America First does not mean that that the USA ought to be first over other countries, dominating them. It means that every country has the right to prefer itself and its own interests over the interests of other countries. This is compatible with respecting other countries' interests and right to self-determination.
So America First has nothing to do with chauvinism which could be characterized as a blind and intemperate patriotism, a belligerent and unjustified belief in the superiority of one's own country. America First expresses an enlightened nationalism which is obviously compatible with a sober recognition of national failings.
An enlightened nationalism is distinct from nativism inasmuch as the former does not rule out immigration. By definition, an immigrant is not a native; but an enlightened American nationalism accepts legal immigrants who accept American values, which of course are not the values of the Left or the values of political Islam.
An enlightened nationalism is not isolationist. What it eschews is a fruitless meddling and over-eager interventionism. It does not rule out certain necessary interventions when they are in our interests and in the interests of our allies.
So America First is not to be confused with chauvinism or nativism or isolationism.
It is also not to be confused with xenophobia. The America Firster has no irrational fear of persons or things foreign. The same holds for every enlightened nationalist.
An enlightened nationalism is not a form of idolatry. 'America First' is not in competition with 'God First.' The principles belong to different orders. The first is a 'horizontal' principle defined over countries; the second is a 'vertical' principle having to do with countries and God. Obviously the following two propositions are logically consistent:
1) Every country has the right to prefer itself and its own interests over the interests of other countries.
2) No country is an appropriate object of worship; only God is worthy of worship.
Finally, an enlightened nationalism is not white-supremacist. I will now quote Rabbi Aryeh Spero, not only because he makes good points, but to distance myself from those Alt-Rightists who are anti-semitic and white-supremacist:
It is not “white supremacism” when people with self-respect display love and admiration for their background and history, wish to defend it, and are proud of it. It is normal and healthy. The opposite is rootlessness. Nor are sincere calls for the maintenance of Western civilization and the Judeo-Christian ethos, as liberals today accuse, “code words for racism”.
The purpose of the shaming we now see coming from liberals against fellow Americans is to muzzle us, so that what we believe is no longer able to be heard or transmitted. It is an enforcement of our political impotence. Longer term, the never-ending demonization is designed to end our civic and religious heritage. Through left-wing bullying and scorn, our heritages are being replaced by the new theologies of progressivism and non-distinctiveness.
That's right; I quibble only with the good rabbi's misuse of 'theology.' Just as progressivism is not a religion, as I have lately argued ad nauseam, it is also not a theology. 'Theology' refers either to God's knowledge of himself, which lies beyond our ken, or to our attempted knowledge of God. But progressivism has no truck with God, being secularist and atheist in its core forms.
Is it an unalloyed and exceptionless good that people be 'brought together'? Not even the Facebook CEO thinks so. Mark Zuckerberg touts his social media site as bringing people together. How sweet. Yet he has had a huge wall built around his Hawaiian compound. Apparently, many of those who engineer 'bringing together' are very special people who are not keen on being brought together with those they bring together.
And then there is the current pope, Bergoglio the Benighted. Safely and comfortably ensconced within the walls of the Vatican, he condemns the Great Wall of Trump, opining that what we need are bridges, not walls.
How about some bridges into the Vatican to make it easy for jihadis to gain access?
This entry from 6 January 2012 bears re-posting in the light of current events. 'Light' indeed. A new day is dawning. Things are looking up. We now have a president with the cojones to take action, and he has. Who would have thought that Donald J. Trump of all people would be the patriot to save the country? The Lord does indeed work in mysterious ways. What a week it's been! While conservatives rejoice -- I mean true conservatives, not NeverTrump quislings and jokers -- leftists lose their minds and descend into thuggery showing themselves plainly for what they were all along.
Philosophers hate a contradiction, but love a paradox. There are paradoxes everywhere, in the precincts of the most abstruse as well as in the precincts of the prosaic. Here are eight paradoxes of illegal immigration suggested to me by Victor Davis Hanson. The titles and formulations are my own. For good measure, I add a ninth, of my own invention.
The Paradox of Profiling. Racial profiling is supposed to be verboten. And yet it is employed by American border guards when they nab and deport thousands of illegal border crossers. Otherwise, how could they pick out illegals from citizens who are merely in the vicinity of the border? How can what is permissible near the border be impermissible far from it in, say, Phoenix? At what distance does permissibility transmogrify into impermissibility? If a border patrolman may profile why may not a highway patrolman? Is legal permissibility within a state indexed to spatiotemporal position and variable with variations in the latter?
The Paradox of Encroachment. The Federal government sues the state of Arizona for upholding Federal immigration law on the ground that it is an encroachment upon Federal jurisdiction. But sanctuary cities flout Federal law by not allowing the enforcement of Federal immigration statutes. Clearly, impeding the enforcement of Federal laws is far worse than duplicating and perhaps interfering with Federal law enforcement efforts. And yet the Feds go after Arizona while ignoring sanctuary cities. Paradoxical, eh?
The Paradox of Blaming the Benefactor. Millions flee Mexico for the U.S. because of the desirability of living and working here and the undesirability of living in a crime-ridden, corrupt, and impoverished country. So what does Mexican president Felipe Calderon do? Why, he criticizes the U.S. even though the U.S. provides to his citizens what he and his government cannot! And what do many Mexicans do? They wave the Mexican flag in a country whose laws they violate and from whose toleration they benefit.
The Paradox of Differential Sovereignty and Variable Border Violability. Apparently, some states are more sovereign than others. The U.S., for some reason, is less sovereign than Mexico, which is highly intolerant of invaders from Central America. Paradoxically, the violability of a border is a function of the countries between which the border falls.
The Paradox of Los Locos Gringos. The gringos are crazy, and racist xenophobes to boot, inasmuch as 70% of them demand border security and support AZ SB 1070. Why then do so many Mexicans want to live among the crazy gringos?
The Paradox of Supporting While Stiffing the Working Stiff. Liberals have traditionally been for the working man. But by being soft on illegal immigration they help drive down the hourly wages of the working poor north of the Rio Grande. (As I have said in other posts, there are liberal arguments against illegal immigration, and here are the makings of one.)
The Paradox of Penalizing the Legal while Tolerating the Illegal. Legal immigrants face hurdles and long waits while illegals are tolerated. But liberals are supposed to be big on fairness. How fair is this?
The Paradox of Subsidizing a Country Whose Citizens Violate our Laws. "America extends housing, food and education subsidies to illegal aliens in need. But Mexico receives more than $20 billion in American remittances a year -- its second-highest source of foreign exchange, and almost all of it from its own nationals living in the United States." So the U.S. takes care of illegal aliens from a failed state while subsidizing that state, making it more dependent, and less likely to clean up its act.
The Paradox of the Reconquista. Some Hispanics claim that the Southwest and California were 'stolen' from Mexico by the gringos. Well, suppose that this vast chunk of real estate had not been 'stolen' and now belonged to Mexico. Then it would be as screwed up as the rest of Mexico: as economically indigent, as politically corrupt, as crime-ridden, as drug-infested. Illegal immigrants from southern Mexico would then, in that counterfactual scenario, have farther to travel to get to the U.S., and there would be less of the U.S. for their use and enjoyment. The U.S. would be able to take in fewer of them. They would be worse off. So if Mexico were to re-conquer the lands 'stolen' from it, then it would make itself worse off than it is now. Gaining territory it would lose ground -- if I may put paradoxically the Paradox of the Reconquista.
Today's Arizona Republic sported a headline containing the phrase 'election hacking.'
How about a distinction? It is one thing to hack into DNC servers and John Podesta's e-mail. It is another thing to hack into a voting machine. So I ask: what is the justification for talk of election hacking?
Let's assume that, contra Julian Assange's asseveration to the contrary, the Russians did the hacking into the DNC servers. Let's also assume that Vladimir Putin was aware of this and approved of it. What might his motive have been? The going 'wisdom' before November 8th was that Hillary was ashoo-in. That was the opinion of all the top commentators. It is therefore reasonable to assume that Putin's motive was to get some dirt on Hillary to use against her when she became president.
So it is far from obvious that the Russkis were trying to influence the U. S. election, let alone tilt it in Trump's favor. Why would they want Trump in office, an alpha male they could reasonably expect to put someone like 'Mad Dog' Mattis in charge of the Department of Defense?
And then there is the utter hypocrisy of the Dems and some Republicans who are suddenly horrified at our lack of cyber-security when they didn't seem much exercised over far, far worse such breaches over the last eight years.
Let's see this 'election hacking' nonsense for what it is. It is nothing but a shabby attempt by sore losers to delegitimize and obstruct the incoming president.
Also, some blame for the hack must be laid at the feet of the DNC and Democratic officials such as Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta for their wanton disregard for securing their own email system.
NOTE TO MR. PODESTA: Using “P@ssw0rd” for your password is not really a password. It is more like a “welcome” sign.
Yet, somehow, it was President-elect Donald Trump who seemed to be on trial during Thursday’s Senate hearings.
[. . .]
Chief among the intel honchos is bald and bespectacled Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. This most highly trusted top spook can be trusted to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth — except when he is lying.
Most famously, The Clapper was asked during a 2013 hearing by Sen. Ron Wyden: “Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions, or hundreds of millions of Americans?”
“No, sir,” The Clapper responded, only to be exposed as a complete liar within months.
The third American into space, and the first to orbit the Earth, John Glenn is dead at 95. In those days American greatness was evident. America can become great again. President-Elect Trump's speech last night at the Iowa rally on his 'thank you' tour referenced Glenn and the need to revitalize the space program. A hopeful sign and nothing one could expect from a decadent Dem like Obama or Hillary.
In a piece entitled, "Mr. Trump, Meet the Constitution," the editorial board of The New York Times betrays a failure to grasp the distinction between the U. S. Constitution and Supreme Court rulings about it. In the 1989 case "Texas v. Johnson," SCOTUS handed down a 5-4 ruling according to which flag burning was a form of speech protected by the First Amendment. Now if you read the amendment you will find no reference to flag burning. The subsumption of flag burning under protected speech required interpretation and argument and a vote among the justices. The 5-4 vote could easily have gone the other way, and arguably should have.
So Trump's tweet, "Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag . . . ," does not show a lack of understanding of the Constitution. After all, SCOTUS rulings can be overturned. On a charitable interpretation, Trump was advocating an overturning of the 1989 and 1990 flag burning rulings.
Ought flag burning come under the rubric of protected speech? Logically prior question: Is it speech at all? What if I make some such rude gesture in your face as 'giving you the finger.' Is that speech? If it is, I would like to know what proposition it expresses. 'Fuck you!' does not express a proposition. Likewise for the corresponding gesture with the middle finger. And if some punk burns a flag, I would like to know what proposition the punk is expressing.
The Founders were interested in protecting reasoned dissent, but the typical act of flag burning by the typical leftist punk does not rise to that level. To have reasoned or even unreasoned dissent there has to be some proposition that one is dissenting from and some counter-proposition that one is advancing, and one's performance has to make more or less clear what those propositions are. I think one ought to be skeptical of arguments that try to subsume gestures and physical actions under speech.
The First Amendment also mentions religion. If flag desecration counts as speech, what would not count as religion? Is godless communism a religion? Why not, if a majority of the black-robed ones say it is?
The Constitution is a magnificent document worthy of great respect and a sort of secular reverence, attitudes one might hesitate to cherish with respect to certain members of the Supreme Court.
Am I saying that there should be a flag burning amendment? No. Let the states decide what to do with the punks who desecrate the flag.
As for Hampshire College, pull their federal funding if they refuse to fly the flag. That should get their attention.
Members of the party of 'tolerance' and 'inclusion' go on the rampage as captured in this collection of videos.
Trump won fair and square despite all the chicanery of the Dems. Now just as most Muslims are not terrorists, most Dems are not street anarchists. But the latter constitute a significant subset of Dems. What does it say about them that they breed elements who reject the very system of government that allowed for Obama's accession to power for two disastrous terms?
'Interesting' days up ahead. Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.
Trump’s defeat would translate into continued political subversion of once disinterested federal agencies, from the FBI and Justice Department to the IRS and the EPA. It would ensure a liberal Supreme Court for the next 20 years — or more. Republicans would be lucky to hold the Senate. Obama’s unconstitutional executive overreach would be the model for Hillary’s second wave of pen-and-phone executive orders. If, in Obama fashion, the debt doubled again in eight years, we would be in hock $40 trillion after paying for Hillary’s even more grandiose entitlements of free college tuition, student-loan debt relief, and open borders. She has already talked of upping income and estate taxes on those far less wealthy than the Clintons and of putting coal miners out of work (“We are going to put a whole lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business”) while promising more Solyndra-like ventures in failed crony capitalism.
We worry about what Citizen Trump did in the past in the private sector and fret more over what he might do as commander-in-chief. But these legitimate anxieties remain in the subjunctive mood; they are not facts in the indicative gleaned from Clinton’s long public record. As voters, we can only compare the respective Clinton and Trump published agendas on illegal immigration, taxes, regulation, defense spending, the Affordable Care Act, abortion, and other social issues to conclude that Trump’s platform is the far more conservative — and a rebuke of the last eight years.
[. . .]
Something has gone terribly wrong with the Republican party, and it has nothing to do with the flaws of Donald Trump.
[. . .]
The Beltway establishment grew more concerned about their sinecures in government and the media than about showing urgency in stopping Obamaism. When the Voz de Aztlan and the Wall Street Journal often share the same position on illegal immigration, or when Republicans of the Gang of Eight are as likely as their left-wing associates to disparage those who want federal immigration law enforced, the proverbial conservative masses feel they have lost their representation. How, under a supposedly obstructive, conservative-controlled House and Senate, did we reach $20 trillion in debt, institutionalize sanctuary cities, and put ourselves on track to a Navy of World War I size? Compared with all that, “making Mexico pay” for the wall does not seem all that radical. Under a Trump presidency the owner of Univision would not be stealthily writing, as he did to Team Clinton, to press harder for open borders — and thus the continuance of a permanent and profitable viewership of non-English speakers.
One does not need lectures about conservatism from Edmund Burke when, at the neighborhood school, English becomes a second language, or when one is rammed by a hit-and-run driver illegally in the United States who flees the scene of the accident. Do our elites ever enter their offices to find their opinion-journalism jobs outsourced at half the cost to writers in India? Are congressional staffers told to move to Alabama, where it is cheaper to telecommunicate their business? Trump’s outrageousness was not really new; it was more a 360-degree mirror of an already outrageous politics as usual.
Conrad Black has written well and with insight about Donald Trump. Here is his latest. Excerpt:
. . . his major foreign-policy statement on April 27 is a cogent outline of a clear definition of the U.S. national interest. It is neither impetuous as George W. Bush nor as defeatist and contra-historical as Obama. Trump is almost unstoppable as the Republican nominee now, and is already shifting fire to Hillary Clinton. In their only direct clash to date, when Senator Clinton called him a sexist, he shut her down easily by remarking that her husband, to whom she owes her prominence, was the greatest sexist in American political history and that she facilitated his behavior. Senator Clinton’s many untruths, even on absurd issues such as being fired on by snipers in Bosnia, and her lack of a serious record of public achievement, as well as the spirit of change and the unpopularity of the Obama administration to which she must affect some fealty, make her very vulnerable.
The election of Donald Trump as president is now a very reasonable possibility. Among its effects would be a salutary house-cleaning of the federal government, a process of renewal that would doubtless have lapses of taste and judgment, but that would revitalize American public life. The Bush dynasty was an accident of continuity following the very successful Reagan presidency, and it came to have a stifling influence on the Republican Party. The premature defeat of George H. W. Bush by Bill Clinton led to the even more precarious myth of the Bush-Clinton co-dynasty, as there was no excuse for Clinton winning the 1992 election. Barack Obama interrupted the Bush-Clinton alternation by seizing the moment for an admirable and nationally heartfelt gesture of tolerance and broad-mindedness, but he has been a disastrous president.
George Will has a different view. His latest concludes:
If Trump is nominated, Republicans working to purge him and his manner from public life will reap the considerable satisfaction of preserving the identity of their 162-year-old party while working to see that they forgo only four years of the enjoyment of executive power. Six times since 1945 a party has tried, and five times failed, to secure a third consecutive presidential term. The one success -- the Republicans’ 1988 election of George H.W. Bush -- produced a one-term president. If Clinton gives her party its first 12 consecutive White House years, Republicans can help Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse, or someone else who has honorably recoiled from Trump, confine her to a single term.
Mr. Will ignores the fact that even one Hillary term will do irreparable damage to the country because of her Supreme Court nominations. Irreparable.
One of the curiosities of the reign of Barack Obama is that while he has vastly increased the power of the state domestically, when it comes to the world outside, to national security, he has gravely weakened the United States, both physically, in terms of its military strength, and psychologically, in terms of that diffuse but indisputably potent resource, prestige. ISIS rages, Russia buzzes our warships and reconnaissance planes, China militarizes the South China Sea. We do . . . nothing.
Donald Trump's 'traction' is largely due to conservative inaction. I leave aside for the moment that other source of Trumpian traction: the abominations of the Obama administration.
Conservatives are long on talk but short on action. Donald Trump, an alpha male with the billions to be beholden to no one, whose style of self-presentation is reminiscent of il Duce, has populist appeal because he looks to be someone who might finally get at least one thing done, say, stem the invasion of illegals from the south. And stop talking about it.
What have conservatives accomplished since the days of Ronald Reagan?
Here is a severely practical consideration: there is no way Trump can beat Hillary. He has alienated too many groups, women and Hispanics to name two. Add to that the fact that large numbers of conservatives will stay home, and Hillary is in like Flynn. Mark my words.
Let's hope that Trump does not get the Republican nomination. But if he gets it, you must vote for him. For the alternative is far worse. Politics is a practical business. It is not about maintaining your ideological purity, but about getting something accomplished in murky and complex circumstances. It is always about the lesser or least of evils. Trump would be bad, but Hillary worse.
While the 'bow-tie brigade' at National Review and the rest of the conservatives are so right about so much, they are too concerned with being respectable members of the establishment to know how to fight against the Alinskyite left. Hence their measured statements, their pious invocation of the Constitution, their refusal to give as good as they get. They don't realize that politics is not a gentlemanly debate, but war conducted by other means.
Some lefty scribblers, effete and epicene, have their knickers in a knot worrying about the nativist and xenophobic 'backlash' post-Paris and post-San Bernardino. Even worse, however, is Attorney General Loretta Lynch's disgracing of herself along these lines:
Lynch addressed the Muslim Advocate’s tenth-anniversary dinner and declared that she is concerned about an “incredibly disturbing rise of anti-Muslim rhetoric . . . that fear is my greatest fear.” Her greatest fear is — not terrorism — but a nonexistent Islamophobic backlash? ISIS has demonstrated that it can bring down passenger jets, strike the heart of a great Western capitol with urban assault teams, and inspire horrible carnage in California. We also know that ISIS has pledged to keep attacking the U.S. and possesses chemical weapons. Yet it’s politically incorrect speech that strikes fear into the heart of our attorney general.
To put it in the form of an understatement: Lefties are not very good at threat assessment. I should think that the 'frontlash' is far worse than any backlash that is likely to occur.
What struck me was Bernie Sanders' generous political self-immolation vis-à-vis Mrs. Clinton. He handed her the nomination by agreeing with her about the e-mail server (non)-issue. And the crowd loved it. (Is there a lesson here for Republicans?)
Here is my take on Sanders. He is basically a decent man who, though personally ambitious as every successful politician must be, nevertheless puts the good of the country, as he sees it, above his own personal ambitions. He is deeply rooted in principles that he honestly believes are correct. For him climate change, economic inequality, women's 'reproductive rights' and the rest are the real issues. And so he nobly took the high road to his own political marginalization by agreeing with Hillary that the e-mail server business is but a distraction from these real issues. After all, he could have justifiably attacked her on this very serious matter to bolster support for his nomination. He didn't.
If you're a 'progressive,' why vote for him when she is as much of a socialist and toes the politically correct line on guns to boot? (Nice pun, eh?)
Of course, there is another angle. Perhaps Bernie was playing the sycophant in hopes of a slot in the Hillary admin. But I don't think so. I really think he is a high-minded fellow with foolish and deleterious ideas. I could be wrong about the high-minded part.
By the way, we shouldn't be too harsh on our politicians. They are in the arena. They stand there, out in the open, under their own names, not hiding behind pseudonyms, exposed to the slings and arrows of a vast commentariat. They have courage. For this they deserve some respect. Even Hillary. Even Obama. Even the worst of them. For our worst are better than [you fill in the blank].
UPDATE (15 October): Daniel Henninger of WSJ agrees with me. He's a smart guy!
UPDATE (16 October): And Krauthammer too! Another smart guy. Nice tidbit:
The other three candidates hardly registered. Lincoln Chafee, currently polling at 0.3 points (minus-10 Celsius), played Ross Perot’s 1992 running mate, Admiral James Stockdale, who opened his vice presidential debate with: “Who am I? Why am I here?”
If a coalition of what some leftists call knuckle-draggers (including rednecks, bigoted white working stiffs, those who "cling to their guns and Bibles," in the derisive words of Obama) were to slaughter flag burners, the leftists would howl in protest, pointing out (rightly) that flag burning counts as protected speech in these United States. They would not 'blame the victims' for having provoked or incited the knuckle-draggers. They would insist that flag burning is protected speech and take the reasonable view that murdering people for their (benighted) views is far, far worse than the desecration perpetrated by the protesters.
Mirabile dictu, however, lefties pull a 180 when it comes to the celebration of free speech practiced by people like Pamela Geller. Suddenly people who are exercising free speech rights are castigated for doing so, and warned about inciting violence.
What we have here is a classic double standard. One standard of evaluation is applied to flag burners, who tend to be on the Left, and a very different one is applied to Muhammad mockers, who tend to be conservatives. This double standard is particularly offensive, even more offensive that the usual lefty double standard, because flag burning and cartooning are very different.
Ought flag burning come under the rubric of protected speech? Logically prior question: Is it speech at all? What if I make some such rude gesture in your face as 'giving you the finger.' Is that speech? If it is, I would like to know what proposition it expresses. 'Fuck you!' does not express a proposition. Likewise for the corresponding gesture with the middle finger. And if some punk burns a flag, I would like to know what proposition the punk is expressing. The Founders were interested in protecting reasoned dissent, but the typical act of flag burning by the typical leftist punk does not rise to that level. To have reasoned or unreasoned dissent there has to be some proposition that one is dissenting from and some counter-proposition that one is advancing, and one's performance has to make more or less clear what those propositions are. Without going any further into this issue, let me just express my skepticism at arguments that try to subsume gestures and physical actions under speech.
Cartooning is very different. Cartoons have propositional content. The above cartoon expresses various propositions. It expresses the proposition that Muhammad is a war-like individual who is willing to put to the sword someone who merely draws his image. It also expresses the cartoonist's opinion that such a vile and backward view ought to be opposed.
If you fart, do you express a proposition? No doubt you ex-press foul gases from your gastrointestinal tract. Could it be that the stupidity of contemporary liberals derives from an incapacity to distinguish these two types of expression? Speech worth protecting is not gassing-off.
Finally, there is the irony that we conservatives are the new liberals. It is we who defend toleration and free speech, classical concerns of old-time liberals, while the 'liberals' of the present day have degenerated to the level of fascists of the Left.
What would be left of the Left were they made bereft of their double standards? There are so many of them. We need a list.
The Obama quote is that they “cling to guns or [not “and”] religion [not “Bibles”]”. As for the cartoon, it doesn’t express the proposition you relate in the body of the post. It, or something very close to it, is clearly the idea that the cartoonist has in mind, but that isn’t in the cartoon itself. If, however, one is allowed to draw the inference we all do from the cartoon, then it’s not obvious to me that one is also allowed to fill in the obvious connotations of one giving the middle finger or saying “F*** you!” or from the burning of the flag.
Dennis is right to correct my faulty quotation of Obama. See this short video clip. But while I did not reproduce Obama's words verbatim, I did convey their sense. After all, with 'religion' he was certainly not referring to Islam! Besides, 'cling to guns' and 'cling to Bibles' makes clear sense; it is less clear how one could 'cling' to religion. So you could say I was charitably presenting Obama's idea in better linguistic dress than he himself presented it. But Dennis is right: I should have checked the quotation.
Can a cartoon, by itself, express a proposition? No. So Dennis is technically correct. I almost made that point myself but thought it ill-advised to muddy my point with a technicality. Cartoons, in this respect, are like sentences. No sentence, even if in the indicative mood, by itself expresses a proposition. 'Peter smokes,' for example, is a declarative sentence. But it does not express a proposition unless it is assertively uttered by someone in a definite context that makes clear who the referent of 'Peter' is.
It is interesting to note that a mere tokening of the sentence type is not enough. Suppose I am teaching English. I utter the sentence 'Peter smokes' merely as an example of a declarative sentence. I have produced a token of the type, but I have not expressed a proposition.
Here. According to Peter Schweizer, only about 10% of what the Clinton Foundation takes in in donations goes to the people in need. But since Bill and Hillary are known by all to be ethically above reproach, Schweizer must be lying.
It is not always right to say what one has a right to say.
Thus one of my aphorisms. It is worth unpacking, however, especially in the light of the incident at Garland, Texas.
First of all, the following is not a logical contradiction: You have a right to say X but you ought not say X. For you may have a legal right, but no moral right, or what you have a legal right to say may be highly imprudent to say. In fact, it may be so imprudent that moral and not merely prudential considerations become relevant.
So while Pamela Geller & Co. undoubtedly had the legal right to express themselves by hosting a cartoon fest in mockery of Muhammad, it is at least a legitimate question, one whose answer is not obvious, whether their doing so was morally acceptable.
On the one side are those who say that it was not morally acceptable given the high likelihood that violence would erupt. Indeed, that is what happened. Luckily, however, the Muslim savages1 were shot dead, and only one non-savage was wounded. But it might have been worse, much worse. Innocent passersby might have been caught in the cross-fire; the shooter who dispatched the Islamist fanatics might not have been such a good shot and a long melee may have ensued; the Islamists might have shown up with heavier armament and killed all the cartoonists; they might have laid waste to the entire neighborhood, etc. We know from bitter world-wide experience what the barbarians of Islam are capable of. Do you recall, for example, the Taliban's destruction of the ancient Buddhist statuary?
On the other side are those who insist that we must not engage in what they call 'self-censorship.' We must not limit or curtail the free exercise of our liberties in the face of savages who behead people because of a difference in political and theological views.
So what is the correct view?
Suppose that Muslim reaction to the mockery and defamation of their prophet was just as nonviolent as Christian reaction to the mockery and defamation of Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary. Then I would condemn as immoral the mockery and defamation of Muhammad. I would invoke my aphorism above. There are things that one is legally entitled to say and do that one must not, morally speaking, say or do.
Example. There is no law against private drunkenness, nor should there be; but it is immoral to get drunk to the point of damaging the body. The same goes for gluttonous eating. Closer in, we cannot and ought not have laws regulating all the inter-personal exchanges in which people are likely to mock, insult, and generally show a lack of respect for one another. And yet it is in general surely wrong to treat people with a lack of respect even if the lack of respect remains on the verbal plane. If you don't accept these examples, provide your own. If you say that there are no examples, then you are morally and probably also intellectually obtuse and not in a position to profit from a discussion like this.
So if the Muslim and Christian reactions to mockery and defamation were both physically nonviolent, then, invoking my aphorism above, I would condemn the activities of Geller and Co. at Garland, Texas, and relevantly similar activities. But of course the reactions are not the same! Muslims are absurdly sensitive about their prophet and react in unspeakably barbaric ways to slights, real and imagined. Every Muslim? Of course not. (Don't be stupid.)
So I say we ought to defend Pamela Geller and her group.
My reason, again, is not that that I consider it morally acceptable to mock religious figures. After all, I condemned the Charlie Hebdo outfit and took serious issue with the misguided folk who marched around with Je Suis Charlie signs. Perpetually adolescent porno-punks should not be celebrated, but denounced. That the Islamo-head-chopper-offers are morally much worse than the porno-punks who make an idol of the free expression of their morally and intellectually vacuous narcissistic selves does not justify the celebration of the latter.
The reason to defend Geller is because, in the present circumstances in which militant Muslims and their leftist enablers attack the the values of the West -- which are not just Western values, but universal values -- including such values as free expression and toleration, the deadly threat from the Islamist barbarians justifies our taking extreme measure in defense of values whose implementation will prove beneficial for everyone, including Muslims and their benighted leftist fellow-travellers.
1. If you understand the English language, then you understand that 'Muslim savages' does not imply that all Muslims are savages any more than 'rude New Yorker' implies that all New Yorkers are rude.
Why shouldn't the state have and exercise the power to override the conscience of the individual? Suppose I am in the bumper sticker and T-shirt business. You come to my shop and order a thousand Fuck Obama! bumper stickers and a thousand Hillary Sucks! T-shirts. I explain to you that to do as you request would be to violate my longstanding commitment to civility and that you should take your business elsewhere.
Question: Should the power of the state be used to force me to serve this particular customer? If not, why not? Am I not discriminating against him on the basis of his creed, which includes a commitment to the absolute right of free speech? Am I not interfering with his exercise of this absolute right?
Starbuck's CEO, Howard Schultz, wants his baristas to write "Race Together" on coffee cups to facilitate a conversation about race between baristas and customers and presumably also among customers.
Now this is profoundly stupid — assuming it is not just a cynical try at boosting sales. I'll be charitable and assume the former.
Anyone who has been paying attention will have noticed that we agree on less and less, and not for a lack of 'conversations' about the issues that divide us. The notion that more talk will help is foolish when what we need is less conversational engagement and more agreement to avoid divisive issues, together with the resolve to interact as well as we can on the common ground that remains — such as love of coffee.
In 1967, Benjamin Netanyahu skipped his high school graduation in Pennsylvania to head off to Israel to help in the Six Day War. That same year Obama moved with his mother to Indonesia.
When Obama suggested that Israel return to the pre-1967 borders, described by Ambassador Eban, no right-winger, as “Auschwitz borders,” it was personal for Netanyahu. Like many Israeli teens, he had put his life on hold and risked it protecting those borders.
In the seventies, Obama was part of the Choom Gang and Netanyahu was sneaking up on Sabena Flight 571 dressed as an airline technician. Inside were four terrorists who had already separated Jewish passengers and taken them hostage. Two hijackers were killed. Netanyahu took a bullet in the arm.
The Prime Minister of Israel defended the operation in plain language. “When blackmail like this succeeds, it only leads to more blackmail,” she said.
Netanyahu’s speech in Congress was part of that same clash of worldviews. His high school teacher remembered him saying that his fellow students were living superficially and that there was “more to life than adolescent issues.” He came to Congress to cut through the issues of an administration that has never learned to get beyond its adolescence.
Obama’s people had taunted him with by calling him “chickens__t.” They had encouraged a boycott of his speech and accused him of insulting Obama. They had thrown out every possible distraction to the argument he came to make. Unable to argue with his facts, they played Mean Girls politics instead.
Benjamin Netanyahu had left high school behind to go to war. Now he was up against overgrown boys and girls who had never grown beyond high school. But even back then he had been, as a fellow student had described him, “The lone voice in the wilderness in support of the conservative line.”
“We were all against the war in Vietnam because we were kids,” she said. The kids are still against the war. Against all the wars; unless it’s their own wars. Netanyahu grew up fast. They never did.
Netanyahu could have played their game, but instead he began by thanking Obama. His message was not about personal attacks, but about the real threat that Iran poses to his country, to the region and to the world. He made that case decisively and effectively as few other leaders could.
He did it using plain language and obvious facts.
Netanyahu reminded Congress that the attempt to stop North Korea from going nuclear using inspectors failed. The deal would not mean a denuclearized Iran. “Not a single nuclear facility would be demolished,” he warned. And secret facilities would continue working outside the inspections regime.
He quoted the former head of IAEA’s inspections as saying, “If there’s no undeclared installation today in Iran, it will be the first time in 20 years that it doesn’t have one.”
And Netanyahu reminded everyone that Iran’s “peaceful” nuclear program would be backed by ongoing development of its intercontinental ballistic missile program that would not be touched under the deal.
He warned that the deal would leave Iran with a clear path to a nuclear endgame that would allow it to “make the fuel for an entire nuclear arsenal” in “a matter of weeks”.
Iran’s mission is to export Jihad around the world, he cautioned. It’s a terrorist state that has murdered Americans. While Obama claims to have Iran under control, it has seized control of an American ally in Yemen and is expanding its influence from Iraq to Syria.
Its newly moderate government “hangs gays, persecutes Christians, jails journalists.” It’s just as bad as ISIS, except that ISIS isn’t close to getting a nuclear bomb.
“America’s founding document promises life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Iran’s founding document pledges death, tyranny, and the pursuit of jihad,” he said. It was the type of clarity that he had brought to the difficult questions of life as a teenager. It is a clarity that still evades Obama today.
When the otherwise distinguished Robert Paul Wolff over at The Philosopher's Stone plays the stoned philosopher and quits the reservation of Good Sense, I call him 'Howlin' Wolff.' Hear him howl:
I need to say this. If anyone wants to call me a self-hating Jew, so be it.
Israel is far and away the militarily most powerful nation in the entire Middle East. It has a large, fully functional nuclear arsenal with appropriate delivery systems, and a well-trained army with a large Ready Reserve. If Israel wants to start a war with Iran, let it put its own young men and women at risk, instead of adopting a belligerant [sic] stance and inviting the United States to shed our blood and spend our treasure making good on Israel's threats.
Let me warm up with a bit of pedantry. 'Self-hating Jew' seems not quite the right expression. After all, a Jew who hates himself needn't hate himself because he is a Jew. He might hate himself, not in respect of his Jewishness, but in respect of some other attribute, say, that of being white. I recommend 'Jew-hating Jew.' On whether Wolff is one or not I have no opinion. You may also draw your own conclusions from Wolff's having penned Autobiography of an Ex-White Man.
But it is entirely typical of a delusional leftist to engage in the sort of Orwellian reversal expressed in the paragraph quoted above.
According to Wolff, Israel threatens Iran, and not the other way around. And it is Israel's "stance" that is "belligerent," not Iran's.
Israel is militarily supreme in the Middle East. It has nuclear war-making capacity. Iran doesn't, at least not yet. But so what?
I detect the typical leftist confusion of weapon and wielder, as if weapons themselves are the problem, not the character of their wielders. That, in tandem with some such silly equivalentism as that all actors are morally equivalent and that if one actor has nukes, then it is not fair that the others not have them. Should the U. N. provide them all around to 'level the playing field'?
I could go on, but my readers do not need their noses rubbed in the obvious.
Besides, some notions are beneath refutation. Their mere exposure suffices to refute them.
War is peace. Slavery is freedom. Less liberty is more liberty. Defense is attack. Concern for one's survival in a situation in which one's adversaries have threatened one with nuclear annihilation is belligerence. The Orwellian template: X, which is not Y, is Y.
In the interests of full disclosure, I am not now and never have been a Jew either ethnically or religiously, nor an Israeli, nor do I have any intention of becoming the two of these three that it would be possible for me to become.
Lately liberalism has gone from psychodrama to farce.
Take Barack Obama. He has gone from mild displeasure with Israel to downright antipathy. Suddenly we are in a surreal world where off-the-record slurs from the administration against Benjamin Netanyahu as a coward and chickensh-t have gone to full-fledged attacks from John Kerry and Susan Rice, to efforts of former Obama political operatives to defeat the Israeli prime minister at the polls, to concessions to Iran and to indifference about the attacks on Jews in Paris. Who would have believed that Iranian leaders who just ordered bombing runs on a mock U.S. carrier could be treated with more deference than the prime minister of Israel? What started out six years as pressure on Israel to dismantle so-called settlements has ended up with a full-fledged vendetta against a foreign head of state.
If you love something, would you want fundamentally to transform it?
A man meets a woman, gets to know her, and they decide to get married. On the eve of the nuptials, he announces to her that she is on the brink of a fundamental transformation. Would you say that he loved her or rather some idea of what he could make her into?
Now take a gander at this minute-and-a-half video clip.
Why the furiously intemperate ranting over Rudy's remarks? After all, the distinguished former mayor of New York City merely articulated what vast numbers of us have suspected or believed for years. Giuliani had the temerity to speak truth to power and this enraged the Left. (Lefties think they alone own dissent and the right to speak truth to power.) Fred Siegel:
The ranting has obscured the reasons why so many Americans take Giuliani’s remarks to heart. Starting with his June 2009 speech in Cairo, when he apologized for American actions in the Middle East, Obama has consistently given credence to Islamic grievances against America while showing reluctance to confront Islamic terrorism. In 2009, after Major Nidal Hasan killed 13 American soldiers and wounded 40 others at Fort Hood while shouting “Allahu Akhbar,” the administration labeled the killings workplace violence. In recent months, the pace of evasions has quickened. Obama was the only major Western leader absent from the massive Paris march held in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo killings. Worse yet, Obama referred to the killings in a Jewish supermarket in Paris as “random” acts of violence.
But this was only the beginning of a string of curious comments and loopy locutions made by the president or his spokespeople in the weeks that followed. While ISIS rampaged across the Middle East, the president told a Washington prayer breakfast that Christians shouldn’t get on their “high horse,” because they were guilty of the Crusades, among other crimes. Not only were the Crusades many centuries past, but they were also a complicated matter in which both sides behaved barbarically.
But that is to understate the matter. Both Siegel and Giuliani failed to mention a crucial fact, namely, the Crusades were defensive wars, wars in response to Muslim aggression and conquest.
It's a funny world. NBC anchor Brian Williams lied about a matter of no significance, in an excess of boyish braggadocio, though in doing so he injured his credibility and, more importantly, that of his employer, NBC. We demand truth of our journalists and so Williams' suspension is as justified as the Schadenfreude at his come-down is not.
Journalists are expected to tell the truth. President Obama, however, lies regularly and reliably about matters of great significance and gets away with it. Part of it is that politicians are expected to lie. Obama does not disappoint, taking mendacity to unheard-of levels. There is a brazenness about it that has one admiring his cojones if nothing else. Another part of it is that politicians are not subject to the discipline of the market in the way news anchors are. Loss of credibility reduces viewership which reduces profits. That's the real bottom line, not the expectation of truthfulness.
(By the way, that is not a slam against capitalism but against our greedy fallen nature which was greedy and fallen long before the rise of capitalism. Capitalism is no more the source of greed than socialism is the source of envy.)
Obama is a master of mendacity in the multiplicity of its modes. There is, for example, bullshitting, which is not the same as lying. Obama as Bullshitter explains, with a little help from Professor Harry Frankfurt.
In reaction to the murderous attack by Muslim terrorists on Charbonnier and Co. at the offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris, many have jumped on the "I am Charlie" bandwagon. It is quite understandable. But perhaps a little thought should be given to the question whether one ought to endorse a political pornographer who publishes stuff like the following. Might there be something called toleration extremism? Might it be that while one has a legal right to publish almost anything, one has a moral obligation to exercise restraint? Why do we value freedom of speech? Is it valuable as an end in itself or only as a means to valuable ends? Is it reasonable to maintain that any and all public self-expression is a good just in virtue of its being self-expression? I hope to say something about these questions in the next few days. Meanwhile, please think a bit before trumpeting your identity or rather solidarity with 'Charlie.'
My point in posting the following, needless to say, is not to mock the Christian Trinity but to raise in a graphic manner some very serious questions that require careful thought.
There is a sleazy singer who calls herself 'Madonna.' That moniker is offensive to many. But we in the West are tolerant, perhaps excessively so, and we tolerate the singer, her name, and her antics. Muslims need to understand the premium we place on toleration if they want to live among us.
A San Juan Capistrano councilman named his dog 'Muhammad' and mentioned the fact in public. Certain Muslim groups took offense and demanded an apology. The councilman should stand firm. One owes no apology to the hypersensitive and inappropriately sensitive. We must exercise our free speech rights if we want to keep them. Use 'em or lose 'em.
The notion that dogs are 'unclean' is a silly one. So if some Muslims are offended by some guy's naming his dog 'Muhammad,' their being offended is not something we should validate. Their being offended is their problem.
Am I saying that we should act in ways that we know are offensive to others? Of course not. We should be kind to our fellow mortals whenever possible. But sometimes principles are at stake and they must be defended. Truth and principle trump feelings. Free speech is one such principle. I exercised it when I wrote that the notion that dogs are 'unclean' is a silly one.
Some will be offended by that. I say their being offended is their problem. What I said is true. They are free to explain why dogs are 'unclean' and I wish them the best of luck. But equally, I am free to label them fools.
With some people being conciliatory is a mistake. They interpret your conciliation and willingness to compromise as weakness. These people need to be opposed vigorously. For the councilman to apologize would be foolish.
Ferguson is of course just one instance. But it is emblematic. As usual, Victor Davis Hanson gets it right:
In the Ferguson disaster, the law was the greatest casualty. Civilization cannot long work if youths strong-arm shop owners and take what they want. Or walk down the middle of highways high on illicit drugs. Or attack police officers and seek to grab their weapons. Or fail to obey an officer’s command to halt. Or deliberately give false testimonies to authorities. Or riot, burn, and loot. Or, in the more abstract sense, simply ignore the legal findings of a grand jury; or, in critical legal theory fashion, seek to dismiss the authority of the law because it is not deemed useful to some preconceived theory of social justice. Do that and society crumbles.
In our cynicism we accept, to avoid further unrest, that no government agency will in six months prosecute the looters and burners, or charge with perjury those who brazenly lied in their depositions to authorities, or charge the companion of Michael Brown with an accessory role in strong-arm robbery, or charge the stepfather of Michael Brown for using a bullhorn to incite a crowd to riot and loot and burn. We accept that because legality is becoming an abstraction, as it is in most parts of the world outside the U.S. where politics makes the law fluid and transient.
Nor can a government maintain legitimacy when it presides over lawlessness. The president of the United States on over 20 occasions insisted that it would be illegal, dictatorial, and unconstitutional to contravene federal immigration law — at least when to do so was politically inexpedient. When it was not, he did just that. Now we enter the Orwellian world of a videotaped president repeatedly warning that what he would soon do would be in fact illegal. Has a U.S. president ever so frequently and fervently warned the country about the likes of himself?
David P. Goldman talks sense about Ferguson and the liberal-left threat to civil society and the rule of law:
The argument of what now might be termed a “criminals’ rights movement” is that the police should not have the right to use force against felons whose crimes do not reach a certain threshold. What that threshold might be seems clear from the repeated characterization of Brown as an “unarmed black teenager.” Unless violent felons use deadly weapons, it appears, the police should not be allowed to use force.
To restate the “civil rights” argument in a clearer way: Young black men are disproportionately imprisoned. One in three black men have gone to prison at some time in their life. According to the ACLU, one in fifteen black men are incarcerated, vs. one in 106 white men. That by itself is proof of racism; the fact that these individuals were individually prosecuted for individual crimes has no bearing on the matter. All that matters is the outcome. Because the behavior of young black men is not likely to change, what must change is the way that society recognizes crime itself. The answer is to remove stigma of crime attached to certain behavior, for example, physical altercations, petty theft, and drug-dealing on a certain scale. The former civil rights movement no longer focuses its attention on supposedly ameliorative social spending, for example, preschool programs for minority children, although these remain somewhere down the list in the litany of demands. What energizes and motivates the movement is the demand that society redefine deviancy to exclude certain classes of violent as well as non-violent felonies.
The logic of the criminals’ rights movement is as clear as it is crazy: Because the outcome of the criminal justice system disproportionately penalizes African-Americans, the solution is to decriminalize behavior that all civilized countries have suppressed and punished since the dawn of history. Because felonious behavior is so widespread and the causes of it so intractable, the criminals’ rights movement insists, society “cannot afford to recognize” criminal behavior below a certain threshold.
If America were to accept this logic, civil society would come to an end. The state would abandon its monopoly of violence to street rule. Large parts of America would come to resemble the gang-ruled, lawless streets of Central America, where violent pathology has overwhelmed the state’s capacity to control it, creating in turn a nightmare for America’s enforcement of its own immigration law.
I have been asked my opinion. But before opining it would be better to wait until we know or at least have a clearer idea of what exactly transpired between Michael Brown, the 18-year-old black male, and the white police officer Darren Wilson. We know that Brown is dead and that the officer hit him with five or so rounds. (And we know that it was the shooting that caused the death.)
And we know that prior to the shooting, Brown stole some tobacco products (cigarillos in one account, Swisher Sweet cigars in another) from a convenience store, roughing up the proprietor on the way out.
The theft is not something that Wilson could have known about prior to the shooting, and even if he did know about it, that would not justify his use of deadly force against the shoplifter. Obviously.
So those are the main facts as I understand the case. I need to know more to say more, except for two comments:
1. Al Sharpton's claim that the release of the store video was a 'smear' of Brown is absurd on the face of it. One cannot smear someone with facts. To smear is to slander. It is to damage, or attempt to damage, a person's reputation by making false accusations. Sharpton is employing the often effective leftist tactic of linguistic hijacking. A semantic vehicle with a clear meaning is 'hijacked' and piloted to some leftist destination. The truth about a person can be damaging to his reputation. But if you cannot distinguish between damaging truths and damaging falsehoods, then you are as willfully stupid as the race hustler Sharpton.
2. The governor of Missouri, Jay Nixon, called for "a vigorous prosecution" in the case and to "do everything we can to achieve justice for [Brown's] family." These statements sink to a Sharptonian level of (willful?) stupidity. For one thing, Wilson cannot be prosecuted for the killing of Brown until it has been determined that Wilson should be charged in the killing of Brown.
That Wilson killed Brown is a fact. But that he should be charged with a crime in the killing is a separate question. Only after a charge has been lodged can the judicial process begin with prosecution and defense.
Second, talk of achieving justice for Brown's family not only presupposes that Wilson has been indicted, it begs the question of his guilt: it assumes he is guilty of a crime. More fundamentally, talk of achieving justice for one party alone makes no sense. The aim of criminal proceeding is to arrive at a just outcome for both parties.
Suppose Wilson is indicted and tried. Either he is found guilty or found not guilty of the charge or charges brought against him. If he is found guilty, and is in fact guilty, then there is justice for both the perpetrator and the victim and his family If he is found not guilty, and he is in fact not guilty, then the same: there is justice for both the perpetrator and the victim and his family. Therefore, to speak of achieving justice for one of the parties alone makes no sense.
People don't understand this because they think that the victim or his family must be somehow compensated for his or their loss. But that is not the purpose of a criminal trial. It is too bad that the young black man died, but the purpose of a criminal trial is not to assuage the pain of such a loss. The purpose is simply to determine whether a person charged with a crime is guilty of it.
I was actually impressed by Obama's speech last night. The greatness of the office he occupies, together with the external pressure of events and advisors, has resulted in a non-vacuous speech and wise decision, a two-fold decision: to launch air strikes against the advancing terrorist ISIS (or ISIL) forces and to drop supplies to the beleagured religious minorities under dire existential threat, the Christians and the Yazidi.
My posting of the graphic to the left indicates that I am a skeptic about global warming (GW). To be precise, I am skeptical about some, not all, of the claims made by the GW activists. See below for some necessary distinctions. Skepticism is good. Doubt is the engine of inquiry and a key partner in the pursuit of truth.
A skeptic is a doubter, not a denier. To doubt or inquire or question whether such-and-such is the case is not to deny that it is the case. It is a cheap rhetorical trick of GW alarmists when they speak of GW denial and posture as if it is in the ball park of Holocaust denial.
What can a philosopher say about global warming? The first thing he can and ought to say is that, although not all questions are empirical, at the heart of the global warming debate are a set of empirical questions. These are not questions for philosophers qua philosophers, let alone for political ideologues. For the resolution of these questions we must turn to reputable climatologists whose roster does not sport such names as 'Al Gore,' 'Barbra Streisand,' or 'Ann Coulter.' Unfortunately, the global warming question is one that is readily 'ideologized' and the ideological gas bags of both the Right and the Left have a lot to answer for in this regard.
I have not investigated the matter with any thoroughness, and I have no firm opinion. It is difficult to form an opinion because it is difficult to know whom to trust: reputable scientists have their ideological biases too, and if they work in universities, the leftish climate in these hotbeds of political correctness is some reason to be skeptical of anything they say.
For example, let's say scientist X teaches at Cal Berkeley and is a registered Democrat. One would have some reason to question his credibility. He may well tilt toward socialism and away from capitalism and be tempted to beat down capitalism with the cudgel of global warming. Equally, a climatologist on the payroll of the American Enterprise Institute would be suspect. I am not suggesting that objectivity is impossible to attain; I am making the simple point that it is difficult to attain and that scientists have worldview biases like everyone else. And like everyone else, they are swayed by such less-than-noble motives as the desire to advance their careers and be accepted by their peers. And who funds global warming research? What are their biases? And who gets the grants? And what conclusions do you need to aim at to get funded? It can't be a bad idea to "follow the money" as the saying goes.
Off the top of my head I think we ought to distinguish among the following questions:
1. Is global warming (GW) occurring?
2. If yes to (1), is it naturally irreversible, or is it likely to reverse itself on its own?
3. If GW is occurring, and will not reverse itself on its own, to what extent is it anthropogenic, i.e., caused by human activity?
(3) is the crucial empirical question. It is obviously distinct from (1) and (2). If there is naturally irreversible global warming, this is not to say that it is caused by human activity. It may or may not be. One has to be aware of the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy. Suppose there is a close correlation between global warming and man-made carbon emissions. It doesn't straightaway follow that the the human activity causes the warming. But again, this is not a question that can be settled a priori; it is a question for climatologists.
4. If anthropogenic, is global warming caused by humans to a degree that warrants action, assuming that action can be taken to stop it?
5. If GW is caused by humans to an extent that it warrants action, what sorts of action would be needed to stop the warming process?
6. How much curtailment of economic growth would we be willing to accept to stop global warming?
The first three of these six questions are empirical and are reserved for climatologists. They are very difficult questions to answer. And it is worth pointing out that climatology, while an empirical science, falls short of truly strict science. This useful article lists the following five characteristics of science in the strict and eminent sense:
1. Clearly defined terminology. 2. Quantifiability. 3. Highly controlled conditions. "A scientifically rigorous study maintains direct control over as many of the factors that influence the outcome as possible. The experiment is then performed with such precision that any other person in the world, using identical materials and methods, should achieve the exact same result." 4. Reproducibility. "A rigorous science is able to reproduce the same result over and over again. Multiple researchers on different continents, cities, or even planets should find the exact same results if they precisely duplicated the experimental conditions." 5. Predictability and Testability. "A rigorous science is able to make testable predictions."
These characteristics set the bar for strict science very high, and rightly so. Is climate science science according to these criteria? No, it falls short on #s 3 and 4. At the hardest hard core of the hard sciences lies the physics of meso-phenomena. Climatology does not come close to this level of 'hardness.' So don't be bamboozled: don't imagine that the prestige of physics transfers undiminished onto climatology. It is pretty speculative stuff and much of it is ideologically infected.
Our first three questions are empirical.But the last three are not, being questions of public policy. So although the core issues are empirical, philosophers have some role to play: they can help in the formulation and clarification of the various questions; they can help with the normative questions that arise in conjunction with (4)-(5), and they can examine the cogency of the arguments given on either side. Last but not least, they can drive home the importance of being clear about the distinction between empirical and conceptual questions.
It occurred to me this morning that there is an ominous parallel between Putin's occupation of the Ukraine and Hitler's of the Sudetenland, and on a similar pretext, namely, the protecting of ethnic Russians/Germans. The Sudetenland was the German-speaking region of Czechoslovakia whose annexation by Hitler in 1938 was part of the run-up to the Second World War. But I'm no historian. So let me ascend from these grimy speluncar details into the aether of philosophy.
George Santayana is repeatedly quoted as saying that "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." Although this may be true individually, I cannot see that it is true collectively. I have learned from my mistakes, and I don't repeat them. But a collection of individuals, with its ever-changing membership, is not an individual. Collectively, whether we remember the past or not we are condemned to repeat it. That is how I would go Santayana one better. Or to put it in less ringing terms:
Collectively, knowledge of the past does little to prevent the recurrence of old mistakes.
One reason for this is that there is no consensus as to what the lessons of history are. What did we Americans learn from Viet Nam? That we should avoid all foreign entanglements? That when we engage militarily we should do so decisively and with overwhelming force and resolve? (E.g, that we should have suppressed dissent at home and used a few tactical nukes against the Viet Cong?) What is the lesson to be learned? What is the mistake to be avoided? Paleocons, neocons (the descendants of old-time liberals) and leftists don't agree on questions like these.
One cannot learn a lesson the content of which is up for grabs.
What did we learn from Hiroshima and Nagasaki? That the wholesale slaughter of noncombatants is sometimes justified and may (as it actually has) usher in a long period of world peace? (There hasn't been a world war in going on 70 years). That this is a case in which the end justified the means? No adherent of just war doctrine would agree that that is the lesson.
Another reason why knowledge of the past is of little help in the present is that, even if there is agreement on some general lesson -- e.g., don't appease dictators -- there is bound to be disagreement as to whether or not the lesson applies in particular circumstances. Is Obama an appeaser? Is Putin a dictator? Is the Ukraine sufficiently like the Sudetenland to justify an action-guiding comparison? Et cetera ad nauseam.
A few days ago I was blissfully unaware of Duck Diversity Dynasty, the reality show on the Arts and Entertainment channel. I still haven't watched even one episode, nor am I particularly inclined to; the antics of rednecks are not my thing. I have gathered, however, that the series falls more on the entertainment end of the Arts and Entertainment spectrum. One of the characters whose reality is depicted, Phil Robertson, shown on the left, has made comments on homosexuality that have drawn attention, to put it mildly. I won't rehearse the details of a brouhaha about which my astute readers can be expected to be familiar. I will simply make a few comments bearing upon the contretemps that strike me as important.
1. To have the homosexual disposition or inclination or proclivity is one thing; to exercise it in homosexual sex acts such as anal intercourse is quite another. You may be born with the proclivity, and stuck with it, but you are free to exercise it or not. The proclivity may be part of 'who you are,' ingredient in your very identity, but the practices are freely engaged in. Acts done or left undone are contingent and thus no part of anyone's identity. Moral criticism of homosexual practices is not criticism of anyone for who he is.
2. It follows that rejection of homosexual sex acts as immoral is consistent with acceptance of homosexuals as people. In a trite phrase, one can hate the sin but love the sinner. The sinful and the immoral, however, are not quite the same, though I cannot expatiate on the distinction at the moment.
It is therefore very bad journalism to describe Robertson's comments as 'anti-gay' for that elides the distinction I just drew. Opposition to homosexual practices is not opposition to homosexuals.
And of course there is nothing 'homophobic' about Robertson's comments. I don't reckon that the good old boy pictured above has any irrational fear of homosexuals. 'Homophobic' is a coinage of leftists to prevent one of those famous 'conversations' that they otherwise call for. It is a question-begging epithet and semantic bludgeon meant to close down debate by the branding of their opponents as suffering from a mental defect. This is why only a foolish conservative acquiesces in the use of this made-up word. Language matters. One of the first rules for successful prosecution of the Kulturkampf is to never let the enemy distort the terms of the debate. Insist on standard English, and always slap them down when they engage in their notorious 'framing.' As for 'gay,' that too is a word we ought not surrender. Use the neutral 'homosexual.' Same with 'queer.' 'Queer' is a good old word. Nominalists think abstracta are queer entities. There is no implication that the analysis of such is in any way proctological.
3. Whether or not Phil Robertson and people like him can cogently defend their opposition to homosexual practices, they have a right to hold and express their opinions in public fora, and a right to be tolerated by those who oppose their views. To tolerate is not approve of, let alone endorse; it is to put up with, to allow, to refrain from interfering with the promulgation of distasteful ideas. Without widespread toleration it is hard to see how a nation as diverse and pluralistic as the USA can remain even minimally united.
4. There are solid arguments based in theology and philosophy for rejecting as immoral homosexual practices. And they are available to Robertson and Co. should they decide to lay down their shotguns long enough to swot them up. These arguments won't convince those on the the other side, but then no argument, no matter how well-articulated and reasonable, no matter how consistent with known empirical fact and free of logical error, convinces those on the other side of any 'hot button' issue.
5. As a corollary to (4), note that arguments against homosexuality needn't presupose the truth of any religion. They can be purely philosophical. The same goes for abortion. If I argue against late-term abortion on the the ground that it is sufficiently like infanticide to inherit the moral wrongness of infanticide, then I argue in a way that makes no use of any religious premise.
6. The A & E Network has every right to fire Robertson and Co. By the same token, a baker or a florist has every right to refuse service to a same-sex couple planning a same -sex 'marriage' and it is simply wrong for government at any level to force the baker or the florist to violate his conscience.
7. In the interests of comity, homosexuals and their practices ought to be tolerated. Whether or not the practices are immoral, they ought to be legally permissible as long as they are between consenting adults. But this right to be tolerated does not translate into a right to be approved or applauded or celebrated or a right to impose their views on others, or a right to change the culture to their liking. In particular, it does not translate into a right to have their 'marriages' legally recognized.
8. Given the obvious distinction made in (1) above, the following sort of argument is invalid. "Tom didn't choose to be homosexual; he was born that way, so his practice of homosexuality via anal intercourse is morally acceptable." That sort of argument obviously proves too much. Pedophiles, sadomasochists, necrophiliacs, and so on down the list of sexual perversions are most of them born with their proclivity, but that fact does not justify their engaging in the corresponding practices.
One cannot insure against an event the probability of which is 1. It violates the very concept of insurance.
I have a homeowner's policy for which I pay about $400 a year. It insures against various adverse events such as fire. Suppose I didn't have the policy and my house catches fire. Do you think I could call up an insurer and buy a policy to cover that preexisting condition? Not for $400. He might, however, sell me a policy on the spot for the replacement value of the house.
Or suppose I am on my deathbed enjoying (if that's the word) my last sunset. Do you think I could buy a $500,000 term life policy for, say, $2 K per annum?
Do you understand the concept of insurance? Do you see how this relevant to ObamaCare? If not, read this.
Some object to the popular 'Obamacare' label given that the official title of the law is 'Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act' or, as commonly truncated, 'Affordable Care Act.' But there is a good reason to favor the popular moniker: it is descriptive where the other two labels are evaluative, expressing as they do a pro attitude toward the bill.
Will the law really protect patients? That is an evaluative judgment based on projections many regard as flimsy. Will the law really make health care affordable? And for whom? Will care mandated for all be readily available and of high quality?
Everybody wants affordable and readily available health care of high quality for the greatest number possible. The question is how best to attain this end. The 'Affordable Care Act' label begs the question as to whether or not Obama's bill will achieve the desired end. 'Obamacare' does not. It is, if not all that descriptive, at least evaluatively neutral.
If Obama's proposal were referred to as "Socialized Medicine Health Care Act' or 'Another Step Toward the Nanny State Act,' people would protest the negative evaluations embedded in the titles. Titles of bills ought to be neutral.
Proponents of a consumption tax sometimes refer to it as a fair tax. Same problem. 'Fair' is an evaluative term while 'consumption' is not. 'Consumption tax' conveys the idea that taxes should be collected at the consuming end rather than at the income-producing end. 'Fair tax' fails to convey that idea, but what is worse, it begs the question as to what a fair tax would look like. It is a label that invites the conflation of distinct questions: What is a consumption tax? Is it good? Answer the first and it remains an open question what the answer to the second is.
What is fairness? What is justice? Is justice fairness? These are questions that need to be addressed, not questions answers to which ought to be presupposed.
There is no good reason to object to 'Obamacare' -- the word, not the thing.