Monthly Archives: April 2014

The inherent lie of capitalism’s adversaries

Elementary Politics

In the wake of Thomas Piketty’s recent leftist drivel on why capitalism doesn’t work, every serious economist has torn so many holes in the argument that sieve, Titanic and Swiss cheese references are almost an understatement at this point. But instead of tearing to ribbons a theory that requires so many assumptions and denials of reality you might as well assume that the economy runs on rainbows and unicorns (see here, here, and here)…really all he is doing is dressing up the liberal fallacy of a zero sum game in fancy clothes to make it look like it’s not exactly what it is. I thought I would rather point out the basic complaints against capitalism are so baseless and beyond preposterous that only liberals even entertain them.

One of the core complaints against capitalism is that it relies on exploitation. That capitalism only works by the rich…

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Rick Santorum’s Perverted View of America

“I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.”—Thomas Jefferson (Notice the use of the singular “mind” and “man”…if he had meant society he would have said “minds of men” but rather this is a statement against tyranny over even a single individual…yes he was a little lax on fulfilling that depending on the complexion of the individual in question…but I’m going for a philosophical concepts here, not the fact Jefferson had personal issues.)

So  uber-liberal and Christian Sharia supporter Rick “I will trample every freedom history has ever known to establish my theocracy” Santorum seem to be back in the press with a new book and vain desire to be the center of attention.  Now while I comb over some of his newer garbage and lies it might be helpful to remember why Rick Santorum is literally the walking embodiment of everything wrong with the Republican party, the reason we lose elections, the reason we have driven away libertarians and moderates, and the godsend of liberals and progressive everywhere.

Putting the “Fun” back into psychotic fundamentalism

So let’s take a look at Rick Santorum’s older book, It takes a Family: Conservatism and the Common Good:

“It wasn’t a freedom that celebrated the individual above society. It wasn’t a freedom that gave men and women blanket permission to check in and out of society whenever they wanted. It wasn’t the freedom to be as selfish as I want to be. It wasn’t even the freedom to be left alone, with no obligations to the people we know and to the people we don’t yet know. The Constitutional Convention’s freedom, American’s traditional freedom–or the better word, as I defined it earlier, liberty–was a selfless freedom, freedom for the sake of something greater or higher than the self. For our founders, this liberty was defined and defended in the context of our Judeo-Christian understanding of humanity. Often, in fact, American liberty meant the freedom to attend to one’s duties–duties to God, to family, and to neighbors. Our founders were in the business of constructing a nation, a political community. No-Fault Freedom, a freedom from every tie and duty, provides no basis for that project: it is a principle of division and social deconstruction.” (44)

Okay this is perhaps more frightening than anything I have seen Obama say.  Granted Obama’s actions are those of a petty banana republic dictator trying to create a fascist state…but he’s an idiot and doesn’t do it well.  Most notably he can’t come out and defend his statist collectivist views.  But here we have Rick Santorum doing that very articulately.

Let’s take this monstrous evil apart bit by bit.

It wasn’t a freedom that celebrated the individual above society.

 

Yes the Founding Fathers believed in none of that tripe that said individuals “are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”  Oh wait.  Notice how liberty is joined with the pursuit of Happiness.  Happiness (capital H) is an Aristotelian concept that an individual has reached the completion and fulfillment of their life through the expression of personal virtue, not through the collectivist service to virtue that Santorum suggests here.  A society cannot pursue Happiness, only an individual can.  A society cannot have a right to life, only an individual can.  But, Santorum wants you to believe that Jefferson, Adams, and Franklin who worked on the first draft put a social right in between two individual ones.  And if you believe that one I have a lovely bridge to sell you.   Further, pursuit of Happiness is an expansion of John Locke’s right to property (his original rights were the right to life, liberty and property and no one in their right mind ever thought Locke was talking about social rights not individual one).  If, as Santorum dishonestly suggests, the Founders held society above the individual then that would mean the right to pursue Happiness as a more evolved idea of property, was only for society, which would mean that property should only be held by society and not the individual….and you wonder why I consider Santorum a filthy socialist?

And of course the Founders held the good of society above the good of the individual.  Which is none of them ever broke any of the laws that were for the good society for personal gain—so long as you ignore that John Hancock made a fortune as a smuggler.  And if you put the good of society ahead above the individual then you would see the need to pay off the debts incurred by a massive war fought partly to defend you from the French and not complain about the numerous taxes levied to pay off that debt…oh wait no they would rather risk “their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor” than pay those taxes.  By the way Rick, honor is also a personal virtue.

Notice also some of their complaints

For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

All of those are actions by the British Government attempting to bring about the “public good” but at the expense of personal liberties.  Notice Rick, how the individual is not being sacrificed for the good of the whole by the Founding Fathers.

Notice also phrases like “To secure the public good and private rights” from Federalist 10 by Madison, which seems to place the individual on equal, not subservient, value to the public good…you know kind of like how Christ put the individual on equal footing to everyone else when he quoted Leviticus and said “Love your neighbor as you would love yourself.”  Ignorant, and evil, collectivists like Santorum also seem to miss the second part.  But I shouldn’t expect someone as zealously passionate about his religion to actually read the book they claim to follow.

It wasn’t a freedom that gave men and women blanket permission to check in and out of society whenever they wanted.

As Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and George Washington did quite often.  And stop me if I’m wrong but wasn’t America founded by people who wanted to check out of society and start a new one, wasn’t this nation founded by people who wanted to check out of the society of Great Britain, wasn’t westward expansion driven by rugged individuals who wanted to check out of society and go west (which was, last time I checked part of the Founding Father’s vision).

 It wasn’t the freedom to be as selfish as I want to be.

Which I’m sure is why Jefferson said “But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.”  It might be easy to assume Jefferson held the attitude to all private actions that didn’t hurt anyone.

Or try this one from their contemporaries Adam Smith

“It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own self-interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities but of their advantages.”

Selfishness is what defines human progress.  But Santorum wants to think in the very plebian and uneducated way of sin and virtue.  Selfishness and Selflessness.  It shows that he had done little to any study of the philosophy of the Founding Fathers, nor does he know anything about his own Catholic doctrines…as study in either would lead him back to Aristotle who saw each virtue to have two vices not one (but you know when I looked up Santorum’s education, it came from the Dickenson School of Law, named after John Dickenson, a man so morally bankrupt that he is the only person who had the chance to sign both The Declaration of Independence AND The Constitution AND refused to sign both.  It’s good to see Santorum is keeping up with that legacy of opposing what is right and good and true).  But back to Aristotelian virtue.  It is not a choice between selfish and selfless it a choice between the virtue of rational self-interest and the vices of narcissism and selflessness.  Rational self-interest is where one puts ones needs, wants, and desires first but not at the expense of others, where one’s rights are on equal foot with the rights of others, and where we treat others with compassion, not just because we have the duty to them, but because it makes us feel good.  Santorum confuses selfishness, caring about your own concerns, with narcissism where you care ONLY about you and damn how others are affected by your actions (one might say this is the behavior of a sociopath, but even most high-functioning sociopaths take the needs of others into consideration as a means to their ends…so it’s hard to find a lot of examples of this particular evil.  Most evils in the world are caused more by short sightedness and ignorance, not by narcissism).  Strangely however, Santorum’s constant grabs for power at the expense of civilization itself if he ever got power is miraculously excluded.

 It wasn’t even the freedom to be left alone, with no obligations to the people we know and to the people we don’t yet know.

I think he is trying to pervert Edmund Burke’s definition of society (and by extension) as “a partnership not only between those who are living, but between those who are living, those who are dead, and those who are to be born.”  But a partnership is not an obligation.  The partnership Burke spoke of was to not view government as a joint stock company like short sighted East India Trading Company he had to deal with (the GM of it’s time) which was designed only to make a quick buck, what he was talking about was that society and law should be made with the long term good in mind.  That we should not solve our problems by heaping problems on future generations.  But if it is trying to pervert Burke he forgets that Burke was probably America’s chief proponent in Britain of our argument to King George III and Parliament that said we have a God-given right to be left alone when we choose so and our only obligation to you, our parent country and society, is to “hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.”

There are however no “obligations” or “duties” in this, only the basic ethics to not intentionally harm others (i.e. future generations) but we have no obligations other than the ethical injunction to not maliciously and unjustly harm others.  Yes our Happiness depends on maintaining healthy friendships, but our Happiness is a duty only to ourselves. We are the ends of our own life, not the means for which society can use to achieve it’s ends.

It is the freedom to be left alone.  Who the hell does this man thinks made this nation?  A bunch of people who just sat in society and always worked in it or those who constantly moved west when they got tired of society.  Don’t like society, move to America.  Don’t like the first colonies’ society, move West.  Don’t like the colonies society, cross the Appalachians.  Not thrilled with the society of the new Union, cross the Mississippi. So on and so on.  Don’t like the state you live in, move to another. Don’t like the way things are done, create something new.

Oh and I hate to make this observation, but I have never in my life known a person with an IQ over 110 who doesn’t long for at least some point of each day where they have the freedom to be left alone, who doesn’t want time with their own thoughts…who wouldn’t yearn for days to be left alone if not longer…what does it say about a man who not only doesn’t want that freedom, doesn’t understand it, but actually wants to outlaw it?

The Founders would have agreed with their contemporary Adam Smith that our obligation is to ourselves and to reason because through these two things naturally develop empathy and compassion…and without a rational self-interest there can be no empathy, compassion or ethical behavior.  And I don’t think there was enough short sighted idiocy in all 13 colonies to make them agree with this disgrace of an American named Santorum.

The Constitutional Convention’s freedom, American’s traditional freedom–or the better word, as I defined it earlier, liberty–was a selfless freedom, freedom for the sake of something greater or higher than the self.

Yes, they were after something higher than one person: property and property rights.  And the Happiness of the individual.

I don’t know how selfless it was, as it was very much for the defense of personal property and the right to shoot anyone, be they an individual or a tyrannical government, who dared think they could take your hard earned property…but it was for something greater because they knew that if you could not control your own fate through work, property and achievement there could be no Happiness.

But this man clearly doesn’t believe in Happiness…no, like a good little Kantian he only believes in duty and obligation.  (Please, remember that Kant is the philosophical basis for Communism and Nazism).

 For our founders, this liberty was defined and defended in the context of our Judeo-Christian understanding of humanity.

Could someone please tell me what Judeo-Christian values are?

Would that be the Enlightenment/Thomist-Aristotlian view each person was personally responsible for themselves.  Perhaps the Puritan/Protestant view that salvation of self was a personal matter and that each person is saved or damned based only on their own merits as an individual.  Couldn’t be the Unitarian view that Franklin and both John and Abigail Adams had that took that Protestant view of individual relationship to God even further and saw it not only as personal but private as well.

Perhaps it might be the in line with the view of the Bill of the Rights of Englishmen that more or less implied that since we can’t possibly know the mind of God we’re not going to legislate in such a way that suggests one religion is more right over another….you know one of those British things that the Founding Fathers actually wanted to continue.  Shame you don’t want to continue that Rick.

Might it be that Judeo-Christian understanding of humanity that a Catholic like you should know, that of St. Thomas Aquinas, who in the Summa Theologica stated that “human law does not prohibit every vice from which virtuous men abstain, but only the more serious ones from which the majority can abstain, especially those that harm others and which must be prohibited for human society to survive such as homicide, theft and the life.”  Hmm…even Thomas Aquinas seems to recognize the importance of personal property rights (and this was still before the only ethical means of economic dealing, laissez-faire capitalism, had really been codified in both law and practice)…shame a man from 1200 is centuries ahead of Rick Santorum (but frankly people in 500 BCE were centuries ahead of Santorum).

Often, in fact, American liberty meant the freedom to attend to one’s duties–duties to God, to family, and to neighbors.

No you have a duty to yourself.  If we are made in God’s image then there is nothing higher we can serve than our self, our reason and intellect which makes us the equals of God if we choose to use them, our free will which according to the Christianity you claim to follow is something no other being in existence has been given.  Yes, if we are being true to ourselves, our reason and our will we will be compassionate and kind to others and wish them the best and help them when we can, but because “love [them] as we love [ourselves]” not because “we love them more than we love ourselves” (I seem to not remember that little distinction in the Bible).

 

Duty, a fascinating word.  As in duty based ethics.  The ethical system of fascists and communists everywhere.  Thank God the Founding Fathers were versed in logical people like Aristotle, Aquinas, Locke and Adam Smith who recognized that it was self interest that caused people to be good and the goal of society to provide the tools to become a good person if they choose to be (but never forcing a person who is not harming others to be something that they do not choose to be)—they thankfully never gave into the evils that the word duty has created other the course of history.

Sad they didn’t have the DSM-IV around yet…they could have also looked up Dependent personality disorder.  (Which is pretty much the opposite of a narcissistic personality disorder, which is apparently what Santorum thinks anyone has if they have even the smallest concern for their own well-being).

 Our founders were in the business of constructing a nation, a political community.

This is perhaps the only correct sentence in this quote.  Of course the Founders thought of it as one joined together by mutual consent rather than forced upon people.  A society of individuals joined in common cause, not a group of slaves with duties to carry out.

No-Fault Freedom, a freedom from every tie and duty, provides no basis for that project: it is a principle of division and social deconstruction.

I will not disagree that people are often at their best when they are involved in society and working to better it (there are of course numerous exceptions, which Santorum might have heard about if he ever actually read something)…but it only yields something good for everyone when it is done by choice with the goal of personal fulfillment being equal or higher than the wanting to do good for others.

The point of society is to produce the highest good and the highest good is personal individual Happiness.  Granted the best society is the one that allows (not brings, because Happiness can only be achieved, never given) for the most people to reach that Happiness…but that Happiness can only be achieved in a society free of preposterous concept of duty…individuals are good by nature and choose freely to help others, they do not need moral obligations to enslave them to do so.  Rick Santorum fails to realize this, and fails to realize everything that is good in this nation.

***

British historian Lord Acton observed, “Liberty is not the power of doing what we like, but the right to do what we ought.”

What Santorum insanely proposes here is that “Liberty is not the right to do what our reason tells us we ought, but the obligation to be enslaved to invented obligations to one man’s narrow definition of God and to everyone else in society of others. “

Which sounds like one the Founding Father’s actually supported…and which one do you think Adams, Hamilton, Washington, and Jefferson would be drawing lots as to who got to shoot Ricky for treason?

This man and his vile beliefs is everything wrong with the Republican party.  It is not conservative, but it taints the banner of conservatism by claiming to be so.

 

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Heaven is for Real…but this movie won’t even begin to convince you of that fact

Heavenreal

 

Shallow. Unmoving. Poor support of the point it was trying to make. Oh let me tell you how much I just loved Heaven is for Real.

 

In a world where there are thousands of Near Death Experiences where people who have been blind from birth can tell you what color the doctors in the OR were wearing while they had flat lined, where people come back with messages from dead loved ones with information that they could have no way of knowing beforehand, or where the person having the NDE goes completely brain dead so there is no way their brain could have just been hallucinating…we bring you a movie about a kid who never actually died and came back with information that any skeptic could tear holes in. Oh, then the movie just sucked on any standard of film making as well.

 

Let’s first deal with how bad the movie is.

 

The film follows a family, the Burpos, as they deal with the fact that their son nearly died and claims to have gone to Heaven. They deal with their own crises of faith and with being somewhat shunned by the community as others deal with their own crises of faith.

 

Well first off there are the numerous financial and personal problems the family in this film had to deal with (beside the kid almost dying). None of them get resolved

The entire film seems to be about everyone, the family, the parish, the community having a hard time accepting the concept of life after death—this does little more than to portray most Christians as shallow people who cling to the church out of fear, which I personally don’t think applies to all Christians, yeah we’ve all met some people like that…but it’s everybody in this film. It’s a little bizarre that this is what is being hyped as a faith based film given that it shows most church going folk to be hypocrites when you just scratch the surface. Yeah, real inspiring.
Also I felt that the writers didn’t even recognize their own hypocrisy in the final sermon in the film (which I’m guessing was supposed to offer some kind of catharsis, though I didn’t get any) among other things chided people for pride…even though it came from a guy who throughout much of the movie refused help from a friend even though he’s $20,000+ in debt and there was no resolution to this (except maybe the paycheck they got from writing the book but I’m trying not to confuse the movie with reality).

 

But the real problem is that none of it is all that moving. From the actors I recognized I have seen them all give better performances, and none of the crises of faith I see anyone go through in this film ever seems to fully make sense to me (I don’t get how all these people who are so active in a church can all be so full of doubts and disbelief…I understand individuals having a crisis of faith, I don’t understand a seemingly entire congregation becoming hostile to what should seemingly confirm their beliefs). No single character’s story ever seems to be dealt with in detail in the film and it just is all half-assed through the run time.

 

Oh and there’s some girl in Lithuania painting pictures…I never really got the point of this and could ponder for eons what possessed the director to put this random and pointless part in.

 

Now a lot of this could be due to the fact that as an NDE goes, this kid’s story isn’t what I’d call ironclad. He never died, his story isn’t particularly consistent, and none of the information he gives is beyond all doubt that he never heard it from other people. I believe in NDE’s the soul actually does touch the afterlife and see Heaven…but I also happen to know from research that there are cases that leave no logical explanation other than a person’s soul actually did leave their body and touch the other side. There is no such certainty here. I’m not saying the kid didn’t experience exactly what he describes (or at least as well as the movie relays it) but there are so many logical ways one could also be skeptical that the movie is only going to affect people who already believe (and in my case, not even that).  I actually am a little annoyed as you can only get so many movies with a theme like this made and distrusted to a general audience…and if you really want to get people to believe in the truth that there is an afterlife, I would not put a movie with such weak backing.  Also I’m just a tad annoyed that one of the most important facts about NDE’s: that everyone goes to Heaven, Christians, Jews, Pagans, Muslims, atheists, Hindus, Buddhists, everyone (because God doesn’t care about that sort of thing) seemed to get lost in a lot of talk of Jesus (I have no problem with Jesus or what he taught, but this film veered a little too much to the you only get into Heaven through Christianity bend for my tastes given that serious research into NDE’s shows exactly the opposite).

 

I have not read the book, and this movie certainly doesn’t convince me I should.
If you want a good movie that is actually moving about the life after death go watch Hereafter. If you want good well researched material about proof of life after this one I would suggest starting with Life before Life–Children’s Memories of Previous Lives or Evidence of the Afterlife.

 

 

Final Grade D-

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Apologists and revisionists are beginning to annoy me…

It’s always a little sad when a publication or web site you otherwise respect and trust starts publishing drivel. Regrettably such was the case over at the RealClear websites when they published (not just linked, but published) an article preposterously entitled, “Religion didn’t kill science in the Middle East” And while I tend to just ignore most historical revisionism as something utterly not worth my time, this article not only justifies the anti-intellectual attitudes that run through the “religion of peace” but it completely dismisses historical truth.

The article does correctly point out that at a certain point in history—the article conveniently says between the 9th and 13th centuries (I’ll come back to these dates)—the Islamic world was the height of civilization in terms of science and mathematics. This was the era that saw the invention of Algebra, and advances in chemistry, medicine, and astronomy. Okay so far. Then the author goes onto to point out why Islam began falling behind: like most historical revisionists he blames the Crusades in the 11th century and Columbus in the 15th century (easy punching bags for every lightweight pseudo-intellectual hack) as things that hurt the Islamic world, it’s ability to trade (and with it the prosperity to allow a culture to indulge in scientific research). Ridiculously, Genghis Khan and the fact that you can’t put Arabic into a printing press are also blamed.

The problem with all of this – the reasons given for the decline of scientific research were was in fact in decline before a Crusader ever set foot in the Middle East. In fact if we look at Charles Murray’s book Human Accomplishment: The Pursuit of Excellence in the Arts and Sciences, 800 B.C. to 1950 we find that there is not a single major scientific advancement to come out of the Arabic world after 1025.* In fact we not only see scientific advancement disappear from the map but even art. Literature in the Islamic world goes from a massive output of quality work that still stands the test of time, to almost nothing past 1050**. As the First Crusade started in 1096 (and all the other points the author brought up occurred after that) I find it very hard to blame any of them for the death of intellectual output in the Muslim world which seemed to happen at least 50 years before that. It also seems to be very disingenuous of the author of the article to say the scientific achievements continued until the 13th century when really they died off in the 11th…it’s as if he picked a date that allowed him to blame the Crusades, to hell if it had no relation to facts.

Also if it was only the lack of prosperity and constant conflict that was the cause of the death of science in the Middle East…Saudi Arabia, the U.A.E., Qatar, are all rolling in cash and have been fairly stable (by standards of the region they’re incredibly stable) yet at best we’re seeing them use the resources of Western intellect instead of breaking new ground. Something seems to ring very false. And if the argument of the article is false, is Islam and it’s core teachings to blame?

So what really killed the science in the Islamic World? Well the answer to that can be found in one simple name: Aristotle. In the 750’s the Abbasid Caliphate took control of the Islamic Empire and with them came a branch of Sunni Islam called Mu’tazilism (don’t be too shocked you haven’t ever heard of them, they’re all dead). The Mu’tazilites were the branch of Islam that actually bothered to read the works of the Ancient Greeks when the Islamic armies conquered all the cities in their new Empire. And there they found Aristotle, a man who wrote about physics, psychology, politics, ethics, biology, metaphysics…who held reason and logic as the guiding light for all of human existence. Despite the fact that Islam was never too hot on reason*** the common sense nature of Aristotle won out with Mu’tazilites who decided that reason not blind unthinking faith needed to be the guiding light. And for a couple centuries they were guiding force of culture (or at least a force in the 10th and 11th century) that you saw the major output and advances in mathematics, science, literature, and art. However in 1063 (you know around the time when everything stopped), as stated in The Closing of the Muslim Mind by Robert R. Reilly,

“Nizam al-Mulk, the power vizier to Seljuk sultan Alp-Arslan, had the curses [against the Ash’arites] stopped.   According to British Islam scholar W. Montgomery Watt, al-Muk also ‘began to implement a policy of supporting and strengthening the Ash’arites against the other theological and legal schools.’”

Who are the Ash’arites? They’re pretty much the archenemies of the Mu’tazilites (you may not know the name Ash’arite, but you’re more than familiar with their attitudes). They believe in faith as the only guide and reason as merely hubris.

They believed in following the Koran without interpretation, just following what it said. Their most famous scholar al-Ghazali published a book The Incoherence of Philosophy which among other things set out to destroy the usefulness of reason at anytime in any place for any purpose. Sharia Law is a direct outgrowth of Ash’arite belief. As the Ash’areites

It is the presence of the ideas of these two that creates scientific and cultural prosperity…it their lack which causes stagnation. This is true not just in the Middle East, but the world over.

came into power they not only challenged the Mu’tazilites, they had them killed and their works burned. And low and behold when this belief came into power, the intellectual output of Islam just dried up over night. Amazing how when you deny reason the fruits of reason disappear. All the advancement that apologist like to talk about for the Golden Age of Islam came from the time when the Mu’tazilites, who downplayed religion, were in power.

So is religion to blame? Yes, yes it is. Because the fact is that while my sympathies will always be for the Mu’tazilites I can also admit they were terrible Muslims. A good portion of Mu’tazilite writing is trying to explain away the contradictions between reason and Koran. The Bible starts with a statement that God gave man dominion over Earth (thus it might be intelligent to know what goes on here), praises intellect, and implies that the reason and free will of God exists in the human soul. All of this matches up very well with Aristotle…which is why St. Thomas Aquinas found it so easy to graft Aristotle onto Christianity in the 1300’s (you know right before the time that science and research were coming back into style in Europe). The Mu’tazilites had to do everything but outright deny the Koran to prop up the common sense reason of Aristotle. The Koran dismisses reason, allows for no room for free will or even the laws of physics as everything occurs by the will of Allah (you roll your pen off the table, it falls, according to Ash’arties it fell not because of gravity because there is no such thing…it fell because Allah willed it to fall, the god of Ash’arism is the micro-manager to an infinite degree…things seem to fall at a constant rate of 32 feet per second per second not because of laws of physics, but because God is a creature of habit)… please go read The Closing of the Muslim Mind if you think this is just my interpretation. Right, wrong, or indifferent, religious liberty aside, Islam is a religion that at its core is dead set against the mind/reason/logic. Other religions are more ambivalent, you can find evidence supporting faith and evidence supporting reason, but no sides come out a winner, but in Islam, and especially the Ash’arite interpretation which is still in fashion, reason always loses to faith…in fact there isn’t even a contest.

And it should be noted that while other religions don’t make it as hard to work with it is the Aristotelean spirit that drives culture and science to thrive. Now it may be as the author argues in The Cave and the Light that it is the battle between Aristotle and Plato that drives civilization and that even when you have too much Aristotle things get a little stagnant…be in The Closing of the Muslim Mind, Human Accomplishment, The Cave and the Light or the recently released The History of the Renaissance World: From the rediscovery of Aristotle to the conquest of Constantinople if you are going to judge what drives civilization to improve it is Aristotle. And the RealClear article which tries to free Islam of blame by ignoring what caused the growth of the Islamic world and how it was religion that got rid of the works of Aristotle, is intellectually baseless, trying only to relieve the only religion liberalism actually likes of it’s participation in hurting the advancement of civilization.

*There is one major figure in the field of medicine from the 1200’s but I think it’s safe to say his work in medicine was due to the Crusades more than hurt by them.

**It should also be noted that until the modern era the vast majority of literature that came from the Islamic world came from Sufi writers. The charges I make against Islam later in the article almost never apply the Sufism which philosophically does little more than pay lip service to the core tenets of Islam.

***The problem is this. In Islam there is no story that God made man in his own image, in fact the Koran states that nothing can be compared to Allah (112:1-4) and if we lack in the image (usually interpreted to be will and intellect) in common what good are those things in us, and unlike the Bible which in the old Testament praises Solomon for his intellect and the Gospel of John states “In the beginning was Reason, and Reason was with God and Reason was God.” (yes, that’s a more correct translation than what you’re used to reading)…there are no such lines praising reason and logic in the Koran, only faith. Blind, unthinking, unquestioning faith.

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Filed under Aristotle, Books, Books for Conservatives, Evils of Liberalism, Individualism, People Are Stupid, Religion

Atheists continue to be very stupid…

atheists are idiots

Recent run ins around the internet have once again confirmed for me that atheists are a very, very stupid bunch. I have my issues with Christians, but none of the problems I have with them even reaches the utter contempt I have for atheists. Never in history has there been a group so stupid and so arrogant at the same time. Since in the last couple of days I’ve taken a few shots at the wacky fringe of Christianity in one blog, and at both Christians and atheists in another, let’s balance the scales and focus merely on the abject stupidity of atheism.

Not only are they a group that hold as a fact something that cannot even logically be proven (which I believe is called faith), and defend this belief with a zeal seldom seen outside of a cult, they are very adamant that they’re not a religion, that somehow their belief system* is special and should not be treated like every other religion. Uh-huh. Just because you use the word science does not make you better than anyone else…primarily because you don’t know anything about science.

Science, and the reason that backs it is actually quite clear on some things and despite what atheists like to say it does not line up with their beliefs.

Primarily it does not line up with whether God exists or not.

Reason has a very simple answer: God exists.

How do we know? Well, track the logic and science back. Everything in the universe is moving. Newton’s laws of physics (a basic framework that has not been uprooted by relativity or quantum mechanics, or any other theory Atheists want to throw at you which even they don’t understand…I love when atheists say “Well clearly you don’t understand M-Brane theory,”—like you do either—atheists just use these things to sound intelligent without understanding a very simple point that none of them have even remotely disproved the existence of God), namely that “Every object in a state of uniform motion tends to remain in that state of motion unless an external force is applied to it.” Or in laymen’s terms: objects in at rest tend to stay at rest, and objects in motion tend to stay in motion unless they are acted upon by an outside force. Since everything in the universe is moving then the only two possibilities are that (1) that everything has always existed, nothing was ever created, and it’s simply always been in motion. (2) everything was at one point created and then put into motion.

Let’s deal with each one.

The first that everything has always existed in some form and has always been in motion and if you looked back into infinity you find that there was no beginning only an infinite stretch of moving matter and energy. This was a very popular belief with ancient cultures, notably the Greeks, even if you went back to before the Earth existed there was chaos, a churning mass of matter and energy from which was formed everything. The problem with this is not only the logical issue with an infinite series of regressions, since logic and common sense dictate that there must be some beginning to things, is another law of science: the second law of thermodynamics. In any closed system, like the universe, the amount of entropy (roughly speaking the amount of disorder) never decreases and will always eventually reach equilibrium. Again, in laymen’s terms, so long as there aren’t outside forces acting upon any area it will eventually settle down and become calm and lifeless. If you turn off the jets (an outside force) in the Jacuzzi (a closed system) the water will eventually become entirely calm. If you close a room eventually the air inside will stop moving and everything will settle to the floor. And if you leave the soup of the universe working for an infinite amount of time eventually every star will burn itself out, every black hole will disintegrate, every galaxy will dissipate and there will only be a fairly even spaced gas and dust all moving just above absolute zero.

So the 2nd Law of Thermodynamic says the universe can’t have just always existed.

So that’s one theory without God down.

(2)Luckily we have science and background radiation and red shift. And because of these things we know that there was a beginning to the universe so it’s not just logical deduction that tells that the universe had to have a beginning. In a fiery ball of everything, the universe suddenly exploded, created all the little bits of quantum strings which formed into atomic particles which formed into elements, and from there stars and planets and everything else. Since the Big Bang we have seen nothing but a logical and expected following of Newtonian laws of motion (that everything is moving because of the explosion of the Big Bang and interaction with everything created in the aftermath of the Big Bang) and that the universe has slowly been moving toward equilibrium.

Of course this presents it own possibilities. Either the (A) Big Bang just randomly happened when nothing exploded, (B) this version of the universe is just one of many in an infinite line of big bangs and crunches or (C) this universe exists within a larger structure.

Now when we look at option A, that in the beginning there was nothing and then it exploded, common sense may simply dismiss this as silly, but on a more scientific basis this violates a scientific law called the conservation of mass which states that mass (which includes energy and mass, remember they’re the same thing, E=MC2) can neither be created nor destroyed, only change form. It’s impossible to just create something from nothing. It’s especially impossible since all science states time was always created in the Big Bang…so it would not only be nothingness exploding and forming everything, but it would have started at a specific point in time where time does not exist. Yeah, this idea is preposterous.

So we move to option B. A long line of Big Bangs and crunches. A lot of people like this. The universe explodes expands for a while, contracts again until it is too compact and then explodes again.   Like dropping a rubber ball it goes down, then up, and keeping bouncing…only the fact is that, like the ball, the laws of entropy apply. The balls transfers energy to the ground each time it hits and eventually comes to rest. Even if there was a first explosion, universe as it’s contracting would explode before it got back to the infinitely small portion it did before explode with not quite the same force, heat would not dissipate as far when the contraction beginning again causing the next explosion to not be as big…a series of Big Bangs and crunches has to be subject to the 2nd law of thermodynamics which states that eventually this process too will die out and reach equilibrium where the forces causing explosion and contraction are balanced…and if the process is infinite then we would have already reached that equilibrium and we wouldn’t be here. This is just a version of A all over again and can’t be for the same reason. So again we are left with only one option.

Option C, there must be something bigger than the universe which the universe exists in. Now either that something is (I) a larger form of the universe equally governed by rules of physics and logic and equally limited…or (II) it is something infinite.

Now if it’s option (I) a larger but still limited universe then we run into all the problems that’s we’ve been dealing with already…and keeping running through them infinitely. We keep needing a larger and larger universe. And this infinite loop is just as stupid for the same reasons we needed something larger.

Thus, whatever this larger system is it must be something that is outside of time, because time is only created with the Big Bang, but also to allow for the creation of things within time…which seem contradictory at first glance, but is certainly more logical than having to break the laws of conservation, movement, and thermodynamics. It must be able to cause movement (as it caused in this universe) without needing to be moved itself (else we find ourselves back in the infinite loop and the problems that entails). Thus it must be an uncaused cause and unmoved mover.

This we call God.

Now does this prove it’s the God of Christianity, or Zeus or Thor? Nope. It doesn’t. But it proves that there has to be an infinite cause that in not subject to cause or movement.

Now Atheists like to make to make two complaints here. The first is that since I haven’t proved even that this vision of God is even intelligent, let alone the vision of a particular religion, that I haven’t proved anything. I have. I have proved that there has to be a cause that must by definition be infinite, unmoved, and uncaused. Atheists like to say that there is just science, but saying that there is just big bangs and crunches (or worse creation ex nihilo) is actually rejecting science…but to prove the unmoved mover is a major step. It is the admission of something infinite, which they really hate because with the admission of the infinite everything they try to deny becomes possible, probable and likely even.

The second complaint is that again I’m going to use science and it really pisses them off.   In science when you have discovered something but you don’t know what it is you study it, you look for its effects, and by its effect you judge its nature. So we would then look at the effects of this unmoved mover, this uncaused cause. And what you see is a universe where the 4 forces (gravity, electromagnetism, weak and strong nuclear forces) are all perfectly balanced so as to create matter and planets and life.   Quantum Mechanics tells us that these 4 forces could have been in a different balance had the big bang gone differently…but they are perfectly balanced. And that tells you this whatever this cause is intelligent to come up with a system that perfect. To say the odds, unless you consider the preposterous idea of an infinite number of universes**, are zero is an understatement. That then despite perfect balance more matter than anti-matter was created in the big bang and a trillion other coincidences since makes the idea that there is not an intelligent organizing power is just the height of stupidity.

Now atheists like to say that this looking at the effects and the order, the argument by design, is really just a complicated version of the argument by cause (the one I’ve been making up until this point about order). And if you used design to prove God, they would be right. But since the infinite, uncaused, unmoved, creator has already been established this is not a dressed up argument by cause but rather defining God.

They equally like to dismiss the body of evidence about the soul, life after death and reincarnation as invalid because you haven’t proven God. And then they dismiss God because if he were real we would see evidence, like proof of the soul. Oh wait, notice their nice little circular argument there. We have established the unmoved mover, the uncaused cause…at that point all the other evidence tells us that this creator is intelligent, is loving, is present in our lives.

And as the denials and circular arguments and idiocy mounts, they have to become more and more arrogant in their denial because without shouting LALALALALALALA as loud as they can they might have to reevaluate their underlying fallacies…which brings up to the nicely to why I felt the need to tear down their stupidity in the first place.

*Actually it is special. It’s stupid. It’s dumber than the religion of peace and actually has been the cause of more deaths than any other religion in history. So yes, atheists, you are special…in a truly horrific kind of way.

**If you don’t see how just saying there are infinitive number of universes which means it must be operating by the same rules of being subject some kind of mechanistic laws which just creates the same problems I have dismissed several times already, really there is no hope for you.

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God’s Not Dead: Deeply flawed, but decent

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So I didn’t think I was originally going to go to this one before it hit the dollar theater but on some word of mouth recommendations (and the fact it is getting as much buzz as it is) this little pagan thought he would see if this was more than the typically bad Christian film.* It wasn’t, I would go as far as to say this is the best I’ve seen from this genre. It certainly was the best performance I’ve seen from Kevin Sorbo. But that is not to say that it is not without its flaws.

 

The central plot revolves around a Christian student (Shane Harper) Josh Wheaton** who is forced to either say in class that there is no God or risk his grade for the class. And as there is no tradition of taqiyya in Christianity he feels he cannot lie about his faith. This, in what I have to say is the worst teaching method I have ever seen, leads the rather pompous professor (Kevin Sorbo) to try and humiliate him by making him defend the idea that God exists before the class. What follows is his defense of God and how it affects him and those in his class…and a lot of people not in his class, and some people only connected by the most tangential lines…honestly I think they tried to squeeze way to many subplots into this movie.

 

Now his argument in favor of God takes three main points:

  • The traditional argument by cause…although Aquinas made the philosophical much better, and I’ve seen many others make the scientific argument much more clearly.
  • The argument from design looking at life, specifically he looks at the rather shaky grounding for modern evolution being set on punctuated equilibrium…rather than the stronger attacks on the fact that life could not just spontaneous come into existence, nor could sentience. But I was quite happy that the writers took the much more intelligent tack that even if evolution is true it still demands a God to work the way it has rather than the ignorant creationist or simplistic intelligent design arguments.
  • And finally rebutting the problem of evil and taking the Augustinian side that evil exists because of free will.

Regrettably the film didn’t actually use any of the names or terms I used above which would make it difficult for most people seeing this film to actually go and read the more fleshed out versions. So if the film wanted to convince people it may have whet their appetite for these ideas but it didn’t give them anything to work with from there. But overall the case presented by the student is one that is accurate if a bit over simplified.

 

Further I liked the point that behind every atheist is a very angry theist who is angry at God for some reason, which is more or less what I’ve witnessed in life…and what has at least been partially substantiated by research (it’s been shown they all fear him…and with following Yoda’s line of logic…) Although given the rather callous and shallow letter the professor’s character’s mother wrote to him before dying, I can kind of understand why he might have issues with God.

 

My biggest problem is this jump in logic the movie seems to make over and over again. If I show the arguments against God are wrong and show evidence that there is a God then it follows that a Protestant Christian interpretation of God exists.  Over and over again this movie implicitly makes this assumption.   Now to a New Ager like me this is where I have problems. If you destroy the opposition’s case and show that a God exists…that shows that a God exists. You still have a long way to go to prove that your particular interpretation of God exists. And this is the biggest problem I have both with atheists and Christians in this fight; they both seem to assume it’s either their side or the other side. It’s this one or the other. Atheists seem to feel that all Christians believe the exact same thing and can be lumped together and most Christians (or at least a very large portion of the more vocal ones) seem to feel that their interpretation of Christianity is obviously only the right one. As a non-Christian I look at this battle between these two groups with probably the same confusion that America looked at the side war between Finland and the USSR in the early 40’s: Guys you do know there is much bigger battle going on that doesn’t just involve your own petty differences? Right? Honestly as someone with many Thomist sympathies, I don’t think even Catholics would be particularly thrilled with the defense of Christianity in this film (but I could be wrong).

 

But I think this shows a larger problem that is not just specific to Christianity (nor do I think all Christians suffer from it). This film, which ostensibly should have been there to try and offer arguments for atheists and agnostics to give up their beliefs and accept God, does a poor job of it because it implies that if you believe in God you must be a Protestant. You would do a much better job by just proving that a God exists. Once that door has been opened philosophically then if you truly believe in your interpretation you should trust free will and faith (which was a central part of the argument in the movie) to bring people to the truth. By saying that if you have to accept everything or nothing you’re committing just as egregious a logical sin as atheists, and tactically making a very poor move. And I say this is a larger problem because you’re seeing the same problem in a larger political sense, where populists are currently demanding that all who are in the Republican party must be ideologically pure or we can not have them at all…and it is this attitude that drives voters away and keeps the party from winning time and time again…and if Christians* like the producers want to make a case for God they might do best to just try and prove the existence of a God by itself before they make the case for their interpretation of a God as making someone accept both at the same time might in many cases be a bridge too far.
One of the most jarring things of the whole film is that near the end one of the atheist characters in the film is confronted with death and makes a death bed conversion. Luckily there is a minister there to help guide this character back to the faith in their last minutes…and it’s not too subtle that God had a major hand in making sure the minister was there at that place in that time to help save that soul. Even as a pagan I didn’t have a problem with this because I do believe this is how God works…what I had a problem with was that between the writing and directing the scene comes off in a very cold and callous way. Immediately he begins preparing this character for death even though the correct thing for someone to do would have been CPR to save the character’s life. It comes off a little heartless. The fact the very next scene has the cast of Duck Dynasty insulting this character after they’ve already died is possibly one of the worst directing calls I have ever seen (honestly if you just flipped the order of the scenes it wouldn’t have been as bad) but apparently the director felt like insulting the dead.

 

 

On a final note I did appreciate the film showing that China is a repressive tyranny and the religion of peace is anything but.

 

If you’re a Protestant you’ll probably be able to overlook some of the glaring philosophical problems and downplay the bad writing and actually enjoy the film (again I’m not entirely sure how much the Protestant interpretation will grate for non Protestant Christians)…if you’re not a Christian that philosophical jump between God’s existence and Jesus died for you might be a bit much to overlook and ruin the enjoyment.

 

I give the whole thing a C-.

 

*That is not an insult to Christianity…that is an insult to the absolutely pathetic writing and production values faith based movies have had for the past couple of decades. Let’s be honest, Lifetime laughs at the production values of faith based films.

**I still am not sure if the fact that his name bears a great deal of resemblance to a very famous atheist is intentional or not.

***Again certainly not the entirety, but an awfully large number with access to mass media.

 

 

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Filed under Movies, Religion, Solar Plexus Chakra Willpower, Spirituality

Common Core, why I support it and you should too

 

Common Core State Standards.jpg

So it was pointed out to me that while I have repeatedly ripped apart the Anti-Common Core people showing their positions to be contradictory, baseless or just the worst in typical liberal/populist propaganda, I have never pointed out why I like the Common Core Standards. So here goes.

 

First let’s define what we mean. Common Core Standards (linked here) are a collection of standards drawn up by the National Governor’s Association (NGA). They cover reading, writing, and mathematics. They do not define what will be taught, what goes into textbooks, or do they create worksheets. It does not have anything to do with allocation of resources in the school or how teachers teach. There are some recommendations about how to make math a more pragmatic, real life application approach to math, but most of the complaints in the media have nothing to do with the Common Core math standards. These are based on the current administration and their education department interference – Race to the top.   These two different concepts should not be combined.

 

Before we get back to why I love the standards I can already tell I’ll have some objections to the above paragraph. But I heard Common Core was a federal take over…no you’re thinking of the White House’s Race to the Top program which like the list of the previous 60 years of federal education programs boils down to we’ll require schools to do random things (some stupid, some okay) and throw money at them. Race to the Top does require states to adopt Common Core, but no state is required to follow Race to the Top, just as no state has to adopt Common Core, and many states were getting ready to adopt Common Core before Obama even got into the White House. But I heard Common Core requires this or that stupid text book. No, those textbooks and those text book companies were always stupid. In fact studies have been done that the new text books that say “Common Core Compliant” are actually the pre-Common Core versions (word for word) with a new sticker slapped on. But on the news I saw this terrible worksheet a student had to do and they said it was Common Core. You must not watch the news much as those stupid worksheets have been around for decades before anyone thought of Common Core. But the teachers and school administrators are saying everything they’re doing is because of Common Core. Here’s a hint, most teachers and school administrators are either liars or incompetent (in many cases both)…there’s a reason we had to come up with bare minimum standards for them to follow, namely, they were too dumb to be trusted on their own. Repeat after me Common Core is properly only used to refer to the Common Core State Standards. It is not Race to the Top, it is not textbooks, it is not the behavior of teachers. It is only standards. They may call all these other things Common Core…but if you call a fish a bird it doesn’t mean that it’s a bird. The only thing that is actually Common Core is the Common Core State Standards. Everything else is not Common Core and you should berate anyone who says otherwise for their ignorance.

 

Okay back to the standards themselves.

 

Common Core is a set of standards created out of an initiative from the governor’s council.  It has two main parts Math Standards and English Language Standards (Reading and Writing).  Things like as a Student will be able to do X at Y grade level.

An example standard reads (this is for reading at the 11th and 12th grade level):

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.7 Analyze multiple interpretations of a story, drama, or poem (e.g., recorded or live production of a play or recorded novel or poetry); evaluating how each version interprets the source text. (Include at least one play by Shakespeare and one play by an American dramatist.)

That’s all it is as can be seen here http://www.corestandards.org . (Again please go read them).

 

It was meant to replace each state’s individual standards so there is more consistency and a higher standard throughout the US.  It also allows for states to use only one standardized test (which saves costs for the states as development costs are now shared for one test) and also allows for us to actually see which states are meeting requirements.  In most cases (but not all) the standards are higher than what the state had before.  Are the math standards high enough? No. But they’re higher than they were before in most cases and states, schools, teachers, and students can always go beyond the bare minimum of the standard.

 

Beyond suggestions of the kind of reading (as in primary sources, or analysis papers) and questioning to be done at each grade level there are no History, Government, Science or other kinds of standards.

 

There is almost no content requirements to be narrow on.  The only Common Core standards even remotely related to Social Studies and Science are the language ones that more or less boil down to “Read Primary Sources”.  It requires only a few works that HAVE to be read by students: They have to read something by Shakespeare, the Declaration, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, Gettysburg and I Have a Dream. That’s it. Other than that it’s pretty much open game for teacher selection so a bad teacher could still choose bad works to try and indoctrinate, but as the standards focus more on the higher level skills (Analysis, Evaluation, Synthesis) if they’re actually teaching the standard then they should be teaching students how to question and analyze (after that it’s up to free will of the student).

 

Why do I think this is all a good idea?

Well first of all teachers are like most people. Most of them will do the minimum required of them. As the standards before Common Core were much lower in almost all the states…this at least means that the minimum they have to do will be higher. Some might complain that this will amount to teachers only teaching to the test…but that is a problem with the teacher not the standards or test. A bad teacher will always teach to the test because that is the minimum they can get away with…and if you don’t have a test it’s not like they’ll suddenly go in great teacher mode, no, they’ll show videos and talk about their feelings all day. Great teachers will have no problem with these standards as their teaching is probably already well above the minimum. (Oh, and to the recent string of whiny teachers who thought that anyone should give a shit about their screeds about how education was becoming nothing but testing…you have no one to blame but yourselves. Even if you were among the competent teachers, which I seriously doubt, you were among the teachers who were voting for unions and supporting them when they protected your inept colleagues. Teachers are to blame for not beginning to police their own long before this.) Standards/testing have always been around to determine if everyone is getting an average amount of data from the course – whatever that is – so this statement of teaching to the test is silly.

 

I like this because it is better economics. Not only in the fact that we’ll save overhead costs in not having to have 50 different state tests…but because this will lower a bar for people who have children. If standards are equal everywhere then you never have to worry about “but if we move to this state will Sally fall behind” greater mobility in geography will translate to greater economic prosperity everywhere.

 

When and if the standards are implemented even half-way competently you’ll have a justification to fire bad teachers who can’t even teach to the test to the minimum standards. Further this will be a fair basis by which we can judge which students need to be held back.

 

Further despite bizarre claims to the contrary, these standards are a great thing for school choice movement. These people are apparently not actually paying attention to one of the biggest problems with the school choice movement: bad schools. The central claim of the school choice movement is that bad schools will go out of business …but regrettably that implies that every parent wants their child to learn. Regrettably I can tell you that some parents just want their kid to get a diploma, or worse they’re just looking for a baby sitter…whether they learn anything isn’t even a concern. And thus schools with really low standards that won’t bother them with homework or parent-teacher calls or requests to meet to discuss Johnny’s progress are very popular with this group. And these excuses for schools give liberals ammunition against the entire school choice movement. And independent testing can help separate them…but testing alone won’t do it because you also need high standards. Why? Well there are some alternative schools that are set up to cater to students who have trouble—they look for the students who have flunked out of three or four schools already…as might be expected the pass rates on tests of these schools are rather low…but they did take a group that everyone else got 0% and in turn got 30% to pass…to only look at the pass rate is say that these schools took toxic waste, turned it into water and you want to complain they didn’t turn it into wine. High standards (and the school creating curriculum to match those standards) help differentiate these schools which are seeking to help the high risk student from the paper mills which just seek to give every student a diploma and collect their funding no matter what they learned. These standards will get the terrible schools out of the market and will strengthen the school choice movement as a whole.

 

And on a personal level I certainly won’t mind if elementary and middle School teachers are finally required to teach basic grammar so that I, in Senior English can actually focus on poetry and philosophy…and not, you know, my usual fair of “How to use a comma.”

 

Now the problem is that each state is implementing Common Core in a different way.  Some are adjusting their history and science standards, and some (usually the liberal ones) are adding PC blame America BS into the standards.  Also several companies that make teaching material, handouts, textbooks and such are also making liberal tripe and giving their product names like “Common Core History.” The implementation and the products which bear the name Common Core are in a lot of cases really dumb and should be opposed–Not because it is being called Common Core but it is bad regardless of what you call it.

 

I would compare this to trying to teach Shakespeare.  In the hands of bad teacher the high moral, hilarious comedy, and near libertarian critique of corrupt government could become a diatribe of trite feminism, bad psychoanalysis, and cheap Marxism…but it is the teacher not the Shakespeare that is to blame.  In the same way Common Core is perfectly fine…it’s the idiots trying to put it into practice that are the problem.

 

Let’s deal with a few pointed criticisms about the Standards themselves. Some critics claim that the standards aren’t high enough to get students into high end colleges…well no kidding, they’re minimum standards, they’re what every student should learn and every student isn’t going to MIT. Others, usually the same organizations that claim they’re not high enough…please make up your mind…but even if they’re still not high enough (and that is the case in some places) they are almost always well above the previous state standards and I know of no state that adopted Common Core that found their standards dropping.   Besides which you need to start at a basic minimum and then each year you can start raising the bar. This could go a long way to stopping the graduation of students who can not read, write or comprehend English or Math.

 

Some complain that the problem with the standards is that they were written in an undemocratic way without public feedback and comment at every level…yes because all the regulations we have from the government with that level of feedback are just so wonderful…and all documents that were composed without public comment (like the Declaration and Constitution, which the CCSS require students to read) are just so terrible and like Common Core should be abolished because of their anti-democratic methods of being created. Also private companies were hired to help write the standards…and as we are a good capitalist nation we hate private companies…wait, no.   The problem with this set of complaints is that it never actually asks if the standards are any good. They are. It doesn’t matter who wrote them or the process of them being written, unless you can point to me where the standards themselves are lacking this is just a demagogue tactic to whip up baseless hatred of the standards.

 

The Common Core reading list has books on it that are terrible! Yes the suggested reading list has some books on it that I would never teach. But here’s the thing, I don’t have to teach them. It’s an extensive list of suggested works that you don’t even have to follow. All it says is that the books are of the level we’re looking for at certain grade levels, when planning for your English course, try to have the books you pick to be on par with the ones listed here. Yeah the list does include some real tripe, but I hazard to think what any educational institution would have cut if they tried to make the list more restrictive…better to have the list be broad and then have parents judge the teacher’s by the books they pick (and if you don’t like the books get your kid a new teacher or new school) or a new book.   If you cut the list down to just Shakespeare and the other classics it might give truly inept teachers the appearance of knowing what they’re doing. Better to not restrict the freedom of teachers, and even suggest a few pieces of dung, and then you can easily spot the bad teachers by the ones who pick those worthless books.

common core

Yes just look at how terrible some of those suggestions are…clearly signs of how evil the Common Cores Standards are.

 

So to sum up. Just about everything you hear complaints about isn’t the actual Common Core standards. The Common Core standards themselves are fine and will, if implemented lead to some but not all of the reforms we need to make in education (while making some of those other reforms easier to implement).

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Captain America: The Fringe Libertarian Solider

captain america

That is the depressed look of someone who actually read the script.

 

So I waited a couple of days to see if my distaste for Captain America: The Winter Soldier would pass…it didn’t. In fact the more and more I think about it the angrier I get.

 

So the good news first. It’s better than the first Captain America. But that’s not a high bar to meet as the first one was so bad that watching just about anything else would have been better.

 

But even objectively if you’re looking for mindless entertainment it’s fun. Like Iron Man 3 and Thor 2 this movie did a good job of giving you an entertaining wild ride in a post Avengers world. The problem is that this movie seems to have addressed my complaint that while The Avengers seemed to start delivering into deeper territory, the Iron Man and Thor sequels went back to mindless entertainment (even more so than their predecessors). The problem is that while this film attempted to actually be deeper and actually have a message, it was the wrong message.

 

Okay past this point there are spoilers…if you’re just looking for fun and never look at any deeper level, go see the movie, but after this sentence I reveal all the secrets.

 

First off, for a movie called The Winter Soldier, the Winter Soldier is in remarkably few scenes. Further he’s little more than the hired muscle. It would be like renaming Goldfinger, James Bond: Odd Job…or advertising a whole movie on a villain who really isn’t even there (oh wait, they already did that with the Mandarin in Iron Man 3…I’m beginning to worry that at this rate Ultron may never actually be appearing in Avengers 2: The Age of Ultron). Who names a movie after the hired muscle who barely appears? And while there is supposedly the beginning of a major personal issue for Captain America…this whole mess depends on me caring about the relationship between Steve and Buckey in the first film…which I didn’t. And that one lame scene that was put in to tell me that Steve and Buckey were close didn’t do much either.

 

And this is now the third different character I’ve seen Scarlet Johnasson play in a Marvel film. I know they’re all supposed to be the same character but the personality between Iron Man 2, Avengers and Captain America: The Winter Soldier are so wildly different I’m having a hard time really buying it. It’s like they think it doesn’t matter that we haven’t put any real character development into her, she’s pretty, so comic book nerds won’t care…oh, wait, they might be onto something there. Also am I the only one just not impressed by Scarlet Johansson…she’s not a bad actress…but she’s no where near as good as all the roles she gets.

 

 

But most of all this is Captain America where Captain America is played not by a patriot…or even the Human Torch…but by Edward Snowden. No really. So apparently S.H.I.E.L.D. has been taken over by Hydra (you remember the uberNazi’s from the first movie). Now I might be willing to forgive a lot about what this plot point implies about our actual intelligence and military services namely because this is a plot point they took from the comics…but they don’t let it just rest there. No. No. They go for completely making a political statement by saying that the only way to take down Hydra is to, like Julian Assange and Edward Snowden, steal all the S.H.I.E.L.D./Hydra files and put them on the internet. Ignoring how this actually hasn’t done much of anything to actually hurt any government agency, this makes a pretty bold statement that fascist supporting traitors deserving of a quick trial and quicker execution like Snowden are the real heroes. No. No. I will not put up with this bullshit. There was no need for the plot to go the Wikileaks/Snowden route so the only excuse for this plot point is they wanted to make Snowden a hero  Further the implication of this film that organizations like the NSA or any branch of the US military/intelligence community are deserving of comparisons to people too extreme for Nazi’s is just insulting. To the writers and directors of this film, a heartfelt !@#$ you. Yes, let’s attack the one branch of the federal government that doesn’t seem to be cooperating with Obama’s numerous attempts to harass his political allies. Now if you wanted to have a movie where the IRS led by a Lois Learner type character was infiltrated by the Nazi’s, I’d have no problem with that since the morals and sadistic tendencies of your average of IRS agent are already on par. Yes, in real life there needs to be more oversight and more controls…but you can’t point to a single piece of information where the information these groups have been collecting has actually been used against the innocent (beyond idiots using the data for personal reasons)…that’s quite a compliment to the self-control given the power these groups have with this information. But no, let’s compare the most controlled people in the government to Nazi’s. Thanks Marvel.

Yeah some idiots like to portray this only as an issue dealing with our rights to privacy, but while those concerns do need to be addressed, only a fool would suggest completely destroying the very needed intelligence gathering system we do need would end up well in the long run.

And then the directors said they wanted to say the whole movie was a commentary on drones. Oh shut up. Three flying death machines with bullet ranges well beyond the limits of the dumbest science-fiction is not comparable to drones. The problem with drones is not that they exist or that they kill the innocent…the problem with drones is that they’re being used by a inept arrogant son of bitch who uses what was designed as a precision instrument and waves it around like a Neanderthal with a club. Drones could be used efficiently with almost no collateral damage against targets that could not be reached any other way…but they’re not being used that way because of the jackass who is ordering the attacks. And the libertarians who loathe drones so much should remember that drones are tools. Drones don’t kill people, the politicians who use them do. And any libertarian should clearly remember that if they continue their hatred of drones they will have to hate all tools that could kill people if they wish to maintain any claim to intellectual consistency. But asking any liberal or libertarian to understand the difference between the tool and the person using the tool seems to be too much these days.

captain black widow

Black Widow: How can we make this movie worse? Captain America: We have Albert Brooks back…

 

Also I’m really happy that Captain America’s response to finding out the greatest threat to liberty is back, is to decide ‘I’m going to destroy the only agency that might have a chance at stopping them.’ Good call, Cap.

Some other observations. In Iron Man 2 Tony was quite clear that he privatized world peace and the world was much more stable now with Iron Man on the case (and certainly far more safe when in Iron Man 3 the biggest worry was what translated to minor bombing…no really think about it, it is what possibly made Mandarin even on par with even the current actions of the Taliban).   Yet somehow with all this, Hydra claims to have consistently made the world less stable and more chaotic. Which is it?

Or maybe when Hydra makes it clear they were responsible for the death of Howard Stark…and you only have two superheroes to take out three flying supercarriers…no one thought to give Tony a call…maybe for some closure…I mean just pragmatics here…this is not the kind of situation you want to leave to chance…of course when you have control of the first two ships you could have just blown the third out of the sky…but that would have meant we didn’t need to waste the last 20 minutes in a pointless battle between Captain America and the seldom seen Winter Soldier.

 

And a really minor point…there seemed to be a lot of knocking Nazis unconscious. But a lot of hesitation about shooting them. Umm….these are Nazis.   I feel more for all the dead Chitari than I do for Nazi…why did everyone in S.H.I.E.L.D. (beside Maria Hill) seem to have such issues with giving them a one way ticket to Hell….I just didn’t get that point.

 

But more than anything it’s the suggestion that the men and women in our intelligence agencies are Nazi while traitors like Snowden are heroes. This is a revolting idea and ensures that I will never watch this film or anything from these writers or directors again.

 

If you like mindless entertainment, you’ll enjoy the film (in this sense I’ll give the film a B-).   If you look for something deeper and have a sense of morals you’ll be disgusted (in this sense I’ll give it an F.)

 

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The Rise of Modern Populism

When the Tea Party came onto the scene a few years ago I liked their stated principles…but I had worries, worries that they weren’t the deeply principled conservatives they claimed to be. I worried that as they grew they would sacrifice the principles of conservatism– which when held to will always be good for society as a whole and for the future, but sometimes be hard on the individual in the present—would be sacrificed for the ease of populism.

Time has proven that my worries were correct. I hate it when I’m right about things like this.

So what do I mean by Populism? By Populism I mean a system of political belief that endorses anything that seems to offer a short term benefit to the masses which it attempts to play to. This depends on a lot of us vs. them mentality because it has to attack people who appear to be against the Populist agenda. But unlike liberalism which also has to rely on this us vs. them mentality, at least when compared to Populism, liberalism has at least some ideological consistency. Populism will take any short term solution available so long as it provides immediate benefits to the constituents of the Populist group, damn whatever the long term consequences of that position may be. Populism is the party of “stay out of my life” and “don’t take my money in taxes”…”but feel free to do so to anyone else, in fact feel free to impose my beliefs on everyone else”. It’s cronyism for the people who can’t afford lobbyists…and it is just as vile and destructive as corporate cronyism.

“But the Tea Party isn’t a Populist Party! It’s conservative!” The Tea Partier claims. But in reality it’s not a conservative group…it may have been when it started as anti-Obamacare, anti-tax, anti-regulation, anti-big government group…but as it’s grown it has become something else entirely.

Don’t believe me?

Okay let’s look at the facts.

Now first off I will state up front that part of the problem is that there is no core to Tea Party. It’s a diffuse group of vaguely joined individuals. It has no single head, no single organization, no single direction (this is part of the problem and I’ll get to that later). This is part of what makes it Populist, by remaining as 3000 groups under a general banner, each subsection can play to it’s own little group and doesn’t have to worry about any consistency in philosophy.
Then there is now a pervasive anti-corporation tone in everything the Tea Party says and does. “Common Core was funded by big business” “Congress needs to choose between Big Business and the people” “Big Business only stands for corporatism!” Implicit in all of this is the central core of populism that the government must side either with the people or the corporation. That it must choose those with money or without. That it is the haves or have-nots. Workers of the World, cast off you chains you have…wait a second.   Did that just really, and I mean really quickly, and rather easily devolve into Marxism? You know why I was able to do that in only a couple sentences? Because it’s the same mentality at the root of both populism and every form of liberalism. That government should be for me* and when it is for me it has to be against someone else. Meanwhile if you’re a conservative you realize that there is little difference between a person or a corporation…in both subsets you will find good and bad, ethical and unethical, harmful and helpful…but most of all you will find among both groups a short term thinking that looks only to their own needs disregarding the needs of anyone else. A person will take every government handout they can and end up with a take home pay almost 20 grand more than I make working 50 hours a week—but this is no different than a corporation looking to put up tariffs or rules to help itself from having to deal with competition. Both are full of people and organizations that only look out for their own interest.   And there is no picking between the two, and there is no changing the underlying human nature that causes both excesses. But there is limiting government so that it cannot pick winners or losers. There is limiting the powers of government so that while a needed safety net for individuals (and yes it is needed, even the gods of Capitalism, Friedman and Hayek, would point out that a safety net is needed) and forgiving bankruptcy laws to help corporations be productive feature of capitalism’s creative destruction rather than just an unending source of misery to all associated. Conservatives say that the choice is not pick between the two but to limit government’s ability to pick between the

populism

This picture is a perfect example of populism…You don’t have a right to be heard, you have a right to speak but no one has to listen to you…but the populist view because you speak people should be forced to listen to you.

two. Go listen to any Tea Party spokesperson…do they sound like they’re on the not picking side…or do they make it a choice between the corporations and the people.

You see populism with the Tea Party in it completely forsaking capitalism in favor protectionism. With the recent TPP (Trans Pacific Partnership) agreement you see a very strong Tea Party/Populist move against the trade deal because it doesn’t offer protections for American products. Now any capitalist be they from the Chicago or Austria school will tell you the important thing is that you lower taxes if you have two countries with tariffs on each others products and only one country drops it tariffs and the other doesn’t it doesn’t matter because there will be more trade and everyone will prosper because of that in the long run. It would be better for both nations to drop their tariffs, but to say I’m not going to end mine unless you end yours is not only economically suicidal but pathetically immature. But the Populists are throwing a conniption fit over the fact that in this trade agreement Japan is keeping tariffs to protect their farmers (all this shows is that Japan is still idiotic when it comes to understanding macroeconomics). Who cares. Now I have not been over every line of this trade agreement and there may be many reasons to hate it that I am not aware of, but if the only argument against nations all over the Pacific lowering tariffs and trade barriers is because the politicians of one nation are being particularly daft in playing the Populists for their constituents doesn’t mean we should shoot ourselves in the foot over this. But just watch the Populists drive this one home just like they did with NAFTA.

And I would love for you to show me one Tea Party person in the Midwest who hates ethanol/agriculture subsides. Yes those Tea Party folks hate big government…unless it benefits them and their constituents.

And how can we forget that wonderfully Populist idea of us vs. them when it comes to the idea of the people vs. “the establishment.” “The establishment” a group more shady and secretive than the Illuminati, and possibly with goals more nefarious. Now I can never get a full list of “the establishment”… now it certainly involves Boehner (despite the fact that he keeps getting his hands tied by the Tea Party) and McConnell (despite the fact as Ann Coulter points out you’d have to be absolutely clueless to not think Mitch McConnell is a conservative)…and most likely Eric Cantor, although I can’t think of anything he’s done to undermine conservatism. It may or may not include Paul Ryan depending on whether or not it’s high tide or low tide. It certainly can’t include lifelong RINO John McCain because supreme divine goddess Sarah the infallible endorsed him over a Tea Party candidate in 2010, and Sarah wouldn’t endorse anyone from the establishment, so he and his al-Qaeda supporting ways can’t possibly be part of “The Establishment.” After that I’m a little fuzzy on the roster.** But “The Establishment” is the all powerful force that controls all the strings in the Republican party and they must be taken down…though it’s unclear exactly who must be taken down. But strangely it must be taken down with candidates who make the most insane statement you can find. And Democrats seem to like these challengers…but the fact that our enemies love these people apparently has no bearing on anything.

And finally, Populists like their liberal counterparts are very big on emotion and very poor on logic. Just look at how anyone in the Tea Party reacts to a suggestion that we should use some strategy in how we go about trying to win a campaign. No. No. None of that strategy bullshit. There is no such thing as the moderate or swing voter there is only rallying our base and getting them to vote…because I don’t care what numbers you throw at me, we lose only because our base doesn’t come out to vote. No. No. NONE OF YOUR NUMBERS AND FACTS THAT MIGHT SHOW THIS TO BE UTTER FANTASY. We should never appeal to the middle with the things we agree with the middle on (economics, liberty, small government, pro-entrepreneurial laws and regulations, less red tape, lower taxes, getting out of their lives and taking less of their money), NO! We must only talk about social issues and support candidates who hold to these issues 100% of the time without fail (and I can’t find justification for these social issues in the constitution). There must not be any compromise at any time for any reason (even if that reason were to actually further our cause). THERE MUST BE NO COMPROMISE! BECAUSE WE MUST ONLY ACT ON PRINCIPLE AND EMOTION. THERE MUST NOT BE ANY REASON OR STRATEGY, that way lies RINOS and “The Establishment.”

And this is just the tip of the iceberg.  If we wanted to get into every issue I could show the populist overtones in the Tea Party are more prevalent than the conservative ones.

And I blame the fact that the Tea Party has degenerated so far on a very few in the GOP, certainly Palin, DeMint, Levin, Malkin and Hannity have all done more than their share to fan the fires of idiocy, but more than anyone I blame Michael Steele (see I don’t rely on some mysterious “Establishment” I can tell you exactly who I blame). He got so annoyed at the idiots like DeMint and Palin who started the whole movement going off the rails by endorsing really preposterous candidates that he worked to cut them off from funding entirely in 2010 rather than begrudgingly bringing them into the fold and making the Tea Party just the grassroots part of the GOP, Steele and his subordinates tried to distance the GOP from the Tea Party. Way to go Michael…I see that got you a cushy job over at MSNBC, I see they reward hurting the GOP well over there. Had we cared more about strategy back then we would have embraced the Tea Party (even though they had some populist undertones even back then) which would have prevented this divide, prevented them from going full Populist, and would have actually worked to quash the Populist themes of the Tea Party.

But that is over. And it cannot be changed. The only thing I can say is that for real conservatives we can only make it our goal to appeal to both the Tea Party and the moderates, the conservative beliefs are what needed to prevail. We need to be even more aggressive in our ground game than the Tea Party during the primary season to prevent the craziest candidates form winning and we need to do our best to make sure that they don’t sulk and stay home come October and November. Remember that no matter who get the nominations for all the offices, “Establishment” or Tea Party either is probably BETTER than a Democrat.

*You know a lot of libertarians hate Lincoln for his Constitutional violations and war crimes, a lot of economists hate him for his complete lack of understanding of economics, a lot of principled people hate him for the fact that the had none…but if there is one thing that I loathe Lincoln for it is the phrase “For the people.” You can find “Of the people” and “by the people” in the Declaration and Constitution…you can’t find “For the people.” It is Lincoln who first brought the vile populist idea that government is there for you into general thought. And for that and that alone he should never be listed as one of the good presidents.

** I will just have to ask for a members list next time I’m at the monthly “Establishment Virgin Sacrifice to Ba’al”…listening to the Tea Party I assume we do that sort of thing here in “The Establishment.”

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April Fool’s Day Post: Secret Documents Reveal Democratic Plan to Undermine the Right From Within

Exclusive, The Conservative New Ager has, this April Fool’s Day, been shown recently uncovered documents that show conclusively that the Republican Party has been infiltrated by liberal moles hell-bent on destroying the Republican Party from within.

 

What’s this you say? Liberal infiltrators within the Republican Party? Yes!

 

And no I’m not just referring to the fact that liberals have been heavily funding “libertarian” candidates to divide votes against conservatives. No the plan appears, according to these documents, to go much further (beginning with the open push for open primaries – we now see the underlying liberal reasoning).

 

While the documents do not list exactly who is involved or where money is being funneled to, the plans and tactics for the double agents are laid out clearly. For instance, one document states:

 

Liberal infiltrators are to always bring up abortion.   Polls show that while Americans are not in favor of the Democratic position of abortion on demand at tax payer expense, the natural American tendency toward liberty finds it even more offensive to claim “”If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down”. Gallup studies have shown that despite claims otherwise, 71% of Republicans favor keeping abortion legal in one form or another…yet a vocal minority within the Republican party, which these documents show are on liberal payrolls, are hammering a point that in no way appeals even to the base of the Republican party and certainly not to the majority of voters. Further these documents suggest that DNC forces have also paid off the media to only cover these infiltrators which explain why the media gives these comments so much play and not real fiscal comments from the Republican Party. These liberal infiltrators have started even attacking what the vast majority of Republicans and independents believe is a valid purpose of abortion, aborting children with severe medical challenges to spare them the living hell of a

Dinner?

Hmmm….

life like that. Further these liberal infiltrators are being paid to make Republicans look mentally challenged by suggesting that abortion is the cause of our economic woes with truly brain dead statements like “The reason Social Security is in big trouble is we don’t have enough workers to support the retirees. Well, a third of all the young people in America are not in America today because of abortion, because one in three pregnancies ends in abortion.” Quotes this insane assumes that conservatives believe that children have one purpose – to support the elderly – which if that isn’t the ring of liberal propaganda then what is… there is nothing there about the conservative beliefs in individualism, personal responsibility and freedom of choice – whatever those repercussions are.

 

These documents were obtained in light of the fact that despite being a traitor worthy of hanging for his crimes, Edward Snowden did reveal what liberals consider data security. The field agents of the Conservative New Ager just strolled into the DNC headquarters and asked for access to the computer systems claiming to be tech people called in to repair an unspecified problem. The stoned hippie behind the desk was apparently more than helpful in providing our investigative team with all the documents they needed.

 

As such deep cover agents have been sent into the Republican Party to pose as conservatives, they work tirelessly to offend moderates and even Republicans as liberals are desperate to get votes for themselves or at least deprive Republicans of votes by having those voters veer towards the perpetual waste of a vote known as the Libertarian party.

 

In addition to the abortion issues, similar DNC drafted talking points for these infiltrators include making statements against gay marriage (when the majority of moderate and even conservative voters would rather you just get government out of religion and just have legal civil unions for everyone) or focusing on other issues that any idiot would know would not drive moderates away.

 

It is unclear exactly who in the Democrat Party came up with this plan and who is funding it (or even that anyone at the DNC could possibly have the foresight to think up something this clever)…or who in the Republican Party was too stupid to not notice what was going on. But as insiders begin to comb over the paperwork it becomes clear that this is the only thing keeping the Democratic Party alive as the Republicans would sway the vast majority of independents and libertarians if they were just running on conservative economic values.

 

Documents do not make it clear exactly who these people are but there are clues within the paperwork. For instance one such infiltrator is listed as a former Governor who during their term of office threatened violate contract law (something conservatives hold as sacrosanct) with contracts the state held with private corporations, raised taxes on those corporations, encouraged large federal spending projects to nowhere, advocated that the budget to the Department of Education be expanded, endorses the worst candidates (even liberal scum) whenever possible, and takes government subsidy money for their TV shows. One wonders how moderates could be so dumb to accept such a clearly vile liberal shill as a conservative, but you betcha they are just that dumb.

 

Other infiltrators are suggested to have endorsed arming al-Qaeda in Syria. One even appears to be a massive closet case who never met a government spending program or bribe he didn’t like.

 

To spot these liberal infiltrators according to these documents, the following positions should be noticed:

(1)  They make wild baseless claims about abortion rather than just pushing to end all government funding of it.

(2)  They believe that gay marriage is an abomination rather than the conservative belief that government should get out religion, and only do civil unions for any two consenting adults leaving marriage to religion and religion alone.

(3)  They attack other Republicans.

(4)  They treat conservatism as a belief that can only exist within Christianity despite the fact that the moral basis for conservatism can be found in just about every religion on Earth.

(5)  They attack corporations as something inherently evil or do not hold other basic conservative/capitalist views like the sacrosanct nature of contracts – personal property rights.

(6)  They speak in terms of populism accidentally dropping liberal talking points like “living wage” or feel that competition is a bad thing.

(7)  Having no understanding of the difference between the idiotic federal Race to the Top (Obama’s plan) and the intelligent state led Common Core standards and treating them as if they’re the same thing.

It is almost certain that anyone who traffics in statements like this is clearly on the DNC payroll and following their direction/talking points.

 

When informed of this GOP chair Reince Preibus stated that, “When you think about it this actually makes sense. I mean the only other option would be that the Republican Party was laced with absolutely suicidal morons who don’t understand the principles of real conservatism and have no desire to win….wait what, this is an April Fool’s Day post and none of this ever happened. We actually have a minority of the party that really are that dumb? Well shit. We’re doomed aren’t we?”

 

Well shit indeed. Guess we had better start teaching true conservatives ideals starting with fiscal responsibility.

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