Saturday, February 27, 2016

Revenge suicide

Years ago I read an article by Dennis Prager about self-loathing Americans on the Left. He thought they were literally childish. They were perfectionists when it came to America. They gave other countries with a much worst track record on human rights a pass. Why? Because they personified America as if it was a mother or father figure. When it disappointed their hopes and expectations, they reacted with the same kind of bitter disillusionment you get from children when they find out their father cheated on their mother, or vice versa.

I now see the same attitude among Trumpkins. In this election cycle, we have or have had quality candidates like Rubio, Cruz, Jindal, and Santorum (before the last two dropped out). Yet these candidates aren't perfect enough for the Trumpkins. 

Instead, their standards are so high that they throw their enthusiastic support behind a candidate with no standards at all! It's like a revenge suicide. 

What Rubio Is Up Against

David Weigel has a good article at the Washington Post about the ongoing battle between Rubio and Trump. The article includes videos of some recent ads being run against Trump on Rubio's behalf. What I want to focus on here, though, is how the article closes:

And the scale of Rubio’s challenge was evident just hours later, when a much larger crowd filed into the Cox Convention Center, half a mile away. A significant reeducation campaign would need to be implemented before they stopped thinking of Trump as a bar-brawling friend of the working man. Asked about the Rubio attacks, Trump supporters either said the endorsement of Trump by Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.) overwhelmed them, that Rubio was irrelevant or that they hadn’t even watched the debate.

“Rubio won’t even win his home state,” said Mark Morris, 57. Trump, by contrast, reminded him of the Oscar-winning film “Gladiator,” and of Russell Crow's hero Maximus. “He survives the battle, and the emperor calls him in. The emperor says, ‘I need you to go to Rome.’ Maximus says, ‘I've never even been to Rome.’ He says, ‘That's why I want you to go. It’s corrupt there.’ That was so profound, so profound.”

Robert Jay, 28, a lineman who was kept from voting by an old felony conviction, did not watch the debate. Wearing a T-shirt with the slogan “white pride worldwide,” he explained that he bought it “as a response to Black Lives Matter,” and was happy that his wife, a onetime supporter of President Obama, was casting the family’s vote for Trump.

“He’s tough — I don’t know what Rubio is talking about — and he says if you attack us, we’re going to attack you,” Jay said. “We'’re going to be strong. And that’s important.”

Though Weigel probably chose these examples of Trump supporters in an attempt to make Trump and his supporters look bad, I suspect the examples Weigel cites are representative of much of the Trump movement. The part about Trump being like Maximus, going to corrupt Rome, is especially absurd. Given how ignorant, incompetent, and corrupt Trump is, what do you expect him to accomplish in his equivalent of Rome? Why prefer him to the far more knowledgeable, far more competent, and far less corrupt Rubio? It's doubtful that Trump would even make it to Rome. His electability is so bad that he'd probably get run over by the Clinton machine and have his innards splattered all over the road, or get drunk one night and fall off a cliff, long before he got anywhere near Rome.

Hilbert's Hotel

I recently ran a question by a brilliant philosopher:

I have two related metaphysical questions for you. These are temporal variations on Hilbert's Hotel. 

My question involves a hypothetical time-sharing/space-sharing arrangement. Would it be metaphysically possible for God to double (triple, quadruple, &c.) the human race without doubling the space it occupies.

Here's what I have in mind. To simplify the scenario, suppose the human race begins with a single breeding pair. Eventually, there are billions of people simultaneously living on planet earth. Let's call it human race A.

Suppose God moves that forward one second. Human race A now occupies the next second, thereby vacating the previous second. Having freed up the first moment in the temporal series, fills the prior, "empty" second with human race B. He duplicates the process he used for human race A (starting with a different breeding pair). Human race A is always one second ahead of human race B. Both groups occupy the same space a second apart. Human race B is always a second behind human race A. 

Assuming that's feasible, the same principle could be tripled, quadrupled, &c, in terms of split seconds or milliseconds, depending on how far you think time is divisible. 

Question, do you think there are theories of time and personal identity under which that scenario is metaphysically coherent? 

Related question: traditionally, the saints and the damned are separated by space (after the general resurrection). But, apropos the above, could they be separated by time?

Could both occupy planet earth (in the future), but be grouped such that one set is always a second behind the other? 

He wrote back and said "This seems quite coherent and unproblematic to me."

In subsequent discussions with a friend, added the following clarifications:

It's arguable that an actual concrete temporal infinite is possible. What's impossible is an incremental realization of an actual concrete temporal infinite. But if the timeline is instantiated as a given totality, then that's metaphysically feasible. 

i) Hilbert's Hotel is disanalogous insofar as it was meant to illustrate the counterintuitive implications of an actual infinite. 

However, I'm trading on different aspects of the thought-experiment:

ii) How to add people without adding space.

iii) The parallel between a spatial shift and a temporal shift.

In Hilbert's Hotel, even if all the rooms are full, yet because the hotel is infinite, you can always add new guests. A guest checks out of Room 1 and checks into Room 2. That frees up Room 1 for the new guest. And the guest in Room 2 switches to Room 3, and so on down the line. A domino effect.

If we conceive of a temporal series like a series of room (temporal units/increments/intervals), then can you have a similar shift? You advance the whole "row" of moments by a second. The moments were occupied by people. Now you've moved them one over, which vacates the preceding moment, which can now be occupied by a different set of people. 

By way of background, I was thinking about this on a recent walk. It was stimulated by the logistics of life in the world to come. Suppose you accept Warfield's view that between universal infant salvation and the postmillennial triumph of the Gospel, most of the human race will be saved. But would there be room for all of them on planet earth? So I was toying with a space-sharing arrangement.

Of course, Warfield's view represents a limiting case. Who knows what percentage of the human race will be saved. But it's interesting to explore various permutations.  

For background:

Guys, guns, and liberals

Unitarian Judaism

For the last few years, Dale Tuggy has been laboring to fire up a theological revolution from the wet kindling of "Christian unitarianism". Dale imagines that the OT precludes the Trinity and the deity of Christ. But he's stuck with the NT.

Fact is, it would be so much simpler for him to be a Jewish unitarian rather than a "Christian unitarian". Given his view of OT monotheism, it would be far more logical for him to take the position of Maimonides and other Orthodox Jews who regard Christianity as a heretical sect, who regard the NT as heretical sectarian offshoot of Judaism. Ironically, Orthodox Jews interpret the NT much better than "Christian unitarians", while Christian Trinitarians interpret the OT much better than Orthodox Jews. 

Annihilationist priorities

The biblical teaching in favour of conditionalism [i.e. annihilationism] is as clear as anything else Scripture teaches, including those doctrines Jerry lists. It’s clearer than the deity of Christ, although the Bible does, in the final analysis, teach that Jesus is divine…Some careful cases against the Trinity or the deity of Christ, for example, are frankly better than some pop apologetics arguments for those doctrines, even though on balance we should certainly think those doctrines are biblical [emphasis mine].

It's striking to see that Glenn Peoples is far more confident about the Biblical witness to annihilationism than the Biblical witness to the deity of Christ. Not only is his impression fanatically skewed, but it shows you how precarious his commitment to Christianity ultimately is.

As say this as someone who's already done 90 posts in response to anti-Trinitarian Dale Tuggy.

Glenn and Jerry's

1. Jerry Walls was recently interviewed by Chris Date. Glenn Peoples posted a response to Jerry. Glenn is a physicalist and annihilationist while Jerry promiscuously combines elements of Molinism, open theism, universalism, and Purgatory. Multiple choice heresy on both sides.

2. It's not surprising that Glenn got the better of the argument. Jerry is winging it while this is Glenn's hobbyhorse. 

3. Glenn faults Jerry for continuing to deny the evidence for annihilationism in the church fathers after he was corrected. If, however, the only evidence for this claim was the interpretation of church fathers provided by annihilationists, then that's a circular argument from authority. I'd prefer an independent referee. (Mind you, I don't think what this or that church father believed is probative.) 

4. Glenn makes Platonism the fallguy. But there are several problems with that objection:

i) Some annihilationists are dualists. Although I think physicalism is a more economical version of annihilationism, Glenn himself (along with Peter Grice, as I recall), took umbrage at my saying so.

ii) More to the point, we need to be careful about presuming that a given belief must be indebted to some prior source. For one thing, that flirts with an infinite regress. Someone had to be the first person to think it. 

iii) In addition, there are only so alternative explanations on certain issues, so there's no reason to presume that a given belief must be indebted to some prior source. Rather, there's a limited way of thinking about some issues. The logical possibilities are restricted. And intelligent people will keep reinventing the same options. That can happen independently on multiple occasions in time and place. 

For instance, Indian philosophy often parallels Greek philosophy. A similar range of questions and answers respecting metaphysics and epistemology. That's not because one influenced the other. Rather, all people inhabit the same world. Have access to the same evidence. Smart people think of the same questions. And there are only so many possible answers. 

5. Regarding the specific issue at hand, by Glenn's own admission, belief in immortal souls was commonplace in the ancient world. Why is that? Here are two possibilities:

i) Evidence of crisis apparitions. From what I've read, that's very widespread. Even if you think that's superstitious, it reflects popular belief. No Platonism required. 

ii) Likewise, from what I've read, you have "primitive" cultures that interpret dreaming as astral travel. During sleep, the soul leaves the body and roams freely–which implies that the real you (consciousness, personality) is independent of your body. A universal OBE. 

My point is not that astral travel is a correct interpretation of dreaming, but that such interpretations will arise spontaneously. Has nothing to do with Platonism–unless Platonism is, itself, influenced by astral projective interpretations of dreaming. 

Rather, dreaming is universal, people are fascinating by dreams, and they will inevitably posit a mechanism to explain dreams. In this case, a "folk" explanation. 

Trump is a yuge liar

Friday, February 26, 2016

Trump, NORAD, and the Second Coming

Wolf Blitzer, CNN
6:46 PM ET, Fri May 4, 2018

According to preliminary reports, about an hour ago an enormous sinkhole opened up along Pennsylvania Avenue. The White House plunged 100 miles into the magma. 

For viewers who may not recall, this all got started back in 2016, during a presidential debate. Here's the exchange:

Hugh Hewett: Mr. Trump. During a recent interview you said you'd put a moratorium on third worlders entering the US if you became President. What would you do if the Second Coming happened while you were President, and Jesus passed through American air space on his way to Jerusalem? 
Donald Trump: No one remembers who came in second.
Hugh Hewett: Ok, but I think that missed the point. Jesus was a third worlder. Born in Bethlehem. 
Donald Trump: I'll have my lawyers look into that. I mean, has anyone ever seen his birth certificate? Gimme a break!
Hugh Hewett: Back to the main point: what would you do as President if Jesus was about to enter the US?
Donald Trump: I'd order NORAD to shoot him down. We can't have third worlders like Jesus coming to the US. 
Hugh Hewett: Do you believe we have military technology to pull that off? 
Donald Trump: As president, I will build a counter-air-Christ missile like you've never seen a counter-air-Christ missile. It will be yuge. And classy. And I'll make Lichtenstein pay for it. 
Hugh Hewett: You think we can design a missile that's capable of stopping Jesus?
Donald Trump: I will hire the best people. It will be tremendous. If Jesus dares to enter American air space without my permission, he will get schlonged. 

This morning, according to anonymous Pentagon sources, a military satellite picked up incoming signals of Jesus returning to earth. Pres. Trump ordered NORAD to shoot him down, but Jesus vaporized the counter-air-Christ missiles in the troposphere. At a hastily convened press conference this afternoon, Pres. Trump had this to say:

Major Garrett: Mr. President. Two hours ago Trump Tower melted like a fudgsicle in Death Valley. Seems like a warning sign. Have you considered issuing an official apology to Jesus for ordering NORAD to shoot him down?
Pres. Trump: Jesus doesn't scare me! He got himself crucified, for crying out loud! Total loser! Why can't he be more like Putin? 

Thirty minutes later, the White House was swallowed up by a sink hole. Unconfirmed reports say Pres. Trump was in the Situation Room at the time. Experts are less than sanguine about his prospects in the magma. Chief Justice Maryanne Trump Barry is scheduled to swear in Vice President Carrie Prejean as the next President of the United States. 

Questions for theists

Jeff Lowder recently reposted his questions for theists:

I'll respond: 

“Dear Pope Francis: Go away...”

I write this letter to you as a priest to the Bishop of Rome and as a son to a father. I write with a heavy heart, and I know that heaviness of heart is shared by many of my Catholic brethren both clergy and laity….

Dear Pope Francis, you are not a good teacher in these situations. Teaching the truth about good and bad is a difficult task in a secular and self-centered world. It requires both clarity and nuance, neither of which was present in any of the conversations you had with the reporters….

The teaching Office of the Church is as important as Scripture. We do not believe in sola scriptura. And you, Pope Francis, are the head of that Teaching Office. But you are not the Church. You are the Pope, the Supreme Teacher of the Church. But you are not the Church, nor can the Church be reduced to you alone. The latter error of reductionism is embraced not only by worldly reporters but also by faithful Catholics. This is the result of the transformation of the papacy in the past fifty years into a world super star, which transformation is a deformation in the development of the doctrine of the papacy. That you bear the burden of the Supreme Teacher of the Church in an unbelieving world is the reason why you are loved by the Catholic faithful and are the object of their prayers. But please remember that your burden is the burden of the Cross, and therefore you must always be seen as a sign of contradiction by the world, such that when the world sees you and hears you, they see through you to the Cross of Jesus Christ and the love and mercy of God that the Cross shows forth.

Please accept a piece of filial advice from a humble priest. Make a long, silent retreat this Lent and do what has to be done to listen to the God who is not heard in earthquake, storm or fire but in a tiny whispering sound.

Yours faithfully,

Father Richard G. Cipolla

Can the Roman Catholic Church survive “Pope Francis”?

Here’s one HUGE reason why I think that those Reformed who want to adopt the mantle of “Catholicism” are hugely wrong-headed about it. “Catholic” is going to become a meaningless if not a shameful word in the decades to come.

And it has everything to do with what “Pope Francis” is doing. It seems to me that “this guy” has put into motion – at the highest possible level – a sequence of events, and a way that the most liberal and scandalous of “Roman Catholics” can claim “conscience” to justify any one of their morally aberrant behaviors – abortion, sex abuse, sodomy, rape, murder, pillage, the practice of organized crime – and still claim for themselves the mantel of “Faithful Roman Catholic”, with “the authorization of the Magisterium”.

The conservative Roman Catholic newspaper “National Catholic Register” gave this overview of “The Francis Method”:

Is Trump's presidential bid really self-funded?

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Rubio And Cruz Just Gave Trump A Beating

A commentator on CNN said something to the effect that Rubio needs to keep doing this every day. So does Cruz. Until they send the charlatan back to New York in his clown car.

Trump was evasive on healthcare, evasive on his tax returns, was evasive about his losing to Clinton in the polls, kept repeating himself while denying that he repeats himself and while criticizing Rubio for repeating himself too much, etc. I agree with Leon Wolf:

Here’s what a bad night it was for Trump. In the middle of a completely innocuous question from moderator Hugh Hewitt, which was not in any way attacking Trump, Trump out of nowhere slammed Hewitt with “No one listens to your show.” In the span of 20 seconds, he said “I don’t believe anything Telemundo says,” and “I love Telemundo. Everything is fine.” Literally within the same answer. The belief this entire time has been that Donald Trump cannot be rattled in a debate. Tonight proved that it is not true. It’s one thing to expose Trump as a liberal; what the other Republican candidates did tonight was to expose Trump as a lightweight. Trump has gotten away for months with not having answers to anything because no one has pressed him on the point. Tonight, that ended, and he looked like a child.

Trump's unprovoked insult of Hewitt reflects Trump's character. Imagine if any other candidate had done that or had done even half of the rest of what Trump did in this debate. Rubio's relatively minor mistakes a couple of debates ago got a major amount of media attention and had Rubio getting criticized widely for days on end. Will Trump get the far worse treatment he deserves, now that he's so obviously had a debate performance vastly worse than what Rubio had in that previous debate? I doubt it. We'll see how many voters are discerning enough to realize what happened in tonight's debate. Trump got knocked out by Rubio, was propped up and knocked out again by Cruz, and kept getting the same treatment over and over the rest of the night. He was a punching bag getting hammered back and forth between Rubio and Cruz. Will the media cover the debate that way? Will voters respond to the debate as they ought to? Rubio and Cruz did their part. If the media and voters don't respond as they should, then the media and the voters are to blame.

Oh, and Kasich and Carson were there, too. I think.

Debating Hillary

It's often said that because Cruz was a national champ college debater, he'd cream Hillary in the presidential debates. Of course, there's no telling in advance how exactly that would go, but I think that's much too optimistic:

i) Isn't it evident by now that Cruz is overrated as a debater? I don't mean he's not a skillful debater. But just to judge by his primary debate performances, would you know that he was the national chap college debater? Put another way, if you knew that going in, wouldn't his performances be a letdown?

Again, I don't mean he can't be very good. But he's uneven. He has strong, memorable moments, but the same can be said for Trump, Christie, Rubio, Rand–and even Jeb. 

Sometimes Cruz has bad moments. Sometimes he comes on strong, then fades. 

Given his prior reputation, you'd expect him to utterly dominate the primary debates. But he hasn't. If he doesn't have that commanding performance in primary debates, why assume he would be spectacular in presidential debates? 

ii) In all likelihood, most of the moderators for the presidential debate will be Hillary supporters. If so, they will lob her softball questions while they lob him hardball questions. So he will have to compensate for the bias of the moderators.

iii) In addition, there's the double standard. He will have to appear deferential to a woman. If he's perceived to be too hard on Hillary, many voters will think he's mean and disrespectful to a woman. That isn't fair, but politics isn't fair.

iv) Moreover, two people can watch the same candidate and have diametrically opposed impressions. Donald Trump is a perfect example.

What are people listening for? Are they even really listening to the content? Or is it more about the candidate's body language and how the viewer is predisposed to react to one candidate or another. 

For instance, there are atheists who think Sam Harris beat William Lane Craig before either one even gave their opening statements. They take the position that it's simply impossible for Craig to win since Christianity is obviously false. Well, aren't there lots of voters who feel the same way about rightwing Republicans? 

In addition, a speaker like Sam Harris can sound eminently reasonable even when he's spouting arrant nonsense. He has such a soothing, reassuring demeanor. 

Now, David Wood has done a couple of exposes of Harris, but in a debate between Cruz and Hillary, how many viewers are going to take time to make a note of her statements, then compare that to the evidence? Many viewers don't know enough to realize when a candidate makes a false statement. In addition, there are partisan "fact checker" outfits that pretend to be impartial, but are liberal front organizations. 

Brokered convention

I'm going to briefly toy with some nomination scenarios. 

i) On one scenario, Trump cinches the nomination outright by winning enough primaries to net 1237 delegates or more. 

That process would be accelerated if his competitors drop out. Or it's possible that he can garner 1237 delegates even if his competitors remain in the race.

ii) But in another scenario, what if Cruz and/or Rubio have enough money to stay in the race right up to the convention, and one or both pick up enough delegates to deny Trump the magic number. He wins a plurality of the delegates, but falls below the 1237 threshold. 

In that event, the nomination would be settled at the convention itself. If Trump doesn't have 1237 delegates by the time of the convention, will he get the nod anyway? I don't know.

Here's one potential hurdle: if he continues to win primaries, but maintains his pattern of only skimming about one-third of the vote, with the other two-thirds going to the remaining anti-Trump candidate(s), would the convention nominate a candidate whom about two-thirds of the party can't stand? 

Fallen idol

There are different kinds of Trump supporters, but I'm struck by some parallels between Richard Dawkins and Donald Trump.

As a washed-up biologist who was never all that great even in his prime, Dawkins increasingly turned to atheism. This peaked with The God Delusion, in 2006. That was followed by an international book tour to fawning young audiences. In tandem was the discussion forum at his old website.

For a time, he was the icon of his own personality cult. But that all began to change when the discussion forum got out of hand:

Then Dawkins started to attack liberal sacred cows like Islam and feminism. It was striking to see how quickly his impassioned devotees turned furiously on their former idol. 

Like Dawkins, Trump is currently the icon of his own personality cult. And many of his fans evince the same personality traits as the atheist rabble who use to swarm all over the discussion forum at his old website. 

If Trump were actually to become president, it's predicable that splenetic disillusionment would shortly erupt as his actual performance in office disappointed the utopian expectations of his rabid devotees. 

Your Choice Is Rubio Or Trump, Not Cruz

Leon Wolf, the editor-in-chief of Red State, has just endorsed Rubio, and he makes some good points in the process. Be sure to read the article by Dan McLaughlin that he links. And other arguments for Rubio could be added to the list. He does significantly better against Clinton in the polls. He helps Republicans in a state where they need more help (Florida, in contrast to Texas). Etc.

I hope Cruz does the right thing by dropping out no later than early March. I'd like to see him drop out in the last two days of February if his polling doesn't improve a lot before then. But if he's going to stay in beyond February, I hope he at least doesn't stay beyond early March. And if Cruz doesn't do the right thing, his supporters had better do it.

Since Cruz is so young and has so many positive attributes (along with some weaknesses), he has a promising future in some political contexts (as a senator or potential governor of Texas, Supreme Court justice, etc.) But he's not good as a presidential candidate. Even if he still wanted to be president, this isn't his year. He has time to run again at least twice, given how young he is. He ought to leave the 2016 race sooner rather than later. If he would do that, it would do far more good than the alternative, and it would improve his standing in the party and his political prospects over the long run.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Mere theism

One objection that atheists sometimes raise is that a more specific claim has a lower probability than a more general (or simpler) claim. Hence, Christian theism has a lower probability than mere theism. But there are problems with that contention:

i) Mere theism can be just as specific as Christian theism. It's just that Christian theism has already been defined by various Christian traditions. When we think of Christian theism, that denotes a specific concept. That refers to a preexisting position with a particular set of propositions–although that varies according to the theologian or theological tradition.

Taken by itself, mere theism is a cipher. The content needs to be filled in. But once we specify what that amounts do, the claim loses the prima facie appearance of simplicity or generality. 

ii) In addition, even if Christian theism a more specific claim than mere theism, that doesn't make it less probable. To the contrary, there may be specific evidence for Christian theism, corresponding to the specificity of the claims. (Even assuming specific claims are less probable than general claims.)

Conversely, mere theism might well have less evidence. Depends on the version of mere theism. How "mere" is mere?

Stephen Wolfe, on “Women in the Military” (2)

From another Facebook post:

If you've spent anytime as either an officer or a senior NCO in the military you know what Robert Gates is talking about here:

"Men and women in the prime of their professional lives, who may have been responsible for the lives of scores or hundreds of troops, or millions of dollars in assistance, or engaging in reconciling warring tribes, they may find themselves in a cube all day re-formatting power point slides, preparing quarterly training briefs, or assigned an ever expanding array of clerical duties. The consequences of this terrify me." (from a 2011 speech at West Point)

This is what complicates the question of women in the military. I've seen women excel in the military because of this expanding array of clerical duties. Women are good at it. The modern military is very different than militaries of the past. Everything is bureaucratized, institutionalized, computerized, proceduralized, etc. Most officers at least in combat support positions spend their day either staring at a computer or in a briefing staring at a powerpoint slide. And usually the content is not about traditional military training, but some statistic on the completion of "sexual assault" training, or "suicide prevention," or something of that sort.

My point is that any position on women in the military has to deal with the fact that in some ways women actually contribute to the effectiveness of a modern military.

Stephen Wolfe, on “Women in the Military” (1)

Stephen Wolfe, who is a West Point grad and PhD (Political Philosophy) candidate, posted this on Facebook (reprinted here with permission):

1. They reduce unit cohesion.
2. They are usually the weakest link.
3. They are injury-prone.
4. They are often overweight.
5. They change unit dynamics.
6. They reduce training opportunities.
7. They require special accommodation in field exercises.
8. Male soldiers tend to have less respect for them.
9. They usually are less proficient in shooting and other warrior tasks.
10. They bring the need for institutionalized training on sexual harassment and sexual assault.
11. They create awkwardness and uncertainty in social relations.
12. The dynamics often bring questions of fairness.
13. Those that have kids are often constrained by picking up and dropping off kids at daycare.
14. They become "unavailable" due to pregnancy.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Ducking questions

Politicians and political candidates duck questions they'd rather not answer. That's a bipartisan phenomenon. Sometimes conservative candidates duck questions. Is that good or bad? Well, it depends:

i) There's a difference between answers and explanations. It's often easy to give short answers, but it may be hard to give short explanations.

Controversial issues require lengthy explanations. It's not enough to give a quick, simple answer. You have to frame the answer. Take a step back and put the issue in context. Discuss what's wrong with the alternative.

Many voters don't even know that there are good arguments for conservative positions. They inhabit a partisan ghetto. 

Liberal reporters and debate moderators like to pepper conservatives with controversial questions to make the conservative look bad. If a conservative candidate finds himself in a forum where he doesn't have time to defend his answer, it's best to duck the question than give a brief answer that will be used against him. 

Conservatives need to take control of the situation. They have plenty of other opportunities to give detailed answers. They can issue a statement. Or sit down with a sympathetic interviewer. Or give a speech. Or make a video.

It's not incumbent on them to play into enemy hands by playing on enemy turf, playing by the rigged rules of the adversary. They should try to pick settings in which they can express themselves more fully. Choose their words more carefully.

ii) By the same token, conservative candidates are not obliged to address every controversial issue during the campaign. They can save some controversial issues for after the election. 

Again, the liberal media baits conservative candidates into taking as many controversial stands as possible to bring their numbers down. 

But it's okay for a conservative candidate to focus on a few major issues during the campaign, then revisit other issues if elected. You can reserve some things for later, when you're in a position to actually do something about it. 

iii) Of course, what I said above only applies to bona fide conservatives. Sometimes, a candidate ducks a question because he's "moving to the middle". Dodging controversial issues can sometimes be symptomatic of a candidate whose ambition erodes commitment to conservative values. The higher he rises, the more "moderate" he becomes. 

Scalia on law and language

Trump Telling It Like It Isn't

One of the many ridiculous justifications Trump supporters offer for supporting their candidate is that he tells it like it is, whereas other candidates don't. Actually, Trump probably is the most self-contradictory individual to ever run for the presidency, and he frequently lies. Even when he isn't contradicting himself or lying, he's often highly ignorant of the issues he's addressing. Here's an article that gives some examples of his lies.


One of the objections to Donald Trump is that he's not a conservative. The problem with that objection is that it rarely gets beyond the label. What is conservatism? And why should I care? How is that relevant to my needs? 

This is not a simple question to answer, because it's a big question. There are varieties of conservatism. Moreover, conservatism is, in some measure, mutually defining in relation to liberalism, and vice versa. For purposes of this post, I will state my own position.

Liberalism and conservativism evolve over time, in reaction to socioeconomic circumstances. I'm not interested in the history of the concept. Likewise, liberalism and conservatism are subject to national differences, based on the history of a given country, as well as the modern-day issues and circumstances. To some degree, I'm going to discuss this from the standpoint of an American in 2016, during a presidential election year. That will make it a bit provincial and ethnocentric. However, there are transcultural elements to a conservative political philosophy as well. 

Another factor is the distinction between secular conservatism and Christian conservatism. My definition will reflect the latter emphasis. 

Of necessity, my post will speak in generalities. Obviously, there are many exceptions and variations. 

In general, liberals think there's more that's wrong with the world than conservatives. Liberals are chronically discontent with the status quo. Something always needs to be changed. If you succeed in "fixing" one problem, you move on to the next problem. It's an endless task. 

To some degree, liberals and conservatives also disagree on what the problems are. Disagree on what's wrong. So, by definition, they differ regarding the solution. If you don't think there's a problem in the first place, you won't agree on the answer.

Liberals view social problems as the result of inequitable access to material goods, as well as improper cultural  conditioning. The cause of evil is due to external factors.

They view human nature as a blank slate. To the extent that social problems are caused by cultural conditioning, they can be corrected by cultural conditioning. Education is a key remedy. 

Now, theoretically, some liberals think human nature is not a blank slate. We're the product of evolution, our animal ancestry, our genes, hormones, brain chemistry, &c. But when it comes to law and policy, liberals act as though human nature is a blank slate. 

As a result, liberals think government is fundamental and central to resolving social problems. Only the force of government can produce uniform results. The job of government is twofold: (i) create equal access to material goods; (ii) retool human nature to create a harmonious society of like-minded individuals. Citizens are members of the hive, conditioned to believe and behave alike, to ensure cooperation between the many individuals who compose society. 

Liberalism places a tremendous emphasis on social control, with an enlightened ruling class on top. 

By contrast, conservatives are more content with the world. They find fulfillment and happiness in family, friends, religion, work, sports, hunting, hiking. 

They think humans have an evil streak. That's ineluctable. Gov't is necessary to keep crime at manageable levels. The job of gov't is not to prevent crime or eliminate crime, but cut it down to size. Keep crime from getting out of hand. Given our evil streak, there's an inbuilt limit on our ability to solve social problems. Moreover, the effort can be counterproductive: stamping out evil puts some evildoers in charge of other evildoers.  

So there's a precarious, unstable balance. The ruling class is no wiser or better than the underclass. Indeed, it may be worse. Power corrupts. 

Conservatives consider law enforcement to be a supplement to self-defense rather than a substitute for self-defense.  

Although some conservatives are reflexively deferential to the authorities, other conservatives realize that human evil poses a dilemma for statecraft: who polices the police? 

Many conservatives take a fairly live-and-let-live approach how other people behave. In general, what you do with your own life is none of my business. I may disapprove, but I'm not responsible for how you live for your life. All things being equal, there's the right to be let alone. 

For conservatives, you only cede power to gov't when necessary, for things that only gov't can and should do. The best government is the least government. 

Conservatism has a culture war aspect to it, viz. abortion, euthanasia, the queer/transgender mafia, parental rights, religious liberty, school choice. 

Conservatives support national security, although they disagree on the details of foreign policy. 

Unlike liberals, conservatives don't think inequality is inherently wrong. Certain kinds of inequality are wrong. Arbitrary inequalities. Imposed inequalities. But some inequalities reflect natural differences or different priorities between one person and another, or between men and women. 

Conversely, liberalism has protected classes with super rights. So there's a tension between equality and inequality in liberal ideology. 

Conservatism stresses the distinction between innocence and guilt whereas liberalism tends to attribute criminality to material deprivation.

In general, conservative policy is more about deterring certain actions while liberal policy is more about compelling certain actions. Conservatism sets a moral floor for socially acceptable conduct while liberalism is more ambitious and idealistic. 

Monday, February 22, 2016

Skin in the game

i) There's a debate brewing about whether women should be required to register for the draft. I think some conservatives are taking an understandable, but morally untenable position on this issue.

I oppose women in combat. For that matter, I oppose the coed military.

But I also oppose letting identity politicians get away with conferring both equal rights and special rights or super rights on their protected classes. 

ii) Presumably, most conservatives don't believe in banning women from the military in toto. We don't object to women as doctors, nurses, tech support, or military intelligence (to cite a few examples) At least I don't. 

iii) The line is often drawn in reference to "combat". But that's ambiguous. I think "women in combat" is often used as a synonym for women in Spec Ops. The elite fighting units.

In one sense, that's a clear-cut demarcation. But most soldiers are potential combatants. Most draftees in WWII and Vietnam weren't Spec Ops. 

To take another comparison, if a woman is a sailor whose destroyer is embroiled in a naval battle, isn't everyone on board, including the cooks, combatants in that situation?

iv) It's difficult to untangle female combatants from the coed military. To be consistent, you have to challenge the coed military. Otherwise, it is arbitrary, both in principle and practice, to draw the line with "women in combat". 

v) Rep. Duncan Hunter, a Marine veteran, has introduced a bill requiring women, just like men, to register for the draft. That's not because he actually supports the policy. Rather, it's a wedge tactic. 

Are Democrat lawmakers, and Democrat voters, really seriously about equal rights for women? This is an attempt to call their bluff.

Women are a key voting block in the Democrat coalition. But will they balk at draft registration? Will this split a key voting block? 

Female Democrats may love the idea of equality, but if they actually have skin in the game, will they blink? Will they backpedal? It's designed to create a dilemma for feministic identity politics. Make them admit that men and women are physically and psychologically different in ways that make women unsuitable for certain occupations, and vice versa. 

Predictably, some conservatives have recoiled at this tactic. However, there's a problem with that reaction. Conservatives often complain that Republic politicians fight with one hand tied behind their back. Democrat politicians can say whatever they like, while Republicans walk on egg shells. 

But when Republicans like Hunter fight with both hands, some conservatives say, "No! No! You must retie one hand behind your back!"

I agree with Hunter's approach. Liberals make headway in part because they don't have skin in the game. The ruling class makes the underclass bear the brunt of liberal policies. The ruling class doesn't suffer the consequences of its own oppressive policies.

We need to make Democrat politicians and their constituents pay a political price for their initiatives. Are Democrat politicians prepared to alienate a key voting block? 

vi) But there's more at issue than tactics. There's a point of principle. 

It is unjust for women to have equal access to all the plume positions in the military while men take all the risks. It is unjust for women to assume command positions while men assume all the risks. Where female officers can order men into battle, but avoid action themselves. Conservative mustn't dishonor our men in uniform by defending that kind of egregious double standard. That betrays our men. 

Likewise, it's a euphemistic lie to call someone a soldier who isn't even potentially a combatant. If women are exempt from combat units, then they should be excluded from any soldierly position. If they aren't combatants even in principle, then they aren't real soldiers. 

vii) In addition, there's a difference between head knowledge and know-how. You can graduate first in your class from Annapolis or West Point, but that's no substitute for hands-on experience. Not only is experience on the battlefield an important supplement and complement to a formal military education, but it has a winnowing effect. The only way of finding out who's a natural leader, who has the adaptive talent and native tactical sense, is to put the aspirant in a situation that will test their mettle. 

You can't seriously have women generals and admirals who have no combat experience. Their competence has never been put to the test where it counts. 

The choice is either to allow women in combat or disallow women as officers. Do one or the other. 

viii) Furthermore, shared risk is essential to respect. Solders respect commanders who don't order a subordinate to do anything the commander won't do.

ix) Finally, this isn't just my armchair analysis. See how some real soldiers weigh in: 

Sorry rainmaker, but here is where i disagree with you. IF women want to serve in combat arms, and get true equality, then they damn well should also have to sign up with the Select Service, just like guys do.

I believe the question was (paraphrased) "Since they can fill combat roles, should they be required to register for the draft?" It only makes sense that the answer to this question be yes. Now, if the question was "Do you think women should be in combat roles?" then I might expect some differing answers, but that wasn't the question. If they said that women should be in combat roles but NOT have to register for selective service, then they would be idiots.


It is discrimination. And that's not always a bad thing.
So discrimination is ok if the women are the one benefiting? That sounds like how you are saying it.

Now you know how I feel when I see men screaming at the top of their lungs about how they feel women should have to register for the selective service too.
While i feel the same way when i see people scream that we 'need to treat women equal, but not equal'. I have and always will say, IF they want equality, then that should also include RESPONSIBILITY. Part of that responsibility is the signing up for selective service. Part of the 'equality' that goes with that is being in combat arms. If they don't want combat arms, then they don't need to worry about selective service.
BUT since they Do seem to want to be in the combat arms orgs, then they bloody well should be required to sign up.

Put yourself in this situation: you have a daughter in her mid 20's. She's married, and has two children. All of a sudden, your daughter's number comes up. She's drafted, handed a rifle, and is sent into combat half way across the world... all while your son in law is living large in the comfort of that three bedroom house in the suburbs. While your daughter is doing the fighting.
I see that as no different from 'your son is married and has 2 kids, and your son has to go off and fight a war which he may not come back from'. Or are you saying men's lives are not as important as women's lives?

Really, do things HAVE to be equal? Whatever happened to feeling that, as men, we have responsibilities... namely, the ones that we're more physically and emotionally equipped to handle, so that women won't have to?
I've said this many times, and I'll say it again: too many men are hiding behind feminism, because they feel that feminism frees them from their responsibilities as men. Feminism has men handing their balls over to women. 
So what 'responsibilities' are exclusively men?

A reductio of naturalism

"A Reductio of Naturalism" by James Anderson.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Pandora's iPhone

Clerking for Scalia


Transgenderism is soooo confusing. Is it a she, a man, or a eunuch? Let's just split the difference and call it her-men-eunuchs.  

Obliviously to the utterly predictable consequences of their policy, "progressive" officials are paralyzed by the dilemma they created:

Miracles and memories

Unbelievers think an account that includes a miracle greatly lowers the credibility of the account. Is that true? 

What makes an event memorable? Off the top of my head, I'd say several things can make an event memorable: is it unusual, interesting, significant, or emotionally resonant? How much attention did you pay to it? 

Any one factor can make an event memorable, and combining two or more factors can make it all the more memorable. In addition, the factors can interact in constructive ways.

For instance, the death of parents is extremely common. However, that's statistical. It's hardly common experience for you when your mother or father dies. For you, that's a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Moreover, that's a very emotional experience. You only have one mother and father. 

Likewise, the death of parents in general is not significant to strangers. If your parent dies, that's not normally significant to me. But if my parent dies, that's highly significant to me. Some events are intrinsically significant, or personally significant, or both. 

By the same token, people typically pay great attention to the death of their parents. That's not something they only notice in passing.

On a related note, whether or not we find something interesting is often subjective. What one person finds fascinating may be boring to another person. 

Now, consider the miracles of Christ. Take the raising of Lazarus. That would be an extremely memorable event. Memorable on multiple grounds, and each factor would magnify it's unforgettable character.

To say it's unusual or out-of-the-ordinary would be an understatement. And by definition, it's an attention-grabbing event. 

Mortality is emotionally resonant. The fear of death. Separation from loved ones. A reversal of death would be at least as emotional–if not more so, because it's unexpected. 

The possibility of restoration to life is universally interesting. We all have a stake in that. 

It is both intrinsically and personally significant. Directly significant to his sisters. But significant to onlookers. After all, if Jesus can do that for their brother, he can do that for me and my loved ones. 

A miracle like that is unforgettable. A life-changing experience.

Not all of Christ's miracles have that direct, intrinsic importance. But they all point to the power of Christ. How he can provide for his people. 

Take the multiplication of food. If he can do that, is there anything he cannot do? More to the point, what he is able to do for me or my loved ones. 

The upshot is that the most memorable events in the Christ would not be what he said, or even what he generally did, but his miracles in particular. The supernatural aspect of his ministry. 

Godawa on Risen

"Risen: An Unpredictable Hollywood Detective Thriller – and a Christian Apologist’s Wet Dream" by Brian Godawa.