Monday, June 30, 2014

Ask the Experts, then Think for Yourself

An article on the Everyday Health section of AOL today asserts that moderate drinking may well reduce the chances of an Aortic Aneurysm by a one in five mark for men while over a 2 in 5 rate for women. Moderate drinking there was defined as 10 drinks per week for men and 5 for women.

We're not going to get into the details as they're likely not enthralling and likely also not particularly enlightening. Some competent persons at some accredited institution surely are responsible for these findings. We will trust their sincerity. But can we really trust their findings? They might well be right, and who are we non-scientists unfamiliar with the exactitudes of research to question them?

But they may be wrong. This is not said to besmirch them but only to lead into our main points (you saw that coming, didn't you?). To begin with, why shouldn't alcohol as most things of this world offer certain benefits when used rationally? After that, how often do we hear from experts and how often are we told that we ought to listen to experts only to have them later countered by other experts? Whom do we listen to then?

We will now leave the first point basically alone as it appears to us as obvious as day. Most things used well and proper are okay. About all we care to add is that despite the good there will always be the bad. This is not by any inference to single out alcohol abuse. Yet it is to say that there are times and manners in which alcohol consumption is wrong, even simply in the general sense that alcohol is essentially a poison. But you get the drift. In an imperfect world you will have imperfect things and alcohol is not the least of them. Just be sensible and you should be okay.

It's the expert thing which really bother us. How often do they change their tune? At one time decaffeinated coffee was held as superior to regular. Then there were later stories by other coffee experts saying it was worse. How do we know who's advice is best? You ought to bear in mind that the examples of coffee and alcohol expertise come well before more dramatic forms such as we find in a courtroom. Expert One says the accused is insane; Expert Two says bosh, hang him high. What do you do when in such positions?

The same thing as you do with coffee and alcohol. Look at the data, look at yourself, and be sensible about their use. Listen to each side, talk with someone you trust, and decide as rationally as you can. Don't exclude presumably expert opinion. Just remember they aren't perfect either. And then go ahead and have your 5 or 10 drinks per week and with a couple cups of decafs if you like.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Lime Creme Oreos and the Individual

Oh, a kid'll eat the middle of an Oreo first. Or will he, if the flavor is waffles and syrup?

Nothing appears sacred anymore. When the most popular cookie in the world feels that it has to try unusual things in order to appeal to the market, as it has recently with waffles and syrup (as well as myriad other flavors), it is easy to wonder just what's going on with the world. Sure, there's no evil in trying new tastes per se, and if that's what folks want who are we to criticize? After all, lime flavor has always been properly respected where it matters. With a twist of it in a gin and tonic, for example.

But why do we see all this, well, innovation seems an overwrought term to use. Limes and lime flavor have been around for a long time, and we see it in everything from tortilla chips to beer to now, cookies. Yet why do we see it in cookies, let alone those other products? Especially beloved ones such as good old Oreos? The whole idea simply feels bizarre on some level.

One easy explanation is that the makers of the famous treat, Nabisco, are merely responding to market forces. There's nothing wrong with that, again adding the dreaded caveat per se. The market tends to make things better by offering choices and by making improvements on various levels and in various ways which are sometimes unimaginable at a glance. Having said that, we cannot ignore the implications of changing things simply to change them. If the markets are doing nothing more than reflecting upon that, what does that say about us?

What are we looking for, that we can't be satisfied with good old Oreo cookies? Why ought things change merely to change, merely to be different? To display our individuality? Surely when we have to do things differently solely to display our independence we are in fact the most dependent of creatures. If we must have lime creme cookies in order to be special then we aren't so special because we're merely being contrary to the current fashion. Our personalities and outlooks would be dependent upon it. What are we hiding from when we can't like what other people over several generations have found quite pleasing?

Ourselves. We are hiding from whatever type of person we really need to be, the kind of person we know in our hearts we ought to be, yet resist because that person is not actually of this perceived reality. Finding no God in the modern world yet pressured by society to be somebody we strive for we know not what. We believe we find that not in things and matters of substance, but in lime flavored Oreos.

Yes, yes, yes, we realize the hyperbole in what we've just asserted. We know, we've already said, that there's nothing wrong with experimenting with new cookie flavors let alone habits of fashion per se (yes, we must again add that). We even readily concede that the flavor of an Oreo isn't substantial in any useful philosophic sense. And we certainly do not want to be the reactionary conservative who opposes simply to oppose, who sees every change as dangerous if not sinful. Those reactionaries are as wrong in their attitudes as the revolutionaries who want to alter everything. We simply want people to understand that what was once accepted can continue to be accepted without surrendering any true individuality on our parts. We want also for folks to accept the converse: that if you must change what are mere habits, simple personal proclivities, simply to be different, you aren't particularly individual after all.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Light Rail Saturday

So the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un thinks that the new Seth Rogan and James Franco movie The Interview is an act of war. He obviously has not seen The Green Hornet.

Speaking of communist countries, China has said that it will not allow Hillary Clinton's book, Hard Choices, to be sold there. Apparently in it she is critical of China and Beijing doesn't like that. What does this tell us about China? Simply that an more enlightened economy doesn't necessarily translate into real freedom.

The United States Supreme Court has ruled that it's okay to protest on a public thoroughfare. Indeed, that it's okay to protest right in front of abortion clinics. That this is a victory for freedom of speech is significant; that it is a victory for the Pro Life movement even more so. But again we hear crickets from our libertarian friends who otherwise cheer almost rabidly for 'freedom', whatever that means. To them it clearly means freedom to do what they like done. Being in favor of abortion, the freedom to protest against it is frowned upon by the image makers of libertarianism, even though all it does is promote freedom. Isn't that what they want?

On July 28th the construction of the Woodward Avenue light rail system will begin. It is little more than another attempt by the powers that be to make people travel on their schedule rather than on their own. One wonders whether it will have the success of the Detroit People Mover, that notoriously unused loop of concrete which winds around the downtown areas (and perilously close to the sports arenas as well). Yet some business owners are keeping the stiff upper lip, hoping that in the long run it will help their retailing. Let's say we're skeptical.

That's it, that's our Saturday morning, cough, light railing about this and that. You are welcome.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Hank Hill and Education Funding

King of the Hill was one great TV show, we'll tell you what. It dealt with issues of the day without being heavy handed, and often also did so with good insights. One such episode dealt with a school trying to get around No Child Left Behind standards by putting enough academically troubling kids in the 'slow class' to ensure that the local school passed the approaching standardized tests demanded under NCLB.

It is said that the best humor has a certain truth to it. This storyline fits that adage. It wouldn't surprise us to discover schools and school districts doing exactly what was described in the above mentioned story. A local to Detroit school administrator has admitted as much in private: schools sometimes try to get around certain standards by labeling lower scoring students as special needs, thus exempting them from the higher standard of the regular classroom.

This isn't to disparage standardized tests. We've defended ourselves and stand by our earlier assertions that they aren't that big a deal. But the main thing wrong in the King storyline are the federally imposed standards which we've also spoken against. As a body politic we say that we want diversity in education, then promptly try to centralize education under an increasingly massive, and itself difficult to hold accountable, national bureaucracy. Why shouldn't we expect localities like school districts, we can be held accountable (according to that far off bureaucracy anyway) to flaunt the rules when they can?

Which leads to another salient point. Bureaucracies tend to protect themselves. Anyone at the public trough, whether at an enormous DC Department of Education or a smaller local school, will do what it can to keep the cash flowing. This will include sleight of hand tricks which appear to be doing something (such as seeming to give kids who 'need' extra help that 'help') up to punishing schools which score low with less cash (without any regard for the local issues which, quite naturally, will affect school performance). Bureaucracies are hammers, so every problem is a nail.

Unfortunately that means the big hammers will win in the long run. That thought gives us a certain sympathy for all the Landry Middle Schools of the land. They may not have been right in their approach to their problem. Yet given the monolith of No Child Left Behind, perhaps they were only doing what they could.

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Pope and Marijuana

Pope Francis has come out against the legalization of pot and other generally illegal drugs. There hasn't been a tremendous amount of reaction to that yet. Why?

No doubt in part because the issue just isn't seen as particularly important these days. Marijuana usage has become so common that no one sees it as truly harmful. Maybe so, maybe no; that's more than we know and, quite frankly, probably more than most of the supporters of legalizing it know. When 'everyone' does 'it' it isn't so bad, you know?

But enough of this nonsense. We were going to say more; we were going to offer a couple more helpful analogies to help lay the background to understanding what were want to say. Instead, let's cut to the chase. The point isn't actually about marijuana. The real question is about how the media and, by extension, the world treats the Holy Father and anyone else who might actually be trying to see the world without the rose colored glasses, without drinking the Kool Aid. The point is that the world wants what it wants. In the case of Pope Francis, it wants to hear what it wants to hear from him, and nothing else matters.

If he even vaguely suggests something which sounds un-Catholic (and, by extension, 'this worldly'), the story is front page news. When he speaks compassionately about homosexuals his words are all over the place. Yet when he reaffirms traditional doctrine, no one in the press says much. Can you imagine why?

We can. It's because the media (and, by extension, the world) doesn't like to be told what to do when such advice especially is against what they want. The world wants affirmation; it is seduced by any hint that it may be right, that it is its own judge, and revels in anything which champions that attitude. The world does not want introspection. Individuals do not want their consciences examined. And the main trouble with good and serious religion is that it demands exactly that. This isn't to say that Pope Francis is correct on marijuana and drug usage. Contrary to popular belief, the Roman Pontiff isn't seen as entirely infallible. He is only that when he speaks as the Head of the Church. He might be wrong about recreational drug usage. But the media and the social networks don't want to hear that. They only want to hear the nice old man tell them that they're really okay and, from that, that whatever they do is okay too. Anything else

just isn't newsworthy.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

That Inconsolable Longing

C. S. Lewis speaks of something which, in German, is called Sehnsucht. He translates that as the inconsolable longing. It is a wish, says Wikipdeia, for we know not what. But we know not what, don't we? And it hurts very deeply, doesn't it?

We want what we cannot on this earth have. We want to be free and brave and bold and happy. We want peace and love; we want there to be no hunger or strife in the world. We want to be with our friends and families always, doing only the good things, the things which will make us truly happy. Simply, we want all the things not fully available in this world.

Lewis takes that a step farther. He argues, quite sensibly, one should think, that we would not have such a feeling if it were not possible that such a feeling could not somehow, someday, be assuaged. We live and love today, in this world, under these circumstances; but it is all so incomplete. Yet we hope there is more. But more than hope; in our hearts, we know it is there.

That is why we so often feel sad. We have that knowledge that things ought to be better. We know that there has to be a somewhere where things are as they should be. We sense it; we feel it; we are, by a very taut cord, attached to it. It is there. It has Being.

And we are detached from it as long as we live on this world. Therein lies the pain, the yearning; the inconsolable longing. We know that it is possible, indeed, we know that it is likely (if we know anything at all) and true. We know that things are not as they should be. We know that someday it will all be put to right.

If we wish it yet only because we need that sense of the ideal in order to make it day to day this world, and nothing more, then our actions are vain. Only if things will be as they should be in the end will any of our hopes and dreams and fancies of this world have meaning. Pretending is merely a child's game, a fool's errand. Only if we trust that that something better, that more perfect reality, exists, will our labors and sentiments be of value.

The inconsolable longing. It hurts. Hopefully you have it and hurt as well.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Leftists, Libertarians hypocrites on Legislating Morals

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

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

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

This includes things decided by the courts. Interestingly enough, the left and libertarians don't seem to mind this when it fits their social agendas. No one on their side of the aisle ever scoffed at Roe v Wade as a form of government mandated morality. Few if any of them in this day and age have expressed the slightest dismay at federal courts overturning state regulations on what constitutes marriage. In short, if they don't have a problem with it, it isn't legislating or affirming morals. It's justice; only bad old conservatives actually force anything on anyone you know.

We can and we must legislate morals. We do it all the time. The only real questions are which ones, and under what circumstances. But it's high time time to get off the table the idea that governments cannot legislate or, worse, as we see with marriage and even now mere patent issues, command morals. They do it every single day. That's why it is so very important that the moral judgments they make are right and necessary, and not arbitrary or capricious.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Redskins and the US Patent Office

Okay. Now the United States Patent Office has gotten into the fray. It has revoked patents on the Washington Redskins name; yet we hear little about free speech rights despite that.

This isn't to defend the Redskins, whose name admittedly is pretty offensive. There's no point denying that, Washington fans. But there are issues nonetheless with what the Patent Office, and arm of the US Government, has done, as well as free speech questions seen more broadly.

When the government funds art, even or perhaps especially art which is clearly intended to insult (such as the Crucifix in urine thing years ago), we're supposed to accept it as a defense of free speech even with our tax dollars paying for the offense. Yet offend certain other folks and government action goes exactly the other way. This is more than merely schizophrenic. It is dangerous when a government can say what is and is not legitimate free speech. That is exactly what the action does.

The real bottom line is that Redskins should change their name and Washington itself should get out of the business of censorship, even with such relatively mild forms as a patent office rebuke. The move isn't likely to actually hurt the organization, but it sets a bad precedent for our future leaders who might one day employ such tactics against their political enemies. Mere football games and team names will matter after that point is reached.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Soccer's Boring. There, We Said it.

OK, we're going to say it. We're going to be 'that' guy, we're going to be the American dinosaur about the game. Despite all the gushing over the 2014 World Cup, we're going to say the thing which most Americans are thinking, and they're thinking it because they're right.

Soccer's boring.

Sorry, world sports community, but 0-0 and 1-1 games simply lack real excitement. A lead of two goals with twenty, heck, thirty minutes left is generally insurmountable, and even soccer fans know that. The game is dull: they need to widen the net or take a few players off the field or something.

There's a reason so many Yanks haven't taken to the game. We like to see sports where teams are actually in the game for the whole length of it. A 4-0 baseball contest can still be overcome in the late innings, and American football and basketball stop the clock so often that it almost guarantees no one is out until the fat lady sings (an issue of sportsmanship and fair play in itself, but one which provides at least manufactured excitement). You know why Portugal lost 4-0 the other day? Because even they knew, after the second German goal, that they were toast.

And then, when they finally decide to actually allow a team to win a close game, and when that winner isn't produced in a hundred and twenty minutes, two whole (real) hours of play, they end it with a shootout, where either the lucky shooter or lucky goalie secures the win. That's like winning a World Series on a home run contest or a Super Bowl on a field goal (oh, they do that, don't they?). At the least NHL lets hockey players win a Stanley Cup on the ice and not after a series of one on ones.

We're not saying that the game is unathletic or the players without skill and stamina. It's just dull. That tells us more about the rest of the world than it does about the US, quite frankly.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Father's Day 2014

Today is Father's Day. It is and should be a day of celebration. Let Dad, as the joke goes, sit and have a beer and watch the ball game. In short, what he does all the time anyway.

But there is a serious issue here. For years the importance of fatherhood was neglected, and very often by the very fathers we are expected to honor and emulate. Much of it began with government aid programs. When dad became superfluous because our father in Washington would take care of his family anyway, many dads took the message as having taken patriarchical responsibility from their own shoulders, and started to live accordingly. The effects of the broken homes and lack of discipline this encouraged are still being felt in many communities today.

Then, rather than do things which respected families as whole units, mom, dad, and the kids, we began to look at single parenthood, which translated into pure matriarchy, as a virtue. Now, that surely can be. Sometimes it is forced upon mothers with the loss of a father through death or abandonment and may be genuinely heroic in that context. Yet it is hard to believe that most mothers would want that. Most would certainly want the aid of the other parent if for no other reason than help with daily trials. But more, any good parent should see that proper guidance is needed from the masculine and feminine. There is a reason that the right family structure involves both. Each one instructs in its own way, and through which a complete individual is better born.

So on this Father's Day it is best to remember that fathers are needed every day in many ways. If your dad is here, have a beer with him and watch a few innings of the game next to him. If he has passed, have the beer anyway and listen as he nonetheless watches a few innings with you. And if he has simply shirked his responsibilities, pray that he finds the courage to return to his correct role. For as with good mothers, without good fathers we are not whole. No one wants to be half a person.

Friday, June 13, 2014

The President and Iraq

The war in Iraq isn't over; far from it. Terrorists linked to al-Qaida have taken over a large swath or Iraq, including the towns of Mosul and Tikrit. This has sent residents away in droves, becoming refugees in their own land. President Barack Obama has pledged support for the Iraqi government in fighting these insurgents. He is exploring military options such as air strikes but is not yet committing to ground forces.

There are two essential problems here. The first is that, in eliminating the Saddam Hussein regime, a long lasting, stable, and democratic Iraq is nevertheless a long way off. After the lives lost and monies spent in getting to the point where that nation is at today, nothing short of doing all we can reasonably do to insure that noble goal is achieved can be considered a victory for humanity much less the Iraqi people. Nor will there be justice for those who gave their lives during the Iraq War, military or civilian. It appears that that means more war.

Yet perhaps the most difficult issues lie in the continuance of terrorism and the nature of Iraqi politics and society. An Iraqi immigrant who works in Detroit and wishes to remain anonymous explains: "Saddam had to go, no doubt about that. But what Americans don't understand is that there are people who only understand harsh rule. While Saddam was in power, despite how bad he was, the country was stable. It was because of his iron fist. There won't be democracy in Iraq without more of that for many years. It will be a slow process."

The lesson here is simple. Freedom means more than the absence of a despot, and is it won by more than good wishes, happy thoughts, and abstract political philosophy. We live in a concrete world and no amount of talk and thought will change that. We must be willing to act or anything we say will be held suspect by those who disagree with us. The sooner we learn this, the more we will actually be able to accomplish in this world.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

The Lansing fantasy world

The Michigan State Senate has refused, for now, to increase gas taxes to pay for road repair. What can this tell us about politics?

A lot, and very little. That the state needs to do something about its roads is obvious. But getting a legislature to do anything is as tedious as it is difficult.

The main problem seems to be that two different bills, one supporting a property tax credit while the other would raise gas taxes, are tied together. One can't pass without the other. Why? Ostensibly to get bipartisan support on both issues.

It all sound like stone soup. But the problem is that stone soup doesn't work without willing cooperation along with a bit of sleight of hand. It is a fantasy world scenario; yet we live in a real world. Real worlds almost by their nature don't support fantasies.

What we have here is a group of folks trying to satisfy everybody in a situation where not everyone will be satisfied. The real answer is for the majority to use its power to get something done as in the best interests of their constituents. Seeing as the GOP controls Michigan government, it should be that hard to get something done, especially as the will of the people of Michigan seems clear, considering that the Republicans are a majority of everyone in Lansing.

Wait a minute...maybe we, the supporters of the Republican Party, are the ones living in a dream world.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Libertarians at best neutral on 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.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Pope Francis lectures Muslims

Incredible. Just who does this guy think he is? The leader of the largest Christian Church on earth and here he goes around lecturing those of other faiths? And on issues of religion no less.

Pope Francis has told the Muslims that religious freedom is paramount among the freedoms. People have the right to follow the religion which they judge to be true. No coercion. No belief by the sword. People must be free to find God themselves.

This is coming from the head of the Catholic Church. You know, the one which is so very intolerant of everyone else. The one which calls on the individual to regulate himself, to remember that by himself he is nothing but ego. The Church which teaches that abortion and gay marriage are moral affronts despite what the individuals involved want. The one which, horror of horrors, asks simply that we question ourselves and our motives objectively and accept and live the answers, as any seriously minded soul should want. The one which is so concerned with our individuality that it demands we examine our affections in order that we become the full and complete individuals we should be. The person we should, in truth, want to be.

The leader of the most intolerant institution in human history supports religious freedom. It would be nice to hear such assertions come from our libertarian brethren but, of course, they don't believe in the individual so much as they say they do. They believe the individual should be able to do whatever he wants short of harming other folks or employing any type of 'coercion'. This conveniently avoids any kind of honest introspection, exactly as Islam does.

Tyranny comes from all corners. It's fascinating that it comes from libertarians and Islam more than Rome.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Detroit should approve of Brightmoor goats

Detroit certainly has its problems, blight being perhaps the least of them. Still, it is a problem, and one has to wonder what innovative solutions might be out there to help obliterate it.

Urban farming is often discussed, and it appears reasonable enough. What harm can there be in growing crops useful to man and beast in areas where things must less useful are cultivating the land through nature?

An obvious variation on such farming would be raising and using harmless animals on the blighted land. This is precisely what a company called Idyll Farms Detroit has just begun doing: on an unoccupied block of land in the city's Brightmoor district, the company put 18 young goats. They were to feed on the extant weeds and, coincidentally, clear the immediate area of an eyesore. Needless to say, Detroit officials are giving the goats the boot. City ordinances prohibit keeping 'wild animals' within the city limits.

Goats are wild animals? Apparently they are to the city of Detroit. Who knew, after all these years, that we had been endangering our kids when we took them to state fairs and petting zoos?

This is another example of how governments get things wrong and then proceed to become hardheaded when challenged about it. There isn't any imaginable harm a bunch of young goats properly tended can do to anyone. But the ordinance is there and it's going cost the Idyll farms five hundred bucks per goat if they aren't gone by noon this Monday.

All we can say is, baaaaa humbug to Detroit officials.

Friday, June 6, 2014

D-Day: 70 years ago

D-Day: June 6, 1944. Seventy years ago today began the largest amphibious landing of an armed force in world history. As Allied troops hit the beaches at Normandy in the wee hours of the morning, at points code named Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, and Sword, the liberation of Europe was begun. The high point of the Greatest Generation was underway.

The Greatest Generation stands now at its wane. Its members are virtually all in their 80s now. The celebrations of their accomplishments are becoming fewer, smaller, and less intense. Even with improvements in medicine and diet, only a mere handful will still be around in fifteen or twenty years. Many if not most of their numbers are gone already.

It is no small compliment to call them the greatest. Has their been any other challenge successfully met by anyone else in any other time? True, we are dealing in immeasurables when we say such things. Yet it's still pretty clear that nothing anywhere close to the magnitude of World War II has occurred in all of human history. Might a greater threat and a greater harm possibly rise? Yes, of course. But to date this is it.

What can we learn from these people? We can learn perseverance, we can learn faith; we can learn to believe that, when a serious threat to home and hearth nears, humanity can rise to meet and defeat it. We can learn the humility which so many of the Greatest have displayed when speaking of their efforts in later years. We can learn that all of history teaches us to respect and remember what those who have gone before us have done for us. We can remember that our lives are here today only because of what they did with their lives, and against terrible odds under unspeakable conditions.

We can learn to respect heroism. We can learn to revere the heroes.

Never forget.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Revising the Bill of Rights isn't education

Sixth graders in a school in Arkansas were given an assignment to revise the Bill of Rights as they have become outdated. You can read about the task here: if you like.

We chose not to read it, and for very good reasons. First and foremost, we can't possibly see how any such drivel could really pass for education. The typical sixth grader simply isn't going to have the wherewithal to discuss anything as important as human rights with any useful insight. This isn't to dismiss them as dumb. But it is to point out that they simply are not likely to have the academic background or real world experience to contribute anything significant to such debates. They're sixth graders, for crying out loud. They cannot as a group be taken as seriously as the actual authors of the Constitution could be.

Secondly, and we know this from experience with serious schoolteachers and not from the facilitators graduating from many teacher academies, assignments like this are not education. They're open ended bull sessions which are easy to grade. They make the job of the teacher and student easier. The former's job becomes less difficult while the latter receives an artificially good grade. After all, you might have to tell a student who misidentifies the Fourth Amendment that he's wrong and hurt his GPA and self esteem. How can you call his view (and almost assuredly a knee jerk and shallow view it will be) of a revised Bill of Rights wrong, especially once you've established that the current one is broke and needs his special expertise to fix? All you will get from such assignments will be arrogant and self satisfied students. And teachers.

We feel, or, better, we hope, that most adults would get this. Most adults, again, hopefully, will see it for the tripe it is. Yet even as we say that we fear we are wrong, because too many American adults these days came through similar schools and did similar work. It is small wonder Americans are behind many other nations in math and science and real knowledge. America doesn't respect such areas and it came through American teaching.

You'll notice we haven't even gotten into the philosophy behind such an assignment yet, either. We don't have to. There isn't a serious philosophy behind it. There is only the promotion of ego. Yet folks wonder why there is increasing disrespect for others in the United States today. It all begins with sixth graders who know how to run a country.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Detroit Loves Robocop? Why?

Robocop, the fictional cyborg police officer set in a futuristic and crime plagued Detroit, will throw out the first pitch at tonight's Detroit Tigers game against the Toronto Blue Jays. His motorcycle will be on display. At some point soon, too, a Robocop statue is supposed to be placed in the city. Which leaves only one question: are we supposed to be proud of this?

Sure, it's based on fiction, and we'll even accept that it all is intended to be in good fun. But is it good fun considering Detroit's reputation? Let's face it, the city hasn't been seen as a shining light on a hill in a very long time. It has long been the butt of the nation's jokes. Indeed, it's long been the butt of jokes in outstate Michigan and certainly among the suburbs. Do Detroiters actually want to revel in a character which embraces such attitudes?

We don't think we're being sticks in the mud to ask this. Indeed, there is a subtle irony in the situation which can't help but bring a smile to one's face along with a shake of the head. Still, Detroit embracing the Robocop culture?

Something just feels wrong about it.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Faith Heals

Metro Detroit doctor Earlexia Norwood prays. She prays for guidance while diagnosing illnesses, and sometimes prays with her patients. It's because she believes that faith helps the healing process, and that medicine can't do everything.

There has been much research on the connection between faith and healing. Dr. Harold G. Koenig, director of Duke University's Center for Spirituality, Theology and Health, says that there have been many studies into the issue of religious belief and curing the sick, and that around two-thirds of them find a healthy correlation between the two.

It is fascinating to hear Detroit physicians and surgeons so accepting of the role faith plays when treating their patients. True doctors, those open to the fact that they can't do it all medically, are more than willing to give the higher powers of religion their due. After all, they became doctors to help people. The desire to help is naturally unselfish and welcomes any aid which it may get. It makes you wonder how much healing we might receive in any and all walks of life if we were self effacing enough to put faith at the center of curing all societal ills and not only the physical.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Brazil and the World Cup in 2014

Brazil, it seems, in being plagued. By soccer, no less, or what the rest of world calls football. The World Cup is only days away and facilities aren't ready while protesters have been everywhere, questioning whether the Brazilian government should pay what it is for a sporting event while ostensibly not being about to offer basic public services. Now a hacker organization is threatening cyber attacks against the event's sponsors as part of that protest.

We could debate the minutiae all day long, but we surely can agree that no government ought to pay towards the support of sporting events. This we argue is simple principle: sports, being for private enjoyment, are no province of a government. Further, and we do realize that this point is even more debatable, there are questions as to what types and what degree of public services should be supplied by government. If either issue were addressed rightly, they would be a lot more cash to see to human needs generally.

Be all that as it may, we cannot condone hacking into corporate sites. Whatever monies they put up they put up of their own choice, and there is no causal connection between between Coke and Budweiser and Brazilian poverty. As to the general welfare of the Brazilian people, well, that's ultimately for Brazil to address. But huge sporting events are notoriously poor deals for nations, as any study of the Olympics will attest. So the real problem here is the mixing of ideals in ways which don't actually help anyone. Except, perhaps, the already well off.

Corporate welfare, and world wide soccer surely qualifies as such, is as wrong as corporate welfare in the United States. The haves should not receive government privilege, especially on the questionable grounds of helping the have nots. It only creates greater jealousies. Such will not ameliorate the poverty issues. Nor, in the long run, the well off.