Friday, August 30, 2013

Pope Francis 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.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Support for Gay Rights has no Basis in Reason

It appears as though the whole gay rights issue has been settled. Most folks accept them without question, and the conservatives are at the point where they may just have to give up the ghost. So long as the seriously religious are given enough legal protection under the First Amendment, well, that may be all that can be had on the matter.

We are left to wonder why the issue became resolved so quickly. We suspect that the change in the American body politic had little or nothing to do with principle. We strongly suspect that, in fact. Because when you get down to brass tacks, most of the support for gay rights hinge on rather shallow points.

They aren't, it is argued, hurting anyone. But that can only really apply if we believe that personal actions cannot hurt the person himself. It ignores that human beings, being creatures of habit, can become better or worse people depending on whether their actions, and perhaps especially the actions which 'don't hurt anyone else' are involved, because it quite directly invites selfishness. How many times do small children respond to instruction with 'I'm not hurting anyone!'. Beyond that, the question of encouraging others to do wrong tells us that we ought to be considerate of the general society in all of our actions. Doing the wrong thing, again especially under the guise of no harm involved, surely makes it very easy for others to do it to themselves. After all, so-and-so do it, and they aren't bad people.

Which leads to the next point. How many folks support gay rights because, 'they're not bad people'. Quite frankly, most of us are 'not bad people' when we aren't doing anything wrong. Probably 98% of the time we aren't bad people. Yet the bad things we do are still bad no matter how good we are the rest of the time. And make no mistake: active homosexuality is a moral wrong no matter who thinks otherwise. That's why institutions such as the Catholic Church are sticking to their guns on the matter. What's wrong is wrong no matter what the broader society thinks.

Outside of these factors, one telling little thing comes to mind. The issue has been decided so quickly so recently that we must think that it has happened simply to get the question of gay rights off the table. Why ought that be so? There are two possible reasons, perhaps more, but we'll go with the pair right now. The first is rather simple: politicians and citizens don't want to make choices which involve great thought and make them have to make decisions they don't want to make. A principled stand means you may end up offending someone. Politicians hate that because it could cost them votes. The average person hates that because it may make them seem out of touch with the general sentiments of the moment, and fitting in means so much these days.

Yet the second point may well be the most telling. Folks hate being told what to do, especially in their personal lives, and especially leftist and libertarian folks. Consequently, they hate appearing to tell others what to do, especially when they may be living lives outside of what traditional western morals have taught. So if something even further from the historical mainstream is acceptable, then surely their acts can't be bad. They support gay rights because it allows them to live as they want without a similar societal frown gazed upon them. Said point blank, we believe that many people are for gay rights because it takes judgment and sanction off of their actions.

The support for gay rights is inherently shallow because there isn't a single rational reason to support them. It's really that simple, and that bodes ill for all of us. It means Miley Cyrus might just be ahead of the next civil rights curve.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

They're Only Games

A steroid scandal has rocked major baseball for a decade now, and football finds itself dealing with lawsuits over the brutality many say are inherent to the game. Why do athletes play such games and do such things to their bodies?

Simply, to win. But is winning worth all that? Is it worth putting dangerous chemicals in your body? Is it worth bigger, faster, stronger and risking debilitating lifelong injuries simply to play a game?

We would like to think that no sane person would do it, except that there are many presumably sane people who do. It isn't all on the players, either. It's about the entire culture which surrounds modern professional sports. They are, after all, entertainment, with all that entails. That means money, that means responding to what the fans want; that means that should the fans want more violence then they shall have it.

This is hardly civilized behavior. It doesn't ultimately matter how 'clean' a hit is if there's a substantial chance of injury during the play. A moon shot may seem very impressive but when it comes with the risk of long term disability it really ought not be acclaimed. If a Super Bowl ring comes at the cost of having a mind scrambled when an ex-NFLer is in his fifties, we need to start questioning whether it is worth it or whether we ought to encourage it.

Spare us the the shallow and self serving excuse, for it is nothing but an excuse, that no one made them do it, because someone did. We, the fans, did. This is not to excuse the athlete who pushes himself too hard or too far. But it is a mitigating factor.

We need to remember these things are just games. It doesn't matter how much money or prestige is at stake. They're just games. They need to be seen in that light. As it is, we're simply a shadow of the Roman Empire with its gladiators and blood lust. Or perhaps we're something worse, because we seem to be fooling ourselves that we are not. At least the gladiators weren't delusional.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Stephen Hawking is a poor Philosopher

To deny the existence of a transcendental creator is just as much an act of faith as to affirm it.

- Ervin Laszlo

Stephen Hawking believes that God wasn't necessary to the creation of the universe. That's his prerogative, of course; he can believe what he wants. The only trouble we have with it is that, as great of a scientist as he may be, he tends to speak philosophically under the guise of science. That is a significant and telling mistake on his part.

He basically asserts that, as all things necessary for life were present at the dawn of time, a creator was not necessary for life and the expanding universe to occur. It all was bound to happen, or was the product of stupid chance.

The trouble is, that's not science: it's presumption. Imagine entering a room and seeing a pile of boards, screws, brackets, nails, and handles; screwdrivers, saws, hammers, and a measuring tape piled also to the side. You see everything, then turn around and leave.

Upon returning hours later, it's all gone as you remembered it. But a desk stands in the center of room. Did it simply materialize, or was it made with intent?

The simple fact is that nothing happens of its own volition. Such is a very basic philosophic axiom. If all the components of life, the universe, and everything were present before the big bang, it's because they were put there. It should then be no surprise that whatever big ball of matter (or whatever else might have been there) existed before time held all the necessary things which our universe and our lives require. Why wouldn't it? Life would be impossible without them.

The best Mr. Hawking can assert is that the needed materials were just there. And that's all science can say about the, hee, hee, matter. Anything beyond that is his own wishful thinking, his own fairy story. Indeed, his own non-scientific fairy story, for his position is not scientific but philosophical and speculative. Even holding out that he may be right, he must prove his allegations against God and man through purely rational rather than by infertile scientific means. Maintaining that's it's all science restricts, not expands, his point. It shows delusion, not intellect.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

More Detroit Humor at Voters' Expense

Ah, Detroit. Perhaps we should call you the laugh a minute city. except that the issues involved are so very serious. Now there is a question of whether 20,000 (that's twenty thousand) ballots were incorrectly tallied from the city's primary election two weeks ago, the one won by Mike Duggan as the result of a write in campaign. Second place finisher Benny Napoleon insists they be recounted, and that's okay. A recount could give him a primary victory, and that might be important in the coming weeks with as momentum switches to the November general election.

What is not okay is another punch in the gut to Detroit. This is potentially another display of incompetence which can be laid squarely on the backs of the city and the people who live in it, run it (the Emergency manager notwithstanding), defend it, vote in it, demand democracy for it, and even run its elections. Is there any reason now to doubt the necessity of the EM?

It appears to come down to a question of whether poll workers incorrectly marked the 20,000 or so votes in question. Yes, the Wayne County Board of Canvassers could have acted more quickly, by ordering a recount earlier. You'll find more detail here: Instead, they punted it to the state at the last minute (they were supposed to have certified the election yesterday, August 20). So this is partly on the County too, and not Detroit alone.

Still, it reeks of the raw stupidity which Detroiters across the board have been accused of for a very long time now. Are we a banana republic, or a proud city on a hill in the United States of America?

We're not sure of the answer either.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Government has no Business in the Art Business

Why not sell the paintings and statues and various artifacts in the Detroit Institute of Arts in order to help the city out of bankruptcy? Isn't that what any individual would be expected to d in a similar situation?

Please don't bother about their cultural value to Detroit. How many Detroiters actually go to the DIA? How many folks are attracted to the city because of it? Not very many, we would wager.

Don't bother about the importance of art, either. Art is a special interest, when you get down to it. It is fair to question whether the government at any level has any business in the art industry.

The artistic and cultural snobs will tell us that we're neanderthals. Whatever; we don't stick our hands in their pockets when we go to baseball games. Why do they have the right to stick their hands in ours when it comes to symphonies and museums? Because it's art?

Sell 'em. Sell every last artifact which the DIA owns. Then sell the land on which the museum itself sits to the next Whole Foods.That would serve the city of Detroit and the community better than a plethora of items few people actually bother to see.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

But What does Islam Stand For?

How we handle the Muslim world is obviously one of the trickiest tasks we face in the coming years. There is an awful lot of distrust of Islam and no real idea of how to allay the fears of it which many seem to harbor. Yet how we view and work with the Islamic world is nevertheless critical to our safety in the future.

So, how do we view Islam? That is a question which doesn't have an easy answer. The most logical point would be to look towards Muslim teachings for guidance. Yet that brings on a few difficult questions, not the least of which is: who exactly do we go to for answers?

There are many more sects within Islam than most folks imagine. A brief internet search reveals that there at at least five branches of the religion, dominated by the Sunni and the Shi'a with several smaller groups. Within Islam are four schools of thought, any of which are deemed valid to follow.

This rudimentary understanding of Islam really only heightens the problem. When there are many sects of a religion, coupled with the lack of any real hierarchical structure within it, then who actually speaks for Islam? The ones who preach peace or the ones who cry war?

Compare this to he Catholic Church, were we find a highly structured organization which can be approached as to the Catholic stance on such and such a question. We may not like what it says to us, but we cannot doubt what it means to say.

Unless we can find a source of Islam which speaks for all of Islam, can we actually ever know whether it as a movement can be trusted or not? This isn't to say that individual Muslims are bad people. As likely as not, the overwhelming majority of them are fine and outstanding members of their communities struggling with day to day life as most everyone else does. Yet do those folks speak for all of Islam when they speak, or simply for themselves as they see it no matter how heartfelt?

Without a final source on what Islam means it will be difficult to understand it more fully. And without such understanding, can the other hurdles ever be overcome?

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Freedom needs more than simply removing a dictator

Egyptian leader Mohamed Morsi is gone, and his supporters aren't happy. There have been clashes between them and the authorities who replaced Morsi for several days now, and it appears they will continue, with much loss of life. Meanwhile, a civil war continues to rip apart Syria, and unrest threatens the peace in Gaza. All of this while the Middle East is still under the shadow of the vaunted Arab Spring which was supposed to move that area into the fold of supposedly enlighten democracies.

It's a dose of reality which, one would hope, might cause western liberals and libertarians to rethink themselves and their positions. They simply don't want to accept that merely removing a dictator doesn't mean that better days are ahead. Indeed if history teaches us anything, it teaches that, far too often, it simply puts in place another dictator.

The supporters of the Arab Spring are little different than those who cheered the fall of the Shah of Iran in the late 1970s. But what was left in its wake? An Iran under a far greater tyranny which lasts until today. An Iran which, you may notice, was strangely unaffected by the protests within other Arabic nations.

So while there appears to have been some progress towards more democratic societies in the Middle East, the steps taken have been small and uncertain. And that's where there has been no widespread violence or upheaval. Only the richer nations seem to be weathering the storm well.

That says something, something the left and libertarians don't seem to recognize. There are two factors at play here. The first is that popular uprisings or popular movements generally only work out in the long run where there is a reasonably educated leadership. The transition from apartheid in South Africa to a reasonably stable democracy was fueled by a body politic which had leaders who respected the people and had some idea of how to lead and where to lead them. What they sought was accomplished over much time, and with the needed patience necessary to the long term health of the movement and its host nation as well. The second is that of prosperity. The Saudis and the Kuwaitis made reforms because, while the demand for change was extant, there was a corollary understanding that they were reasonably well off anyway. No one wanted to rock that boat too harshly, lest it list and eventually sink.

You can't just throw out a dictator without a solid alternative available. Even then, that alternative must be reasonable; far too many people have the idea that the solution to a dictator is merely his removal. We see in Egypt that that is nothing less than shortsighted. At worst, it will lead to a worse dictator, or even something worse than that. It could well lead to a civil war which will only put a nation light years behind attaining a true and good democracy.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Trickle Down Works: Obamacare Proves it

According to NBC News Online this morning, businesses across the United Sates are cutting employee hours down to 29 per week or less in order to avoid the requirements of Obamacare. Small businesses tend to have narrow profit margins, and the cost of providing health care for their employees is simply too much of a hardship.

This will hurt the very people whom the left and the Democratic Party claim to hold in such esteem. They're the ones for the poor and underemployed. They're the ones for the little guy.

The looming Obamacare regulations are hurting that guy in precisely the same way as the Cash For Clunkers program hurt him. Cash For Clunkers destroyed the used car market precisely because it required old models to be destroyed. Consequently, what used cars there were became higher priced. It's simple supply and demand: high demand plus fewer resources make the cost of the resources jump. And who does that hurt most?

The working poor, the lower classes. The same ones who are going to be crunched by Obamacare.

Trickle down economics does work, and in both directions. Reagan proved in a positive way, leading the longest sustained period of peacetime economic growth in our history. President Obama is proving it in a profoundly negative manner, and it is hurting the folks who most need help.

Friday, August 9, 2013

It's Okay to Stand Your Ground

The Ann Arbor City Council wants to see the repeal of the Michigan Stand Your Ground law. But why?

Is self defense wrong? Because if it is, it won't be long until the criminals rule the roost. If an assailant of any type knows that you cannot fight back without endangering yourself before a more omnipotent force (which is the law), he will press harder and become bolder. Common sense tells us as much.

Because of Trayvon Martin? Zimmerman was found not guilty, folks. If anything, the case supports stand your ground.

Because some people will push the law to the limit? Yet that can happen with almost any law; if such is the basis for repealing laws, then repeal them all, for they all might be abused.

We will readily concede that there are times when common sense tells you to back down, to retreat, even, if circumstances demand that. We will even concede that some folks will make poor judgments which could lead to escalating rather than diffusing a situation. Yet we will at the same time assert that poor judgment by others doesn't mean a law, and that means any given law, is bad.

People do bad things; they make mistakes. If human perfection is your demand in anything, whether law, morality, or practical matters, are decided upon, you were born in the wrong universe. Humanity is not perfect; neither with its laws be. You simply cannot tie the hands of the reasonably rational majority for the sake of the stupid or evil. At that point, stupid and evil win.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

A Write-in Candidate Wins in Detroit

Say whatever you want about the real value of elections. Say what you will about how one vote doesn't count. Sneer, even, at the entire election process. Because no matter what you say, think, or do, what happened yesterday in the Detroit mayoral primary is impressive and significant. A write in candidate not only won a spot on the general election ballot this November, he also came in first.

Mike Duggan was the top vote getter in yesterday's primary, and not by a small margin. He won almost half the ballots, and as a write in candidate. He was forced to do so after a court had rejected his spot on the ballot. This is more than a historical footnote. It's almost unthinkable.

True, Duggan had name recognition. True, too, that he had the support of both major Detroit newspapers, the Free Press and the News. True as well that he may have been helped by having been unceremoniously ordered off the ballot. The fact is that voters are a rather lazy lot. Yet over 44,000 of then in the city of Detroit took the time to write someone's name on their ballot.

It may well mean than the November election is a foregone conclusion. Benny Napoleon was supposedly the front runner yet was beaten by 16 percentage points. He already, arguably, has about half the electorate against him. Duggan needed barely four percent more voters for a majority yesterday; how can he not gain that much two months from now?

Okay, it's not over til it's over. Officially. But this one's over, folks. Mike Duggan will be the next Mayor of Detroit. We'll talk to you again about it on November 6.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Should Detroiters Bother to Vote Tomorrow?

There is a primary election in Detroit tomorrow, and it may be either the most or least important one in the city's history.

Seeing as Detroit is under the power of Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr and the people running for mayor and city council will be virtually powerless for at least the first year or so of their terms, any election right now seems unimportant. Even when they get real power, the bankruptcy which Detroit is facing may well determine what they can and cannot do for a few years after that. About the only really interesting aspect of the vote is Mike Duggan's write in candidacy for mayor. It would be an interesting side note to our history should he pull that off successfully.

Too, for the first time Detroiters will get to vote for council members by district, with two others elected at large. It is hope that, in the long run, this will give more power to the city's neighborhoods. That does make sense, but only time will tell.

ll that said, we can't shake the feeling that tomorrow's primary is a pointless endeavor. Why not wait until the EM is gone and save Detroit that much cash in salaries and benefits? But we may be missing something important with that question and will not insist upon it.

So, go ahead and vote. We suppose it must be worth something or they wouldn't be holding and election, right?

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Whither Liberty?

The gay marriage issue appears settled, in both the United States and much of the western world. That's not surprising, considering the widespread application of 'liberty' we have seen over the last few decades. We have no problem with liberty per se, of course; a well regulated liberty is to be sought and prized. But we wonder how many folks actually consider what a well regulated liberty means.

It surely does not mean that we can do absolutely anything we want. Were that to be the case, then we would be supreme hypocrites to call any action by anyone else wrong. It would impossible to call the terrorists, not to mention the murderers and rapists, wrong. So there are barriers to liberty. Or, at least, as any rational observer would say, that we are not at liberty to do ill to others.

The next question becomes, then, are we at liberty to do anything we want with ourselves? This question involves the aspect of liberty which calls on us to be self regulating, and, interestingly, it is also the aspect of liberty most libertarians, we think, anyway, wish to avoid. We cannot help but feel they would like if it did not exist at all, for it demands of the individual that he, perhaps, should not do things he may very well wish to do. Regulating the self means telling the self that some things may be wrong even if they don't, on the surface, violate that old libertarian bugbear of not doing violence. It may mean being forced to admit that violence against another is more than an overt act. It may mean having to conclude that violence against another may constitute actions which seem wholly personal but in fact still harm the body politic as well as the person.

It goes almost without saying, though it must be said so that everyone hears, when you do wrong, it may encourage others to do wrong. That's simply the other side of the equation which involves doing right; if we lead best by example, as is so often said, then examples of doing wrong surely encourage wrongdoing. Even when the wrongdoing 'doesn't hurt anyone'.

This puts the civil libertarians in a pickle. They must either argue that we don't need to be self regulatory, or they must argue that certain (presumably nonviolent) acts almost universally accepted as wrong (before now, anyway) are in fact right either on their own standing or, as the supporters of gay marriage and the like argue, if the person or persons involved think so.

The obvious problem is that, should such be true, then all any person would need to do to justify doing wrong is to assert that it's right for them. What we have here in the long run is a recipe for the end of all liberties, real or imagined. If we are not obliged to be self regulatory, if we are not obliged to ask ourselves whether we should commit an act or not even if it seems to affect no one else, then we have no obligation at all. And if we have no such obligation at all, any talk about freedom and liberty is spurious.

We have said before that we believe libertarians to be moral relativists. We stand by that assertion. This is why.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Those Evil Catholics

A gay teacher in California who 'married' his 'partner' has been by fired from his teaching position in a Catholic school. Needless to say, the media is sensationalizing the story. But why is this news at all?

Doesn't everyone know that the Catholic Church is against gay marriage? Doesn't everyone know that private schools are private, and, in this case particularly, have the moral right to hold their teachers to the standards of the sponsoring institution? And where are the cries of the civil libertarians in all this? Where are the ACLU and their ilk in defense of such rights? Oh, that's right: they don't believe in the civil liberties of those who they don't agree with, especially big bad religious institutions.

The media even makes a big deal over the petition which has been launched to reinstate the instructor, a petition which lists nothing except nonreligious reasons to rehire the man. It reads: He is a beloved mentor, confidant, and educator. His passion for teaching, as well as his witty personality, have made him a favorite teacher among many students. He is extremely active at St. Lucy's; he teaches multiple subjects along with taking on various leadership positions including Yearbook moderator, dance coach, and head of the English Department.

No acknowledgement of the religious principles involved; how can we take such assertions seriously?

This is nothing more than big media and the gay rights movement trying to marginalize the Catholic Church. Well, here's news for ya: the Church has been around longer than you. The Church will outlast you. Why? Because the Church, simply put, cares about more than the passions of the moment. It is not selfish. The promoters of immorality, however, are.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Zimmerman is the Devil!

We notice this morning, in a headline on AOL, that George Zimmerman was pulled over for speeding. Further, he had a gun in his car (which he admitted to police shortly after having been pulled over). Further still, he was (gasp!) going nowhere in particular. Oh dear.

Give it up, mass media. The man was found innocent. Every detail of his life simply is not nor ought to be public knowledge. Why are you continuing your attempts to hang him high?

Because the media has to stir the pot. Also, the media can't be wrong. With the entire Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin ordeal, we have examples of both. There is the sensationalism which drives modern journalism hand in hand with the need to find Zimmerman guilty of something. As a result, he won't be left alone for a long, long time. He's evil, and it must be shown.

Yet who is really the evil one here? The man found innocent of a heinous crime, or the paparazzi of what Rush Limbaugh so rightly calls the drive by media?