason to think that there was fraud, seems now to be refusing to accept the results of the election. Thousands are protesting in the streets and declaring that they will never accept Trump as their president. Some of the demonstrations are violent. People are being beaten and property is being damaged.

Imagine the hysterics if Tea Partiers had conducted themselves similarly in the wake of Obama's reelection in 2012, yet all we're getting today from much of our news reports are the cold, hard facts. No hand-wringing about what these riots portend for our democracy. No blistering indictments of the thugs roaming the streets looking for Trump supporters to pummel. You'd think that the media and the left would know better. After all, it was revulsion at media hypocrisy and gratuitous violence organized and subsidized by the left that drove many Trump voters to the polls in the first place.

But there were lots of other factors that motivated people to vote for Trump. In fact, Robert Tracinski at The Federalist argues that Donald Trump is actually Barack Obama's legacy. He suggests five facts about, or aspects of, Obama's presidency which inspired people to reject the woman who would have given us an Obama third term. He writes:
[W]hat most people haven’t realized yet is the extent to which this election loss is also the legacy of President Obama, on five different levels.
The five levels he alludes to, with my summaries of them, are these:

1. Obama discouraged more electable alternatives to Hillary Clinton. Under Obama the Democratic party has moved substantially leftward which makes it very difficult to appeal to a center-right nation. Obama is without doubt the left-most person ever to occupy the White House and his influence has spread throughout the party.

2. Obama’s mania for unpopular policies ran his party into the ground. The mid-term elections of 2010 and 2014 when Obama wasn't on the ballot saw his party lose hundreds of elected officials - governors and state legislators - largely as a result of the ham-fisted fashion in which Obamacare was rammed through the legislature, so that the party today has a very thin bench. As weak and unappealing as she was, Hillary was about the best candidate the Democrats had to put up against the Republicans in 2016.

3. Instead of transcending racial politics, Obama revived them. The Democrats have made a bet that minorities will soon be the majority so they've put their hopes on dominating that minority vote. This strategy backfired in 2016, however, since large numbers of whites resent the tactic of racial divisiveness that they see the Democratic party fostering.

4. Obama’s stagnant economy bred hopelessness. Tracinski writes: President Obama came into office at a moment of financial crisis, and he promised that government “stimulus” would get the economy moving again. But the stimulus never really stimulated, and the economy has just dragged along in the slowest and most lackluster recovery in memory.

Instead of “Morning Again in America” where we experience a burst of 7 percent annual growth, we have yet to regain even the old long-term average of 3 percent growth. The result is stagnant wages, high unemployment, reduced labor force participation, and more people on welfare and food stamps. These problems have been particularly devastating for non-college-educated, blue-collar whites, feeding an atmosphere of rage and hopelessness.

5. Obama cultivated the sense of a diminished America. His foreign policy often seemed confused, weak and inconsistent. He threatened Assad with retribution if Assad used chemical weapons on his people, but when Assad crossed Obama's red line the United States essentially did nothing. His Iran nuclear deal seems to be little more than a $100 billion bribe to Iran to put off for a time the day when they annihilate Israel with nuclear weapons. Benghazi was a disaster. His precipitous withdrawal from Iraq left a vacuum that ISIS rushed in to fill at the cost of thousands of lives. And so on.

Tracinski does a good job of developing these five failures and his article is well-worth reading. Check it out.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Racism or Ignorance?

One of the weirdest dogmas in the liberal catechism is that voter ID laws are racist because expecting black people to have ID or to know how to obtain ID in order to vote is simply to expect too much of blacks.

This is what Michael Gerson, a George W. Bush speechwriter, once referred to as the "soft bigotry of low expectations," and it's certainly the conventional view on the left as illustrated anecdotally by Ami Horowitz.

Horowitz went to Berkeley recently to interview liberal white students about their views on requiring voters to present identification at the polling place in order to minimize the opportunities for fraud, and many of them, at least the ones he included in the video, gave pretty much the stock response that such requirements are racist. Why? Because, the reasoning goes, obtaining IDs is beyond the capacities of too many black people.

Horowitz then traveled to Harlem to interview African Americans to see what they thought about what the Berkeley students had said. The results, the ones that survived the editing at any rate, were interesting:
Who are the racists, those who expect blacks and others to be able to perform the same task that whites perform all the time, i.e. secure an ID, or those who believe that blacks just can't be expected to manage what almost everyone else in the country can manage with little difficulty? It seems to me that if there is real racism lurking about in the issue of voter ID it's being exhibited by the young progressives at Berkeley, but, in truth, I doubt that these people are genuinely racist. I agree with the interviewees in Harlem. They're probably just ignorant.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Repudiation

There's been, and will be, a lot of analysis of yesterday's election, most of it I'm sure is much closer to the mark than my inexpert view. Nevertheless, for what it's worth I think that yesterday was not so much an affirmation by the nation's electorate of Donald Trump but rather an explosive repudiation of a political and media coalition that has frustrated and angered voters across this country for decades.

The elites in Washington and at the major media outlets have lorded it over the rest of what they disdainfully call "flyover country" for a generation and have grown increasingly arrogant, self-righteous and corrupt, and a lot of people have quite simply had enough of it.

More than Hillary Clinton, perhaps, this election was a repudiation of eight years of the Obama administration, its scandals, corruption, circumventions of the people via executive orders, and policies which many see as destructive of the economic and social health of the country.

Under the Obama presidency, to take a few examples, the IRS and DOJ have been perverted by a leadership seeking to use the power of these institutions to advance President Obama's political agenda and to protect Mrs. Clinton from legal scrutiny.

Over the past eight years the president's judicial appointments have been disappointingly mediocre and alarmingly unmoored from the Constitution and the law. The judiciary has taken upon itself the prerogatives of the legislature. Judges now make law instead of interpreting it.

During Mr. Obama's tenure the national debt has climbed to historically unprecedented levels, soaring to about 20 trillion dollars, an incomprehensible sum that'll take generations of Americans to pay off. Meanwhile, the labor force participation rate is at record lows.

The president's nuclear deal with Iran awarded the mullahs 100 billion dollars, half of which they're using to subsidize terrorism and build up their military. In return we got promises that Iran will slow down their production of nuclear weapons, delaying for only a few years the day when they'll be able to annihilate the nation of Israel and terrorize the rest of the Middle East with the threat of nuclear holocaust.

Throw into this mix the failures of Obamacare with its attendant deceptions, our de facto open borders policy, the assaults on traditional marriage and gender distinctions, the marketing of baby body parts by Planned Parenthood, the repeated attacks on religious liberty, and the steady decay of popular culture, a vivid illustration of which being Hillary Clinton's recent rally featuring rapper Jay-Z promiscuously dropping F-bombs and N-bombs (Many people watching that spectacle doubtless said to themselves that they don't want anything to do with a candidate who'd have anything to do with such a performance).

Hillary Clinton was seen as perpetuating and exacerbating all of these grievances, and indeed she campaigned as one who would in fact carry the policies and practices of the last eight years forward for the next eight. Enough people cringed at that prospect to ensure her defeat. Enough people, too, were weary of being called bigots, racists, xenophobes, homophobes, and, in general, deplorables, simply because they question the wisdom of allowing men into women's restrooms or allowing unvetted refugees to pour willy-nilly into the country.

The election of Trump was also a rejection of a news media which has abandoned its role of informing us of the news and has assumed the role of partisan, biased advocates of the Democrat party and its agenda. When media employees like CNN's Donna Brazile are found to have passed questions on to Hillary Clinton that CNN's debate moderators were planning to ask Mrs. Clinton one can't help but feel that the media is simply the propaganda arm of the Democratic party.

Trump's voters were also eager to stick a thumb in the eye of Hollywood celebrities who presume to lecture us on our duties as citizens and threaten like spoiled children to move out of the country if we don't heed their admonitions. Many voters were eager to help them pack their bags.

And finally there was the strong desire to see the back of Bill and Hillary Clinton and the malodorous culture of mendacity, corruption, and floating above the law that has attached to them for as long as they've been in public life.

The desire to be done with all of this lit the fuse on the dynamite that exploded last night.

Donald Trump, despite his manifold faults, was seen at least to be a fighter, someone who would hit back when the Democrats attacked him. Most voters can't even remember a Republican presidential candidate who fought back against the attacks and slanders of the Democrats' media minions.

So Trump was chosen to be the champion to carry all the simmering frustrations and irritations of the last eight years or more into the election, but he was just the vehicle. The goal, in the mind of many voters, was to strip the Democrat/media complex of its power and influence, to clean out the sewer that is Washington, and to reaffirm the principle that government exists to serve the people, the people don't exist to serve the government.

Judging by the dismay on the faces of many media commenters last night they were shocked that the people would have the temerity to ignore them and actually refuse to swallow the castor oil the media wanted us to believe was really good for us.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Bet You Didn't Know This

From Paul Bedard at the Washington Examiner: A majority of Hispanics actually favor tougher immigration enforcement:
The Pulse Opinion Research survey found that 51 percent of Hispanics believe that there has been "too little" done to enforce immigration laws. What's more, by a margin of 49 percent to 36 percent, Hispanics "support a policy causing illegal immigrants to return home by enforcing the law."

Overall, the survey done for the Center for Immigration Studies, found that most Americans, 54 percent, believe that the administration has done too little to enforce immigration laws and 56 percent support returning illegals.

Immigration has been a huge issue in the election and most pundits have reasoned that Trump's call for enforcement and construction of a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border has pushed Hispanics into Hillary Rodham Clinton's camp.

But the findings cloud that reasoning since more Hispanics support a deportation policy for illegals.

Another key finding: Most Americans want a cap of 500,000 immigrants a year, about half the current level.
There's much more on this perhaps surprising finding at the link. We've been inculcated by the media with the assumption that all Hispanics are in favor of the Obama/Clinton open borders policy, but that's evidently false. The media, of course, get their data by interviewing activist Hispanics who tend to be left/liberals who represent the suppositions of large swatches of the media but who do not represent the majority of Hispanics in this country.

This illustrates once again, if further illustration were necessary, that if you only get your news and insight from the major media what you think you know is probably wrong.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Donald or Hillary?

A friend wrote to give his opinion on the election and said this:
[Trump's] a buffoon and dangerous. Hillary is no paragon of virtue, but it is at least more of the same, which is a lot better in my view than Trump at the helm. I hope you agree.
Well, it's hard to argue with most of what my friend said in those three sentences, but even so, I do disagree with his assertion that Hillary is less odious than Trump. In fact, I think in the "contemptible candidate" sweepstakes she beats Trump by a couple of lengths. Here's part of what I wrote back to him:
I cannot defend much of Trump's rhetoric and wouldn't even try. The man is a textbook case of arrested development, but, even so, whatever criticisms can be fairly leveled against Trump as a potential president can also be leveled with at least equal, if not greater, force against Hillary and her party.

If Trump is a danger to the Constitution so, too, is she. She has openly declared that freedom of religion needs to be curtailed, as does the 2nd amendment. If Trump has talked about abusing women, she and her party have vigorously defended abusers like her own husband, Ted Kennedy, and others (It amazes me that although, unlike Bill Clinton, Trump has never been accused of rape or indecent exposure, and unlike Ted Kennedy Trump has never been accused of assaulting a waitress under the table at a restaurant or of being responsible for a young woman's tragic death, yet some of the same people who condemn Trump for his faults often admired, even adored, these men).

If Trump has lied about some of his past, Hillary has lied repeatedly to the American people and to Congress about how she has failed to protect our national security. If Trump has an unsavory past, Hillary's past has been one scandal after another (Rose Law Firm, Whitewater, Stock Futures trades, White House Travel Agency, FBI files, to name a few). If Trump has refused to release his tax returns, she has not only refused to release her emails but illegally destroyed them. She's also refused to release her medical records. If Trump is foul-mouthed, she is equally so. She's in fact so vile in her speech and rude in her conduct to her subordinates that secret service and other security agents despise her and try to avoid being assigned to her. If Trump is a terrible role-model for kids, she's just as bad. Indeed, her concern for women and children is belied by her conduct in discussing her role in defending a 41 year-old man - whom she knew to be guilty of raping a 12 year old girl - back in the 1970s. She not only maligned the girl's reputation in the trial but chuckled at the tactics she used to essentially get the rapist off.

She's a radical on abortion, favoring the unrestricted right to abort a baby until the moment it's born - a fact that I'm frankly surprised many Catholics seem unconcerned about. She wishes to increase refugees to this country by 550%, despite the calamity that has befallen Europe as a result of massive refugee immigration. She's a crony capitalist who has put our foreign policy up for sale to the corporatists and foreign interests who contribute to her "charitable" foundation, a "charity" which gives only 5.7% of its income to charitable causes and which exists primarily to enrich the Clintons.

Finally, the stench of corruption clings to her like the spray of a skunk clings to a dog. The Wikileaks releases have shown her and her circle to be steeped in illegality, and now the FBI has announced as I'm typing this that they're re-opening their investigation of her. Trump has exploited the system, to be sure, but no one has accused him of breaking the law.
It's startling to me to realize I'm defending Trump, a task in several ways akin to Hercules' undertaking in the Aegean stables, but if tomorrow we see our mission as casting our vote against the worst of two bad choices, Donald Trump looks shockingly good, at least to me, when contrasted with Hillary Clinton.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Amusing Ourselves to Death

In the mid-1980s a sociologist by the name of Neil Postman wrote a book that was destined to become a classic in cultural criticism. The book was titled Amusing Ourselves to Death and it was Postman's thesis that television dumbed down everything and that our politics would eventually be transmogrified by the medium from a serious exercise in selecting the people who would guide our national destiny into little more than a frivolous spectacle.

Journalist Paul Brian has a column at The Federalist which amplifies Postman's prescient prognostication and in which he argues that television is corrupting not just our politics but our very ability to think:
Postman saw today’s click-craving, faux-outrage 24/7 news cycle slouching over the field of satellite dishes to be born from decades away. Even though the Internet Age was not yet upon him, he saw where the path of everything-as-entertainment was leading: to people having shorter average attention spans than goldfish, to a continuous present where contradictions and context are just minor details of no great interest.

“With television we vault ourselves into a continuous, incoherent present,” Postman writes. “In a world of discontinuities, contradiction is useless as a test of truth or merit.”

In foreseeing the climate that would pave the way for pure-celebrity candidates like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jesse Ventura, and Donald Trump, not to mention the elevation of politicians like President Barack Obama to celebrity status, Postman surely deserves his reputation as the Nostradamus of the digital age.
The game show sets upon which our candidates stage their debates, the sporting event atmosphere that the media creates, the melodramatic "countdowns" to the debates and elections, the fascination with sexual scandal, the focus on whether some trivial development will help or hurt a candidate rather than on whether it's really even relevant to the issues that should concern us, all conspire to stifle thought. Campaigns are no longer vehicles for helping voters understand issues and discern truth so much as extravaganzas exploited by the media to attract viewers who wish merely to be entertained.

Serious discussion of issues requires thinking and the strenuous exercise of reason, but that's not a promising way to garner ratings among the unthinking masses of television viewers. Better to package campaigns and candidates in a political version of Survivor:
We now live in a political climate where politicians embrace fame. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau makes national news for being photographed shirtless. Trump hires a media provocateur as his campaign CEO, prompting speculation his plan is to form a media empire if his presidential run doesn’t pan out. Hillary Clinton’s supporters fret that her appearance on Kimmel received lower ratings than reuns of Teen Moms and Friends (but she’s trying to increase star power by hanging out with Justin Timberlake).

Amusing Ourselves to Death essentially champions Aldous Huxley’s vision of the future in Brave New World over George Orwell’s vision in 1984.

“Orwell warns that we will be overcome by an externally imposed oppression. But in Huxley’s vision, no Big Brother is required to deprive people of their autonomy, maturity and history. As he saw it, people will come to love their oppression, to adore the technologies that undo their capacity to think,” Postman writes.

To extend the Big Brother metaphor: Is he so funny / annoying / brilliant / stupid / crazy / ridiculous that you can’t look away? Good news: because of the high ratings he’ll be back with all-new episodes next season.

“In the Huxleyan prophecy, Big Brother does not watch us, by his choice. We watch him, by ours,” Postman prophesies with dark humor. Orwell saw a future where books were banned, Huxley one in which there was no need to ban books because nobody wanted to read them in the first place.
The media beguiles us into focusing on which candidate has made the most serious gaffe or committed the greatest outrage against social orthodoxy or articulated the cleverest put-down. We receive constant reminders as to who looks old, who looks tired, who looks frumpy. What the candidate would actually do if elected is barely given a thought by a media determined to seduce us with breathless reports of a candidate's eloquence, style, charm, and afflatus, but rarely analyzing in any serious way the quality of a candidate's ideas. They seem determined to amuse us to death.
Postman endeavors to prove that in the Age of Typography (elsewhere he calls it the Age of Exposition), when books and print newspapers were the sole source of information, discourse was “generally coherent, serious and rational.” But in the Age of Television (elsewhere he calls it the Age of Show Business), political discourse in particular has become “shriveled and absurd,” reliant on context-free snippets of information and entertaining spectacles and gaffes.
And it's not just our politics which suffers from this infatuation with the trivial and mindless. Sporting events are turned into multimedia assaults on the senses and intellect with halftime rock bands and fireworks and meaningless side-line interviews involving vacuous questions posed by witless "reporters." Too many church services feature epilepsy-inducing strobe lights, artificial stage fog, deafness-inducing high decibel "worship" music, and flamboyant preachers whose message, even if it's occasionally worth hearing, is often obscured by the medium in which it's presented.

One example of mind-dulling news reportage, albeit one of minor importance, is the radio news report that features a snippet of often unintelligible background noise from some foreign trouble site. Sometimes it's screaming sirens, or machinery noise, or people yelling in a foreign tongue. Listeners aren't supposed to ask what the actual purpose of playing that particular sound bite could possibly be, they're just supposed to allow it to anesthetize them into an acquiescence to the pointlessness of it.

Postman and Brian, I think, are right. We are not a people who want to think. We're a people who want to be able to avoid thinking, especially about politics. We really want only to be distracted and entertained. Brian quotes Postman:
“Our politics, religion, news, athletics, education and commerce have been transformed into congenial adjuncts of show business, largely without protest or even much popular notice,” he writes. “The result is that we are a people on the verge of amusing ourselves to death.”
There's more good stuff from Brian's article at the link.

Where Does Altruism Come From?

An article in Science Daily on altruistic behavior in plants, of all things, quotes a Harvard evolutionary biology professor named William Friedman:
"One of the most fundamental laws of nature is that if you are going to be an altruist, give it up to your closest relatives," said Friedman. "Altruism only evolves if the benefactor is a close relative of the beneficiary."
Either Friedman doesn't consider humans the product of evolution, which would be an odd stance for an evolutionary biologist to take, or he's never heard of Mother Teresa.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Why He Did It

One of the most stunning developments in a presidential campaign replete with such developments is the announcement by FBI director James Comey that new emails have surfaced that have prompted the FBI to continue their probe into the seemingly bottomless pit of Mrs. Clinton's email server scandal.

This decision has raised eyebrows, tempers, and lots of questions. The UK Daily Mail has an article that gives us a glimpse into the state of Mr. Comey's mind, and, although the Mail is a tabloid and perhaps not as reliable as we might like, the story is written by Ed Klein, an investigative journalist who has written four books on the Clintons and who has a reputation as a responsible journalist from his work for a number of high-profile news organizations.

Here are some important excerpts from Klein's piece:
James Comey's decision to revive the investigation of Hillary Clinton's email server and her handling of classified material came after he could no longer resist mounting pressure by mutinous agents in the FBI, including some of his top deputies, according to a source close to the embattled FBI director.

'The atmosphere at the FBI has been toxic ever since Jim announced last July that he wouldn't recommend an indictment against Hillary,' said the source, a close friend who has known Comey for nearly two decades, shares family outings with him, and accompanies him to Catholic mass.

'Some people, including department heads, stopped talking to Jim, and even ignored his greetings when they passed him in the hall,' said the source. 'They felt that he betrayed them and brought disgrace on the bureau by letting Hillary off with a slap on the wrist.'

According to the source, Comey fretted over the problem for months and discussed it at great length with his wife, Patrice.

He told his wife that he was depressed by the stack of resignation letters piling up on his desk from disaffected agents. The letters reminded him every day that morale in the FBI had hit rock bottom.

'He's been ignoring the resignation letters in the hope that he could find a way of remedying the situation,' said the source.

'When new emails that appeared to be related to Hillary's personal email server turned up in a computer used by [her close aide] Huma Abedin and [Abedin's disgraced husband,] Anthony Weiner, Comey jumped at the excuse to reopen the investigation.

'The people he trusts the most have been the angriest at him,' the source continued.

'And that includes his wife, Pat. She kept urging him to admit that he had been wrong when he refused to press charges against the former secretary of state.

'He talks about the damage that he's done to himself and the institution [of the FBI], and how he's been shunned by the men and women who he admires and work for him. It's taken a tremendous toll on him.

'It shattered his ego. He looks like he's aged 10 years in the past four months.'
Klein goes on to describe that Comey's decision to reopen the investigation has infuriated both Attorney General Loretta Lynch and President Barack Obama who once said that appointing Comey, who has had a reputation for exceptional integrity, was "the worst mistake he's made as president." One wonders if Mr. Obama thinks the Comey appointment was a mistake because Mr. Comey had a reputation for integrity.

In any case, the Director has certainly made this last week of the election campaign interesting, although I'm sure Mrs. Clinton would much rather he had just kept quiet.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

The Fundamental Stuff

Materialists believe everything reduces to material stuff - atoms and the particles of which they are made. On this view, even phenomena like ideas and sensations are merely epiphenomena of the material brain. The brain, in other words, is all that's necessary to explain mental events. There is no mind.

This view is becoming increasingly untenable, however, as we learn more about the deep structure of living things. It certainly is beginning to look like matter is itself reducible to information and, since information lies downstream from mind, it would follow that mind is even more basic than matter.

The following video is a bit long, but it illustrates how the theory that matter is reducible to information plays out in biology. It's pretty good.
Perhaps the 20th century physicist Sir James Jeans was correct when he said that the universe is beginning to look more like a great thought than like a great machine.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Learning from the Experience of Others

How bad is the migrant situation in Germany? Last week I posted an article which described growing discontent on the part of both migrants and natural-born citizens of Germany that's resulting, according to the article, in a steep increase in German emigration. The discontent expressed was largely anecdotal, however, and it wasn't clear how widespread it really was. This article in the UK Express, to the extent that it's accurate, gives us a bit more insight into the deteriorating situation. According to the Express,
During the first six months of 2016, migrants committed 142,500 crimes, according to the Federal Criminal Police Office. This is equivalent to 780 crimes committed by migrants every day, an increase of nearly 40 per cent over 2015. The data includes only those crimes in which a suspect has been caught.

Thousands of migrants who entered the country as 'asylum seekers' or 'refugees' have gone missing. They are, presumably, economic migrants who entered Germany on false pretences.

Many are thought to be engaging in robbery and criminal violence.
The violence includes assault and rape, including the rape of a ten year-old girl in Leipzig.
According to Freddi Lohse of the German Police Union in Hamburg, many migrant offenders view the leniency of the German justice system as a green light to continue delinquent behaviour, says the report.
The crime statistics are up considerably since last year, and last year's crime rate was much higher than 2014:
Migrants committed 208,344 crimes in 2015, according to a confidential police report leaked to Bild. This figure represents an 80 per cent increase since 2014 and is equivalent to 570 crimes committed by migrants every day, or 23 crimes each hour, in 2015 alone.

The report added: "The growing sense of lawlessness is substantiated by an October 24 YouGov poll which found that 68 per cent of Germans believe that security in the country has deteriorated during the past several years.

"Nearly 70 per cent of respondents said they fear for their lives and property in German train stations and subways, while 63 per cent feel unsafe at large public events."
There's doubt in Germany that Angela Merkel can survive next year's election given the dissatisfaction with her policies that brought 1.1 million migrants to Germany last year alone.

In any case, a question that might be posed to the architects of this state of affairs is, given all that has happened as a consequence of bringing over a million unassimilating migrants into your country, would you do it all again? Presumably the honest answer would be "no," and, if so, one hopes our own political leaders would draw the obvious cautionary lessons from the German experience.