31 January 2007
Barak Obama has introduced just the legislation I was talking about at the end of my previous posting. Styled The Iraq War De-escalation Act of 2007, it will have all our troops back home by 31 March 2008, assuming other factors. According to his office’s press release,

“The Obama plan offers a responsible yet effective alternative to the President's failed policy of escalation. Realizing there can be no military solution in Iraq, it focuses instead on reaching a political solution in Iraq, protecting our interests in the region, and bringing this war to a responsible end. The legislation commences redeployment of U.S. forces no later than May 1, 2007 with the goal of removing all combat brigades from Iraq by March 31, 2008, a date that is consistent with the expectation of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group. The plan allows for a limited number of U.S. troops to remain as basic force protection, to engage in counter-terrorism, and to continue the training of Iraqi security forces. If the Iraqis are successful in meeting the thirteen benchmarks for progress laid out by the Bush Administration, this plan also allows for the temporary suspension of the redeployment, provided Congress agrees that the benchmarks have been met and that the suspension is in the national security interest of the United States.”

I'm still sceptical of this talk of 'military' as opposed to 'political' solutions, but at least Senator Obama is not posturing.
30 January 2007
Rush Limbaugh has video and transcripts comparing Senator Clinton’s position on the war in Iraq in 2002 with her most recent position as expressed just this last Saturday (i.e., 27 January) in Des Moines, Iowa.

Senator Clinton, 27 January 2007: I said that we should not go to war unless we have allies, so he took the authority that I and others gave him, and he misused it. And I regret that deeply. And if we had known then what we know now, there never would have been a vote, and I never would have voted to give this president that authority. … There are no do-overs in life. I wish there were. You know, I acted on the best judgment that I had at the time, and at the time I said this was not a vote for preemptive war, and the president took my vote and other votes and basically misused the authority we gave him.

Senator Clinton, March 2003: There is a very easy way to prevent anyone from being put into harm's way, that is for Saddam Hussein to disarm. And I have absolutely no belief that he will. I have to say that this is something I've followed for more than a decade. If he were serious about disarming, he would have been much more forthcoming. I ended up voting for the resolution after carefully reviewing the information, intelligence that I had available, talking with people whose opinions I trusted, tried to discount the political or other factors that I didn't believe should be in any way a part of this decision. I would love to agree with you, but I can't based on my own understanding and assessment of the situation” (emphasis mine).

Here’s the resolution she voted for (i.e., Public Law 107-243, styled Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002, dated 16 October 2002, hereinafter referred to as “the Authorization”). According to the senator, the President abused the authority granted in the Authorization to excuse the invasion of Iraq. She claims to have said we should not go to war unless we have allies. Perhaps she did. Many politicians have said many things about many aspects of this war. But whatever she said, the Authorization she admits to voting for does not restrict the President to employing the military only if we have allies.

Section 3 of the Authorization states:

(a) AUTHORIZATION.—The President is authorized to use the
Armed Forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary
and appropriate in order to—
(1) defend the national security of the United States against
the continuing threat posed by Iraq; and
(2) enforce all relevant United Nations Security Council
resolutions regarding Iraq

(b) PRESIDENTIAL DETERMINATION.—In connection with the
exercise of the authority granted in subsection (a) to use force
the President shall, prior to such exercise or as soon thereafter
as may be feasible, but no later than 48 hours after exercising
such authority, make available to the Speaker of the House of
Representatives and the President pro tempore of the Senate his
determination that—
(1) reliance by the United States on further diplomatic
or other peaceful means alone either (A) will not adequately
protect the national security of the United States against the
continuing threat posed by Iraq or (B) is not likely to lead
to enforcement of all relevant United Nations Security Council
resolutions regarding Iraq; and
(2) acting pursuant to this joint resolution is consistent
with the United States and other countries continuing to take
the necessary actions against international terrorist and ter-
rorist organizations, including those nations, organizations, or
persons who planned, authorized, committed or aided the ter-
rorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001.
section 8(a)(1) of the War Powers Resolution, the Congress
declares that this section is intended to constitute specific statu-
tory authorization within the meaning of section 5(b) of the
War Powers Resolution.
this joint resolution supersedes any requirement of the War
Powers Resolution.

I don’t care if people change their minds about courses of action. For one thing we expect it of leaders in all areas of life. If the situation on the battlefield changes, we expect military commanders to alter their plans to meet the new situation. People change their minds all the time; and they often do so for reasons which are understandable, even if we don’t agree with those reasons.

If Senator Clinton now regrets voting for the Authorization she can just say so. And if the accompaniment of allies was the deal breaker that she now wants to claim it was then she was duty bound to vote against it.

Additionally, she can say that she wasn’t voting for a ‘pre-emptive’ war but the fact of the matter is that she voted for a resolution authorizing the President of the United States to employ the armed forces to, among other things, “enforce all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq” (Section 3(a)(2) of the aforementioned Authorization).

It is true that the phrase ‘pre-emptive war’ does not appear in the Authorization; and there is therefore no provision of the Authorization which states, “The President is authorized to launch a pre-emptive war against Iraq.” But perhaps Senator Clinton can explain just how the President was (a) to enforce those ‘relevant’ UN resolutions against Iraq, among other things and (b) use the military to do so without (c) taking military action in Iraq.

One just has to wonder: Did the senator read the Authorization she admits to voting for? Did she not notice that the Authorization fails to require allies as a pre-condition for employing the armed forces? Was she aware of the content of the UN resolutions which the President was authorized to enforce? Did she notice that the preamble of the Authorization listed specific, ‘relevant’ UN resolutions to be enforced?

Senator Clinton wants us to believe that the President has taken action not provided for in the Authorization. That is clearly not the case. She also wants us to believe that the Authorization she voted for requires allies. That also is not the case. She further wants us to believe that the Authorization for which she voted does not entail the action which she and others wish to label ‘pre-emptive war.’ But if the Authorization for which she voted does not authorize this ‘pre-emptive war’ then it authorizes nothing.

I’m sure we’ll be able to count on the Lame Stream Media to call her on this inconsistency.

Whether they do is of no consequence to me. My concern with her actions here is that she underscores the appalling behavior of those Republicans who voted in favor of the recent non-binding resolution, especially those who, like Chuck Hagel, voted for the Authorization back in 2002. And the reason it’s so appalling is that it has to be pure political posturing. Here is what Hagel’s position amounts to: the President is (a) to enforce those ‘relevant’ UN resolutions against Iraq, among other things and (b) to use the Armed Forces of the United States "as he determines to be necessary and appropriate", without (c) increasing troop strength in Iraq should the need arise.

It is difficult to see the need for this recent, non-binding resolution. Some parts of the tactical and international situation which the Authorization was crafted to confront haven’t changed. If you read the Authorization pay particular attention to all of those clauses which begin with ‘Whereas’. One of those clauses states: “Whereas the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998 (Public Law 105–338) expressed the sense of Congress that it should be the policy of the United States to support efforts to remove from power the current Iraqi regime and promote the emergence of a democratic government to replace that regime” (emphases mine, of course).

Look, the Authorization is a law. Laws can be repealed, or even amended. There is historical precedent for Congress amending a use of force resolution, most recently in Somalia. Whatever else the recent election was it constitutes neither an amendment to nor a rescension of the Authorization. Nothing about the Authorization has been altered in any way simply by virtue of the Democrats now being the majority in Congress. One just has to wonder: if the Democrats, and Republicans like Chuck Hagel, feel so strongly about things, if they are truly convinced that the recent elections mean what they clearly believe they mean – then why do they not introduce legislation intended to amend or repeal the Authorization? If the elections were a referendum on the war, as many would like us to believe, then such legislation, and not an increase in the minimum wage, should have been the first item on the Democrat agenda.

They could really out-do themselves too in terms of the simplicity of this legislation. It could be styled Rescension of Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq and read simply, “Public Law 107-243, styled Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002, is hereby repealed.”
29 January 2007

Intelligent Design v Evolution: an observation

Peter Hitchens has a posting (actually posted 12 December, but I’ve been busy) on the scientific credentials of Darwinism and Intelligent Design. (Now here’s a man I’d like to meet and have coffee with, or beer, or whiskey. It wouldn’t matter: he’s the famous journalist so he’ll be paying, of course!)

I don’t spend too much time worrying about the issue myself. I just don’t believe in the possibility of properly scientific theories of origins. Think about how Darwinism (or even Modern Evolutionary Theory) stands as a theory in comparison with, say, the theory of gravity (take your pick: Classical or Einsteinian), especially when it comes to predictability.

Objects falling to earth accelerate at a rate of 32 feet per second per second. Using that fact we can predict how far a rock will fly if thrown at a horizontal speed of 20 per second. And this is testable because our knowledge of gravity enables us to use mathematical formulae to make these predictions.

Thought experiment: Give a similar prediction utilizing theories of origins such as Darwinism, MET, or even ID.

Unlike the theory of gravity, no theory of origins is testable. As a consequence evolutionists make statements, in response to critiques, which cannot be tested. Take for example an exchange between Hitchens and one of his readers. Hitchens writes:

“Others professed to be puzzled by the distinction between adaptation within species, which is observable and not in dispute, and the Darwinist requirement for far greater changes, such as the development of the eye or the wing, or of the reptile into the bird and the sea-creature into the land creature. How can you not tell the qualitative difference between a moth changing colour, while remaining a moth, and a sea-creature with gills developing legs and lungs and walking on land?” (emphasis mine)

One of his readers offers this reply to the italicized question:

“Peter, the theory of evolution suggests that these are the same thing, or products of the same process. Big changes come about as the result of a series of small changes” (emphasis mine).

Big changes, he argues, come about as a result of a series of small changes. It sounds good; it could even be true. But given that a theory of origins purports to be a theory about the past what he should have said was, “Big changes (like, for example, the ‘big change’ from a sea-creature with gills developing legs and lungs and walking on land) came about as the result of a series of small changes.”

Now, let’s set up an experiment and test that statement. Here’s a prediction: not going to happen. It’s a statement about a probable historical event; and history isn’t done the way science is.

So the answer to Hitchens’ question is that the reason they cannot tell the difference between (a) a moth changing color, while remaining a moth, (b) and a sea-creature with gills developing legs and lungs and walking on land is that there is no qualitative difference between (a) a moth changing color while remaining a moth and (b) a sea-creature with gills developing lungs and walking on land. But if that’s the case then every ‘form’ is a ‘transitional form’, since as we are informed, “Big changes come about as the result of a series of small changes.” Now, if every ‘form’ is a ‘transitional form’ then no ‘form’ is a ‘transitional form’ such that any such form can (a) even be identified as such, much less (b) be used as evidence for evolutionary theory.

What then are we to make of this reader comment?

“To take one of Peter's examples, the transition from reptile to bird is now becoming more fully understood in the light not only of Archaeopteryx but also of feathered dinosaurs from China. Archaeopteryx itself contains features found in reptiles and in modern birds.”

Archaeopteryx is a so-called transitional form. And it is so because it “contains features found in reptiles and in modern birds.” In actuality since, as we’re informed, “Big changes come about as the result of a series of small changes,” Archaeopteryx is no more a transitional form than any other reptile, no more a transitional form than the human race.

Not only that, but the reader’s assertion about Archaeopteryx assumes the very theory he’s arguing for. The reader says that “[T]he transition from reptile to bird is now becoming more fully understood.” Of course this transition cannot be understood if it didn’t take place; and Archaeopteryx is not evidence of the transition taking place. If we are to stick with what we observe, then we must admit that the only thing we observe in Archaeopteryx is a bird with reptilian features, or vice versa. The only way to know that it is a transitional form is to start by knowing that the supposed transition took place. Calling Archaeopteryx a ‘transitional form’ is an act of interpretation, not observation.

Despite my reluctance to think of Darwinism/MET as properly scientific theories I have to concede the one strength they do have; and that is their accord with methodological naturalism. That being said, however, I don’t think that’s much of a strength because I doubt the applicability of methodological naturalism to theories of origins. Methodological naturalism governs the scientific method, the hallmark of which is experimentation.

There is no question, even on the part of theists, that methodological naturalism is an appropriate approach to questions about how the universe (and the life within it) presently operates. But there is some question about whether methodological naturalism is equal to the task of answering questions about how the universe came to be. However the universe came to be, it is. And no experiments are going to be run on it. Not so with questions about how the universe, or the life within it (however it came to be) came to be. It may just be that (a) the origin of the universe and the life within it (or, at least some of the life within it) and (b) the present operation of the universe (including the life within it) are such discreet events, or sets of events, that while methodological naturalism is applicable to the latter it is not applicable to the former. The decision to apply methodological naturalism to the question of origins is a philosophical one, not a scientific one. (And that, incidentally, is why it is a mis-characterisation to claim the dispute between evolutionists and non-evolutionists as a dispute between 'religion' and 'science'. But I digress.)

The only thing, then, that makes evolutionary theories seem to accord with methodological naturalism is the non-theism those theories entail. But given the impossibility of running experiments on origins this accord is superficial. The naturalism behind evolutionary theory (whether Darwinism or MET) is not methodological but ontological naturalism. Evolution is a non-theistic creation myth.

Remember: I also deny the ‘science’ credentials of both ‘Creationism’ and ‘Intelligent Design.’ They are perfectly acceptable metaphysical research programs (which is how Karl Popper characterized evolution), but being, like evolution, unfalsifiable, they suck as scientific theories.
26 January 2007
According to Q I “make no arguments only complaints, statements, accusations. [I] use innuendo and hide behind words to smear those that [I] don't like while trying to claim that [I am not] doing any such thing. When [I] do [I am] being sarcastic and if one takes offence then it's ones own fault. If one uses the same ploy against [me] then one is using an ad hominem. In other words [I’m] using different rules for [my]self and those [I] like and a different set of rules for all others.” And, he informs me, “[T]hat isn't exactly a sign of maturity nor a sign of intellectual honesty nor a sign of intelligence.”

In my previous post (to which Q is replying) I offered what I thought were examples, not of sarcasm or smearing, but of assertions I made and which Q dismissed by making statements about me. Again, I define (and I’m hardly alone) ad hominem as the refutation or dismissal of arguments (which to me include any bearers of truth value) by recourse to statements (even if true) about the person making the argument. Q doesn’t deny this as an appropriate definition. He merely denies that I have made any arguments.

How does one respond to all that, except perhaps to say, “That’s convenient”? He can launch these accusations, but I’m at a loss how to defend myself against, or even admit that he’s right. He makes the claims but doesn’t provide the supporting evidence. He says, for example, that I ‘smear.’ Maybe I do. But he doesn’t point to the offending posting(s). Defending myself from, or even admitting to the charge here is like defending myself against a charge of murder without being told who I'm supposed to have murdered, or when, or by what means and without actually seeing the evidence against me! So I won’t bother doing what I cannot reasonably be expected to do.

The argument to which I can respond, as I understand it, is as follows:

1. Ad hominem is a reponse to an argument, not complaints, bold statements, accustions and innuendoes.
2. James Frank Solís does not make arguments, only complaints, bold statements, accusations and innuendoes.
3. Therefore, my responses to him do not constitute ad hominem.

I deny the truth of proposition 1. Here’s my counter-argument:

A. Arguments, complaints, bold statements, accusations, or even bits of innuendo are bearers of truth value; they all make truth claims.
B. Bearers of truth value, whether they be arguments, complaints, bold statements, accusations, or even bits of innuendo are proper subjects of refutation.
C. Ad hominem is an attempt to refute (or dismiss) any bearer of truth value, whether that bearer be an argument, complaint, bold statement, accusation, or even a bit of innuendo.
D. Q acknowledges dismissing my alleged complaints, bold statements, accustions and innuendoes by making statements about me (i.e., the person proferring these supposed complaints, bold statements, accustions and innuendoes).
E. Therefore, Q did engage in ad hominem.

Or, so that Q doesn’t miss it, my argument is:

1. If A and B and C and D, then E.
2. A and B and C and D.
3. Therefore E.

Not to be unnecessarily contrary, but I maintain my claim.

One more thing: It is interesting to note that in a comment in which he denies engaging in any ad hominem he – again – dismisses the claims made in this Brussels Journal Online article, by asserting that the staff of the Journal are all nazis (and, I suppose, that I would have some sympathies in common with nazis):

“No wonder that you like the ramblings of a racist scaremongering hate spouting facist like those on Brusselse Journal. And yes, I know I can't prove that they are all that because even if I had pictures of them all in nazi uniform giving the nazi salute you would still find a way to justify it.”

That last sentence leads me to believe that Q is a profiler. How else to explain his ‘knowledge’ of how I would respond to pictures of book-burning, goose-stepping, Jew-hating, sieg-heiling morons in uniform? As far as I’m concerned a man who’s all but going to call me a nazi sympathizer better be able to prove that those people at the Brussels Journal are nazis. As we say here in the U. S., Q, “Put up, or shut up.”

In all seriousness, though, I just don’t think Q really understands English as well as he thinks he does. In my previous post, responding to Q’s question, “Does one then try to have a deep intellectual debate with [someone who believes in the toothfairy] or just think that the person is a few baskets short of a picknick?” I made the following statement:

“In order to think that the person is a few baskets short of a picnic one would first have to know that there is no toothfairy. But even so, the answer to this question depends upon the proposition to be debated. Let’s say that I am asked to debate Ruth Bader Ginsberg on some proposition related to U.S. constitutional law. It would be irrelevant to my decision to debate her that she believes in the toothfairy. What she believes about the toothfairy is irrelevant to any constitutional question. Note: this is true even if she says that the toothfairy taught her everything she knows about constitutional law. She could be correct about the Constitution, but wrong about who taught it to her.”

In response Q says:

“Your entire Ruth Bader Ginsberg statement made clear how you are so easily led. You ignore all other factors and believe anything anyone states as long as you think it coincides with your beliefs. Suspension of individual reasoning to the max. Congrats.”

This is why I don’t think he understands English very well: my statement wasn’t about Ruth Bader Ginsberg. It was a statement about just why I would go ahead and debate someone who believed in the toothfairy. I’m just not sure how explaining the irrelevance of someone’s belief in the toothfairy to a debate on, in my example, constitutional law shows I’m easily led. I’m not sure what ‘other factors’ I’ve supposedly ignored. ‘All’ is a pretty broad category. The only thing I’m aware of ignoring in my “entire Ruth Bader Ginsberg statement” is the thing that is irrelevant to a debate.

Perhaps Q can explain just how Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s (putative!) belief in the toothfairy should induce me not to debate her on some matter of constitutional law and simply write her off as “a few baskets short of a picknick”? That would be a neat trick.

And for what it's worth, I have the same feelings about Nazis as Indiana Jones: "Nazis. I hate these guys." My Lord was born King of the Jews. I feel no particular fondness for people who hate Jews.
Recently I said that the President’s decision to increase troop levels in Iraq was consistent with one of only two choices: we leave or we stay. Each of those two choices likewise have two choices. If we leave we will do so immediately or over a period of time. If we stay we will: (a) decrease troop levels; (b) increase troop levels; or (c) leave troop levels where they are.

Many are claiming that by increasing troop levels the President is ignoring the results of the recent elections. It may be that, unlikely as it may be to some, the President actually knows more than the electorate. Nibras Kizimi explains:

“The wider Sunni insurgency — the groups beyond Al Qaeda — is being slowly, and surely, defeated. The average insurgent today feels demoralized, disillusioned, and hunted. Those who have not been captured yet are opting for a quieter life outside of Iraq. Al Qaeda continues to grow for the time being as it cannibalizes the other insurgent groups and absorbs their most radical and hardcore fringes into its fold. The Baathists, who had been critical in spurring the initial insurgency, are becoming less and less relevant, and are drifting without a clear purpose following the hanging of their idol, Saddam Hussein. Rounding out this changing landscape is that Al Qaeda itself is getting a serious beating as the Americans improve in intelligence gathering and partner with more reliable Iraqi forces.” (Read more

If Kizimi or, more correctly, his sources, are right then this would be a good time to increase troop levels. Not to do so would be to miss an opportunity to seize the initiative.

Of course, one question is why the Lame Stream Media do not report this. Obviously one answer would be that they know it isn’t true, that Kizimi’s sources are wrong. Maybe that’s true. But this stream of media have been around since since the days of the Viet Nam conflict. And,
as I’ve mentioned before, (i.e., with respect to the aftermath of the Tet Offensive) they are well practiced in depicting victory as defeat, or vice-versa. Don’t miss my point. It’s not that the media deliberately mis-reported the results of Tet, or that they are deliberately mis-reporting events now. It’s that they do not know, apparently, how to appraise situations in terms of military objectives. For them, appearance is reality.

Sadly, in war that is not necessarily the case. For example, during the Civil War, General Braxton Bragg was certain that he had won the battle against Major General William Rosecrans on 31 December 1863 at Murfreesboro, Tennessee. He was arguably mistaken. As a consequence of this error, he ended up the loser at the end of the campaign because Rosecrans, who did not think he’d lost, seized the initiative and managed to rescue victory from the jaws of defeat.

There’s a few important lessons here: (1) If you think you’ve beaten your enemy make darn sure that he knows it also; (2) The fact that your enemy has retreated (as Rosecrans did on 31 December) doesn’t mean you’ve won; (3) Conversely, the fact that you are retreating doesn’t mean you’ve lost; (4) Quite possibly, if you don’t think you’ve lost then you may not have done; (5) The fact that you’ve lost 3,000 men (as Rosecrans did) does not mean you’ve lost the battle; (6) and most obviously, The fact that you think you’ve won means nothing.

Now, if it’s possible for a commanding general to be mistaken about the outcome of a battle that he has just fought, it is certainly not difficult to believe that a journalist could be.

Given the demonstrated ineptitude of the LSM in analysing things military I’m going along with Kizimi on this one.

Laura Ingraham
24 January 2007
Well, it was nice to hear Senator Webb acknowledge (even if only implicitly) that the economy is as good as the President says it is. The real problem, Webb informs us, is how the ‘benefits’ of a good economy are ‘shared.’ If that's the case then it just seems to me that there will never – never – be an economy good enough to satisfy Democrats: someone will always – always – be doing better than someone else; the ‘benefits’ of a good economy will never be equally shared.

I recall that when there was a Democrat administration they defined a good economy by the same factors as the President last night. This remained the case during the 2000 election campaign when they claimed that
then-candidate Bush was talking the economy down, the ‘good’ economy, as defined in terms of the same factors the President used last night. Now a good economy is defined by how the ‘benefits’ (i.e., of an otherwise good economy) are ‘shared’.

Part of Senator Webb's argument about how poorly the benefits of our good economy are ‘shared’ included a complaint about how high executive salaries are in comparison with those of average workers. Senator Webb informed us that when he graduated from college (1968, from the U. S. Naval Academy) the average CEO made just twenty times what the average worker earned. Now it’s 400 times. I’ll stipulate to that.

But when that difference between CEO salary and average worker income was as low as Webb asserted that it was people still complained about that difference. (I know this first hand because some of the people complaining were the adults in my family when I was a child.) If it wasn’t acceptable when it was twenty times more then when will it be acceptable? When (by federal fiat, I suppose) we’ve got it down to only 10 times? Five times? Will anyone be happy if and when the day comes that the average CEO makes only 2.5 times more than the average worker?

It seems to me that if you are going to assert that some given set of circumstances is ‘bad’ you ought to clarify what set of circumstances you will concede is ‘good’. Democrats think that CEOs making 400 times more than average employees is ‘bad’. I get that. Would they please tell us now what ‘good’ will look like?

What Democrats (as well as ‘Democrats Lite’, a.k.a. Republicans) assert, really, is that how much a man who has a job to offer pays someone to do that job depends upon something other than how much it is worth to the employer for someone to do that job. Democrats seem to think that if I own a grocery store it is largely irrelevant what it is worth to me to have someone run a cash register, how much it is worth to me to have someone sweep a floor, how much it is worth to me to have someone stock those shelves. They also believe that if in my grocery store I employ a handful of executives it is largely irrelevant what it is worth to me to have those executives do the work that I pay them to do. And apparently it is irrelevant if I – the one paying those wages and salaries with my money – think it is worth more to me to have the (educated, trained, skilled) executives do the work that they do than it is to have the (relatively uneducated, untrained, unskilled) do the work that they do. It is irrelevant that it may be worth it to me, the owner of the business and the one paying the bills, to pay my executives 400 times what I pay my average employee.

I know. How about – since I now have my nest egg – I just close up shop? I don’t mean sell; that would mean that those poor mis-treated employees still have those terrible jobs. I mean close up the shop. Shut it down. Take all the stock on the shelves, load it into trucks, deliver it to my nearest competitor and sell it to him for (given that I already have my nest egg) $.25 on the $1.00.

Does that seem mean to you? If so, then I can only conclude that you think that I was somehow obligated to go into the grocery business, rather than free to do so. Or perhaps you think that, having gone into the grocery business I was obligated (a) to pay a wage as dictated (in a ‘free’ country, mind you) by a government which cares nothing of the value to me of the jobs that I own; and (b) to remain in business in perpetuity for no other reason than that the people I employ need the jobs that I own.

Democrats, to listen to the senator last night, must believe that there is another obligation: (c) to keep my business, or just the jobs that I own, in the United States, despite what it may be worth to me to move those things overseas. Somehow, part of ‘sharing’, or ‘distributing’ the ‘benefits’ of a good economy includes ensuring that companies doing business and, more importantly, providing jobs (not the goods and services which create those jobs) do not move those jobs overseas, despite what it may be worth to the owner of those jobs to do so. And if a company moves those jobs overseas this is a problem for government. And the party in power when those jobs move overseas is somehow responsible.

I guess we just need to make it illegal for American companies to move jobs overseas. Of course, to be fair that law will have to be made applicable to foreign companies who bring jobs here. Once they bring those jobs here, those jobs must stay. (It wouldn’t be fair to have a law that says American companies have to keep jobs here but foreign companies are free to move jobs around as they please, especially when Americans are depending on those jobs.

Remember: whatever an American needs, there is someone somewhere who is obligated to provide it. Never mind the probability that foreign companies would likely, in such circumstances, find it beneficial to them to take their businesses, and their jobs, elsewhere.

And just so I don’t get accused again of believing in the ‘righteousness of the Republicans’ let me point out that there is something to my reference to them as Democrats Lite: “We believe,” they seem to be saying, “that government ought to provide all the things that Democrats believe government should provide. But we just believe that it should provide a little less of them.” Republicans have put the saliva-moistened finger into the air and noted that a sufficient number of Americans believe they are entitled to whatever they need that they must accede (at least somewhat) to the people’s demands. Never mind the ethics (or lack thereof) of those demands.

Republicans could be providing leadership. They could be providing leadership away from policies rooted in little more than covetousness. But they really can’t: they can’t chastise the covetousness of those who think someone is obligated to provide for all their needs (and a few of their desires) and at the same time ignore the greed of those who have all their needs met and yet main unsatisfied (and so must provide for everyone else’s). (It is any wonder that I still hold out hope that there will one day be a viable third party?)

Of course, that assumes that there is something wrong with covetousness and greed in the first place. What we can learn from Democrats and Democrats Lite is that it’s okay for the poor and middle class to be covetous, and wrong for the rich to be greedy.

Let me be clear about something: I've said elsewhere that I'll stipulate to the fact that executive salaries are inordinately high. The fact that the CEO of Ford Motor Company can make the kind of money that he makes does strengthen the Democrat (and Democrat Lite) case. And it does so not by virtue of logos but by virtue of ethos. Continuing to pay executives more and more while 'explaining' why you can't or won't give wage earners raises, or why you must 'let them go', just makes us sympathetic to the wage earners -- even if the logic of property rights is on the side of the employer. The problem is that this (understandable!) sympathy gets substituted for a rational case.

23 January 2007
The President delivers the State of the Union tonight. According to Paul Harvey over 70% of Americans disapprove of his handling of the situation in Iraq. It occurs to me that this disapproval is based on knowledge which is much like the President’s knowledge of the presence of WMD in Iraq: it’s as good as the intelligence it’s based on. And let’s face it, the majority of Americans get their information not from soldiers on the ground, who are rather easily dismissed, but from the (leftist agenda-driven?) lame-stream media. And who can blame Americans for dismissing members of the military? As we all know those soldiers are functionally illiterate high school grads (like these guys? or these guys?) without other employment prospects, and who don’t read 18 newspapers per day, so why listen to them anyway and blah, blah, blah. Give me a chubby little break.

It may be, as some have suggested, that ‘the President’s war in Iraq’ will go down one day as the greatest story never told.

Thank you LSM. Never before in the history of the republic, perhaps, have so many horribly ignorant commoners owned to so few mal-informed aristocrats for so much propaganda from which the republic’s enemies have derived so much encouragement and her defenders so much dis-illusionment.
17 January 2007
Speaking of U.S. intervention around the world -- a lot of people seem to think that the entire objects to it when the U.S. stick their collective nose into other nations' business. Actually, we're "damned if we do and damned if we don't." Victor Davis Hanson explains. The fact is we're usually okay if our intervention is consistent with liberal ideals.

Just so we're clear: I tend to be more favorably disposed towards isolationism.
16 January 2007

Beauty plays a 'beast(ess)'


is a beauty. Last night she won a Golden Globe Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series (i.e., Ugly Betty)

And this

is a beauty playing at ugly.

Most women put on make-up in order to look a bit more attractive. This young lady has to put it on in order to look less attractive.

Ironic isn’t it? But really,who would want to be the actress chosen for that role because she’s a ‘natural’?

Note: I've seen a couple episodes of the show, but can't describe myself as a fan because I have very limited free time and don't spend much of it watching television shows.

Well, not everyone hates us

My (internet) acquaintance, Eduardo, of The Grey Shadow, translates an op ed piece written by Army General (Ret.) Juan Antonio Pozzo Moreno of Paraguay (original here, but won’t help you unless you can read Spanish or have a [free] account with ABC) on the subject of the Paraguayan Congress to revoke the immunity of U.S. troops performing humanitarian and technical assistance duties in Paraguay.

General Pozzo is kind enough to recall a few instances in which the United States have come to the aid of his nation. None of this to say that we are, as our good friend Q would say, paragons of virtue or anything.

I mean, I doubt that General Pozzo would assert that the United States are the most virtuous of states on the planet. But, if he’s any kind of general worthy of the rank (which, of course, is not for me to determine) there is something important that he probably does understand. Most humans cannot have all of their actions categorized as either all good or all bad. Some of the things we do are good; some of the things we do are not. Also, human action is motivated by a mixture of motives, some good and some bad. For example, I love my wife. If she were paralyzed tomorrow from the waiste down, I would still love her. But I won’t deny that when I married her I looked very forward to having sexual intercourse with her. Now, does that mean that all of my motives for marrying her were base? I hope no one would say yes. (My step-daughter is marrying in June. If her fiancee denied looking forward to having sex with my little girl I'd bust his chops. Even on a Christian view of love and marriage, one cannot contemplate marriage, especially if one wants children, and not contemplate sexual intercourse.) But to say that sexual desire is there is not to say that the desire is all that is there. So it is with our motives for almost any action.

I don’t think Americans require that the world kiss our foot, as if we have been the entirely selfless defenders of justice and democracy. But I think we do require that the world not pretend that everything we have ever done was done with base motives. I doubt such an assertion would hold true of any nation – or every national leader.

Let’s take that man whose last name is now a curse word; I mean Adolph Hitler, of course. More than likely, had he not launched upon a campaign of conquest and of eliminating Jews, he would have gone down as one of the greatest Chancellors in the history of Germany. Presently, however, one is required to speak of Hitler as if every thing he did was evil and done with the most evil of motives.

Like most people – like most nations – our nation’s history is a mix of actions we are proud of and actions we are ashamed of. Every now and then it’s nice to hear from someone who can see something other than our faults. We get reminded of them daily from most others. This, of course, usually results in our wanting to catalog our good deeds for ourselves, which is never really a good idea: it doesn't look good.

Note: As a ‘Kuyperian’ I acknowledge the right of the Congress of Paraguay to give and with hold immunity as they see fit. This piece by General Pozzo caught my attention only because of the different perspective he gives on the history of our relations with South American states.

H/T: Eduardo
12 January 2007
Given the talk of the minimum wage increase and all that it’s going to do for the ‘poor’ (all but a done deal, apparently) it was interesting (especially in view of the Depression we’re apparently living in) to read these articles at msn.com:

Surviving (and thriving) on $12,000 a year

I make $6.50 an hour. Am I poor?

Got $2,200? In this world, you're rich

Poverty now comes with a color TV
In my previous posting I allowed myself to make an error that Democrats have made when talking about the Iraqi theater of the War on Terror.

Democrats like to talk of a ‘political’ solution as opposed to a ‘military’ solution. In fact, they see disjunction where none exists. There is no warfare apart from ‘political’ ends. War is waged to achieve ‘political’ ends, to solve ‘political’ problems. The battle in the Iraqi theater is being waged precisely for ‘political’ ends: the survival of a newly-birthed, democratically elected government. The terrorist-motivated-and-led insurgents have as their ‘political’ objective the overthrow of that government; that’s the purpose of their war.

It is not, as Democrats suggest, that we ought to decide between a ‘political’ solution and a ‘military’ solution. The decision is whether – and how effectively – the military may best be employed in the pursuit of our ‘political’ objectives. And our political objective in Iraq is the survival of a government which will not harbor or spawn terrorists.

What I said in my previous posting was that, “The only ‘political’ solution involves giving the terrorist-motivated insurgency what it wants. And they have made more than abundantly clear that those are the only terms under which they will cease using their weapons.”

What I should have said was, “The only ‘political’ solution which does not involve using military force to achieve it must involve giving the terrorist-motivated insurgency what they want. And they have made it abundantly clear that those are the only terms under which they will cease using their weapons.”

And, like I said, those terms remain unacceptable. And not just for us: having removed one totalitarian, terrorist-supporting regime (admittedly, because it was in our national interest to do so) we ought not to leave the Iraqis to the ‘mercy’ of another totalitarian, terrorist-supporting regime.

Also in my previous posting I alluded to General Patton and commented that the allusion wasn’t very helpful in the present conflict. However, he did write to his son something that is useful in the present conflict: "To be a successful soldier you must know history. Read it objectively. . . . What you must know is how man reacts. Weapons change, but the men who use them change not at all" (in Edgar F. Puryear, Jr., American Generalship: Character is Everything: The Art of Command, 158-59, emphasis added).

With respect to the present conflict, the Democrats’ greatest error is not ethical; it’s philosophical. They are Marxist in perspective (that’s intended as a statement of fact, not as an insult). As a consequence they believe that the men who use weapons do change, or can be changed. Their 'political' solution is an attempt to change the men who use the weapon of terror. Their's is a fool's errand.
11 January 2007
In his speech last night the President announced acceptance of one of only three possibilities in the present conflict. (1) We remain in Iraq with no increase in troop levels. (2) We remain in Iraq, and increase troop levels. (3) We leave Iraq, retreat, runaway, redeploy, whatever.

Those are the three options. Whether or not we should have invaded Iraq persuant to the War on Terror, we are there. The consequences of leaving make the third option unnacceptable. And this is so even if we call it a ‘phased withdrawal’. Such a withdrawal is no less a retreat, no less quitting, than an immediate withdrawal. Whether immediate or phased, withdrawal means that the terrorist-inspired-and-led insurgency has been a success.

Of the remaining options, the first has been inadvisable since at least some time after the bombing of the Golden Mosque. An increase in troop levels should have happened months ago, probably. Speculation about why it has taken this long for the President to move to raise those levels wouldn’t be very fruitful.

But let’s do it anyway. Long ago Patton (I’m sure he wasn’t the first) noted two, and only two, schools of though with respect to the size of a military force: small, highly trained professional forces, or large, weakly-to-moderately trained non-professional (conscript) forces. Problems unsue, he thought, when either school tries a mixed approach. Rumsfeld, as is I think, well known, was a proponent (as are most of us former and current military) of the smaller highly trained professional force. I’ve wondered at times if, having determined upon a small, highly trained force, Rumsfeld was trying to avoid the problem Patton identified. Of course as insightful as Patton was, he was thinking at the time of conventional warfare. In the era of what some are calling fourth generation warfare, Patton, while valuable in a great many other respects, is of little help to us here. The enemy fight in ways that require superiority neither in numbers nor in military training. In this type of warfare a profiler is just as valuable as a sniper or an explosives expert.

Another problem is the all-too-human tendency is to stick to a plan once it has been conceived. I know it’s one of my greatest tendencies. There’s something to be said for commitment, but sometimes ‘commitment’ is a euphemism for ‘stubborness.’ I’ve read a lot of books by a lot of generals but if memory serves it was Sun Tzu who said that the mind which remains fastened unalterably to an origianl plan can never succeed, but that success would come to the one who at the right moment would alter his plan to suit a changing battlefield situation.

But even Sun Tzu (or whoever) becomes merely quaint when you consider that he also was speaking of conventional warfare. In this war there is, I think, no situation which will remain ‘the situation’ long enough to be reported as a ‘situation.’ Much of terrorist behavior reminds me of something Joubere, the assassin, says of Joe Turner (‘Condor’) in the movie Three Days of the Condor. (It’s one of my favorite Christmas season movies, and the first movie I saw with my father. You can read a plot summary
here.) He says that because Turner is an amatuer and inexperienced he will actually be a bit more difficult to deal with than a professional because his actions will, by virtue of his inexperience, be unpredictable.

But why should the terrorists’ behavior be unpredictable?

Think about conventional warfare. The way that conventional warfare is waged is in many respects determined by the weapons employed. This is one of the reasons that just about any war begins by fighting the ‘last’ one. Generally you go into battle with the weapons, and tactics, which won your last war and you adapt as needed.

The enemy's weapons, in conventional warfare, make his movements somewhat predictable. If he is going to employ artillery, armor and infantry this will narrow his choice of where to give battle. And if he is going to use these arms then he is going to use them in a necessarily limited, and fairly predictable, number of ways.

The very nature of the terrorists’ weapon of choice – terror – is precisely what enables him to be so unpredictable. Indeed, that unpredictabililty is the tactical employment of his weapon of choice.

There is, however, one similarity that this war has with conventional warfare: all we have to do to win is convince the enemy that his weapon of choice is not going to get him what he wants.

That’s the hard part.

It’s also the reason why there isn’t going to be a political solution. The only ‘political’ solution involves giving the terrorist-motivated insurgency what it wants. And they have made more than abundantly clear that those are the only terms under which they will cease using their weapons.

Those terms remain unacceptable.
10 January 2007

And Job replied...

Surely you are the people,
and wisdom will die with you.

In response to my previous posting my friend Q replies as follows. I reply, as is my custom, point by point (well, mostly):

Oh my oh my where to begin.

1) Complaining about the democrates using a word like "partnership" is hard to take from someone who is clearly a believer in the righteousness of the republicans. I guess you forgot the instances that George W. has been claiming that the democrates have been already undermining policies, although until recently the rep's had total control of both houses, and calling for bi-partisanship with which he meant to bow to his wishes.

My complaint really shouldn’t be too hard to take, especially since none of it depends on anyone’s ‘righteousness’. I try in my postings to make reference to political parties only in connection with specific policy issues, for example, the minimum wage –
here, here, here and here. I never argue, for example, that we should support Republican policies because Republicans are ‘righteous’ or that we should reject Democrat policies because Democrats are not ‘righteous.’ Besides, my sympathies are only peripherally with the Republicans. At heart I find myself aligned with certain positions of the Libertarian and Constitutional parties. (In my profile, I define myself as being a right-of-center ‘Christian-Democrat’. There’s a reason for that.) And I didn’t complain about the use of the word partnership. I denied that there will be any ‘partnership.’ I boldly asserted that there will be no ‘partnership’ in any meaningful sense of the word. Given those clarifications, my ‘complaint’ shouldn’t be too hard to take.

2) To hear that you were mean and rude to your siblings didn't surprise me at all. Anyone like yourself who claims the moral high ground on the sole grounds of being a christian is in my experience almost always someone who acts saintly in plain view but in private is a bastard. Before you go of on a rant, again, just think about how you can justify those actions and how you still fondly remember with your selfclaimed high morals that are Christian inspired. A clue : you can't without portraying yourself as sanctimoneous.

There isn’t much to respond to here, since I have never – ever -- claimed any moral high ground. And I haven’t hinted at possessing any moral high ground. You’ll not find any place where I have positioned any argument which requires that I have the moral high ground. Most certainly not in my last post. Besides, Q, I was 14 the last time I pulled that soda stunt. The youngest sibling was 7 and they were all pretty much on to me. 14 years old, Q. Did you never tease any of your own siblings? Because I teased my siblings over some soda, the words ‘mean’ and ‘rude’ justly characterize my relationships with them? Wow, you’ve changed your strategy: instead of the ad hominem, it’s now the hasty generalization!

You weren’t there, so you have no idea if I was ‘mean’ and ‘rude’ to my siblings. Besides, given that I was likening the Democrat ‘partnership’ to my own ‘sharing’ of soda my description of the event was clearly a bit of self-criticism. So I don’t have to think about how I can justify those actions – as if sibling teasing needs any justification. (Besides, I wasn’t a Christian until I was 23, so it’s not like I was violating any moral code I believed in.)

My siblings have never – ever – doubted my love and affection for them, Q. And guess what, to this day we tease each other with soda. Why just this summer one of my sisters was visiting me from Texas. As she was helping herself to my soda she asked me if I wanted to split it with her. It was soda, Q. They got over it. I didn’t beat them up, or push them around. I teased them with soda. And eventually they always got their soda.

3) You claim that you have no problem with the other party having won the election and all that but at the same time you try your best to be sneering, insulting and demeaning. On top of that you do complain about the fact how they handle themselves. *sigh* Could you please make up your mind or are you a flip-flopping little man just like George W. ?

Nothing about accepting the reality of partisanship precludes my having a problem with the victors pretending that they are not going to behave like victors. I don’t need to make up my mind. It is made up. As I said: “Look. I don’t mind that the Scudderites are in charge: they won the elections. To the victor go the spoils, which means they run the gin joint—at least until the next cycle of elections… . I just wish they’d knock off the garbage about how politics under the new regime isn’t going to be politics the way it has always been played. (
Meet the new boss, same as the old boss -- as far as how politics is done.) (emphasis added).” I was very specific about my exact problem. And I didn’t sneer, insult or demean. In normal English usage a sneer is a facial expression. And you don’t know if I made any facial expressions while I wrote that posting. And where was the insult? In referring to Democrats as Scudderites? In referring to Speaker Pelosi as the The Queen Scudderite? I will admit to being sarcastic (which is as much as to admit to being James Frank Solís Bernardo), but not insulting. There was no verbal assault in my posting. I do just happen to believe that Democrat policies do accord rather well with Bertram Scudder’s own views. Democrats are more likely than other parties to support bills like ‘Equalization of Opportunity’ and ‘Anti-dog-eat-dog’, which as I recall are measures that Scudder advocated. Speaker Pelosi just now happens to be the top Democrat in the House. (I’m curious. Do people in your country not resort at all to sarcasm when discussing politics, especially in regard to parties with which one disagrees? I note just the least tincture of sarcasm when you refer to our President. So I think sarcasm is really okay with you.) And when you say ‘demeaning’ do you mean like when you refer to our President as ‘a…little man’? Or when you intimate that he is a fascist? Now who’s being sanctimonious?

4) Trying to make yourself sound erudite by qouting from Ayn Rand only works insofar that you then prove that you understand what you qoute. Your statement about "One holds property only by the courtesy of those who do not seize it." demonstrates that you fail to understand the truth about it.

That would really be something if it were my statement. The statement was made by Bertram Scudder. You can challenge him on it. Besides, since you really don’t demonstrate that you understand the statement, I’m not going to accept it on your mere say-so that I don’t. This is another instance of what I’m talking about in your comments. You say things like, “Your statement to such-and-such effect only shows that you don’t understand this-or-that.” But you offer no explanation of where I am in error. I think I understand Scudder and his real-life ilk all too well. Scudder is one of the ‘looters’, Q. You know it; and I know it.

But even for all that I don’t care for being thought erudite. I want the women, especially “La Señora”, to think I’m handsome and nice to talk to, and the men to think I’m cool to drink, smoke and watch sports with. Heck, I wouldn’t even mind if a few men thought I were handsome; I’m just non-homophobic that way.

Furthermore comparing the fascistiod Bertram to the dems is over the top. Come to think of it, his m.o. bears much more resemblance to yours then to anything I have picked up from Pelosi.

I don’t think it’s over the top to compare one man who’s in favor of taking from those who have, simply because they have, and transferring to those who have not, simply because they have not, to a political party who favors taking from one and giving to another, simply because one has and another does not. Strikes me as a fairly apt comparison.

PS: I'm rather amused to see that it's so easy to get your knickers bunch.

At least I wear men’s’ clothing. Anyway, you amuse me too. It’s nice that we have found something we can enjoy about each other, isn’t it? Besides, it’s not the knickers that bother me so much. It’s this darn straightjacket.

Seeing you post again and again trying to make yourself seem the paragon of virtue, of reason, of civility whilest in the same time you try your best to be insulting would be extremely funny if it wasn't so sad to see it for what it is namely the pathology of your mental state.

Let me make one thing perfectly clear. I wasn't being insulting; I was being sarcastic. Is there no sarcasm in your nation's political discourse? I doubt it very much.

More importantly: Submitting a bit of policy to some analysis, or criticism, does not entail that the one doing the analysis or criticism sees himself as a paragon of anything. I don’t require that people who have some problem with me or any policy positions I may hold must themselves be ‘paragons’ of virtue. If someone disagrees with my position on minimum wage I don’t ask if he is a paragon of virtue. I ask if his position has any factual merit. He doesn’t have to be a paragon of anything. If someone thinks that logic is not on my side of the debate, I do not look to see if he is a ‘paragon’ of reason himself. I analyze the logic of his own argument. Nothing about this blog, or any posting I make, entails that I entertain any notion of being a paragon of virtue, reason or civility. The person making an argument, Q, is irrelevant to the truth of his argument. The relation between arguer and argument is not truth-functional. You think my arguments are false. I get that. But my person – paragon of anything, or not – is irrelevant. To talk to you the way you talk to me: This just shows you don’t understand what I’m saying. You seem to think that all I say is reducible to: “Everyone should be like me, James Frank Solís Bernardo.” Well, that isn’t my feeling on the matter. You are mistaken. Besides, someone who wanted to make himself seem a paragon of those things would hardly admit to teasing his siblings with a bit of soda! Indeed, such a man would have nothing of the kind to admit to in the first place, would he?

For once look up ad hominem and learn what actually would constitute an ad hominem. Your constant berating of me using ad hominems whenever you want to complain about me being insulting when I question your intelligence and education is not only higly amusing but also very selfdefeating.

I look up the word, among many others, just about every time I use it. (That’s just the sort of OCPD guy I am.)
Here is a discussion of ad hominem, and another, and another. Ad hominem, like most words, has a range of meanings. In the end it comes to this: ad hominem is a class of argument by means of which one attempts to refute or dismiss an opponent’s argument by reference to something objectionable about the opponent, rather than his argument. And you did it again with this very comment! To wit:

In my posting I denied (i.e., made a factual statement about) that there will be ‘partnership.’ You responded, not with rejoinder (i.e., a factual statement about ‘partnership) but with: “Complaining about the democrates using a word like ‘partnership’ is hard to take from someone who is clearly a believer in the righteousness of the republicans.” Thus, my argument that there will be no partnership is dismissed not because you found any error in the argument itself, but because you find something objectionable about me.

Subsequently, and pursuant to my argument I asserted that the sharing of power will be like my sharing of soda with my siblings (i.e., there will be none). You responded, again without rejoinder (i.e., a factual statement about sharing of power), but with: “You were mean and rude to your siblings.” Again, my point that there will be no sharing of power is dismissed not because you found any error in the point itself but because you find it objectionable that I teased my siblings. (And let’s not forget the hasty generalization involved in deducing from the whole soda affair that as a matter of general course I was ‘mean’ and ‘rude’ to my siblings.)

I explain an allusion to a favorite novel of mine and provide a brief defense of the applicability of the allusion in the present case. You respond, not with any explanation of my error in applying the allusion but by accusing me of trying to make myself sound erudite (and implying thereby that I’m not erudite).

Going back in history, I recently posted
this on what I perceive as a double standard. You respond not with any argument that there is no double standard, but by first attributing to me positions which I do not hold and then by asserting either explicitly or implicitly that I am: ‘full of it’, ‘insecure’, ‘short sighted’, ‘filled with blind hate’, and ‘sanctimoneous’. All of which I may be. But that doesn’t mean that there is not the double standard I asserted.

Going further back in history, I
linked to and commented on an article in the Brussels Journal Online, which article asserted that Europeans who desire freedom will have to emigrate. You responded not with facts disputing any assertions in the article, but with: “[I]t seems that the blog you linked to is writen by ignorant and frigtened Americans and Europeans.” (Well, you did claim, without support, that people immigrating to Europe are always brought into the mainstream and eventually give up the ‘crutch that religion is’. But that just means that you may believe that the situation isn’t changing – or that the future will be just like the present -- which is what the article asserts and for which you provided no rejoinder.)

In each of those instances you make your opponent the issue, not his arguments, points, or positions. And that my friend is precisely what ad hominem is. And that is why I have berated you for it.

Btw, if a 25 year believes that there truly is a toothfairy what does one do ? Does one admire that person or think that person needs help?

You’re on the horns of a false dilemma, Q. One can ‘need help’ and still be admired. Someone I admire as a brilliant mathematician is John Nash. But the man is schizophrenic and needs help. If memory serves he thought aliens gave him his ideas. That certainly does not refute his ideas. How does the fact that he sees and hears people who are not there come to have any bearing on whether his intellect is admirable? So then the simple belief in the toothfairy is not the issue. The justification of that belief is the issue. One’s intellect is not suspect on the simple grounds that he holds a position with which you disagree or find nonsensical.

Does one then try to have a deep intellectual debate with that person or just think that the person is a few baskets short of a picknick?

In order to think that the person is a few baskets short of a picnic one would first have to know that there is no toothfairy. But even so, the answer to this question depends upon the proposition to be debated. Let’s say that I am asked to debate Ruth Bader Ginsberg on some proposition related to U.S. constitutional law. It would be irrelevant to my decision to debate her that she believes in the toothfairy. What she believes about the toothfairy is irrelevant to any constitutional question. Note: this is true even if she says that the toothfairy taught her everything she knows about constitutional law. She could be correct about the Constitution, but wrong about who taught it to her.

What's the difference between the toothfairy and god?

The difference between the toothfairy and god is that on an atheistic worldview they do not exist, while on a Christian theist worldview the former (probably) does not exist and the latter does. (Of course, we’re assuming that existence is a predicate.) More to the point, on a Christian-theistic worldview if the toothfairy exists then it does so because it was created by God. The difference then is this: God is the creator and the toothfairy is the creature.

I suspect that the real thrust of the question is rhetorical: belief in god is as silly as belief in the toothfairy. Perhaps it is, but since you didn’t prove that the toothfairy doesn’t exist belief in god is not as silly as belief in the toothfairy. Belief in god is as silly as belief in the toothfairy if, and only if, the toothfairy does not exist. (Of course, I stipulate the difficulty of proving a negative, but it still remains the case that belief in god is not as silly as belief in the toothfairy if in fact the toothfairy exists. And you haven’t shown that it does not. The difficulty of proving a negative changes nothing.)

In an earlier post, I referenced an argument by Alvin Platinga that belief in God is ‘properly basic.’ In other words, belief in god is as much a pre-rational commitment as is belief that rationality is superior to irrationality. Belief in the toothfairy is not ‘properly basic’. I count that as an important difference.

What's the difference between all the "false godse" that other people believe in and yours? Why should the ones th [breaks off here]… .

Books have been written on the question, Q. Either (1)you have read them and are not persuaded, or (2) you have not read them. It doesn’t matter: there’s not much I can do about either.
05 January 2007

The era of partisanship is over!

During her accession-to-the-throne speech yesterday, The Queen Scudderite declared the end to partisanship. There will now be “partnership, not partisanship.”

As we have learned when Scudderites use the words partnership or their old favorite, bi-partisanship, what they mean is “Republicans (and all others) going along with Democrats.” This is the same thing they meant when, just a few years ago, they called upon Republicans in Congress to “share the power.”

Democrats “share” power the way I used to share soda with a couple of my siblings. I’d say, “Want to split a soda?” He or she would say yes, then I'd drink the whole thing. When they complained, I would explain: “Well, you see, my half of the soda was the bottom half. So I had to drink your half to get to mine.”

Democrats really expect us to believe that line of bovine scathology.

And there will be partnership; there will be sharing of power. You can count on it. It will be the sort of willing partnership that the mob gets when they come into your business, armed, and offer you a deal. (The sort of deal you can’t refuse, the sort of deal in which refusal is a mere formality—like when a rape victim screams, “No!” at the top of her lungs.)

Look. I don’t mind that the Scudderites are in charge: they won the elections. To the victor goes the spoils, which means they run the gin joint—at least until the next cycle of elections. I understand what victory is. Unlike Democrats, I can live with its consequences. I care only about the fact that while Democrats like to have power, they don't like to fight. Hence the talk about partnership and other forms of rhetorical excrement.

I just wish they’d knock off the garbage about how politics under the new regime isn’t going to be politics the way it has always been played. (Meet the new boss, same as the old boss -- as far as how politics is done.)

Oh. About the “Scudderite” business. It is not a reference to the fictional Nehemia Scudder (used by David Brin to refer to those who apparently wish to institute a theocracy in the United States) but to the fictional Bertram Scudder in Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, who gives this little sermonette in Chapter VI:

“When the masses are destitute and yet there are goods available it’s idiotic to expect people to be stopped by some scrap of paper called a property deed. Property rights are a superstition. One holds property only by the courtesy of those who do not seize it.”

The emphasis in that last sentence is mine. We know, deep down, that Democrats and, more importantly, their base feel precisely that way.
03 January 2007
My friend Andrew comments on my latest response to “Q”, here. (Read Andrew’s, “Not Like a Tame Lion”, here.)

Among other things, Andrew characterizes “Q” as one who brings “a crude hatchet to [a] gun fight.” And to be honest I quite agree with Andrew’s characterization.

Andrew’s comment raises (note: I didn’t say ‘
begs’) a question: Why do I even bother responding to “Q's” pathetic cheap shots?

Well, quite apart from the fun that “Q” enables me to have (as far as I’m concerned, and with apologies to Rush Limbaugh, the job of a commentator at a blog is to make the blogger look good), there is also this: I think I have a duty, as a Christian, to give better than I get. I also have a duty, if I truly believe that facts and logic are on my side, to make the best case I can. Otherwise I sound no better than “Q” — dropping my absolute and unquestionable pronouncements and never bothering, by logical rejoinder, actually to demonstrate, or at least justify, any claim I make. Q’s belief system may permit him to do so, but mine does not. Scripture, regardless your view of it, teaches us that we have an ethical obligation to justify knowledge claims.

There is also this. I’m a devotee of
Michael Polanyi. In his discussion (Personal Knowledge) of the logical gap which must exist between systems of thought, Polanyi explains that adherents to rival systems must teach each other to think (i.e., think the way adherents to the respective systems will think). They must put their respective systems ‘on display.’

That ‘s what I attempt here. I’m trying to exhibit, as well as I can, how I believe a Christian ought to apply his worldview to the issues of the day – or at least the issues I take up here. Q, in each of his comments, provides me with opportunities to do just that.

Poor Hussein

In the wake of the execution of Saddam Hussein, there are some who have claimed that putting him to death makes us – somehow – just like him. (Robert Scheer calls the hanging of Hussein “an act of barbarism” – as if only barbarians, but not civilized peoples, have ever practiced capital punishment.)

You can see that it’s true, can’t you? Killing someone who is a convicted murderer, makes you a murderer.

See what you think of this test of that logic. Here’s a thought experiment:

You invite people over to your house. During the course of the evening, nature calls upon two of your guests. One guest responds to nature’s call in the room provided for such activity. The other guest responds to nature’s call on your carpet. To your mind, is the moral value of responding to nature’s call identical in both cases? I suspect not.

What makes the two cases different such that the same act committed by two different people is wrong (or at least objectionable) in one instance but not in another? What we want to say is something like, that while the act of answering nature’s call is not in and of itself wrong, there are times and places in which the act is wrong, not because of the act, but precisely because of the time and place.

In other words, the moral value of answering nature’s call is not absolute; it’s relative. To generalize from that: the moral value of an act may depend not upon the act qua act, but upon the circumstances surrounding the commission of the act.

Only someone who holds that, unlike answering nature’s call, all killing is wrong, can hold that putting Saddam Hussein, or any murderer, to death makes the executioners just like him. In other words, unlike answering nature’s call, the moral value of killing qua killing is absolutized: all killing is murder (and murder, virtually by definition, is wrong). And I am not one of those who holds this view of the death penalty.

By the way, if you think in my thought experiment that I equate answering nature's call with murdering people, you may have missed my point.

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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