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Showing posts from October, 2012

Hot Button Issues, No. 2: Patriotism

Our current First Lady remembers the time when she first felt proud of her country.  I remember the time when I first felt ashamed.

It was my first term as a graduate student, when I was studying abroad in England.  I had made friends with some of the senior graduate students, and we were at their house, putting coals on the fire in the fireplace (I remember this vividly; it was the first time that I had seen a coal fire).  Something came on over the radio about the newly breaking scandal: certain Americans high up in the Reagan administration had been caught selling arms in exchange for hostages in Iran and then sending the money to Nicaragua in aid of the anti-Communist Contras.  My friends erupted in disgust and smug criticism.  One was English, one was Canadian, the third was American, but all were united in their conviction that America was evil and Americans even worse.  The scandal (as they saw it) confirmed all of their worst suspicions about what America meant on the world st…

The Mother of the Lord, Lady of the Temple

For those of you wearying of my political commentary, something rousing on the theological side: the Mother of the Lord as Lady of the Temple.

Hot Button Issues, No. 1: Gay Marriage

This, for me, seems like a no-brainer.  Of course gay and lesbian couples should be able to get married, have their unions recognized by civil society, adopt children, and enjoy all of the rights and privileges that straight couples do under the law.  Gay marriage is not the greatest threat facing marriage in our culture.  No, the greatest threat facing marriage in our culture is...wait for it...divorce.  And the greatest threat to the family?  Yes, that's right, the divorce of couples with children.*  It doesn't matter if those couples are straight or gay.  What matters is that parents stay together for the lifetime of their children.**

Is that not straightforward enough?  I know, there are other arguments that opponents of gay marriage put forward, most notably (and well-principled, as far as I have read) Dennis Prager.  Prager argues that while it is most definitely unfair to same-sex couples that they not be allowed to get married, such marriages if recognized would not be…

Why Ann Coulter Rocks

From the Foreword to her Slander: Liberal Lies About the American Right (New York: Three Rivers Press, 2002), by Rush Limbaugh, reviewing the reception of Coulter's book in the liberal media:
Over on MSNBC, the soon-to-be-canceled Phil Donahue also displayed the left's terrific sense of humor.  In Slander, Coulter writes, "Even Islamic terrorists don't hate America like liberals do.  If they had that much energy, they'd have indoor plumbing by now."  Donahue incisively summarized Coulter's point for his audience by saying, "If a liberal has indoor plumbing, he's a hypocrite."

Donahue's interview took a nasty turn when--in utter seriousness--he asked Coulter to respond to the accusation that she was an anti-Semite.

DONAHUE: Let me just tell you.  He accuses you, among other things, of being an anti-Semite.

COULTER: Maybe that will help me with the Muslims.

DONAHUE:  He says that you left New York because you wanted to get away from all th…

C'mon, I know you're out there

One of you, just one of my readers must have been curious enough about the books that I have been reading and recommending on conservative political theory to actually go out and read one.  I know, it's scary taking the time to consider another way of looking at things, but that's what we're supposed to be doing, right?  Considering both sides?  I appreciate the comments from those of you who disagree with me, but it would make this aging professor very happy to hear that someone has done the reading before speaking up.  Go ahead, make my day.  Show me that you've done the reading.

Thought for the Day

For over 100 years, the Republican party* fought to establish the civil rights of all Americans regardless of race, almost invariably against the vigorous protests of the Democratic party.

At long last, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlawed discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, or national origin in public facilities, in businesses catering to the public engaged in interstate commerce,** in public schools and other government agencies receiving federal funds, and in businesses hiring more than 14 employees.  This latter provision (Title VII) also prohibited discrimination in hiring on the basis of sex.

Almost immediately, the Democrats would begin championing all those who would set themselves off from this civil society on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, or sex.***

Funny how just when we had achieved the full integration of our civil society thanks to the Republicans, the Democrats managed to discover a way to segregate us all over again.

*Founded …

Civil Rights Scorecard

For those of you worried about what outing myself as a conservative means about my politics, let's start with my position on race relations:
Republicans passed the Thirteenth Amendment, ending slavery, with 80 percent of Democrats voting against it.

Republicans enacted the Fourteenth Amendment, granting freed slaves the rights of citizenship--unanimously supported by Republicans and unanimously opposed by Democrats.

Republicans passed the Fifteenth Amendment, giving freedmen the right to vote.

Republicans passed the Civil Rights Act of 1866, conferring U.S. citizenship on all African Americans and according them "full and equal benefit of all laws"--unanimously supported by Republicans, who had to override Democrat President Andrew Johnson's veto.

Republicans passed the Reconstruction Act of 1867.

Republicans sent federal troops to the Democratic South to enforce the constitutional rights of the newly freed slaves.

Republicans were the first targets of the Ku Klux Kl…

Big Brother's Feet of Clay

"That so many grandiose social schemes which sound plausible to the intellectual elites not only fail, but prove to be disastrously counterproductive, is by no means surprising when these schemes are analyzed in terms of the characteristics of the processes by which they operate, rather than the goals they seek or the visions to which they conform [however idealistic these visions may be].  At the heart of many of these schemes is third-party decision making.  Third parties typically know less, even when convinced that they know more, in addition to lacking the incentives of those who directly benefit from being right and suffer from being wrong.

"The knowledge brought to bear in even 'ordinary' processes--the manufacturing of a pencil, for example--usually exists as a sum of many small, overlapping circles of individual information and skills which altogether add up to a vast expanse of information, experience, and understanding.  As was pointed out in a celebrated …

Big Conservatives Don't Cry

You know what I enjoyed most about last night's presidential debate?  How calm Governor Romney stayed throughout the whole thing.  I know, I know, that was his plan, but nevertheless, it was his plan, while President Obama's seems to have been to be as aggressive and sarcastic as possible so as to discredit his opponent.  In contrast, Mr. Romney didn't even bring up the whole thing about the video.*

I wish that I could be more like Mr. Romney.  Let me tell you, if you haven't already guessed, it's been a hard past few months.  Some of my family members will barely talk to me.  I've been accused of being a racist; of "doing it on purpose" so as to hurt them; of being stupid, shallow, and selfish.  I've been laughed at, belittled, and patronized, all for trying to learn something about the history of liberalism and what, practically, it means.  And you know what I've learned?  Liberalism is evil.

Okay, not quite, but it is the party of evil, the…

Gut Reaction

President Obama is a bully and a show-off who thinks that he is the only one who knows how to make tough decisions.

Governor Romney has a pleasant voice and kind eyes, and he listens when other people are talking.

Against Multiculturalism

"Be proud, do not apologize.  Do we have to go on apologizing for the sins of our fathers?  Do we still have to apologize, for example, for the British Empire, when, in fact, the British presence in India led to the Indian Renaissance, resulted in famine relief, railways, roads and irrigation schemes, eradication of cholera, the civil service, the establishment of a universal education system where none existed before, the institution of elected parliamentary democracy and the rule of law?  What of the British architecture of Bombay and Calcutta?  The British even gave back to the Indians their own past: It was European scholarship, archaeology and research that uncovered the greatness that was India; it was British government that did its best to save and conserve the monuments that were a witness to that past glory.  British imperialism preserved where earlier Islamic imperialism destroyed thousands of Hindu temples.

"On the world stage, should we really apologize for Dant…

Process Report

It will be a week tomorrow morning since I started working on the annotations and corrections to my sample translation for the proposal that I am submitting.  Thus far, I have done five days' worth of brief, regular sessions on the sample, at least two and no more than four forty-five minute sessions per day.  I wish that I felt like I was making better progress.

Which is itself my greatest problem: product orientation, as Prof. Boice would say.  I am too focused on "getting it done," and not enough on doing the work.  But I need to get it done (NB the "need") because I "need" to be working on my book.  But why?  I have been working on my translation for a good year and a half.  I have put hours and hours and hours of work into it, all in brief, regular sessions.  It is a major accomplishment already to have done so much, particularly given that I did the first draft of the transcription and translation over twenty years ago.  I know this for certain …

Robin Hood, the Pareto Principle, and the 47%

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It sounds like such a good idea: the wealthy should help support the less fortunate by paying their "fair share" in taxes.  But what does that mean, "fair share"?

Consider the following chart from the National Taxpayers Union website:


Now, I am no math whiz--unlike my son who is already deep into vector calculus as a high school junior, I didn't even know such mathematics existed until I was a sophomore in college--but it seems to me that there is very little in the data provided here that would upset Robin Hood.  We hear all the time how the top 1% are depriving the bottom 99% of their "fair share" of their earnings, but it looks to me like there are some disparities here worth noticing.  To whit: as the Pareto Principle would predict, the top 25% of earners pay 87.30% of all of the federal income taxes* in the country.  The top 50% pay 97.75% (leaving the next 3% to make up the rest, thus bringing us to the infamous 47% who pay no federal income ta…

What I Learned Watching the Debates

Democrats look sullen or smirk when hearing something that they disagree with.

Republicans listen, take notes, and respond without raising their voice.

I wish that I could be more like the latter, if only in this one thing.

Protective Coloring

I served as vestry greeter for our congregation this morning and while I was talking with one of our newcomers, I said something that I am not entirely comfortable with.  I think that I did a good job representing the ideals of our parish, but I am not sure how I feel anymore about some of the things that we as a community are supposed to believe.  Not about God or His Son or the importance of liturgy, I'm rock solid on that.  Nor about how welcoming we genuinely strive to be.  But, well, if I said, then you would know why I am feeling so uncomfortable about it, but that's the problem: I'm not sure what to say anymore.  Not that I've actually changed my own ideas about what I believe, just that I have now admitted to myself that I believe them.  But I also know that they are at odds with the norms in my social milieu and I am finding myself less and less willing to pretend that I agree, and yet I am still not ready to come out and say what I do think for fear of giving…

Big Bird vs. Our Grandchildren

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I'm sure you've heard it; it's all over the intertubes.  Mitt Romney wants to kill Big Bird.  Which would be terrible, if that is what he meant when he said that he planned to cut federal subsidies to PBS.  But as with all things more complicated than counting to 1-2-3 or singing the ABCs, context matters.  Perhaps it's time for those of us who grew up with Big Bird to listen a little more carefully to the argument that's on the table here.

For those of you who weren't watching, this is what Mr. Romney actually said:
What things would I cut from spending? Well, first of all, I will eliminate all programs by this test, if they don't pass it: Is the program so critical it's worth borrowing money from China to pay for it? And if not, I'll get rid of it. Obamacare's on my list. I apologize, Mr. President. I use that term with all respect, by the way.
OBAMA: I like it. ROMNEY: Good. OK, good. So I'll get rid of that. I'm sorry, Jim, I&…

Embracing My Inner Conservative

So I've been self-consciously conservative for the better part of three months now.  In both senses: conscious of myself as in fact more inclined to conservative ways of thinking about our current political circumstances than I had previously appreciated, and embarrassed as all get-out to admit it lest I lose all of my friends, alienate my readers, and anger my loved ones.  But it's been long enough and I've done enough reading for the ideas to be starting to settle, so much so that I think I may actually be able to articulate some of them without going into a tailspin.

(Although, as I suspect you can tell by how stilted my prose is here, I am not entirely comfortable saying any of this out loud just yet.  Don't worry, I'm sure it's just a phase.  No, not in that way.  I've learned too much already to go back to my situational liberalism.  Truth to tell, I'm not sure I ever really was that much of a liberal, not in the way that I understand the term now

What Mitt Said

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"The role of government: Look behind us. The Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. The role of government is to promote and protect the principles of those documents.

"First, life and liberty. We have a responsibility to protect the lives and liberties of our people, and that means a military second to none. I do not believe in cutting our military. I believe in maintaining the strength of America's military.

"Second, in that line that says we are endowed by our creator with our rights, I believe we must maintain our commitment to religious tolerance and freedom in this country. That statement also says that we are endowed by our creator with the right to pursue happiness as we choose. I interpret that as, one, making sure that those people who are less fortunate and can't care for themselves are cared by -- by one another.

"We're a nation that believes that we're all children of the same [God] and we care for those that have difficulti…