Friday, January 30, 2009

La La Land

Posted today, Charles Krauthammer in a column in IBD makes the undeniable point that Barack Obama is operating in his own contrived and deluded pseudo-reality. There is something totally bizarre about reading Kruathammer's editorial in Investor's Business Daily column which details the sacrifices Americans have made for Islamic peoples and the tolerance we have shown in the face of their intolerance.

The president doesn't get it I guess. He, like many liberals, thinks that when people are mad at us it must be our fault. Krauthammer points out how much of reality that view, totally uninformed by real events, simply ignores. If Obama's posture is the kind of distorted response to reality we can expect, then the next four years are going to be a very strange ride indeed.

Our new president shows very little grasp of history, philosophy, morality or much of anything else. So far he's done nothing that gives me much confidence that he's more than a good looking suit with a resonant voice making a good impression when well scripted. I keep waiting to find out who is pulling his strings. Frankly he doesn't come across to me as his own man. No-one can be as successful as he has been and simultaneously as clueless. He must be a shell or is that shill?

Stimulus? or Just Wastefulness?

A billion here, a billion there, throwing billions everywhere, the $819 billion stimulus package resembles nothing more than a swindle. This is the pork barrel to end all pork barrels. It doesn't stimulate anything because the vast majority of it is previously rejected pork that is passing now under the claim that we have to spend our way to prosperity.

Let's see ... If I'm in big financial trouble, that's what I want to do, go to the mall and charge my credit card to the limit. This kind of "solution" has never worked in the past. It only makes the problem worse and saddles future generations with debt.

These strategies point up the total mindless, visionless, doctrinaire character of the newly elected majority. It may be entertaining for a while watching them spin like dervishes but it will cost us all in the end.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Tension: Wealth versus Poverty

The scripture says the poor will always be with us. The distribution of goods in this world follows something like the Pareto Principle ("20 percent of the people have 80 percent of the enchiladas" — well something like that.)
We tend to be very myopic about wealth, thinking of it primarily in terms of material goods. That is a very narrow and unsatisfactory view. The "Pursuit of Happiness" or felicity is the way the Declaration of Independence terms one of the innate rights of man conveyed by the creator. True happiness is not found in material things. To discover that that is true you only have to look around you at things like the suicide rate among the rich (here's a link about the rich mentally ill) Frequently the poor are happier than the rich because the rich actually live emptier lives. The more that wealth immunizes you from reality the less real things become.
We also have a problem because the rich are often stigmatized for being rich, especially the children of the rich who inherit fortunes that they did not earn. There is a guilt something like survivor's guilt about being wealthy and never having done anything to earn it.
Another problem is the notion that if one is rich it must be upon the backs of the poor as if wealth is a zero-sum-game. It's not, but for those engaged in the blame game it is easy to suggest that it is.
Wealth follows work given creativity and insight and leadership. I don't want to appear a Social Darwinist or a Randian for I am neither. However, success necessarily attends effort that is meaningful and productive. All too often people give up and allow themselves to enter a victim state (the mentality that the world is against them and nothing they can do will fix that) — such a state is a self-fulfilling prophecy. I've always like the Marine Corps saying: "When the going gets tough, the tough get going." When I was in school I was taught that work was the fulfillment of human potential. We have trivialized work and made it all labor and that is a true poverty.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Tension: Politics
The Highest Natural Good or
A Den of Thieves?

“SarahPAC believes the Republican Party is at the threshold of a historic renaissance that will build a better future for all,” the Web site announced Tuesday. “Health care, education, and reform of government are among our key goals.”

Sarah Palin is a breath of fresh Alaskan air. It's time to clean up Washington and that can only happen if we get someone from outside the polluted atmosphere of that power-ridden, you wash my hands and I'll wash yours, city.

Tension: Will it be Fire or Ice?

Fire and Ice

by Robert Frost

Some say the world will end in fire, Some say in ice. From what I've tasted of desire I hold with those who favor fire. But if it had to perish twice, I think I know enough of hate To say that for destruction ice Is also great And would suffice.

Global Warming is all the rage based on exactly what? Weather patterns operate on the many time scales. They don't call "Ice Ages" ages for nothing. Nor is weather a well understood phenomenon else our forecasts would be more accurate.
The current brouhaha about global warming is only a couple of decades long. Prior to that there was concern about global cooling. Since we've been coming out of the last ice age for a very long time, I think warming is the better hypothesis unless we're going into the next ice age. They are cyclic after all and there are a few very good reasons for that, mostly having to do with things like the sun and the earth's orbit and axial tilt and almost nothing to do with CO2, which by the way is essential to the plant life that we all survive by eating.
So will the world end in Fire or in Ice? The answer is both. There will be more ice ages before the earth and life on earth ends. They will probably not be very different from those of the past. But the time will come when the sun runs out of fuel and explodes as a nova. For a short time on the galactic scale the earth will be crisped and if it physically survives that experience it will become a very cold place as the sun collapses. Meanwhile, don't worry about a thing ... It's just weather.

Monday, January 26, 2009

"A Crisis Is A Terrible Thing to Waste"

Yup, that's what President Obama's chief of staff, Rahm Emmanuel, recently said. Doesn't make me feel anything but manipulated. How's that? Well if you wonder what is going on with the government response to the economic crisis, you might want to read Thomas Sowell's take. Sowell who was himself a Marxist when he was younger, knows a thing or two about economics. The punch line — we're being gulled! or perhaps skinned is a more appropriate word. The reality is a massive shift of power from the people to the government. Freedom turns to servitude in the guise of a helping hand. No poison is so insidious as government. "I'm from the government, I'm here to help [enslave] you."

Tension: Hold to What is True and Reject what is False

We live in a world where in the heat of argument you can hear the phrase: "That's your truth, not mine!" yelled at you because the other person does not agree with you. But the concept of personal truth is incoherent. We can certainly have personal opinions and these may or may not have objective truth, i.e. conform with reality. It is important to realize however that truth is, in fact, only another word for reality.
Statements only have truth value because we can make counter-factual statements. It is raining when it is not, or it is a nice day when it is really a miserable day. The second statement is more likely than the first to be questioned. Realistically a "nice" day must answer the question "nice for what?" That rainy day may be a nice day for ducks but not such a nice day if you don't care to get wet.
Some predicates cloud the issue of truth by being so conditioned by taste as to be mere statements of preference. The Romans had a phrase: De gustibus non est disputandum. There is no accounting for taste. I can tell you what my taste is and you cannot dispute with me about it. It is my taste, not yours. If I like peanut butter and horseradish sandwiches, well that's my business. We get into a good deal of difficulty if we mistake the two realms however of taste and objective truth.
We can easily find ourselves disputing about matters of fact as if they were matters of taste. A statement about reality is only meaningful if it can be confirmed. There are statements which may be true or false which can not be confirmed.
Mortimer Adler in his little book Six Great Ideas deals with the idea of truth at some length. In chapter 7 The Realm of Doubt he points out that judgements about truth are also judgments about the degree of doubt that can be admitted. There are very few things of which we can say we are absolutely certain. There are a great many things of which we are practically certain.
We need to make the distinction that truth is not about our certainty which is almost always short of perfect, but about the external reality. We may doubt all we like whether Tasmania exists, but it either does or it doesn't. Confusion about states of mental awareness ought not to be confused with truth and falsity. The cosmos cares not a whit about whether we believe something is true or false. It will go on as it is regardless. Perceptions are not the same as truth.
Adler makes an interesting statement. He says: "To whatever extent history, science, and mathematics have a future, to that same extent these bodies of 'knowledge' belong in the realm of doubt, not in the realm of certitude."
What does he mean by that? Truth is changeless because it is reality so if there is more to be learned it is only because some things remain to be discovered, hence currently in the realm of doubt.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Tension: Do Good and Avoid Evil!

The first law of moral conduct is to do good and avoid evil. 1 Peter 3:10-12 offers this blessing:
[ 10For, "Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech. 11He must turn from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it. 12For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil." ]

Of course such a scriptural admonition is not enough for a good many people who don't believe in morality in the first place. "You can't tell me what to do" is a phrase I hear often enough, although I think it very immature. C. S. Lewis in The Abolition of Man calls the universal moral law the Tao. He goes on to cite examples drawn from all the major cultures of the world.

Nevertheless it is quite fashionable nowadays to claim that morality is simply a cultural construction. Such a view flies in the face of experience. We all know in most cases instinctively what right and wrong. We know that taking things that don't belong to us is stealing (we might do it anyway, especially if we think we can get away with it or are more influential or more powerful than our victim), we know it is wrong to inflict arbitrary pain on others, and we know the golden rule is true. In fact it shows up in many ways in many cultures. So we do know right from wrong.

There are obviously complicated cases where the decision is difficult and not so obvious as those I've mentioned. But the existence of hard cases doesn't show that we don't know right from wrong or that the distinction is arbitrary. There are lots of difficult mathematics problems that are not obvious but when you understand them have only a single answer. Ethical problems that are complex can also be of this kind.

Relativism tends to stop when the relativist confronts a personal wrong. I recall a story about a student listening to a philosophy professor expounding on how all morality was relative with a parable about listening to the professor and going out and keying his car. He speculated about what the professor would do and suggested that he would be outraged and call the police and demand that they arrest the student. The point was that he would not acknowledge the claim the student would have that keying the professor's car was OK because he wanted to, or he thought one should key philosophy professor's cars. So the professor's relativism was just so much theoretical hot air.

Good and evil have to be objective realities or we have no sound basis for judgments about behavior. The horrors of the 20th century, of which there have been many, would just become so many localized culturally relative behaviors. The Nuremberg Trials would just be the victory of power and not a statement of moral outrage and application of justice.

Saturday, January 24, 2009


The world is full of tensions, a word I want to use in a technical sense as between two contrasting points. It is rather easy to enumerate some tensions, let me present a few:
  • Good and Evil
  • Truth and False
  • Global Warming and Global Cooling
  • Rich and Poor
  • Ugly and Beautiful
  • Liberty and Bondage
  • Equality and Inequality
  • Courage and Cowardice
  • Smart and Stupid
  • Elegant and Crass
You probably get the idea. Each of these is a tension and a kind of spectrum and we commonly see one of them as better than the other except perhaps where some mean is to be preferred to either extreme. Nor can we always tell which is which so that one can confuse evil with good, truth with falsity, and so it is true that sometimes we make false judgments. This possibility should always be kept in mind. It is not that evil can ever be better than good, but our judgment of what is evil may be flawed just as our judgment of what is good may be. A stance of careful discernment and patient humility as we explore seems appropriate. And this is difficult because it is common to experience urgency and stridency in defense of what we think is right.

We are told that diversity is a strength and I think that is true when we are talking about matters of taste. De gustibus non est disputandum. There's no accounting for taste said the Romans. But when the point at issue is truth versus falsity then matters are different. In our modern world we confuse taste with truth all the time. Frankly that's scary! We also tend to be non-respectors of language. The current liberal reinvention of torture to include what amounts to extreme embarassment is a case in point. But that's a topic for another day. I want to set the stage for some explorations of tensions.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

All Hail the Resistance ...

Today over a hundred thousand marchers will descend on Washington D.C. in a cause that they have supported since the infamous passage of Roe vs. Wade in 1973. They are those who resist the sulfurous call to a life of ease and licentiousness razed on the back of unborn children. Our new president is one of the collaborators, an apparatchik of the evil. The Cross of Lorraine was a symbol of the French resistance to the Nazis in World War II adopted from the standard of St. Joan of Arc the fearless Maid of Orleans. May we find the courage to resist even as she did.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Change is On the Way!

Those of us who think intentionally killing babies is murder are more than a little distressed at the President's strident support for abortion. True to type he lost no time in reorienting the White House Web Site in support of a woman's right to chose death for their children.

Even though it was the change I was expecting (nothing that could be described as good), the change that enshrines the liberal dysfunctional values of the left in the highest office in the land. It's a shame. And so it begins. The question is where will it end?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A Long Shadow down the years ...

Barack Obama when he is inaugurated today will stand in a long line of men who have served the nation as president. It is appropriate to pause and reflect on our history on this day. It is not a day for partisanship nor a day for loud rhetoric. It ought to be a day of national reflection.

Congratulations to Barack Obama the 44th president of the United States of America.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Aristotle and the devolution of the state ...

In the Nicomachean Ethics [I.2] Aristotle says "... now, since politics uses the rest of the sciences, and since, again, it legislates as to what we are to do and what we are to abstain from, the end of this science must include those of the others, so that this end must be the good for man. For even if the end is the same for a single man and for a state, that of the state seems at all events something greater and more complete whether to attain or to preserve; though it is worth while to attain the end merely for one man, it is finer and more godlike to attain it for a nation or for city-states."

I'm not going to bore you with a lot of Aristotle, but I do want to note that his teleology gives a high place to politics, one which can not be discerned in our current leaders. For if the end of politics is the good of all men, then how is it that in our own day it is so rife with hostile partisanship?

That's a rhetorical question of course and you probably expect me to launch off on my answer. I'd like to do that but I really don't have an answer except one that is quite unpopular. I think we have simply lost our way and in abandoning the kind of thought which Aristotle represents we've replaced it with with nothing but a kind of selfish commitment to personal gain whether it be wealth or power that is the principle end. Thus we find venal men and women rising to the highest positions in our government and contending with one another to be King or Queen on the mountain. (That's a game we used to play when I was a boy. Since no one goes out anymore except for organized, homogenized, and bureacratized sports, unless you're over fifty or sixty you probably have no chance of remembering it.)

The point of course is that without an end such as Aristotle postulates the state soon enough devolves into a kind of plunder of the people's treasure. I think that may be what we are seeing, as in the name of saving us the government showers billions of dollars on the incompetents that were co-conspirators with the government in creating the problem in the first place.

Is there a solution? Is hope and change the answer? Does President [to be as of this writing] Obama look like someone with answers? Color me skeptical. I've heard nothing but tired, much traveled bromides coming out of the victorious Democratic party. Another New Deal? If so, hunker down for a long slide to the bottom and a big war at the end. That's what happened last time. Why would you expect anything different?
I think what we really need is a return to more ancient and wiser notions of the purpose of politics and the state. The founders of our republic knew what they were doing, but we have lost our way.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Reality Check: The Countdown Begins

The Democrats, ever the subtle ones dontchaknow, have been peddling a sticker that reads

The End of an Error

, and not to be outdone the Republicans have come up with the counter

The Beginning of an Error

. Well "Which is it?" — arguably Bush has made some errors, but he's also done well on the whole, despite the constant carping of a hostile press and an even more hostile liberal left which voted for the war then against the war and then undermined all efforts to win the war and to add insult to injury then blamed Bush for what they had largely created, an atmosphere of lack of confidence and support. I'm not very optimistic. The last people in the world that I expect good fiscal policy from are the Democrats and the Republicans have not been much better in recent years.

The problem is that you have to earn what you get. It isn't given to you by the government or by fate but by good old honest hard work. If there is one thing that Americans have been declining in it is a good work ethic. It's time to remember a bygone era when Americans were noted for innovation, for ingenuity, and yes, for hard work.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Double Standards and Media Airheads

Did we say double standards? Give me a break. Just watch the Caroline Kennedy kid-gloves treatment and compare it to the savaging that Sarah Palin received. Politics is a dirty, scummy, slimeball business much of the time with a lot of name calling.

I like Sarah Palin. I think she is a breath of fresh air compared to what passes for statesmanship these days. Panetta for CIA? Really? Burris not seated ... Harry Reid ... need I say more? Is the media biased? Is water wet?

Monday, January 5, 2009


"Slimeballs" is a term I don't use lightly. I suppose the source of the image is what happens to something as it rots on the surface and gets kind of gooey and icky. The metaphor applies to people who are thoroughly rotten. What disturbs me is that the vast majority of the slimeballs that I've encountered have been Democrats, rather extreme Democrats to be sure and I'm sure we have some of the same kind of folks lurking at the corners of the Republican party too, but they don't seem quite as visible.
So what is this all about? There's an internet site of admirers of Sarah Palin called Team Sarah. I joined because I like Sarah Palin. She is one classy lady with guts. Here's the strategy of the slimeballs as reported by Bill Collier

TeamSarah has compiled over 15 pages of evidence on file from this conspiracy. Thank you to the extremist liberals who have provided fresh evidence as to what really is going on: that they send in “clones” (false identities) to say and do things that we do not tolerate, and, in the short time it takes us to find and eliminate these posts take a screen shot of them, and then post about it in poorly managed liberal websites, ones that have abandoned all journalistic standards, from which it gets echoes throughout the liberal blogosphere as if true.

Check it out for yourself as ask yourself how often this is the real reason that Republicans get a bad rap? I'd say more often than not. We're not all good guys, but the slimeball density is much lower over here.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Moments of Grace

Despite the rather hardened materialism of the modern world, it can hardly be doubted except by those who have themselves been hardened by the world in which we live that human beings are spiritual creatures. I have been reflecting on beauty because at another place, the C.S. Lewis Yahoo site SpareOom, the discussion recently has been about spiritual events such as the experience reported by J.B. Phillips of being visited by C.S. Lewis after Lewis's death in 1963. That would be a rather obvious spiritual experience. But we are all surrounded by beauty and the breaking through of beauty into our awareness can transport us in a moment to a spiritual place.

I remember one morning going out in the backyard to check my hydroponics systems and finding the morning dew gathered like pearls at the points of each cucumber leaf sparkling in the early morning light and I just dwelled there in a brief magical morning looking at that little wonder.

We are spiritual creatures not merely material ones and that is what
Lewis tries to get across in his battle with Naturalism played out in
Miracles. It always seems strange to me that some people think that
it is all an illusion and I always wonder if those people experience
the world in the same way I do?

Each morning the world looks like a miracle to me. It is filled with
beauty at every moment if you just attend to it. I mentioned the
pearl dew drops there are also the little roses that Jessica planted
out in the front yard. One wintery morning, I could probably actually
pinpoint the day if I could find the pictures that I took since the
camera time stamps everything. I went out the front door and was
arrested in a magical moment by the roses. We had had an early
morning dusting with snow or frost or something and there they were
each bloom slightly frosted. I was so stunned by it that instead of
going on to work I went into the house and got my camera and took
pictures of the frosted roses.

Each day is like that, whether it is just a rock with a particular sheen or the sun casting rays out through the clouds or a wisp of hair that blows down across the forehead of one you love that she blows out of the way with a quick breath ... a moment of beauty snatched out of time.