Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Anti-bullying to what Purpose?

An anti-bullying bill is on its way to Michigan Governor Rick Snyder. It easily cleared the Michigan Senate by a 35-2 tally. Supporters hope for a signature from Snyder soon.

So, once again we have nothing more than a feel good law which almost anybody will vote for because it seems so bipartisan. After all, who favors bullying?

Bullying is of course wrong on its very face. There can be no quarter for it from any part of our society and no matter what the disposition of the bullied. It is good that Lansing resisted efforts to single out any one group as special targets of bullies. The fact is that, like hate crimes, the reason for bullying ultimately doesn't matter. If someone, anyone, is the victim of overt and ill founded intimidation, who and what exactly they are is irrelevant.

Yet the groups wanting specific protections for specific groups are, it would seem, the groups who promote behaviors which been traditionally shunned. It is quite a telling fact the GLAAD, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, are among the key supporters of anti-bullying legislation and lobbying and like to insist on special measures for their core supporters. Quite frankly, it seems to us that anti-bullying measures are aimed more at promoting tolerance of gays and lesbians more than being truly and fully against bullying itself.

Once again, bullying is wrong and unsupportable in any way, shape, or form. It cannot be tolerated by any thinking person. But when we are showered with phrases such as the WWE's STAR program, Show Tolerance And Respect (done in conjunction with GLAAD), we cannot help but wonder if the whole thing is a publicity stunt as much as a call for true tolerance. Further, as such calls demand the questioning of one's own values, it becomes fair to ask whether the promoters of such things, particularly GLAAD, are in fact as willing to question their ideals in the same way as we are being called to question ours. Are they really against all bullying, or simply against types of bullying they don't like?

For the third time, just to stress the point, all bullying is wrong. But that doesn't mean than certain initiatives are more to a fine point rather than for the general good. Anti-bullying measures meant to safeguard one person or group more so than others cannot be truly in the general interest. As such, the driving forces behind them are subject to fair criticism.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Say, Merry Christmas!

A recent poll presumes to show that more Americans, by a slight and ever narrowing margin, prefer, or are at least okay with, a Merry Christmas greeting over a more generic Happy Holidays. But why ought there be any worry over such a relatively minor distinction?

Even when we say Happy Holidays there's no reasonable way to dispute that what we mean is Merry Christmas. There would be no greetings at all without a holiday season having grown around Christmas. Indeed, it mocks the holiday spirit itself if not the very idea of a broader human kinship when we start to think that it's all right to sweep a part of the beliefs of a very large part of our populace under the rug. If tolerance and respect for all cultures is what we should strive towards, then it is more than fair to ask the rest of the folks to respect Christians and their holiday by accepting a heartfelt Merry Christmas greeting.

It would seem that a person of a non-Christian faith, or of no faith at all, if truly comfortable in their belief, would have no issue with hearing Merry Christmas if it were directed at them. True, we frequently hear the old liberal argument that such things seem to force a belief on others. Yet how deep is their faith, how truly do they hold whatever personal beliefs they claim to regard as the final answer to life's questions, if a mere two word sentence leaves them quaking in their boots? If their creed is that shallow or their will so weak, they have deeper issues than what a simple Merry Christmas should bring on.

Meanwhile, and at the risk of being labeled a Limbaugh or Hannity (which would cause no uproar here as we don't mind people knowing who we are or what we favor) by those seeking to inflame those who do not share our beliefs, why ought Christians tolerate second class citizenship? Why can't our culture be included among all those other cultures which we are supposed to (and generally do) tolerate?

So go on, and tell people Merry Christmas. If they are insulted by that, we will have learned all about them which we need to know.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Detroit Needs Urban Farms

Urban farming may be getting a push from the State legislature in Lansing today. Sponsored by state Senators Virgil Smith, D-Detroit, and Joe Hune, R-Whitmore Lake, a bill would grant the City of Detroit an exemption from Michigan's Right to Farm Act which would allow the city to regulate internal agriculture. It would give Detroit the necessary powers to regulate through zoning and other means, whatever new farms which may pop up.

In a time when Detroit needs close jobs, this might be a decent tonic to help the city's chronic unemployment. Some sources, Michigan State University and the SHAR foundation to name two, believe that commercial agriculture could provide around 30,000 jobs and up to seventy percent of the city's food.

Such numbers sound a little rosy. But the fact is that Detroit has a significant amount of already open land which could easily be converted to agriculture. The very idea or urban farming too is an exciting, outside the box approach to aiding a town set back on it heels in years. Why not grow things? That has to be better than maintaining huge open lots for no productive reason.

There will be problems, of course. When thinking about farms, odors quite naturally come to mind. Yet that is part of the reason to give Detroit a more direct power of local agriculture. It would allow the city the legal ability to respond to citizen complaints should they arise. That itself may open a few jobs, in terms of the necessary inspectors to oversee the proposed farming areas. Done rightly, it ought to even increase the city's tax base, through new sources of income taxes based on the new jobs, as well as the higher taxes which developed property of any type should come from productive land. Land the city gets next to nothing if anything at all for now. Further, it's a green idea. There's nothing at all wrong with that when it serves a good purpose.

We complain fairly often about feel good legislation being only that: something which both sides of the aisle can support in the vainglorious cause of bipartisanship. Yet this is the kind of feel good lawmaking which genuinely merits support across the board. Urban farming would be good for Detroit. It's good to hear Lansing working proactively for the city, if only just this once.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Legislating Morals

It is often said, when discussing certain social issues, that we cannot legislate morals. Do you know the right response to that question?

In a word, poppycock. There is a better word, to be sure, but decorum will not allow its use here.

We can and we must legislate morals. Further, every decision ever made by every legislature, parliament, congress, diet, knesset, or whatever else you want to call it, was an action predicated on a moral decision. Making us drive on the right side of the street is based on the moral axiom that we require order. Forcing parents to send their kids to school, let alone feed and clothe them, is a moral choice that parents are obliged to do that for their progeny. Trying to force health care down our throats is a moral decision by the government that we need it, however erroneously felt.

We can and we must legislate morals. We do it all the time. The only real questions are which ones, and under what circumstances.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Democracy and Capitalism

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. Freedom is why we see people carrying pepper spray on a shopping trip, but giving to charities. And protesting for their rights.

Of course, we can, do, and should restrict freedom when mere free will leads to dangerous excess, such as carrying pepper spray on a shopping trip. The world won't end because of Black Friday and the troubles in Egypt won't end simply because we or the Egyptian protesters like democracy so much. Free will gets in the way of that too, sadly, and it isn't likely the situation will be particularly stable anytime soon.

But what else are we to do? Encourage whoever is in power in Cairo to play nice, and exhort Christmas shoppers to be more considerate of everyone else milling about the mall. These are not what many of us may want, but, again, what are we to do beyond hoping and praying that it all works out. Because at the end of the day, we have two of the lousiest operating systems of human creation, and nothing else will do.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Suh, Egypt, and Black Friday

Ndamukong Suh just doesn't get it. He is an egregious example of what's wrong not just with football as it's now played but of what's wrong with the City of Detroit itself. It's called arrogance, plain and simple, and it has to stop.

He sounded an awful lot like another infamous Detroiter, Kwame Kilpatrick, after the game. No apology, no true acknowledgement that he was wrong, but only a shallow explanation about being held down. He didn't intend to kick the defender. Uh, then why did you in fact kick him?

He ought to be suspended, and the Detroit Lions need to examine the ways in which they've allowed yesterday's incident to happen and stop making excuses for Suh themselves. The City of Detroit too should look at how the man's actions make it look worse as well, and make a few changes for the better in the town's collective conscience. As to Ndamukong Suh, he needs to finally ask his mother whether he really is a dirty player.

Is it too early, in light of recent actions in Egypt, to say we told you so? Because the recent unrest suggests that installing a democratic government there aren't all coming up roses. Sometimes it is better to deal with the devil you know...but, to be fair, it is still very early in an ongoing process. We just wish it didn't look quite so much like chaos. It is difficult to trust the intentions of rioters and riot supressors in a part of the world so long dominated by authoritarian government.

Black Friday is once more upon us, that annual orgy of consumerist excess. But what we find rather galling this year is the advent of shop local Saturday following it. The idea itself is a good one: we should support our local merchants, our closest neighbors. But to see television ads encouraging local shopping on the day after you gorge yourself at the national chains seems rather patronizing. Spend the big bucks with us, the few dollars left over at the neighborhood appliance shop (if there is one) appears to be the mantra. Such gall makes us frown even more harshly at Black Friday.

Ah well. Until the morrow...

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011

Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me to "recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:"

Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enable to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.

George Washington's Thanksgiving Proclamation, 1789

Anyone who claims that we weren't founded on Christian principles, read these words well and carefully. And have a wonderful and happy Thanksgiving in that light.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Of Course the Super Committee Failed.

So, the Super Committee failed to come to agreement on future budget cuts. That's not exactly a big surprise. The whole thing reeked of little more than a gimmick from the word go.

But it was a bi-partisan group designed to show that the whole of Washington is working together to solve the nation's budget woes, supporters will say. They ignore that it was never, nor could it have been, a true pi-partisan committee at all. It was made up of high level Democrats and Republicans, who acted as Democrats and Republicans tend to do. They disagreed. The result should not be shocking.

Now everyone's blaming everyone else for the failure, based on partisan grounds. This too should not cause gasps. It's what political opponents do.

The plain truth is that no one had any reason to expect that the Committee would work. It was simple grandstanding. The actual need to cut the budget in the future is just that: something to be done in the future. For now, the political powers in DC got what they all wanted: the appearance of working towards a solution, with the ability to blame the other guy when things didn't work out in the short run.

And that is precisely why the Super Committee was doomed from the start. We know from experience that Congress, outside of clear majorities in both Houses (and even then not necessarily), will generally not get things done until the last minute. Never mind that extended unemployment benefits beyond the end of this year, for a single issue example, are at risk with the Committee's failure to act. The end of this year is still six weeks away. That question and a good many others will almost certainly be addressed before everyone goes home for Christmas. They simply have to become short term objectives first.

Until then, watch CNN and Fox News, all you political wonks, for whatever it's worth. But kindly spare us beating your breasts over what is in truth of no note. We aren't at endgame. Nothing is going to happen yet, because it just doesn't have to. Period.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The GOP and Civil Rights

The minority vote is taken for granted by the Democratic Party. That's a shame, when you consider how badly that group has played minorities over the years.

Democrats want to take credit for all the advancements in civil rights in recent times, indeed for any and all forward movements on civil rights in our entire history. Yet at the least, the GOP deserves more consideration in what it has done in that area over time.

It was a Republican President, Dwight Eisenhower, who sent federal troops to insure that minorities were allowed in public high schools. Going back much further, a Republican, Abraham Lincoln, did the most to free the slaves. Say what you want about what he said at the time, his actions were what ended slavery.

How quickly too we forget the Dixiecrats, Democrats who opposed civil rights legislation. You know, the guys such as the late Robert Byrd, whose past the Democratic party has gone to great pains recently to ignore if not outright, ahem, whitewash? Not that it isn't good that he may have recanted later on in life, there is nonetheless his history of at least initially working against minorities.

It is interesting also to note that Republican support of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was actually stronger than Democratic support. As a Party, the GOP voted for the Act by about an 80% - 20% margin; Democrats, while overall in favor of it, voted at about a 62% - 38% figure. Indeed, not enough Democrats in the Senate voted for the measure to have passed it on their power: only 46 Democratic senators voted aye. That means that it would not have passed the Senate without Republican support at a time the Democrats were the majority party by a tremendous number in that chamber, 67-33.

Why don't we hear about this in schools and the media? Because it's not history that they like. It makes conservatives in general and Republicans in particular look too good. So much for the objectivity of the journalists and educators.

When you throw in the fact that many minorities are social conservatives, one cannot help but conclude they need to rethink their ties to the Democratic Party. But when the race card gets played, well, we'll see who's actually played.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Obama the Coward?

President Barack Obama certainly is a politician. Either that, or he's afraid of his own policies and/or core constituency. The latest example of this is the delaying of a decision on a proposed US/Canadian oil pipeline until after the 2012 elections. It is clearly a move designed to appeal to the environmentalists, who hailed the decision as one which will lessen the production of greenhouse gases.

Maybe so, maybe no. Either way, we all know that liberal environmentalists are against anything which actually helps human beings go about earning the daily bread, and that they are fanatical supporters of the President. By refusing to make a decision before the next major electoral cycle plays out, he's simply playing to them to ensure their vote. Should he be re-elected, it would not be a surprise if he quickly approved some sort of pipeline then, when he doesn't have to worry about pandering to his supporters.

Never mind that we could desperately use the jobs now, or that Canada might just sell the oil to Asia. It's all about putting off the tough decisions until after a referendum on his power. He did the same thing with Obamacare, making it so that the major provisions of the health care overhaul don't take effect until after November 2012 as well. By that point, he will either be given another term or have been tossed out. He would then be in the position of not having to worry about 2016 while reaping the praises of his primary Presidential act, or be able to catcall as his masterpiece is altered or abandoned.

The bottom line is that what we see in President Obama is someone who paints himself a true believer while putting off the actual effects of his creed until they can't hurt him, or, at least, not hurt him too bad. If you think that's chicken of him, you may just be on to something.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Does Ron Paul Stand on Firmer Ground than Before?

Could Ron Paul actually become more than the GOP fringe candidate he is so often portrayed as being? Recent news articles seem to think so. The Associated Press, Fox News, and The Washington Post, among others, have recently issued stories which are sympathetic to the Paul campaign. There has even been out forth by a DC blogger a theory that Paul could be a force at the Republican Convention by winning only California and Texas. It can be found here:

But can he actually be a difference maker? He has shot himself in the foot often enough, such as making the American Civil War an issue during the 2008 campaign. That question has been decided, Ron, and, quite frankly, it serves little purpose discussing it except in academia. Still, his small government, pro civil rights attitude is one which echoes within somewhere around 10 percent of the population. It wouldn't be terribly surprising for a more durable candidacy to jump out from such numbers: one in ten is nothing to sneeze at.

Certainly, there are Republicans who wouldn't mind the party turning more libertarian. We could live with it ourselves, so long as the libertarianism was muted somewhat. It's all well and good to speak of individual rights, until and unless you begin speaking as though no moral judgments can be made about them. Same sex marriages are morally wrong and society should not condone them, for example. Then, too, it is silly to think that we have no true moral obligations beyond our own borders. A foreign policy driven by a certain altruism and real national and international concerns is not a terribly outlandish proposition. There's no need to wait until we face a direct and immediate threat to our nation before we take any action internationally.

We can't escape the feeling that the attraction of Ron Paul is yet rather shallow. A few extra political articles hardly make for real electoral success. But they are a step in the right direction, and the GOP could stand to learn a few lessons from the more libertarian minded among them. The fringes aren't always or of necessity wrong, and a strong Ron Paul campaign might actually lead the Republicans to offer real differences between themselves and the Democrats. Here's hoping that there is some truth to his candidacy gaining at least enough ground to actually affect the status quo.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Saturday Morning Musings

Stephen Hawking believes that the best hope for humanity is colonizing other worlds. We are likely heading for disaster in the next hundred years and need to plan ahead.

We're not saying that a disaster doesn't loom, but the physicist's prediction is hardly rocket science. The fact is that disaster is almost always just around the corner and has been during all of history. Simply because our capacity for destruction is worse now than ever (it seems a safe presumption that that is what Hawking fears) doesn't mean calamity is only possible these days. Besides, even with colonization we would still have to deal with the ages old human factor; we're as likely to destroy ourselves on Mars as here.

The real truth is that if human life is to continue we need to become moral people. Short of that, the future doesn't matter anyway.

Mitt Romney leads Michigan according to the polls and is considered to be the likely GOP nominee to run against President Barack Obama in November 2012. When we need an inspiring candidate, we get Mitt Romney. Where have you gone Ronald Reagan?

A Florida woman and three other families have camped out in front of a store nine days ahead of Black Friday. They, of course, wants to be sure she can get the goods she craves so badly. What is the, Occupy Best Buy? Pathetic.

It appears that Michigan will have added about 64,000 jobs in the state by the end of 2011. This would represent the first gain in jobs in more than ten years. But we're still way behind most of the country, and progress is projected to be slow here for at least the new couple of years. At least Snyder seems to have us headed in the right direction. Hopefully, anyway.

That's it, we got no more. Until tomorrow, that is.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Free Will Doesn't make Actions Right

One of the most pervasive while also one of the most ridiculous arguments in favor of certain presumed freedoms is the one about consenting adults. Simply put, it makes moral a given action on the grounds that the folks involved are in agreement as to their joint participation. It is ultimately a wholly untenable position.

To begin with, if all that is required to make something ethically acceptable is the agreement of the parties involved, then we really ought to allow duels. The (presumably) two participants agreed to take shots at each other. So no matter how barbaric, as they freely entered into the contract we would have to let them fire away.

Absurd. Yet when applied to other moral questions, and prostitution for example is one key area where the adage is often used, it is something accepted as axiomatic. The truth is that you would be on stronger ground simply to argue that paying for sexual favors is not in itself wrong rather than to say it's okay because there was no coercion.

The mere fact that people are willing to sell themselves that way while there are also folks willing to buy the, ahem, product, in fact reeks of coercive effects on its own standing. One person wants money, the other wants something which money can buy. A certain coercive effect is in fact at work. Still, even setting that point aside begs the question. The best answer is that nothing is good solely because those involved want to to do it. The act in question must be good on its own stead lest those involved be acting on mere impulse or selfishness. Or, indeed, actual immorality.

This is not to say that a free will act without pressure isn't a factor in moral decision making. It goes without saying that for most personal acts to be moral they must be entered into with a reasonable amount of freedom. In marriage, for example, both the man and the woman involved must do so of their own consent. Yet a hypothetical marriage between a man and a woman both of whom are free to marry is itself already moral. We are in fact beyond the issue of the morality of the potential nuptials by the time the question of will enters the fray.

In short, when considering the rightness of something there are two questions at hand. The first and most important query is whether the act is morally right, seen objectively, on its own. The second is whether those involved are the proper parties to it. Their consent is never a point until after the moral correctness of the action is assured.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Detroit's Kilpatrick Woes Continue

Where will it ever end? How long must the City of Detroit suffer over the long bleak period in her history known as the Kwame Kilpatrick reign? We're on our second mayor since he was forced to resign and yet he still manges to commands headlines.

He's been accused of taking a $10,000 bribe in the bathroom of a restaurant, and of using his, shall we say, influence, in talking a ticketing police officer into dropping a ticket against his pal Bobby Ferguson. This is the same Ferguson who tried to avoid fines for dumping on city property over incidents dating back to 2002. There are also accusations that over a four year period the former Mayor and another pocketed $115,000 from a real estate consultant. All of this and more, it seems, and all added to the fact the Kilpatrick is fighting the City over having to turn over the royalties from his book sales as part of court ordered restitution to Detroit.

We wonder, do the voters of the City of Detroit see this clearly? Is there a lesson in it which they may actually understand? Because when all gets said and done, they're the ones who put him there. They're the ones who gave Kilpatrick the Mayor's chair. They're the primary reason why the new City Charter provisions which passed last week will mean nothing if they don't take better care of their votes.

It appears that it will be years yet before Detroit fully escapes the shadow of the former Mayor. That's shame, because with the election of current Mayor Dave Bing it would seem the voters played their cards better. But so long as the town has to deal with its past, the future will to some degree be held hostage. And it's ultimately Detroit's own fault.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Spending in the Holiday Season

Consumerism, the great evil exemplified by the current madness rushing towards and known as Black Friday, is something generally associated with conservatism. Yet it is in fact a liberal trait.

To be sure, there's nothing wrong with buying things for others, or even for one's self as such. Clothes, food, even our recreation, are things which must be regularly purchased for various yet obvious reasons. The list is surely much longer, too, but again, you get the point.

It's when we begin to buy things simply to buy them that we start to slip into error, into the evil of pure selfishness. When we have to buy a new TV because the old one (still working well) is simply old, we have become consumerists. When we buy a Hummer when a van will do, we have become consumerists. When we make any purchase which is plainly conspicuous, we have become consumerists. It displays an excess of pampering, or worse, of egregious self indulgence.

That bigger, better, and newer isn't of itself wrong, true. Making purchases is something which, as with so much else, must be seen in context against the objective standards of right and wrong. There's nothing wrong with buying a tractor trailer rig if you're going into the shipping industry: a Chevy simply won't do the job. But if all you're doing is driving around to attend your daily needs, that Chevy should do just fine.

But to the point: consumerism is a liberal trait because it ultimately puts the state ahead of the individual for no good purpose other than the state. Why else would FDR, that old liberal, want to change Thanksgiving, except to lengthen the buying season? And at that, for the sake of the state in general, and his Presidency and popularity in particular. He wasn't interested in the person, but in himself and his government.

When we become preoccupied with buying things solely for the sake of the purchase, we are putting the nation ahead of the person. And that is the worst kind of consumerism, for it begins to make getting and buying into a patriotic mantra. When we become bad people, we become a bad nation.

Monday, November 14, 2011

MEA: One Arrogant Bunch

The simple, unmitigated arrogance of public educators in Michigan these days has once more been put on display. While Lansing considers legislation which would pay college tuition for privately and home educated students to take college courses, those who thrive at the public trough are once again screaming about the presumed unfairness of it all.

Doug Pratt of the Michigan Education Association (a union), complains, "Now we're going to put in a program that takes money away from neighborhood schools and provides it to help fund the college tuition of private-school and home-school students? It doesn't make sense." The local private schools aren't neighborhood schools, sir? The home schooled are not part of the neighborhood, sir? Hubris on your part, my friend. Hubris.

There is no such thing as public money, Mr. Pratt. It is my money and your money pooled (or worse: taken from the unwilling because a few more people want it done than don't) for the general interest. If the public education of children is in the general interest, then so is the privately taught and the home schooled. Why should your kids qualify for what is unarguably my money too while ours can't? Merely because they don't attend the right schools (that is, the schools which pay your teachers, and your teachers only?).

That is effrontery, and nothing less. You don't have the right to our cash, Mr. Pratt, and also the universal and arbitrary right to decide how it's spent. Yet he continues as if he does anyway, whining that it's just leading to back door vouchers which public opinion (he says) does not support. So, might makes right, Mr. Pratt? If enough people vote for something, anything, mind you, then real and actual right and wrong are out the window? Is that it? Because it sure sounds like it.

Public schools, and public school workers, attendees, supporters, and employees, need to seriously examine their motives. Theirs is a special interest, and nothing more, if they and only they have a claim to government funds (or, more correctly, funds redistributed by government). We say it that way, as too many conservatives have lost sight of conservatism on this very real moral issue. Public education is not an inviolate right. Education is a personal and parental responsibility first and foremost. To deny the same things public school students may qualify for to private and home schooled pupils solely because they are not public is insulting to non public school parents and students. They pay taxes too. It's their money as much as yours.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

You Can't Have What You Don't Want

Captain Ryan Jean of the US Army wants recognition of himself as a humanist lay leader. He, along with a few other soldiers, want essentially the same status as religious leaders of Christianity, Judaism and Islam have in the military. He wants the same rank (please forgive the pun) as his religious brethren.

So, then, is atheism a religion? We asked that question months ago in this very space and were harangued by atheists who asserted that atheism is not a religion. If it's not, then it doesn't merit recognition by the military or anyone else as equal to religion. If it is, then the various commenters way back when owe us a deeper explanation of what exactly atheism pretends to be.

The fact is that the idea of a humanist lay leader is without merit on its very face. Indeed, Capt. Jean's own words work against his cause and display it as pointless. When asked whether life had a long lasting purpose, he answered no. Still, he wants to be able to see to the spiritual needs of atheist soldiers.

What spiritual need could he possibly be addressing? According to atheists, you're born, you live for a time, then you die. You come into then go out of existence. What is there to live for? What kind of counseling can have any real value in that light? Particularly when you are in the military, it is fair to ask what are you fighting for? So that you might die that others might live? Why are those other lives worth defending? Simply because they're life? But they are just like you, brother atheist: worthless people with no long term value. Protecting them or their ideals is little more than silliness coming from a true atheist viewpoint. Arguing that they or their ideals are worth protection, worth fighting and dying for, is meaningless if there is no eternal merit in those people or their beliefs.

Just as your own beliefs, atheist friends, are pointless and meaningless if you are right. How can you counsel a soldier, how can you inspire him or her to fight the good fight, Capt. Jean, when the first thing you must tell them if you're being true to your creed is that their efforts are without merit? That's more than simply lame counsel. It's self contradictory nonsense.

The Army once had a slogan, Be all that you can be. Applied to atheists, that's all they are. They are nothing more, and nothing less, than delusional if they believe their ideas worth fighting for.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Examine Your Own Creed Before Judging Others

The issue of tolerance, or, perhaps, intolerance, has been brought to Detroit. At Ford Field, a prayer gathering has called for Detroit and indeed the entire United States to turn Jesus or else we're doomed.

That sentiment itself is of course quite true. But the manner in which it is often presented can and should be subject to question. As such, it explains the diverse peoples outside of Ford Field who protest the particular manner in which the group, the New Apostolic Reformation, and its leader Lou Engle, are representing the cause of Christ.

The NAR is accused of being racist, sexist, anti-gay rights, anti-Catholic, anti-Muslim, and intolerant. We see no need to go into the details of their harangues. You can probably imagine them well enough and they're likely as not all over the Internet anyway. However that may be, theirs is an organization which, other than on free speech grounds, it would be difficult to defend.

But the people against them must be aware of themselves and what they may stand for as well. One common lament against Mr. Engle and his followers is that they are not for 'inclusion' but hate. They do not promote tolerance, but hate.

Well, are the protesters really practicing inclusion and tolerance themselves? Do they, by simple argument, hate what was and is going on inside Ford Field? Otherwise, why not include and tolerate the New Apostolic Reformation? Ah, because the sign carriers are for inclusion and tolerance of the people and creeds they like. So they protest, many of them never questioning whether their heads are on straight either.

We are not defending Lou Engle or the NAR in any way, shape or form. Yet we cannot escape the feeling that many of those who speak against him speak with forked tongue themselves. They're for tolerance and inclusion...of what they like. But as for Engle and Company, they would not tolerate or include.

The point here is that we can and must judge the actions and intentions of people if we are to understand the world and really make it better. This must mean the tolerance and inclusion of certain ideas and ways as well as the intolerance and exclusion of ideas and attitudes contradictory to human good. Protests against bigots are all well and good when we are actually dealing with knee jerk and intellectually shallow bigots. But notice that that involves the judgment that such persons are wrong in their ways.

It also implies that we may judge your ways. And if you don't allow it, it you refuse to let others tend rational judgments about your ways and your means, then you are no different than those you refuse to tolerate. You may indeed be worse. You may be self centered and self aggrandizing bigots of the worst kind. You may be hypocrites.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Abstinance Works

A recent federal study, published in the Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine, suggests very heavily that abstinence only sex education programs actually work. They decrease the likelihood of teens become sexually active before they should. This is contrary to the liberal assumption that young people must be treated like rabbits, with no penchant for self-discipline at all.

It is interesting that such studies are even necessary. Like the study a few years back by educationists which concluded that students who study more learn more (gasp!), the common sense of the matter is so obvious that it is hard to believe anyone would think about the questions in a contrary or contradictory manner.

The fact is, anybody who accepts that there are such things as common sense and reason see things more clearly than those who need studies with various data tables normalized to certain base lines. When we have folks who do not believe in rationality, we get folks who ultimately have an agenda. In the case of sex education, we get liberals whose presumptions muddy their objectivity, like the environmentalists whose views are skewed by the thought that mere earth and animals and plants are superior to people, or the evolutionists whose scientific findings are clouded by their presumptions. With sex ed, we have folks who want promiscuity. Consequently, they presume it will happen, rather than afford others the dignity that they may actually be able to control themselves.

Such an approach insults our children in particular and our society in general. At the risk of overusing the term, common sense tells us that a structured, disciplined environment will, by and large (for we do recognize that simple human freedom will lead to errant behavior) give us a structured and disciplined society. People can be taught to behave in appropriate manners. If we are willing to concede that such personal control is possible.

It is an easy point to accept if you believe in the dignity of the individual. If you do not believe in that, then nothing is possible.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Elections and Satire

The proposed Detroit City Charter revisions passed easily yesterday, in part (supposedly) as a backlash against corruption in city government. Now, among other things, the City Council will be elected in seven districts rather than having all nine elected citywide (two seats will still be chosen at large). Sadly, all that likely means is that corruption will be spread evenly across the town. As we've said before, if the citizens can't elect decent government as it is, then it doesn't really matter how we do it.

A French satirical newspaper had its offices bombed after an issue depicted Mohammed on the cover. He was depicted as saying '100 lashes if you don't die of laughter'. Haven't heard that news yet? It isn't surprising: the media are handling Islam with kid gloves. If Muslims are offended, even if only a handful as their supporters claim, silence must be kept. Yet one wonders how quickly it would be front page news if Christian reactionaries firebombed the offices of Family Guy in protest of that show's incessant attacks on their religion.

Representative Paul Scott has been recalled, thanks to the influence of the Michigan Education Association (a union). It seems the vote may have turned on the heavily union area in south Flint which is part of his district. Very well, then, all you radical recallers, you have your sacrificial lamb, and damn the cost for your selfishness. Now you'll have two elections in less than a year for the same spot, seeing as November 2012 isn't that far away. The taxpayers are the ones anteing up for you liberals. But that's all right, isn't it? It's what they're supposed to do.

Voters in nearby Ohio chose to exempt themselves from buying health insurance under Obamacare. It is not more than a protest vote, yet it still may be fodder for Republicans who want to repeal the proposed health care changes scheduled to take place after the 2012 elections. Health care is sure to be a major issue next year, and this vote can only serve to keep it in the public eye. Sometimes a little symbolism can go a long way.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Elections 2011

Today is Election Day. Most areas of Michigan will have votes on this or that, from school boards to charter revisions. This is considered an off year election; there are areas which will have no voting at all. It is off year because there are no presidential or legislative races. In short, it's kind of the dull part of the cycle.

Many teachers in Michigan get the day off. That may be the biggest joke job perk in the world. It's done in order to help them vote and help others get elected. What that translates into is that it is assumed the teachers will work for the Democrats and liberal causes on the presumption that's where their passion lies. Quite frankly, they shouldn't get the day off without burning a personal or sick day. No one else does; there's no reason educators should get a free pass simply because of an election.

Let's be honest: no one's single vote really means that much. Few elections of any consequence are decided by such unimaginably slim margins, and those that are are probably so local as to be relatively meaningless. But vote anyway. The system won't work if you don't, and it goes without saying that there are worse systems which may creep in and take over if we don't use the ballot box for what we believe important. The slippery slope goes often unnoticed; treat your vote as though it means the entire election.

So speaking of elections, there are too many to comment on. We'll trust your judgment on your own local races. But in Detroit, we've decided to recommend a vote against the proposed Charter revisions, simply because they encourage city wide recycling. Yes, we mean that. Recycling is seriously overrated, and simply isn't worth the effort. It's feel good pulp which allows conservatives and liberals to appear to agree on something, yet it has no honest practical value. Vote against the Charter revisions on that issue alone.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Black Thursday?

Thanksgiving is not far away now; two weeks from Thursday in fact. How many of us can already smell the turkey, the stuffing, the gravy and sweet potatoes, and...the sales?

Many stores have already announced that they simply cannot wait until the actual day after Thanksgiving, the aptly named Black Friday, to begin their Christmas sales. Many local stores, or, more precisely, the local outlets of national chains, have announced that they will open at midnight of Black Friday. We might suppose so that they can, with some smirky honesty, assert they have not encroached on the holiday. Still, some cannot wait that long. Great Lakes Crossing has said that their sale prices will go into effect at 9PM on Thanksgiving Day.

If we simply must appeal to secular attitudes, seeing as the secularists have pretty well made Christmas into a selfish orgy of shopping fanaticism anyway, is there at least some way we might make people believe again that it is all right to have a holiday or two not tied into our nation's economic success? Is not the human benefit in the way of rest and relaxation acceptable even to the nonreligious? Can we not have holidays be holidays anymore, simply so that we can see family and friends and just have a good time?

Anybody out seen Terry Gilliam's Brazil? How many of you who have actually get it? It's Christmas all the time in that movie world precisely so that the citizens will buy, buy, buy, because it's the only way they can keep the economy going. We're becoming like that, you know. Our lives are being run by how many things we have.

That's all we have at the end of the day, of course. Things. Our new TV is great for a few days, and then it's simply our TV. Same with our clothes and our cars and our almost everything else. Yet we rarely stop for a moment and consider that maybe, just maybe, we're being played.

This is not to say that shopping is bad or that buying and getting new things is bad. But it is to say that, when buying and getting becomes our focus, we might perhaps take a deep breath and a step back and ask how ourselves exactly how important mere things are. We need to tell ourselves: it's okay not to get the best TV at the best price. It's just a thing. It's okay if we help the general economy starting at 9AM on a Friday rather than let such insipid needs be fed while we're still on holiday. We'll be all right. We'll still have plenty of things at the end of the day.

Actually, we might have several more: the goodwill and good cheer of friends and the family. You know, the ethereal things which make for true humanity and true human happiness.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

California Knows Everything

As if it isn't bad enough that the Federal Government has its hands in too many pies, now we have situations where one the states has taken it upon itself to get involved in enlightening the citizenry through badgering people about what it thinks important. It should be no surprise that that State is California.

While installing an in line ground fault interrupter on a piece of machinery, I found this warning wrapped around the cord:

WARNING: This product contains chemicals known to the State of California to cause cancer, birth defects, and other reproductive harm. Wash hands after handling.

On what grounds do they force this warning? California's Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment guideline states thus: “A person exposed to the chemical at the ‘no significant risk level’ for 70 years would not have more than a ‘one in 100,000’ chance of developing cancer as a result of that exposure.” Anything over that, say one extra case per 100,000 people over 70 years, means the tag has to be applied to the whatever it is at hand.

Doesn't this strike anyone as overkill? How am I supposed to feel about getting a scare that I have increased my chance of contracting cancer simply by putting a power cord on a machine? How do the people using equipment day after day react to the news that they are in such a slightly more hazardous situation than they could possibly have imagined? By what right does California think it can violate someone's comfort zone by insisting on a tag where no significant increase of contracting cancer exists?

We could dismiss it as simply the big dog of the nation throwing its weight around. But it's more than that: it serves as a reminder that government, any government, when its gets big enough feels it has the right to throw its weight around. California is darn near a nation unto itself anyway, and seeing as its infrastructure needs are well below what its citizens demand, one would think it would be more concerned with shoring up its physical plant than in promoting scare stories.

But, after all, its still a big brother government. What's not to love?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Whither Herman Cain?

Pity Herman Cain. He has now been officially baptized into presidential politics. He carries the stain of scandal which so many of his forebears have had clearly marked upon their earlier campaigns. As likely as not, he thought it had all gone away.

Unfortunately such things vaporize only to condense and form rain another day. When running for President of the United States especially, accusations will manage to seep out of the woodwork. Ask Bill Clinton.

To be sure, if Cain is guilty of any serious transgression it is only fair to consider as much when thinking about giving him a vote; there is no grounds for a Republican double standard on the question. We called out then candidate Clinton on it; we should not ignore it when a similar thing happens to one of our own. Still, if what happened long enough ago and repentance is clear, we shouldn't necessarily hold it against an office seeker either.

If the allegations are true then it hardly matters where they came from. It is interesting that Mr. Cain has accused Rick Perry of spreading the word in that it only increases the mudslinging; perhaps that is the intent of course. Making someone else the bad guy to take attention away from yourself is itself a staple of American campaigning.

What Cain should do is own up if the things he's accused of doing actually happened, to show integrity while also getting the issue of the table as best he can. Conversely, if they are indeed untrue or inflated, then shout it from the rooftops and don't point fingers. If nothing else, remember that Clinton's dalliances didn't seem to affect him.

In the meantime, welcome to the world of big time American politics, Herman Cain. But take care not to make things worse. It will only hurt you in the long run.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Society and Double Standards

Last Friday, Macomb Sheriff's Deputies arrested a 47 year old Harrison Township man on charges of contributing to the delinquency of a minor and child pornography charges. He was allegedly carrying on a sexual relationship with a 16 year old girl, and had child porn on his computer. Such things are, of course reprehensible, or worse. If guilty, he ought top have the proverbial book thrown at him. But the situation raises a question rarely if ever debated publicly: why are some forms of child pornography perverted while others are openly tolerated, and even encouraged?

No one seems to mind that Jodie Foster played a 12 year old child prostitute in Taxi Driver, or that Brooke Shields was messing around in The Blue Lagoon while she was 15. Never mind that movies involved mere acting: isn't something being acted out in whatever type of pornography may be your fancy? We can talk of body doublers too, but it doesn't alter the fact that what we are dealing with is meant to represent child porn. Aren't movies supposed to be taken at face value?

Nor can we dismiss such films as little more the prurient drivel: Taxi Driver made number 53 on the American Film Institute's list of the top 100 films of all time. So the question remains: by what standard are certain kinds of child pornography evil, while others are not?

Is it art? Then we ask a variation on the original question: what is the difference between mere art and perversion?

Is it for reality's sake? But it then becomes fair to ask whether movies are real. The answer is that, yes, they are, and there is a significant difference between, say, faking a shooting, and actually showing (or pretending to show) two teenagers getting it on. One extends the drama of a scene, and everyone knows it isn't really real. The other is meant to be 12 and 14 year olds at, well, play. Again, why are such things acceptable if a duly accredited movie studio portrays them, yet vile and contemptible if done more privately?

We propose that they are in fact no different. Further, that when society condones such characters and scenes, it condones child porn done rightly, so to speak.

As such, we should not be surprised when some people take it just a bit more literally and actually pursue child porn and inappropriate relationships with the young. They're wrong, yes, but they've also been at least arguably encouraged in their perversions. So long as such societal double standards exist, we will continue to see such travesties as 'actual' child porn more readily pursued. And that, quite frankly, is a shame on us.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Glee Comes Out

Watching the Fox network show Glee the other night turned into an interesting experience very quickly. To give it its due, the concept is unusual enough to attract attention, and the show has the potential for decent entertainment. But in the end, admittedly only if that one episode if enough for a fair judgment, it is seriously flawed. The creators appear more intent on making statements ahead of entertaining an audience.

Nothing wrong with that so far as it goes. If the statement is rational. The one on Tuesday's episode certainly was not.

There is an openly homosexual student in the glee club in the school where the show is set. His dad asked his lover to move in with him, which involved the mother's straight son moving in too. The homosexual kid, it having already been made apparent he had designs on the mother's son, proceeded to make unwanted advances on him. Nothing overtly sexual, to be honest, but the implication was there. When mom's son reacted harshly, he was made out the bad guy for being intolerant of homosexuality.

Yet he was wrongly being put upon by his own mother, the other kid's dad, and the dad's son and nothing was made of that. The homosexual kid was making an awful lot of presumptions about what his straight (eventual) friend would like and acting on them without that kid's approval, but was in no way chastised for that. In short, beyond any questions of pure moral right and wrong, the straight character was not being treated fairly, and nothing was made of that. This is especially glaring as he was more in the right (although he may have handled it better) than the other three.

This was not a show intent on entertainment. This particular show was bent on delivering a message. Nothing wrong with that either, if it's a good message. But even on its own terms, the message was garbled and unfair. The straight kid's room got decorated in ways he didn't approve of by someone who did not seek his input. It was done without regard for what the straight kid may have liked. But the straight kid was completely in the wrong when he became upset with it.

The episode was about being different. We're expected to accept that it's okay to be different. Well, the jocks in the show harassing the homosexual kid were different too. Shouldn't we tolerate their being different, if being different is no sin?

You need more guidelines than that when determining the good from the bad. Glee, at least on this one night, was little more than shallow pop philosophy of the worst, most jaded type: sending a poor message in an obtuse fashion.