31 May 2007
UPDATE: If the President were not (apparently) relying upon the CIA for information he might know that Hugh Hewitt (among others) has read and analyzed the immigration bill. I’m still working my way through it. (Working one’s way through the entire Platonic corpus would be easier and more pleasurable.)

Someone close to the President might explain to him what a
false dilemma is. His position (expressed in the aforementioned speech) at this point seems to be, “Support this bill or be against what’s best for America.” As if one could not legitimately (there’s that word again) and honestly be (a) opposed to this bill and (b) in favor of what’s best for America.
Larry Elder explains “Skyrocketing” fuel prices here.

You know, it is undeniable that fuel prices are “increasing” in a certain sense. That is the superficial appearance. But we ought not make judgments on such appearances. We ought to get to the real truth of matter insofar as we are able (see, e.g., John 7.24). Part of getting to that reality involves having a good grasp of how numbers really work when it comes to economics.

The real truth of the matter,
innumeracy notwithstanding, is that fuel prices are not “skyrocketing.” Yes. We do pay “more” for fuel than we did any given number of years ago. But we pay “more” for lots of things. But this “more” is in many respects a bit deceptive.

The house I purchased last year would have cost me 30% “less” in 1977. In other words, when I take what a comparable house cost in 1977 and adjust for inflation (using S. Morgan Friedman’s inflation calculator, a very useful tool using
CPI, here) I find that in today’s dollars I spent just about what I would have spent 30 years ago. And when I take my income, assuming all other things are equal, and compare what it would have been in 1977 with the price of that new home, I find that my incomes in both 2006 and 1977 are just about the same percent of the cost of those houses.

Let’s let I1 and H1 represent my income and the cost of a comparable house respectively in 1977 dollars. Let’s let I2 and H2 represent the same items in 2006 dollars. Now let’s say that I1is n% of H1. I find that, today, I2is just about exactly n% of H2 (indeed the difference amounts to .055%).

I have heard – heard mind you, so I don’t have a link to a source – that very few Christians tithe. I think I now know why. We are told that Exxon’s 10% profit is obscene. Well, if I thought 10% was an obscene percentage I probably wouldn’t tithe either.
30 May 2007
ANOTHER UPDATE (to this posting): Thomas Sowell has three columns, here (on whether “amnesty” is really an inappropriate word), here (on those jobs Americans won’t do) and here (on precisely whose problems the immigration bill is intended to solve). And, while not directly related to the present topic, he explains the importance of putting rhetoric over fact here and here.

Of course, the President just has to engage in mis-characterization of the debate, as if it is about immigration qua immigration, rather than illegal immigration. From his speech at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center yesterday:

I want to introduce Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez -- I appreciate you coming, Mr. Secretary. (Applause.) Carlos wasn't born here, see. He was born in another country -- Cuba. And now he sits in the Cabinet of the President of the United States. There's something great about a country that welcomes people, people who uphold our laws and realize the great blessings of America.

With us, as well, is Senator Mel Martinez. He wasn't born in America. He's a Senator from Florida. He was born in Cuba. I don't know if you know his story, but his mother and father put him on an airplane to come to the United States of America, to be raised by total strangers because they didn't want their son to grow up under a tyrant named Fidel Castro. He used to sit in the Cabinet of the President of the United States; now he sits in the United States Senate. What a wonderful country it is, where people can come to live in a country based upon liberty, and realize the great blessings of our country.

And I want to mention those two men because, to me, they represent what the immigration debate is all about: Will we be a welcoming place, a place of law, that renews our spirit by giving people a chance to succeed? (emphasis added)

He had the temerity to go on to intimate that sceptics of the bill haven’t read it. He must be relying upon the CIA for that sort of information.

Thank you, Mr. President. You could have been helpful on the issue. But you were so much less.
ANOTHER UPDATE (to this posting): Thomas Sowell has three columns, here (on whether “amnesty” is really an inappropriate word), here (on those jobs Americans won’t do) and here (on precisely whose problems the immigration bill is intended to solve). And, while not directly related to the present topic, he explains the importance of putting rhetoric over fact here and here.

UPDATE (to the previous posting): Michael Gerson explains how it is that people (whom he refers to as “anti-immigrant”, rather than “anti-illegal immigrant”) who want laws respected are really just fear mongers, or worse: harmful to the GOPS’s future. (On the subject of lawlessness it is interesting to note part of Gerson’s argument: if the enforcement of a set laws will prove politically disadvantageous to the GOP such laws must be changed.) Like Linda Chavez and Ruben Navarette, Gerson apparently believes that making assertions about opponents, rather than offering logical rejoinder, in disposing of opponents’ arguments is not logically fallacious. Be that as it may, is Andy Ramirez a racist?

Heather McDonald responds to Gerson

Respect the law? The law? What law?

How safe the streets of Maywood, California must be.

Protecting one form of lawbreaking may require protecting others as well. The city of Maywood in Los Angeles County declared itself a sanctuary zone for illegal aliens this year. Then it got rid of its drunk-driving checkpoints, because they were nabbing too many illegal aliens. Next, this 96 percent Latino city, almost half of whose adult population lacks a ninth-grade education, disbanded its police traffic division entirely, so that illegals wouldn't need to worry about having their cars towed for being unlicensed. – Heather McDonald

McDonald has a point there. Lawbreaking – and the protection of lawbreakers – can have a ripple effect. But does anyone suppose that a citizen of the U. S. would get such breaks?

What if twelve million of us decided to stop paying federal taxes? What if twelve million of us decided all to move to the same state and persuade that state to secede? What would this Congress – and this President – do? I mean, if you can’t round up and deport twelve million illegal immigrants it can’t be very easy to round up, prosecute and imprison twelve million legal citizens who refuse to pay their taxes. In both cases you have twelve million people who mock the law. Think of it: once 12 million break a certain body of laws, the federal government apparently has no choice but to legalize the proscribed activity. (Peoples Patriot came to the same realization about the same time I did, just last week.)

Mocking the law is what Mark D. Roberts had in mind when he wrote this posting. (H/T: The Reformed Chicks) His particular concern is immigration law, and it’s flouting by illegal immigrants, with the complicity of Congress. The law may already be a mockery. Lawlessness sometimes seems to have reached epidemic proportions. This fact, together with the fact that the present immigration laws aren’t being enforced, reminds me of a passage in Thomas Cahill’s How the Irish Saved Civilization:

We have encountered Roman law already – as a dead letter, promulgated by the emperor and circumvented, first by the powerful, then increasingly by anyone who could get away it. As the emperor’s laws become weaker, the ceremony surrounding them becomes more baroque, In the last days, the Divine One’s edict is written in gold on purple paper, received with covered hands in the fashion of a priest handling sacred vessels, held aloft for adoration by the assembled throng, who prostrate themselves before the law—and then ignore it (60, emphasis mine).

No doubt, if this bill passes there will be celebrations galore on the part of its supporters, complete with signing ceremony, and peaceful demonstrations by the formerly-illegal immigrants. The new law, like the versions before it – the versions not presently being enforced – will be held aloft like the gold-inked purple paper the Romans worshipped before ignoring so long ago.

Should we hope for enforcement? I don’t think so. This is the third amnesty – or at least near-amnesty (perhaps sub silentio amnesty) – in something like forty years.

I wonder if it’s really any use our blaming the illegal immigrant, or at least entirely. And maybe despite our justified ire, there isn’t much point in blaming this wet-noodle spined Congress either. Lawlessness runs deep in our whole nation. Really, the illegal immigrant isn’t showing much more disrespect for our laws than we seem to do.

Maybe you’re sceptical of the notion that the general population can be blamed for something like this, or at the very least that any connection can be made between the general population and the lawless behavior of some smaller segment of it (even if that smaller segment is the illegal immigrant population). But I wouldn’t be the first to make such a connection.

In People of the Lie, M. Scott Peck connects the incident at MyLai (see also this article by Phillip Biedler) to American society as a whole:

While the military may have been crashing around in Vietnam like a crazed bull, it did not get there of its own accord. The mindless beast was sent there and let loose by the United States government acting on behalf of the American people. Why? Why did we wage that war?

Basically, we fought the war because of a combination of three attitudes: (1) communism was a monolithic evil force hostile to human freedom in general and American freedom in particular; (2) it was America’s duty as the world’s most economically powerful nation to lead the opposition against communism; and (3) communism should be opposed wherever it arose by whatever means necessary.


By allowing ourselves to be easily and blatantly defrauded, we…participated in the evil of the Johnson administration. The evil…of the Johnson administration was directly conducive to the whole atmosphere of lying and manipulation and evil that pervaded our presence in Vietnam during those years. It was in this atmosphere that MyLai occurred in March 1968. Task Force Barker was hardly even aware that it had run amok that day, but, then, America was not significantly aware either in early 1968 that it too had almost unredeemably lost its bearings. (238-43)

Perhaps Dr. Peck’s connection is tenuous. It does seem a bit of a stretch, at least superficially. Can it really be that easy for a democracy to behave like that? It is popular to suppose that a democracy, even a democratic republic, simply by virtue of being democratic in form, just cannot be imperialistic amd will not eagerly wage war. (The President himself has informed us that democracies don’t wage war against each other.) I cannot at present recall the exact location, but in their book Who Killed Homer?, Victor David Hanson and John Heath make the claim that the Athenian democracy actually made it quite easy for the imperialist amibitions of the people to be translated into public policy and then military action. So I don’t think Peck was off base, even if he turns out to be wrong. (I’m not arguing that the action in Vietnam was imperialist, simply that the attitudes – or at least even a bastardization of those attitudes – of the “man on the street” can become public policy. And so, on topic, if the “man on the street” is a bit lawless, his leaders might also be; and so might some immigrants.)

We need to come to grips with the fact that, in many ways, lawlessness in our leaders (and illegal immigrants) may be a function of lawlessness in the general population, especially that segment of the general population which is hiring illegal immigrants.

Much of the lawlessness seems innocuous enough, I suppose. One might be driving on an interstate highway with a posted speed limit of 75 miles per hour only to be passed by someone drive 95. In fact, most people seem to have decided that this particular law doesn’t apply to them; and they have handy little devices in their cars to alert them to the presence of law enforcement. (Some are worse, and will ignore the posted speed limits in residential areas, putting children at risk.)

It is quite common, in the city in which I live, for people to run red lights, especially those which end a protected left turn. You can count on it that when that green arrow turns red at least three drivers will run that red light. At least. Usually it’s more like five or six. The green arrow turns red. You get a green light. But you have to wait for five or six people to run that light and make that left turn before you can proceed through an intersection which you now have a legal right to proceed through.

It’s that simple: for reasons that suit me, I will ignore the posted speed limit, or run that red light.

The illegal immigrant really does nothing that your average American driver on an interstate highway doesn’t do: we have a law which he finds inconvenient, so he breaks it. The attitude towards the law is exactly the same. Exactly the same. It’s inconvenient; so I break it. (Incidentally, I don’t; and you’re welcome to drive around with me any time.)

People who pirate music are also just as lawless as the average highway driver. The law gives to artists and the labels which produce and market their creations copyright protections. The same rights are protected for actors and others connected to the movie and television industries. We have those among us who take it upon themselves to make certain judgments about the applicability of these laws to them. Here are some typical justifications offered by music and video “pirates”:

(a) Only a low percentage of total record sales that is paid back to the artists anyway. So the only people I’m hurting are rich executives, and “they” have plenty of money already.

(b) Try before you buy, man. If I deem a downloaded album, film or piece of software useful I’ll buy it. If not, I’ll delete it. Really. You have my word.

(c) Hey, on the whole CD there are only two songs I like. I don’t see why I should buy the whole thing just for those two songs.

(d) Dude, the free spread of media stimulates the industry, man, by creating new artists and exposing new people to current artists. It’s all good, dawg.

(e) Musicians make the bulk of their money from concerts, not the deplorably low percentages of sales given to them by their recording companies. Increased exposure will result in more people going to see live music. So, in reality copyright infringement probably creates greater profits for the artists, instead of the “suits”.

(f) (My all-time favorite.) I listen to music for free on the radio. I check out movies for free at the library. This is no different.

Whatever the persuasive value of these arguments, they all have one thing in common. They all seek to explain how a law – a federal law, I might add – ought not apply to them. There exists a law which they find inconvenient, so they break it. (I know a couple of these people. They object strenuously to illegal immigration; and they don’t care about the illegal immigrant’s excuses, which are to me much easier to accept. It’s easy to understand why a poor, hungry man might steal a loaf of bread.)

The Congress, in dealing with law-breakers by making legal what they’ve done, participates in the lawlessness. But, as I’ve been saying, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that an increasingly (at least apparently) lawless population should elect relatively lawless people as their leaders.

And this lawlessness is not limited to the Congress. The courts do their share. Of course, we shouldn’t be too surprised that relatively lawless leaders will have a preference for the appointment of lawless people to the courts. (And on those occasions on which the relatively non-lawless are nominated, those who have come to accept the present lawlessness as though it were lawful put up quite the protest.)

I do my share of complaining about the Court’s claim that the 14th amendment wraps up the Bill of Rights and applies it against the states. But who started this lawlessness? In actual point of fact, the Supreme Court’s lawlessness, with respect to, say, civil rights, was rooted in the larger American society.

Take, for example, the Court’s opinion in the Civil Rights cases (109 U.S. 3 [1883]). These cases were all founded on the first and second sections of the Civil Rights Act of 1875, entitled "An Act to protect all citizens in their civil and legal rights," persuant to the enforcement clauses of the 13th and 14th amendments. Two of the cases involved denying to persons of color the accommodations and privileges of an inn or hotel; two others involved denying to individuals the privileges and accommodations of a theatre, and another the refusal by the conductor of a railroad company to allow a man’s wife to ride in the ladies' car because she was a person of African descent. The Court declared unconstitutional an act of Congress designed to secure to blacks the standing that whites had. Whites were not barred from theaters and certain railroad cars; blacks should not have been either. The next link in the chain was the heinous Plessy (163 U.S. 537 [1896])decision with it’s creation of the “separate but equal” nonsense. And so, the Court made the black man’s Constitutional gaurantee of an equal status with the white man a dead letter. But the general population (including the North) had already done that. The Court was no less lawless in the Civil Rights cases, or in Plessy, than the general population.

So, the Court is lawless; Congress is lawless. And the President? I’m not one of those who think that he is conducting an illegal war in Iraq. I could be wrong. But he did sign the recent campaign finance reform law; and he did so suspecting that it probably violated the Constitution’s protection of free speech. We know he suspected this because we know that he expressed the hope, or belief, that the Supreme Court would find the act unconstitutional. Talk about your buck-passing. One would think the President does not have a duty to inquire into the Constitutionality of a law awaiting his signature. He could have said, “I think this bill is unconstitutional, so I’m going to veto it.” But no, he passed that responsibility over to a Court he knows regularly ignores the law it is called upon to apply. Nice. Really nice.

And I’m not even going to discuss things like jury nullification or the tens (or is it hundreds) of federal programs which fly in the face of the specific and limited powers the Constitution gives to Congress, and which constitute, for the most part, simple transfers of income from those who earn to those who don’t, can’t, or just plain won’t.

And it isn’t that we’re a just a bit lawless with respect to our obedience to the law. We are also a bit lawless in our treatment of the lawless. (And I mean in addition to privileging 12 million illegal immigrants by legalizing their activity, while leaving other laws on the books which are disobeyed by millions.) We have, depending upon the crimes involved, a different standard for the rich and powerful on one hand, and the poor and powerless on the other hand. On one hand, a rich executive breaks a law and gets a prison sentence. On the other hand, twelve million poor people break a law and get “legalized”. A handful of rich kids can be treated like they are guilty until proven innocent because a poor, single, working mother says they raped her. Two border agents, who may have broken a law, end up in prison; the illegal alien (a drug smuggler at that) whose rights they arguably violated receives compensations no citizen would be entitled to. The illegal immigrant must have his rights respected by the American people; the American people need not have their rights respected by the illegal immigrant – the right to have their borders respected, specifically. And this in a society which gives lip service to the assertion that Biblical values inform our laws and our legal system. One of those values is the requirement of one law for both rich and poor – powerful and powerless – alike.

We ignore our laws. Our leaders ignore our laws. Now comes the illegal immigrant, poor, hungry, jobless, but willing to work. And what is he told by a nation full of people who to varying degrees take it upon themselves to determine which laws they will or will not obey?

“Respect our laws.”

St. Paul once asked of certain Jews of his day, “You who abhor idols, do you rob temples?” (Romans 2.23) It occurs to me that he might today ask us something like, “You who demand respect for the law, do you speed?”

Be that as it may, of course, in the end the people of a nation, however disrespectful of their laws, still have a right to say who gets in and under what conditions. I mean, there’s something to be said (not much, but something) for a man who, though he kicks his own dog, doesn’t think everyone should do so also. (The dog probably likes it too. He only has to put up with one jack ass kicking him around, not tens or hundreds.) The man's right: people shouldn’t kick his dog. But he ought to add himself to the class of people who ought not kick his dog. I wonder if illegal immigrants think they shouldn’t be robbed? I suspect they do. I’m sure they are all for the enforcement of laws other than immigration -- the way some speeders are for the enforcement of drunk driving laws. (But I digress.)

On the other hand, I could be employing the wrong analogy. Our country is our home. If I want to urinate on my carpet, that’s my business. But if you sneak into my home and urinate on my carpet I can surely object. It may seem odd that I would urinate on my carpet and object to your doing so. But it is my carpet after all. In the end I’ll either end up scrubbing that carpet myself or paying to have it done. I may not be successful in having you do the same.

Still, demand that people respect our laws would be a bit more palatable if there were a lot less apparent lawlessness on the part of many who demand respect for the law.
27 May 2007

We flatter ourselves most sweetly -- Wisdom Sunday

I have to follow the previous installment with this subsequent passage from Calvin's discussion of the knowledge of God in his Institutes (Bk. 1, Ch.1.2, Battles Tr.). Here he argues that with the knowledge of God there is no clear knowledge of self:

[I]t is certain that man never achieves a clear knowledge of himself unless he has first looked upon God’s face, and then descends from contemplating him to scrutinize himself. For we always seem to ourselves righteous and upright and wise and holy — this pride is innate in all of us — unless by clear proofs we stand convinced of our own unrighteousness, foulness, folly, and impurity. Moreover, we are not thus convinced if we look merely to ourselves and not also to the Lord, who is the sole standard by which this judgment must be measured. For, because all of us are inclined by nature to hypocrisy, a kind of empty image of righteousness in place of righteousness itself abundantly satisfies us. And because nothing appears within or around us that has not been contaminated by great immorality, what is a little less vile pleases us as a thing most pure — so long as we confine our minds within the limits of human corruption.

Just so, an eye to which nothing is shown but black objects judges something dirty white or even rather darkly mottled to be whiteness itself. Indeed, we can discern still more clearly from the bodily senses how much we are deluded in estimating the powers of the soul. For if in broad daylight we either look down upon the ground or survey whatever meets our view round about, we seem to ourselves endowed with the strongest and keenest sight; yet when we look up to the sun and gaze straight at it, that power of sight which was particularly strong on earth is at once blunted and confused by a great brilliance, and thus we are compelled to admit that our keenness in looking upon things earthly is sheer dullness when it comes to the sun. So it happens in estimating our spiritual goods.

As long as we do not look beyond the earth, being quite content with our own righteousness, wisdom, and virtue, we flatter ourselves most sweetly, and fancy ourselves all but demigods. Suppose we but once begin to raise our thoughts to God, and to ponder his nature, and how completely perfect are his righteousness, wisdom, and power — the straightedge to which we must be shaped. Then, what masquerading earlier as righteousness was pleasing in us will soon grow filthy in its consummate wickedness. What wonderfully impressed us under the name of wisdom will stink in its very foolishness. What wore the face of power will prove itself the most miserable weakness. That is, what in us seems perfection itself corresponds ill to the purity of God.
22 May 2007
I heard Tamara Jacoby say (on Laura Ingraham) that the comprehensive immigration bill will “make people come out of the shadows.” By “people” she meant illegal immigrants. If she meant by “make” what I normally understand “make” to mean, then one should wonder: If we can make a law that makes 12 million illegal immigrants come out of the shadows, then can’t we make law that makes those same 12 million people go back to their country of origin? (After all, we wouldn’t have to bother deporting them.)

We should also wonder: If such a law can really make 12 million people come out of the shadows (or do anything else for that matter) can’t a law make people not commit murder? How does that work? Is it that our laws against murder aren't written as well as this comprehensive immigration bill? Or is it something else? Is there in this legislation some sort of enticement to come out of the shadows? If so then perhaps we need similar enticements in our anti-murder legislation.

On the same subject, in a 20-page opinion,
U.S. District Judge Sam Lindsay wrote that the Farmer’s Branch apartment measure pre-empts the federal goverment's power to regulate immigration. As my daughther would say, “What the crap?”

If Farmers Branch had a law which prohibited property owners from knowingly leasing to known meth manufacturers, would this same judge rule that such a law interfered with the fed’s power to enforce federal drug law?
21 May 2007
An update to this posting: N. Z. Bear has user friendly text of the bill (H/T: Hugh Hewitt).

The Bible and (Illegal) Immigration

On Friday (18 May) Laura Ingraham interviewed, and sponsored a brief debate between, Dr. Juan Hernandez, senior fellow at the Reform Institute, and Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies.

During the course of the interview/debate Dr. Hernandez made a comment about the way our immigration laws “treat people.” After his characterization he commented to the effect that “That’s not the way my Bible says we should treat people.”

If Dr. Hernandez wants to claim that the Bible teaches us how we ought to treat people I’m willing to agree with him. But the problem is that the Bible doesn’t really teach us how to treat people qua people. “People” is a general class; and while we do receive some instruction from the Scriptures on how to treat “people” as a class, the fact of the matter is that in our day to day lives, “people” belong to different sub-classes. And the Bible gives us instruction on how to treat people depending upon what sort of sub-classes they may fall into.

For example, “people” who are guilty of murder are, according to the mosaic law to be put to death. Using Dr. Hernandez’s generalizing approach, we might conclude that the Bible permits “people” to be put to death. Therefore, in allowing us to put “people” to death, the Bible would surely allow us to give to “people” the poor treatment he is characterizing. Now, I know that Hernandez would not agree with that; I don’t agree with it either. The point is that much as we might like to talk about “classlessness” the fact is we’d get just as far talking about one-ended sticks. “People” belong to sub-classes; how they are to be treated is frequently determined not by their belonging to the class “people”, but rather by what sub-classes they, as “people”, belong to. Notice that it’s not that the Bible teaches us to put “people” to death, but “people” who are also “murderers”.

“Immigrant” is a sub-class of “people.” And “immigrant” may be broken down further into “legal” and “illegal”. If Hernandez will stipulate that “people” who are “murderers” (or “thieves”, “rapists”, “child molester”) may legitimately be treated differently than “people” who are “non-murderers”, then perhaps we can prevail upon him to stipulate that it might be just as legitimate to treat “immigrants” differently than “non-immigrants” and “legal” immigrants differently than “illegal” immigrants. Again: when it comes to how we treat “people”, often the Bible teaches us how to treat them based on some sub-class they belong to.

Another of the ways the Bible teaches us to treat “people” is as if they are responsible for their actions and the consequences of those actions. In the mosaic law, a murderer is put to death based on the assumption that he, not his “society” is responsible for his crime. So when Geraldo Rivera asks us if we want to separate families we can legitimately ask who really is responsible for this separation, the law breaker or the law enforcer. It’s not as if the only families separated by law enforcement are the families of illegal aliens.

Our judicial system imprisons men and women in this country everyday, men and women who have families. Indeed,
Chuck Colson’s Angel Tree ministry exists to acquire Christmas presents for the children of incarcerated men and women. Sometimes, when a society treats law-breakers as if they are responsible for their law-breaking, families get separated. Geraldo and his ilk seem to care only when they are illegal immigrant families who get separated. Oh, well, I suppose we should stop doing that. It’s awful, isn’t it, separating families? At last we can solve that over-crowded prison problem. Got a family? No prison for you.

Half-hearted attempts at applying the Bible’s teachings to modern issues has to be one of the reasons why so many people think it can’t be done.
19 May 2007

Introducing Wisdom Sundays

For some time now I have been meaning to begin what I am going to call “Wisdom Sunday.” For reasons I won’t belabor here, I don’t blog on Sundays. I don’t even draft blog postings on Sundays. But I would like to offer here my own effort at keeping the Lord’s Different from all others. Leaving my postings from a previous week, or even from a Saturday hardly seems fitting.

My sole purpose is to post passages from the Scriptures or from men and women of the Christian faith whom I believe are accounted wise and whose wisdom has stood the test of some time. This qualification means that most of the authors whose wisdom I share are either old, or dead.

For this first such Sunday I give you John Calvin, on the knowledge of God, from his
Institutes of the Christian Religion (Bk. 1, Ch.1.1, Battles Tr.):

Nearly all the wisdom we possess, that is to say, true and sound wisdom, consists of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves. But, while joined by many bonds, which one precedes and brings forth the other is not easy to discern. In the first place, no one can look upon himself without immediately turning his thoughts to the contemplation of God, in whom he “lives and moves” [Acts 17:28].

For, quite clearly, the mighty gifts with which we are endowed are hardly from ourselves; indeed, our very being is nothing but subsistence in the one God. Then, by these benefits shed like dew from heaven upon us, we are led as by rivulets to the spring itself. Indeed, our very poverty better discloses the infinitude of benefits reposing in God. The miserable ruin, into which the rebellion of the first man cast us, especially compels us to look upward. Thus, not only will we, in fasting and hungering, seek thence what we lack; but, in being aroused by fear, we shall learn humility. For, as a veritable world of miseries is to be found in mankind, and we are thereby despoiled of divine raiment, our shameful nakedness exposes a teeming horde of infamies. Each of us must, then, be so stung by the consciousness of his own unhappiness as to attain at least some knowledge of God.

Thus, from the feeling of our own ignorance, vanity, poverty, infirmity, and — what is more — depravity and corruption, we recognize that the true light of wisdom, sound virtue, full abundance of every good, and purity of righteousness rest in the Lord alone. To this extent we are prompted by our own ills to contemplate the good things of God; and we cannot seriously aspire to him before we begin to become displeased with ourselves. For what man in all the world would not gladly remain as he is — what man does not remain as he is — so long as he does not know himself, that is, while content with his own gifts, and either ignorant or unmindful of his own misery? Accordingly, the knowledge of ourselves not only arouses us to seek God, but also, as it were, leads us by the hand to find him.
18 May 2007
According to James Lewis (American Thinker), "The proposed immigration deal will throw open our doors to increased immigration from Muslim lands, not just Mexico."

I really need to get a copy of that bill.

For now, I'm tempted to be against it on the grounds that Senator Kennedy is for it.

Those greedy universities

I was reading this article last night (Tamim Ansary, “How College Costs Could Lead to a Market Crash”).Thinking about Ansary’s observations that (1) it's becoming ever more expensive and (2) it's becoming ever more indispensable.

When I read those observations to Deviant Wife, she said, “Both of those observations are also true of gas are they not?” Why yes, I believe they are. (It’s not that Deviant Wife didn’t know that about education. I was telling her about the subject of the entire article, which was precisely as the title suggests. She interrupted me – as all wives do – to make the aforementioned observation.)

“Those darn greedy universities,” she said.

She makes a good point, I think. In recent days, on talk stations in my location, many callers (e.g., one lady, to the Rush Limbaugh show on Wednesday) have made the claim that only greed (i.e., the greed of oil companies) explains the high cost of fuel at the pump, and that the oil companies have banded together to make us pay the price they want us to pay. These callers have also claimed that oil companies should be “fair” and cut back on their profits because everyone needs fuel. In other words, like university educations fuel is “becoming ever more expensive” and “ever more indispensable.” So why don’t universities, in order to be fair, and since everyone pretty much needs a university degree now-days, just drop their prices? (And, of course, those publishers should do the same.)

Observe a few facts about university professor salaries (from the most recent years I could get figures for in a hurry):

Private Research Universities Where Average Salary of Full Professors Exceeds $125,000, 2004-5

University Professors’ Average Salary

Rockefeller University $169,173
Harvard University $163,162
Princeton University $151,077
Stanford University $148,548
University of Chicago $148,426
California Inst. of Technology $145,745
Yale University $145,550
University of Pennsylvania $143,409
Columbia University $140,391
New York University $138,087
Northwestern University $136,326
Massachusetts Inst. of Technology $135,005
Emory University $131,898
Duke University $131,246
Cornell University (endowed units) $131,092
Washington University in St. Louis $128,385
Georgetown University $127,135

Public Universities Where Average Salary of Full Professors Exceeds $110,000, 2004-5

University Professors’ Average Salary

University of California at Los Angeles $123,328
University of California at Berkeley $121,781
New Jersey Inst. of Technology $121,509
University of Maryland at Baltimore $120,529
University of Michigan at Ann Arbor $120,173
Georgia Inst. of Technology $118,960
University of Virginia $118,073
Rutgers University at Newark $116,433
SUNY Health Science Center at Brooklyn $115,478
University of California at San Diego $113,838
Rutgers University at New Brunswick $112,874
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill $112,722
Penn State University $112,580
Rutgers University at Camden $112,387
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign $111,820
University of Maryland at College Park $111,037
University of Connecticut $110,922
University of California at Santa Barbara $110,637

Think about all those middle class families, taking out second mortgages to pay, not for fuel at the pump, but for those indispensable university educations.

Now, I ask, what do university professors do to earn salaries like those? They don’t have to give anyone a return on investment. They don’t have to turn a profit. The customer (i.e., the student or his parents, as the case may be) shows up and is told (1) how much he shall pay for the product and (2) when he has received a product that he shall have to be satisfied with. The university takes a student’s money, and then puts the student to work to earn what he’s paying the money for. And it is the professor, not the student, who decides if the student has received what he’s paying for. That’s a really sweet deal.

I design structures which, if not designed properly, could result in serious injury, even death. I don’t make what a university professor makes. Odd when you think about the higher stakes involved in my line of work. (Although, I must admit, I do make a very decent salary.) Not only that, but it is the customer who tells me if he’s satisfied with the product, not the other way round. (Oh, yes. And my company doesn’t band together with other companies in our line of work to make them pay us what we want. It’s very company for itself.)

Salaries aside. People need the product which universities sell; and they need it just about as badly as they need fuel. Maybe more so, since they need jobs in order to buy that fuel, and a university education in order to get the jobs. Those greedy universities (run and staffed mostly by liberals, oddly enough) should just drop their tuition costs. It’s what most of them want oil companies to do.

It’s only fair.

NOTE: You might want to split a relevant hair with me. You might want to point out that universities are non-profit institutions and oil companies are for-profit institutions. But the non-profit status of universities only means that (insofar as they operate in the black) the surplus does not inure to the benefit of any individual, or group of them, as his private property. It certainly does not mean that universities don’t make money; it certainly does not mean that they do not take in more than it costs them to operate. With respect to the amount charged for the product, the distinction between for-profit and non-profit is a distinction without a relevant difference. You might also want to raise the issue of Exxon Mobiles hundreds of billions in profit last year. But since that amounts to 10%, I will of course want to know if there are any universities who managed to take in 10% more last year than it cost them to operate.
16 May 2007

Talk about your mood-killers

You've got to hand it to those TV commercial people.

Feature this. It's the commercial break during the Letterman show. Your wife sachets over, stretches across your lap and begins kissing you. In the background, a voice from the televsion says, at just that moment, "The one you love could be carrying millions of germs...."

Are you kidding me?

Uh...yeah...catch you tomorrow honey.

Thank you CBS.
15 May 2007
Consistent with declaring an end to debates over matters with public policy implications, the left are now moving to re-institute the fairness doctrine. (H/T: Hugh Hewitt blog.) Another interesting move for people who claim to support freedom of speech and expression.

Two provisions of the doctrine which always concerned me in the past were the personal attack rule and the political editorial rule. The personal attack rule required anyone "attacked" over the airwaves to be notified beforehand and given an opportunity to respond. The political editorial rule required that a broadcaster endorsing one political candidate or issue had to give similar time for a response from those not endorsed or supported. They may seem reasonable, but in practical effect it really put an end to much of broadcast speech. Let’s face it, to contact every person you are going to “attack” is pretty time consuming, assuming we possess a reasonable definition of "attack" (hopefully something other than rebuttal, or analysis). And so it is to make sure that every one with a position different from you own gets equal time. It's not like there are only two possible positions. Far easier just to play music that no body really listens to anyway. Like back in the 70s. Boy, those were the days I can tell you.

Fairness requirements are free speech. That’s the American left. Doing things like putting an effective muzzle on speech in the name of speech while pretending to be inveterate lovers of liberty. Only the
Ministry of Truth could do it better. Maybe.

It may be possible to have “fairness” in speech. I doubt it. But let’s not pretend that we can have government bureaucracy-enforced “fair” speech and “free” speech at the same time.
13 May 2007

Should a free society permit an end to “legitimate” debates? (Part 2)

My arch nemesis, whom I’ve taken to calling Q, makes a claim which is not entirely surprising. In response to this previous posting, he asserts:

“Is there any debate amoung [sic] independent scientists that have investigated climate changes? Yes of course but about details and not about global warming or it's [sic] rate. I mentioned independent because taken [sic] the word of a scientist who works for the oil industry about global warming is as valid as taken [sic] the word of a doctor working for the tobacco industry about what causes longcancer [sic] or of a 'discovery center' scientist about evolution.” (emphasis mine)

One thing I have really enjoyed about Q is his demonstration of the sort of reasoning commonly employed by left-liberals. This is a typical left-liberal gem: refute or dismiss your opponent’s position by asserting something objectionable about your opponent, rather than pointing out any errors in fact or logic.

Q acknowledges debate, among “independent” scientists, over “details”, and does so in a way that suggests that these details are either irrelevant, insignificant, or both. (The 1957 movie, “Twelve Angry Men” is a great illustration of the relative importance of seemingly “unimportant” details. But I digress.) In the end these “independent” scientists, despite disagreement over details, don’t disagree on the “important” things.

There are other scientists, on Q’s view, who are not “independent” and who therefore are not to be trusted. These “dependent” scientists are those who work for the oil industry. Trusting them – taking their word for anything related to global warming – is not valid. Here we have a notion he calls “independence” and which he uses to judge the “validity” of taking the word of some scientist. It is not valid to take the word of a scientist who works for the oil industry. It seems, therefore, that “independent” means “not working for the oil industry.”

With the understanding that the precise debate over global warming that I have in mind is whether it is anthropogenic, the argument expressed by Q goes, I think, something like this:

Assuming: (a) that any scientist who works for an oil company (or is otherwise connected to the oil industry) is not “independent”; and (b) that, by “properly ignorable” we mean to express a thought similar to Q’s assertion of the invalidity of taking the word of non-independent scientists;


1. All Non-independent scientists are properly ignorable in debates having public policy implications.
2. Scientist Joe, who claims that global warming is not anthropogenic, is a Non-independent scientist.
3. Therefore, Scientist Joe is properly ignorable in a debate with public policy implications.

We might add that (1) is true especially in circumstances in which Joe’s assertions are contrary to a consensus of so-called independent scientists. No persuasive definition there by any stretch of the imagination!

In fact, this rather poor argument is assailable by two avenues: property rights; and this silly notion of “independence.”

First, even an oil company, in a debate about whether use of its product is destroying the planet, has the right, as the defendant if you will, to call his own expert witnesses. In other words, in a free society, even an oil company has the right to be heard in arguments about public policy. Not only that, but let’s remember who these oil companies are. These companies are the people who own them; so even if we wanted to say that the oil companies don’t have a right to be heard, the people who own them, being constituents – citizens of the U. S. – have a right to be heard.

Someone I know is invested in Chevron. She is not a wealthy woman; but she is a stockholder. Her oil company has a duty to her to protect her financial stake. If there are “independent” scientists out there asserting that her oil company’s product is destroying the planet, she has a right, through her oil company, to have the witnesses against her oil company confronted.

My wife is invested in a retirement fund which owns stock in Exxon Mobile. She has the same right. The people who own stock in oil companies have a right to protect their property. The upshot of this left-liberal argument is that any scientist in the employ of someone who may be adversely affected by public policy decisions ought to be ignored on the simple grounds that his employment makes him biased and therefore untrustworthy.

We actually have people asserting that in a free society we ought to accept this as reasonable: “We are going to inflict upon your industry public policy measures designed to deal with the fact (according to our consensus, anyway) that your product is destroying the planet. And we will ignore any scientist you may employ to confront us, on the grounds that his employment by you makes him non-independent and therefore untrustworthy.”

That’s not mere nonsense; it is noxious to a free society.

Second, this notion of “independence” and its relation to “trustworthiness” is problematic. I mentioned persuasive definition above. That is what we have here with the word “independent.” With this word, Q (and he’s not the only one) pretends “to describe the 'true' or 'commonly accepted' meaning of [the] term, while in reality stipulating an uncommon or altered use [in order] to support an argument for some view, or to create or alter rights, duties or crimes.”

The typical left-liberal does precisely that. He juxtaposes “independent” scientists with other scientists, scientists who work for the oil industry. For some reason, only those scientists who do not work for oil companies are “independent.” (And it is not so clear what it is these scientists are “independent” of.) Those other scientists, the “dependent” ones, deserve to have their biases enquired into and their integrity called into question. Why? Well because they are not “independent” and (gulp!) they have questioned the consensus. (How dare they? Help! Police!) Those scientists who make up the consensus are, we may assume, people of the highest character and integrity, with no biases we need to enquire into, no integrity we need question.

One would think a scientist who bucked the system and took on the consensus would be called the “independent” one. But no, in this case, “independent” means going along with the majority, or whoever the left-liberal sides with. (It reminds me of the way young people express their individuality: by dressing and acting like everyone else in their peer group.)

We are not really told how it is that a scientist, simply by not being employed by an oil company, is “independent” and therefore someone whose word can safely be trusted. Neither are we told why it is that a scientist who works for the oil industry is no more to be trusted than one who works for a tobacco company or (my personal favorite) a “discovery center”.

I suppose we are to believe it is because a scientist working for an oil company is being paid, not to do scientific investigation, but to issue pronouncements; his interest is his employer, the oil company, not the truth. Never mind that this is speculation and not fact. Never mind the possibility that the truth may very well not be with the consensus. Never mind, also, that it tells us nothing about anthropogenic global warming. It only matters whether a scientist is “independent.” It only matters that he does not work for an oil company, or a tobacco company, or a discovery center.

The “independent” scientist, on the other hand, since he doesn’t depend upon an oil company for his livelihood is free to pursue science for its own sake, following the facts wherever they may lead him. I mean, we all know that people who work for the government, or for non-profits are better people, more trustworthy.

Yeah. Right. We are asked to believe that people who wish to impose punitive measures on an entire industry are trustworthy on the sole grounds that they don’t work for the industry upon whom these punitive policies will be imposed. Color me skeptical.

Besides, “independence” is irrelevant. The validity of taking anyone’s word is irrelevant. What is relevant is whether global warming is anthropogenic, to what extent and whether anything can truly and realistically be done about it.

When there are such questions, “consensus” is also irrelevant, especially when (a) the existence of this consensus is used as little more than an excuse for summarily ending debate, (b) the members of this “consensus” are treated as secular clerics, whose consensus is given the weight of a Church Council, determining what shall be orthodox doctrine and (c) those who disagree with this orthodoxy are treated just a little better than the way The Church used to treat heretics.

All in all, then, I stand by my assertion in that previous posting: a free society ought not declare an end to debate, or refer to a debate as illegitimate when it has policy implications. Indeed, as I said above, such a notion is noxious to a free society.
08 May 2007

Ground Hog Day

I came out today
to see if the weather had changed,
and if I might see you,
talk to you,
walk with you
like we did once
so very long ago,
the last time Spring was here.

And I thought of the last time
I saw you, at the airport
(you always fly away)
and our eyes met briefly;
I think I thought I saw you
seeing me somehow different
from what you thought I was,
(and I did not want to think
that it was just my imagination
running away again,
like it always did;
but it probably was),
and I sent you a message,
hesitantly, in a bottle, filling it
with a bit of my heart;
but I guess you never received it,
or did not care to.

Perhaps I should have filled it all?

I would have warmed you once;
but I could not reach you
in that place you live.
And you could not
or (more likely) would not
reach for me. Ever.

Humorous to think,
even to hope, I know;
but even Bête
may dream of Belle.

I cannot go to you, still;
And you I’m sure never
will come to me, I know.

The distance—
which you do so love to keep—
is too great for you.

(I would build a bridge,
but you would only giggle.)

When I exited my burrow
and smelled the scent
of Estee Lauder in the air,
and heard the singing birds,
I thought—
I would have sworn—
that spring had returned at last;
but you were nowhere to be found,
or even wanting to be
(so accustomed to being lost
are you now, that you run,
I know, from those who would seek you out).

That sliver of spring,
And its bitter sweet:
another of your brief strolls,
those state visits,
gracing your truly blessed subjects.

And six more weeks
(only six) of winter
would be good news
just now; for it is good to know
when misery will end
and bleeding cease.

But winter has come,
and means to stay
(winter, always
winter, never
Christmas, eternally
snow, and no skiing);
and I curse the god
who will not bring
you--and the spring--to me,
the god who brought you
so agonizingly, tempting,
within my reach
but never, no never

within my grasp
(such is his adulterated
sense of humor).

Twisted joke.

Friends stop by and say—
undaunted by my perennial refusals—
‘Come, go with us; yes,
let’s go someplace, all of us,
and do something, somewhere.’
But there is no place for me,
no place I could wish to be
if you are not. So pathetic.

If I burrowed into the highest heaven,
were offered a seat on the right hand,
and you were not there,
I would make haste to leave
and return here to my hole;
if I burrowed into Hades
and you were not there,
I would not wish to stay.

Here, in my little burrow
I will remain—
a rock, an island—
with my books
and parchments
for company,
and will wait,
a certain memory of you
keeping me warm,
as your shoulder
was always cold.

Yes. So cold. Always cold.

Someday, perhaps
when we are old and gray,
and all your lovers,
epidermis-scratching aestheticians,
have gone the way of the Disciples of Launcelot
and no one remains, no one
to tell you you are still beautiful,
you may think of me, appreciative,
pleased to have been graced to behold,
even if never to have and to hold;
feel free to think of me;
please remember me,
and call on me.

And I will bring you flowers
(like those you wore—lilacs—
at a wedding, in your hair)
on that day, when you call,
and a navy blue, daisy painted sun dress,
when old man winter goes,
at last, at long last, away.

For as long as I can remember
there has been snow,
and every morning when I awake
and my feet hit the floor
I run to the window
and look to see
if at last the sun has come,
to see if the spring has at last arrived
and will bring you to me.

If only the sun would shine
and sprinkle the earth with sunlight
the way the snow is always around,
yes sunlight like the snow but
with some rain mixed in
like a cup of hot tea
with just the right amount of sugar and cream,
melting all the forgetful snow
and making flowers bloom at last.

Then spring will come
and bring you.

But slowly the truth settles in
like the frost sticking to everything,
and I see all too well, and know,
that it is really going to happen:
I shall not out-live the winter—
already the silver chords multiply,
and the oil for the lamps runs low—
and the sun will never melt the snow;
this is life forever more,
and I shall look upon you,
gaze into your eyes,
stroke your hair—

No matter,
no longer:
for I am a rock
now; and an island.



About Me

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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