Monday, June 29, 2015

Freedom isn't necessarily just

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Saturday Ramblings

We opined the other day that the Confederate battle flag has to go with regard to its display on government properties, and we stand by that. But those who think it a less than compelling issue, well, they have a point and it should be acknowledged. With all the other troubles in the world, an old flag isn't all that important. And considering that many who support its removal are grandstanding in light of a terrible human tragedy should put the right spin on the question too: are they in it on principle or simply looking for easy political points? The Charleston massacre and removing the banner are indeed two separate issues. They ought to be seen that way.

Gay marriage (we will always address it that way) is now the rule in the United States. But don't worry, religious institutions are protected from it. No religious organization will be forced to sanction a homosexual arrangement. It won't happen.

Right. Twenty years ago gay marriage wasn't supposed to happen and see how quickly that changed. Don't think this won't, or can't, change either. Now that acting out on homosexuality is a civil right, let's wait and see how much longer your civil right to freedom of religion will last. Whenever there's a conflict of rights one set of rights will lose. We have a bad feeling over which one will in this instance.

It is interesting that all those liberals who cried foul that George W. Bush was supposedly elected President by the single vote of a Supreme Court justice now find it okay that a single justice could overturn not simply American law but universal justice. Hypocrisy, they name is progressive?

Has anyone in Michigan considered that if we were to have taken the money being poured into a three mile light rail on Woodward Avenue in Detroit into fixing the roads in all of Michigan, many of them could get fixed on that money alone, and in the more general interest? Just wondering.

See y'all next time.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Rebel flag has to go

In the aftermath of the murder of nine people in a church in Charleston, South Carolina last week, much hay is being made over the State's impending decision to remove the Confederate battle flag from a memorial near the capitol in Columbia. As the murderer was a racist and the flag is seen as a symbol of racism, many retailers are also now refusing to sell memorabilia with the flag as well.

While we will grant that with all the more pressing problems in the world a dispute over a flag could be seen as innocuous, we see more than that ourselves. Defenders of the rebel banner say it doesn't mean anything, that it's just a symbol of a long ago time in American history. This seems disingenuous. You can't argue that it's 'only' a symbol because symbols have purpose. They mean things. In this case, given that the Civil War was in fact about slavery and not states' rights (a concept disingenuous itself) it is easy to see that the Confederate flag means slavery and racism. That's a rather nasty symbol in our book.

Then too, if a flag is merely a symbol, what can we say of the Stars and Stripes? What could that famous picture at the top of Mt. Suribachi on Iwo Jima mean should the raising of that glorious banner not be the focal point? What might be said in general of the Maple Leaf, the Union Jack, or the Fleur-de-lis? Have they raised pride during their use? How many Don't tread on Me flags do we see around in recent times? What's the point, if it doesn't mean something stirring and positive? On the other side of the issue, need it be said what the swastika or the rising sun have come to mean?

This is not to say that such flags should not be produced or sold. But it is to say that they do not need to be nor should be a part of any patriotic display or government sanctioned memorial, or adorned on a government building or grounds. Such banners may be useful in historical displays, in film backgrounds, or in private collections, to name a few areas. But as the symbol of a supposedly free people, the very same symbol worshiped by a murderous thug for all the divisive reasons it entails, the rebel flag has got to go. It is specious to believe otherwise, and dubious to give credence to any defense of the Confederate battle flag as a mere symbol.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

June 23, 2013

She was walking right towards me; such a pretty young woman. Golden hair cropped short yet curled around and under the ears. Her eyes were blue and sparkling, like sapphires. Slender. She was pretty, quite the sight. I knew immediately there was something about her.

We approached each other steadily, our paths directly in line. Then our eyes met, and she began to speak. "You're with Mr. Cosgriff?" she asked. "The neurosurgeons want to have a family conference."

I knew that moment what I had felt sure of for several weeks. Dad was going to die.

I was the first one at the hospital that Sunday morning, about a week after his surgery for a subdural hematoma. He wasn't responding. He had been sick for about two weeks before entering the hospital. I had feared the worst, knew it, and now it was confirmed. Dad had less than a one percent chance of pulling through. He would be gone on Tuesday.

June 23, 2013. Such a pretty young thing. Such horrible words coming from her lips.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Mulberry Season 2015

Funny, isn’t it, how we sometimes identify people with certain times, places, or things.

In the alley behind our old family repair shop there is a row of mulberry bushes which have been there for years. My grandfather would, in the late spring or early summer when they were in season, always stop and treat himself to a few of the little fruits as he went to and from work.

Little? Well, mulberries are small compared to most fruits. In context, they’re like raspberries who have spent a lot of time in the gym; a scant few are a handful. They’re juicy and sweet, and Grandpa Joe liked them. I remember vividly his picking and popping them into his mouth as he made his way down the alley, as though he were a kid again.

Time passes, and so, sadly, did Grandpa Joe. Yet the mulberries still grew, and I couldn’t help over the years but develop a liking to them myself. As I hike to and from work nowadays I’ll stop and have a few. As it were, my daughter also came to know and like the mulberries too. Often we’ll take bowls and go fill them with the little purple black fruits, snacking as we pick, and my wife will make pies out of those which make it back home. I like the idea that three generations of a family have been able to enjoy those berries ripening on the same bushes.

Now, I’m not all that naive; I know that Joe Cosgriff was ornery and arbitrary, with a hair trigger temper. I know it from the tales my Dad and his siblings have told, and from the personal experience of having worked with him for a good 15 or 18 years. I know too that there was a part of him which was somehow kind and appreciative, and that there were moments when these came out despite, perhaps, himself. There were good times and trying ones, and lasting impressions. I find as I grow older that, in the end, it is the good times which matter more than the difficult, even if it seems there were more tough days than easy. I believe too that the smallest, almost innocuous, memories can also be the greatest insights into the honest character of someone.

What prompts me to write this? It’s June, and the mulberries are in. And I’m thinking about you, Joe.

Friday, June 19, 2015

The Pope's Environment

Pope Francis has released an encyclical which has caused quite a stir, especially among the left of center but even within the conservative community. We haven't read it yet, but we will say a few things about it before we do.

First of all, don't let the media drive the thought process over Laudato Si’ (Praise Be to You). It has a selfish motive, the same selfish motive which drives much of its coverage of religion: it wants to harm all genuine faith and marginalize it in the secular world. Remember too it has been wrong before in its reporting of what the Pope has said. Read the letter without regard for what media outlets assert.

To conservative Catholics, it is important that you not reject its teaching simply because you may fear they are errant. You've often accused liberal Catholics of being the cafeteria kind: picking what they want out of the faith while ignoring what they don't personally care to support. If we expect them to at least seriously and prayerfully consider the instructions of Humanae vitae, Pope Paul VI's famous instructions against artificial birth control, then you must not reject the correct core teachings of Laudato Si'. We'll venture to guess that they aren't so bad anyway.

Back to the more general audience, it should be pointed out that good stewardship is a good thing. We are not within our rights to run rampant over the Earth. While we may rightfully argue for private property as the best kind of stewardship we must recall that no less that St. Thomas Aquinas taught that even private property should be held as public. We must treat what is indelibly ours as if it belonged to everyone. This belief does not run contrary to Catholicism, conservatism, or even libertarianism at all. We cannot imagine that the Pope has in fact, in an important teaching document, strayed that far from faith and reason himself.

We'll say more as time goes on and we read the letter ourselves. But for now our advice is: liberals and secularists, don't, ahem, read too much into this. Conservatives, don't you either.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Latest MLB Scandals

Who says that Major League baseball is boring? Why, it's facing not pen but two major scandals. One of them is so serious that the FBI might just come a'callin. It seems that the St. Louis Cardinals may have hacked into the Houston Astros database; Washington certainly needs to look into that. Meanwhile, Kansas City Royals fans are stuffing the ballot, leading to the prospect that seven of the eight non-pitching starters for the American League will be from the confines of Kauffman Stadium.

That second issue ultimately is silly. It is just a ballgame, and an exhibition one at that. Still, that doesn't mean that the integrity of the sport and some of its fans shouldn't be subject to question. MLB will have to address this issue on those matters alone. But at least KC ballot box stuffing isn't likely to result in real injury.

Not so much perhaps the violation of Houston's property. Theft of confidential information, especially in a competitive field (yes, we do like the irony of such phrasing; we're far too proud of it in fact), does matter. Millions of dollars are at stake, and not necessarily among only the rich owners and players. Who knows how much money could be lost among the ticket sellers, vendors and all, if a team gains an advantage from ill gotten gains. We're not being snarky here: this would be a serious crime if true. Being that it involves interstate commerce questions. If not the Feds, the situation merits that somebody investigate.

Sports are too important in our culture. In the whole world, really, considering the FIFA scandal which has interested even American officials. We've said as much ourselves, and stand by it. Yet when money is involved, the immediate circumstances take precedence over any arguably ideal situation. Not so much if at all with Kansas City rooters, to be sure. With the Cardinals' alleged actions something should be done.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

It's Location, Location, Location

One of the most basic axioms a conservative should have in his arsenal is known as the Principle of Subsidiarity. Plainly stated, it says that things should be done on the most local level possible. Why? Because that it the surest way to get necessary things accomplished in the most efficient manner.

The closer we are to a problem the better we ought to be able to understand it. We will see it more clearly, and indeed, particularly with issues and events nearby, we will likely have a greater interest in it. Schools, for example, should by and large be run within the local community because it is the locals who have the greatest interest in the education of their kids. Their kids are the ones who are generally going to hang around and run things when the current generation cannot anymore.

As a rule, the closer to a problem the less money which must be spend alleviating it. This is in part due to localized control, again as issues should be seen more clearly but also as there would be no added layers of bureaucracy which would otherwise have to be paid for by the electorate. Perhaps this is why, try as she might, Washington cannot get a grip on poverty: too much money which is supposed to help the poor in fact keeps bureaucrats at a desk.

There are of course many factors to consider when deciding what job should be done where in a national scheme. A nation as a whole must take up the defense of its people: could Detroit reasonably be expected to ward off an attack by a large foreign power on its own? If we were to leave Detroit to its own devices (a prospect many folks out there may not mind, but let's set aside jokes right now) we would hardly be a nation in the best sense of the word.

As a rule, conservatives would argue that few powers would be nationwide in scope. Military protection, the necessary and proper federal judicial arrangements, coinage, and issues of commerce (to varying degrees) come first to mind. State power would be wider than that of municipalities, perhaps, while communities would see to the bulk of day in and day out tasks: police and fire protection, trash pickup, and to the schools, among other chores.

We could go on all day discussing particulars, but you get the point. Local control is the best remedy for most ills. It is a point which should be discussed, if you'll excuse the irony, on a wider scale.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Stephen Hawking, Fake 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.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

June 6, 1944

Utah. Omaha. Gold. Juno. Sword. You get it? We don't. Utah. Omaha. Gold. Juno. Sword. Still not 'get' it? Utah. Omaha. Gold. Juno. Sword. These names should be burned in our memories. Utah. Omaha. Gold. Juno. Sword. Burned, we say. Burned. Utah. Omaha. Gold. Juno. Sword. These days, they should mean something. These names, they should mean something. Do they? Utah. Omaha. Gold. Juno. Sword. We remember. You should too.

Right is Right. Wrong isn't

There are times where you just don't know where to start. When dealing with something so obviously wrong that everyone, every single one of us, should see what is wrong yet a good many of us insist is still somehow right, whaddya say to those who support the errant view? What can you do besides shake your head while trying to clear the errant thoughts, besides shaking your head trying to understand how otherwise rational human beings can support the insipid if not downright stupid? What can you say but ask, 'How can you think that?'.

The whole Bruce (we will not call him by any other name) Jenner plane crash illustrates this conundrum. You're a guy, Bruce. Science says so. And it's the same science which Christians are told every single day should guide their beliefs. Your DNA says you're a guy. Cut, snip, alter, and take all the meds you want. You're still a guy, Bruce. Science says so, and quite definitively. Accept that, if science is your god.

Yet he, and perhaps more interestingly those libertarian libertines who support him, solely because he fits their bill of individual rights, say the individual is who he or she says he or she is. When the person wants what is eminently stupid, well, that's on him. Or her, lest we offend those who personally select their feminine gender without regard for biological (read that scientific) truth. Well, maybe that's on him (or her). But if it is, then we must wonder how truly sentient and rational he (or she) is.

The rest of us, let's rest on our reason. We will be crucified. But at least we'll be in good company.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Faith is not irrational nor blind

I sell for a company located in Springfield, Ohio: Electric Eel Manufacturing, which is where to go for all your drain cleaning needs. They make the best products on the market, and I say that not simply because I sell them but because it's true. But this is about more than that. It is about the people who make up the company, but also, I hope, about a little bit more.

As I drove there this morning from Detroit, in the wee hours of the day, I was nearing a little town called North Baltimore. There is a truck stop at the exit for the town, and I often stop in for a respite, a coffee, or a snack. I was planning to do that this day but as I approached a little voice said, "Why don't you just go on?", and I thought, yeah, why not, might as well make some time. So I drove by.

Urbana, Ohio is about 30 miles from Springfield. I thought I might get a coffee, and hit my left turn signal to run into a Tim Horton's. But that same voice said, "You're so close. Just get to the factory." So I thought again, I might ought to, and I am quite close. I went on.

I parked at the plant, took a few things into the front offices, and went back out to take my van to the loading dock to pick up my order. I turned the key, and was greeted by a simple little click which I recognized immediately. My starter had went out. But rather than being upset, even though I knew the repair would be costly and that my day would be seriously delayed, I right away thought that I was glad I was there and not in North Baltimore or Urbana.

In part I knew this was fortunate because the people at Eel, good folks all, would help me, and they did. We tried a jump start and a few other things which unfortunately didn't work, and then the shop foreman called their mechanic, who took me in right away. He had me fixed up and I was back at the plant by 11 O'clock, loading and getting ready to get back to Detroit much earlier than I had feared a few hours before.

I had told several friends earlier in the day about my almost stopping but not. I related this story to another fellow right before I left. John said simply, "It was the Holy Spirit." The instant he said that I agreed, "You're right. It was."

Now we might look at this in different ways. It could be objected that if it was God trying to help me, "You still needed an expensive van repair. Why would you be thankful to Him for that?" But we all know the obvious response, don't we? My situation would have been much worse in the earlier part of the day in more isolated places.

Still, this doesn't prove that it was the Holy Spirit. It is a matter of faith, mine and John's and surely several other folks at Electric Eel and among readers, that it was. And this leads to the key trouble which people not of faith have with such an insistence. They will themselves insist that such faith is irrational.

But is it rational, irrational, or in fact beyond reason? Being beyond reason doesn't mean that faith is wrong; it doesn't actually mean that faith is irrational either. I rather believe that faith, so long as it is not genuinely irrational, is actually quite reasonable. Saying that you believe by faith that aardvarks speak English is obviously irrational, as any absurd assertion must be. As such, we can dismiss such a belief as not a true example of real faith. But the idea that an omnipotent, caring being might help us along the way is certainly not irrational. A faith in that sort of being most definitely cannot be called unreasonable.

Oh, you might argue that such a being doesn't exist. Yet we're already past that if we presume He does: if A, then B. It still fulfills any demand for rationality beyond simply holding the supposed blind faith which many are accused of having.

I have faith that the Holy Spirit kept me going so that I could get easier help at my ultimate destination. I find the thought indeed eminently rational. You may not agree that that was the case. But I do think you're being unfair to say that my thoughts are therefore irrational. Even if you don't believe me, at least don't think I childishly believe in the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

If something of faith can pass or (at least not fail) the test of rationality then there is little reason to disregard it as merely a figment of the imagination. Don't dismiss it merely because it cannot be proven empirically. Faith simply is not belief without proof. It is belief beyond proof.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Global Climate Nuclear what?

Last Friday, May 29, 2015, the Detroit metro area was told to expect torrential rains on the following Sunday, May 31.

On Saturday afternoon May 30, Detroiters were told to expect one to three inches of rain on Sunday.

Early on Sunday morning the weather forecast cast called for a lot of rain starting around Noon, to the tune of 'about an inch'.

By 10 AM, the dire warning had been downgraded to one half an inch. By Noon, we were told to expect a quarter inch of rainfall that day.

But hardly 24 hours before that, Detroit was said to look for several inches of rain. With all the bright new weather technology, how could the forecast change so dramatically in not quite two days? And this is not the first time that the weather casters have been so far off in so short of a time, as the many people who follow weather issues can surely attest. And then - you knew this was coming, we're equally sure - what does this say about the global warming question? How can we trust the predications of those claiming that the weather will change so profoundly over the next, oh, 50 to 100 years if we can't get reliable forecasts for the next two days?

We're not talking here about a subtle change. We're talking about a change of several inches of precipitation within a short time. Yet were's supposed to believe in catastrophic changes to play out over decades.

Call us simplistic, but it is precisely these mistakes, likely enough honestly made under changing conditions, which cause us to question the whole idea of widespread and horrific global warming, climate change, nuclear winter, or whatever it is the doomsayers of today insist will happen in the relatively far off future. Pshaw, we say, to their chicken little clucking.