Thursday, March 05, 2015


David Foster over at Chicago Boyz included this quote in an article about state intrusion into parenting.

“To minimize suffering and to maximize security were natural and proper ends of society and Caesar. But then they became the only ends, somehow, and the only basis of law—a perversion. Inevitably, then, in seeking only them, we found only their opposites: maximum suffering and minimum security.”  Walter M. Miller, Jr. A Canticle For Liebowitz.

Tuesday, March 03, 2015


In my recent post Which Do You Want? I linked to a Harvard law professor who asked her fellow feminists "Do you want to complain or do you want to govern?"At the time, I thought the question powerful precisely because it is so easy to answer.

Reading some Robert Kaplan today about nonstate militias and revolutionary forces, particularly in the greater Middle east, I was reminded that some groups do not want to govern.  Their best situation is to be in a weak state they can bully, without the burden of providing services or courts or markets. Some groups, such as Hezbollah in Lebanon, have actively rejected becoming the government. This allows them to remain more pure, more radical and extremist. There is also some parallel to my more recent post The Power To Destroy. I wrote it with an idea that any reasonable person would be ashamed to find themselves leaning more toward destruction than creation, and might take some care to avoid any hint of it going forward. 

I forgot that not everyone is reasonable. Having a revolution without wanting to take over the place just doesn't occur to me. Is that peculiarly western, or does it simply seem that way in this era?


An old post just picked up some comments, and I thought it would be fun for folks to see it again anyway.  I imagine someone was searching for information about Narragansett Beer. Videos and jokes included.

And I learned a bit about what happened after.

And whoa!  This is one of the commercials I referenced, redone for JAX beer.  I wonder which one had it first?

Saturday, February 28, 2015

The Power to Destroy

We were out for dinner, and got to see news on various TV channels all at once. Captioned.

The slant on the political news remains obvious, even after 20-30 years of being graded on it.  If anything, it is more obvious. That's a whole new generation of journalists, and with their turnover, more like 5-6 generations.  From this I conclude that they don't really care to self-monitor for evenhandedness. They don't even check. They have concluded that their POV is the one the public should see in order to really understand what is happening in politics.

Well, a lot of people in a lot of different times and places have thought exactly that as well. Not an attractive record, there.

I noticed something else as well. I saw nothing of building up ideas or people they would presumably like. No sound bites from inspiring advocates, no celebrations of small victories of causes. (Perhaps they just leave that to NPR.) Just a steady stream of dark shadows painted around the ideas and people they don't like.

I am sure their audience has no idea how this affects them, and remain convinced that they study the issues and think for themselves. By which they mean nothing more than "Well, I don't believe everything, and sometimes they go too far."

As examples: the national media, even collectively, has been unable to convince a majority of Americans that Obama has been correct in his ideas on medical insurance, on immigration, on foreign policy, on energy policy. But they have been able to convince a majority of them that those who have opposed him on any of these issues are bad and stupid. No power to build, only power to destroy.

Three-year-olds also have that power, kicking over the towers of their older siblings.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Long Tail of AVI Posts

When you've got almost 5,000 posts on a variety of topics, odd things happen in your archives.  I love checking my stats once a month, because there is always something unexpected there.

Someone must have recently linked to my 2007 post Sexism in Narnia, because it got 100 hits in the last two days.  The comments section would get you to my son Ben's Books For Boys, Books For Girls in response, and that in turn would lead you to my followup Female Characters In Heroic Fantasy.  I'm just making it easier by putting the links here.  I recommend comments be made here as well.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Love Of Country

I the late 70’s and early 80’s, in our earnest young evangelicals stage, Tracy and I learned a great deal about Christian-derived cults: Jehovah’s Witnesses, Worldwide Church of God (Armstrongism), Unity School, that sort of thing. One reference was Kingdom of the Cults, by Dr. Walter Martin. We may still have it on the bottom shelf.

Martin spent a lot of time with chapter-and-verse doctrinal questions, but he had a general insight that I have found useful on many fronts. Cults redefine terms, to make it sound like they are expressing traditional Christian ideas while introducing heterodox doctrines. There is a similar sentiment in CS Lewis, that we should beware speakers who use biblical references to mask modern ideas - William Jennings Bryan’s use of “Crucifying us on a Cross of Gold” when his goal was bimetallism, for example.  It is closely tied to use of cliches, which also rely on hitting emotional buttons while remaining uh, flexible, about content.

There has been a lot of fury unleashed at Rudy Giuliani for claiming that President Obama doesn’t love America. (Some of this has spilled over onto Scott Walker for not denouncing this as well.) Missing from the discussion is the reality that the two sides mean different things when they use phrases like “love America.” The fight is about whose definition shall prevail. This is similar to all the discussion around the book True Patriot, which I reviewed and discussed in 2009.   A Clinton speechwriter and an activist for educational, environmental, and income-equality causes got together to explain that real patriotism, as exemplified by true patriots, consists of wanting America to act in good ways, as they defined them. Patriotic displays were actually a negative indicator of real patriotism, as the people who go in for flag pins and yellow ribbons all think that is sufficient to be patriotic. (The authors would insist they said no such thing, yet they did, repeatedly.)

Barack Obama called George Bush unpatriotic, if you are looking for evidence of that point.  The statement is simply insane, or calculated evil, by the traditional meaning of the word.  One could logically claim that George Bush did many things which hurt the country or sent it in the wrong direction, or that his effects were worse than what a president who wasn’t patriotic might have done.  Such things occur throughout history in every country.  Sometimes it would have been better for their countries if some patriotic Greeks, or Japanese, or Americans had just stayed home and shut up.  Patriotism is not the highest of virtues, nor is its sibling, love-of-country. Yet it does have a meaning, and according to that meaning George Bush clearly fits the bill.

Identifying as a patriot has political value, so people want to have it both ways. That there may be some virtue they are not entitled to claim is too upsetting. I'm not sure what to make of the fact that no one seems to be making the positive case that Obama loves America.  I don't want to read into that that supporters don't have a positive case.  They may be making a calculated effort not to give credence to the idea by answering it. I can't help but notice it, though.

I would classify myself as moderately patriotic, but I hold a fair bit in reserve in favor of what I consider to be higher claims. Rudi Giuliani is more of a patriot than I am, Barack Obama less.  Rudi loves America warts and all, even while trying to change her.  Obama loves an America that might occur in the future, if it would only act in a certain way. This is usually referred to as living up to her own ideals. The former is patriotism.  The latter may be a superior, more moral sentiment, yet it is not love-of-country. The more strident type of liberal is usually quite clear about this, readily acknowledging that they don’t think patriotism is a good thing and love of country a dangerous precondition for refusing to acknowledge wrong. Michelle Obama gave voice to this when saying that she had not been proud of America until her husband was elected president. While actual patriots might find that infuriating, it’s not crazy in and of itself. We can all imagine a citizen of another country not being proud of it until it had finally stood up to an oppressor, or held free elections, or whatever.

President Obama’s comment early in his first term that he was proud of America in the same way that a Greek was proud of being a Greek illustrated dramatically that he simply does not know what meaning that has for other Americans.

Opinion-Making Among the Educated (Updated)

Went over to cover on another unit today, and in the context of discussing probable cause hearings and attorneys, another social worker remarked entirely irrelevantly  that it would be worse in Texas, because they are trying to get the AP History texts changed so that nothing critical is said about America, because they can’t bear to hear it. The psychiatrist added that it was the Bushes that were pushing this, and Neil Bush had benefited from textbook sales in Texas which was a conflict-of-interest. Later in the day the social worker announced, apropos of nothing, that the oil companies were destroying refineries to make the price of gas go back up.

A lot of correction might be offered to this, but I didn’t. This is how we perpetuate our beliefs and attitudes, even the best-educated of us, with fragments of articles, some read long ago, brought out as choruses to sing around the tribe’s campfire every night.

Update:  My supervisor came in and saw a picture of Bush 43 on a computer and said "Shoot him!" She is not a person who would shoot anyone, of course.  But I did immediately consider what would have occurred if anyone had seen a picture of Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton and said the same thing.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Stewart Vs Limbaugh

I had not thought of my "Not Funny" post as a Stewart vs Limbaugh discussion.  At least, if that was my motivation, it was dark to me at the time I wrote.  I was actually thinking of Eddie Izzard, Bill Cosby, Louis CK, and the Smothers Brothers.

But perhaps there is much that is worth exploring here, more than occurred to me at first go.

This is something in between an apples-to-apples, and apples-to-oranges comparison, so I don't want to get too hung up on small points.  OTOH, the small points may be the revealing ones here.  I would ask my very clever readers to go one direction or the other...

No.  I take that back.  There are smart people here.  Go where you want.  I think there is some general understanding of social criticism, humor, court jesters, and dominant vs outsider culture that is in this topic.  Perhaps we can be truly insightful and original here, discovering a truth that will be worth holding onto.

Not that anyone will listen, of course - don't be silly - but at least a few of us will see things more clearly.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Which Do You Want?

Instapundit links often to excesses of feminist advocacy groups, particularly in connection with sexual  accusations on college campuses.  He is at a university, so the issue likely looms larger for him than it would for others.  I only click trough about a quarter of them. Other issues loom larger for me.

One, by Harvard Law professor Janet Halley, looked intriguing, and it is. Trading the Megaphone For The Gavel in Title IX Enforcement.  She essentially asks feminist groups “Do you want to complain or do you want to govern?” and describes the distinction.

Advocates for any cause are not held to the same standards of fairness and judgment as people making decisions are. This makes me crazy in discussions, because the emphasis then switches to “How can I win?” instead of “What is the best answer?” They can interrupt, they can walk away, they can leave out important facts, they can end-run around procedures and go to public opinion. Run your memory over the things that religious groups, environmental activists, industry spokespersons, and social justice warriors of all stripes say in order to secure votes, funding, or customers. But those who govern, who make decisions, don’t have that luxury.

It is a very clarifying essay, and I wish her all the best in her career going forward.  I cannot imagine that we don't disagree enormously on a dozen crucial issues.  No matter. She can step back, she can reason, and she can tell her allies where they are wrong.  Elizabeth Warren cannot do that. Hillary Clinton cannot do that. Janet Halley likely overlaps with their views more than mine. But I would rank her six rungs above those others.