Monday, May 30, 2016
Forget for the moment that it like so many other holidays has been been given something of a second class citizen status. It once was held every May 30th every year, and by what I consider a proper coincidence it is in fact May 30 here in 2016. In our rush to celebrate special days more on our terms than as an honest retrospective of deserving people and ideals it has generally been on the last Monday of the month. That is so we may have three day weekends to party more so than a single, specially set aside day to actually contemplate what the day is supposed to be about. Nevertheless, it is still a great day on our calendar.
Great hardly seems the right word. It is sad that we have to have a day such as this, sadder still that willing souls have given us their all in order to make such times a need. But that is the price we pay, they paid, for living in a world where evil exists. We must be thankful for those souls who have made it possible for us to be here and reflect on their actions.
So we will stand by the word great. It takes great people for us to have a chance to solemnly remember their deeds. It takes great people for us to realize that freedom is not free and liberty not a given birthright. It takes great people to give us the chance to grill and hoist a brew and spend time with our families and friends.
It takes great people to lay down their lives for their friends. Remember them, today and every day. They've earned the honor. The very least we can do is acknowledge them.
Sunday, May 29, 2016
-Charles Martin Cosgriff
Why, my friend, I'm glad we could find some common ground. I agree that humans are intuitive (dare I point out that the Ten Commandments are written on our hearts?), but not that morality is about empathy and compassion. For empathy and compassion are mere feelings, and we know that feelings can and do mislead. Alone, feelings may indeed inspire good moral action; proper empathy and compassion are good things. Unfortunately feelings may well lead to bad moral actions: it goes without saying that uncontrolled, instantaneous anger can cause much grief. It seems we must judge our feelings as to whether they are for well or for ill. We must look upon them rationally, acting upon them only when it is clear that they are properly driven towards good goals.
But by whose logic do we declare our feelings right or wrong, then? That's where we disagree. For Right Reason, objective morality, the Natural Law, indeed common sense, all of which are the names of one essential reality, are beyond any one person. As it is beyond us, and we must seek it in order to act within it.
That, in part, is where God comes in. For God is Right Reason, He is that objective morality. Among other ideals, He is the Natural Law. Without such a guide, even empathy and compassion may in fact lie to us: we've all heard of the Stockholm Syndrome. We may end up feeling compassion for the wrong person, cause, or reason. We must have a way to judge our feelings or they may do us a disservice rather than being a correct impetus to action.
Human action alone is sterile. Yet in concert with the Divine, it is a power above all other strengths. When we accept that, and live it, we become good people.
Saturday, May 28, 2016
He rented arc welders. Some of these weighed 1100 or 1200 pounds, so when they were shipped they had to be loaded by an electric hoist or crane onto the back of a pickup truck or flatbed. They tended to swirl in a gentle circle as they were raised or lowered. Sometimes they would have to be raised several stories, and I had gotten into the bad habit of standing nearly under the machines as they were raised, simply to watch the twirl.
One day while out on a job site with Joe, I was doing just that. Without a word he stepped near enough for me to hear. Looking up at the welder too as it rose he asked, "We used to have an old dog that would watch from underneath as we raised a load. You know what we did with him?"
"No, what?" I asked in return, only half listening and still looking up.
"We buried him."
As his point slowly dawned on me, and as he had already walked away, I took several steps from the action myself. Dummy me wasn't thinking that things can fall, and that half-ton things falling a long way can hurt you bad.
Point taken, Joe.
Thursday, May 26, 2016
-a paraphrase of Mr. G. K. Chesterton
We hear it all the time, don't we, fellow conservatives? We hear the importance of embracing change, of being willing to change, of the need to alter our beliefs and desires to the will and whim of the current society. That's all we need to do is embrace the change which the modern society wishes us to do.
If they meant for us to change in the sense of becoming truly better persons, of changing from bad habit to good, of learning to like what we ought and dislike what we ought as well, of becoming more truly and usefully charitable and kind, there would be no problem. But they don't mean that. They mean, 'accept our ways of thinking and acting'. Or, more precisely, accept the change we want imposed on you.
But the trouble with accepting change merely as it is change, merely because it is what modern society may want rather than what may really help both the individual and the world at large, it that it will leave us we know not where. For accepting it is simple. Do nothing, reflect on nothing, question nothing, and change will occur. There's no effort involved.
Yet embracing Orthodoxy, and we capitalize it on purpose, accepting and living by proper rules, traditions and mores, now that's the challenge. That's where we grow and nurture our selves and our souls. That's how we create better people and a better world. By living right according to the just precepts which have been with us since the dawn of time. Change is all right, yes, if done to that purpose.
Otherwise, it will happen anyway. But would you rather do what you can to control change, or merely be stuck in its tight and unwieldy (and worldly) groove, as Mr. Chesterton also suggests? For you will lose control of yourself by merely agreeing to eternally change. Yet tradition works. That's how it became traditional in the first place.
Sunday, May 22, 2016
I've golfed off and on for about forty years now. My original clubs, well, the woods were real wood, real persimmon. They sit in the garage of a shared family home in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, waiting their next time upon the range.
So I never took golf seriously. But now, I'm beginning to take it seriously. Seriously because I'm starting to understand the pleasure of hitting a golf ball well.
A few times today, I hit a ball well. And man did it feel good. Not like hitting a baseball good, mind you. There ain't nuthin' like hittin' a baseball. But the sharp *ting* of a well hit golf ball off a tee? Well, it challenges that.
I think I can play this game, this golf, if I should start to take it seriously enough. I realize as I say that that I'm merely being drawn into the vortex. The golf sirens are calling to me, calling me to dash my ship against the sharp rocks on their dangerous shore. I know this. I knew it when I was on the green off the tee on a lowly par 3 and legitimately parred that hole.
I know this. But damn, their call is strong. And I was on the green off the tee.
Saturday, May 21, 2016
One of his favorite, sort of, that is, games, was the time he held four kings. You don't have to know a lot about poker to know that four of a kind is a powerful hand, and especially strong with face cards. It was draw poker too. That's not like the hold 'em variety so popular lately. There were no community cards: each player held five cards none of which were revealed to the table during play.
So Dad held his kings, and was starting to feel the rush of victory when another player, someone named George, began calling Dad's raises and then raising him more. Needless to say, Dad raised and re-raised himself, properly confident of a big win as the coins piled up in the center of the table. He couldn't wait for the reveal, when he would set down those cowboys and rake in those coins. You need to know that this was in the 1960s, when a pot of 12 or 15 dollars was much more significant than today. $100 dollars a week was good money then.
Dad raised, George raised, and that pot kept growing. Showing those kings was becoming a more satisfying thought every time and Pops was anticipating it with relish. And then my Uncle Bob chimed in.
He said to George, "You better have something, because Bill doesn't bluff."
"I fold," said George immediately. Dad not only lost a shot at kitchen table poker glory, he wasn't even able to keep building the pot on a sure win.
He never did show the guys his hand. He didn't have to. It wasn't called. But he also never quite forgave my uncle.
Friday, May 20, 2016
A handful of issues, for starters: as a group, they support abortion; they don't care for an aggressive foreign policy; and I simply can't quite come around on drug questions. Further, and this will sound very odd coming from me, they have too much of a distrust of government. Like it or not, there are things which only a government can do. Keeping order, for one, and keeping real and potential enemies at bay with the aggressive measures necessary. Then there's that pesky fact that freedom, which they champion to excess quite frankly, is a means rather than an end. Freedom is how we do things, not why, and while as a conservative I believe that the society which is best is one with the greatest rational amount of freedom, freedom as freedom cannot justify one solitary thing. This leads to I think the root problem with libertarianism as it stands today. It is the belief that the individual is the final arbiter of morality, the one who sets the standard for right and wrong.
No individual can hold this kind of power. On a practical level, it invites anarchy, or worse: a might makes right society. On a philosophic level, it begs one very important question: if I, as an individual, can make up my own mind about people and things, why should I ever listen to you? No progress can be made from such a starting point in ethics, which certainly means nothing can be done in any other area either.
If libertarians were to admit that it is not the individual (or that weak sister, consensus) which dictates what can and cannot be done, that justice and rightness exist outside of those realms having a genuine being of their own, I may reconsider my position. Until then, they are as bad as liberals: they want what they want because they want it. It is a poor substitute for critical thought on critical issues.
Wednesday, May 18, 2016
The main idea for gender neutral services appears to pivot on how people identify themselves. The presumption is that you are who you think you are no matter the real facts. I will say bluntly and emphatically that this is wrong. A guy is a guy no matter what he believes, as is a woman. I am not, nor is the larger society, obliged to feed the delusion of those who are wrong about who they are. It is not charity to acquiesce in delusion anyway. Charity is trying to help such folk rid themselves of their error, as compassionately as circumstances allow. So no, people confused as to who they are have no right to use the facilities of their choice.
The other major argument for allowing unisex restrooms is that hey, bathrooms in private homes are unisex. This is as true as it is obvious. But it is intellectual dishonesty to take the point further than propriety allows and argue that all bathrooms everywhere must (or ought to be) unisex. A bathroom in a private home is single service: only one person at a time uses it, unless that person chooses to let someone else in while they're there. Public services, even those with stalls, by their nature do not afford that same degree of privacy.
I am willing to argue it is axiomatic that propriety demands that public facilities be gender specific: when dealing with private functions in public areas there is simply nothing wrong with keeping genders separate. To do otherwise is to feed delusion. Or, worse, perversion.
This is not a difficult issue. Yet it is being made difficult by those who will not see reason. It is a prime example of the tyranny of the individual. It is as bad, and arguably worse, than the tyranny of the state.
Sunday, May 15, 2016
But why do I like it?
I think because I wish I were part of it. What hero would not have wanted to land at Omaha Beach? Joined in Pickett's Charge? Dogged the Redcoats from Concord Bridge back to Charles Town? Crossed the Rubicon?
History is magical. It is magical in part because it is known and the numinous has cast its shadow. It appeals to our inner being. It appeals to our selves.
It appealed to a small child who in mid-1964 was carried on his father's shoulders across the Kings Mountain battlefield in North Carolina. His father, a man who himself appreciated history, told me later that he vividly remembered carrying his son across that mountainside.
I remember it quite clearly too.
Not knowing how else to respond I stammered, "Thank you". I didn't want to embarrass the man. But I feel bad about accepting the props.
You see, I was wearing a hat which said 'USS Cowpens' in tribute to the ship in the United States Navy named in honor of our Revolutionary War victory at Cowpens, South Carolina. I bought the hat at a yard sale because (A) I'm a history buff, (B) I have been to the Cowpens battlefield, and (C) my mother, though born in North Carolina, was raised not that far from Cowpens. And it is a neat cap, with a fabulous crest connecting 1781 with today. But I am not a Navy veteran.
Similarly, I also have a cap which I bought at Fort Leonard Wood which proclaims 'Military Police, US Army'. My son was an MP (he's now a veteran, not that that makes me feel old) and I wear that cap proudly in tribute to him and all Army vets, MPs and otherwise. Not once but twice this weekend I was thanked for my service. But I'm only wearing the cap for those who really earned the respect of their nation. I wear it with pride too. Only not for me.
So I don't know what to do. I'm pleased that such symbols command such respect; I am embarrassed that folks think I'm part of such great circles. I'm not a hero. They are heroes. And it is not right that I should reap praise meant for them.
My son suggested that I say thank you, but say I wear it for those who served. It's a good suggestion. I think I shall adopt it.
Yet when I do say thank you, know it is for you, veterans. Know it is for you.
Saturday, May 14, 2016
What goes around, eh? I find that the older I get the more often I am overtaken by old sensations, even those now decades old. This is not a bad thing. I wonder if it's what keeps us sane; there's something good to be said about continuity within cycles, of similarities with differences. We have the seasons, each distinct (in much of the world anyway) yet returning. It allows us change while also grounding us. We need change. But we need constants too.
So I had the opportunity yesterday to remember what it was like to be with me old grandpaw up early and checking out the crops, even for a relatively fleeting moment. I found a connection between my son and the great-grandfather he only met as a six month old infant. It kinda left me speechless. At the risk of hyperbole, kinda in awe.
What goes around. Life is good.
Thursday, May 12, 2016
Depp has said that if Donald Trump is elected he will be the last President of the United States. I don't think that will be the case even if Hillary Clinton is elected. I hope everyone understands that I'm being facetious by saying 'even if' she's elected. Things are, currently, bad. But they have been worse.
James Buchanan, the last last President of the United States, famously expected he would be the last. Yet Abraham Lincoln triumphed, and our nation survived its most serious challenge yet. I do not believe that having either Trump or Clinton the Second in the White House will be as bad as all that. The 2018 bi-elections will come, and another Presidential contest will be held in 2020. We have survived greater than hyperbole and a liar. We will survive this.
Take a breath. We all, myself included, tend to think the worst when offered a serious setback to what is good for ourselves and our people. But the worst rarely happens. Even the Donald and Billary will be challenged constantly by their opposition. They will not be able to change things that drastically. That's in the very nature of human relationships. No one gets everything they want.
The United States will survive. We do not need to build an ark. Say a prayer, yes. But there will not be a second flood.
Wednesday, May 11, 2016
I get a lot of miles with that quip, yet it's sometimes not well received. My cousin Patty slapped my shoulder after I told it to a Dominican nun who is a common cousin. "You can't say that to a nun!" she exclaimed. Oh, I don't know. Sister Dorothy seemed to think it funny enough. Patty was laughing too, so I'm not sure it was all that bad.
I'm actually wondering if I could profitably open a museum of drain cleaning equipment. I have several unique things already in my possession, and there's quite a bit more variety to drain snakes than you might think. At one point there were over 15 manufacturers in the US alone, although I'm not sure that's still the case. I know one company for certain no longer in production; actually two now that I think about it. Each company has or had many different models of their own too. It's not as though there have been only one Electric Eel for example.
Shameless plug time: if you need a snake, you need an Electric Eel. I say that because I sell them. But I also firmly believe they're the best drain cleaners out there. That's because they are.
There are all kinds of cutting heads too, and there are water jetters and drain inspection cameras as well. There surely is a varied enough array of equipment that a small building could house many items. And I could finally achieve my life long dream of being a docent.
I'll try to keep my mind out of the sewer for long enough to give it real thought.
Tuesday, May 10, 2016
We are told that the poor don't understand the concept of work, the idea of applying themselves in order to do better for themselves. Yet how quickly do the shovels come out and we find them aggressively going door to door offering to clear our walks after a snowfall. You might notice too that they can find a piece of cardboard and write a sign, to sit by freeway exit ramps and beg for change.
I have been told that a thief does not understand that stealing is wrong. Try stealing something of his; he'll get the point.
I was told in teacher college that all kids can learn and further, that all kids can be reached. But the problem is that many of them don't want either. Some simply will not learn or allow themselves to be touched by education. Not everyone can be helped.
I have been told that high taxes will help us prosper. You know the response to that.
I know that appearances can deceive. Yet just as often they do not. We need to remember that whenever we discuss right, wrong, and responsibility.
Monday, May 9, 2016
He wrote a nifty little book back in the 1990s titled Slouching Towards Gomorrah. In it he opines on what has become wrong with America, and the book is chock full of good ideas and excellent ruminations on what has gone wrong with the US body politic as well as its legal system. We intend to explore a few of those ideas in the coming weeks. Today we will begin with this one: his view of libertarians.
If we understand the man correctly, he argues that libertarians lack a sense of social obligation. If we understand that correctly, we agree with him. Libertarians fail to grasp that there are more injuries possible to people than those which are physical or material. People can be harmed in ways beyond that, and we have an obligation to avoid that sort of harm as well.
Take illicit television or vile and despicable music, for example. All that is defended on the the First Amendment right to free speech. On that basis the libertarian says if you don't like the show or the song, simply change the channel or don't listen. Yet that argument is ultimately shallow and indeed insulting to the person who is trying to make themselves, their children, and their world better based on rational and objective standards of decency. One parent can turn off the radio, yes. But other parents might not, and it is a practical impossibility to keep our children away from every worldly influence. Society has the obligation and parents the right to expect the cooperation of society in raising their children well. This means making decisions on what ought and ought not be broadcast, and that society has the right to make such decisions. They do not involve physical or material harm, but they may well harm folks just the same in making them effectively less than human, again by rational and objective standards.
No man, it is said, is an island. What we do affects what other people do; what we think affects how other people think. Without a proper consideration of that we risk harming the people around us and damaging our own spirits as well. We are all role models whether we think so or not. Circumstance forces that upon us. We have no right to say, as the libertarian too often does, that I own myself and am therefore not responsible for anyone else. They forget that a very important part of ownership is stewardship, which demands that we do what is best for all involved and not merely for what suits our perceived immediate needs. Such needs may only be vile and contemptible. A rational, reflective, self aware being surely recognizes that. They must also know, in their hearts anyway, that ownership means not only self interest but also responsibility.
Sunday, May 8, 2016
Saturday, May 7, 2016
The man is the supreme egotist. While I realize that you have to have something of an ego to get into politics at all, I can't escape the feeling that this man is all ego. This is not good. Egotists tend to go the direction which their ego tells them will grant the greatest reward, and to them, the greatest reward is what gives them the greatest (apparent, to them) influence, the highest (apparent, to them) prestige. They will turn on a dime if it suits them. Trump strikes me as that type of individual.
That means that he cannot be trusted. All his pandering to conservatives has been because it plays in Peoria, and only because it plays in Peoria. Do you actually believe that he's going to be trapped by his own words? Has that stopped him until yet? Have you given a moment's thought that he may only be doing this because it gives him a platform, namely, the highest spot on the Republican ticket? This is a man who was chummy with the Clintons in the 1990s. Can we really believe what he says now?
I'm not an idiot. I know that the next President could dramatically alter the Supreme Court. Yet does that mean that the one elected this November will fill (or be able to fill) all those spots? Not necessarily. It is a bit of a crap shoot, yes, but a one term President may not get a chance to nominate anyone at all to our high court. It happened to Carter you know. We should consider too that, if the GOP loses the Senate, a very real possibility if the top of the ticket loses dramatically and takes the rest of the ballot with him, it won't matter that Hillary is in the White House. I can imagine a scenario where older, liberal or center left justices resign simply to give her the chance to put in place younger liberal or center left justices who may be on the Court until 2050. Has it occurred to you that that might over the long haul shift the Court as significantly as anything else? Granted, conservatives in power have not wielded power so forcefully as they should have. Is that a reason we should potentially give up the Senate to a Hillary inspired group of leftist clones? I think not.
The fact the Donald is a maverick appeals to many American conservatives. I get that. I also get that the bucking bronco could throw its rider in almost any direction. I simply don't care to trust my country to that kind of chance. And that is the risk we run with Donald Trump at the head of our ticket.
Tuesday, May 3, 2016
I fervently hope that things are not so bad as they tonight appear to be, to me. I genuinely fear that they are in fact more horrible than my worst nightmares.
My good and dear conservative family and friends, this is bad. Donald Trump is not our savior, despite his messianic bravado. Donald Trump is not by any stretch of the imagination Jesus Christ. He is not even Ronald Reagan, whom, I'm sure, could not by his own admission I am also sure tie Our Lord's sandal straps. Reagan was a principled idealist, a man who saw both the ideal and the real and sought to work in reality with an eye towards the ideal. A man who knew that a united people working on right principles could actually inch towards a Heaven on Earth. This man, the Donald, this hero of yours, is an egotist on the supreme ego trip. He wants to be the President of the United States as though it were a mere prize in a radio contest. That's essentially the same mentality which elected Barack Obama. And you see what that has wrought.
Donald Trump is not our savior. He is rather a bombast, hurling grenades at paper targets for his own ends. Perhaps he is regal, and I am misinterpreting him. Perhaps I am not understanding American themes and he reads history better than I, though I am not sure that is a positive. Perhaps he is the real deal, and I am a dinosaur. Perhaps.
Yet perhaps he is the iconoclast without direction. And where, I ask, might that lead us?
Be honest: athletics by and large are peripheral at best to the academic mission anyway. Why should our taxes pay for them? And please don't bother about how they help kids get college education who otherwise might not, because that presumes two things both of which by and large are wrong. First, with all the money available for education these days those who really want to go to college will make it. Second, it assumes higher education a value in any and all areas of life. It is not.
Granted, to that last point we need to destroy the mentality that you must have college to be successful. As with many other things, college can be good in some areas yet not in others. To the first point, many things are presumed which I don't think ought to be expected of tax monies. Why must taxes however indirectly pay for someone's playtime? Why should taxes offer a springboard for someone else to command millions of dollars playing games?
Yes, yes, yes, some will argue that sports bring prestige to schools. Perhaps they do for some. But I can't see that a serious researcher would believe that important. Someone looking for a cure for cancer surely isn't about to argue that a football program, especially when (as is true the bulk of the time) the game drains the school of funds, is really worthwhile. And I simply cannot imagine The University of Michigan or Michigan State losing image without sports. It doesn't seem to have affected Harvard or Yale, two universities not exactly well known for sports, but well known just the same.
I know this will never happen if for no other reason that too much money for too many folks is at stake; that's the same reason the tax codes will never be simplified. But we really ought to ban college athletics. They take money from the schools, taxpayers, and college loan students which they simply should not.
Monday, May 2, 2016
For starters, it surely means that we are to love everyone without reservation. We are called to love everyone as though they were ourselves, to paraphrase a great moral teacher. It is a difficult ideal; loving our enemies is not easy, and sometimes loving our friends and family is a challenge which can actually be much harder. Still, we are expected to overcome this obstacle, and find a way to open our hearts to all.
But there is a great misunderstanding about unconditional love, an error in its application which is at least arguably worse than failing to love generally everyone around us. Many people believe that unconditional love means loving others up to and including their faults. We are, according to this, meant to love others including their faults, and indeed often embracing those flaws.
This cannot be a good and true interpretation of the standard. It cannot be a useful approach towards dealing with others. We can accept that we must love racists and sexists and criminals; but to love their faults? This is insanity on its face. Do we not want to see people become better people? Do we not want to see our children grow into mature adults? Then we should be instructing and cajoling and beseeching those around us, as they should towards us, to do better than they do, and to be better than they are, no matter how they may happen to feel about this or that issue they find themselves battling.
When our children become drug addicts or alcoholics, we do what we can to change them. When our neighbors rob and injure others, we enforce laws to stop them. We can and should still love them, but that does not mean we are obliged to tolerate their errant thoughts and actions.
It is more correct to say that unconditional love calls us to love those around us despite their faults. Real love does not embrace error' it may embrace the person but it cannot embrace their faults. It understands it as a part of us which ought to be altered, and wants to see us move away from the lesser aspects of our being and into better men, women, and children. If it does not want that, it is not love. It is then something which facilitates bad behavior; it is in fact a cancer of character.
Sunday, May 1, 2016
-Charles Martin Cosgriff
Well, I agree that the beauty of the universe is not in the atoms which make things up. But I must point out that such is not a scientific judgment; it is fact a philosophic judgment.
Any time you claim something is beautiful you cannot rightly be said to be talking science because your have made a value judgment in calling it beautiful. Value judgments, opinions expressed about the innate quality of any given thing, are based on reason, or what the classical philosophers called Right Reason, things so obviously correct that they are Truth Itself and over which no rational being could disagree.
Science as science ignores this. Indeed popular science (for that is basically what is espoused by the Carl Sagans of our history) isn't actually science at all: it is an expression of their philosophical beliefs about what ultimate truth is. Therefore, scientists such as he who say they are making statements about science which are in all actuality laced with value, are not themselves being scientific at all. They have stepped into the realm of philosophy.
Nothing wrong with that, but call it what it is. Yet as such, they can make no empirical statements about beauty. The trouble there is that science is all about empiricism: hard factual evidence easily reproducible and recognizable over and over again. Carl Sagan has in fact gone beyond what he claims as his expertise, namely science.
I can use the same evidence about the complexity of the universe and make a better philosophic claim that it signifies design, that it must have come about via a conscious act: an act of will. An Act of God. Because complexity in and of itself is merely a complexity. When we begin to ask ourselves: Why is it complex? How did it become this way? we have begun to become truly human. We don't look at the merely scientific explanation of an object, which is at the end of the day simply raw data. The meaning of it is philosophical, and then eventually religious.
In short, science answers the 'how' questions. That gives us much good and necessary knowledge. But it is only rote knowledge; no matter how important, it is the least valuable type of knowledge. How we interpret and apply it means so much more, and those issues are not addressed by science at all. The 'why' questions have more meaning because they explain how we ought to be and how we have came about being here. They are addressed by our philosophic and theological outlook, and necessarily imply a God of some sort.
Science is not spiritual. It is not philosophical. It is not religious. But it isn't supposed to be. When it pretends to speak for what it is not, it is wearing the Emperor's New Clothes. It is out of its league.