Tuesday, August 31, 2010

This One is Headed to the Supreme Court

A federal court in California has ruled that police don't need a warrant to place a GPS on the car of someone suspected of wrongdoing. This comes about a month after a different federal court in Washington DC said that the authorities should get a warrant before doing such a thing. Oh, what a tangled web we weave.

Those against the GPS call the move in California 'Orwellian'. Those in favor say that it's no different than tailing a suspect, and a whole lot cheaper. What to do, what to do?

We have to go with the Orwellian angle on this one. There's nothing wrong with making the job of the police relatively difficult. If that involves a slower pace in ferreting out the evildoers, then so be it. It strikes us that if the cops have enough evidence to place a GPS they ought to have enough that a reasonable judge would issue a warrant. If all they have on a guy (or a gal; women can be criminals too!) is enough to, ahem, warrant a tail, then that's what they have to do.

In the end, the folks who work for justice ought to have to work harder to achieve their ends relative to most other jobs out in the world. Not merely to keep them honest, but to ensure all the more that we are truly only pursuing the guilty. If we are indeed innocent until proven otherwise then the law has to lean a bit in our favor. Call it insurance against overeagerness, and a necessary adjunct to our pursuit of lawbreakers.

Having said that, however, we would argue that punishments ought to lean towards being harsh. But that question we'll leave for another time.

Monday, August 30, 2010

A Spiritual Poverty

Mother Teresa was perhaps the greatest opponent of poverty in the last century. She fought long and hard against the economic hardships which many of the poor in the world obviously face.

Yet when she arrived in the United States for the first time, she said that we suffer from a far greater want. We live in spiritual poverty, which is much worse than simply having little or no cash on hand.

It is an idea which we ought to consider carefully, because she is right. What profit a man to gain the world yet lose his soul?

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Martin Luther King and Economic Justice

Everyone it seems has an opinion on the Glenn Beck rally at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial, staged unintentionally on the 47th Anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King's famed 'I have a dream' speech. The event drew a crowd of apparently near the 300,000 it had asked for on its permit to gather, while also facing a counter demonstration of sorts from the Al Sharpton camp. Sharpton said he was merely honoring Dr. King's legacy and not opposing Beck as such.

Be that as it may, the most telling remarks of the day came from Dr. King's son, Martin Luther King III. He insists that his father, in the last years of his life, fought for economic justice more than for civil rights. That such an ideal has become the cornerstone of the civil rights movement, if we are willing to take King III's words for granted, places Sharpton's group squarely in the leftist/socialist camp. Especially as Sharpton himself said later in the day that "The structural breakdown of a strong national government, which is what they're (Beck's group) calling for, is something that does not serve the interests of the nation and it's something that Dr. King and others fought against," we see that true civil rights are not what the leaders of today's 'civil rights' movement are after. They in fact seek to be fed at the trough of government favor and power.

Such does not, in the long run, preserve anyone's rights, civil or economic. It places one right at the heel of omnipotence, where no one's free will choices shall mean anything. It must raise the question of who really speaks for the legacy of Dr. King. For if he truly wanted the government as lord and master of rights, then we need to rethink his contributions to society. But if he really wanted a world where a person is judged not 'by the color of their skin but the content of their character', then a national government which is too strong would be insulting to him.

It is interesting to note that Dr. King's niece, speaking at the Beck rally, opined that her Uncle spoke for 'faith, hope, love...and a trust in God', rather than for big government. It leaves us to wonder who may actually be hijacking the memory and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King: the conservatives, or those who claim him as their own.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Neignborhood Nannies

I see in the news today that a homeowner in Georgia had a bit of trouble because of a sixteen foot flagpole with an American flag flying proudly from it in his front yard. The homeowners association didn't like, and unsuccessfully sued in an attempt to force its removal.

Here are a few reflections on the matter.

1. The homeowners association was, as the courts ruled, way off base on this issue. It is well within the moral rights of private property to display an unobtrusive flag, and quite frankly they're simply jerks trying to throw their weight around.

2. You should be careful about signing away your right to property ownership to a bunch of other property owners who really only want to be busybodies.

3. Homeowners associations are ultimately socialists writ small.

4. Sure, there are reasonable exemptions to what even a property owner should be able to do with his property. But note the word reasonable; property owners should never have to kowtow to the neighborhood simply because the neighborhood thinks they should.

5. You aren't protecting your property one bit by dictating every little thing your neighbor can do. You're just being a little Hitler, and a pretty petty one at that.

6. This demonstrates that private individuals acting privately can't always be expected to fully understand property and personal rights issues. That's why property rights should be protected by law rather than, perhaps, shallow local opinion.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Religion Doesn't Start Wars

These are my final thoughts on the threads from this past Wednesday and Thursday's blogs. For now.

- Charles Martin Cosgriff

I think you're confusing people who have used religion wrongly, which does and can happen, with the truth or not of religion. Either there is a God or there is not, regardless of whether human beings capable of doing evil do evil in whomever's name or with whatever justification. Either the Catholic Church, or Islam or Buddhism or Judaism or Protestantism or Animism, is the true religion or not, regardless of whether individual Catholics or Muslims or Jews or Buddhists or Animists act the way they should. It is people who sin, not creeds.

Yes, religion has at times been a cause of war. Yet so has communism and Nazism, each secular creeds. Sometimes jealousy has caused war: Russia has been at war several times in its history merely seeking control of a warm water port for its Navy. It is people doing what they should not do who are the root cause of evil in the world. Religion ill used may have been a factor at times, but rarely THE factor, the reason for war. Territorial claims and downright conquest have led to more wars than religion.

The Roman Empire did not spread for religious reasons. They did it for power, resources, and tribute. The Spanish came to the New World for the gold, the plunder, more than for the conversion of the natives (though the Spanish religious did certainly work for that). But any way you slice it, when religion is used poorly it is the fault of the wrongdoer, not the creed.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Secularism Teaches Selfishness

This is a more follow up to yesterday's post.

- Charles Martin Cosgriff

I basically agree with most of what you say, honestly, but to call something intelligent is also to imply that there is standard out there by which we can know we're intelligent. If there was nothing we could compare our thoughts to, we wouldn't know them to be intelligent. We would only be what we are with no concept that our thoughts had value.

As to 'when we're gone, we're gone', I stand by what I have said many times before. If we simply go out of existence, if we are an entirely secular species, then what we do here doesn't matter. Why not rape, rob, and pillage? Why waste what little existence we have doing good (whatever that means; for when you remove any possible eternal and objective truth out of our actions you essentially take out any possible meaning our actions may have, because there would be no real consequences) when we can simply satisfy our animal desires? We won't be punished if we simply cease to exist. Why be good? We won't know any reward if we cease to be. What possible meaning is there in being 'good' if we're little more than scientific accidents of time, a mass of atoms which happen to form 'me' for a bit, and then go on and form something else at their, shall we say, whim?

Yes, we might be remembered well, and what we do may help (and we must ask similarly as with good: whatever 'help' means, because that too would be left to the interpretation of the individual) the people still here when we're gone. But why should we care? It wouldn't be as though it would matter to us when we're no more, and arguably only matters to us when we're here because it would make us feel good...not exactly an altruistic motive, and altruism (once more, a useful standard only if based upon a certain objectivity) seems to be what you base your secular religion upon. And why then should I care about anyone while I'm still here? They'll just go out of existence one day and not remember a bit of whatever good or evil I do to them anyway. Any good will not aid them in the end, nor will any evil truly harm them. Even should I kill them, they won't be around to know or care.

I hope you don't think that I'm browbeating you with this, my friend. We certainly are above the lower animals and can certainly do better for others and ourselves in this world. But religion didn't create evil: people by free will do evil. Quite sincerely, I think the fact that you believe in creating rather than destroying is because you're a better man than the beliefs you express.

So you've chosen to be good because it suits you. Fine. But how do you tell others they are wrong to hurt people if their personal experience teaches them that hurting those insignificant in their eyes is all right? If there's only the individual's personal human experience to fall back on, and another individual's personal experience is that they like to do harm, there's no moral, wholly secular way you can tell them they can't. You've based your life on your experiences and claim what you do valid because on that. Their life is justified in the exact same way as yours is. In your worldview, good and bad are thus equal.

Everything you say is a value judgment based on a standard. But if it's only 'your' standard, I don't have to accept it, because I'm just as likely to be right as you. That is in fact the attitude which starts wars.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Science, Philosophy, and Religion

Note: this is in response to a You Tube video sent me by a friend. The video, featuring Carl Sagan, Bill Nye and others, purports that science and scientific knowledge is the end all be all of our existence. This is my reply.

-Charles Martin Cosgriff

Well, I agree that the beauty of the universe is not in the atoms which make things up. But I must point out that such is not a scientific judgment; it is fact a philosophic judgment.

Any time you claim something is beautiful you cannot rightly be said to be talking science because your have made a value judgment in calling it beautiful. Value judgments, opinions expressed about the innate quality of any given thing, are based on reason, or what the classical philosophers called Right Reason, things so obviously correct that they are Truth Itself and over which no rational being could disagree.

Science as science ignores this. Indeed popular science (for that is basically what is espoused by the Carl Sagans of our history) isn't actually science at all: it is an expression of their philosophical beliefs about what ultimate truth is. Therefore, scientists such as he who say they are making statements about science which are in all actuality laced with value, are not themselves being scientific at all. They have stepped into the realm of philosophy.

Nothing wrong with that, but call it what it is. Yet as such, they can make no empirical statements about beauty. The trouble there is that science is all about empiricism: hard factual evidence easily reproducible and recognizable over and over again. Carl Sagan has in fact gone beyond what he claims as his expertise, namely science.

I can use the same evidence about the complexity of the universe and make a better philosophic claim that it signifies design, that it must have come about via a conscious act: an act of will. An Act of God. Because complexity in and of itself is merely a complexity. When we begin to ask ourselves: Why is it complex? How did it become this way? we have begun to become truly human. We don't look at the merely scientific explanation of an object, which is at the end of the day simply raw data. The meaning of it is philosophical, and then eventually religious.

In short, science answers the 'how' questions. That gives us much good and necessary knowledge. But it is only rote knowledge; no matter how important, it is the least valuable type of knowledge. How we interpret and apply it means so much more, and those issues are not addressed by science at all. The 'why' questions have more meaning because they explain how we ought to be and how we have came about being here. They are addressed by our philosophic and theological outlook, and necessarily imply a God of some sort.

Science is not spiritual. It is not philosophical. It is not religious. But it isn't supposed to be. When it pretends to speak for what it is not, it is wearing the Emperor's New Clothes. It is out of its league.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Libertarians are Liberals

Have you ever noticed that libertarian and liberal both begin with the same five letters? Is it a coincidence, or not?

This point is driven home by the recent announcement that two 'liberaltarians' are supposedly being forced out of the Cato Institute, a traditionally libertarian think tank. But it could be that the pair are simply moving up the ladder, one of whom is moving over to work with The Economist.

Yet the precise nature of the change isn't really important. The fact is that libertarians are a bit of a schizophrenic bunch: liberal on social issues while conservative on fiscal matters. It is fair to ask if you can have it both ways and maintain any philosophic consistency.

Can one really be fiscally responsible in public policy while essentially arguing that social responsibility is a different question? Why do we have the freedom to do almost anything we want personally (provided it does not violate that vague and rather self-serving platitude: so long as it doesn't harm anyone else) yet have no such similar freedom politically? Indeed, how can one reasonably argue that financial discipline and personal discipline do not go hand in hand? If you are no good at the one it is doubtful you can be particularly effective at the other.

In short, libertarians are essentially liberals who happen to like fiscal discipline. Yet such is like getting blood from the proverbial turnip. If folks are not personally disciplined they are not likely to be publicly disciplined. After all, we reap what we sow. Sow freedom, reap freedom, with all the errors that must grow from that field. But sow justice, the idea that some things are really right and others really wrong on their own merit, and we improve society by having bettered ourselves.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Can you say Redistribution of Power?

We have pointed out several times already that one of the most important issues not often raised in the 2010 election cycle concerns the Supreme Court: with the current makeup only slightly conservative, we need a Republican Senate in 2011 to keep President Obama in check. But the other rarely cited issue of nearly equal importance is the looming realignment of House seats which will surely bode ill for the left if the November vote is as Republican as it looks to be.

The GOP is poised to gain a few governorships, perhaps holding up to 32 by the end of the day November 2nd. But more important are the number of state houses which they may grab: some pundits are predicting gains of over 500 total legislative seats. In the Congressional arena itself, many Democrats are on the bubble as they won only marginally in districts generally Republican. But again, looking at the legislative races is where the long term effect of the 2010 elections may be most critical. Why? Because it is the state legislatures which shall control the redistricting process which will occur based on the 2010 Census numbers.

Texas for example looks to have 4 new congressional districts for 2012, and the GOP should keep control of its state house. The New York Senate and Ohio and Pennsylvania Houses of Representatives were only narrowly Democratic after 2008. Will they stay so for January 2011? The GOP even has a decent shot at taking the Alabama legislature, something it has not done since the 1870's.

Yet more bad news faces the left. Can older democratic states such as Michigan, which will lose seats in the second next Congress, continue to the practice of nearly guaranteeing a certain number of liberal seats? Will a population loss in our home state force a battle in 2012 between John Conyers and the newly elected Hansen Clarke for a lone liberal Congressional representative from around here? If the legislature can gerrymander two seats, it surely will; but what will it cost in terms of outstate Democratic officials? How many other rust belt states will face similar troubles?

It looks brighter every day for the GOP. If the victories pile up too much, we may see a Republican majority carved simply out of new Congressional districts. Yes, it's too early to know for sure. And yes, the liberals will surely fight legislative Congressional changes in the courts because its what they do when they don't get their way. Power to the People, until the people disagree with them. But the sun appears to be shining on the right for now, as clouds continue to gather over the Democratic National Committee.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Smelly philosophy

Democracy is the worst political system...except for all the other political systems.

Capitalism is the lousiest economic system...outside of all the other economic systems.

Why are they the best, yet the worst? Because they are based on human freedom and dignity. People have a great capacity for good, but a terrible propensity to do ill. Freedom unfortunately feeds both these notions.

But I wouldn't have it any other way.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Football: Guilty of Unsportsmanlike Conduct

I am an overall sports fan, which means that I'll watch just about any sport to pass the time of day. Of course, the biggest sports get the bulk of my attention, which means I watch a pretty good amount of football. Yet I find myself slowly tiring of it. The reason? It's a combination of two factors: certain rules, and the ridiculous amount of grandstanding which has become part of the game.

Sports are supposed to be sportsmanlike. That means respecting your opponent. How can it be said that you're respecting the other team when you trash talk? What is it saying about them when you gesture wildly after every single play? That stuff is particularly galling late in blowout games: it's arrogance if you're winning and quite frankly silly when you're losing. Why not let your actions speak for you, guys? Remember that in the end it's only, and I mean only, a game. You aren't saving lives or tending crops or curing disease. You're merely fortunate to live in a country with enough disposable income to support your playing kid's games. Get perspective, even, or perhaps especially, on the field.

There are rules I don't like either, on the very same grounds of sportsmanship and fair play. Why should a quarterback be allowed to throw a ball away when he's in danger of being sacked, with no penalty? I know what you'll say: to protect him because he's vulnerable. But doesn't he know that he's playing a brutal game? Besides, the NFL doesn't protect other players in the same way: running backs aren't allowed to toss the ball down when a tackle is immanent, and they're often in as vulnerable of a position as the QB. What such a rule does is penalize the defense. It violates one of most basic rules of sportsmanship: if I have the best of you I've earned the benefit of it.

Spiking the ball to stop the clock is another gripe of mine. Many games have been won because a team with no time outs simply spikes the snap into the ground, allowing them to race the kicking team onto the field and win a game. But again, this punishes good defense while rewarding poor clock management. It's unsportsmanlike, and even the rules of a mere game must have integrity. They must, shall I say, play fair. If the quarterback has no intention of running a play then he should at least get the penalty for intentional grounding: 15 yards and a loss of down.

The defense of allowing this action is that it makes the games more exciting. Still, I say the games need integrity ahead of excitement. If we're supposed to learn certain things from sports, like fair play, then the rules must reflect that quality. Period. Otherwise the game can only teach us that winning is all that matters. You can't get more shallow than that.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Freedom has Limits

Former Vice President Dick Cheney has come out in favor of gay marriage. If you're trying to appeal to liberal voters, Dick, you're about two years too late. Besides, they wouldn't have voted for you anyway.

However that may be, what the former veep is ignoring on the issue is that freedom means more than doing whatever you want to do. What you ought to be able to do is a matter of justice, of which freedom must be subservient.

Should Hitler have been allowed to dominate Europe simply as an issue of freedom? No. But I know the objection which will come next, because it always does. I will be told that freedom means respecting other people's rights.

That sort of talk is nonsense, unless we in fact believe in a standard which does not rely on freedom for its legitimacy. For when we say that freedom means that everyone else has to respect the rights of others, we are saying two things. One, that freedom is not absolute, and two, that there is an objective standard by which we decide who is free to do what, and when they are free to do it.

That standard, as a good friend of mine commented on these pages back in January, is justice. We must do what is right because it is right. In that light, freedom is a means, the best means, generally, to see justice done. But it only a means. It is not an end. As such, freedom is ultimately under the aegis of another philosophical force. It is not, and cannot be, the catch all be all of our moral universe.

The right frame of the question of gay marriage is should gay marriage be allowed. To argue that 'freedom' warrants it begs the question.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Cut the Grass on an Ozone Action Day

I do not like cutting the grass. It simply is a chore for me, even though I can mow my lawn in about 45 minutes. Still, there are things about it which I like.

The cold beer afterwards is always nice. I look upon it as a reward for completing the task. It is probably the only reason I ever even get the job done. And I must admit I always have liked the look of a freshly cut lawn. There's something about the nice flat green ground which appeals to me. You can't beat the smell of newly mown grass, either.

There are actually times, too, when I do in fact seek the task with a certain right wing relish. Ozone action days are my personal favorites: I will delay the chore for twenty four hours just so that I can cut grass on an ozone action day. Right afterwards, I will gas up the car too. In my own little way, I enjoy the spirit of rebellion which that allows me. Take that, lefty buttinski do-gooders!

It grates on me that such a thing has become so readily accepted by our society, that we can be told when to gas up and mow lawns. It's that sort of creeping despotism which will get us in the long run, friends. The next Hitler will be a frail little man with his glasses halfway down his nose, and his army will not have guns but pencils.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Laura Schlessinger and The Ground Zero Mosque

It seems that questions of taste are permeating the news these days, and the two biggest ones revolve around freedom of speech and freedom of religion issues. The proposed Ground Zero mosque has become something of a hydra, growing in anger and anxiety among both the left and the right, while the famed Dr. Laura Schlessinger is looking towards retirement after employing the N-word over and over during a recent segment of her radio show. There seems no end to the extremities these days.

Even a few Arabic world news sources are questioning the wisdom of building the mosque so near to the site of part of the 9/11 tragedy. The Daily Start of Lebanon and Egypt's Al-Ahram Weekly have expressed concern over whether this is the time or that is the place for the mosque. The Daily Star says that the real goal now should be the education of the rest of the world about true Islam, while the Egyptian paper goes so far as to say that if the mosque is denied on reasonable grounds it expects that humanity will accept the decision.

These are commendably noble stances. Opponents in the United States are facing rather sharp criticism about tolerance and acceptance (as well as preachy diatribes about rights) while they are receiving little consideration of their proper attitudes by many. It is readily ignored by the left that tolerance and consideration are two way streets; as a rule, even when the Constitution is on your side that cannot mean you have no responsibility of acting charitably and inclusively towards your opponents. To argue that rights may run roughshod over legitimate issues of grief can make rights seem rather mean and hollow. It is fair to ask whether rights without souls are worth having.

In the end, if the parties involved persist, the mosque will be built. But will it do what its supporters say? Will it build community, or mistrust? If Islam cannot answer that question honestly and act accordingly, regardless of its Constitutional rights, then we may learn all that we need to know about that religion.

Dr. Laura Schlessinger is leaving radio to find her First Amendment rights. She used the N-word several times on a recent broadcast and the public outcry has been tremendous. But we ask: where are the defenders of her Constitutional rights? She's only using a mere word, one employed commonly in certain segments of the community.

What relates this story to the mosque is that, essentially, the same two issues are at stake here: free speech rights and questions of decorum and tact. Only here, the left deeply resents Schlessinger's free expression. Ergo, she is a vile and despicable human being. Once more we see that hypocrisy of the liberal intelligensia: rights must be defended. Until they offend us.

She should not have said what she said any more than the black community should insult itself and its members with the regular use of the word. But oh, what a learning experience when the same mentality which calls conservatives intolerant when they voice opposition to a mosque which is at least arguably insensitive are so willing to ignore the First Amendment when they are themselves insulted. Actions do indeed speak louder than words. And it seems that offensive words can indeed be evil...but only when spoken by the right. Such is no more than effrontery, sheer cheek, and belittles whatever else they may claim about the sanctity of human rights.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Steaming Piles of Uninformed Talk

My brother Phil tells me that he once looked up the definition of BS in a dictionary, and that it means 'uniformed talk'. Seems like there's a lot of that going around.

If you think that a fetus is not human, that's uninformed talk.

If you believe that Barack Obama is the guy who knows what ails ya, that's uniformed talk.

If you think that high taxes are good, government over-regulation of the economy is a positive value, and that Washington knows all, that's uniformed talk.

If you believe that any drain cleaner is better than an Electric Eel, that's uninformed talk.

If you think that liberalism is better than conservatism, that people should not have the most possible human freedom, that individuals don't know what's best for themselves as a rule, or that the government shouldn't by and large stay out of our way, that's uninformed talk.

If you don't think the Irish saved civilization, that's uninformed talk.

And if you think I'm wrong about any of this, that's simply a heaping, steaming pile of uninformed talk.

Oh come on, that was funny!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Gone to the Glowing Dogs?

In the news recently (all right, we're probably behind the curve on this story, but bear with us) that South Korean scientists have added gene material from another creature to a beagle puppy, causing it to glow red in ultraviolet light. The dog is named Ruppy, which is short for Ruby Puppy. Cute.

Cute in and of itself only, that is. There is great debate in the scientific community about the value of such experiments, and well there should be. Ruppy is part of a series of experiments designed to make dogs more like humans genetically in order to use them in researching human diseases. We are not sure what to make of this. There is nothing wrong using animals to seek cures for human ills. Yet we have to question the point of a glowing dog, even in that context.

Perhaps it was inadvertent; the articles we've encountered either did not say whether the team of researchers intended that effect, or perhaps we simply missed the reason. Maybe it was simply to see what kind of genetic alterations could be effected, as a step on the ladder towards more useful experiments. We can live with that second point; but if it was the first reason, it is not so easy to acquiesce.

As a moral rule, doing something just to do something, doing 'science' just to see what can be done, is not particularly defensible. That's not to say that such actions are wrong, only that they may be little more than a waste of time and effort. Especially in areas where public money may be being spent, we would go so far as to say they may be in fact wasteful of the taxpayer's cash.

Not to mention the effects on the animals. Again, there is nothing wrong with animal experimentation for the legitimate pursuit of ending diseases. But we do not have the right to experiment on them merely to play with their DNA. If there is no, or within reason expected to be no, help to be developed against the bad things in the human condition, it is difficult to see where it is right to mess with any given animal.

Perhaps we am speaking out of turn, as we are admittedly shooting from the lip. That said, we must remember that we are not God, even when it comes to our treatment of the lower creatures with whom we share this planet. We have no right, in this area as well as almost all others, to tinker merely to tinker.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

August in Detroit

The Detroit Tigers, after treating their fans to several days in first place and a bit of pennant fever, have tanked. That's Detroit in August.

The Detroit Lions, the continually woeful NFL team and only franchise in the League for more than 40 years to have not have even appeared in a Super Bowl, lose their exhibition opener pitifully. That's Detroit in August.

The University of Michigan football team faces stiff penalties for possible violations of NCAA rules. That's August in Ann Arbor, which is close enough to count as Detroit.

The comic strip Cathy, a drawn out one joke story drawn and written by someone local to Detroit, Cathy Guisewite, has after 34 years announced that it will end its run in October. That's August in Detroit.

We were blessed with the announcement that attorney Geoffrey Fieger will run for mayor of or fair city in 2013. That's August in Detroit.

At least now we understand why so many youngsters look forward to the start of school at this time of year. It's a distraction from reality. A reality a little bit to real.

That's August in Detroit. Too real. It's a good thing native Detroiters are strong enough to handle it.

Hopefully, anyway. Mommy!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Our Next Hizzoner?

Well, we native and lifelong Detroiters can now rest easy. Geoffrey Fieger is running for Mayor in the 2013 elections.

That announcement brings warmth to the hearts of us all. Or something akin to that. Warmth, after all, can be brought by from many sources. But let's say that we're all afire with excitement over the thought of Mr. Fieger becoming our next Mayor.

It just about assures the re-election of current Mayor Dave Bing. He ain't exactly Mr. Excitement, as Fieger has said, but the City of Detroit isn't really in a position for much more excitement. Kwame Kilpatrick has just about drained the excitement from us. We need our quiet time.

Detroit has been a laughingstock for long enough. We really don't need your help. Mr. Fieger. We seem to do a good enough job of providing laughs for the rest of the world as it is. Kindly save your jokes for the courtroom.

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Free Speech Dilemma

We Americans boast routinely about free speech, being so proud of the right that we put it smack at the top of the Bill of Rights. So, perhaps, it should be. But there are unfortunately degrees to which it must be seen negatively.

There are folks who opine that free speech means the right to say offensive things. They forget that there are two ways in which someone is offended: either when the listener is a fool, or when the speech in question is genuinely offensive.

No one has a moral right to voice offensive remarks solely for the sake of making offense; that is simply rudeness at best and insulting and vulgar at worst. To say that they have such a right under the guise of free speech is really only to hide irresponsible behavior behind a pretty face. As rights only grow from responsibilities, it is reasonable to argue that the right to speak freely comes from the obligation to speak truthfully, in the reasonable interests of ourselves and the general society, and considerately, so far as circumstances may allow.

Still, the only way to really stifle morally offensive speech is censorship, and the problem with censorship is that it is only good when good people are in charge. When bad people hold the reigns, then good and necessary free speech will be prohibited. It is a risk we cannot take.

In the end, though, no one has the right to say offensive things, but merely the practical option of expressing them freely. No one has the right to be wrong in the truest sense of the term, but only the free will to be in the wrong. Until we understand that, we really won't understand the importance of a well regulated freedom at all.

Rights must be viewed in their proper perspective. They are not, not a one of them, open ended and subject to mere personal interpretation. We may treat some select few of them as absolute, but only due to abject necessity. Actions which beg the true nature of free speech do not promote but instead denigrate the right. They make us less than we can be, which is good and decent people.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Family Guy owes us Something

I watched for what I am telling myself the Fox network shows Family Guy and American Dad for the last time last night. They are simply too crude and vulgar for the taste of anyone with an ounce of respect for other people. So I am using my option of turning the channel on Sunday nights from here forward.

The trouble is that response doesn’t come near to recognizing the whole problem. No one should put garbage that offensive on the air, and no one ought to watch it. Yet when I protest that, I am yelled at shrilly about free speech and to turn off the TV then if I don’t want to see it. That’s all well and good...for me. It says nothing about the makers’ of such shows obligation to me or other prospective viewers.

Like it or not, folks, you do have an obligation to the general society to keep things clean, and to be respectful of the legitimate concerns of the individual. He has a right, and no less than that, to not be offended when it comes to things truly offensive. Merely turning off the TV does not address that question: it begs it.

I would like to ask the Seth McFarlanes of the world if I have an obligation to help, say, the poor. If he says that I do, then I have the right to ask him about his obligations towards me. Because if I have obligations outside of myself, then so does he. Conversely, if he has no obligations to me, then I likewise have none towards others. That’s the real question: do I owe something to humanity or not, and on what grounds?

It’s the question which does not get asked when the media (and cartooning on network television is as much part of the media as a news show) want what they want. Their silence on the matter speaks volumes.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Playing the Race Card

Although the primary season is over and done here in Michigan there are, as always, lingering questions. One that sticks in our mind is the question of the Black Slate, which always puts out pamphlets encouraging folks to vote "for only those with the interests of Detroit at heart'.

Well, why not call it the Detroit Slate, then? Why inject race into it at all? For as it is, the implication is that if you don't vote for whom they want you to, you're anti-black. If it's about what's right for Detroit, there doesn't seem to be any need to mention race, does it?

Or is it done to insinuate that those who do not vote for those selected candidates are racist? Because that high charged implication is equally and immediately clear: if you didn't vote for Virg Bernero for Governor, you're racist. Surely they do not mean that?

The really interesting thing around here is that we don't actually mind movements such as the Black Slate. If you honestly believe that that group of candidates are the best for your group, whatever group, then we see no moral evil in and of itself in supporting them in that light. But we cannot help but wonder if the folks pushing the Black Slate would see the issue on equal terms.

In short, why is it that inserting race into an election is all right if it comes from a minority, but would be roundly condemned should it come from certain other quarters? Further, where there are areas from which such things do arise, they are derided (usually with good cause, we'll allow) as Nazis or skinheads?

We've changed our minds. The Black Slate ought to be dropped. If your candidates are good candidates then such crass inferences are unimportant. Or is it that, in the end, you think the general issues against you and an injection of good old lightning rod politics the only way you may see electoral victory?

We're just asking. But they are questions which need good answers.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Buying Elections

The wife of WWE Chairman Vince McMahon is running for the Senate out of Connecticut. Linda McMahon is running well ahead of her Republican challenger and should be the GOP nominee. All at a cost of a mere $22 million dollars.

Some say she is buying the election. But at least she's using her own money, if that be the case. Further, that complaint seems trivial compared to the purchase price of the American Presidency, bought by Barack Obama without the aid of public funds. It seems that the whole idea of public funding of elections is becoming passe.

What we are facing is a real free speech issue, one that leaves a bad taste in many mouths. Don't the rich have free speech too? Why can't they express themselves with whatever tools are at their disposal?

Because money brings power. Barack and the Democrats learned that in 2008.

But, you know, if we had a government like the Framers intended, if the Federals weren't allowed to do so much which they should not, what real power would there be in Washington to lust after? If there weren't so many spoils to divide among so many allies, and so many causes so deserving of cash from the public trough, maybe all this talk about buying elections wouldn't be so prevalent. Or meaningful.

In the end, we get what we pay for. But at least when it's private money at work, our tax burden is lessened.

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Ground Zero Mosque

A group of moderate Muslims want to build a mosque near Ground Zero in New York. It is one of the most truly gut wrenching events we have faced in the aftermath of 9/11. Naturally, of course, politicians want to make hay of it.

Conservatives oppose it vehemently, and not without good reason. Say what you want about moderate Islam being true Islam, it is still Muslim extremists who perpetuated the attacks on the World Trade Center on that fateful September day. Still, the argument that we need to reach out somehow and show religious tolerance has merit. What is one to do?

Part of the trouble is that Islam itself appears so very slow to distance itself from its more radical elements. Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, one of the leaders working for the mosque in question recently refused to label the Hamas organization as terrorists. Such reluctance makes it easy for Americans to question how moderate moderate Muslims may actually be.

The feeling that putting a mosque so close to what has become hallowed ground is an insult to those who died on 9/11 must be seen as a legitimate expression of American grief. Saying as much does not make mosque opponents intolerant. Indeed, the idea that those who favor the mosque ought to back down out of consideration for that emotion is perhaps the most relevant being put forward. The interfaith gestures many say they want are surely possible, if that's what all parties, Muslims included, really want, without having a mosque so nearby such a bittersweet area. It would seem that tolerance might instruct the Islamic leaders involved to be a bit more considerate of American angst over the whole ordeal.

That said, the Ground Zero Mosque is a bad idea. Perhaps in a generation of two, but not now. To demand it now rather even reeks of patronization towards Islam itself; is that how we truly display tolerance of other creeds? But more than that, it really is too soon. Any reasonable observer of any stripe should be able to see that.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Nullification: An Old Approach to a New Challenge

The voters in the State of Missouri passed a resolution last Tuesday which says, basically, that the Obama health care initiative does not apply to them. Many other states, perhaps up to the three-fourths needed to amend the Constitution, are considering or have passed motions through their legislatures claiming the same thing. All of this is background noise to arguably more shrill issues: Arizona and illegal immigrants, perhaps the entire Tea party movement, and the recent talk about modifying the 14th Amendment. We may even throw in the gay marriage thing, as Article the Fifth says that states must respect the public acts of other states. All of this points in one direction: the chance of a genuine Constitutional crisis which may rock our nation profoundly.

We need one, quite frankly, and it can happen without the destruction of our proud country if all parties agree to be reasonable. But a showdown with the Federal Government may be necessary if the states are ever again going to be able to resume their proper role in our constitutional scheme. We need the States to reassert their rights. We need the people to reassert theirs.

At one point in our history there was a movement for what was termed nullification. The idea was that individual states could decide for themselves whether a federal dictum applied to them. That is essentially what some locales are claiming today.

It is admittedly difficult to know where exactly to draw the line. Indeed we realize that something such as nullification is fraught with peril: anyone may claim it on any issue which they find critical. Still, when Washington holds all the cards as they currently do, are there any options besides pushing the bonds which bind the United States to their limits?

Liberals will say: appeal to the courts, or elect new messengers to the Congress if you feel that way. But as with most things, talk is cheap. Especially when you are the card dealer. We only need to look at recent actions to see that such an appeal is unlikely to work: the courts have struck down California's gay marriage ban and the supposed worst of Arizona's recent laws aimed at illegal immigrants. Do you really think they will abide by the actions of a conservative Congress? No; they will go to the courts if a new Congress thwarts them, because it's what liberals do when they can't get their way otherwise (and by that we mean, through the legitimate legislative process). They have no true respect for law; they have no real respect for the Constitution, which they twist and squeeze in seeking to make it appear to support their wants. Then they have the unmitigated gall to accuse the right of tampering with it when it proposes amendments. It's hypocrisy on two counts: telling us to go to the courts when they know they've a system in place which tends to support them, then acting as though the 'living' Constitution can't be changed if a change should gore their preferred oxen. Things change, liberals: embrace and accept it. That's what you always tell us.

How they will fight change when they don't like it. But we also go beyond our immediate argument in pointing that out. The bottom line here is that the States have rights too; the People as well. Isn't that the whole point of the Ninth and Tenth Amendments? Why doesn't the left see the value of them? Merely because they think any action regulated or initiated by the Federals as automatically superior to any action initiated by a State or Individual. Any why? Because, as our history has thus far developed, that's where the power is, and it's all about power.

It is time to fight back. It is time for the power of the people to rear its head and make Washington tow the line. It is time for the States to reassert themselves in this Constitutional scheme of ours and fight for their rights as States. It is all well and good to recognize federal authority where it legitimately rests. It is the end of our history as a free people to give it a free pass or free reign.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Kagan's confirmation means little

Elena Kagan will become the 112th Justice on our Supreme Court. But that is not a surprise. With an overwhelming Democratic majority in the Senate, President Obama could have nominated Kermit the Frog and he would have been accepted with praise. It is the next Justice who will truly alter the Court. All we can do is hope and pray that the selection will not come until, at least after this fall's mid-term elections, if not until after a new Republican president in January 2013.

That isn't a very outlandish scenario at this point. President Obama is looking more and more like Jimmy Carter: a flash in the pan out of his element. Only, perhaps, worse, if the expected drubbing of the Democrats actually materializes this November. The President would never get Kagan past a GOP Senate with such a solid majority as the Democrats enjoy today.

That is, if the Republicans have finally learned the lesson that it's okay to employ power when you have it. The GOP must realize that any Democratic calls for quarter, for reaching across the aisle, when they are out of power are mere charades. Democrats never, ever, ask for conciliation or consideration for Republican views when the left holds the cards. The whole health care debate has shown us as much, and history is rife with left wing power plays when they hold the reigns.

If you get the broad majority we currently expect in November, use it, GOP. The Democrats do not care what you think when you're in the minority. Ignore them when you're in the majority. That ain't sour grapes. That's the politics of raw power, and the left needs a strong dose of that bitter medicine.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Pot Shots on August 5th

A federal court has overruled California's Proposition 8, which disallowed gay marriage. It's just another example of how liberals are all for democracy and the will of the people...until the people disagree with them. Then we haul the issue into the courts. The courts, of course, as no less of a civil libertarian than Thomas Jefferson has noted, offer the greatest threat to our true freedoms. Especially when they begin to be used to enforce upon the body politic pure abominations.

Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick has lost the Democratic Primary for the seat she has held in Congress for years. It seems that the apron strings can stretch a very long way; no one doubts that her name association with her infamous son has caused her downfall. Blood is thicker than politics, apparently.

A British group claims that a glass of beer per day, rather than a glass of wine, will burn more calories than a 30 minute jog. We don't care about the scratch your head factor which such statements invite: the bottom line here is that just when you think that England has become unimportant in the world, they give us reason to respect them again. Any nation which touts beer drinking as healthy is a good and grand ally in our book.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Change the 14th Amendment: Fix the Constitution

The 14th Amendment needs to be changed so that we alter the Constitutional nature of birthright citizenship. This is a good and necessary change which is long overdue.

As things are, any child born in the United States is entitled to US citizenship. But this begs the very important question of whether their parents are themselves here legally. Quite frankly, there is nothing immoral, not one little bit, about denying citizenship privileges to the offspring of illegals. Their children are not entitled to it simply and perhaps solely for the reason that they should not have been here to be born in first place.

Such birthright privileges are not fundamental rights. The United States, just like any other nation, has both the right to set reasonable citizenship qualifications as well as to alter its basic law, so long as a true moral evil is not involved. This is nowhere near a moral wrong.

Democrats don't like this idea, as the presumption is that many illegals support them. All right, illegals and their children may lean Democrat. If so, then such becomes another important issue: those not here legally have no right to influence our political system regardless of their personal philosophical leaning. Such things are, at the least, improper and at the most, downright immoral. No non-American citizen has the right to influence the direction of our country. To our libertarian friends we ask: is this really any different than the US attempting to interfere with the internal workings of other countries?

This is not xenophobic. Anyone who wants to become an American citizen who is no threat to our nation ought to be allowed to become citizens: relatively open borders are not a bad thing. But come in through the front door. Because coming in through the back is itself suspect behavior, and grounds alone for denying anyone the rights of legal citizenship.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Michigan Primary Vote

Mike Cox, Pete Hoekstra, Mike Bouchard, Rick Snyder. Who should a good conservative support?

Cox has the Right to Life endorsement, and that's important. But Hoekstra insists he's pro-life too, and Bouchard's record seems pretty clear as well. Rick Snyder is ambiguous on the issue, which is not surprising given that he is in the camp of the economy first crowd.

None of the other elections in Wayne County matter very much to the right wing because, as a rule, the winner of the Democratic Primary will be the general election victor and we have interest in them. But for the governor's race, our votes may actually matter.

Seeing as Bouchard is not likely to win, place, or show, it apparently comes down to Mike Cox or Pete Hoekstra. So as Right to Life has gotten behind Mr. Cox, he is probably the best choice.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Abortion Still Matters

It was sad to see the Detroit News, in an editorial yesterday about tomorrow's primary elections here in Michigan, lament that the abortion issue has apparently come to play a major role in the polling. Unions have poured money into the effort to have East Lansing Mayor Verg Bernero win the Democratic gubernatorial race in great part because they assert he will stand stronger for the right to abortion than Andy Dillon. The paper claims that the abortion issue should be put on the back burner so that more emphasis can be placed on job creation.

To hear such shallow talk is not shocking, yet when it comes from the Detroit News it becomes especially galling. We realize, too, that the activists using the issue to promote Bernero are using it wrongly, to wit, in support of the practice. But the bottom line must be that we never give up on the goal of ending abortion, and ironically, it is the unions and not conservative stalwarts such as normally found at the News that have made it a critical point in this election cycle. They see the importance of the issue. Why should the right, particularly in this case, not see that abortion stays a highlighted issue up to and until it is ended?

A single human life is more important than any number of jobs. Yet when the News editorial writers insist that job creation must be placed ahead of life issues they display an attitude which places electoral success ahead of the more important questions which face the body politic. What respect we show for humanity and human life is far more important than the immediate gratification of job seekers or political aspirants. Indeed, a greater respect for life will quite naturally lead to a greater interest in those quality of life issues under which job creation is to be found.

The proverbial cart must not be placed in front of the horse. Once we do that, all we do is topple the cart. First things first, Detroit News. The rest will come along for the ride.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Vanity is not a Virtue

A California woman has died as a result of silicone injections to her posterior. The stuff she allowed injected into her body were apparently industrial grade rather than the medical grade commonly used in capsule form. But it is fair to ask whether that actually makes a difference in terms of the outcome (a young woman died) or with regards to the question of whether we should seek such vulgar ways of altering our bodies for little more than vanity.

This is not to let societal judgments of what a good body is off the hook. We cannot doubt that the woman in question was seeking to make her body seem more like the ideal which reflects the opinion of much of our current society. But two things are at stake here: our own outlook on beauty, and the pressures of society to look good.

The correct answer to the second question is: damn society. In terms of natural physical appearance, you are what you are and there is only so much you can do about it. Exercise, eat better, and that's the best you can do. One should not even rule out invasive techniques such as surgery, we may suppose, but only as a matter of last resort. Some people are just built certain ways, such as having small butts.

Which leads to the first question. Don't ever let society tell you what is right unless it is in fact right by any objective opinion. No one of us has any say in how our DNA comes together. If it can and must be fixed such as with a cancer or other debilitating condition, then get it fixed. Otherwise, tell society to go suck eggs. There is no point to being bullied over something which is not your fault.

After a point, we are who we are. We are as responsible for accepting that as much as society is for letting us alone in the way God made us. The real shame here is that authorities are - properly enough, so far as it goes - treating the ones who injected the silicone as the only evil actors in this matter. Perhaps they are the only evil ones. Still, vanity has played her part. Unfortunately, we can only now pray for the soul of the girl who thought the world's opinion of her physical self more important than the person she actually is.