Sunday, December 21, 2008

Opening the Heart

Human beings would like to be unburdened of their resentments and anxieties. These militate against the nobler and heartier elements of ourselves and push upon us nihilism and despair to replace the profound contentment we would otherwise attain. We find ourselves buffeted about between these two forces (the angry and desparate vs. the peaceful and content) and we seek salvation. The way to find it is to open the heart through the right kind of meditation. Failing that, under duress, we seek temporary relief of the burden by using drugs, sleeping all day, or succumbing to hypnotic states produced by experts who, like drugs, are able to cause a facsimile of the opening of the heart during the hypnosis so that the experience is highly pleasant and the recipient returns for more when the effects wear off. Rather than becoming hypnotized by one's conscience, one's heart, or by one's gratitude for living in this world, one becomes hypnotized by something which is frequently taken away: the hypnotist. The cult of personality, which is an essential element of fascism, preys upon the human aspiration to salvation. By the way, this is why those who see through the facade find the speech of the fascist unpleasant, rather than pleasant.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Bah Humbug

I'm a Scrooge and an atheist. At this time of year I wish we had no Christmas trees or ornaments (although I admit the Christmas lights on houses are gay.) I don't want any presents and I don't want to give anyone any presents. No one needs anything, anyway, and everyone's spoiled. Bah, humbug. You all can take your Christmas and stuff it in a sock!

I just wish that this Christmas, and every other, all people could find the profound peace and joy of God in their hearts and be released from hatred and resentment. Imagine that! If not a single tree or present or plate of Christmas cookies could be seen one Christmas but instead everyone had this experience of God - now that would be a Christmas!

But instead, Christmas is supposed to be all about family and loved ones and giving and sharing and all that other stuff that has nothing to do with Christmas at all. Humbug. Cancel it and make it a work day.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Two Points in Favor of Libertarianism

1. I've argued on this blog that libertarians are wrong to maintain that it is in principle unjust for the government to take money from the able and give it to decent people who through no fault of their own have become unable to look after themselves. I still believe that. However, it may be that it is in practice wrong-headed to give the government this authority because it pushes us along the road to the oblivion of big government. In other words, it may be that human nature makes it unlikely that a lean welfare net can be maintained without its growing unwieldy, fat and oppressive. I think this is right. If it is, then abolishing government welfare is not an injustice to the unfortunate because they don't have a right to society ruining itself. They have a right to simple assistance, however, and it should come from non-governmental sources. So, I agree with libertarianism, though not in principle but only in conclusion.

2. Libertarians do not necessarily take rugged individualism to the absurdly extreme point that it entails the position that no one should ever need any help. At least, sensible libertarians do not do this and libertarianism doesn't entail it. Rather, libertarians countenance a society in which people need and receive help from one another without the involvement of government.

So, there is wrongheadedness in some strands of libertarianism, for example, the viewpoint that no one has a right to help unless he contracted for it and the opinion that an ideal society is one in which no one needs or receives anyone else's help. The first is essential to libertarian theory and the second is not. But the point is that neither is utterly fatal to libertarian political views.
Spiritual, but Not Religious

In the old days this meant you didn't go to church, you liked crystals and Buddhist meditation, and you believed God was "a force, like an energy" or similar gobbledy-gook.

Never mind that. Try this. If you have a profoundly powerful disposition to feel grateful that you are alive as a human being in this world and this disposition makes it easier for you to pursue the moral virtues, then you are spiritual. If at the same time you don't cotton to churches, rituals, dogmas and everything else associated with religions, then you aren't religious.

If, in addition, you shrug off the criticism that you are a fool to eschew the wisdom of one of the organized religions and go off on your own, then you are unabashedly spiritual-but-not-religious. If you are aware of the manifold foolishness partaken in by the organized religions, then you are also well-armed. If you acknowledge much that is good in organized religions, as well as the foolish, then you are level-headed, as well as well-armed.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Human Nature and Morality

In view of the last post's little sketch of the way in which it is important to keep human nature in view when setting purposes for ourselves, we can see that M. Stanton Evans's view of the role of God in a deriving morality from human nature is not a necessary role. Indeed, it may not even be helpful in view of what I said about nihilism in the aside.

Still worried? Keep your oughts close to your ises. The reason you ought to set purposes in harmony with observations, wisdom and lore about your nature is that you will be unhappy and unfulfilled if you do not. Also, in many cases you will go well enough astray to end up with an immoral way of life which disposes you to do wrong by others.

There is a link between what is right and human nature, though it is not a direct logical entailment of the former by the latter or any simple identity of what is right and what human nature bids us do. It is rather a loose tethering between the two, though a tethering just the same. There are cases in which we ought to disobey what nature bids. There is no need for a God to fix morality with the cement of human nature. Right and wrong would be what they are regardless of his choice.

If you're still worried, then go ahead and have your God. It's a beautiful thing to do and one more profound than words can say. It may make sense to believe in Him even while recognizing that his existence isn't necessary to morality.

Anyway, all that is not the point. The point is what human nature and morality are and what their relation is. Here is another bit of the linkage. Human nature equips us with benevolent or altruistic inclinations: desires that others fare well. Human nature also, of course, equips one with strong regard for one's own welfare. Observations, wisdom and lore about your nature allows you to understand the coherent meshing amongst benevolent and self-interested desires that may be attained. The manifold and complicated ways in which they coalesce in a set of values are a culture which reflects human nature. There will be more than one reasonable culture, where "reasonable" refers to internal coherence and degree of consistency with human nature and various other relevant facts about the way the world works. The attainment of a character in harmony with this coherent meshing of desires is virtue.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Human Nature and Conservatism

Jonah Goldberg quotes M. Stanton Evans:

The conservative believes that ours is a God-centered, and therefore an ordered Universe [and] that man's purpose is to shape his life to the patterns of order proceeding from the Divine center of life.

So all conservatives are theists? Not so. Evans expresses a very popular conservative belief, but there are conservatives who do not hold it.

Ours is a universe devoid of purpose and without center. There are patterns of order in it that generate a human nature, but there is not the slightest evidence of the existence of a God.

Human nature is the cluster of dispositions which we human beings usually have. We set purposes for ourselves, an activity which ought to be informed by observations, lore and learning about human nature. You can set a purpose for yourself but miss the mark and find yourself unhappy in fulfilling the purpose because it grates against your nature, the set of dispositions you ignored or of which you were ignorant in setting the purpose. You can also set purposes well suited to your nature. Happiness is the fulfillment of such a purpose.

The conservative view expressed by Evans is often beautiful and noble (and is only not so in the hands of perverse religion.) Taken as a metaphor it expresses my atheistic conservatism perfectly. Taken at literal value, it isn't true. But either way, I admire decent conservatives' embrace of it. Some of them have contempt for my conservative view of human nature, but that misdirected contempt is their problem, not mine.

[An aside: Let me reprise a former refrain regarding nihilism. If you suspect nihilism lurking in this atheistic view, you should not. There is nothing that I would take as evidence that nihilism was true. The conservative of Evans's stripe, on the other hand, would have to embrace nihilism if he discovered that there is no God. This is a precarious position, in view of the fact that there is no God.]

Our series on conservatism and human nature continue, overlapping at times. There is much more to say.

Sunday, November 23, 2008


Homeschool your kids. You can make sure they learn a lot, pick the books for them, spend more time with them, and keep them away from a significant amounts of waste of their time. This is one way to repair this country: to educate the children well. We have become ignorant and course. An explosion in the rate of homeschooling would be well. If homeschooling is an idea you haven't considered fully, just think about it for a few days. Is your child listening to an hour and a half of BS every day? Just curious.

Of course, I'm mouthing off about this over here.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Same-Sex Marriage Controversy

I ignore people who are angry about resistance to same-sex marriage and label its opponents "bigots." Their attitude indicates an unawareness that their opponents have plausible arguments, a likely tendency to bemoan the existence of the "Bible-thumping" "religious right," and a likely tendency to label the pro-life position (anti-abortion, anti-fetal stem cell research) as a religious "superstition" that should be booed out of the political forum. I think these angry people are extremely emotional and uninterested in tracking the arguments to find the truth. I see very little in the way of religious superstition in the forum, and very little amongst religious, pro-life, anti-gay marriage conservatives. I do see plausible arguments, there, however. So, you'll pardon me if I think at least some of the angry gay-marriage proponents are themselves the simply bigots.

By the same token, I have no time for religious, pro-life, anti-gay marriage conservatives who dismiss their opponents with a sneer of contempt and are unwilling to consider their arguments. I don't see much of this, however. Most of the sneering and dismissiveness I see coming from the other side. But I could be wrong about that.

I just tarry with people who are willing and able to argue the various positions with calmness and consideration. Ignore the trolls.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Human Nature and Morality V

Just to recap: It isn't helpful to think of human nature as a mysterious essence in a black box, something that might be totally surprising to discover, alien to your sensibilities, or repulsive to your inclinations and preferences. Your nature is not a role given to you that may be totally repulsive to your personality. Such a concept would be a fate or mandate that might be totally alien to your nature. Now, if you believe that God commands you aright, that's well and good, but if his command is totally incompatible with your most settled preferences, then it runs against your nature. Nature is intimate, not alien, to your desires.

On the other hand, human nature is not simply whatever you feel like doing, whatever "comes naturally" or impulsively. One can be accustomed to acting according to feelings and find that one's life is very misaligned with one's nature. The discovery involves confronting preferences which one has been thwarting by acting on feeling. In other words, desires can be incoherent (practically, though not logically.) By acting on the most salient or palpable desires of the moment, one risks thwarting the larger and more settled set of desires which make up one's nature.

Morality certainly involves good and right ways of living. If these are somehow linked to human nature, then this is because morality is linked to our preferences. To some degree we naturally prefer what is good and right. However, we also have desires which conflict with these and we do act on those desires. Nor is it the case that human nature is simply morally good. It may be natural for us to be good at times and to be bad at times. This a matter which will take some sorting out in this series of posts. But for the moment we can see that if morality is linked to human nature, then it is linked to our desires because our desires and human nature are inseparable.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Some Posts on Conservatism and the Republican Party

Over at Primordial Slack: here, here, here, and here, courtesy of the proprietor, Joan of Argghh!. Warning: it ain't pretty.

UPDATE: There's more. Just keep scrolling.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Exorcise the Devils

I like this. Thanks, 52.

It's time to exorcise the nutters. Mild and decent people of liberal or conservative stripe should loiter together and mingle amicably, shunning the BDS crowd which has infected the Democratic base and shunning any conservatives who express hatred for mild and decent liberals. It means treating cordially and politely all mild and decent members of the opposite political stripe.

For example, liberals would show this sort of consideration to all mild and decent people who subscribe in broad outline to Bush's foreign policy. That includes President Bush himself.

In addition, people on opposite sides of the gay marriage issue should treat each other amicably, shunning anyone amongst them who could not do the same.

It means turning to someone with whom you agree politically and calling him out on his nasty treatment of a mild and decent person of the opposite political stripe. If he will not be shamed, then he must be shunned by you.

Alright? Then, let us begin!
Human Nature and Morality IV

"Human nature" may be conceived in two ways:

1. As an essence, a station, a role in a larger scheme, in a certain robust sense. In this sense, human nature has normative force independently of your preference in a way of life. By analogy, consider that the airline pilot must fly the plane because he's the pilot, and the actor must play the part because the show is going on now. It doesn't matter what they prefer to do, they ought to behave according to their roles. In the case of human nature, we add to the story that the role is the one you are suited to play and there is no other.

2. As a set of functions, desires, and dispositions that are deep-set, not ephemeral, recurring not short-lived, genetic, not generational. In this sense, human nature is not independent of what anyone desires. Human nature is not a normative force independent of preference but rather, on the contrary, logically determined by preference in some way, as desire and disposition are mentioned in the very conception. (We leave for another time the discussion of just exactly what way the desires determine human nature and which "set" of functions, desires, and dispositions is nature.)

I don't buy into conception 1. It is a fantasy, in my view. However, I think it is the conception of human nature underlying most attempts to link morality to human nature (in the Catholic philosophical tradition, for the chief example.) These attempts have been unsatisfactory because there is no evidence of a role we are supposed to play independent of human preference. Even if there were such a role, there is no reason to suppose we ought to play it. The mere fact that some scheme in the fabric of things has it that we are to play role X does not entail that we morally ought to play role X. Even if we grant that there is a God who designed the scheme, it still doesn't follow that we ought to do as he has designed.

Conception 2 is much more fruitful. If you are conservative and you think human nature is connected to morality, I share your point of view. But you don't get there by preferring conception 1 but, rather, by conception 2. There is much more ground to cover in that regard and we'll get to that in future posts in this series.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Hail to the Chief!

Well, alrighty then! Godspeed to President-elect Obama as he enters into his transition phase. I wish him success in his presidency. A little bird tells me he will do the right thing most of the time (which would not be so bad, for a politician, eh?)

Oh, one thing: Mr. Obama, please do not transfer large chunks of my boss's earnings to me every April 15th. You have promised me $4000 of wealthy people's money per year. That's not right. If, as a matter of law, I am owed a dividend of their businesses every year, that's called...can't remember, what's that word?...ah, yes. Socialism. It's wrong. It's an injustice to the business owners, and it will depress the economy and result in huge job losses.

Just saying. Anyway, best of luck to President-elect Obama. I'll certainly do all I can in the forum to help his administration succeed - succeed in doing the right thing, mind you. Not going to help him succeed in losing wars, socializing health insurance or transferring wealth. Hail to the Chief!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Conservatism, Centrism, and the Right-Left Illusion

The Right-left continuum is a deceit perpetrated by communists who, wishing to distinguish themselves from national socialists, called them "right" wing. "Centrist" is another layer of the confusion.

There is only conservatism and fetishism. People who fetishize economic equality (for all save party elite of course) and detest traditional ways of life are socialists/communists/progressives. People who follow this suit but only tepidly are "centrists." People who aren't suckered by the fetish and the hatred are conservatives. They aren't to the right of anything. They embrace the large set of important values which they should. They don't abandon the set, either hotly or tepidly, because of a fetish or a hatred. Conservatives who think of themselves as "center-right" have been deceived into thinking of themselves in this way by progressives who wish to drive a wedge between members of the big tent of conservatism by leveraging disputes within that tent. And it is a big tent, what with all the squabbles over the large set of values. There are squabbles because the large set of values requires difficult deliberation and casuistry where their application is fraught with ambiguity. A fetish for one value, on the other hand, offers the illusory solace of simple ideology.

When a conservative, through deliberation over a particular issue, reaches the same conclusion as socialists do on that issue, this presents an opportunity for the socialist to drive the wedge, when in fact there is nothing at all anti-conservative about the conclusion reached by the conservative or about his political stance.

There is no right-left continuum. Don't say "leftist," as it promotes the confusion perpetrated by socialists, seemingly requiring the confused conclusion that somehow conservatives are "rightist." Say "socialist," instead of "leftist."

In sum, there is conservatism and those who have abandoned it for the surety of a fetish, nothing more.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Conservatism: Small Government and Liberty

We'll take a look at procedural conservatism later. For now, notice two of the values on the list of substantive conservatism: small government and liberty. These have a politically special role in conservatism.

These two values militate against totalitarianism, the cult of personality and their combination in fascism. Liberty entails the divorce of one's own fate, responsibilities, and decisions from the consensus or normative preferences. It's the difference between the General Will and the individual's rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

The way in which we thrive is by viewing ourselves as individual agents, not pieces of a larger agent in society. Such a larger agent, when imagined, will also be projected onto demagogues. These will turn out to be totalitarian tyrants.

This is a peculiarly politically important component of substantive conservatism. There is so much more to conservatism, both substantively and procedurally, but little of it is this politically important. It is not the core of conservatism or its most basic premise, but it does have this peculiar importance.

This adherence of conservatism to facts about human nature might remind you of our current series on human nature. Certain ways of life - liberty and small government - are more functionally satisfactory to us than other ways, which bring totalitarian misery or at best dreary and stultified societies. When we examine human nature for indications of what is right and good, this sort of fit amongst components of human nature counts as evidence. The conservative preference for small government and liberty is clear-eyed about human nature.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Conservatism is Twofold

Here are two senses of conservatism. They are closely related.

1. Procedural Conservatism. This is the disposition to take a large set of values as important to moral and political deliberation, to attempt to preserve as many of these as possible in the determination of what to do. The determination of what to do is made precisely by discovering which action will promote the largest and most coherent set of the values to which we are committed.

Non-conservative moral and political stances, in contrast, tend to neglect large swathes of this set of values and fetishize particular members of it. For example, the libertarian makes a fetish of liberty. The left-liberal makes a fetish of helping the poor or, even worse, of economic equality, which is hardly, if at all, a member of the set of values we should promote in the first place. Excuses and falsehoods are embraced by these two characters in order to alleviate the strain of distorting the web of value so.

2. Substantive Conservatism. This is the devotion to certain values which are enumerated thusly: small government, the traditional virtues (self-reliance, justice, courage, etc.), gratitude, and liberty.

Conservatives should understand themselves in both senses 1 and 2. There is more on this in my archives, and we will be going deeper into these senses in future posts.
Human Nature and Morality III

Let's take a few cases of human functions, desires, or dispositions and examine the interface between human nature and morality.

It may be that certain features of human nature don't track well with right and wrong. Whether to use intoxicants is a moral issue not to be decided by whether using them is fitting to certain desires of fits in with certain functions of human beings. Nor is the issue of whether homosexual acts or homosexual marriage are right or wrong whether liberty and democracy are amenable to human nature.

Yet human nature counts in the deliberation over the moral status of these ways of life. How our natural inclinations are likely to receive these ways of life counts in determining whether we should pursue them. Some inclinations and natural functions may adhere to these ways of life whilst simultaneously others do not. There is a determination of preference involved in discerning the fit. How a way of life fits in with other ways of life we'd prefer to pursue is also relevant. Some components of human nature move us to do wrong, while others conduce to what is right. Human nature is not determinative. Yet, right and wrong do track with the resultant vector, as it were, of the sum of all components of human nature. This resultant vectors is discovered through ordinary moral deliberation, not merely observing human nature. It's not physics or biology that discovers right and wrong. It's prudential reasoning.

In short, there is no straight inference from a feature of human nature to morality. Preference and prudential reasoning intervene. We'll see just how so in subsequent posts in this series.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Reasons to Vote for John McCain

1. Here is the main reason to vote for McCain. It is two reasons in one. There are two essential values which need protection in this election:
  • It has been proven over and over again that tax-and-spend policies impoverish people, balloon the national debt, and curtail liberty. We need smaller government and lower taxes, not bigger government and higher taxes on employers.
  • It is now well-established that it is very wrong to quit a foreign war, conceding defeat and throwing the locals by the million to the wolves.
McCain will protect the first of these two values with plans to cut taxes and pork. Having protected the second value by steadfastly calling for more troops in Iraq long ago, he will likely show good judgment in foreign and military affairs in the future. Obama threatens both of these values with his promise to balloon the budget and increase taxes on employers, his tripling of wealth redistribution via IRS, and his call to pull the troops out of Iraq instead of winning the war. On these two values, Obama has obviously poor judgment and McCain has obviously good judgment.

You may wish to question McCain’s support of the invasion of Iraq in the first place. However, the view that this showed obviously poor judgment on his part is simply not a serious view. There is a strong argument that invading Iraq was both in America’s interest and morally permissible, an argument that most people would now accept if, as McCain urged, enough boots were on the ground during the 2004-2006 period and we had crushed al Qaeda in Iraq years ago instead of only after the surge McCain kept calling for.

The American economy is under duress. McCain will keep the government burden on it light, instead of piling on more debt, more government, and more taxes - with the resulting increase in unemployment.

Americans and other people wishing to be free have enemies. McCain will fight them in the right way.

This is the two-fold principle reason to vote for McCain. Now it's out on video.

That should be enough. But let's look at the other reasons:

2. After 50 years of public service, it is obvious that McCain has a moral compass of his own and one that is respectable. At 47 years of age, Obama, in contrast, has a record that is both empty of actions and dubious in its inseparability from the corrupt Chicago Machine and a far-left milieu. If you are wondering why so many critics of Obama have attacked his unsavory associations, it is because he has no resume to attack. McCain, on the other hand, has a respectable resume, including nuggets such as blowing the whistle on the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mess years ago.

3. McCain will treat the health insurance problem as just that: a problem that might be ameliorated with solutions such giving you a tax cut for your health insurance expenses and getting rid of the laws against buying insurance across state lines (which would enable insurance companies to compete for business everywhere, lowering prices and increasing quality.) Obama treats the problem as a crisis demanding big-government tax-and-spend policies, forcing employers to pay for their employees’ health insurance, and providing government health insurance for all. Obama’s rhetoric about Americans’ deserving the same health insurance Congressmen have is as silly as saying that Americans deserve the same salary Congressmen have. Is that what you want? Government health care? Or do you want someone to fix this thing by keeping government out of the way?

4. Sarah Palin is an effective executive who has a record of reducing corruption and pork in government. Meanwhile, Joe Biden is useless. His major accomplishment in 35 years in the Senate is to embarrass Americans every time a conservative nominee to the Supreme Court has been up for confirmation. He has done nothing of which Americans can be proud.

5. Finally, Joe the Plumber. Joe represents the American dream: to be self-reliant, to aim at a personal goal, to achieve it, and to create wealth for oneself and others, all without being hindered by the government. Joe is a member of a classless society, in which the love of liberty unites people of all positions on the scale of wealth and in which the poor can move up the ladder. McCain understands that and wants to protect it. Obama thinks it is unfair and prefers to “spread the wealth around,” and make poor Americans entitled to receive dividends from Joe’s business. Obama will inhibit the American dream with a redistribution of the wealth via the IRS, since he views the country in terms of fixed economic classes. Having spent his whole life in a leftist milieu, he has no instinct for liberty but only for redistribution and ballooning the size and cost of government. He instinctively mocked Joe (“How many plumbers you know that are making a quarter-million dollars a year?”), rather than encouraging his dream and promising to keep government out of his way.

There's more here, here, and here.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Two More Reasons to Vote Against Obama

1. Obama will increase the number of Americans on welfare by millions. He will do this by loading up the tax code with extra tax credits and having the IRS cut checks to income tax filers, so that many who pay little or no taxes now will have a negative tax burden every year: a welfare check. In effect the millions of business owners across the country will have to write dividend checks every year to the lower half of income tax filers. This right to those dividends makes them, in effect, part owners of those businesses. This is not only welfare but socialization of American businesses. It is a powerful weapon against liberty, private property, and self-reliance. (Here's more.)

2. Obama campaigned for Marxist terrorist Raila Odinga of Kenya last year (report, report). After losing the election, Odinga used mass murder to force the winner to give him a position in the new government.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A Thumbnail Sketch of the Current Financial Crisis: Who is Responsible for It?

Beginning in the mid-1990's, the CRA and ACORN caused banks to make bad mortgages. The risk of these was too great to bear alone, so they were bundled together in large bundles called mortgage-backed securities (MBSs) along with sound mortgages, a technique pioneered by the Democrats' Fannie and Freddy (FMs). The risk was still too great, so these were insured by Credit Default Swap (CDS) insurance-like instruments. Banks started making tons of mortgages to fill up the MBSs, lining their pockets with the fees. They could easily pass mortgages along to the FMs, who were eager to receive them. Fannie and Freddy were lapping up the mortgages as they were required by the CRA to do and cooking their books to make the mess look possible and to line the pockets of their executives, under the protection of Congressional Democrats.

Bush, McCain, Greenspan, and House GOP repeatedly tried rein in the FMs. Democrats blocked the attempts. The FM execs got golden parachutes out of their sleaze.

The Bush administration failed to regulate the CDS market which would go on to trigger the bomb set by the system. AIG put a fuse in the CRA/FM bomb and lit it by concentrating the risk exposure in itself in the form of CDSs. The new Sarbanes-Oxley regulations forced the MBSs to be evaluated at market: which when values dropped was a few points lower than bought, thanks to the deflating housing bubble. CDS claims were triggered in order to cover the losses on bank balance sheets when their MBS values dropped a few points, causing a ratings change. The result was a "run on the bank" at AIG. Ka-blam! Credit crunch, looming depression.

Bush admin should have done something about what AIG was doing with CDSs: putting a fuse in the CRA/FM/MBS bomb and lighting it. The Democrats manufactured the bomb and blocked the GOP's repeated efforts to disarm it. Investors and bankers were too zealous in creating too many bad mortgages in order to make big bucks fulfilling the FM's lust for big MBSs; in any event they were forced to do this by the CRA. There is blame to go around on Wall Street and in the White House, but this is primarily a Democrat-caused disaster.

In short: The disaster was caused primarily by over-regulation of the market, in the form of the Democratic institutions: CRA, ACORN, Fannie, and Freddy, which forced banks to make bad loans and encouraged them to make more bad loans by offering to buy the bad loans from them. The GOP and Greenspan tried to revise these regulations in order to prevent the present disaster. Democrats blocked the GOP efforts. The disaster was also caused by under-regulation of the market, as the GOP failed to regulate the exacerbation of the Democrat-caused problem in the CDS market. The disaster was also caused by over-zealousness amongst lenders who, if they were sagely, would have refrained from making as many of the mortgages that their government's system was both encouraging and requiring them to make. Ka-blam!

Please correct this account in the comments. Thank you.

UPDATE: This post has just been edited for content (12:42 pm Sept 30). Special thanks to Charlie Martin for his comments. UPDATE: Thanks also to comments from Rick Ballard.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Illness of the Republic

The topic is the illness on the body politic which has been deepening for some time.

We are about to elect a man with no achievements on his resume, a Chicago Machine politician posing as a reformer. We will not elect the man who called the Surge right all along and who authored legislation to clean up Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac about four years ago, along with other GOP. It doesn't occur to you that this legislation was blocked by Obama and other Democrats. Obama sued banks (see 9/27/08) to make them give people mortgages who could not afford them. "As a young attorney in the 1990s, Barack Obama represented ACORN in Washington in their successful efforts to expand Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) authority." He looks in your eye and blames the crisis on the Republicans' philosophy of liberty. CRA and ACORN caused the bad mortgages, but you will put him in the White House.

McCain whom you will not elect also is widely knowledgeable about national and international affairs. There is no sign of his competitor's being in his league on that score, but you thought he looked smooth enough, even if oddly angry, at a debate with McCain, so you count them even on knowledge.

You believe that the GOP caused the current financial crisis by causing Wall Street "greed." It doesn't appear relevant to you that that the Democrats' Community Reinvestment Act and their Fannie and Freddy caused the $2T in bad mortgages and the resultant housing bubble that would pop, exposing the rot.

You are against the ticket with the reformer who straightened out a state on the bottom of the ticket, but you will support the ticket with the pseudo-reformer with nothing on his resume on its top. The VP candidate you disdain slashed earmarks and cleaned up the corruption in the state government caused by her corrupt co-partisans. The presidential candidate you prefer did nothing. He also mades tons of earmarks while McCain made none, but you read where somehow Palin has her hand in the earmark cookie jar more than Obama does if divide by the number of people in their respective states. Even though Palin slashed and Obama tucked in, you are satisfied that it was the reverse. And that McCain took none doesn't matter to you. Yet, he is the one at the top of the ticket; not Palin.

The McCain ticket VP has proven executive prowess: the power to make and execute the right decisions. The Obama ticket P has never demonstrated any of this prowess, although he did try once, frittering away $100M on nonsense for the Chicago Annenberg Challenge.

You will vote for Obama because it makes you feel pleasure to think of him, see him, or hear him. McCain and Palin make you feel cold. You find them too religious, for example, when Palin hoped that her government was doing God's will. Lincoln expressed this hope, but that's okay since he wasn't a back woods bumpkin who didn't go to a good eastern college. Wait, he was. But never mind that. You're in a stupor and lovingly dreaming that Palin's Christian life is deranged. That Obama went to a sociopathic and racist church for 20 years doesn't register with you.

The intellectual fabric of this political body has become so thin that the republic is in danger. Even the perceptual faculty called "the press" has gone dim, infected with leftwing and Democratic bias, and becoming largely an arm of the Democratic Party. There is still some good press, but it's survives amidst this widespread propaganda that merely passes for press.

You didn't even notice that I didn't mention Biden. That's another manifestation of the disease. Not only is your favored ticket without anyone in the P slot, but also it has no one in the VP slot. Without noticing, you proceed.

We have somehow lost our ability to elect good leaders, and we detest this situation but we don't see that we are the ones electing bad leaders because we have been spoiled, misinformed, and hypnotized into a stupor which enables us to accept that falsehoods are true and truths false. The moral fiber of the republic is still there. But it's been stricken with disease. It's up to Americans to lift themselves out of the funk.

In short, you have a possible depression looming and you have witnessed certain American leaders try to get America to accept a defeat in Iraq and turn Iraq over to al Qaeda, rather than go for the victory which we just achieved. You will vote for the man who was on the wrong side of both of these crucial issues and against the man who lead the way on the right side.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Ten Reasons to Vote Against Obama

1. Obama has no substantive accomplishments on his resume.

2. His plan for withdrawal from Iraq would have handed Iraq and America a terrible defeat and given al Qaeda and assorted other miscreants a great victory. Suffering and oppression in Iraq would have been radically increased for the foreseeable future. Thank goodness we went with McCain, Petraeus, and Bush and crushed the enemy instead. Obama's mistake is disqualifying in a candidate for Commander in Chief.

3. He insists upon multiplying the size of government and transferring wealth from the rich to the poor (without admitting it but instead calling it a tax cut for the poor.) This clinging to the last century's now-discredited leftism shows that he has no understanding of the importance of liberty, self-reliance, and self-determination.

4. He told voters in a TV ad that John McCain was an anti-Mexican racist. With no evidence. In Spanish. Obama also claimed that his opponents would urge voters not to vote for him because he is black. Politicians simply don't come any lower than the level of the race pimp. Perhaps Obama learned this trade during his decades at the knee of his sociopathic preacher Jeremiah Wright.

5. Under the mentorship of sociopathic terrorist Bill Ayers Obama wasted $100 million of a foundation's money on stupid lefty pedagogy and other wasteful education industry nonsense for Chicago schools. No wonder this, his only executive experience, is left out of his bio; it's a disgrace.

6. Obama didn't have the backbone to say this week, "My party is chiefly to blame for the financial illness threatening to ruin the American economy today. Democrats pushed Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac to make bad loans. We stopped Senator McCain and President Bush in their effort to clean the mess up three years ago." Instead, Obama claimed that McCain's philosophy of small government was at fault. This is a man who can't take responsibility for his failures. In fact, Obama sued (see 9/27/08) to cause banks to make the bad loans.

7. Obama told Americans that he hadn't heard Jeremiah Wright's sociopathic and racist lectures during his decades in the pews. Later he admitted that he had heard them. Obama subjected himself and his children to the filth in which Wright spewed upon his congregation of angry bigots. It's despicable and he lied about it because he knows it's despicable.

8. Obama finds it difficult to speak extemporaneously about policy. Although glib in casual conversation and narrative, he cannot hold forth on policy in fluent English prose. This is the telltale sign of a certain stupidity about ideas and reasons for them, a certain deficit in critical thinking skills. And there is no sign of common sense, life experience and executive talent to make up for this intelligence deficit.

9. He said that he would raise taxes on the rich even if this would decrease tax revenue. His reason was that he wants to make the rich pay more. So, Obama would increase the deficit in order to make rich people pay more, even though they already pay the overwhelming majority of the income taxes. This is unforgivably stupid and immoral.

10. Obama poses as a reformer, when in fact he is a Chicago Machine politician who looks the other way and plays along to get along. He is part of the problem and he lies about it, claiming that he is somehow the reformer who is going to clean up the problem.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Human Nature and Morality II

There are many ways of life, kinds of projects, and sorts of activity which will tend to contribute to happiness and promote justice. These ways, projects and activities are suitable to human nature. We ought to pursue them because we ought to strive to promote happiness and justice: the components of good lives.

There is a confusion lurking at hand, however. One cannot simply read in human nature a moral imperative. Human nature is not an harmonious bundle of desires and capacities. Rather, these are multifarious, manifold and often conflicting. There are desires that are inconsistent with our capacities, and there are desires that conflict with other desires, all subsisting within human nature. The goal of a human life is to find within it a set of desires and capacities that are mutually harmonious and viable for the individual to make the substance of his endeavors. There are many such sets of desires and capacities, many possible kinds of good lives, as well as many possible sets of mutually incoherent desires and capacities that will form the substance of a poor life if embraced by any individual. Therefore, the reason that there are no imperatives to read off of human nature is that if you merely read you derive only this:

Imperatives that rest upon a desire or capacity

Yet it is obvious that many such imperatives will be immoral and that no desire or capacity amounts to an imperative. Because there are certain ways of acting on desires or in fulfillment of capacities which are immoral.

No, in order to discover what is good or right by examining human nature, you need to bring along a coherent story, an elaborate description of a good life which uses components of human nature as its elements. This story or description will not be reducible to the elements of human nature. A common sense, a sensibility to a culture will also be necessary. In short, human nature is vitally important to understanding what is good. But you cannot derive what is good from human nature.

We'll take up an example or two in the next post in this series.
Responsibility When the State Has Rigged the Financial System

The state, through its instruments Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac, and the Community Reinvestment Act, caused a vast amount of bad loans to be made. Fannie was in part a sort of embezzlement scheme in which millions of dollars was funneled through to Democratic Party bigwigs, with Democrats in the Congress (Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Chris Dodd, etc.) providing cover for them and receiving big bucks in campaign contributions from the FMs. Link and link and link. McCain and Bush tried to clean the mess up with regulations. Obama and the rest stopped them. Your economy has been brought to a very dangerous place because of Obama and the rest of the Democrats who championed the FMs and the CRA during the last few decades.

Other entities - homebuyers, investors, short sellers, etc. - contributed to the problem's severity. But they have little of the blame. When the state causes the making of bad loans and provides private-sector lenders and investors with buyers of their high-risk mortgages, then assigning responsibility to those private-sector concerns requires the following assumption:

That private-sector investors and lenders morally should not make or buy high-risk mortgages even though there are two large and eager buyers of these to whom they could sell them.

This is an untenable assumption. If there are companies in town who want to assume the high-risk responsibilities I create for myself, and will pay me to transfer these responsibilities to them, and are not obviously crazy or intoxicated, then I am morally blameless for continuing to create and sell these high-risk responsibilities to those companies.

And to blame the illogic at the ratings firms, the existence of naked short-selling, the demise of the uptick rule, etc., is even more to lose sight of who is really responsible for this mess. It may be that these are problems that needed to be fixed. But it's like blaming a deadly accident on the only slightly loose brakes and steering of the car, when in fact the driver's decision to take the curve at twice the viable speed that caused the accident. You were a passenger in the car. McCain and Bush told the driver not to attempt the stunt and sent a message to the police asking them to stop him. Obama and the rest cut that message off and threw it in the trash. Obama's rich. Dodd's rich. They got $100K+ from the FMs. Raines and Gorelick got rich from the deal. You? You got taken to the cleaners.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Obama is a Racist and a Liar

Let's get one thing straight after all these years of race pimps like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton:

Race-baiting is a form of racism.

Racism tears at the social bonds amongst us by igniting racial divides and hatreds. Race-baiting does this, too, and is therefore a form of racism.

Obama is a racist. This should not be surprising, given that he went to a racist church for twenty years. He is also a liar. This should not be surprising, given that he lied about whether he had heard any anti-American or racist verbiage in that church over twenty years, lied about his vote for sex education for kindergartners and lied about his role in the recent stimulus package.

So, what else about this liar and a racist? He is a slimy product of the Chicago Machine. He pretends to be a reformer, when in fact he is just a cog in the same old narcissistic machine. He has no achievements on his resume which make him qualified to be president. He is neither an honorable man nor a man of excellence. He has surrounded himself with other miscreants, such as Tony Rezko and unrepentant terrorist Bill Ayers. Yet we are about to install him in the White House.
Human Nature and Morality I

We know that human nature has some significance or role in morality. It's not clear how so, so let's take a look.

There is a well-beloved theory (Aquinas, for instance) about all this which derives moral obligations from human nature. This derivation seems dubious in its supposedly inferring ought from is, since just because something is the case doesn't seem to entail anything at all about what ought to be the case. Why should we follow human nature's cues, after all? So, this standard theory includes God as the normative power in human nature. We can read in our nature a way for us to live. It is as though there were a sweet spot in human nature where one is said to be doing God's will and following the plan for us God has written in our nature.

So the theory goes. But it was proven long ago in Greece that morality is not dependent upon God's will. Socrates's argument was that since God loves certain things because they are good, his command is based upon their goodness, rather than determining their goodness. So, this theory won't do. (You may want to review this.)

We know human nature matters, but not in the old sense of the theory about God's plan. Here is the right theory.

We have a nature: desires, dispositions, inclinations and also abilities of certain kinds and degrees. We thrive only if we live in large measure in accord with the preferences determined by our desires; otherwise we are miserable. Morality is a component of our thriving. Therefore, morality is largely dependent on our inclinations and abilities. After all, morality cannot be something we find repulsive to our preferences upon cool and thorough reflection. We wouldn't recognize anything like that as morality.

Human nature is in the story of human virtue. What makes up good lives is closely dependent upon our inclinations and capacities. A deep understanding of human nature - wisdom, common sense - helps one to make judgments about goodness and rightness and to give advice about how to cultivate the virtues; it helps one to have moral wisdom. The excellences for human beings to strive for are dependent on our generic and individual natures, and the virtues are amongst those excellences. This is how human nature plays a central role in morality, and not as a plan someone else has given us. It is our preferences which are at work, and not someone else's. Also, notice that human nature inclines one to have a desire for the welfare of oneself and others (a fact which makes sociopathy and depression dysfunctions.) These natural desires are the substance of preferences which determine justice amongst competing interests.

Can you see how this might be so? If not, I'll fill you in in the next post in this series.
Sarah Palin on AIG

AIG will be rescued and its parts slowly auctioned off by the federal government, in order to avoid profound upheaval in the national and global business world. Government needs to reform itself so that it refrains from screwing up businesses and it needs to institute regulations that prevent companies that are of AIG's pervasive importance from being led into dead ends by ratings changes or foolish risk-taking. We need smart, tight, streamline regulation with minimum meddling by busybodies, such as Eliott Spitzer or the politicians whose toys are Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac.

In any event, Palin Gets the Financial Crisis, While Obama/Biden are Clueless. Palin:

"Dissapointed that taxpayers are called upon to bailout another one,” she said. “Certainly AIG though with the construction bonds that they’re holding and with the insurance that they are holding very, very impactful to Americans so you know the shot that has been called by the Feds its understandable but very, very disappointing that taxpayers are called upon for another one.”

It's regrettable and necessary, and we need to reform government to help reduce the likelihood of similar problems in the future. Palin is going to be a great vice president, one with a role in conservative government reform.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

You Are Losing Your Republic

You no longer have a press corps. You no longer have a sound body of journalists. Without such a thing, you cannot have this republic.

The news media are deeply beholden to the Democratic Party. There is no investigation of Barack Obama's record. When John McCain points out that Obama supported a bill prescribing a sex education curriculum for students including kindergarteners, the news media ran with the Obama camp's story that the bill was only for helping kids avoid sexual predators. This story is false. McCain was right. Go read the bill. Reasonable people may disagree and argue over this point. (This thread suffices for that.) But there is no denying that the news media were on Obama's side. It reported as a matter of fact that McCain had lied.

By the same token, the news media do not investigate Obama's record and interrogate him about their findings. Instead, they leave it hidden. They stay silent.

The news media worship Obama and interrogate Palin. She has substantial experience in the executive branch of government. He has none. She is a genuine and accomplished reformer. He is a pretender. The media stay silent.

The news media will make Obama the next president. You will have a man in the White House who has accomplished nothing in his life. A man who pretends to be a reformer on your side but who is nothing more than a garden variety Chicago Machine politician, an easily discoverable fact which your news media refuses to disclose to you.

Of course, Obama is on the left. This dovetails with the other ailment your republic suffers. That is that it is a democracy - a democratic republic. But as Alexander Tytler said, "A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover that they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury." This is where we find ourselves.

As Franklin said, you have "a republic, if you can keep it." But we can't keep it. We are wealthy and slothful. The poor amongst us have multiple cars and air conditioning. We have more opportunity for good lives than any society in history. Instead of living such lives, we prefer to complain. Fewer than half of us love liberty and virtue more than comfort and pleasure. Our Congress is run by crooks who do not love liberty and virtue.

You can't easily tell when you've turned the corner into the final chapter, because the corner isn't sharp but smoothly gradual. In fact, though, you've turned the corner. We are slothful, uninterested, and misinformed. Crooks are now able to have their way with us by becoming elected officials.

The only question now is whether the process is reversible. A lengthy and bitter economic depression might result in a subsequent chastening, sobering, and recovery of self-control and common sense in the body politic. I know of no other hope.

POSTSCRIPT: By the way, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are institutions of the Democratic Party the function of which is, in large measure, to provide poor people with houses they can't afford and to provide Democrats with an opportunity to cook the books and reap a large income. Bush and McCain tried to clean the mess up but the Democrats stopped them. You've been ripped off. Go find out for yourself. You won't read it in your "news media."

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Palin and Press Bias: You're Losing Your Republic

The biased portrayal of Palin by the press is nothing to get exercised about. Of course, the press will grill her ruthlessly. No one can complain about that. They will distort her actions and positions. One objects to it, but one takes it as almost a matter of course these days.

However, the press also refuses to subject its preferred candidate to scrutiny and so seems about to succeed in installing this nothing, and his nothing running mate, in the White House, defeating two solid characters of evident promise for reform of our sick federal government.

If the press has this power, you've lost your republic.
Palin, Bridge to Nowhere

Palin comes into office as Governor of Alaska. She supports her constituents' reasonable interests in infrastructure development. She also countenances the use of federal funds to this end. A link to an island facing the city of Ketchikan was amongst the reasonable interests. An earmark for the bridge is already place when Palin is about to taking office. Palin accepts this fact but states that it isn't clear what sort of link should be built with these funds. In office she talks and budgets as though to Bridge to Nowhere is imprudent. So goes her moment of entering office in 2006.

Right away Palin pushes forward a steep reduction in earmarking and in the Alaska budget. Her budget eschews the Bridge to Nowhere and she gets it through the state legislature. In Washington, Congress has killed the Bridge-to-Nowhere earmark but left the funds still in place for Alaska. But Palin doesn't use these funds to build the Bridge to Nowhere.

Some say Palin killed the Bridge to Nowhere only after Congress did. That's incorrect. Congress never killed the bridge. Palin did. She removed it from the Alaska budget she inherited from her predecessor.

Obama and Biden voted for the Bridge to Nowhere before Sarah Palin came onto the scene and quickly killed it without ever supporting it.

Go here, here, here, and here, here, and here for more. None of these links gives any evidence that Palin ever supported the Bridge to Nowhere. Of course, Palin saw a link of some kind from Ketchikan to the neighboring island as a reasonable interest to consider funding. But this is very different from supporting the Bridge to Nowhere, a particular way of fulfilling this interest which Palin did not see as reasonable. I don't even see any evidence that Palin is not on record as having moved the link idea from "reasonable interest worth considering" column to the "we must do this" column.

If any evidence comes to light that Palin supported the Bridge to Nowhere, then I'll update this post with the correction.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Long War

The War on Terror will last for decades. But not many decades. Al Qaeda is reeling. My sons, now well under ten years of age, will probably fight in this war. We will still be losing soldiers fifteen and twenty years from now, even when the Iraq War is but a memory.

We will still be operating under Bernard Lewis's paradigm that we must liberate them or they will destroy us. This is the only paradigm that plausibly allows us to prevent all future attacks by al Qaeda that involve the destruction of entire American cities. If we do not liberate them, they will be unable to interpret their scriptures loosely enough to reject their prophet's jihadism or to grow out of their tribalistic contempt and hatred for other societies. And where there is a will to destroy an American city, there is a way.

George W. Bush will be known fifty years from now as little more than this: the first Commander in Chief in the War on Terror, who liberated 50 million, knocked al Qaeda back on its heels and never backed down amidst the hateful vitriol dumped upon him by the loud and deranged American left. Twenty years from now, many of these leftists will select Iraq as vacation spot, as a way to demonstrate their taste for the exotic, their heady attraction to advertisements for archaeological tours of Mesopotamia, and the superiority of their sensitivity to the life of the Iraqi to that of his liberator George W. Bush.

The fearless and pure of heart will calmly persist in smiling in the face of the evil and the deranged, displaying the heroism that comes naturally to them. These are the heroes of September 11, 2001, the men and women of the U.S. military, and the few political leaders who support them here at home by handling the pushback by the unhinged American left with equanimity, firmness and pity.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Hating Sarah Palin

If you are animated, excited and indignant at the presence of Sarah Palin, if you wish for her candidacy to crash and burn in a shameful spectacle, then you resent and hate Sarah Palin.

This is a problem for you. It's a problem within you. You are hypnotized by an impulse to rage against people who stand up to you politically and morally and who are calm, confident, unafraid of you, unashamed of themselves, and aware of your own craven state. She shames you. This feeds your rage. It's a vicious circle.

The reptile brain within you, the part of the brain responsible for stupidly driving you forth in rage an resentment, is running the show within you. The higher-order intellectual faculties, those responsible for formulating political and moral stances, are beholden to your reptile brain's bidding because you have relinquished control of the ensemble. You have relinquished control because you are stricken by your anger and resentment and have allowed those impulses to control you. You are mesmerized by them. You don't realize this, on one level. On a deeper level, of course, you do. You mourn the loss of your composure and decency. The pain of this mourning feeds the resentment, unfortunately. You are left angry, unhappy, and dimly aware that things are not right for you.

The reptile will drive the intellect to reply, "Nonsense! I detest Palin because she is against everything I stand for politically." The insanity of this reply is twofold. First, that you should find it worth boasting about that you think political disagreement is grounds for hatred is insane. You do not believe it. You are being driven to speak and act as though you believe it by the rage within you. Second, if you are an ordinary American - neither a communist nor a nihilist - then you agree with Palin on most issues, rather than disagreeing with her on everything. It is a form of insanity to overlook this agreement, perceive only disagreement, and beat the drum of rage.

Palin is an exemplary person and a maverick reformer. She is brilliant, strong, and good.

The way out for you is to sit quietly, with eyes closed, and observe the waves of anger and resentment as they rise up. Do not react to them in any way. Do not resent them. Do not attempt to stifle or stop them. They will subside. Recognize that you've been lashing out in the most petty ways for the sake of gratifications which you hope will supplant inner longings and hurts within you. Forget about those inner longings and hurts, too, because they, too are stupidly regressive mechanisms meant to hold you back from acting in a decent, kind, respectful manner to build a good life for yourself. Do this meditation twice every day until you get better.

When you've calmed down, take a moment to recognize that you don't have the talent to be the governor of Alaska, let alone an excellent governor of Alaska. You wouldn't have had the wherewithal and courage to be a reformer, as Palin was. Take a minute to notice that you support her opponent, a Chicago Machine politician who falsely claims to be a reformer and who has accomplished nothing in his life. Observe the depth of resentment and and rage harbored by the people with whom he has surrounded himself for many years.

There are many millions who are as ill as you in America. They have a lot of sway in the political forum. The country is suffering from this endemic mental illness. Each victim can heal himself, but it isn't likely that many will. More likely is that they will grow old and die angry. Save yourself.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Except in the Case of Incest, Rape, or a Threat to the Life or Health of the Mother

These exceptions don't hold water. It's rather easy to prove this.

Suppose you had been impregnated by rape or incest and were living in a mountain cabin with the child, now two months old. It's just the two of you, isolated in a remote and rugged region. Winter sets in. You decide you don't want to care for the baby, so you take it out of your cabin and leave it there. It dies of exposure. That's murder. Also, there is no relevant distinction between this case and the abortion of the same organism when it is a six-month-old fetus. Your child has a right to your care. If you cut it off, foreseeing its resulting death, this is murder.

Suppose instead that you are ill up in the cabin and the baby is not the product of rape or incest, but the result of sex with your ordinary boyfriend or husband. Since you are ill, caring for the baby during the rough winter has a 50% chance of killing or crippling you. If you don't have to care for the baby, you will certainly survive. So, you take the baby out of your cabin and leave it there. It dies of exposure. That's murder. Again, there is no relevant distinction between this case and the abortion of the same organism when it is a six-month-old fetus. Your child has a right to your care. If you cut it off, foreseeing its resulting death, this is murder.

It's not morally permissible to crush your child's skull, chop him into pieces and throw the corpse away. He has a right to your body. As I mentioned in a previous post, there is an exception when the fetus does not yet have a brain, because then, the person that will inhabit it does not exist yet. But this is for the most part a pro-life position, as it allows only this single exception.
The Palin-Reagan Comparison

Calm down. It isn't good to get excited or enthusiastic in politics, except for the odd brief moment here and there. These are states which inhibit cool deliberation. Hooray! Okay? That's it. Now calm down.

I've already seen "Palin" and "Reagan" issue forth in the same sentence from excited conservatives a time or two. But her remarkable goodness, inner strength and executive talent aren't enough. They understandably make one think there may be a new Gipper on tap. But Palin needs to do two more things to get into the Reagan league.
  1. Demonstrate a command of international and national affairs.
  2. Demonstrate a command of the Constitution, including its philosophy.
If she does the first, McCain will win, and Palin will take her place as a national leader. If she does the second, as well, then, yes, you're looking at one of the next great statesmen. Even so, to be a Reagan, you need in addition the luck of historical moment. So, just calm down.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Sarah Palin

The reason she has made such a big splash is that in a political culture filled with bile, resentment, anger and depravity, it is uncanny and confusing to see a politician come onto the scene who is simply good and strong and has no demons. You know she is this sort of person when you see her give a speech.

If you are the kind of person whose interface with the political sphere is burdened by inner demons and resentments, then when you see a heart like Palin's on the national political scene she causes confusion and anger in you. People of Palin's moral fiber have this effect on bullies and people hypnotized by bullying. Such people are maddened by the John Wayne type who doesn't blink and who, lacking inner demons, cannot be manipulated by those whose modus operandi is to let their own inner demons summon into action the demons of others.

If you do not labor under the burden of demons, then you are simply glad to see Palin enter the scene.

Getting down to brass tacks, let's notice that Palin is the only candidate on either ticket who has either:

1. Been tested for executive prowess.
2. Passed the test.

Moreover, Palin has done both. In addition, she is a clean-up-the-mess reformer.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Leftism as Fraud

It's abundantly clear that leftist public policy is pernicious. Leftism has destroyed 100 million lives, more than any other force in history. Leftism has destroyed the black American family. Etc.

Yet, leftists still press for leftist public policy. They portray it to an ignorant public as the best policy and appeal to the public's resentment and anger.

Now, the leftists making this appeal benefit by way of obtaining wealth and power in leftist public policy. The amounts of money and power here are very large.

Therefore, leftism is merely a form of fraud.

If you have feelings of resentment and anger when you ponder your acceptance of leftist public policies and the reasons for them, then you are a victim of this fraud. You have been used as a tool. You are supporting an ideology that ruins lives by feeding resentment, diminishing self-reliance and liberty, and inhibiting the creation of wealth.

Of course, reading this causes you to feel anger or contempt for me. That's the way your handlers have programmed you: your parents, your professors, the people with forceful personalities in your social surroundings over the course of your life. If they allowed you to be open to efforts to deprogram you, their program would be shattered very rapidly inside of you. It is angry and contemptuous. You are watching it do this within you.

If you can just sit, quietly and in a cool hour, close your eyes, and just watch the feelings of resentment bubble up without reacting to them in any way at all, then they will subside. When they do, it becomes very difficult for your programming to persist. When you open your eyes, consider the values of self-reliance and liberty. If you like, contemplate the effects of ponderous and bloated government over the last 100 years. Consider the spirit of the Founding Fathers of America, their intent, their love of liberty. Think about independently-minded blacks and whites who have come from poverty and worked their ways up to prosperity and good lives. Think about American soldiers who have sacrificed their lives to defeat totalitarian governments. Contemplate a society in which a government for the most part stays out of our way, perhaps catching, in partnership with private charitable organizations, the few who fall through the cracks due to some personal calamity of no fault of their own. You might persist in finding certain leftist claims more convincing than their alternatives, but you find that you are no longer given to resentment when you engage in this deliberation.

If you do this frequently, the programming will expire in a matter of days. You will no longer be one of the victims, or one of the tools, of fraud.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Day We Overcome Racism in Presidential Nomination

It will be a great day when it becomes plain and obvious that skin color is no longer a factor in the nomination of presidential candidates in America.

This day will arrive when we nominate a candidate for president who is black and his skin color has no role in our decision.

Of course, you can nominate an unqualified black person now, but that isn't the same thing.

Consider this analogy. It will be a great day when girls are able to win trophies for excellence in boys' baseball leagues. You can give a mediocre girl a trophy now, but that wouldn't be worth celebrating. It would be a fraud.

Only when blacks can make it on their merits and with no help from their skin color will we know that racism has been overcome. Until then, we deceive ourselves.

Monday, August 18, 2008

At what moment is a baby entitled to human rights?

So asked Rick Warren. (Never heard of him until now. I don't watch TV.)

The answer is: when the brain is created. That's a vague time, a gray area. One brain cell isn't enough, but after there is a small group of them, things get vague. By "the brain" I mean it very conservatively to include anything that a significant number of reasonable an informed observers would call a brain. There is no fact of the matter here as to where a group of cells becomes a brain, so there is no use arguing about it. The point is that sometime early on in pregnancy a brain is created. After that time, killing the baby is murder.

Before there is a brain, there is nobody home. Afterwards, there is someone there. The alternatives to this position are two:
  1. Tooleyanism, the position of Michael Tooley, that human rights begin when the baby recognizes that he is a being with a future: a person. This position admittedly entails that infanticide is also permissible, as infants do not recognize themselves has having a future.
  2. Standard right-to-life: that rights kick in at conception.
Notice that I haven't put the ordinary pro-choice position that even if the baby is a person it doesn't have a right to use the mother's body in this list. It is a non-starter. A child has a right to its mother's care. She may not put it out into the cold to die.

Now, Tooleyanism (1) is untenable because it fails to acknowledge that infants and fetuses with a brain can recognize themselves as having a future; they are people. They simply need practice at doing this cognitive feat. Notice that people in comas or struggling to come fully out of comas also are in the same predicament as these babies, and they have rights.

The standard right-to-life position (2) is untenable because it attributes rights to groups of cells with no brain, mind, consciousness, desires, feelings, etc: the very early fetus. But there is no person or self of any kind inside of these beings. So, they can't have rights.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Tom Perriello's Fascist Rhetoric

Let me paraphrase someone I heard today. Does this sound familiar?
  • Our generation tosses aside the false distinction between left and right.
  • Enough talk, it is time now for action. Enough talk, more action!
  • If you're not part of the solution you're part of the problem and you're in the way.
Is that Democratic candidate for the House of Representatives Tom Perriello speaking today in Charlottesville Virginia? Or is it any number of fascists and other big-government leftists from Mussolini and Hitler forward?

It's both. Third Way. Enough talk, time for action. Get out of our way. Same old totalitarian song and dance.

Sadly, this is how stupid and dysfunctional our political life is today, that shopworn fascism still passes as decent and plausible political speech in our mainstream political forums.

In fact politics is a matter of deliberation over different ideas of what should be done, followed by action upon the most prudent and morally permissible of these. The position that we should dismiss all this debate, simply act, and portray anyone who disagrees with what we decide to do as part of the problem is fascist ideology.

Tom, let the hyperventilation and enthusiasm subside. Sit quietly for a moment and reflect upon the truisms that there are serious philosophical divisions between conservatives and liberals about what should be done. Understand if you can that there is no Third Way, although fascists for the last 100 years have attempted to conjure one up. Most importantly, try to see that dismissing the contemplation of these philosophical alternatives and calling for action is rudderless and, as a matter of historical fact, fascistic. You're a good man. You've lost the footing in common sense that you had as a child. It's time to recuperate from whatever has driven you to this all-to-familiar form of enthusiasm.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Manchurian Candidate

The significance of this movie is complex. I'll try to state it here, but let's note in passing that one take on it is, although (in my experience) very common, obviously too shallow. This is the interpretation that the movie is an indictment of vehement anti-communism which portrays it as deranged. This is too facile because the communists are certainly the villains of the movie and the climax of the movie is the heroic slaying (by Raymond Shaw) of the most powerful communist in the movie, his mother. If you think the take-away message of the film is that one shouldn't be vehemently anti-communist, then consider who the villains of this movie are and consider the profundity of their villainy. But let's leave that aside.

Notice two key elements of the movie: (1.) Raymond Shaw was a man whose spirit was crushed by a wicked mother by age six. Stunningly, he reported that he didn't always hate his mother; at six he only disliked her. As a result, Raymond's psyche could be controlled by his mother and his other enemies. (2.) The communists' "Manchurian" candidate, Johnny Iselin, was supposed to whip the crowd into a frenzy with a speech at the convention, delivered with Iselen covered in the blood of his running mate.

The movie is an allegory about the role of psychological dysfunction in American political life. Dysfunctional relationships amongst intimates, amongst acquaintances, and between politicians and their constituents create and are created by resentment, spite, hatred and rage. These sentiments cause despair, guilt and a resolve to please the bully who created them. One becomes crushed in spirit, nihilistic, lonely, and also one feels guilty over one's debased state and eager to please the bully in order to appease him. Wrongly deciding to appease the one who caused one's resentment, one thinks that being compliant can make everything better, so that there are no hard feelings. This is the dizzy cowardice of the victim who in the face of his oppressor is reduced to officious smiling and fearful paralysis.

The dysfunctional relationships cause narcissistic lives of unhappiness, such as Raymond's. They also cause those involved in them to support political agendas that play upon the their particular derangements. Excitement, resentment, hatred and enthusiasm play too large a role in political life, and this is the reason. These are crippling emotions, and that includes the euphoric sensations of excitement and enthusiasm felt when one contemplates the supposed political answers to one's sicknesses.

The movie, therefore, means this: that American political life is poisoned with shrill, cruel and spiteful pundits and politicians. The voting public is subject to these same emotions, as well as envy, resentment, and anger. The political forum in this country is in substantial measure a feedback loop between the politicians and the voters, in which the former stir the latter into action by directing these animating forces at specific political targets. Raymond's mother did this just as surely as Hitler did. Many contemporary politicians and pundits do it today, although not to such an exaggerated degree.

This is the point of the movie: that members of our democracy can be made to choose governments by appealing to their hypnotic states of resentment and hatred. At one point, a character in the movie asks, Can a hypnotic subject be made to do what he would, upon calm reflection and in a cool hour, recognize as immoral? Yes. When the deranged emotions bring one to one's political stances, things go awry.

The crucial cultural component of our political system is virtue and virtue is incompatible with these crippling hypnotic states. A virtuous member of our political system will be courageous, calm, never spiteful or hateful. He will have the fortitude to stand up to evil. He will not hold grudges but instead will forgive those lured by others into a state of crippling hatred. He will act so as to protect liberty and keep power from being concentrated in one place - the government - where it is more easily taken by the wicked. He will lead others to this sort of character, as well (because he loves people and love is guidance toward character.) In the movie, the Jordans - father and daughter - were such people. They transformed Raymond by their love, but the enemy retaliated, to devastating effect. Even the noble and good such as they need to know about the effects of hypnotic debilitation in order to effect a complete rescue of its victims.

UPDATE: I am speaking here of the 1962 movie directed by John Frankenheimer. I have not seen the 2004 remake. As for Richard Condon's book, I have never read it, although I will soon do so.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Tom Maguire Asks About Unconditional Values

Maguire puts his finger on the question: What are the core principles for which you would fight without surrender?

The bimodal distribution of political views in the current American forum - the polarization and vitriol of contemporary American political dialogue - pertains to which values people value unconditionally.

The left values two things unconditionally: (1.) equality of individual economic outcomes and (2.) their own governmental power as a means to pushing certain traditional values and ways of life out of the core of American culture. (Notice that both the means and the end in (2.) are valued unconditionally. Leftism is totalitarian, valuing governmental power as an end as well as a means.)

The rest of us value liberty and certain traditional values and ways of life. These are inconsistent with the leftist's (1.) and (2.).

The values we would die for are distributed bimodally and incoherently. This country's political fabric has been rendered incoherent by the rise and inclusion within it of leftism.

There is very little in the way of common ground between the two modes. Therefore the political dialogue has broken down. Dialogue in this country should take place about a single coherent network of values: liberty and certain traditional values. The dialogue would be spirited at times, as it has been, but it would be about the trade-offs and application of that network. But there is no way to add the leftist network of values into the forum. The leftist network of values is inconsistent with the other network. The two won't mesh. This is what I meant by "bimodal": bimodal in the logical space of mutually exclusive values a society can uphold. Yet perhaps 30% of the country are, roughly and however confusedly, leftists. They are vocal and well-financed. Hence the dysfunctional polarity and stridency of what passes for political dialogue in the country today.

In addition, leftism is a social dysfunction in itself; it has been proven so by the more than 100 years of its history. It is not that it is as reasonable and viable a way of life as traditional American political culture. So, the bimodality of value in the forum isn't the only dysfunction. One of the two modes is dysfunctional in itself.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Liberal Fascism over at Jonah's Place

His readers jump right in. Rather, go here and just keep scrolling.

1. Jonah Goldberg responds to a point I made about Liberal Fascism here. Read the whole thing.

2. I've been very busy of late. Posts coming soon. If you like the joint, please poke around. Philosoblog is an archivey kind of blog.

3. I'm now gearing up to homeschool my boys. What an adventure! If you're worried about the experience your kids will have in school, pull them out and homeschool them. Find a way. Move down an economic class if you must. Don't be frozen in resignation. Control yourself.

4. I'm performing at the Capital Fringe Festival (Washington, D.C.) this month in "Poe and All That Jazz." If Poe fascinates you, come see his biography portrayed by two very good actors (John Cobb and Patty Finn.) A pianist and I (on bass) will provide musical punctuation.

5. Did I mention that if you have your health you have everything? You need to see this important truth. Beyond that, cultivate the moral virtues and determine goals in your life that will make it deeply satisfying to you. Then doggedly and with great self-control work toward those goals. Still, it's so very important to see that if you have your health you have everything.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Creating Life and then Crushing It

Consider these positions:
  • Abortion of any fetus with a brain is murder and should be illegal. Life of mother/rape are irrelevant. One doesn't kill one's child because he has a wicked father or because one's life is in danger. Once there is a brain, a person exists; beforehand, no. Although we value human life deeply, abortion of a fetus without a brain is almost as morally unproblematic as the destruction of skin cells by scratching and should be legal. The creation and destruction of fetal stem cells are also morally permissible.
  • Child abandonment should be criminalized. Any biological parent of a child under 15 who knows he or she has such offspring and has done what any reasonable person would consider to be having abandoned the child, has committed child neglect by abandonment. This includes sperm-bank dads and egg-donor moms who fail to parent the child, as well as garden-variety fathers who leave a child behind. (This abandonment holds even if the child doesn't know it because there is a step-parent stand-in who hasn't been divulged as merely a step-parent. Because the probability that the child will discover it is high; it's reckless endangerment by abandonment.) I'm for big-government here because leaving your child is as harmful in many cases as beating him with a baseball bat, which is also criminal behavior.
I hold these positions, to the astonishment of some. Of course, it's easy to be indignant that someone would think the police should have the right to kick in the door of a building where a woman might be having an abortion or a father who has left his son may be dwelling and make an arrest. But if the parent has beaten a three-year-old child with a baseball bat you wouldn't complain about the arrest. In the case of abortion the harm is much more severe (death), and in the case of abandonment, the harm is often more severe (psychological harm, often resulting in a meaningless life of pain or even death.)

UPDATE: Of course psychological harm to adults should not be criminalized. Adults are responsible for being able to withstand humiliation, teasing, excoriation, and other treatments intended to cause psychological harm. Sometimes they fail to meet this responsibility, but that is irrelevant. Children do not have any such responsibility. They are to be protected by the law when their parents fail to protect them.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Machiavelli, The Prince

Much ink has been spilled. Here a philosopher, unschooled in political science, takes a look. What would a philosopher say? Well, here's what this one says.

Machiavelli analyzes quite adeptly certain concepts pertinent to rulership that might slip by in their inchoate and misleading guises. He lays out for us fortune, power (virtue), good, evil, political stability, and so forth, showing us the surprisingly cynical entailments that flow from them when the viability of the state and its subjection by another are at stake. Genius analyst though he is, however, he doesn't push his account forward into the more nuanced terrain that might weaken and make his claims less startling. He assumes that the looming probability of the fall of the state and its being conquered by its foes is enough to license his most strident recommendations of treachery and evil. He draws a false dichotomy between the impotence of Savonarola and the brutality of Cesare Borgia who sliced his lieutenant in two for his subjects to see.

Machiavelli attempts to place caveats on his exhortation to cruelty and evil. He says in ch. 8 that the ruler should do these things only to secure himself and as much as possible for the good of the people, while not persisting in doing them. He becomes confused as to whether Agathocles was virtuous for using heinous crimes to secure power; he is not equipped to understand that he is confused. He denies in ch. 18 that he advises the ruler not to do good, but he points out that the state will require that the ruler do evil. But these attempts at facing the real trade-offs between the stability of the state and other moral obligations are fleeting and inchoate. There is no sign of the possibility that one will need to accept an elevated risk of instability and insecurity in favor of some other moral value. And yet we know that such cases in which other moral values override stability and security do exist. This is why Machiavelli's The Prince has a certain unreal aura about it. It isn't that Machiavelli countenances the obligation to do of evil which causes this effect; it is that he is not equipped to present this obligation in the context of other obligations. Not the jaded cynic he is known for being, Machiavelli is naive, evincing not the foggiest notion of the difficult moral trade-offs that any serious political philosophy must grapple with.

Even if we take Machiavelli's point seriously that evil is sometimes necessary in order to secure the state, Machiavelli never shows that certain of his examples are cases in which great evil was required. He doesn't acknowledge the obvious objection that in many of these cases there may be alternatives to slicing adversaries' throats or cutting lieutenants in half that would also result in security to the state. Also, he ambiguates over securing one's own power and securing the state. For at times he slides from the wholesome security of the states as the goal of his political advice to the prince's own desire to maintain power as the goal. The two are not the same.

The case of Cesare Borgia illustrates Machiavelli's failings well (and indeed Borgia is Machiavelli's favorite case of the scores and probably hundreds which he adduces in illustration of his views.) Borgia, Machiavelli says, was a great example of a ruler, exhibiting pleasantness, liberality, magnanimity, as well as the darker virtues. The examples of the former three virtues are unsatisfying. Borgia makes friends in Rome and the College of Cardinals because these are useful friendships, and he removes the overly brutal law enforcer Remirro de Orco from Romagna. Yet, we know that there are cases in which pleasantness, liberality, and magnanimity have moral weight in spite of their not being in the interest of the ruler. So, again, Machiavelli fails to deal forthrightly with moral constraints, even where he seems to do so.

By the way, Machiavelli is most certainly the Western Han Feizi (280-233 bc).

Monday, June 02, 2008

PFC Ross A. McGinnis, 1987-2006

The Medal of Honor goes today to the young man who wanted to be a soldier when he was in kindergarten. I hope my small sons grow up to be just like him.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

A New Error Theory for Theism

Individual human flourishing might require deep gratitude. I'm not sure, but I think so. At least, for many people, their flourishing requires it. Without it they cannot function properly. The ordering of attitudes and dispositions in the soul is dysfunctional if at or near the center of these there is no deep gratitude, by which I mean gratitude that this world exists and that one lives in it. There will be more to say about this in the next post on misfortune, and I've discussed the issue before. Here let us assume that it is so that deep gratitude is prevalent amongst human beings because it is natural for them to have it.

Now, gratitude has a personal object: the one to whom one is grateful. Since that for which one is grateful is the existence of the universe and oneself, the personal object of deep gratitude can be none other than God. Since human beings find themselves given to deep gratitude, they are led to believe that there must be someone to whom they are grateful: God. However,

P: There is no entailment from the proposition that one feels gratitude to the proposition that there is someone to whom one feels gratitude.

So, the error theory is this. People find the belief in God compelling, satisfactory and natural (to put it mildly.) This is because they feel deep gratitude. Deep gratitude, given its intensional structure, explains their belief in God. The causation explaining their belief in God is non-rational causation, since P. There is no need to suppose that there is evidential foundation for the belief that we are unaware of (and we are aware of none.) So the error theory goes.

Atheists can feel deep gratitude, as well, however. When we construe the emotion as deep gladness and modesty, the personal object (God) drops out. One is simply glad that this universe exists and that one lives in it. There need be no one to whom one is grateful. So, the error theory doesn't cast any aspersions on deep gratitude. It is perfectly consistent with holding, as I do, that deep gratitude is indeed part of proper functioning for human beings.

AN ASIDE: Not only P, but also, the existence of gratitude for the existence of the world and oneself does not even merely tend to show that there is someone to whom one is grateful. This is because (A.) there is no other reason to believe that there is someone who created this universe and (B.) the construal of the emotion as gladness is also available.