Friday, May 31, 2013

Why Libertarianism is Wrong

There is a definite allure for libertarianism within the conservative movement. It would be quite easy to become one. Honest. So why should we conservatives not sign on?

A handful of critically important issues, for starters. As a group, libertarians support abortion. They don't care for an aggressive foreign policy either, and although they may make quite compelling arguments it's difficult to come around on the drug questions. Further, and this will sound very odd considering the source, they seem to have too much of a distrust of government. Like it or not, there are things which only a government can do. Keeping order, for one, and keeping potential enemies at bay with the aggressive measures necessary. Roads jump into the front of the mind as well. Yet libertarians are likely as not all right, at least in essence, on those subjects. The root problem with libertarianism as it stands today is the belief that the individual is the final arbiter of morality, the one who sets the standard for right and wrong.

No individual can hold this kind of power. We are not talking about the individual's right or ability to choose for himself among reasonable options, but you must notice that even that idea, the one on which we certainly base our freedoms, implies that our options must be reasonable and that therefore what makes our choices right is in fact something beyond our wishes. But the fact is that, on a practical level, wholly or entirely individual interpretation of right and wrong invites anarchy or worse: a might makes right society. Then on a philosophic level, it begs one very important question: if I, as an individual, can make up my own mind about people and things, why should I ever listen to you? No progress can be made from such a starting point in ethics, which certainly means nothing can be done in any other area either.

If libertarians were to admit that it is not the individual (or that weak sister, consensus) which dictates what can and cannot be true, that justice and rightness exist beyond the person and having a being of their own, we may reconsider libertarianism as a creed. Until then, they are as bad as liberals: they want what they want because they want it. It is a poor substitute for critical thought on critical issues.`

Thursday, May 30, 2013

A Truly Pointless Question

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Or, roughly, in English, who watches the watchers? This question has been asked for centuries, to the point where it has become accepted as profound philosophy. But it's not.

To begin with, it leads to an obvious and immediate absurdity. Who watches the watchers? Well, then who watches the watchers of the watchers? And who, dare we ask, watches the watchers of the watchers of the watchers? Further...there's surely no need to take it further. You get the point.

So what is the actual point of the question? We won't bother about the original intent; that is easily enough found through a simple web search, and really has little bearing on how the question is asked today. It is asked today simply to dismiss authority. It is the question which the atheist asks of the God fearing and which the liberal or liberatrian asks of the conservative whenever they wish to denigrate the proper authority of the state or the Almighty.

It is also not a question which needs to be taken seriously. In the first place, well, we've already addressed the first place. In the second place, it can be thrown right back in the face of the asker. They can be quite properly asked, who watches you? All that is accomplished then is a standoff; no one can morally go forward because, and perhaps this does tie into the original meaning after all (if you've done that quick search you'll know where this is going), everyone is fallible. Everyone is subject to doing the wrong thing, whether by intent or honest error, because we are not a one of us perfect.

Yet once we really take that attitude, once we really accept that no action is legitimate merely because there is the possibility of error within us, then we can't take any actions at all. Anything we do may be corrupted; indeed, everything we would do is be bound to be corrupted. Indeed, every act by its nature, being caused by corrupt beings, would be illicit.

Obviously the world can't go on that way. All it can do is the best it can, through the best possible interaction of humanity at a given time. And then, when errors occur, we do our best to straighten them out. It's that simple.

Obnoxious questions which can only serve to show disdain for authority will not serve that calling. Yes, authority could be wrong. Yet it could be right. And that's the issue we ought to be concerned with when considering what we ought to do in our lives, both personally and politically.

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Ex uno disce omnes; from one we can judge the rest. Eh, maybe it isn't the best answer. But it's a good enough one once we learn to recognize valid authority.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Open Borders, Yes; but Illegal aliens are still Illegal

Immigration has become a political football these days. Well, for most of the last century, really. In this light, an article in today's Detroit Free Press speaks to families illegally in the US about their fears as Congress debates immigration reform. Will they be allowed to stay or forced to leave?

The details being discussed aren't particularly important. It is interesting to note that illegals are being called by the Free Press 'undocumented residents' rather than 'illegal aliens'. This is surely an attempt to gloss over the fact that they entered our nation illegally. That fact simply cannot be overlooked: a nation, any nation, has the right to control its borders. Still, we should be moved to pity for at least some of them, those trying to escape terrible conditions at home. What to do, what to do?

We as a nation ought to be willing to accept anyone who wishes to become American become American. It's an old saw that we are a nation of immigrants, and the fact is that we became a great nation in no small way by allowing those who want to live and work in the United States to enter and become citizens. We ought to have relatively liberal immigration laws. Anyone who wants to be here and is no threat to our nation or our way of life should be allowed within our borders.

This makes the question of illegal immigration a tough one. It is not unfair to ask whether we ought to deport illegals or simply make them citizens. Yet it is also not fair to ask those who come in legally to wait in line while others who came in illegally are naturalized by the stroke of a pen.

The best way to deal with the whole immigration issue is to have reasonably open borders. That way, those who are here can be documented and begin to fully participate in the American system. That may require certain things which, on the surface, appear silly. But we could live with deporting illegal immigrants as a matter of principle, while afterwards allowing those same people back in via the proper routes. Give them a front of the line pass, even, for those who have been here for a long while.

Everyone who is no threat to us and are willing to work above board within the United States ought to be accepted here. Only come in the front door, friends. That is not a xenophobic request. It is simply common decency.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Memorial Day 2013

Memorial Day: the last Monday in May. The day set aside for remembering our fallen heroes and, we'll add, to think about those currently serving in our armed forces. It is fitting and proper that we do this.

Forget for the moment that it like so many other holidays has been been given something of a second class citizen status. It once was held every May 30th, yet in our rush to celebrate special days more on our terms than as an honest retrospective of deserving people and ideals it has been shifted to the last Monday of the month. That is so we may have three day weekends to party over more so than a single, specially set aside day to actually contemplate what the day is supposed to be about. Nevertheless, it is still a great day on our calendar.

Great hardly seems the right word. It is sad that we have to have a day such as this, sadder still that willing souls have given us their all in order to make such times a need. But that is the price we pay for living in a world where evil exists. We must be thankful for those souls who have made it possible for us to be here and reflect on their actions.

So we will stand by the word great. It takes great people for us to have a chance to celebrate their deeds. It takes great people for us to realize that freedom is not free and liberty not a given birthright. It takes great people to give us the chance to grill and hoist a brew and spend time with our families and friends.

It takes great people to lay down their lives for their friends. Remember them, today and every day. They've earned the honor. The very least we can do is acknowledge them.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Education should be Local

Michigan has adopted the Common Core State Standards for education, as have 43 other states. But as is also happening in several other states as well, the Michigan Legislature is sowing seeds of revolt against them, asserting that the CCSS are little more than another intrusion by the federal government into state areas. Education has traditionally been a local rather than national issue in these United States.

But dare we ask: what's wrong with national standards in education? Surely math is math and science is science; history and literature do not vary, do they?

Not as such, perhaps. But indeed there is some variance: which history do we teach, and whose literature do we read seem valid questions. Still, there are core values beneath them. History teaches us cause and effect no matter which history we deign to enlighten students with, and good literature inspires in myriad ways no matter the source material. Even in the hard sciences and mathematics, it isn't necessary to teach everyone with the exact same problems and questions, is it, so long as the principles involved are understood?

Yet is that the issue? Truth is truth no matter the font from which it springs. But who controls, or ought to control, the flow of information? Does that matter?

Of course it does. Truths from a parent matter more to a child than those from a teacher; truths from afar less than truths from a neighbor. The source is important. Even if the essential truth is the same.

The Michigan Legislature ought to resist the Common Core initiative. Not because it may be all that wrong in content; it probably isn't terribly bad for our kids in that sense. It ought to resist it because it does, or attempts to do, exactly what the state legislature fears. It takes learning away from the near and dear and thrusts it into the abyss of the all knowing yet shimmering mass of the far off. It makes education something from on high rather than from the personal and intimate.

Education should be personal and intimate. After all, it's meant for the person, isn't it?

Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Pope and the Atheists

“If we, each doing our own part, if we do good to others, if we meet there, doing good, and we go slowly, gently, little by little, we will make that culture of encounter: we need that so much. We must meet one another doing good. ‘But I don’t believe, Father, I am an atheist!’ But do good: we will meet one another there.”

That paragraph is the salient passage of Pope Francis I's homily from a recent (May 23rd) Mass. The message is very simple: anyone who does God's work is worthy of God's kingdom. The concept isn't new to Catholic theology. It's been taught for years. It isn't even particularly Catholic, although it likely is primarily Catholic; C. S. Lewis essentially espouses the idea in The Last Battle, the final book of the Narnia series.

It is important to note the Pope's words: he doesn't say that bad atheists are saved. Bad people are not saved, including bad Catholics. He doesn't say that atheists who run around purposefully denigrating Christ, Christianity, or religion and God in general are saved. He doesn't say that atheists who actively and unrepentantly sin are saved. He says that the ones who do good are saved. He is saying it as a recognition that God's mercy goes out to whomever God elects to give it, and that it will go to those who do good and act rightly.

This is not earth shattering news. The only reason that the media and the world see it as such is because they are conditioned to a view of Catholicism which sees it as entirely judgmental against non-Catholics. It is not. Catholicism realizes that God, in His judgment, considers all factors both for and against a person. It acknowledges that, while evil is wholly bad, good is entirely good. It may well overshadow bad so much so that it could, under the right circumstances, obliterate it.

What Pope Francis has done is merely say what Catholics have know for ages: the Church, God, is inclusive. It will, He will, include anyone who truly desires Him. Even if, on the surface, they insist they do not.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Euthansia is cowardice

Vermont has gone and done it. That's not surprising; Vermont is not exactly a bastion of tradition and clear thought. The tiny state has become the fourth state to legalize euthanasia. Like the others, it has failed to ask an essential question.

Did you have a choice in being born? No? Then why should you think you have a say in when you die??

We are not talking here about people taking actions, soldiers, for example, which might result in their death. They are not willing themselves to die but are rather willing to risk death for a cause greater than themselves. Neither should anyone ever equate human suffering with animal suffering and as such justify euthanasia. We are not mere animals; we are sentient, thinking beings on a much higher moral level. Our lives are not to be dispensed with simply because they face a horrible trial, for the person himself or their family, friends, health care providers, or especially the larger society.

In the end, our lives are not ours; if so, we would have willed our births and not simply have had them foisted upon us. As it is, it is below the dignity of human life, even a willing human life, to kill itself merely to avoid anything, even suffering. Our lives are not so shallow as to be ended as with the dumb animals. Assisted suicide as such is not justice. It is cowardice.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Animals aren't the same as People

We are heading into the summer months and our temperatures will begin to rise. Naturally enough, this is bringing out the precaution parade, and not without good cause. High temperatures can affect certain groups of people more seriously than others. Senior citizens, the sick, and children are more likely to suffer ill effects of the heat, and we are advised to keep an eye on them, as well as to drink plenty of fluids and stay cool ourselves.

Such is all well and good. There is nothing wrong with the general community having basic concern for their fellow man. Yet what we cannot help but find just a little disconcerting is that, right on the heels of cautions for human beings, are the worries of animal advocacy groups that we should mind to keep our pets safe from the weather as well.

This is not to say that anyone should mistreat their pets, of course. But it does leave us to wonder: when we place animals on very nearly the same plain as people, being urged to worry about them very nearly as much as actual human beings, have we perhaps made an equivocation which is simply not particularly valid? Some folks go so far as to give specific advice on caring for pets ahead of offering similar advice on the care of people. It would seem that we are putting the animals ahead of ourselves.

That we should care for our pets is simple decency. Yet caring for people is more important and our actions ought to reflect that. It is disconcerting to get advice on how to treat animals darn near on a par of how to treat real people. We wonder whether our scruples are just a bit skewed.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Whither Wolves in Michigan?

There will be a wolf hunt this fall in three areas of Michigan's Upper Peninsula. The animals have become a threat to the local framers, killing cattle and other livestock, and have even hurt the deer population. But more than that, there are fears that the wild dogs will become predatory against people.

Well, why wait until the fall if such is the case? If livestock are being killed now, and if the wolves are appearing in residents' back yards and in the streets of small towns now, as reports assert, why wait until the fall? Perhaps there are decent ecological reasons for it, but still, if the threat is that grave, waiting seems ill advised.

Some feel that the wolf packs can be trained to stay away from livestock because killing some wolves interrupts the pack. Perhaps; but that seems a bit pie in the sky. How does one train wild animals to respect human endeavors? We're not saying that it can't be done, but only that the idea seems at odds with itself. At the end of the day, it comes down to a rather simple idea of micromanaging the environment.

Which brings us to the real issue: why on earth ought we expect government, any government, be capable of caring for everything to the nth degree? The wolf issue is a decent example of the fallacy of such thought. Congress came up with the Endangered Species Act in 1973 and put wolves on it because they had been killed to the point of extinction. They came off the list last January because of their resurgence, and now they're a threat. Now we have a battle of wills between residents of the UP concerned for their safety, academics who want to 'train' wild animals, and downstate Michiganders over whether a hunt is good or not.

Here's a simple solution: if an animal is a danger to human beings and human commerce, why not allow people to protect their lives and property as they need to, on a case by case basis? Why is the government at any level involved in this at all? Would there be a problem today if the Endangered Species Act had never been proposed? Why is it presumed that we're better off with wolves at all?

Balance, dear fellow, balance. But why must everything be balanced? What is this idea of balance except a presumption that somehow, someway, anything and everything must stay as it once was or, at least, how some people fancy that it once was?

Things change. If we can accept that concept, with a proper respect for the unchanging, we will find our world a simpler place. Until then, we will only have a world of micromangers who can never micromanage quite rightly, and for a simple reason: no one can.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

No Extremism is Good

This year's Arab American Festival, normally held in early June in Dearborn, has been cancelled. The main reason is increased costs of liability insurance due to religious tensions; extremist evangelical groups have routinely protested at the event and there were apparently fears that such could lead to conflicts serious enough to threaten the safety of attendees and vendors.

This is not a good thing. It demonstrates the precise lack of tolerance which Christians are routinely accused of, although mainstream Christianity is certainly not at fault. Still, it will be used against Christianity, and it allows for an interesting parallel. Isn't the whole of Islam held responsible for the acts of extremist Muslims?

We will admit to being wary of Islam. There doesn't appear to be a central authority within it towards whom we can look for to determine exactly what Islam teaches; that in itself makes the creed difficult to comprehend. Still, it really can't be argued that your typical Muslim in the United States anyway supports violence against the US. Don't bother about throwing the Boston Marathon bombers in our face: we said typical Muslims, not extremist ones. Extremist in the manner of the group who brought the pig's head to last year's festivities.

We don't have to agree with everyone in order to get along; even an old school conservative ought to be able to see that. We certainly aren't against a church evangelizing; if you don't believe that your faith is the one true faith, part of which must mean encouraging others to join you, then how deep can your faith be? Yet surely enticing folks to join you won't happen, or at the very least isn't likely to happen, with an in-your-face approach. Why ought a serious Muslim defect to you if your initial approach is to deride his belief system in a most hateful manner?

Again, this is not good. Especially as Christianity itself is under attack in America today, it can only hurt its own cause when things like this cancellation take place. Yes, again, this isn't the fault of mainstream Christendom. Yet that won't matter to the ones who wish to remove its influence from modern American society. The Terry Joneses of the world need to be more aware of that.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Cut Politicians a Little Slack

This is going to be difficult to write, because it contains a plea which simply won't find much sympathy, and understandably so. But perhaps that is the best reason to make it. We are asking you today, quite seriously, and even admitting that we are often purveyors of such vitriol as we are about to disparage, that you pity the politicians.

Yes, that's something akin to pitying lawyers. Still, do we cut politicians, or lawyers for that matter, enough slack?

They are under a lot of pressure, pressures which we don't necessarily appreciate. How would you like it if everyone and anyone felt they could dictate things to you and you were expected to simply get them done? It just isn't that easy. You have hundreds of others just like you under the same thumbs, and a good many of them are under similar pressures as you. Further, many of them are expressly working against you. No one politician, no one lawyer, can snap their fingers and find things magically done, and to everyone's satisfaction. That doesn't happen very often in any given person's day to day life. Why should you expect it to happen in the courts or legislative halls?

We know in our own life experiences that there are those who work for us and those who work against us. At least sometimes, they aren't even real enemies. They're just, for whatever and sometimes legitimate enough reasons, at cross purposes to ours. Can't we concede that at least sometimes the politicos are in the same position?

It's easy to demonize people. Some folks are indeed easier to demonize than others. Yet how might you act with thousands (indeed millions, depending on exactly whom we're talking about) of people heaping pressure on you? To be sure, politicians ask for it simply by putting their hats in the rings, and the real answer to making their lives and ours much easier would be smaller, less obtrusive government of the type where favors would not be so important. But we also need to realize as a people we should not expect perfection out of anyone, much less those who promise us the moon. It is a sham promise anyway, as a moment's thought should inform any rational person. Could you deliver it? Why expect that a politician could? Yet as voters and citizens, we apparently do just that with every election.

Even our conservative and libertarian friends seem to think that, when you think about it. Yet there is no magic wand, no straight and easy way to accomplish political goals. Life just ain't that easy, folks. Even when, as so many of us do (including us) think the answers are obvious (and yes, they may well be). As adults, we ought to understand quite readily that no one nor any construct of human endeavor is nor can be perfect. Demanding perfection of others, even politicians, is simply unfair.

This isn't to excuse excesses where they are outright illegal and properly offend the people. Yet it is to say that, in daily terms, we have to let go a little bit. Not all politicians are evil. Most probably aren't, really. For whatever reasons, they have difficult lives and views. Even a slight acknowledgment of that might make us all better people.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Is College Really Necessary?

Today, we are greeted with the news that around one in three Michigan high school graduates are not ready for college. To be sure, the data varies from district to district. Yet even the wealthier areas, the areas where the schools are supposed to be so much better than everyone else because they have so much more money which they oh so willingly throw at their charges, show a rather high rate of graduating students who need remedial work in a university setting too. Bloomfield Hills schools show that slightly over a fifth of their pupils require extra lower level work in order to be prepared for college. The Grosse Pointe Schools show that 16% of their grads need it too.

What can we make of these facts? To begin with, money probably isn't what makes good schools good. The key difference between poorer areas and wealthier is almost certainly in the areas of parental involvement and family support structure and not in the fact that there's more cash to toss around. Even in the richer parts of town, one in five and one in six rates of poorly trained graduates (considered solely in terms of preparedness for higher education) seems rather high.

That isn't necessarily the fault of the schools or the teachers themselves, however, any more than poor performing schools absolutely reflect bad schools or bad teachers in less affluent neighborhoods. What we are facing here is the simple fact that not everyone wants to go to college. Or should.

How do we address that in a way fair and equitable to everyone? The most obvious answer would be to stop pushing the inane idea that college is for everyone, or worse (as is so often implied) that a degree makes you more special or more fulfilled than someone without one. That's nothing more than the arrogance of the credentialed, and a disgusting and shallow breed of haughtiness it is indeed. Let those who do not want college feel no pressure to attend.

While we're at it, why not drop the nonsense about needing college to make more money. Yes, we know what the statistics say. We also know plumbers and electricians and business owners of many stripes who make as much as their lawyer and teacher friends while working no more hours. Individual initiative and not university is often, if not generally, what makes for better salaries.

Many of the economic stats simply reflect the fact that some jobs pay less than others, as ought to be expected. What else ought to be expected yet is not is that some people are perfectly happy with those chores. And a good thing too: how many good and needed things would go undone without them? Those who elect to do such jobs, or even feel no option but to take them on, are surely not second class citizens. They or their jobs should not be treated as such.

In short, the remedial needs rates of recent high school graduates are not of themselves cause for panic or concern. They may simply reflect the desire of some people to do things other than what society may think they ought. As such, we have but one duty: to get out of their way and let them live their lives. It's something we could easily do by merely shaving an inch or two off the ivory tower and the attitudes which feed it.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Merit Pay may not be Reasonable

The Republican controlled Michigan House is debating a measure which would tie teacher salaries to their performance in the classroom. This is not a horrible idea yet it is one fraught with pitfalls.

To begin with, no teacher can possibly reach every student. It simply will not happen. There are too many factors beyond an instructor's control, factors which the classroom pedagogue can never reasonably be expected to overcome. Demanding that teachers reach everyone is akin to demanding that doctors cure everyone; yet such does not take into account that the best cancer doctor in the world can't stop a patient from smoking, or force them into a better diet.

Teachers face similar obstacles. At the same time, under a system of performance evaluations we could actually have teachers less deserving of merit pay getting it because of fortunate circumstances beyond their reach. How many instructors in stable, higher performing districts might be granted better pay when they are not responsible for the better home life which makes their jobs easier? Merit pay might reward those who don't in fact earn it if we are not careful about it's application.

This isn't to say that merit pay isn't a good idea. But it would seem that we would need an awful lot of micromanagement to make it effective: those in better performing areas ought to have a more difficult path to earn it than those in traditionally low achievement schools. We're not sure that such a delicate balancing act is possible when government has been thrown into the mix.

We should not be above blaming the educators, in part, for their plight either. How many schools of education have preached that a good teacher can reach any student when common sense would tell anyone that that is impossible on its face? If you preach it, you ought not be shocked when others take you at your word. Teachers may not have dug the hole they find themselves in alone yet they certainly, at least, some of them, wielded shovels.

If a plan to tie salaries into performance can be made which is fair to everyone, then why not implement it? But it strikes us that there may be too many variables involved to make such an idea workable. Sometimes we simply need to accept that no school, no community, no government, can make a decent omelette out of rotten eggs. This does not mean that we should abandon attempts at education. But it does mean that we must stop looking towards schools and teachers as magicians. There is no magic wand, no mysterious incantation, which will solve problems which have existed since the beginning of time. No teacher nor state legislator cam make the world perfect. But they can make it needlessly complicated.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Pagans knew how to make good law

True law is right reason in agreement with nature; it is of universal application, unchanging and everlasting. - Cicero

Right wingers and Christians are two groups of folk who are almost universally derided for daring to suggest that there is something such as the Natural Law. They are scorned when asserting that some things are congruent with nature and others less so, if at all. They are mocked because of the idea they espouse which says that certain acts are really right, and others really wrong. In the end, they are scolded for the presumably arrogant belief that our laws must reflect this, because, of course, nothing is right on its own terms and how dare anyone try to force their morality on another. Simple and stupid consensus will take care of that.

So imagine the joy which one put upon by society in such a manner might have when they discover an old pagan who says exactly what they do. A pagan who speaks of virtue and discipline as though they were ideals to strive for rather than ancient old abstractions of which some people simply will not let go. A pagan who insists there is a God who is the source of all of our law, and that we must adhere to the commands of that being. In the end, Cicero teaches, our laws must reflect that eternal and unchanging law on which any and all good laws are based.

ight Reason is that which is in league with nature and nature's God. All that we do which is to be of any good use must reflect that sense. When we do that, we create justice on Earth. When we do not, when we do as we please with no regard for ultimate and final right and wrong, we invite chaos and anarchy. To quote Cicero once more:

...if the principle of justice were founded on the decrees of peoples, the edicts of princes, or the decision of judges, then justice would sanction robbery and adultery and the forging of wills, in case these acts were approved by the votes or decrees of the populace. (For if a human law)...can make Justice out of injustice, can it not also make good out of bad?

Indeed it can. It is good to hear such a question voiced by someone not, ahem, tainted by modern religion. Those who dismiss religious sentiment and insist that it cannot be applied to lawmaking need a good dose of the old Roman orator if they are to see things in the right light. For Christianity has no hold on the eternal. The truth and beauty of that belongs to all who are willing to seek it. Our laws would be truer and more beautiful as well, should we create them justly.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Libertarians, Freedom, and Justice

Libertarians and conservatives seem so very close on several issues that it may at times be difficult to distinguish between the two. Yet certain distinctions can be made, and they may be all the difference in the world between the camps.

Perhaps the most serious difference lies in the areas of freedom and justice. Libertarians occasionally talk as though justice is the most important thing which human society ought to strive towards yet almost unfailingly insist that the measure of an act is the amount of freedom it allows. The problem is that freedom ultimately is a means rather than an end, and while it is easy to think that the society with the most freedom may (and the word may cannot be stressed enough) produce the most justice, that surely cannot be a given. A hedonistic society such as what the Western world sometimes appears hell bent for leather determined to make of itself surely welcomes a great (one is tempted to say an absurd) amount of freedom among the people. Do libertarians sufficiently address what that must mean?

Seeing as they are only seriously opposed to areas of direct and physical violence against persons, it is easy to say no. This isn't to say they oppose any and all nonviolent yet repugnant actions; we presume they are against libel and slander, for example. But do they take it far enough? Are there areas where, even though there may appear a lack of real violence against the person or society, there is yet a nonphysical violence which may yet hurt individuals and nations?

The conservative says yes. When society allows repugnant actions to be legal then it had begun teaching individuals and nations that the immoral is in fact moral. It begins to tear the fabric of civil society into little more than strands, each strand being each person, each person being free to do what they want, outside of overt violence, of course, without censure. When that happens, how long may it be before the strands cannot support even themselves? Likely as not, the moment they become too individual, too little concerned with the larger society. What will happen then? The strands that get together by whatever means will dominate the rest. That probably won't mean much for freedom, let alone justice.

Without a sense of true justice, decidedly non violent yet unjust actions will be seen as mere aspects of personal freedom. If it doesn't harm anyone directly and immediately it must, in the libertarian view, be allowed.

Such is a shallow definition of justice. But when a creed is based on mere freedom rather than on actual right and wrong, what can we expect in the long run but decay? If the libertarians wish to be taken seriously then they must accept that freedom isn't the end all be all of human actions. Until that happens, they will always be on the margin of political society. Or, worse, they will lead all of society to its destruction.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Education and Learning

The Warren Consolidated School system in suburban Detroit has announced that it will soon open a math, science, and technology center for middle school students in the district. It is all part of a strategic plan to 'focus on student learning'.

Weren't they supposed to be doing that already? What have they been doing all these years if they weren't strategically focusing on student learning? How long has the WCS been in business that they now have come to realize that schools are for learning? For crying out loud, isn't the whole point of education supposed to be about pupils learning things? Yet this is precisely the thing which sounds so good when enunciated that the general public thinks, without actually thinking, 'ohh, that sounds so good: schools focusing on student learning'. How could you not vote for new or recurring millages, knowing your schools focus on student learning?

But to the point. Schools used to be about teaching. Now they're about learning. It doesn't seem like much of a difference, but it is. At one point, teachers were supposed to teach. Now, students are there to learn. What does that do?

It takes the responsibility off the teachers, that's what it does. And we all know how many maladies exist to excuse students from learning. They're everywhere, and more are concocted every day and with every imaginable acronym. Soon there will be no reason we should expect a teacher to teach, or a student to learn. Schools will be a place of academic schizophrenia; no one will know how to act. As such, no one will be at fault for the mess. What to do, what to do?

A good thing to do would be to vote against any and every millage which comes around your local school district, new ones indeed but also renewals. If what we are paying for are schools which don't seem clear on what they're doing (and they can't be clear if it has taken them decades to realize that their focus should be on the obvious) then they don't merit our support. Don't give them money. That is rule one when dealing with charlatans and shysters. They will only want more when the fish have taken the bait.

Friday, May 3, 2013

The Gay Blade in Modern Literature

For those of you who believe that sports journalists or the media at large are fair and rational beings, we offer the coverage of two athletes: Lolo Jones and Jason Collins.

Last year, Olympic athlete Lolo Jones admits she's a virgin during an interview simply profiling her background. She's ripped to shreds. All sorts of jokes about her failing at the Olympics because she needs a man, in the mass media and social media. Teammates were calling her out for overshadowing them with a bunch of attention unrelated to the sport, journalists giving her crap for the same reason, before the weight of the criticism causes her to issue something of an apology for daring to bring it up. It was positively Tim Tebow-ish: fairly innocuous comments made into a cloud of offensiveness by people who wanted her to shut up about who she is.

Meanwhile, we have Jason Collins, openly gay NBA player basking in cover stories, tons of support from teammates and journalists, openly and admittedly doing it to make a statement. We already know it's hugely un-PC and unacceptable to make jokes about someone's sexual orientation (well, of course, if such orientation is not heterosexual), or even say an opposing viewpoint. Journalists who did are facing a huge backlash, including lost jobs (none of Jones' lifestyle critics faced serious backlash, let alone job loss, from anything we've been able to find). And can you imagine the further controversy if HIS teammates told him to stuff it, and journalists said it was crap he was getting so much attention in sports media for something unrelated to the game?

Regardless of your opinions on the subjects at hand - either of them - let's at least play fair here. Both are living what could be called "controversial" lives (seeing as Jones' waiting until marriage is a less mainstream concept at this point, at least within Hollywood and the media). So, either they both have every right to speak up about important parts of their lives, or neither of them do. Either it's okay to criticize them, or it's not. Either it's fair for personal lives to earn them magazine covers and interviews, or it's not.

Any way you slice it, the real issue here isn't about supporting gay rights. It's about disparaging traditional Christianity, driven by a group who have no desire to understand it in the first place. Why else would Jones be made into such a prude while Collins, who blithely asserts he is Christian (a patently irrational claim which goes unquestioned by most supposedly unbiased reporters) despite so obviously flaunting one of Christianity's most basic tenets, is an absolute hero? Folks who make such inherently contradictory statements cannot be taken at their word. All the while, Collins' every statement is gold...all the while distracting from the currently ongoing National Basketball Association playoffs. Distracting, you will note, from his sport. Jones was roundly lambasted for that even though all she was doing was opening up about herself. Yet Collins media circus distraction is hailed, and even encouraged by his compatriots.

What's the difference? One athlete is a real Christian. The other, really by his own admittance, is but a thinly veiled shill for forces who don't actually care about him but, rather, for the tool he can be in support of their cause: destroying the Christianity of the likes of Lolo Jones.

The whole Collins story is simply wagging the dog. Wherever that happens, reason is thrown out the window.