Sunday, September 21, 2014

Odds and ends 9/21/2014

I haven’t been writing for the blog as much lately. It’s an exciting time. I started a new job and I proposed to my girlfriend. We’re getting married January 17. God sure has engineered a titanic turnaround in my life. I’m blessed.


George Friedman of Stratfor explains Scottish independence:

There are those who argue that Scottish independence could lead to economic problems or complicate the management of national defense. These are not trivial questions, but they are not what is at stake here. From an economic point of view, it makes no sense for Scotland to undergo this sort of turmoil. At best, the economic benefits are uncertain. But this is why any theory of human behavior that assumes that the singular purpose of humans is to maximize economic benefits is wrong. Humans have other motivations that are incomprehensible to the economic model but can be empirically demonstrated to be powerful. If this referendum succeeds, it will still show that after more than 300 years, almost half of Scots prefer economic uncertainty to union with a foreign nation.

This is something that must be considered carefully in a continent that is prone to extreme conflicts and still full of borders that do not map to nations as they are understood historically. Catalonia, whose capital is Barcelona, the second-largest and most vibrant city in Spain, has a significant independence movement. The Treaty of Trianon divided Hungary so that some Hungarians live in Romania, while others live in Slovakia. Belgium consists of French and Dutch groups (Walloons and Fleming), and it is not too extreme to say they detest each other. The eastern half of Poland was seized by the Soviet Union and is now part of Ukraine and Belarus. Many Chechens and Dagestanis want to secede from Russia, as do Karelians, who see themselves as Finns. There is a movement in northern Italy to separate its wealthy cities from the rest of Italy. The war between Azerbaijan and Armenia is far from settled. Myriad other examples can be found in Europe alone.

The right to national self-determination is not simply about the nation governing itself but also about the right of the nation to occupy its traditional geography. And since historical memories of geography vary, the possibility of conflict grows. Consider Ireland: After its fight for independence from England and then Britain, the right to Northern Ireland, whose national identity depended on whose memory was viewing it, resulted in bloody warfare for decades.

Scottish independence would transform British history. All of the attempts at minimizing its significance miss the point. It would mean that the British island would be divided into two nation-states, and however warm the feelings now, they were not warm in the past nor can we be sure that they will be warm in the future. England will be vulnerable in ways that it hasn't been for three centuries. And Scotland will have to determine its future. The tough part of national self-determination is the need to make decisions and live with them.

This is not an argument for or against Scottish nationhood. It is simply drawing attention to the enormous power of nationalism in Europe in particular, and in countries colonized by Europeans. Even Scotland remembers what it once was, and many - perhaps a majority and perhaps a large minority - long for its return. But the idea that Scotland recalls its past and wants to resurrect it is a stunning testimony less to Scottish history than to the Enlightenment's turning national rights into a moral imperative that cannot be suppressed.

More important, perhaps, is that although Yugoslavia and the Soviet collapse were not seen as precedents for the rest of Europe, Scotland would be seen that way. No one can deny that Britain is an entity of singular importance. If that can melt away, what is certain? At a time when the European Union's economic crisis is intense, challenging European institutions and principles, the dissolution of the British union would legitimize national claims that have been buried for decades.

But then we have to remember that Scotland was buried in Britain for centuries and has resurrected itself. This raises the question of how confident any of us can be that national claims buried for only decades are settled. I have no idea how the Scottish will vote. What strikes me as overwhelmingly important is that the future of Britain is now on the table, and there is a serious possibility that it will cease to be in the way it was. Nationalism has a tendency to move to its logical conclusion, so I put little stock in the moderate assurances of the Scottish nationalists. Nor do I find the arguments against secession based on tax receipts or banks' movements compelling. For centuries, nationalism has trumped economic issues. The model of economic man may be an ideal to some, but it is empirically false. People are interested in economic well-being, but not at the exclusion of all else. In this case, it does not clearly outweigh the right of the Scottish nation to national-self determination.

I have reasons for supporting Scottish independence. Alas!


Liberals have expertly molded the Ray Rice controversy into a weapon in the war on men, Andrew McCarthy writes:

The progressive soap-opera storyline of the Rice coverage is that our aggressive, competitive culture, which has made the NFL so popular, desensitizes men to the gravity of domestic violence; that women are uniformly outraged by this state of affairs; and that football and the men who play it must be tamed. ESPN is a prominent author of this particular narrative, so one wouldn’t expect coverage of women who dissent from it.

I should have figured, though, that the segment was just a set-up for what followed: a lengthy editorial interview with Kate Fagan. A former college basketball player, Ms. Fagan is now, yes, a sports journalist. Author of a memoir The Reappearing Act: Coming Out as Gay on a College Basketball Team Led by Born-Again Christians, she is a staple at ESPN-W. That’s where the network focuses on women in sports and, seamlessly, on political and social matters that the Left has successfully branded “women’s issues.”

For the politically aware, listening to Kate Fagan is a lot like listening to President Obama or any other deft community organizer. She first invoked tribal politics in refusing — or at least making a show of refusing — to rebut the female Ravens fans who sympathize with Rice. That, she said, would be “pitting women against women” — a no-no. She then skillfully lowered the boom: The problem is not Rice’s cheerleaders; it is our “culture.”

Those women [Rice fans], you see, are really victims of insidious bourgeois attitudes inculcated by the education system. Our task, therefore, is not to condemn them for being so wrong but to ask ourselves, “Why is this issue not as black and white as it should be?” Translation: Why is something so obvious to thoughtful progressives like Ms. Fagan so elusive to the riff-raff in their Rice jerseys?

So what’s the answer? Ms. Fagan opined that people should stop focusing so much on whether Commissioner Roger Goodell should get fired or how long Rice’s suspension should be. That’s too “reactive,” and Fagan says it’s time to be “pro-active.”

How? By working to undo our “culture” of “raising men to want to not be like women,” a culture that tolerates the teasing of boys who “throw like a girl.” The way to do that, she said, was to “hold the NFL’s feet to the fire” until the league ponies up “millions of dollars” for a domestic-violence fund. The extorted treasure would then be doled out to grass-roots community organizations, who could then send their trained experts to middle schools, high schools, and colleges. Boys would be instructed that differentiating men from women breeds domestic violence.

As Fagan put it, the goal must be “reprogramming how we raise men.” That, she said, is how we’re finally going to get — all together now — “change.”

Like I said, the NFL is Michael Sam’s league. The Daily Caller reports:

“The Rams waived Michael Sam, the first openly gay player trying to make an NFL roster, he was unemployed for two days,” [Peter] King said. “During that time a league official contacted multiple teams asking if they had evaluated Sam as a probable practice squad player.”

“Now Sam and the NFL avoided a nightmare situation when he signed with the practice squad of the Dallas Cowboys.”

This report, that is surely to upset other players vying for NFL practice squads around the league, was initially reported by ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith on yesterday’s edition of “First Take.”

“According to sources I have in the NFL, the league did call a few teams. They did want teams to take Michael Sam because obviously we see what kind of movement they’re gearing for, and what they’re support of Michael Sam, who we all know, came out, acknowledged he was gay before the draft and ultimately something Roger Goodell and the NFL supports and they want their teams to support. But other teams weren’t too receptive to taking him on once the St. Louis Rams cut him,” reported the ESPN talking head.


The economic recovery confuses David Malpass, which might have something to do with it not being a recovery:

Job gains slowed to 142,000 in August, well below population growth, and the 2.1 percent year-over-year rise in wages was almost completely chewed up by the 2 percent official inflation rate.

The disconnect points to a two-tiered economy, and a lot of cronyism. Those with high incomes or good connections to the government are leveraging up and doing most of the buying and the building. Those below the top are treading water, if they’re lucky.

A 2013 study by the American Affluence Research Center showed that 50 percent of consumer spending is coming from just the top 10 percent of incomes. They’re also doing most of the investing and hiring, and will get most of any gains (or losses) from the high-end boom.

A Sept. 4 Federal Reserve study showed the flip side. Before-tax median family income (the middle of the middle class) fell to $46,700 in 2013, down 5 percent from 2010.

Such a drop is unprecedented at this point in an economic expansion. And that income drop came on top of an 8 percent decline from 2007 to 2010. While the top 10 percent of income earners saw an increase, every other income group saw declines.


I have a simple way to clear liberals’ confusion about Islam. Kill the bad Muslims and see how the “good” Muslims react.

A horror story from the front lines of Christianity:

Said Murat knew something was wrong when the ISIS militants who had taken control of his Kurdistan village ordered people into male and female groups. But he really got scared when the pickup trucks that were supposed to take them to nearby Mount Sinjar were instead driven to an irrigation pool at the edge of the village.

Said Murat, one of the survivors of the massacre in Kocho village, northern Iraq, where Islamic State militant allegedly murdered hundreds of Yezidi men on 15 August.

Said Murat, one of the survivors of a massacre in the Kurdistan village of Kocho, where ISIS militants allegedly murdered hundreds of Yazidi men in August.

“They had gathered us once and they told us to convert to Islam,” he tells me two weeks later in a hospital in the northern Iraqi town of Zakho. “But when we refused, they said there was no problem and we wouldn’t be harmed.”

But the militants were lying. After Kurdish forces, running out of ammunition, withdrew from the Sinjar area in the beginning of August, fighters with the extremist Islamic State, commonly called ISIS, moved in to take control of the minority Yazidi villages. They came with a plan of extermination.

“On Aug. 15 they informed us that we would be transported to Mount Sinjar by cars,” says the 22-year-old from the village of Kocho. “We said fine. They gathered us in the school building and ordered us to separate into two groups: women and men over the age of 12. The men were driven away in two trucks, group by group.”

Said Murat was in a group of about 30 men. “They took us to the northwestern edge of the village where there were some irrigation pools that were used by the nearby farms,” he recalls. “These pools had no water in them at the time. They ordered us to get into them and lie down, and then between 10 to 12 fighters opened fire at us.”


I didn’t think much of Secretariat. Neither did this reviewer:

This blindingly obvious flaw in the film’s construction might be forgivable if the things it chose to focus on instead were in any way interesting, but they’re not. Diane Lane is the movie’s sole interest and she, unfortunately, seems to have no personality. She’s a fairly bland housewife who just sort of scowls and looks stubborn whenever anyone suggests something she doesn’t like. We spend endless, tedious minutes with her while she just sort of sits there and looks like an owner, until at some point she gets involved enough to try and construct some sort of complicated, generally irrelevant Ponzi scheme. The movie occasionally drops in throwaway lines about her ownership skills, but it’s merely lip service and much like her frequently discussed relationship with the horse, not something actually shown in the movie. Secretariat chooses to tell instead of show, and if there’s a worse mistake any movie can make, I can’t name it.

The rest of the script’s characters are even worse. Diane’s husband is an asshole cliché, her brother an empty plot device who exists only to serve as an easily overcome obstacle. Her kids and the other people she surrounds herself seem to be in the movie primarily to give hugs. Secretariat contains more hugging than actual racing. The closest anyone comes to having an honest to god personality is Secretariat’s trainer, Lucien Laurin. Unfortunately, his personality is John Malkovich’s personality.

What I especially disliked was how Lane’s character abandoned her family to breed and race horses. All the film’s attempts to get me to sympathize with her struggles could not overcome her selfishness. She provides zero wisdom to her hippie activist daughter, just blindly encourages her over the phone while her husband does the actual work of parenting on his own. Then, after she’s won the Triple Crown, he seems to forgive her as if the award validates her years-long absence.

But I digress. The horse racing was cool.


Liberals see things that aren’t there. You have to distinguish between reality and what liberals believe to argue with them. For example, when they say “bullying,” the mean what normal people call “discernment.”

Matt Barber writes:

To be sure, extremist sexual pressure groups have mastered the use of propaganda to push a selfish political agenda. They have been shameless in manipulating the specter of bullying as a Trojan Horse to silence Christian values. Yes, anti-bullying policies are appropriate and necessary, but the vast majority of bullying incidents do not involve a victim’s sexual lifestyle. Yet it is these sexual lifestyle choices that are nearly the exclusive focus of most anti-bullying policies. This betrays the true goal of many “anti-bullying” proponents: to gain, officially, widespread affirmation of the “LGBT” lifestyle at the expense of traditional values and, moreover, to disingenuously paint adherents to biblical sexual morality as bullies.

Sane armies concern themselves with winning wars. Not ours. The Washington Times reports:

U.S. Army sociologists are worried that a lack of black officers leading its combat troops will have detrimental effect on minorities and lead to fewer black officers in top leadership posts.

“The issue exists. The leadership is aware of it,” Brig. Gen. Ronald Lewis toldUSA Today on Thursday. “The leadership does have an action plan in place. And it’s complicated.”

The Army reports that only 10 percent of its active-duty officers are black, which has contributed to its dearth of black officers leading soldiers with occupational specialties in infantry, armor and artillery.

“It certainly is a problem for several reasons,” Col. Irving Smith, director of sociology at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, told USA Today. “First we are a public institution. And as a public institution we certainly have more of a responsibility to our nation than a private company to reflect it. In order to maintain their trust and confidence, the people of America need to know that the Army is not only effective but representative of them.”


The Christian Post reports:

Young white Evangelicals whose social networks mostly included people like them were the most likely to depart from older Evangelicals on cultural issues while young Evangelicals with more diverse social networks were more likely to hold views similar to older Evangelicals. In other words, the more embedded Millennial Evangelicals are in the Evangelical subculture and the less interaction they have with non-Evangelicals, the more likely they are to demonstrate attitudes diverging from their elders.

Ryan Shinkel flips on same-sex marriage:

My support for gay marriage was early and enthusiastic. In high school I wrote a research paper titled “Gay Marriage as a Constitutional and Human Right.” I was earnest and impassioned, motivated by a desire to see justice done and unsure of how or why anyone could disagree.

I triumphantly quoted J. S. Mill’s On Liberty, and cited Socrates in Plato’s Apology, about the limits of religious views on civic matters and the growth of our national wisdom, respectively. The arguments seemed clear. I agreed with Jon Meacham, “society can no more deny a gay person access to the secular rights and religious sacraments because of his homosexuality than it can reinstate Jim Crow.”

Then something changed. As I entered college, I found myself being drawn from social democratism to conservatism thanks to Roger Scruton, and from skepticism back to the Catholic Christianity of my upbringing thanks to Pascal, Chesterton, and David Bentley Hart. But I still held to the consent-based or revisionist view of marriage, rather than the conjugal view defended by Sherif Girgis, Ryan T. Anderson, and Robert P. George. The turning point came when I read a paper by Scruton and Phillip Blond. They distinguished how a romantic union between two individuals of the same sex could have the same level of intensity as that between two individuals of the opposite sex. Yet they said that the conjugal view of marriage did not see exclusivity of romance as the telos of marriage. Rather, it “extends beyond the individuals who marry to the children they hope to create and the society they wish to shape.”

I came to realize the institution of marriage is not merely a private contract between two partners. Rather, it is a natural, social, and civil partnership in the living present between the past and future. Because of the inherent procreative capacity in the conjugal act, the union is also the union of the generations, of all society. And the interested members in this partnership are, as Burke said, “not only between those who are living, but between those who are living, those who are dead, and those who are to be born.” The state rightly takes a particular interest in this type of relationship.


More on feminism’s Communist roots (hat tip Praetori):

“Why are we here today?” she asked.

“To make revolution,” they answered.

“What kind of revolution?” she replied.

The Cultural Revolution,” they chanted.

“And how do we make Cultural Revolution?” she demanded.

“By destroying the American family!” they answered.

“How do we destroy the family?” she came back.

“By destroying the American Patriarch,” they cried exuberantly.

“And how do we destroy the American Patriarch?” she replied.

“By taking away his power!”

“How do we do that?”

“By destroying monogamy!” they shouted.

“How can we destroy monogamy?”

Their answer left me dumbstruck, breathless, disbelieving my ears. Was I on planet earth? Who were these people?

“By promoting promiscuity, eroticism, prostitution and homosexuality!” they resounded.


Anthony Esolen writes there’s no libertarian compromise in the common law:

We have all heard what has come to be a liberal dictum, that the State must remain neutral as regards religion or irreligion. One can show fairly easily that the men who wrote our constitution had no such neutrality in mind, given the laws that they and their fellows subsequently passed, their habits of public prayer at meetings, and their common understanding that freedom without virtue, and virtue without piety, were chimeras.

...

Consider the effects of a permission that radically alters the nature of the context in which the action is permitted. We might call this the Nude Beach Principle. Suppose that Surftown has one beautiful beach, where young and old, boys and girls, single people and whole families, have been used to relax, go swimming, and have picnics. Now suppose that a small group of nudists petitions the town council to allow for nude bathing. Their argument is simple—actually, it is no more than a fig leaf for the mere expression of desire. They say, “We want to do this, and we, tolerant as we are, do not wish to impose our standards on anyone else. No one will be required to bathe in the raw. Live and let live, that's our motto.”

But you cannot have a Half-Nude Beach. A beach on which some people stroll without a stitch of clothing is a nude beach, period. A councilman cannot say, “I remain entirely neutral on whether clothing should be required on a beach,” because that is equivalent to saying that it is not opprobrious or not despicable to walk naked in front of other people, including children.

Two factors must be at work, for the Nude Beach Principle to apply. One is whether we can expect some people to act upon the permission. The other is an easily predictable harm that the permission so acted upon will bring to people who do not act upon it, or who, because of moral disapprobation, disgust, fear, or pain, would never act upon it. In Surftown, it means that ordinary people will have lost their beach. They will have lost it to the intolerance of the nude bathers, who, even if they were correct about the moral permissibility of their parading their wares, will not forbear with their more scrupulous neighbors. In this matter, to pretend not to choose is to choose.

Nor do we need physical proximity to invoke the principle. A few years ago in Nova Scotia, after losing a string of referenda, proponents of all-day any-day business won out, meaning that, for the first time, businesses other than hotels, restaurants, grocery stores, and gas stations could remain open on Sunday. Opponents of the referendum appealed to the good that families and neighborhoods enjoyed, because they could rely on almost everyone being at home at least one day in the week. They understood that it was illogical to say that no particular business would be compelled to keep the strange hours, since the permission would mean almost immediately that many would do so—just as the permission to wear nothing on a beach will bring out many sons of Adam and daughters of Eve. They saw that that in itself would compromise or destroy the good they sought to preserve.

Now, you could say that that lost good was outweighed by the good of some purported economic development, just as you could say that the lost good of a beach friendly to families was outweighed by the good of exhibitionism or what have you. But you could not plead neutrality. To say, “I remain neutral on whether a people should set aside one day in a week for cessation of most business,” is to say that it is not important that such a day be set aside. Again, to pretend not to choose is to choose.

The referendum in Nova Scotia illustrates something else, too, beyond the particular issue. Sometimes to permit is not only to alter the context of the permitted action, but to alter the whole social order. You cannot say, as Stephen Douglas tried to say, that you will allow slavery in those states whose citizens vote for it, and then pretend that that is an act of calm and statesmanlike neutrality. A society that says that some people may own slaves is an utterly different society from one that says that no one may own slaves. That is not a distant consequence of the permission; it is immediate, indeed implied in the permission itself.

You cannot say, as liberals try to say, that you will allow abortion for people inclined to procure one, and then pretend that that too is to remain blissfully neutral and tolerant, no more than if you tried to say that you would allow infanticide for parents who decide, after all, that the diapers are too messy, or the baby too ugly or too sickly or handicapped. A society that allows some people to kill babies is a society that does not protect babies, period. It is a society that does not view them as possessing any inherent claim upon our protection. A society that freely permits pornography is, by that very permission, a society that sees nothing especially sacred in the human body and the marital act. You can say all you want that no one is required to leap into the open sewer. They still have to live with it right there, with all its stench, among people who have grown accustomed to it, or fond of it.

These are familiar thoughts.

Danny Lemieux writes at the American Thinker:

One of the fundamental problems in our society is that we argue with one another from positions of moral parochialism: we assume that the other party shares our frames of reference. That may have been true in the earlier years of our nation, but I propose that this is no longer the case. Today, we argue from different and fundamentally incompatible moral codes and value systems. It is the dichotomy between the two that confuses our discourse and creates great dangers for our country.

Many political and social arguments today seek to accommodate two fundamentally incompatible and opposite moral codes: a Judeo-Christian code and a Marxist-Progressive (“MarxProg”) code. When we on the Judeo-Christian side of the equation appeal to terms such as “good,” “evil,” “right,” and “wrong,” we usually fail to realize that they mean entirely different things in the MarxProgs’ lexicon.


Heather Wilhelm hits on the single biggest threat to totalitarian rule: the civil society:

Perhaps the first step to fighting America’s creeping police state—right after reviewing your Fourth Amendment rights—is simple: Get to know your neighbors, and get involved in your community. Friends rarely call the cops as a first resort. Alienated strangers often do—and isolated, atomized communities are often the first to hand over authority to a faceless, overpowering state.

Bingo.


Rod Dreher has an interesting take on Ted Cruz that I can’t help but agree with:

It’s not a perfect analogy, but imagine someone going to address a group of persecuted Chinese Christian leaders who had come to Washington to try to figure out how to keep their communities alive, and who had been instructed by a US politician that they needed to denounce the Beijing government as a condition of having his support. Or imagine a US politician telling Nigerian pastors whose flocks were being routinely savaged by Boko Haram that they needed to denounce anti-gay violence before he would endorse their cause of survival. In that case, you would have African Christian leaders who really do hate gays, but you would also have African Christian leaders who have more moderate views on gays, but who know that to be seen as aligning with gay rights would be to give their Muslim persecutors a powerful weapon to use against them (this is genuinely a problem for Anglican leaders in Nigeria). The idea that a people facing genocide — whatever their religion, ethnicity, or political beliefs — must first perfect themselves in the eyes of American politicians before they merit our help is repulsive.

W. James Antle III must have been eavesdropping on me and my Canadian coworker last Thursday, because I made these exact same points:

It is not always strategically sound to encourage all your enemies to band together against you. Sometimes it is best to divide them. The factions, organizations, and governments Cruz mentioned in his speech have their similarities, but also differences—differences that are in some cases important enough for them to go to war against each other. Indeed, these are the distinctions currently roiling the Middle East and breaking up Iraq.

And the United States has not always won wars by treating every enemy, rival, and illiberal political force without distinction. The U.S. allied with the Soviet Union to win World War II and reached out to China to gain advantage in the Cold War at a time when both countries were run by tyrannical mass murderers.


Could a newly formed “gully” on the slopes of a Martian volcano be caused by falling debris? I don’t buy it. In researching for my book set on Mars, I found these volcanoes, which are hundreds of miles across, have extensive caverns. In my opinion, the “gully” is an example of the ceiling falling in.

1 comment:

  1. Congrats on your engagement and blessings on your upcoming marriage.

    ReplyDelete