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CHRISTOPHER TAYLOR'S BOOKS

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

GASLANDERS

"There is no proven case where the fracking process itself has affected water."
-EPA chair Lisa Jackson

The last straw for me watching television shows usually comes after several episodes of building annoyance.  If I have liked a show in the past (The Glades, for instance) I keep wanting to give them another chance, just in case the writing picks up or the actors get better.  Everyone has off days, and not every episode is going to be great, I figure.  But usually, if you can see a show getting bad, its not going to pick up.
I've enjoyed the A&E show Longmire tremendously over the two seasons so far.  Its been entertaining, well acted, interestingly written, and the setting and concept are things I really appreciate.  There are some lingering slight annoyances, such as their apparent need to make a big long story out of the show rather than just episodes, but that can work if done well.
But the last episode I watched just about drove me away.  It was about a fracking operation* and the death of a Cherokee living on the local reservation from a fire in his home.  Now, ordinarily, Longmire will handle this kind of thing very well, without making either side look evil and the bad guy is usually unrelated to the apparent events.  And for the most part, they did that pretty well in this episode.
The problem is the first five minutes of the show were basically about how fracking is evil and wrong.  They didn't just come out and say it, but the theoretical cause of the fire and explosion was methane in the water caused by the evil big energy company.  One of the characters rightly points out that its never been proven that fracking causes gas to come out through water lines, but then Sheriff Longmire lights the water on fire and it burns spectacularly.  The wrong color for methane gas, of course, but it burns.  "I'd call that proof" the reservation sheriff sneers.
It reminded me of the last CSI show I watched with Lawrence Fishburn in it.  CSI had been getting increasingly activist, but the episode was all about the evils of fracking and how it was destroying farms and the eeevil corporation got away with it after several long rants by various characters about the horrors of fracking and big business.  I was disgusted, and just stopped watching.
And I think I know where these shows come from.  There was one of those fake documentaries about fracking called GaslandGasland has several infamous scenes where the camera shows someone lighting the water on fire from their water hose and sink.  Look at the methane pushed into the water supply by Fracking!  Its evil and dangerous!  Clearly this must be stopped!
Except... it wasn't.  Emails from the director and producer of Gasland (named Fox) reveal how he faked those fires.  he attached the water supply to a gas line and voila, burning water!  Oops.  Why did he have to do this?  Well, because even the US Environmental Protection Agency after years of studies is unable to find a slightest link between fracking and water pollution let alone methane in water supplies.  And these guys really really wanted to find one.
They wanted to find a connection so bad that they finally managed to put out a study showing a problem... but they did so by digging up to three times as deep as any fracking operation ever digs.  Which is to say, the study was worthless.  No evidence has shown any relationship or danger of Fracking causing earthquakes, either (another fright from Gasland and other sources).
It is true that some areas have slight methane deposits naturally occurring in the water table and that can be lit on fire, but it has nothing to do with fracking.  And it is true that fracking operations result in large reservoirs of contaminated water that energy companies are less than scrupulous in maintaining or properly storing.  But the actual harvesting of natural gas?  Nothing.
Still, Gasland (and part II) won lots of awards and turned the director into a celebrity.  And when you're a Hollywood writer type, well you eat that stuff up like Adam Richman attacks a food challenge.  They probably haven't ever even begun to question the validity of the claims in the films, and never have heard the stuff I linked above.  So they see Gasland or the director's appearance on The Daily Show and run home full of righteous indignation to write up scripts with the presumption that nobody would ever lie about this stuff!
Its not that the fracking companies are good guys, they're greedy bastards who'll lie and cheat to get their product just like Fox lied and cheated to put out his film.  Its that the actual process isn't the horror that these people promote it as, unquestioning, and that annoys me.  There might be genuine concerns to be dealt with in fracking, but this isn't how to go about it, its just a brute attempt to stop the process entirely.
Why put out stuff like Gasland?  Well its all part of a package.  Its the presumption that oil companies, let alone any big corporation, are evil, combined with a desire for oil to be expensive and hard to get so that people are pressured to get away from fossil fuels entirely because its overheating the earth and dooming us all and yadda yadda.  Facking is letting America supply more and more of its own fuel needs, with cleaner, cheaper natural gas.  That opposes the goals of guys like Fox.  And probably the guys who put out shows such as Longmire and CSI, when it comes down to it.
Related to the whole Gasland/Fracking fraud deal is the film Crude which actually captures lawyers and activists conspiring to defraud Ecuador and oil companies which I wrote about a while back but needs more attention.
Shorter version: Stop it with the activist writing in shows; fracking doesn't make water burn, Longmire.
*Fracking is short for Hydraulic Fracturing, which is a method of extracting the vast amounts of natural gas America enjoys.  Water and other chemicals are injected into the ground, pressurizing the gas and forcing it up for collection.  Popular Mechanics has a good article on the topic if you want to know more.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

THEY ALL LOOK THE SAME TO ME

"Our current public order claims to separate politics from religion, but that understates its ambition. It aspires to free public life—and eventually, since man is social, human life in general—not only from religion but also from nature and history."

Libertarian, social conservative, leftist, mainstream Republican, moderate, trustafarian faux anarchist, you name it, there are many different political movements active in America today.  This is a good thing in America, since it is historically the land of the free which encourages and supports differences of opinion and debates on all sorts of topics.
However, when you look closer, you find that almost all of these movements share key themes and ideas; they are all very similar, deep down.  James Kalb at Intercollegiate Review wrote about this recently and I wanted to draw attention to his article:
For all the talk of diversity, today’s politics are extraordinarily uniform. The West lives under a single political regime, managerial liberalism, that combines an emphasis on individual choice and democratic values with domination of social life by experts, functionaries, and commercial interests. The liberal and managerial aspects of the system seem at odds with each other, but both are basic, and together they have led to the suppression of many things that have always been fundamental to human society—religion, cultural particularity, even the distinction between the sexes.

Unusual though the resulting form of society may be, people take it for granted, so much so that anything else seems impossible. No one can imagine a future, apart from chaos and tyranny, that is anything but more of the same; and those who want to roll back recent developments, to the ’50s, for example, are considered out of touch or psychologically disordered. If you are skeptical about democracy, diversity, and choice, or if you do not trust the experts, there is something wrong with you. And if you think there is an authority that could call the regime into question, and even at times override it, you are a fanatical extremist.
The left and middle tend to replace God with the state, and the right tends to replace God with the self, but in the end, its all the same: no God, no absolute authority, no transcendent truth, no objective standard for truth, beauty, or goodness.  And that shared rejection ends up being very similar in the end, regardless of policy arguments or positions.
So now, the right and the left agree that homosexuality is perfectly normal, that you can believe whatever you want but you should keep it to yourself, and that morality has no place in public policy debate.  The left and the right both agree that abortion is part of society and should be defended.  The left and the right both agree that women and men are fundamentally interchangable, with few differences.  The left and the right both agree that diversity and personal choice on all matters is unquestioned good.
There is a small segment on the right which disagrees - social conservatives - but even they often turn to the state for their answers, demanding laws against that which they dislike and state support of causes they prefer.  Social conservatives argue for legal penalties against flag burning and sexual promiscuity, and embrace the "faith based initiative" which is simply subsidies for people with a Bible.
And while libertarians argue a good case for getting government out of everything, when it comes down to policy, too often they cry "there ought to be a law" too.  Just look at their arguments for legalizing drugs and prostitution.  It will be a big revenue generator!  The state can just regulate and tax them, and the problems will be limited, plus it will bring in tax dollars!
Except... didn't you just argue that the state should stay out of the market?  Didn't you just argue that regulation and taxation is oppression and the government should do the minimum in all situations?  At the heart of libertarian thought, though, is the idea that humanity is so good and wise that it can rule its self and judge its own behavior properly - that man is the final arbiter of right and wrong.
Its hedged in terms of market and social experiment, but in the end, its us deciding without any absolute, objective standard.  And in the end, these different bands all end up playing the same basic song, like the disco era.
*Hat tip to Cranach, Gene Vieth's blog, for this piece.

Monday, July 29, 2013

THE FALL OF DETROIT

"I’d rather see Hitler and Hirohito win than work beside a N*gger on the assembly line."
-Wildcat striker in Detroit, 1943


By now I'm reasonably sure everyone is aware of the horrific collapse Detroit has suffered.  The city is turning back to nature in large swaths, the buildings are collapsing and rotting, the crime is so bad the police avoid entire sections of the city, the public works are so underfunded chunks of town aren't even getting service, feral gangs tear apart street lights and buildings for copper to sell, and there are even bears being spotted in the city.
Not that long ago, Detroit was one of the finest cities in the country.  Once called the "Paris of the midwest" and the richest city in the nation in the1950s, now it is one of the poorest and most dangerous to live in.  Recently the city filed bankruptcy and while a state judge briefly ruled the attempt illegal a federal court overruled the state one and the legal action has begun.  Since its glory days in the 1950s, Detroit has dropped to half its population, despite the population of America doubling in the same time period.
Republicans like to yell about how this is what happens when you put Democrats in charge of a city for too long.  Democrats yell back wondering why New York and other cities long held by Democrats haven't collapsed, too.  Racists yell about how this is what happens when blacks take over.  The truth is a bit more complex and subtle, as anyone thoughtful would expect.
Detroit was built around two things: being on the lake shore for shipping and being where the automobile was finally produced as a regular, reliable product.  Cars had existed before Ford, Chrysler, and all the others started manufacturing their cars, but in Detroit all the pieces came together to make them cheaper and faster to supply an entire growing nation.  The lakes gave ready access to all the raw materials and the drive of these men made the factories possible.
That made Detroit grow rapidly and become wealthy, and when prohibition hit, a third factor was introduced.  Detroit was a major city just across a slim body of water from Canada (north of Canada, actually).  Canada produced liquor as it was not illegal there, and it was brought across to Detroit, often driven over the frozen water in winter in cars.  From Detroit, this cheap liquor was distributed all across America, making the city even richer.
So what happened, what turned this jewel of America into a slum with a slim line of nice-looking buildings downtown?  What made Detroit into a place people fear to travel through, a city collapsing in debt and rot?  And why hasn't it happened to other cities as well?  I've written in the past about the problems in general and how they affect more than just Detroit, but I wanted to return to this theme once more with a bit more information and history to tell the tale of the city more carefully - and sound a note of warning.
BACK IN TIME
To really understand the fall, you have to turn back the clock.  To gear up and produce enough war material for WW2, auto manufacturers and other major factories hired cheap labor, mostly black, from the south.  These men were shipped to Detroit, given houses, jobs, and benefits they'd never even thought possible in the broke south, and put to work on the lines in factories.  Detroit grew by over 300,000 due to this effort, with 50,000 being blacks.
The effect was amazing, boosting production massively and feeding the war machine with vehicles and weapons.  It also changed a city largely made up of European immigrants to one with a very large black population as well.  The blacks were mostly housed in new areas built for the express purpose of housing new workers, which meant they lived in one part of town while the whites lived in the other parts.
Racial tensions began to build, leading Life Magazine to declare in 1942 that "Detroit is dynamite . . . it can either blow up Hitler or blow up the U.S."  White workers staged wildcat strikes in protest of having jobs given to black workers.  Black workers clashed with southern whites brought north.  According to some sources, behind the scenes, German Abwehr agents were trying to cripple and sabotage the US war machine through ethnic strife.
Read more »

CHRISTIAN RESPONSES

Anyone who has read this blog for a while knows that I don't tend to respond instantly to events or break news.  I like to let things develop and see what's happening a bit more, then try to understand and think through the event and its meaning rather than a quick angry post about how bad something is.
For a while now I've tended to avoid current events and news items, largely because I find them depressing and there just doesn't seem to be any point in commenting on them; nothing will change, its out of my hands.
However, I want to attempt a new series of posts on WATN, one that perhaps has an even more limited audience than the small one I enjoy normally offers.  I want to attempt to give what I believe should be the response of Christians to world and national events, how Christians should behave in reaction to these things and what our statements should be when they are brought up.
Here's a list of the responses so far:

Thursday, July 25, 2013

THE MUSLIM APPROACH

" think we’ve got a unique opportunity to reboot America’s image around the world and also in the Islamic world in particular."
-Barack Obama


If you consider all of the things the Obama administration has done in regard to Islam and Muslims, it is easy to see how people can get the idea that he's some double secret crypto-Muslim.  
President Obama has falsely claimed that the Jefferson administration held special Iftar dinners for visiting Muslim dignitaries.  He diverted NASA funds from space missions to Muslim outreach.  He's upset the Muslim Brotherhood was thrown from power in Egypt, calling it a coup.  He's praised Turkey's new more Muslim-controlled government, He strongly defended and supported the construction of a mosque near Ground Zero in New York City, He's shown a cool distance toward Israel and criticized construction in areas it controls, and so on.
From all this (and much more, such as bowing to the Saudi king, being registered as a Muslim in schools as a child, etc) some insist that the president is a Muslim but pretends to be Christian.  As I've written before, however, I don't think president Obama is either; I think he worships himself, if anyone, and is only vaguely religious.
To understand what's going on here and why  he's doing it, I think it helps to look back to 9/11 and the reaction of the left.  Within minutes of the news breaking, there were leftists saying "we had it coming after all we've done to the Muslims!"  And while the voices were subdued, they built in strength and now its pretty well said without fear of being punched in the teeth.
The argument they gave was that over the years bombing, military action, and general hostility toward Muslim-controlled nations resulted in building hostility and anger and it boiled over into terrorism toward the US.  They argued it was wrong, but well you can't really blame them, right?
Now, this reading of history is a bit distorted, and it leaves out the roots of terrorism and Soviet influence over the decades before the collapse of the USSR among Muslims, but they have some slight shred of fact here.
It is the perception among Muslims that America is horrible and wrong largely because of the strong support its given Israel over the years and the way it has intervened in nations like Lebanon.  America was part of the coalition that attacked Muslim strongholds in the Mediterranean in the early 1800s (with England - where the "shores of Tripoli" line comes from in the Marine Hymn).  America invaded Iraq and bombed Libya.  The list of complaints before 2001 weren't entirely without basis, but they were a bit confused.
America and England attacked Tripoli because Muslims were charging tribute to prevent pirate raids on shipping which took slaves.  And the tribute didn't even give very good protection, it only slightly reduced the raids.  America invaded Iraq in response to a request from Kuwait, a Muslim nation.  America bombed Libya because of the links to Khadaffi in the earlier Lebanon embassy bombing and because it was harboring terrorists who killed Americans.
But that's not how the Muslims saw it, and so grievances built up over these and many other instances.  Resentment and feelings of weakness and inadequacy, stacked on top of tyrants blaming Israel and the US (great satan) for all the ills of the people they oppressed contributed to the mythology.
So when the terrorists attacked the USA, they thought they had plenty of reason.  And after the invasion of Iraq, they believe they have even more, especially since they believe the more outrageous and ridiculous casualty numbers given by organizations like Lancet.
THE PLAN
So why the outreach and bowing to Islam by President Obama?  Because he believes that we can change all that, clean the slate, and what's more benefit from starting over.  President Obama is acting on a strategy formulated by leftist thinkers over the years, and I suspect taught to him by people like Susan Rice in his administration.
It works like this: if we can convince Muslims we aren't their enemy, show them we're friends, oppose what they dislike, repudiate previous actions by America, and reach out to them, then we can end the hostility.
Further, if we have Muslim nations on our side, we won't need allies like England who offer us little other than manpower and intelligence.  We'll have allies with strategic resources in hot spots around the world, allies who we can rely on to help us when problems erupt in their area rather than resent and hate us.
And finally, the theory is that terrorism will stop, because these nations won't be filled with people who view us as enemies, and the left is convinced against all evidence that terrorism is a home-brewed result of poor people's frustration and helplessness.
This is driven by old leftist "white guilt" which presumes oppression by white Europeans and innocence or at least reasonable reaction by the oppressed non-Europeans.  The presumption is that these Muslims are minorities mistreated for centuries by evil white European males, and that if we end that cycle, they will end their response of violence and anger.
So pulling away from historical, long-term allies like England makes sense in this scheme.  So does pulling away from Israel and cooling relations with them, as Israel's very existence is a sore spot for many Muslims.  The fact that President Obama personally holds animosity toward England only helps make this easier.
Now, history teaches us otherwise - it was absolutely the aggression of Muslims which swept over Europe and charged tribute across the oceans, and Europeans reacted to that in defense, but actual history is a sort of "hatefact" that gets in the way of the narrative.
So the truth is, these actions have a sort of logic and consistency in them.  They're mistaken and flawed, but so has been a lot of policy (like backing Hussein and Khadaffi to fight communism in the past).  It won't work because the hate goes too deep, you'd have to wipe Israel out to really satisfy too many radical Muslims, and because the big enemy of the US is too useful to tyrants in the middle east to give up.
And further, even if it had a shot of working, it wouldn't stop terrorism, because that kind of activity isn't based on logic and reason, but hate and demented radical religion.  But at least you can see a pattern and make sense of what the Obama white house is doing if you understand it in these terms.
Shorter version: President Obama isn't a closet Muslim, he has a cunning plan.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

THE CLIMATE-INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX

This is an older piece I did which I think deserves more attention, especially as warming alarmists struggle to explain the lack of warming over the last 15 years or so.
"Crises there will continue to be. In meeting them, whether foreign or domestic, great or small, there is a recurring temptation to feel that some spectacular and costly action could become the miraculous solution to all current difficulties"
-Dwight D. Eisenhower

Green Piggy Bank
Many presidents are well known for and quoted from their inaugural addresses, but very few are known for their last speech before leaving office. President Eisenhower is one exception, a man whose final speech was even more resonant and significant than his first.

Particularly remembered from that speech is his warning:
Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.
After World War 2, the general consensus was that the US needed to be ready for war before it came upon us rather than scrambling to respond after like the nation had to in 1942. So the military industrial complex stayed geared up and was a significant power after the war. Eisenhower saw the danger in this, since it was very difficult to deny spending in this area after such a ghastly war, despite understanding that the US had to stand strong against the menace of aggressive Russian communism.

Yet he saw another danger which isn't heeded nearly as closely as the warning about guns and butter, one he brought up in a later speech about the growing military industrial complex:
Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite.
And that's exactly what Bjorn Lomborg states has happened, with a "Climate-Industrial Complex" in the Wall Street Journal. This complex is a network of powerful corporations and start ups who benefit greatly from climate change alarmism and push for legislation that will make them even richer.
Even companies that are not heavily engaged in green business stand to gain. European energy companies made tens of billions of euros in the first years of the European Trading System when they received free carbon emission allocations.

American electricity utility Duke Energy, a member of the Copenhagen Climate Council, has long promoted a U.S. cap-and-trade scheme. Yet the company bitterly opposed the Warner-Lieberman bill in the U.S. Senate that would have created such a scheme because it did not include European-style handouts to coal companies. The Waxman-Markey bill in the House of Representatives promises to bring back the free lunch.

U.S. companies and interest groups involved with climate change hired 2,430 lobbyists just last year [2008], up 300% from five years ago. Fifty of the biggest U.S. electric utilities -- including Duke -- spent $51 million on lobbyists in just six months.

The massive transfer of wealth that many businesses seek is not necessarily good for the rest of the economy. Spain has been proclaimed a global example in providing financial aid to renewable energy companies to create green jobs. But research shows that each new job cost Spain 571,138 euros, with subsidies of more than one million euros required to create each new job in the uncompetitive wind industry. Moreover, the programs resulted in the destruction of nearly 110,000 jobs elsewhere in the economy, or 2.2 jobs for every job created.
Even Enron, Lomborg points out, was big in "green" energy, because they saw a rich future for them. Referring to the Kyoto Protocols which the US refused to sign, Enron execs said "If implemented, it will do more to promote Enron's business than almost any other regulatory business."

Among the thousands of emails released in Climaquiddick clearly showing the deception, manipulation, and fraud in the climate change industry was this one from researcher Andrew Manning:
I'm in the process of trying to persuade Siemens Corp. (a company with half a million employees in 190 countries!) to donate me a little cash to do some CO2 measurments [sic] here in the UK -- looking promising, so the last thing I need is news articles calling into question (again) observed temperature increases.
Well yes I can see why you'd not care for dissent when you're looking to score big bucks. Timothy Carney points out in an Examiner piece recently:
The note and others like it reveal the intriguing relationship between industry giants like Siemens and the scientists driving climate change fears. More importantly, though, Manning's e-mail shows the incentives of climate scientists: Convince people there is a climate disaster coming, get more money.
Manning and the warming crowd benefit from a beautiful feedback loop: The more governments, businesses, and media outlets you can convince that man-made global warming is a serious threat, the more these institutions will invest in climate change studies, solutions, and policies. And the more they invest in combating global warming -- whether it's a newspaper hiring a climate reporter, a company buying emissions credits and alternative energy sources, or a government building a climate lab -- the less willing they are to tolerate dissent on the issue.
Skeptics are usually accused of getting big oil donations to disagree with the alarmist line, but the fact is the big bucks are on the alarmist side of the equation (including from big oil). And as Max Borders points out in an Opinion Zone piece:
Sometimes it’s not so much about the salary. There are a lot of ancillary benefits to being a climate catastrophist. Allow me to list some:

  • People know your name. You enjoy fame.
  • The New York Times writes about you. TV people interview you on the news.
  • You get to wallow in rectitude as you shout your warnings to all of humanity.
  • People pay you to speak at events.
  • You enjoy higher status in the Guild that is higher education.
  • You get more money for your department and your university than the quiet ones.
  • Big wigs and corporate rent-seekers* take you to lavish dinners (at least).
  • Your journal articles provide fodder for the second-hand dealers and activists.
  • You gain the veneration of your peers (if they buy your results).
  • You’re “important” and you get to belong to elite clubs (like the IPCC).

All of this sounds pretty good to me. Once people get locked into these goodies, they have every incentive to dig in their heels. They have virtually no incentive to admit errors, revise their work or check their biases.
No incentive to question your work but plenty to promote one side of the issue does not add up to good science. As I have written several times in the past, scientists are not uniquely blessed with integrity, honor, and honesty. They are not superior beings whose virtue we all should aspire to, they are just folks like you and I, and they've got just the same failings, needs, and fears as the rest of us. Pretending that putting a lab coat on somehow negates your greed, political bent, and desire for fame and adulation is absolutely absurd.

Another article at the Opinion Zone by Iain Murray pointed out something significant: climate change alarmist researchers get paid pretty well on average. As in more than $70 an hour. With that kind of cabbage, its not hard to find a reason to be on the consensus side of things.

The truth is, even if the climate change alarmists are right, this ugly industry bears closer scrutiny and more skepticism. And there's no scientific proof they are right, let alone the extraordinary level of proof required by such extraordinary claims.

Science is built on skepticism; that is perhaps its most defining characteristic after curiosity, but skepticism gets in the way of the gravy train, and nobody wants that to slow down once they're on board.

Shorter version: if you hire someone to hunt witches and pay them for each witch they find, they're going to find witches for you.

*Rent-seeking is an attempt to take a portion of the existing economy for yourself rather than creating new wealth; for example when a company lobbies the government for loan subsidies, grants or tariff protection. These activities don't create any benefit for society, they just redistribute resources from the taxpayers to the special-interest group.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

COMMON KNOWLEDGE: GANDHI

"Hai, Rama"
-Gandhi's last words

One of the most honored and beloved figures of the 20th century was Mohandas Karamchang "Mahatma" Gandhi, Indian leader.  Gandhi is best known from the Richard Attenborough film by the name which won a ton of awards and prepared viewers worldwide to be utterly shocked and horrified by Ben Kingsley's character in the film Sexy Beast.
Gandhi is almost universally well regarded as a peace-loving leader and figure of great spiritual and moral character.  He is admired for his work in South Africa and India for the rights of minorities, self-rule, and continual stance of loving peace and fellowship of man.
The film Gandhi portrays the man as almost supernaturally peaceful and noble, a saint-like figure of pure goodness and wisdom whose self-sacrifice and life of poverty puts others to shame.  Is it all true, was the man such a paragon of goodness, a flawless figure of ethical stature?
Well, yes and no.  As a human being, Gandhi was a mixed bag, as we all are.
For example, left out of the film, the Wikipedia entry on Gandhi, and most peoples' understanding is that he was a soldier who fought for the British Empire several times.  That's right, non violent Gandhi made war for the British.
His first military effort was in the Boer war with the Natal Indian Ambulance Corps, which Gandhi led.  During the "Kaffir" war, Gandhi was again active as a messenger and stretcher-bearer, and won accolades for valor under fire.  And finally in World War I, Gandhi recruited combat soldiers for England, writing a pamphlet proclaiming "To bring about such a state of things we should have the ability to defend ourselves, that is, the ability to bear arms and to use them...If we want to learn the use of arms with the greatest possible despatch, it is our duty to enlist ourselves in the army."   This prompted his friend Charlie Andrews to say "Personally I have never been able to reconcile this with his own conduct in other respects, and it is one of the points where I have found myself in painful disagreement."  Gandhi himself made sure he would not personally fight against or kill anyone, but was intending to lead these new troops but fell ill and was unable to serve personally.  For his efforts, Gandhi was awarded the War Medal from Queen Victoria.
Initially, Gandhi was not an enemy of or opposed to the British.  He was trained in law in England and became a lawyer at University College London, and adopted English customs there, according to his biographers.
Eventually, Gandhi did end up in South Africa and did take up a fight for the rights of Indians (called "coloreds" in the Apartheid system).  It was there he began to question the British Empire and formulate his ideas on social justice. However, Gandhi was, according to biographers and his writings, loyal to the British Empire until his 50s.
 In South Africa, his efforts led to the blockage of a bill that would have denied coloreds the right to vote and weakened a law that required registration and showing of papers by all coloreds.  However, here it is useful to note what Richard Grenier does in Commentary Magazine from 1983:
In the India in which Gandhi grew up, and had only recently left, some castes could enter the courtyards of certain Hindu temples, while others could not. Some castes were forbidden to use the village well. Others were compelled to live outside the village, still others to leave the road at the approach of a person of higher caste and perpetually to call out, giving warning, so that no one would be polluted by their proximity. The endless intricacies of Hindu caste by-laws varied somewhat region by region, but in Madras, where most South African Indians were from, while a Nayar could pollute a man of higher caste only by touching him, Kammalans polluted at a distance of 24 feet, toddy drawers at 36 feet, Pulayans and Cherumans at 48 feet, and beef-eating Paraiyans at 64 feet. All castes and the thousands of sub-castes were forbidden, needless to say, to marry, eat, or engage in social activity with any but members of their own group
...
Low-caste Hindus, in short, suffered humiliations in their native India compared to which the carrying of identity cards in South Africa was almost trivial.
Yet until late in his life Gandhi did nothing at all about caste divisions, and as a Hindu, Gandhi would have seen the caste system as proper and reasonable based on his faith and the principles of reincarnation and karma.  Here are some of his thoughts on the caste system:

Read more »

Monday, July 22, 2013

THE ROYAL FAMILY TREE

I can just see a room full of hard working scholars and courtiers working up this list, trying to find a way to connect the king and queen to Judah and David without making them too Jewish.  There are a lot of stage 2 sections in the Underpants Gnome system in that tree, too.

Friday, July 19, 2013

A CHRISTIAN RESPONSE

"They shall know you by your love."
-Jesus Christ

Anyone who has read this blog for a while knows that I don't tend to respond instantly to events or break news.  I like to let things develop and see what's happening a bit more, then try to understand and think through the event and its meaning rather than a quick angry post about how bad something is.
For a while now I've tended to avoid current events and news items, largely because I find them depressing and there just doesn't seem to be any point in commenting on them; nothing will change, its out of my hands.
However, I want to attempt a new series of posts on WATN, one that perhaps has an even more limited audience than the small one I enjoy normally offers.  I want to attempt to give what I believe should be the response of Christians to world and national events, how Christians should behave in reaction to these things and what our statements should be when they are brought up.
To do this, I have to come up with a basic pattern of understanding Christian response to every event, to build a template to work from.  Instead of making this a Bible study or a sermon, I just want to examine some concepts that I think cover some of a Christian worldview.
For example, the first and most important thing a Christian should always be concerned with is the Glory of God, because that is why He created everything, so we're told in scripture.  That means whatever we do, whenever we do it, we should first think not of how it affects us, or how we feel, or what we gain, or how this looks to anyone, but of how God is glorified through it.
A Christian also needs to remember and embrace the fact that God is absolutely sovereign, that there are no "rogue molecules" outside of God's sovereignty, as RC Sproul puts it.  So whatever comes to pass is in His perfect will and not contingent on our striving, arguments, efforts, revolution, or what have you.  This is not an argument for fatalism, but an argument for peace and trust.  God uses us to carry out His will, and we should always do what is right and fight what is wrong, but its not on our shoulders, we don't make it happen or fail to make it happen by our actions.
Further, since God is sovereign, kings and countries, civilizations and movements come and go but He always is there and His word is always absolute.  This is the entire argument of Augustine's book City of God written to help Christians deal with the collapse of the Roman empire.  Whatever happens, God is still in control, and we can trust His will to be perfect and wise.
Next, we should always be concerned with the truth, not winning.  We need to be worried that we are speaking the truth and that the truth is being expressed, not how we feel or how successful we are.  That means we have to be honest, not defensive.  We have to be ready to agree with our opponents when they are right, even if it hurts our argument.  We have to be willing to change our minds if we find out we are wrong.
Also, Christianity is all about love; its perfect expression being the doing and dying of Jesus Christ. Love is not being nice to people or making them feel good, but doing what is best for each person and having our first concern being their wellbeing and what is right for them, not us.  In an ideal, perfect world, everyone would do that and none of us would ever have to worry for ourselves.
Our love should be for the other person, wanting them to be helped and lifted up, not beaten in a debate or crushed under the weight of our victory.  Three days before he died, John Lennon said in an interview:
"Sometimes you wonder, I mean really wonder. I know we make our own reality and we always have a choice, but how much is preordained? Is there always a fork in the road and are there two preordained paths that are equally preordained? There could be hundreds of paths where one could go this way or that way -- there's a choice and it's very strange sometimes..."
Lennon was trying to understand the truth, to know reality and why things take place.  As Christians we have to be the ones who can help a Lennon understand and reach that truth, not to "beat" them but out of genuine concern and love.
And finally, the last basic theme is of humility.  Some time I need to write about true humility as CS Lewis dealt with it in his writings, but some of those thoughts are in my series on Virtues.  Being humble doesn't mean always being self deprecating, but always having the right perspective on all things; understanding your worth and meaning in the light of God's glory and the worth of others.
See, humanity was made by God and declared "good."  All of us are made in God's image.  Again here I'll turn to CS Lewis, from The Weight of Glory
It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no 'ordinary' people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilisations -- these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit -- immortal horrors or everlasting splendours.
All humanity should be treated with proper respect, and the understanding of who we are dealing with.  That means no arrogance, condescension, or mockery.  Mock ideas and falsehoods, but not people.  Debate with people over ideas, not the people themselves.  How fat or ugly or stupid someone is has nothing to do with their argument.
And truth, offered in love, with humility, will always glorify God.
So with these principles in mind, how do we approach a recent event?  The biggest thing in the news right now is the Zimmerman trial.  Here we have a sad situation where a young man was killed by a community watch member during a fight.  How should Christians respond to this?
The first thing we should offer is sympathy and concern for the family of Trayvon Martin.  They lost a family member whatever the circumstances were.  It doesn't matter how his family is acting, people can get crazy in grief, and who knows what sort of people are "advising" them.  What matters is that they lost a child and even in a messed up family, that's a terrible situation.
So none of our response should include mockery, attacks on the family, or dismissal of the family's grief.  Even if they are faking it, there's probably some real pain underneath it.
The other thing to keep in mind is that people are pretty easy to push into a corner (something I dealt with in Answer A Fool) by argument.  They might start out not caring much about the topic but repeating what they've heard, but if you attack them or are too aggressive, they'll start becoming defensive and upset, hardening their position.  So we need to be patient, kind, and genuinely interested in what they have to say.
And we have to be willing to listen to what people say.  Everyone is so eager to leap on one side or the other of any given debate and  join a team today, and then they cover their ears and start yelling the talking points they read on their favorite website.  A humble, loving person will listen and consider what is being said.
For example, the trial information and evidence shows that Zimmerman probably acted rashly, that he overreacted to the situation by shooting someone.  Its impossible to know for sure because the information is so sketchy, and certainly Zimmerman reasonably and honestly believed his life was in danger, and that is all self defense requires.  But he probably could have gotten out of it without shooting.
If I was totally on the Trayvon side (as if these are sports teams), I'd never be willing to admit that Zimmerman was in any real danger, because it hurts my position and the Bad Guys believe that.  If I was totally on the Zimmerman side I would never be willing to admit that Zimmerman might not have been in lethal danger.  But someone honestly interested in the truth rather than their own ego or their "team" needs to be willing and ready to learn everything and judge wisely.
We have to show humility and be willing to wait and learn.  None of us are experts on the trial or events, no matter how we act online.  None of us know exactly what happened that night - not even George Zimmerman, who pumped up with adrenaline, wracked with self doubt, and continually pummeled by hostile voices probably doesn't precisely recall the events himself.  So we have to be willing to wait for more information, judge wisely based on what we have, and admit "I don't know" when we do not.
Finally, we have to be willing to realize that this will pass.  It is not as momentous or incredible as the 24-hour news cycle or constant bombardment of information from the internet might lead us to believe.  Six months from now people will say "Travyon who?"  So be patient and don't take things so incredibly seriously.
In the end, we have to respond with integrity and honor, always keeping our faith in the face of sometimes violent hostility.  And that plays out in our lives by how we respond to events and people.  Christians should be primarily characterized by our love, and known for humility, faith, and peace, not frustration, anger, and bitterness.
I considered writing this about the Rolling Stone cover of the Boston Marathon bomber but then I thought "who cares?  Its a dying magazine desperate for attention and getting it by doing something foolish and irresponsible that has nothing to do with its alleged focus.  I don't care what the latest publicity stunt by a VHS tape company is either."
So be Christian, live out your faith in practice and love, and let God deal with the big picture.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

A LITTLE KNOWLEDGE

We had fed the heart on fantasies, The heart's grown brutal from the fare.
-W.B. Yeats, Meditations in Time of Civil War

Just about everyone knows that there's a serious problem with education in America.  Its not that there are no good schools, but that there are so very many barely tolerable and bad ones.  Great effort has been made again and again to fix education, usually by heaping cash on the schools in the hopes that it will all get better from the sheer weight of it, or something.
Per pupil spending on average in America has doubled in the last 15 years.  In 1987 the average public school teacher's salary was just under $27,000 a year, and as by 2009 had risen to just under $53,000 a year, doubling in 25 years' time.  Support staff, administration, and non-teacher employees of public schools quadrupled in that time period.  Education is one of the largest sectors of the economy in America, with more than $250,000,000,000 spent for three million teachers and administrators each year.
Meanwhile, a focus on homework has risen in recent years, with kids staggering home under the crushing weight of backpacks full of books and papers to read each day. And yet, for all that, we know so little.
SAT scores have dropped steadily since the 1960s despite being "retooled" three times to make the test somewhat easier.  The same study shows that almost 40% of high school students are unable to draw inferences from written material, and in California, 3 million students when tested were unable to find the Pacific Ocean on a map.
THE SEA OF DATA
We're awash in information every day through smart phones, the internet, 24 hour a day news channels, and continual bombardment through every media.  People know more about more things than ever before in America, but from it all, we know so little.  A recent example in the media helps illustrate this fact.  After the Zimmerman trial, a professor wrote:
The not guilty verdict in the George Zimmerman case has me thinking a lot about a book I first encountered in seminary, Is God a White Racist?, by the Rev. Dr. Bill Jones. As a budding seminary student, it took me by surprise. Now, as a wiser, older professor looking at the needless death of Trayvon Martin, I have to say: I get it.

God ain’t good all of the time. In fact, sometimes, God is not for us. As a black woman in a nation that has taken too many pains to remind me that I am not a white man, and am not capable of taking care of my reproductive rights, or my voting rights, I know that this American god ain’t my god. As a matter of fact, I think he’s a white racist god with a problem. More importantly, he is carrying a gun and stalking young black men.

When George Zimmerman told Sean Hannity that it was God’s will that he shot and killed Trayvon Martin, he was diving right into what most good conservative Christians in America think right now. Whatever makes them protected, safe, and secure, is worth it at the expense of the black and brown people they fear.

Their god is the god that wants to erase race, make everyone act “properly” and respect, as the president said, “a nation of laws”; laws that they made to crush those they consider inferior.
This was written at a religious site, and it is packed with some of the most hateful, bitter ignorance I've ever seen in my life.  I'm not going to take the time to Fisk this nonsense, because I think her foolishness is abundantly apparent and its been hammered apart elsewhere quite well.  
The problem is that this is an educated woman, a professor of Religious Studies and Africana Studies at the University of Pennsylvania and Graduate Chair of Religious Studies.  She isn't uniformed about life, she isn't stupid, she's just ignorant and wrong.  She's filled with information, but only enough to get her into ridiculous, even troubling places.

Read more »

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

CULTURE AND COUNTER-CULTURE

"Now go make me a bacon sammich!"

If you read online, you'll quickly notice a trend among young people in their language and tone.  They're shocking in how they treat women, homosexuals, minorities, and so on.  Women are constantly told to get back to the kitchen and make sandwiches, the word "gay" and "fag" are used as insults, and racial slurs and old stereotypes are thrown about with little to no complaint.
Some might find this a disturbing trend and frightening for our future, or proof that we need even more government efforts to fight racism and so on.  But I don't see it that way; its rather the opposite.  Let me explain.
Young people are always looking for ways to shock their culture and defy how they were raised and taught.  When they get together they often will talk about and do things that express rebellion against their society.  Their parents were hippies or children of hippies, so the old rebellion against the establishment don't make sense.
But these young people were raised to almost venerate women, homosexuals, and minorities, so that's their target for joking derision.  Its not that they're really inveterate sexists and so on, its that this is what makes them giggle and shocks older people, so its what they yell to get a rise out of people.
The problem is they're missing the target.  If they really want to be counter-culture, the answer is in a different direction.  If they want to shock their parents, shake up society, defy the status quo, and fight "the man," the real anti-establishment thing to do is veer right.
Here's something I wrote a while back about the concept of the modern counterculture and how the entire situation of the 60s has reversed.

Conservatism and Christianity are the new counterculture. Don't think so? In 1971 when All in the Family first aired, it was shocking for the sound of a flushing toilet to be used for comedy. Today it is unthinkable for a genuine Christian or Conservative voice to be uttered unopposed in a mainstream sitcom. Come, let us reason together.

In the 1960s, young people recognized the culture they lived in and found it wanting. There were established traditions, morals, and patterns of behavior that the general public lived by, but were unable to defend or explain. Although culture had been passed down generation after generation, the reasons why things were done were just assumed, not explained. Parents did not think about why they held certain beliefs, and when confronted were unable to teach their young people. Part of this was because of a great failure of the primary foundational force of these cultural norms: Christianity.

Several major events in the late 19th and early 20th century sent Christian culture into a cowering wreck due to ignorance and fear of these events. Freud's theories of man and behavior seemed to negate the concept of sin to someone not entirely familiar with the man and his ideas. Darwinism seemed to offer existence without God. New political movements such as Communism seemed to offer a paradise for people based on works rather than belief.

Christianity by and large reacted by running away from culture and isolating its self. Rather than engaging culture and discussing these new ideas, the dominant faith in the Western world ran away, printing Christian phone books and Christian fiction, Christian music, Christian symbols on your car. Instead of being a force to shape and influence culture, much of Christianity decided to isolate its self from a culture it feared and did not understand, rejecting intellectual pursuits as destructive while at the same time beginning to reject the very basic tenets of faith and moving more and more to what is called "liberal theology."

These two movements caused culture to be detached from its roots, to be set adrift to survive on sheer momentum, and finally crash into a new orthodoxy being built in academia and entertainment. Finally an entire nation was full of people who could not defend their culture or beliefs. When young people were confronted by an increasingly leftist college culture, they could not defend what they believed either, and thus rejected it as "unthinking" and "unexamined." The counterculture was born, a new culture formed around left-leaning and atheist ideals with a new set of prophets and apostles, a new dogma, and a new faith.

In the place of the church, there was the state. In the place of sacraments, there was free love, abortion, drugs, and hedonism. In the place of restraint, temperence, and integrity there was freedom, relativism, and personal fulfillment. The family was jettisoned for the village, the pastor was rejected for the professor. Make no mistake, all the icons and institutions of the "square" culture were still there, they just were transformed to fit a new faith.

THE GOALS
The counterculture sought to do two things: first, reject hypocrisy and corruption in the old culture, which was a real thing. The old culture had a church that taught love and acceptance, but paritioners who practiced bigotry and racism. The old culture loved mom and revered women, but too often treated them as helpless twits. The old culture praised hard work and business, but let business abuse their environment and workers with a wink. The old culture's faith considered the world to be a gift from God to be stewards of, but in practice treated the planet as a meal to be devoured and cast aside. Granted, not everyone in the old culture was this way (just ask John Muir), but too often these characterizations were sadly accurate.

The second effort of counterculture was to normalize behavior and activity that they enjoyed and wanted to do more freely. Homosexuals were frowned on and even attacked by society, drugs were considered destructive and wrong, sex was at best enjoyed in marriage alone and at worst considered a trial women had to put up with. People with new or radical ideas were shouted down without consideration in many cases, leading to stagnation and inability to defend one's own notions.

The counterculture wanted to repair the bad, reject the unacceptable, and embrace the new and different. Concepts such as bigotry and sexism were fought in terms of peace, love, and equality while holding up the declaration of independence the bill of rights as a way of demonstrating these ideas were the very foundation of America and what it stands for. A love of the environment and desire to cherish and protect it grew, a brotherhood among all man was lauded, with unpolished girls putting flowers in the barrels of guns to demonstrate that love and peace can conquer all. The best of the movement was very good indeed: a rejection of the wrongs and hypocrisies of the past, and an embracing of the best ideals the country was founded on.

Counterculture did not seek to destroy the country, but to build it to a better place, a dream that the members of it saw and discussed. What would it be like if we didn't need guns any more? If we just loved each other and stopped fighting? If there wasn't any need or hunger, no poverty? What if we stopped hating the negro and the oriental, stopped demeaning women and listened to our youth, what would our future be like? Isn't that dream worth striving for?

There was a sense in the movement that what they were doing was self-evidently right, and further inevitable. That there were so many and influencing so much of the country on so many levels, that it was a matter of time before the right ideas with the right techniques brought about the paradise they envisioned. This combined with drugs brought a calm and happiness to the hippy that was unique in such a time of turmoil. My parents told me that the hippies were the most polite and respectful people met then. It was the kind of joy and peace that comes with being young and believing you're not only on the right side, but everyone who matters is with you and you're winning.

There were wins for the counterculture too. Along with the leadership of the black church, Jim Crow and the concept of "separate but equal" was demolished. The Vietnam war was ended in disgrace and humiliation for the country, repudiating the very idea of war as a means of policy in the eyes of the counterculture. Feminism pushed women out of the boundaries they'd previously been forced into and step by step the ideas about them that held power in the past were destroyed. Abortion laws and birth control pills took the nation by storm, enabling women to approach sex much the same way as men: pleasure without consequence, or so they thought.

With each of these wins, the counterculture took greater and greater hold in America, becoming part of each major institution and taking a greater hold of the culture at large. The counterculture took over academics and entertainment rapidly, as part of a plan hatched in the first part of the 20th century in recognition that the great nations of the west would never fall to revolution but could be incrementally influenced from within. The counterculture was so strong in major population areas that the ideology behind it has all but taken control of the governments and institutions there.

PROBLEMS
Hippies 2What happened in the counterculture movement is that like most movements, it falls prey not only to its own successes, but the flaws in its philosophy. The bulk of the counterculture movement was based on two conflicting and contradictory concepts. The first is relativism; that there are no absolutes and thus nobody can tell anyone else they are wrong, just of a different opinion than you are. I've posted on this ideology and its flaws in the past. The second is leftist ideology, which is based on several absolute concepts such as the supremacy of man, the falsehood of religion and God, and the innate goodness of humanity. This leftist ideology was sometimes unknown by members of the counterculture, and sometimes embraced willfully and with full knowledge. Some were complete, out and out communists and knew it, others were simply left-leaning but considered themselves Americans and happy with the system here - with a few tweaks.

For some like David Horowitz, the leftist roots were clear. Communist parents, communist summer camps, communist reading and meetings. The plan was for overthrow of the government, for communist rule in America - not by violent revolution, but by incremental step by step implementation of ideas that slowly nudged the public away from what the nation was based on and toward Marxism. Many of the leaders of this movement fit this pattern: educated and in full knowledge of their true plans and efforts. Most of the movement were unaware of this, and simply were interested in the good they could do for the world if only everyone would listen to them.

The drawbacks to this philosophy are many and varied, but the primary problem is that it simply doesn't work. Even the wishful, softer version of the followers was ignorant of human nature and the world we live in. People aren't basically decent. People aren't supreme in the world. We cannot make things a utopia through the application of proper ideas and techniques. The very idea that people are innately noble and good and become corrupted by society and others begs the rather obvious question: where did the bad come from to start corrupting others? Marx claimed it was the pursuit of money and greed, but that greed had to come from somewhere, money is merely an object, a representation of ownership and effort.

The flaw of this thinking is based on a common misconception of humanity: that bad comes from outside, and whats in us is good. It's often a Greek error, the thought that our spirits are pure but our bodies corrupt and what is more about the body is more corrupt, what is more about the spirit is better and purer. For others it simply was the Rousseauian myth of the noble savage: that civilization and interaction with others causes corruption of the noble and good. The truth is, if we took ourselves and snuck into some secret hiding place far away from the world with no outside contact... we'd bring our own corruption and sins with us, because the source of the problems comes from within, not without. Removing the obvious trappings of the world merely makes us more creative and basic in our cruelty.

It is this philosophy that is behind many movements such as gun control: remove guns and people won't shoot each other! Wouldn't that be wonderful? No, because people will use bows, and if you outlaw them, knives, rocks, and fists. The problem isn't the weapon, it's the people wielding the weapon. Most people in the world can handle a weapon without using it on someone else.

This fundamental flaw is what underpins the problems with most leftist ideology (and some on the right). There will never be a world where we don't need guns or fighting. As long as there are any bad guys at all, we'll always need to oppose them with the force the situation and evil requires. Failing to do so does not somehow end the evil by example, it frees the evil to be unrestrained and unending - just ask an unresisting Jew in the holocaust how well that works out.

By the seventies, the idealism and calm of the counterculture movement had been all but lost. With the death of Dr King and others, the feeling of omnipotent success was fading from the members. Many were growing up and facing a life that forced them to rethink their rejection of their parent's ideas. Drugs were causing more problems than their proponents cared to admit or face - not the least of which was a listless apathy and growing, doped stupidity in their ranks. The free love ideology wasn't as free as once was believed, leading to more drugs and more partying to cover the emptiness inside. Instead of the movement based on ideas of freedom and a better world, it became a party based on a desire to get and stay high and ignore the world.

With the victories, the very purpose of the movement became weakened. The Vietnam war was over, now what do you rally over? President Nixon was out of office, who's the enemy? Opportunities in the country for women and blacks were exploding, where's the cause? The very successes that the movement enjoyed began to undercut it's reason to exist, leaving people seeking the highs of being on the moral high ground and part of television history and leaders with a lust for the power, influence, and money they enjoyed. What was worse, they found themselves no longer on the outside, and in the position of having to defend the positions they took and the decisions they made.

CULTURE
The counterculture became the culture of the United States. While conservatism tried to fight for relevance and attention, liberalism took over all the major institutions of the country. The movement was wildly successful: they controlled business, entertainment, media, news, government, even judges. Laws were passed more to their liking, decisions made along their guidelines, policy set along their ideology. Jimmy Carter's election seemed like the completion of the entire effort. The movement became the dominant voice, counterculture became culture.

Now, schools taught their ideas, media presented their side of things, news broadcasts presumed they were right, government governed with a lean to their side and what's more the radicals of the 60's were the governors, judges, and legislators of the present. The philosophy of the left was presumed to be the philosophy of the country, it became dominant even in churches and formerly conservative institutions. The military even had left leaning ideology implemented.

It is always easier to be the voice of opposition - you need not even offer solutions, only point out problems. Being the prophet that declares doom for the enemy's ideas and policies is simple; being the ones in power and coming up with the solutions for everyone to attack and question is hard. Once the counterculture became the culture, it lost all it's sting. Instead of fighting the man, they became the man. They were no longer able to engage in counterculture activities, they'd won the fight and were the responsible ones with kids and jobs and bearing the burden of society and government. The television show Thirtysomething in the 1980's addressed this often, reminiscing on the good old days, remembering when they had time to party and protest rather than get to work and bear responsibility. For those not in the age group, it was insufferable and unwatchable. For those it was targeted at, it was amazing and insightful - and a top rated show for years.

For eight years in the 1980s, a reaction against the excesses of the 70's and the failure of Carter economic policies - not to mention embarrassing failures in foreign policy - led to the Reagan Revolution, with President Reagan being elected twice by an enormous popular swell of opinion and support. Reagan had a new voice that few had heard, an approach that differed greatly from the previous politicans and voices. He saw America as a great country, a shining beacon of liberty. He viewed communism as evil, government as a problem rather than a solution, spending as a drag on economy and society, not it's driving force.

Ronald Reagan was charismatic, persuasive, and a powerful leader who reversed the trends of the last 20 years. His positions were shocking to the left, who took for granted that they were the obvious, sane choice and any others were simply odd and dangerous. His leadership was so potent and popular that his Vice President George Bush the elder was swept into office with a similar gigantic landslide despite being far from the conservative Reagan was.

Yet even with this presidency, the culture was still in the hands of the left. Congress was solidly under Democratic Party control and the Republicans in office were by and large more left leaning than not. The major institutions of the country were still under liberal power, and their influence continued unabated. President Reagan was an aberration, although a potent one, and while he got the debate kickstarted in the country in a way no previous one person had, his impact in terms of culture was limited.

Even the 1994 Contract With America takeover of the House of Representatives by Republicans under Newt Gingrich was a minor event culturally speaking. It represented more a repugnance with the Democrats in power than a delight in conservative ideology. The concept of more responsible government with fewer taxes appealed to people not from any moral standpoint but more from a visceral opposition to corruption and a desire to have more money.

THE NEW COUNTERCULTURE

Conservative BabeThe truth is, conservatism and Christianity are countercultural movements. As opposed to the entrenched assumptions of leftist ideology in the institutions of America and other countries in Europe, conservatism offers a different way. Out of power and looking in from the outside, both movements have a different solution to problems that leftist ideology have not solved, and often made worse. Conservatism is in the place the radical was in the 50's and 60s: stating the problems we face and trying to start a dialog with the world.

In the place of Timothy Leary, we have Rush Limbaugh. Rather than Malcolm X, we see Dr Walter Williams and Larry Elder. In the place of Reverend Jesse Jackson there is Dr R.C. Sproul. The movement today is not the left influenced by communism, but the right influenced by classical thought and the foundational philosophies of the United States. The dialog, the conversation is being shaped by the conservatives and Christians in the country whose ideas after 3 decades seem new, fresh, and even shocking. Assumptions, particularly undefended, unthinking presumptions such as Affirmative Action being good are being challenged and analyzed. The institutions of race baiting and radical feminism who have shaped policy and law for years are being questioned openly.

Christianity offers a reason behind behavior that the world lacks entirely. Relativism and humanism without God set the world and philosophy adrift until it wrecked in nihilism, leaving us with an emptiness that seems to indicate that life is meaningless and humanity worthless. Rather than triumphing in the glory of human excellence, we've seen one dream and hope after another reduced to tyranny, debauchery, and misery. The more complex and advanced science gets, the harder it becomes to defend the idea of there being no creator - leaving some scientists trying to defend the notion that everything simply "popped into existence" from nothing, without cause, logic, or scientific principle.

Humanity's barbaric and horrid behavior toward each other and the successive failure of one new utopian idea after another is nudging people back toward the idea of sin and redemption. The argument that people are basically not good and need an external help to be better is looking more and more reasonable to people, despite how it undermines many basic assumptions about politics and life.

Conservatism calls people back to the good in the past. Yes, the hypocrisy was wrong and bad, but the hypocrisy couldn't exist if there wasn't a good ideal for behavior to vary from. The mistake of the radical youth in the counterculture movement was to reject the very concepts of the past rather than their errors. love and acceptance, revering women and praising mom, lauding hard work and business, considering the world to be a gift from God to be stewards of are all great concepts. Rejecting them was not a step forward, but a step back that we suffer from today. A world where we reject progress because of the wrong some do with it is a foolish world. Keep the good, embrace what was great in the past, while moving forward to the future is what conservatism calls for.

And the most clear call of conservatism in the past is the constitution and its founding ideals. Rather than imposing modern philosophy and assumptions on the document, conservatives call for reading and understanding not only the founding fathers but the thinkers they based their ideas on and the worldview they held. Conservatism calls us back to the time when we fought against tyranny to embrace a liberty tempered by virtue and proper moral behavior. Conservatism wants the government to be smaller, in its constitutional boundaries no matter how well-meaning the expansion was. Conservatism sees you, not government, as the best to handle your money.

In the past, conservatism has suffered from the same errors and corruption as the left as I mentioned above. The assumption has been that free markets are able to properly regulate and control themselves, but this is only true if the markets are run by moral people who are responsible and feel a duty to the social contract. Conservatism embraced and clung to traditions without understanding or even knowing why these existed - some were repellent like Jim Crow. Some were wonderful like family and community. It is only recently that a true movement to recapture the philosophy and understanding behind why we believe certain things and reject others has arisen, and conservatism is at the forefront of this change.

The most interesting side of the conservative and Christian counterculture is that it stands in opposition to both major parties in the United States. Democrats and Republicans both find themselves in the firing line of idealogical battle, although the GOP is a more comfortable fit for most because it still is the party of Ronald Regan. Most Republicans in power are more left leaning and opposed to conservatism, and the few conservatives who gain power often seem to lose their way in the process, like the '94 Republicans soon did in congress.

Conservative HunkWe live in a culture dominated by the left, influenced primarily by that philosophy and policy primarily set by these ideals. Conservatism and Christianity challenge those ideals and thoughts. It is not anarchy or leftist thought that challenges today's culture, rather the opposite. It is the ancient ideals that led us to build the countries and civilization we enjoy today in the west that is the outside calling in. If you want to be a true radical, a real countercultural force, if you want to fight the man and make a stand against what's wrong and what needs changing in today's society, look to the right, my son.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

FEDERAL PROPERTY

How much land does the federal government own in your state? Strange Maps has a convenient image to help you learn:

Yes, we aren't particularly happy about that out west, as you'd expect.  Most of it is in parks, military bases, and wilderness areas.

Monday, July 15, 2013

COMMON KNOWLEDGE: RACIST FOUNDING FATHERS

"We didn't land on Plymouth Rock. Plymouth Rock landed on us."
-Malcolm X (attributed)


While most of America still celebrates independence day on the 4th of July, many black Americans tend not to.  They see this day as being a white holiday, a day about something that whites enjoy but blacks have no part of.  They view those days as being not about independence or liberty, but slavery and oppression.
According to writers such as Howard Zinn and most modern academic historians, the founding fathers were basically awful racists and sexists, men who were white oppressors dominated by false ideals from Europe and Christianity.  A general narrative has arisen that early America was a place of ghastly abuse of minorities and women and while they had some good ideas, it was offset by their brutality against native Americans, enslavement of blacks, and oppression of women.
They all had slaves, historians cry; the old story of Thomas Jefferson having a child by a slave girl on his farm has become so mainstreamed that a major Hollywood movie was made about it.  If you ask most people around the world about slavery, they seem to think it came from and was primarily practiced in the United States of America.
Even Clarence Thomas, a more right-leaning Supreme Court judge recently claimed that blacks were not part of "We the People," the opening lines of the US Constitution, when it was written.  After decades of veneration and honor for the forward-thinking and liberty-loving nature of the founding fathers, now its becoming common knowledge that they were just white racist men.  The very constitution its self is proof that these racist white men thought blacks were not fully human, only 3/5ths.
Founded by racist slave owners, the US was built on racism and oppression by white men, we're told.  How true is this?
Like most things in this series, there's some validity to the claims, and some nonsense.  Almost every single thing that Howard Zinn has ever written was like this, just enough fact to seem plausible, and a lot of fiction mixed in to please the right sort of people.
Something not often understood about American history, is that slavery was imported to the colonies, not a part of its beginning.  The original Jamestown colony built in 1607 included about 20 blacks who were not slaves.  This was the first attempt by white Europeans to colonize North America, and although it was eventually wiped out, it was not built around slavery.
In fact, slavery was not an institution in America until half a century later and was more along the lines of indentured servitude than life-long racially-based slavery of the 19th century plantations.  Indentured servitude was a way of paying off debts such as passage to America by working for someone.  Indentured Servitude is a form of slavery, but the original concept was not particularly evil in its self: working your debt off is a pretty honorable system, when it works.  It ended at a specific, finite point; it was designed to be temporary.
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Friday, July 12, 2013

THE TENSION BETWEEN LIBERTY AND CIVILIZATION

"Nobody got anywhere in the world by simply being content."
-Louis L'Amour

Just ten or twenty years ago if you asked people what their vision of the future you'd get optimistic, excited ideas full of robots, flying cars, lunar bases, and negated diseases.  Living longer, healthier lives in a setting of greater comfort and convenience would be the themes, as science overcame all our problems and wonders resulted.
Ask people about the future now and they see misery and disaster.  The apocalypse is upon us, whether by meteor, global climate doom, zombies, or what have you.  People have a general expectation of things going horribly wrong and disaster on the horizon.  Most people seem surprised it hasn't happened yet. 
Its been like this before; in the 1980s, the dystopian cybertech visions of William Gibson and movies like Blade Runner were a common perspective, but generally speaking over the years, people have expected the future to be better - much better, in fact - than their present times for centuries.
Part of the reason for this is economic.  In the 1970s things seemed so hopelessly awful and everything seemed to be going so totally wrong in America that by the 1980s, most people figured it was over. We'd had our shot, we had a few years of glory and it was all downhill from then on.  Ronald Reagan managed to turn that around, but here we are back again expecting doom.
And in a way, I think that disaster is inevitable, although probably not in a form or speed anyone predicts or expects.  An objective, calm analysis of modern culture and civilization reveals something basically rotten from the inside out, like an oak tree with a deadly disease.  It can look strong and impressive from the outside, but within it is dead and hollow.
I've written about this a few times, such as the examination of what happened to once-great cultures (especially the men in them) with What Happened To Us?  I examined the theory that civilization is finite, that it can only advance so far before it is fully civilized, and attempts to go beyond that are actually counterproductive.  And I did a short piece on why splintering into tribes destroys civilization, followed by a piece on Somalia and how quickly it can happen.
Living in a peaceful, safe, rich, comfortable, and predictable civilization is easy to take for granted, its just the water we swim through and rarely even consider - if ever.  But history tells us that this is the exception, the extreme exception, for humanity.  For most of the years mankind has been on earth, in most of the places we live, the rule has been barbarism, danger, instability, war, and misery.
And it seems inevitable that civilization falls, all previous ones, no matter how glorious, have come to an end.  Usually there is violence and invasion involved, but those seem to be symptoms, not causes of the collapse.  From the Akkadians to the British Empire, all have fallen over time.  Its almost as if civilization its self holds the seeds to its own destruction, or to put it another way, as if civilization is innately suicidal.
SUICIDAL TENDENCIES
And I believe that's exactly the problem.  I believe that the collapse of civilization is inevitable, and that within the very concept of civilization and its implementation is its destruction.
It seems to me that there's a sort of tension, a tug of war between liberty and civilization.  That on one theoretical end there is complete liberty without any restrictions whatsoever, and on the other complete safety and comfort, with all the benefits of civilization.  And the more you move along that line to one or the one, the less you get of the other.  Here's what I mean.
LIBERTY<==============>CIVILIZATION
Civilization by its nature requires giving up some of your personal liberty.  You have the right to say whatever you want, whenever you want, about anything you want, but if you do so in a way that damages others, it is destructive to the society and civilization as a whole.  You have the right to own property, but you cannot do whatever you desire with that property whatsoever because you live in a community; you can't use it to store radioactive materials right next to an orphanage, for example.
This is the "social contract" which I've written about quite often, and as a concept, it is a good compromise on how to live in a fallen world.  You give up some of the free exercise of your rights in order to gain the most benefit of community.  This is a difficult exercise, because getting those proportions right - giving up liberty for safety and benefits - changes based on any situation and the times.  What is right in time of peace may not be at war.  What may be right with a certain technology may be different when the technology changes.
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