27 April 2007

Should a free society permit an end to “legitimate” debates?

The left seem fond of declaring debate on certain matters to be closed. Most notable is Al Gore’s oft-repeated decree: There is no legitimate debate on the matter of global warming; the debate is over. I frequently listen to talk radio and liberal callers to such programs have repeated this claim over and over and over again.

Whatever we think about global warming, I think this whole notion of “illegitimate” debate is actually a dangerous one in a republic. We should perhaps spend as much time talking about this as we do global warming itself. And I can think of two reasons for this. First, the very nature and role of debate in science makes the idea of “illegitimate” debate a bit problematic. Second, a republic should not tolerate the notion of an “illegitimate” debate, especially when the propositions debated have public policy implications.

1.

Just how does a debate become illegitimate? Let’s take as relevant definitions of legitimate (a) “neither spurious nor false” or (b) “conforming to recognized principles or accepted rules and standards.” With respect to (a) I would add that in the present context spurious probably bears the connotation of deceitful. In that case (and assuming I’ve identified the correct sense of illegitimate) something about the debate is dishonest. Global warming advocates assert that what is dishonest is for opponents argue their case, the implication being that opponents very well know that advocates are correct. On this view, then, continuing debates over global warming are like debates held on the existence of God at an “atheological” seminary. It’s a show: in such a venue neither side believes the proposition, God exists. One side is pretending, for the sake of getting a little exercise, perhaps.

If (b) is what we have in mind then the assertion about legitimate debate would mean that (given who is making the assertions) opponents either conduct their end of the debate in a manner which does not conform to recognized principles or accepted rules and standards of debate, or scientific argumentation. (We might say this, for example, if participants in the debate do not offer articles for peer-reviewed journals and so forth.) Or, we could say that the debate is illegitimate if the scientists on the opposing side do their scientific research in a manner which does not conform to recognized principles or accepted rules and standards of doing science. (Of course, it is fair to ask, Recognized or accepted by whom? The answer will most like be, Some other consensus. So this consensus we’re talking about rests upon another, philosophical, consensus.)

I have not heard these characterizations. The argument I have heard on this is that debate is no longer legitimate because a
scientific consensus now exists. The consensus is that global warming is occurring and humans are causing it and need to adjust their behavior and lifestyles – especially the west. The “illegitimacy” is denial of human caused global warming as contrary to this consensus. In other words what makes any further debate illegitimate is simply not going along with this consensus.

Keeping in mind that this debate is a scientific one something really ought to concern us – for the sake of science. And that is the normal function of debate in coming to, maintaining and even correcting consensus. An implication of Vice-President Gore’s decree is that the process of achieving consensus is something like voting: the polls open at a set time and close at a set time. And when the polls close, they remain closed and the tally is based on the number of eligible voters who cast a vote while the polls were open. And that final tally settles all matters for all time.

But it isn’t that way. A statement about a consensus is a statement of a condition as it stands at some point in history. History is unfolding; it is dynamic, not static. Consensus is a condition (if we are concerned to engage in science) which is subject to change. As of now, more scientists believe that such-and-such is the case than do not. And the reason the debate (“legitimate” or otherwise) is not over is that (supposedly) the work of science continues. Supposedly scientists continue testing hypotheses and theories. Did they stop doing that recently? If so, I haven’t heard of it. So, this notion of an “illegitimate” debate in science, however attractive, would really mark an end to science and the beginning of a new kind of orthodoxy.

Let’s think about this matter of “
consensus”. I accept as a good definition of consensus: “1: group solidarity in sentiment and belief 2 a :general agreement : UNANIMITY b: the judgment arrived at by most of those concerned” (Webster’s New Collegiate).

Several questions about this scientific consensus arise: What is the nature of this group solidarity? How large is the total population of climatologists worldwide? Of this population how many belong to this consensus? Even if it’s a vast majority, why should we defer to the notion that they are right, especially where our liberties are concerned? Is truth now to be arrived at by majority vote? How was this judgment arrived at? Is the nature of this solidarity one of pursuits undertaken without passion or prejudice? Was this judgment arrived at solely on the basis of evidence? If so, why the dissent on the part of opponents? Is it that they do not understand the evidence? Or, is it that the evidence, such as it is, is a bit subject to interpretation? Or is it perhaps that some of the evidence is actually extrapolation, and opponents simply believe that while certain things may be extrapolated, not all extrapolations are warranted, specifically, in this case many extrapolations of, well, doom?

There is also the matter of philosophical presuppositions, as well as scientists’ other intellectual commitments. If it is acceptable to wonder (as Rosie O’Donnell has) how the fact that five Supreme Court justices are Roman Catholics is related to
the recent partial birth abortion decision, then it ought to be acceptable to ask whether the scientists who are part of this grand consensus have intellectual commitments which drive their interpretation of facts and selection of models, as well as their selection of “recognized principles or accepted rules and standards of doing science .” It is not that we wish to falsify claims by making assertions about these commitments, but it does go to motive. Scientists are not as pure as the wind-driven snow. And when their debates, legitimate or otherwise, have public policy implications, their motives are fair game, just like everyone else’s.

2.

These questions do not seem to important enough to ask. We are asked to believe it is sufficient that a consensus exists. And the existence of this consensus renders illegitimate any opposition to this consensus. And questioning this consensus renders one as low as a holocaust denier. Never mind that the evidence for the holocaust rests, at least in part, on eyewitness testimony; and many of those eyewitnesses are still among the living. The holocaust is not extrapolated from computer models. Not only that, and indeed far more important, no exercise of our liberties is tied to whether the holocaust ever happened. This is not the case with global warming. The issue of global warming is certainly connected to the exercise of our liberties.

When it comes to global warming, the solutions involve more or less substantial losses of freedom. Perhaps it is necessary; we shall see. But it still makes this idea of declaring a debate illegitimate a dangerous one, even if this consensus exists. Dangerous to a free society. Debate is a fundamental right in a free society, especially in matters related to public policy. In a free society, any public policy related debate ought to be considered legitimate, even after a policy decision has been made by duly empowered authority.

In a
free and open society, especially one which claims to honor the pursuit of truth and freedom of enquiry, no debate ought ever to be declared over. Not even when there is a consensus on any issue.

Several issues have been studied in philosophy for millennia. Let’s say a poll is taken tomorrow of philosophers on the subject of
universals and a vast majority of them hold to the view known as nominalism. Should those who disagree yield to some declaration that, a consensus having been reached, the debate over universals is now over; there will be no legitimate debate on the question whether universals are merely names or have something like a substantial existence? I doubt it. If there is a consensus on the existence of God, ought one side or other to declare the matter settled? If a majority of “competent authorities” conclude that God exists, ought atheists to acknowledge an end to legitimate debate on the question? I doubt it. And they would rightly protest if the majority decided, by virtue of being the majority, that (1) a consensus now existed on the existence of God and (2) this consensus rendered illegitimate any further debate on the matter. God exists. The consensus says so. The debate is now over.

“But James,” you say, “those are philosophical questions. The matter of global warming is a scientific question, an empirical one. Philosophical theories are not subject to experimentation; scientific theories are. Does not that constitute a significant difference?”

That’s an astute observation. So I wonder if there are any debates on other matters, between scientists, as opposed to philosophers. If so, I further wonder if one side has declared an end to debate.

Let’s take, for example, the disagreement between adherents of
big bang theory and steady state theory. At this point in time there don’t appear to be many, if any, serious, adherents to steady state theory. In large part this is due to the results of the discovery of cosmic microwave background radiation (predicted by big bang theory). Most physicists, with that discovery, if they had previously held to steady state, came over to big bang. But even today there are some hold-outs. In the history of science, so far as I know, there was no announcement on the part of big band theorists that there would be no further “legitimate” debate on the issue of the big bang. Steady state hold-outs are not referred to as the equivalent of holocaust deniers. Other examples of disputes among scientists exist. And in none of those cases, so far as I know, was an end to “legitimate” debate declared.

“But those matters are not as pressing as global warming. If global warming is taking place, and if humans are causing it, and if we can do something to halt it, then shouldn’t we do so right away?” And that right there is why we ought not accept any fiat declaration that the debate is over. Again, the solution to global warming requires deprivation of liberty and/or limitations on enjoyment of our property rights. Our Constitution requires that such deprivations not be made without due process of law (
Const. Amend. 5). If there is some debate on a scientific matter which has implications for public policy, the idea that one of the parties to the debate can up and declare itself the “winner” ought to strike at our liberty-loving hearts. It is ought to strike us as authoritarian and “foreign to our constitution” that a debate with public policy implications can be declared “illegitimate”. These are people who pretty openly desire to limit our property rights and other liberties in pursuit of the solution to the putative problem. And are they going to tell us when they have successfully justified themselves to us? I don’t think so.

In a free society, for one side in a scientific debate which involves loss of liberty or property to simply declare an end to debate (and then, of course, to begin seizing or transferring property and curtailing liberties) ought to be unacceptable. It is precisely because the issue of global warming (and it’s possible solution) is so important that a free society should view with suspicion anyone, on either side, who takes it upon himself to declare the debate over and himself the winner. Aspiring tyrants may attempt it. Free people ought not allow it.

Global warming may be all that it’s proponents say it is. But to hell with the idea that they are going to declare the debate over and then push for public policies which will limit our liberties and the enjoyment of our property rights, to decide for us whether we want incandescent or fluorescent light bulbs, whether to drive a Jeep or a Prius.

A free society ought not permit the arbitrary closure of debate, even by those who are not members of the government, on matters with public policy implications. We are still debating whether we should have invaded Iraq, as well as the Patriot Act. I accept these debates, whichever side I agree with, as both proper and necessary to a free and open society. Declarations that “legitimate” debates are at an end are authoritarian in nature, like when a parent says to an argumentative child, “The discussion is over.” On hand this is understandable, liberals like to think of we the little people as their children. Well I have a father, a darn good one. His name is Jesus Francisco Solís. No one else need apply.

In a free society any proposition should be an acceptable topic for debate. And I don’t care if we’re talking about a debate on the existence of the tooth fairy. But certainly we ought not declare an end to debate, or refer to a debate as illegitimate when it has policy implications.
______________________________

Note: : The former Vice-President is not the only one who likes to talk about debates which are not “legitimate.”
And, as I said above, description of a debate as illegitimate seems to refer to a debate over a proposition which is accepted by some consensus. Clearly I reject the notion of “illegitimate” debate. In the interests of full disclosure I should mention that although I happen to be Reformational in philosophical perspective, I take something of a Feyerabendian approach to science in a free and pluralist society.

I’m a transsexual…

You have to admit: that is some headline. It really catches your attention You ought also to admit that you wonder why I think you should know that, or even be interested in knowing that.

Fortunately,
it’s not my headline. It’s Mike Penner’s.

But still: why would anyone think that the world needs, or cares, to know that? I know: given that Penner is changing his name from Mike to Christine (one of my favorite girls’ names, by the way – right up there with Anastasia), I suppose some explanation was in order, at least for the sake of his readers.

It’s some of the reaction to the news that has my attention.

For example,
John Amaechi described Penner’s announcement as “incredibly bold and…courageous…. I commend him." Bold and Courageous. Sounds like an ad campaign for a single malt scotch. “Tobermorey. Bold and Courageous.” I like it. I like it a lot. The ad campaign is pretty good, too. But I digress.

Look, Penner can be as tranny as he wants to be. I don’t care. But think about what’s going on in the world right now, this very moment. And while you’re thinking about that, meditate on words used to describe someone who’s informed the world that he’s a transsexual.

Bold. Courageous. Commendable.

You’d think Penner was one of
the famed 300. Or a soldier in Iraq.

I suppose someone can ask me which adjectives I think we should use to refer to those who make relevations like Penner’s. The answer is, I don’t really know. What would we call someone who told the world he had a boil on his butt the size of a quarter?
19 April 2007
Among other things, Cho rails against rich white kids. I wonder why we are not hearing liberals blame themselves for Cho's anger.

A few years ago when
Matthew Shepherd was beaten to death, I watched Katie Couric suggest that James Dobson may have had some responsibility due to his own anti-gay stance.

Liberals have an anti-rich stance, but apparently bear no responsibility for Cho's anger against rich white people.

Dobson 'demonizes' gays, and is responsible for the beating death of a gay male.

The left 'demonize' the rich, but are not responsible for anything that happened at V. Tech.

A Copycat is Born

There is much discussion about whether NBC should have aired clips of Cho’s ‘manifesto’ (not what I would have called it). Some discussion is here.

NBC is being criticized for giving Cho the fame he wanted. Cho wanted fame; now he has it. And it’s NBC’s fault. This sort of thing, some argue, ‘creates’ copycats, or ‘encourages’ their growth (like, one supposes, sunlight, water, fertilizer all encourage the growth of plants). I have a view of
causality and human responsibility that logically prohibits my holding media responsible for ‘creating’ copycats.

The scenario goes something like this. John Doe desires fame above all else. He sees the fame that Cho has achieved thanks to NBC. “Wow,” he thinks to himself, “I too want to be famous.” So, encouraged by what he has seen on TV, he is transformed into a copycat. The media, by giving to one murderer the fame he desires, successfully ‘creates’ a copycat murderer. And, of course, by ‘creating’ this copycat media are to some degree responsible for the murders he commits.

Thoroughly ignored is an important question, Why did John Doe select fame for murder, rather than fame for discovering a cure for cancer? Frankly, I wouldn’t mind being famous. But I would not wish for the fame that Cho has achieved. If fame as a murderer is the best I can hope to achieve, I prefer to live and die in obscurity. Why did Cho choose otherwise?

It isn’t enough to say he wanted fame. Many people desire fame but do not commit murder in order to get it.

There is for me one reason for NBC to air Cho’s ‘manifesto’. Ours is an
open society; we are all, really, social philosophers. When these things happen we want access to information about why. (Okay, I’ll admit some have a prurient interest in these things.) And one thing is clear to me with respect to why. Let us say that all this ‘hype’ (as some call it) does ‘create’ or ‘encourage’ copycats. The real issue – the why – is not the media. It is the fact that there are people who value themselves more than they value other human lives. The real question for me is not whether ‘hype’ ‘creates’ or ‘encourages’ copycats; the real question for me is why do people like Cho come to have no value, no respect for the lives of others.

Let me pose a question: We all started out as fetuses; we all started out with no right to be born, no right therefore even to exist. Why should Cho have valued the lives of others more than his desire for fame? He isn’t the only person in America who thinks that his desires outweigh the lives of others. Focusing on the media assists us in avoiding a discussion of this matter, I think.

It pains me to find myself at odds with
Laura Ingraham on this. Of course, Ingraham neither knows nor cares that I disagree with her, so it’s all good.
18 April 2007

I don't really care, but I'm happy about it nevertheless:

Sanjaya is going home.

Oh, look at the little sissy cry.

I know I sound mean when I say that, but it's my up-bringing. Crying was very frowned upon. It's that whole hispanic "machismo" thing. In fact, sometimes, crying would be rewarded with discipline. (Harsh-sounding, I know. But on the other hand we learned early that crying was most definitely NOT!!! the way to get our way.)

Ugh! Seeing people cry is almost as uncomfortable as seeing old people get frisky. (I saw my great-grand-father cop a feel of great-grandma's breast once. Aaaaaaaahhhhhh!!!! They were in their 80s for crying out loud!)

Bye, bye Sanjaya you no-talent cry-baby. Go home. Drop the estrogen from your diet and join a gym.
Wow. I may have been on to something here. I really, really had a feeling the whole Sanjaya thing was attributable to something like this, rather than every 13 and under little girl in every Idol-watching household voting multiple times for the silly lad.

Well, at least there's a rational explanation for this kid's longevity. It's been bothering the heck out of me, keeping me awake at night. At last I can stop suffering and re-write that novel again. (On the other hand, I could always resume procrastinating. Oh look! The tumbleweeds are out again. Reminds me: I need to take down that Christmas tree.)

I know: This was probably the sort of easy call that any idiot could have made. But look, I'm not just any idiot. I'm an exceptionally brilliant, well educated idiot. Consequently, I don't watch, or care about, much television, especially escapist reality shows. So speculating and hypothesising about them is not something I'm well practiced in. This will probably be the last time I engage in it.

About the only thing I'm going to miss when this is done is Melinda.

H/T: Deviant Wife for the link to Vote For The Worst (She saw the proprietor of the site on last night's installment of Letterman.)

Speaking of the Mrs, did D' Wife say, "Put away the food and I'll wash the dishes" or, "Wash the dishes and I'll put away the food"? Maybe I'll have a look at the comments at Althouse's blog while I'm thinking this through.

"Gun" control

Listening to liberals talk about gun control kind of gives me an idea. A lot of rapes occur on college campuses. Perhaps, maybe after a background check or two, males on campus should be secretly administered anaphrodesiacs, or undergo chemical castration. That would solve some problems.

If the solution to violence is to restrict access to the instruments of violence this just makes perfect sense. We can ignore the fact that some people want to do violence -- and prepare ourselves for them -- and just try to make it "more difficult" for them to employ these...uh...instruments.
17 April 2007

Eureka!

I truly believe I have divined the reason that Sanjaya is still on American Idol. It's because Randy, Paula and Simon loathe him! That's got to be it. They are consistently (and appropriately!) ruthless to him. And people continue to vote for him. Very often Americans will go for the underdog; and that is exactly what is going on here, I suspect.

Randy? Paula? Simon? America is flipping you the bird. (Not me, though: I think you're right.)

I can't wait to see what Althouse thinks!

Update: Whoah:

Now, Sanjaya's up, along with his hair. The big thing this week is a kerchief, with frizzy curls sticking out in back. He's smiling and ready to go. The song is "Let's Give 'Em Something to Talk About," you know, because, after all, we have been talking about him. And he does give us something to talk about: how hideously he sang that song. Was he even trying?

She's right, though.

Update: Deviant Wife is sooooo jealous. She thinks I have a crush on Melinda, so she's voting for Phil to cancel me out. (Well, Melinda is beautiful; and I love her voice. But no crush.)

Note: I watch American Idol with Deviant Wife because if I do, and keep my mouth shut, she checks the box next to "Quality Time" on my weekly list of things to do.
Well, the worldwide bitchfest about our “gun” culture resumes. (Ironically, on the same day that the mayor of Nagasaki is shot to death. And the Japanese have some very strict gun control laws. It may even be against the law to commit murder there.)

Frankly, when people talk about our gun culture I decide that they have very little idea what the word
culture even means. If we truly had a “gun” culture, what happened yesterdy would not have happened: fewer people would have been murdered because the lone gunman would not have been the lone gunman. If we truly had a gun culture these things would happen more frequently than they do, which they don’t. (H/T: Instapundit)

The word culture has many meanings, probably the best is
worldview. We don’t have gun worldview. And our culture, whatever it is, is more sexualized and “pornified” than it is “gunified.”

Oh yes. We do have weapons. I think the number is 80 million. There are 80 million guns in this country. In the worst massacre in our history, with 80 million guns hanging around, 32 people were murdered and their murderer committed suicide.

According to the murderer himself,
Cho Seung Hui, the reason those people died was “rich kids,” and “debauchery” among other things. I doubt anyone, much less Europeans, will blame our crass materialism, our sexualized culture. It’s the gun, always the gun.

The gun made him do it.

There are those who think there should be fewer guns. But I remember in elementary school we did boxing for P.E. Everyone boxed. How many fights do you think broke out in my school? Not as many as occurred in other areas. You might think with all of us boys being taught how to box that there would be “matches” (or hockey games) breaking out all the time. Nope. Know why? Because we all knew how to box. Are there any bullies in dojos? I doubt it. My point? Cho Seung Hui knew that he would not be significantly opposed yesterday. Had he known that he would be walking into a classroom full of students, all or most of whom equally as armed and dangerous as he, then he would have gone elsewhere yesterday. It’s called healthy respect. Kind of like an elementary school where every boy knows how to box.

(No doubt Rosie O’Donnell has an opinion on the subject of guns and gun control. But who really cares? After all,
this is a woman who thinks that fire cannot melt steel.)
16 April 2007

The dreaded "H" word

I guess, in view of the whole Don Imus thing (which I've been waiting to see blow over) we need to just drop any use of the sound "ho."

When the Seven Dwarves sing that silly little song of theirs in the new release (surely only a few years away) the lyrics will need to be changed from Heigh Ho to (what?) Heigh Hee?

Heigh Hee
Heigh Hee
It's off the work we go...

Nope. Actually that won't work. Oh, I know.

Heigh hee,
Heigh hee,
It's off to work we be.

Actually I don't think that's going to work either. "We be" is the way some African-Americans say "We are" in ebonics, isn't it. (Forgive this awkwardness on my part: the African-Americans I know don't employ ebonics, so I'm clueless in such matters. What I do know is that verb, tense, number, voice or mood do not seem very important to ebonics.)

Bye, bye, seven dwarves.

What about Santa Claus? Ho, ho, ho? I don't think so.

Heh, heh, heh. Merry Christmas.

Okay. Things work about a little better for Santa.

Think I'm exagerating a bit? Okay. But, several years ago, I was involved in a verbal altercation with an African-American because I used the word 'niggardly' (which is a word having nothing to do with skin color). Supposedly, that word was out of line because it sounded similar to the 'n' word. (So does "trigger", but no one cares.)

Fine. Will we be treated to Chinese-Americans requiring that we no longer refer to "chinks" in armor? Will we hispanics be permitted to require that "Spic-n-Span" change its name, or that people no longer say things like, "That room better be spic and span when I get back"?

This weekend when I'm gardening I'll try to remember that one of my gardening tools is now to be known, no doubt, as "The implement formerly known as hoe." Just in case I'm overheard using the word by the New Thought Police. Because I'm sure little regard will be given to context, or intended meaning. Utterance of the sound itself, regardless who else utters it, will be enough to convict in the court of public opinion.

Let me make something very clear. I am the son of a white woman and a hispanic man. Frankly, I have always identified with my father's ethnicity (you could ask my mother's relations if you wanted). I've heard my share of slurs and racial jokes. Why don't "mess'cans" barbecue? Because the beans keep falling through the grill! Oh. Ha, ha, ha. What do you call a "mess'can" in a tree? A branch manager. Please. Stop. My side hurts.

I was offended. But I wasn't traumatized for even a few seconds, much less for the rest of my life. I didn't even have to get over it. There was nothing to get over.

Bye the way, I wasn't treated much better by many members of the group I chose to identify with. I wasn't a true chicano.
13 April 2007

Duke Lacrosse Players v Every Prissy, Puritanical Leftist with a Racial Axe to Grind

Well, the verdict is in The Duke Lacrosse Players are guilty of...uh... something. We're not really sure what it is, though we now know it's not rape. It's just a matter of finding the crime that will fit the verdict.

According to Al Sharpton, even if they didn't rape her, they still exploited her sexually by hiring her to dance for them in the first place. Now, on this much I agree with Sharpton. I know men. Whether we deny it or not, our eyes are sexual organs. Why do you think they were men who came up with the term 'eye candy'? What sort of hunger do you think that 'candy' is intended to satisfy? So yes, the accuser here was employed for these lads' sexual gratification. But in the end, their behavior, however immoral Sharpton and I think it to have been, was nonetheless legal.

Where I disagree with Sharpton is that it is also immoral to declare someone guilty of a crime and then proceed to search for the crime to fit the verdict. At least, it is immoral on a Christian view. And Sharpton is a Christian, is he not? A preacher and teacher of the Bible, and he seems unconcerned by the fact that in the Bible a false accusation is so serious that the false accuser is to receive the punishment which the accused would have received had he been found guilty. Instead of turning his guns on the false accuser in this case he maintains the verdict and searches for the crime. Nice.

According to the girls of The View, even if they didn't rape her, it was still a race thing. (I heard an audio clip; I didn't see the show. Like I really would. Ugh!) I mean, here you have these rich white boys, using the poor black single mother, for their obvious sexual gratification. (Hang on a moment! Wouldn't it also be a race thing if they had refused even to consider hiring a black dancer? Yes, I believe we would call it racial discrimination. Like I said, there will always be a crime somewhere that fits the verdict against these young men.)

According to these girls there is on the basis of this event a history with these men of really inappropriate things. Who doesn't have such a history, if we really, really look? A history of inappropriate things. Fine. But are they guilty of rape? That's what they were accused of.

Guilty, guilty, always guilty. We have them by the feet and will fashion the boots to match. Dennis Prager wants to know (1st hour of his program today) where these men can go to get their names back. There is no such place, apparently. The Minority Offense Industry will see to that.

I'm sure we'll be hearing of more crimes that fit the verdict. (Incidentally, we had this same sort of thing in the Marc Rich case.)

H/T: Ann Althouse for the "Prissy, Puritinical Left" phrase.
12 April 2007
My daughter makes an astute observation about Roman Catholicism in this comment on my posting on Good Friday.

In that posting I inserted this:

A personal, unrelated observation: I once heard Dennis Prager say, on the radio, “Christians will one day save this nation, if it is to be saved.” I sometimes think that the Christians who save this nation, if is to be saved, may just be the Roman Catholics.

My mijita writes: I also wonder often if it will be the RCC that saves Christianity in the United States. Simply, they are thoroughly committed to their belief. They will not waver, and despite cultural criticism, they have never denounced Catholicism. If only Protestants were as willing to staunchly defend the faith in the face of cultural disapproval....


Indeed, sweetie. Indeed.
11 April 2007

Saxual Innuendo

For you sax lovers out there. And you know who you are.

When I was in high school I wanted to have a saxophone quintet that I wanted to call Supersax. A group of us sax players, all male, sat around one lazy Sunday afternoon and came up with album names for the quintet. (Album is a medieval term which you'll probably have to look up in the Oxford English Dictionary.) Bear in mind I was a reprobate young man, with a proclivity for certain types of puns.

Saxuality

Saxual Tension

Graphic Sax

Saxual Temptation

Saxually Explicit

Heterosaxuality (A concept album. It’s a sax quintet; everybody plays a different type of saxophone.)

Saxual Fantasies

Sax Scenes

Sax Therapy

Bisaxuality (Another concept album: Sax duets. Get it?)

Transaxual (Concept: members of the quintet play saxes other than their specialty; mine were tenor and baritone, so maybe I’d play alto or soprano sax)

Saxual Release

Saxual Experimentation

Saxual Identity

Saxual Virility

Saxual Fidelity

Group Sax

Homosaxuality (Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time.)

Saxual Expression

Saxual Intercourse

Saxual Promiscuity

Saxist Pigs

Sax Education

Casual Sax

Loose Saxuality

Just Having Sax

Bodascious Sax

Sax Appeal

Saxual Healing (You Marvin Gaye fans knew it was only a matter of time)

Alas, a group of jazz saxophonists beat us to it in a way. As it turned out, there was already a group called Supersax. And we just couldn’t think of another name that we liked as much as that.

Why I am I publishing this?

Confession is good for the soul. I needed to get that off my chest. At last I can put the past behind me and move on.
06 April 2007
Holy Week is the time of the year when I most miss being Roman Catholic*. And if I were still Roman Catholic, I’d probably be a “Neo Cath.” (I miss it so much that I still celebrate Lent by giving up some thing that I enjoy. This year it was alcohol. Perhaps I should have taken a lesson from The Anchoress. But I digress.) Such an admission usually earns me the disapproval of my Reformed brethren. They usually poo-poo what they call the “bells, smells and rigamarole.” I miss the solemnities involved in the observances of Holy Week.

My Reformed brethren talk of not observing anything not commanded in Scripture. (The wisest of them more correctly talk about not requiring the observance of anything not commanded in Scripture.) But there is something about The Stations of the Cross. It doesn’t make me feel closer to Christ, but it does make me slow down. The act of following the Stations forces me not to simply read the narrative, but to meditate upon it, in just the same way really as observance of the Lord’s Supper forces me to reflect upon what it means to identify myself with him, and upon His condescension in identifying Himself with, and dying instead of, the likes of me.

How could one follow these stations and not be moved to serious, religious reflection?

1. Jesus is condemned to death
2. Jesus receives the cross
3. Jesus falls the first time
4. Jesus meets His Mother
5. Simon of Cyrene carries the cross
6. Veronica wipes Jesus' face with her veil (okay, this is of dubious historicity)
7. Jesus falls the second time
8. Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem
9. Jesus falls the Third time
10. Jesus is stripped of His garments
11. Jesus is nailed to the cross
12. Jesus dies on the cross
13. Jesus' body is removed from the cross
14. Jesus is laid in the tomb

That’s how it stands as you leave the Stations. Jesus has suffered. He is crucified, dead and buried.

And it’s a good thing, too: “For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5.6).

But don’t despair. Sunday – the third day – is coming.

Peace be with you.



[NOTE: I’m still very much Reformed. But remember, what the “reformers” originally sought to reform, like all the reformers who tried before them, was that institution we call the Roman Catholic Church.]
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*A personal, unrelated observation: I once heard Dennis Prager say, on the radio, “Christians will one day save this nation, if it is to be saved.” I sometimes think that the Christians who save this nation, if is to be saved, may just be the Roman Catholics.
04 April 2007
I was reading SCOTUSblog Monday on Massachusetts v. EPA. The case is interesting on any number of levels. For one thing, it is amusing to note the court defines 'imminent' as 100 years in the future and requiring quick action. If only it had that sort of meaning when wondering if we should invade a sovereign middle east nation which poses an 'imminent' threat to our national security. But I digress.

One of the commentators at SCOTUSblog thought it was "remarkable...that the Chief Justice, in dissent, spent his entire argument reflecting on the gateway issue of standing." I don't know why it should be remarkable that the CJ did so. After all, the Court seems to have altered the rules regarding standing. Had they not done so, it's unlikely there would have been a Mass. v. EPA for the Court to decide in the first place.

I'm not going to add anything properly legal to the discussion (for one thing, I can't), but I do have a concern, and it is this. The Court again sets aside certain provisions of the law which it finds inconvenient to its purposes. And I don't think the left can honestly deny this any more. (Note well: I said "honestly deny"!)

What else can it be called when the Court not only does so but admits to it in the persons of Justices Breyer and O'Connor? Both of them have been on sundry television programs explaining their respective justifications for resorting to a buffet of international law ("instructive", Breyer informs us, but not "binding" -- how reassuring, until one considers the fact that once it ends up in one of his opinions it becomes binding).

If memory serves, it was the Hamdan decision in which the Court ignored the fact that it's jurisdiction had been removed by an act of Congress. (Justice Stevens' reasoning -- in which we learn, among other things, that despite claims made by many regarding the impossibility of discerning legislative intent, a certain "negative inference" can be made, etc, etc, etc -- made for some peaceful bedtime reading.)

Now the Court, if the CJ is to be believed, fabricates new rules about standing.

My concern is not rooted in notions of some "edenic" era when the Court was populated by angelic beings. My concern is philosophical, jurisprudential to be precise. (I don't mean 'jurisprudential' as the term applies to case law. I mean it as a synonymn for 'legal philosophy.')

If the Court, which supposedly is to protect our liberties, can unilaterally alter the definitions of operative terms in the body of laws it is called upon to apply (the "living, breathing document" doctrine); if the Court can ignore limitations on its jurisdiction, placed upon it by that branch of government Constitutionally authorized to do so; if the Court can apply laws against us which are "foreign to our constitution,...unacknowledged by our laws" (
Declaration of Independence, para. 15); if the Court can give petitioners standing who had none previously; if we are to be a nation of laws, in which our rights are to be protected by law -- then there is de facto no law which protects our rights. And we have no rights which, like any other provision of any other law, the Court cannot ignore. (For example, if the Court can fabricate new rules about standing, then the Court, in addition to creating standing, can also dissolve it.)

It sounds alarmist to make that claim, absurd even. But I am not talking about a future day on which the Court will announce that, as a matter of law, U. S. citizens have no right. On the other hand it is not unreasonable to inquire into the logical implications of the Court's decisions, and the reasoning which leads to, and justifies, those decisions. And when we look into some of the reasoning we find that proposition nevertheless to be logically (though not legally) implied by much of the Court's output, and by much of what certain members of the Court say in their opinions, and in some of their lectures and speeches.

And the fact that it strikes us as absurd (i.e., to assert that we have no rights) ought to clue us in to how much of what the Court does, and says, is illegitimate. And we ought to derive little comfort from the probability that the Court will avoid coming to actual grips with the implication I'm talking about.

The implication is there. And I'm certainly not the first to notice.

Incidentally, in contrast with the majority, who found judicial action warranted, the CJ wrote:

Global warming may be a "crisis," even "the most pressing environmental problem of our time." Indeed, it may ultimately affect nearly everyone on the planet in some potentially adverse way, and it may be that governments have done too little to address it. It is not a problem, however, that has escaped the attention of policymakers in the Executive and Legislative Branches of our Government, who continue to consider regulatory, legislative, and treaty-based means of addressing global climate change. (Emphases mine.)


NOTE: On those occasions when I blog on the law, or the courts, I do not do so as a legal professional. I used to want to be a lawyer, but I got over that sooner than I got over wanting to be a Jesuit brother. I blog on the law and the courts as one who thinks it wise to pay as much attention to the most dangerous branch of our not-so-federal government as we pay to the other two. It is a lawyer's privilege to practice law; it's my right to watch how he does it after he puts on that black dress.

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James Frank Solís
Former soldier (USA). Graduate-level educated. Married 26 years. Texas ex-patriate. Ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America.
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