Tuesday, May 26, 2015
One I dug up recently is a documentary on the presidency, looking at each one and examining how they defined the office and the historical impact of what they did. Its been pretty informative and interesting, even if they get a few details a bit wrong once in a while (such as saying the founding fathers deliberately created a "strong" court when they thought it was the weakest of the 3 branches).
The most recent episode I watched included Andrew Jackson. Andy is on the $20 bill and is considered one of the most influential and important presidents for a lot of reasons. He's also considered a monster that should be despised for a lot of reasons. Like most men, he was a mixed bag, but Andrew Jackson was always very exaggerated and dramatic; he's the man who horsewhipped a man he disliked out of a tavern, carried a bullet in his body until he died from one of his many duels, and was generally larger than life. So his mix is a bit more dramatic than others.
For example, Jackson was the president who basically demolished the concept of negation in the states, declaring that states could not ignore federal laws when it suited them - something that definitely moved the nation closer to the Civil War. He also repeatedly vetoed bills he didn't care for, something previous presidents were very hesitant to do unless they considered the legislation blatantly unconstitutional.
Jackson ignored the courts when they disagreed with him, famously quipping "they've made their ruling, now let's see them enforce it." He picked targets that he thought were bad for the common little man and destroyed them, such as the federal bank which he viewed as a powerful device for the wealthy to enrich themselves at the expense of the common citizen.
Jackson also had a very specific view of how he wanted America to be, and was unconcerned about the fate of those who disagreed or got in the way. Infamous for the man responsible for the Cherokee "trail of tears" death march, he ordered relocation of any Native Americans who were in lands that he wanted settlers to have.
All through his career, however, Jackson was very popular and was able to appeal to the common voter through the news media and continual use of letters which were spread about the country to help push his vision of the future and government. He held congress in contempt and bypassed them whenever he felt he had to in order to get done what he wanted.
Unfortunately, President Jackson's destruction of the Federal bank led to a massive depression that lasted quite a while, leading to actual starvation and misery, rioting, and civil unrest across the nation. What he thought would help the common man was quite bad for them, in the end. It took two presidents later to fix the damage he'd done to the economy, and he'd inherited quite a good one.
Which got me thinking. Every president, or at least their supporters, tend to liken themselves to previous greats. FDR, Lincoln, Reagan, Jefferson, and so on are all appealed to. I'm just like them! The president declares - or his supporters do.
For President Obama those comparisons have been many, from Kennedy, to FDR, to Lincoln. He personally seems to hold Roosevelt as an ideal model of someone who pushed "progressivism" at all cost by using crises. But having studied a bit on Jackson, I'd say that's the president that Obama is most like.
President Jackson was a man who despised congress for disagreeing with him, bypassed the courts and congress, had a very specific vision of America that he pushed without concern at the cost or who paid, targets groups he considers bad for the "little guy", has done incredible damage to the economy despite his attempts to help out, and relies on the press and the common voter for popularity to push his agenda.
Ultimately, President Obama is like a much less capable, much less vigorous President Jackson. His "trail of tears" is a bit less dramatic, but the cost in lives from Fast & Furious, idiotic rules of engagement in Afghanistan, undeclared mini wars across the middle east, incredibly harsh support of abortion, and immigration policies that have violated three court injunctions actually has a higher body count. Jackson too had his detractors, particularly those not in the Democrat party who decried his violation of the US Constitution and imperial notions.
In the end, Jackson was still very popular when he died, and in 1928, 100 years after his first inauguration, he was added to the $20 bill to replace Grover Cleveland. Now there's a push to remove him from the bill and he's considered a monster for his treatment of Native Americans. I suspect President Obama's popularity will continue long after his death, and it might take almost 200 years for the public to catch up to how badly he's done at the job.
Wednesday, May 20, 2015
DON'T STAND SO CLOSE TO ME
You've probably seen this, if not had a friend post about it on social media. A girl wore this outfit and got sent home from her high school for inappropriate clothing.
The text is small to read in the image unless you click on it, but in part it reads
How about instead of body shaming women, school systems should start teaching 15-18 year olds to stop degrading women with their eyes and contributing to the rape culture of today's society. Bottom line, girls cannot go to school in comfortable clothes THAT COVER EVERYTHING because school systems are afraid that hormonal boys won't be able to control their eyes and their minds. And that is such a bigger problem than worrying about clothingThat just sounds so reasonable and empowering and socially just, right? Wrong.
Putting aside how this person clearly doesn't understand the Social Justice Warrior catch phrase "body shaming," and is dropping popular current college womyn's studies course terms like they're the mailman in Better Off Dead, let's consider this a moment.
This girl wore leggings so tight they may as well have been body paint, then threw a longish shirt over the top of them and went to school. I'm not going to post images but you can definitely find them online what it looks like when girls wear "yoga pants" (aka stretch pants etc before some marketer got a hold of them) and its not "covering everything" in all caps or not.
I don't know what this school's policy is on clothing, but they all have one. Its possible the school simply has a "no leggings/yoga pants" rule. If so; tough, go home and change. Welcome to life, it rarely makes sense and you have to do things you don't like no matter how cute you thought you looked in the mirror.
But stop a moment. This girl is technically wearing clothing on all of her bits, but the clothing is the kind that is going to excite and attract attention. She's doing it on purpose because she wants positive attention and appreciation for how she looks. If she's like most girls, she's been raised on billions of compliments on how pretty she is and that's what she shapes her reality around. And that's a problem, but its a separate one from the issue at hand. But its not like she put it on by accident or closed her eyes, spun, and grabbed the first three objects in the room to wear.
And that attention is what she'll get. Because, and I know this is going to be tough for some to handle, but that's how men and women are made. Guys like how women look. That's the way we're hard wired. And the more we can see, the more we like. Some stuff we get to see has a specific kind of biological and psychological reaction. This is not some learned cruelty or rape culture, its actually quite beneficial to us as a people. It helps us continue breeding and existing on this earth.
Liking girl parts means guys and girls will be more likely to have sex and have children. This is a good thing. Giving guys more intimate and direct glimpses of these parts has a specific and predictable result. The younger the man, the less self control, maturity, and familiarity he'll have with these bits, and the more overwhelming the reaction is. Make no mistake, male teachers have to deal with this too.
Every guy that reads this knows that wearing a really short skirt or a tight top or wearing super clingy thin stretch pants around a boy is going to necessarily and without exception generate a certain kind of response from the guys. That's not possible to "train out" of kids. It just isn't. You can teach them to be more quiet about it but you can't make it stop.
In other words, whining that guys need to learn to not letch on girls who dress in a lecherous fashion is simply ignorant and foolish. You need to get a better grip on life. Its like whining that every time you drop the barbell on your foot it hurts, and someone needs to teach that barbell to be less heavy instead of watching where your foot is. Its like complaining that your hair gets wet when it rains and the water should stop hitting your head, rather than you wearing a hat or use an umbrella.
The problem is with you dear girl, not the guys. You're deliberately wearing something that provokes a certain inevitable and necessary reaction from the guys. That's not possible to avoid.
There's a joke by Dave Chapelle that covers this. He's telling a story about a girl that dressed really trashy and goes on to say:
The girl says "uh-uh, wait a minute! wait a minute! Just because I'm dressed this way does not make me a whore!" Which is true.Wearing a whorish outfit doesn't make you a whore. That said, doing so with the intention of getting laid and having nice gifts given to you... might.
Gentlemen, that is true. Just because they dress a certain way doesn't mean they are a certain way. Don't ever forget it. But ladies, you must understand that is confusing. It just is.
Now that would be like me, Dave Chappelle, the comedian, walking down the street in a cop uniform. Somebody might run up on me, saying "Oh, thank God. Officer help us! Come on. There over here. Help us!"
"Oh-ho! Just because I'm dressed this way does not make me a police officer!"
See what I mean? All right ladies, fine. You are not a whore.
But you are wearing a whore's uniform.
This outfit is inappropriate for school. It is an outfit that you ought not wear for obvious reasons. The complaint that schoolboys are being all hormonal and need to be sent to camps to be reeducated so they stop is idiotic and what's more contradictory and hypocritical. How many billions of times have we been told that women are prisoners of their hormones and guys must just put up with it? That we have to deal with it because they cannot help themselves? Yeah.
The truth is, every time in this culture something restricts a woman's personal whims and desires then its the man that must change. Every time. Just because I'm wearing 4" heels, a thong, and nipple clips doesn't mean you should lust at me, rapist! There's no sense that a girl should rethink what she's wearing, only that guys are scum and potential rapists for reacting to it.
And I know that more than a few conservatives reading this and seeing the report elsewhere responded much the way the rest of the culture did: its not that bad! They're being mean! Its oppressive! That girl should be able to wear what she wants!
Those people either never were high school boys or have no memory of what it was like back then. You cannot blame the victim for being assaulted or groped - the wrong done is always the fault of the wrongdoer. But if you walk down a dark alley in Detroit counting a brick of fifties you shouldn't be surprised if someone does wrong to you.
There is such a thing as wisdom, discernment, restraint, and common sense. If you're doing something to provoke a reaction - even if that reaction is wrong - then you should not be surprised when that reaction happens. Just like the Texas art show provoked an angry reaction by drawing Muhammad, you have to temper liberty with wisdom. Is this wise, is this proper?
Sometimes it is. Sometimes you have to do something provocative and shocking in order to achieve a great goal. The entire principle of civil disobedience is based on this idea: to challenge injustice and wrong by provoking a response. But the cause has to be very good, very important, and very just. Wearing that cute outfit? Not so much.
Tuesday, May 12, 2015
A BIT OF CLARIFICATION
and all the sinners, saints
-Rolling Stones, "Sympathy For The Devil"
Courtesy SooperMexican, a bit of clarification about Baltimore:
I wonder if all this rioting and civil rights investigating and such isn't just a way of big cities leaning on police departments that refuse to go along with the social justice warrior plan. They keep voting Republican, they keep rejecting leftist schemes and keep stubbornly profiling and arresting criminals regardless of their special interest group.
Are there bad cops? Sure. And I am sure some good cops do bad things sometimes when they get really frustrated or upset. It would be a very tough, frustrating job, particularly in some areas. And sometimes humans will do terrible things when they get fed up and angry. And those cops should be punished and removed from their jobs.
But the latest trend is to act like cops are all horrible thugs and racist monsters, waiting for a chance to beat and kill blacks and that's idiotic and utterly false. And if Baltimore is wracked with racism, its certainly going to be a tough case to make that it was due to white people and Republicans. At least, honestly and factually.
An update courtesy Newt Gingrich at The Federalist:
- Fact: The last Republican city council member in Baltimore City left office in 1942. That is 73 years of solid Democrat city councils.
- Fact: The last Republican mayor of Baltimore City left office in 1967. That is 48 years of unbroken Democrat control of the mayor’s office.
- Fact: The Maryland Senate is currently 33 Democrats to 14 Republicans.
- Fact: The Maryland House is currently 90 Democrats to 50 Republicans.
- Fact: The last time Republicans held both the Maryland Senate and the Maryland House of Delegates was 1897.
- Fact: The last time Republicans held even one chamber of the Maryland General Assembly—the House—was 1917. That is unbroken Democrat control of the Maryland legislature since 1918, or nearly a century of Democrat control.
- Fact: Seven out of eight members of the Maryland delegation in the U.S. House are Democrats.
- Fact: The last Republican U.S. senator from Maryland was elected in 1980.
Tuesday, May 05, 2015
A CHRISTIAN RESPONSE: Slavery
As I wrote a few years back, slavery is still with us. The bulk of it in the west is sex slavery, where mostly young women are sold for sex and have no ability to escape or freedom. Often trapped by drugs and violence, but sometimes by actual chains, these slaves are among us even in nations proud of having rejected slavery over a hundred years ago.
The more ordinary sort of slavery still is in place in parts of the world as well, where someone is sold and works for another without pay or hope of escape. Almost all of these nations are Muslim: Far East Asia and North Africa/Middle East.
This topic, whenever it comes up, often brings with it an attack on Christianity. Yes, its true that Christians were the ones who were the primary driving force in both England and the USA to end slavery. Yes, its true that Christians were the ones running the escape routes and helping slaves to be free. But critics point something out that some find very difficult to deal with.
Jesus never said anything against slavery. In fact, nowhere in the Bible is the idea of slavery, the concept, ever condemned or even criticized. The Old Testament has specific rules and laws regarding how to own slaves without any critical statement. The practice is presumed and treated as ordinary, not requiring comment.
The closest the Bible comes in this topic is in the book of Philemon, a little-known letter by the apostle Paul, in which Paul almost, but does not quite, order Philemon to free his escaped slave Onesimus. However, Paul does not do so with an argument against the practice of slavery, he simply notes that Onesimus is also a Christian and should be treated as a brother.
So the objection is that fellow Christians ought not own one another, not that slavery is somehow innately evil. And in the lead up to the Civil War, many pastors in the South pointed this out: slavery cannot be an evil or a sin, or the Bible would have said so.
So where did the Christian objection to slavery come from? Well, to understand this, you have to understand a bit of history.
In the past - particularly the Biblical times, both Old and New Testaments, slavery meant something a bit different from it did in, say, Alabama in 1832. Slavery in antiquity was handled differently. In the more modern period, slaves were mostly - not exclusively, but in the great majority - black men and women seized by force from Africa and sold to white traders.
These slaves served their entire lives without hope of liberation, and were slaves because they were black and easy to identify (making it difficult to escape). Slaves would serve for generations, children of children of slaves.
In antiquity, slavery was more economical and martial in nature. There were three categories of slaves. The first was criminal - someone could be enslaved because of criminal activity, punishing them with servitude. Many gladiators for example were in this category.
The second was martial: often, when an area was subjugated or conquered, at least some of the people there were enslaved, forcing labor out of them as a method of keeping them under control and dominating the territory.
The third, and most common type, was economical: people became slaves because they were too far in debt or were ruined economically. Sometimes these would be orphans, who had no place to go to survive, and became slaves for a place to sleep and eat. Some were people who gambled or in some other way found themselves in debt so far they could not pay it off. So they would enter slavery to work off the debt.
All of these systems in the past (except, usually, the military) had a system to reach freedom or manumission. It was in practice difficult and often did not happen, but it was possible. They also had a system by which you could, if you chose, remain a slave after paying off your debt. Some did, preferring the security and predictability of a wealthy owner over the uncertainty of making your own way.
None of these systems were based on race. None of them chose a specific ethnic group or by appearance and enslaved them because of that race or considered them sub-human. In Rome, for example, an African merchant could own Roman slaves. In Israel, a Hebrew could own fellow Hebrew slaves.
Especially in the Bible, the laws given to Moses specifically set a time when all slaves were to be freed, no matter what their origin or cause, on the Year of Jubilee, which took place every 49 years. Now, Israel never, ever celebrated this year or did what they were told with it, but the slavery laws necessarily and specifically required liberating slaves at a certain point.
So in this context, the slavery mentioned in the Bible is a bit different than is presumed in modern culture and understood in, say, 19th century America. Instead of a dehumanizing system of racial suppression that kept slaves for their lives by ripping them out of their homes and treating them as subhuman, the Biblical understanding was much more humane and limited.
That doesn't make slavery something fine that I'd want to be a part of. Even a well-treated slave is still a slave, and sometimes even ordinary work and the pressures of life and parenthood can give a glimpse what that life would be like. What it does is change perspective slightly.
And this brings us to why Christians such as William Wilberforce were so opposed to slavery. Because the Bible teaches that all humanity is made in the image of God, with innate value and dignity. None of us, according to scripture, is better than the other. None of us is lesser in value by our nature. All of us, the Bible teaches, stand equally condemned and guilty before God: we're all going the same place, but for the grace of God in Christ Jesus through the Holy Spirit.
So slavery that treated some as less than human, by their ethnic background, and imprisoned them forever as property that could never find liberty simply because they were purchased and black... that was a severe violation of many biblical principles. In other words: it was very unChristian to buy a black man ripped from his home in Africa and own him, acting as if he wasn't really human, without any hope of liberty. Evil. Sinful.
And that's why Christians opposed slavery as it was being practiced in England and the US and France and elsewhere around the world, even though the Bible doesn't specifically condemn slavery.
Now, at least some readers are saying "the Bible still says slavery is okay" and you're sort of right; it doesn't approve of slavery, or condemn it. The New Testament treats slavery as just a part of life you had to move around and through without specific judgment.
However, so do you. Yes, you, the person reading this. You have no problem with slavery, I suspect. Here's what I mean, and its from my previous piece on slavery:
In 1865, the 13th amendment of the United States Constitution was ratified to prohibit slavery:
Prisoners, convicted criminals are worked every day in jails without compensation and without possibility of escape or refusal. They are punished for failing to work and cannot run away without being hunted down and returned to work. This is not only legal, it's actually a good thing; prisoners are given exercise, but more importantly they are made to work their debt to society off, they are compelled to do something in exchange for the expense of housing and feeding them.
- Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.
- Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
We enslave prisoners, legally, by specific exemption of the 13th amendment, regularly in the United States, and unless you'd rather prisoners sit in a box all day with some time in the sun to lift weights, you support this, too. Personally, I think we should have more of this in prisons: productive labor. If you're going to get huge and more dangerous in prison, at least do it by breaking rocks or something useful instead of lifting weights.
Many people who came to the new world in America's past got here through a system called "indentured servitude" which I go into with greater detail in the slavery essay. In essence, it let people buy their passage to America by serving as a slave temporarily to pay off their debt and usually in the process learn a trade (silvermaking, for instance, in the book Johnny Tremain).
So the bare existence and concept of slavery is not the evil horror people presume it to be. And the problem modern readers have when they see it in the Bible is they flash back to Kunta Kinte chained to a barn wall being lashed by a bullwhip. That's not what the Bible is talking about, and if you understand that, the lack of total condemnation in scripture changes this perspective considerably.
Should we, then, not care about slavery as Christians? As Paul puts it in Romans, may it never be!
We should long to set free all unjustly captive and bring comfort and liberty to the enslaved. The Bible spoke in terms of everyone being equal to God - and thus each other - and freedom quite often. But the truth is, scripture is far more concerned with our souls than our present life on earth. Better, scripture teaches, a holy and righteous slave than a freed reprobate. Ideally one would be free and holy, but of the two, holiness takes precedence.
So working to end slavery is good and scriptural, but working to save souls is a higher priority. Because we have but a dozen decades at most on this earth, and forever after that. Where you end up in the bulk of your existence matters far more than how comfortable and free you are in a tiny sliver of it.
*This is part of the Christian Response series.
*This is part of the Christian Response series.
Friday, May 01, 2015
BEACH BODIES AND BEAUTY
So, the "nutritional supplement" company Protein World put out an ad for their products that looks like this:
That's pretty non-sensational, and thousands of ads like it have been put out in the past along the same lines. Women came up with the term "beach body" to refer to one they think looks good in skimpy clothing such as that worn on the beach.
Well, this time a 'feminist' threw a fit when she saw the ad on a bus. It offended her sensibilities! How dare they suggest their products using a female-invented term and concept?!? She fired off an angry tweet, to which the company suggested she not impose her insecurities on them, and off the story went. The outrage machine was cranked up to 11 and the screaming and death threats sent to the company started up.
The company stood its ground, probably because as they report, they're making a lot of money off the added free publicity in increased sales. The ad is being shown everywhere, for free, and generating business for Protein World. Well played, I guess.
But here's where it gets ugly.
The Guardian ran a bit* attacking Protein World for being sexist and terrible for daring to run such an ad, and petitions started cycling about. In response, the UK government took swift, decisive action and... banned the ad.
They declared the advertisement sexist, and hence illegal under the guidelines and rules set up under Tony Blair and Trevor Phillips.
Now, the ad might be annoying and some women might feel insecure about their looks because a pretty slim girl is pictured, but that's not sexism. The fact that someone reacts poorly to an image is their problem, not the image's problem. That's why when someone puts up a piece of junk as art such as a crucifix in a jar of urine, I don't say "there oughta be a law" or "this needs to be banned" but rather "this isn't art, this is trash."
Because my offense is mine, and what I feel or how offended I am is subjective and internal, with no bearing on how others must be compelled to behave. Social pressure to stop doing obnoxious things is one thing. Government power to silence them is another entirely.
The ad isn't sexist, but even if it was, that's not cause for banning. Its deeply saddening to me that the first nation on earth with a real, codified guarantee of free speech (England, Magna Carta) is the one that is banning an ad because it says something they don't like.
Sexism in an advertisement may be wrong or ugly but its not something the government has the slightest right to take legal action against. If freedom means anything, it has to mean letting people do something that I don't care for. Simply upsetting or annoying me is not cause enough to silence or stop someone else, especially with the power of the government.
Alcoholics have booze advertised and publicly displayed all around them. Christians put up with immorality and mockery of God on a regular basis - indeed, in language almost constantly. Former smokers have to deal with cigarette machines and smokers nearby. Being exposed to things that make you uncomfortable or feel bad about yourself is part of life.
Whining and running to the government to make the bad thing to go away is just wrong, pathetic, childish, and tyrannical. And it seems like more and more pretty things are being attacked for being pretty. Robert Stacey McCain wrote recently on how feminists seem outraged by beauty and want it stopped.
Why would anyone want to stamp out beauty? Because its 'unfair' and 'unegalitarian.' Some have an advantage that others do not - beauty is innately attractive and pleasing to others, so they gain a benefit that some lack. And this concept enrages the marxist and the radical leftst: beauty in some and no others results in unequal results, and that's a violation of their philosophy and guiding principles.
How much of this philosophy is behind the attack on this ad and how much is just some overly protected snowflake Millennial whining that she feels bad is unclear. In the end, the result is the same: tyranny to crush something that one political side doesn't like.
*The piece in the Guardian claimed that Cuba has no public advertisements - which is utterly false and ridiculous. The quote was 'It was only after visiting Cuba, a totalitarian country where there are no advertisements, that she realized "how much my field of vision is occupied without my consent by images and messages that want to sell me stuff."'
Grow up buttercup. The cringing of feminism continues.