Saturday, November 30, 2013

Shop Till You Drop Wherever

Today is shop local Saturday, or something like that. We forget the acronym for day or whether there even is one, but we all get the point: shop local, shop the mom and pop establishments rather than the big box stores.

We're okay with that, provided that you aren't doing it merely to knock shopping the big national or international chains. At the end of the day it's about shopping for what you want where you want. There are advantages both ways really.

Think what you want, there tend to be better buys for the common goods at larger stores and there isn't anything wrong with taking advantage of that. Smaller neighborhood stores are typically niche stores, and there are good things about that. If you want something quirky or unique you'll often find it at a place small enough to be quirky and unique. And if you think that's helping your friends and neighbors, well, you're right. You are.

Yet you're helping them too to shop the box stores. How many friends and neighbors work at them? If it's keeping the money local which worries you then it's at least worth considering that the wages they earn and the taxes they pay, much of it, anyway, stays local. Why be all hung up on money staying local as it is? Everything's local to someone. So WalMart's profits go to, where is it, Arkansas? Wherever their products are made is local to those folks, isn't it?

The bottom line is to shop where you want and don't try to shame others about where they spend their dimes. This means that the box stores mavens must reject their sneering about shopping local for those who want to while the supporters of the store next door end their holier than thou tactics as well. To us, that sounds like the perfect solution.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving 2013

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 27, 2013

It isn't all about the Economy

Once there was a day called Black Friday. It was meant to launch the holiday shopping season, and was known to start as early as 4 or 5 in the morning on the day after Thanksgiving. Yet that, it seems, was not good enough. We have reached the point where the sales are encroaching so far into Thanksgiving itself that there are stores opening as early as 5PM Thursday afternoon. We are now faced with Black Thursday.

There is something seriously wrong with this picture, something which speaks to a serious ill in American society. Why do we need these sales? Why do people think they have they right to them? And before all the rabid libertarian free marketers go livid about it (no one makes them do it, what about freedom?) let's ask you one things: aren't some folks being made to do things?, and, isn't their freedom being sacrificed?

It is hard to imagine that the bulk of sales and support staff at stores would rather be working than at home with their families and friends on a major holiday. The same can be said of those working arenas for sporting events as well, or even at television stations and entertainment establishments. Why do we think we have the right to expect those people to have to work for our leisure?

This isn't capitalism. It's consumerism, and it's the worst example of bacchanalia. It is the time of year when we least like free markets, and perhaps the best time to remind those who do that economics aren't everything. Simple, unfettered economics may well infringe on someone's freedom as well as any government attempt to stifle a reasoned liberty. Yet there is a difference. There's at least a small chance that, with a bit of discipline at the voting booth door, we might actually stop government. Is there any way we might stop the Invisible Hand?

And we have yet to address the question of how society seems okay excising religion from itself while employing religious holidays just the same for its own nefarious purposes. But we'll save that for another time.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Hate isn't a crime

When someone is beaten up or killed, the attacker is usually charged with a crime appropriate to the situation. A killing may be murder one, or perhaps simply manslaughter, depending upon the circumstances surrounding the act. There are various gradations of many other crimes as well. All of that is fine, so far as it goes. It gives the judicial system the leeway necessary to ensure that criminal acts are justly prosecuted. Any decent approach to criminal justice requires that all things relevant to someone's ill conceived or stupid action be considered. Yet more than anything else, the main reason we have the laws we do is to protect human lives, because each human life is immeasurably valuable.

Yet we have now added to the mix the specter of hate crimes. If the crime someone has committed was driven by bigotry, by a hatred of minorities or, as seems more generally the case, homosexuals, (although depending on the area where the incident takes place there can be many other inclusions within the hate crime arena), then an additional charge is often leveled at the accused. They will be charged, essentially and additionally, with hating the attacked.

The first glaring error within such a line of thought is that the motivation for a crime is seen as the same as a crime. But while we recognize that impure and spiteful thoughts of any kind are morally offensive, merely thinking such and such a way can never truly be considered a crime. We would all merit jailing if that were the case, for we all from time to time think things we shouldn't. It is simply Orwellian to make thoughts criminal.

Yet that is perhaps not the worst aspect of hate crimes or, as they are sometimes more benignly called, bias oriented crimes. The most galling aspect of them is in how they, however inadvertently this may be, treat those killed or beaten or robbed without hateful motivation as essentially less human than a homosexual or minority or whomever attacked because of their skin color or sexual preference.

This is nothing less than an insult to the victims of crime who do not happen to fall into one of the hate crimes categories. They are no less human than those people who have the added glory of hate crime given them.

Murder is murder. Period. A irreplaceable human life has been taken. The reason hardly matters, for we have grounds enough to condemn to at least life imprisonment the murderer on that fact alone. To add anything more to that merely because the victim may be of a certain ilk beyond his control is nothing less than making those people more important, well, merely because of incidental circumstance. It truly insults the attacked who had no such special (and it cannot be stressed enough, incidental) extension of themselves while actually patronizing the supposed victim of whatever hate crime is at issue. We act as though a crime against them is worse merely because of who they are.

That isn't justice. That's an immorality upon itself. We must cease to see motive as criminal. Only then shall we truly see a crime as a crime, and only then will all be equal in the eyes of the law.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Clive Staples Lewis

Joy is the serious business of Heaven.

We think that what we do here on Earth means something. And it does, to be sure. But not what we believe of it.

A smile, a glance, a kind word. Very important little moments. And very small just the same.

All the while these moments make us very happy. But why?

Because they are glimpses of a very real and true happiness which we all sense, which we all fathom quite profoundly even when we refuse to allow that it exists.

To many people remember JFK fifty years later. They do not remember another soul lost to the world decades ago as well.

They should.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Obamacare Bullies the People

What to do on a Sunday morning? Why, take potshots!

Given the fact that health insurance is going to rise considerably, wouldn't it make more sense (and be cheaper) to just take the penalty the first year or two? You know, try to stick it out until the country has a chance to throw the bums out and maybe allow the markets and the people to decide what sort of care (if any) they want? It's obvious that the liberals, those paragons of civil liberty, want to control you, as the venerable Charles Krauthammer says here:

It ain't about caring for you, people. It's about controlling you. That's what modern Democrats are all about.

That bullying scandal facing the NFL today is deliciously ironic. In an arena where brute force is encouraged (except against quarterbacks, who can't be hit as they are apparently milquetoasts who must be protected by special rules) that these big, strong he-men can't remember the old saying about sticks and stones. We hear all kinds of fire up chants coming out of huddles, we witness all kinds of chest pounding after late game, meaningless tackles or touchdowns, only to finally hear the moral equivalent of, "Mommy, they're being mean to me!"

The fact is that the football mentality encourages upbraiding an opponent on the field. It encourages disrespect of anyone who isn't part of their team. Yet there's shock and dismay when this bullying attitude spills over into the real lives of the players. More than 30 NFLers have been arrested so far in a year (2013) which still has about seven weeks to go. The charge of mere bullying seems laughably innocent.

We were going to say something about something else, something political, perhaps, until this story caught our eye:

It seems a more appropriate way to end this column this day. The collegians are learning from their professional role models.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Ignorant Electorate

The Republican controlled House of Representatives have passed a bill which would allow anyone who wanted to to keep their current insurance. 39 Democrats joined in to make the vote much more significant. Meanwhile, the President has vowed to veto the bill if it reaches his desk.

With so many Americans against Obamacare it is very difficult to understand why so many folks don't better appreciate what the GOP in the House is trying to do. With a majority of citizens against the health care law, the GOP was stormed with criticism for 'shutting down the government' (which in fact it did not; the President did) in an attempt to stop the ACA entirely; why? We often hear cries for a more principled leadership from our elected officials. Yet when those leaders try to do something about what we don't like, they are frowned upon.

Now we have a reasonably bipartisan effort to do little more than tweak the law, and a President who vows to stop the effort. There haven't been all that many clear cut issues in our history, but this one draws sides quite precisely. Can we expect the American people to sit up. take notice, and support the guys and gals trying to do right by the voter here?

Probably not. The American voter is one of the worst low information voters in the world. It does make us wonder whether democracy really is all that. If we call for principled leadership yet decry it when it comes, we wonder whether the right to vote has any real use.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Florida HOA out of Line

In the news today, a homeowner in Florida had a bit of trouble with his Homeowners association. He planted trees which were, in their minds, too short, and is being fined a hundred bucks a day for it

Here are a few reflections on the matter.

1. The homeowners association is way off on such issues. What difference could short trees make to property value?

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

3. Homeowners associations are ultimately socialists writ small.

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

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

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

Monday, November 11, 2013

Veterans Day

Why is it that we often only appreciate the American Soldier when he is fighting Nazis?

That is the fault of the Hollywood Left, quite frankly. For whatever bizarre reason, and knowing them it must be somewhat bizarre or selfish, it seems that the soldiers most fondly recalled are those from the WWII generation. Without a doubt, they deserve that praise of course. This isn't to doubt their service or their bravery. We should recall them. The American Soldier, and his compatriots from Canada and Great Britain and France and China and dozens of other nations from around the world fell while fighting that menace. The Nazis were awful, to be sure. They may have been at least to that time the worst threat the entire world had faced, and a threat to the United States as well, to be sure. But were they only reason the American Soldier fought and died?

Did not the American Soldier fight and fall at Lexington and Concord? Citizen soldiers, yes, they were. And they stood their ground, refusing to allow the Redcoats to secure a garrison of patriotic supplies at Concord, pestering the British all the way back to their garrison at Boston. Did the American Soldier not fall at Fort Ticonderoga, or Bunker Hill, or at Saratoga? Did he not fall at the retreat from Manhattan, or while fighting the Hessians at Princeton or Trenton, or was their blood not shed as they attacked redoubts numbered 9 and 10 at Yorktown, the attacks which were key to victory at that famous battle? Why do we not remember that American Soldier?

During the Wars which we do not remember so fondly, at sea against the French in 1798, at the Raisin River right here in Michigan in 1813 during the War of 1812, did he not fall? At Tripoli during the Wars in 1804 and 1815? Why do we not remember the American Soldier from then?

Do we remember Fort Sumter? Do we remember Antietam? Do we remember Bull Run, battles One and Two, or the siege of Vicksburg? Do Chambersburg and Gettysburg, Gettysburg, the battle which many historians argue is one of the ten most critical battles of World History, World History, mind you, mean anything these days? Do we appreciate what that means to our nation even today?

The doughboys in World War I; do we know them these days? Yes, they are universally gone now. They should not be forgotten.

World War II and Korea live in our memories. Yet we forget Korea. That is, other than with the greatest cynicism, as presented by M*A*S*H. Why do we recall only with disdain the great victories of the American Soldier in Vietnam? Why do we not acknowledge the tremendous victory of the American Soldier of the TET Offensive during the New Year of 1968? The Viet Cong were blown off the field of battle as an effective fighting force for a year, an entire year, and the media which hates conservative America called it a military loss. Why do we forget you? Why do we forget the American Soldier of Operation Iraqi Freedom? Why do we forget the American Soldier who toils each day in Afghanistan? Why do we forget the American Soldier who toils each day holding the Al Qaeda militants at bay at Guantanamo, safe from attacking their fellow citizens?

We should not. We should not forget you any more than we should forget the veteran of Granada or Operation Desert Storm, of Panama or Haiti or the 200 or more military operations in our history. Has every action of the US been right? No; we are human. We have made mistakes. Where we have, nature and nature's God rightly demand we regret them and make amends where we can. Yet even then we must not forget that our sons and daughters have not died in vain. There were part of the greater cause, willing to serve their nation whenever or wherever it called. We must give them their due too.

The Nazis have not been the only evil in the world. They may have been not the worst evil, either. Other evils have arisen; evils whose blood soils the hand of the American Soldier. He was always and everywhere was concerned with rightness and justice no matter what. And that, dear friends, is how we ought remember him.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Time Outs are Evil

Time outs in any timed sport (except for those called by officials) simply lack integrity. No player, team, or manager/coach, indeed anyone with a direct interest in the outcome of the game, should be able to stop the clock merely because it's to their advantage. It is nothing less than unsportsmanlike.

It's entirely just to argue against nonofficial time outs. Part of a timed sport almost by definition is how well one can play during the time allotted. If you run out of time it generally says something about poor clock management, poor decision making, and poor play more than anything else. As such, time outs punish good defense and reward error. How many games, especially football and basketball games, are won by teams who took leads which they should not have had the opportunity to take simply because they could stop the clock merely because it suited them and only them, or prevented another team from running out the clock when they led? Either instance is hardly a fair measure of athletic ability. And neither have integrity.

Isn't that what sports are supposed to be about, integrity, fair play, and sportsmanship? If they aren't, why play them? What could they teach us otherwise except that it's okay to win any way we can, so long as we win?

But let's call time outs what they really are: manufactured excitement. The fans are getting played because the powers that be want more excitement any way they can generate it, to keep interest and make more money. Fans have bought into this hook, line, and sinker, so much so that they don't even realize their allegiances are being toyed with, so much so that they don't even care about whether the rules are sportsmanlike or not. It's become the Roman Colosseum all over again, bread and circuses, and it indicates a serious flaw in our society.

Time out rules are inherently partial because they play solely towards one side at a given, uh, time. But a good rule must be impartial; it should never play only to one side's advantage. Rules ought to be wholly impartial, and not simply in sports but in life in general. They require impartiality so that they may be applied fairly and justly.

Part of it too is that time outs separate acts from their natural consequences. If a team plays poorly for 58 minutes but can stop the clock often late in a game it makes light of their earlier mistakes. Does life give us such chances? Then why ought sports, if part of their intent (as defenders of athletics so often say) is to make us better people? Can they really make us better people if they allow wanton selfishness at critical points during play?

No, they can't. Until we learn that a game holds no lesson for us unless it has the most completely impartial rules possible then that game will only teach us that winning is everything. But when the Great Scorekeeper comes, will he accept that defense?

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

2013 Elections: Nothing Great

Well, nothing spectacular happened in any local races yesterday, which ought to have been expected. Mike Duggan was elected Mayor of Detroit (though not by so large a margin as we expected, even though it was almost a statistical landslide) and Detroit voters also elected Council members by district for the first time. A Latina, Raquel Castaneda-Lopez, was selected from Detroit's 6th Council district, and she is believed to be the first Hispanic ever elected to be for the Council. In Lincoln Park it appears that Elliott Zelenak will be the youngest City Council member ever there, being 18. Myriad other cities elected myriad others to various governmental positions, most of which are relatively blah except to the localities themselves.

Detroit saw a higher turnout than its last municipal election. A little over 25% of Detroit voted yesterday compared to around 22% in 2009. It's not exactly an outstanding number, but political wonks seem to believe it worth mention. The real big issue is probably that Detroit will have its first white mayor in 40 years in Duggan. Yet even that seems unimportant given that his election had long been a foregone conclusion; what excitement can there be when what was anticipated actually happened?

We do wonder whether some of the municipal offices require election. Why are we electing city and county clerks? Why can't they be appointed? There are likely many reasons for it, but we don't care to look them up. It sounds dull, so it probably is dull. We only the question to begin with because we don't see anyone getting truly excited over city clerk candidates; even political groupies seem rather ho-hum about them, don't they?

There were usual ballot initiatives which nobody but Library Larrys actually care about. Initiatives to fund community colleges were passed by people who think public vaguely education matters, while some provisions for road work (something where a local government actually has a legitimate sphere) passed too. There were probably a couple charter revisions as well, but, yawn.

Simply put, nothing earth shattering happened yesterday. It was what to be expected. And we all prefer things when they're we expect anyway, don't we?

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Elections 2013

Today there is an election in Detroit. Actually, there is probably an election in many other places besides Detroit, yet we doubt that it matters less anywhere except Detroit. It will be interesting to see how many folks show up to vote.

With the Emergency Manager and all it is difficult to imagine a more pointless endeavor than voting in Detroit today. Not that we're against the EM; Detroiters brought Kevyn Orr upon themselves through irresponsible voting as it is. And eventually the people elected today will indeed run the city. Perhaps the real questions are, will the newly elected have learned from the past and actually be responsible guardians of the public trust? Will the new Detroit City Council, elected mainly from districts, actually represent the city and not simply use their thrones to rant against everyone they suppose are against her? Will this be the true renaissance which brings Detroit back into respectability or merely another example of the provinciality which has plagued the town for years? Will Detroit actually become a part of Michigan, or continue to insist she stands alone?

We shall see. In the meantime, watch the local news and pretend, Detroiters, that we are still players in the Wolverine state. It will at least make things entertaining.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

NFL anti-bullying efforts Absurd

Any one else notice the odd bedfellows associated with anti-bullying crusade?

A Miami Dolphins football offensive tackle has reportedly been bullied by teammates, although the player, Jonathan Martin, reportedly holds nothing against his fellow players. Still, the Dolphins have announced that the team will not tolerate bullying. This from a member of an organization, the National Football League, which promotes organized and willful violence between its participating athletes on a daily and weekly basis through practices, scrimmages, and games. But they're against bullying.

Does anyone else see something absurd about that?

Similarly the WWE, or World Wrestling Entertainment, has for several years been active on the anti-bullying front through such promotions as its Be a STAR program (Show Tolerance And Respect) in which their roster of superstars go to schools to encourage kids not to be nor tolerate bullies. There's nothing wrong with that so far as it goes (we could quibble by asking such intrusive questions of a feel good campaign such as tolerate what? or respect it why? but such are for another time), but isn't it the least bit incongruent for a wrestling entertainment corporation which actively promotes trash talk among its members leading up to, during, and after wrestling events to turn around and, in real life, argue against the same behaviors? Can someone say mixed message?

Still, there are important differences between the two. The WWE brand of violence is comic and the organization knows it. Indeed, it plays it up. Wrestlers do things cooperatively in the ring so as to reduce the chance of serious injury. The violence of the NFL is intentional and uncooperative, and makes the League's anti-bullying cries seem at least vaguely hypocritical. The WWE is self aware. It doesn't promote violence per se. The NFL is at least arguably schizophrenic. Its violence is encouraged while its mouthpieces say things radically opposite of the attitudes encouraged for play in an actual game.

We find we can take the wrestlers' anti-bullying pleas more seriously. Go figure.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Libertarians are at War with Religion

We have written from time to time where we doubt the libertarian commitment to freedom of religion. Libertarians as a group haven't really come out with guns blazing to support the religious rights which are involved with the health care debate in the United States today. A recent article in Time appears to indicate why.

This: is a very interesting piece and worth a conservative taking a moment to read. It in many ways supports the idea that conservatives and libertarians could (in fact ought to) get along better. The seeds are there to the point where the poll cited as the basis of Nick Gillespie's writing (the American Values Survey) indicates that around 45 percent of those who may be identified as libertarians also call themselves Republicans, a higher affiliation than independents. Only 5 percent of libertarians call themselves Democrats, a mind bogglingly low number considering the general libertarian positions on social issues.

But the most troubling aspect is the assertion that libertarians 'are far less likely than most Americans to be religious and to think that religion has a place in politics.' This puts libertarian philosophy at odds with conservatives on questions of abortion and gay rights, the questions which are at the heart of the entire health care debate with regard to religion. Libertarians are so focused on the individual that they have trouble fathoming that an organization may have rights above the individual will.

Yet it must be noted that religious organizations are moral persons too (just as the government is a moral person, as are big or small businesses as well) and as such have rights individual to them. If a Catholic hospital does not want to offer abortions or a Catholic adoption agency does not want to adopt children to homosexuals, they have that right. Indeed if any given religious organization feels that way, they have that right. Truly, if an individual business does not want to offer certain health care options because of a serious religious conviction, it has that right too.

Libertarians don't seem to care about that. They are so focused on the person that they cannot accept that not each and every right is quite so personal. This means they have difficulty accepting that there are obligations on the person above or beyond that person's will whether that person wants to accept them or not. And now we are right at the crux of the abortion debate: who is a person, and what are their responsibilities? Further, we are faced with the issue of who determines responsibility: the person acting alone, or something greater than he or she?

We are willing to argue that the trouble stems from a lack of real respect for religion on the part of our libertarian friends if not also from a lack of responsibility in the best sense. Or, that is, from a lack of an understanding of the causes and sources of responsibility. They believe it is the person. Yet when they do that, they fail to consider whether a tyranny of the individual is better than the tyranny of society.

We're not arguing for either; tyranny is bad either way. But we are arguing for a better course than what we've got, one that should lean strongly towards individual freedom while keeping it checked where checks are needed. Conservatism, being so more closely in touch with right religious sentiment, indeed being more in touch with right sentiments generally, sees that. Libertarians, being generally disassociated with religion, do not. In the end, it is a telling example of why we are the one rather than the other.