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All wisdom begins in wonder, and this delight kindles a desire for truth that leads us on a quest for the really real -- the source of being itself. Hence, the philosophical impulse, albeit often manifested in atheistic and irreverent stumblings in the dark of human ignorance, begins and ultimately ends in theology -- communicating and communing with our origin and goal. We men are rational animals who seek to know. We are agents of truth who want correct answers to questions that we must ask. From the noblest objects of contemplation to the seemingly insignificant everyday trivialities of life, we attempt to unravel perplexing knots. Limited, blind, and distracted, we nevertheless struggle for wisdom. This is our lot, and it is also our glory.
Monday, July 20, A.D. 2009
Apollo 11

Forty years ago, fellow Ohioan Neil Armstrong of the Apollo 11 mission stepped onto the moon, marking a new stage in human exploration.

Here is N.B.C.‘s Time & Again episode on Apollo 11:

There are many views about space exploration, its costs, and its consequences. However, I still find the space race of the 60’s rather spectacular. In such a short time, Russians and Americans achieved so many milestones of mankind’s embarking upon the great black sea.

So, here’s a cheer for Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, Buzz Aldrin, and all the scientists, engineers, politicians (especially President Kennedy), support staff, and others who made the moon landing possible (from the ancient mathematicians and physicists to the grunts who poured coffee at the Mission Control Center in Houston). Though not a Cartesian and admittedly somewhat of a Luddite, I celebrate the amazing feat accomplished four decades ago. Indeed, a giant leap for mankind . . .

Posted by Joseph on Monday, July 20, Anno Domini 2009
AnthropologyPhysicsPolitics • (1) CommentPermalink
Wednesday, July 15, A.D. 2009

In his “Postjudice” post, Steve Sailer notes how odd it is that the media continue to use the “prejudice” refrain when they cover the Philadelphia pool story. For the swim club must have known in advance what the “complexion” of the new kids would be. They just did not realize—being good, wealthy Philadelphians—what such diversity would entail. Once they found out—once experience interupted their gay thinking—then they decided that diversity was not such a fabulous option, after all.

If you are unaware of the incident, a private swimming club in Philadelphia agreed to allow some inner city day camps to rent their facilities. After one day, the club terminated the agreement, and the race hustling usual suspects were piping mad that Philly’s swimming white community had closed yet another door to the teeming brown masses waiting to make another splash. Naturally, the swim club has relented. To avoid bad press and government goon squads, little Timmy and Jenny will just not go swimming on certain days, the club will hire far more crowd control and janitorial staff, and it will purchase more chlorine and insurance. Such is the requisite price that privileged, upper class whites must pay to maintain their untarnished commitments to racial blindness and to the value of diversity.

Sailer’s comments section is interesting because his readers are so manifestly indulgent in social taboos. In one thread, some commentators conjecture that the urbane “Stuff White People Like” types who wear diversity totems on their sleeves (literally and figuratively) often harbor the same “racist” attitudes as the “backwards” whites whom they despise. However, to maintain their sense of moral superiority, these “progressive” whites disavow such distasteful acknowledgements because they can afford to do so. They are able to live in posh communities, study in elite schools, and patronize trendy establishments where the only brown folks are the elite with whom they are commensurable—the same diverse friends whom they exploit as tokens of their progressive street cred—Leftist bling, so to speak.

I am not sure about this view or theories similar to it. For one thing, outside of Vermont, the S.W.P.L. crowd does have a lot of exposure to “typical” minority dysfunctionality. I have noticed such in San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, and Washington, D.C. There might be something to “Ivory Tower liberalism,” but our latter day young Leftists choose to live in communities where they are in close proximity to black ghettos. So, one may ask if they are simply blind to the dysfunction. Well, many S.W.P.L. people acknowledge reality enough to keep safe in unsafe areas, and they demonstrate the same degree of awareness when they move to the suburbs once they have children. I suspect that they acknowledge the blight of black culture but that they blame “institutionalized white racism” as the cause. I may notice that a student performs poorly at school, but I may excuse such performance because of his troubled home life. I think that a similar reaction proceeds from white, urban yuppies.

However, I have had the opportunity to know hundreds of privileged, white children from elite families who have not yet developed the finely tuned skill of masking their beliefs with socially acceptable doublespeak, and I have been quite surprised at their racial attitudes. These teenagers have Leftist political and social views, they support the Democratic candidates that their parents choose and fund, and yet they are inconsistently though flagrantly racist. In theory, they speak of racial equality and exhibit all the necessary trappings of privileged, white guilt. In practice, however, they view blacks as ignorant, stupid savages—as no more than servants and jesters for them at court. It is shocking, indeed, and I cannot explain the inconsistency. The reinforced and repeated experience of this does make me wonder if Sailer’s commentators are right.

But why, then, put on such a false parade? Is W.A.S.P. self-effacement merely a tactical move? I do not like conspiracy theories, and I am disinclined to believe such a view. Yet, the facts are confusing. How ought we to connect the dots?

Posted by Joseph on Wednesday, July 15, Anno Domini 2009
Tuesday, July 14, A.D. 2009
Musings on a Goldfish Cracker Box

Two months ago, I wrote “Musings on a Kashi Cereal Box,” not having been embarrassed to admit that the mundane makes me think. Well, last night I enjoyed a late night sandwich with Goldfish crackers on the side. I have enjoyed that processed goodness since I first had Goldfish in a Chicago hotel as a small child. As I ate my meal while standing over the kitchen counter (an old habit that should have a name—perhaps akathistophagia), I looked over the Goldfish cracker box.

I first noticed that the front featured a cartoon Goldfish riding a bike with a safety helmet on. I suppose that Pepperidge Farm did not think highly of Irina Dunn’s (or Gloria Steinem’s) aphorism, which, if true, would endear the brand more to me. Now, it is ridiculous that a fish wears a safety helmet and rides a bicycle, but seeing the conspicuous safety helmet initiated a series of questions in my mind. Did Pepperidge Farm feature the safety helmet so prominently as a public service, reasoning that continuous exposure to safety helmets on bike riding cartoon animals would make children more likely to wear them? That is possible. Do gooding influences corporate decisions, too. It is more likely, however, that Pepperidge Farm found that its public service announcement happy fish would appeal to mothers who were shopping for snack crackers. I wonder what goes on in the thought process of the typical grocery shopping mom. Is she aware that she is being manipulated by Pepperidge Farm? Does she like the packaging without thinking about why, or does she consciously notice the fish’s safety helmet and conclude that she wishes to expose her children to safety helmet normalization, as well? Does she think that Pepperidge Farm is the kind of company that she wants to patronize because it cares about responsible bicycle riding habits? I would like to know what the folks in marketing thought.

Regardless of the mom’s or Pepperidge Farm’s motivations, it is clear that commercial products and their advertisements are vehicles and teachers of society’s values. Whether they quietly attempt to impose an elite’s value system on the masses or whether they attempt to manipulate the masses by selling them goods under the guise of cherished traditions, they carry and teach values. Consider how universally “diversity” is understood in America as something good, ideal, and even iconic of our national identity. Berkeley trained teachers, P.B.S., and Democratic politicians could not have so easily succeeded in brainwashing the entire republic in just a generation without assistance. Commercial America facilitated such success. I have met countless folks from rural America who speak of their home communities with embarrassment and scorn because they consist of people just like themselves. Stop and ponder that. Americans have so been mesmerized by the diversity spell that they find natural, homogeneous communities uncomfortable. The normal human condition has been rendered alien to them by Benetton ads and Sesame Street. That is quite an accomplishment.

Another side of the Goldfish box featured two fish’s lecturing on how Pepperidge Farm’s new packaging required less trees, which was good for the environment. It stated that trees were good for all sorts of things, including leaves for jumping in. Why a mysteriously flying fish out of water would wish to jump in leaves is not explained, and a small part of me momentarily wished for the moron behind the whole marketing concept to asphyxiate in dog dung. After the moment of hate passed, I realized a possible reason for the rise of environmentalism as a substitute religion.

In our “pluralistic, diverse” society, there are not too many things that appeal to most everyone. History, religion, culture, language, ethnicity, and all the hallmarks of a civilization are divisive for a society without an identity, that is, a diverse society. Hence, the preacher who does not wish to offend anyone, the politician who wishes to please everyone, and the marketing executive who wants to appeal to everyone will all focus on matters largely uncontroversial. However, most of those matters do not stir passions because they are so universal and because no action for them is necessary. It is already universally believed and legally binding that mean people ought not to harm blind, crippled, old people. Such a message will not sell as it is not seen as pressing or relevant. However, most everyone appreciates nature but likewise realizes its peril in the contemporary world. Who hates trees? Who wants butterflies to disappear? If anyone says such, in the manner of Rush Limbaugh, it is out of a perverse reaction to environmentalist extremists. Yet, even callous, cold hearted Republicans appreciate the Great Outdoors. Support for the natural world is like support for (post natum) babies, but the natural world needs new action for its protection. Hence, preachers, politicians, and businesses get a cause with near universal support to peddle their spiritual, political, and commercial wares.

When so many forces continually trumpet the cause of all hallowed nature, it is no surprise that many people whose secular lives lack meaning beyond appetitive gratification would come to see environmentalism as their crusade to redeem their bored time—or, in more multicultural terms, as their inner and outer jihad.

Posted by Joseph on Tuesday, July 14, Anno Domini 2009
Monday, July 13, A.D. 2009
The Fall of New England

I shall make my first trip to Yankee land next week, and I am looking forward to it. Yet, New England as a culture baffles me. Consider Massachusetts. Not too many generations ago, the Bay State elected Calvin Coolidge as its governor. Now, it sends the likes of Ted Kennedy and Barney Frank to Congress. How did the home of the Puritans’ descendants, the land of those realistic W.A.S.P. Republican Yankees, transform into the Leftist bastion of America?

Did the indigenous New Englanders get replaced by the F.O.B.‘s from New York City? Should we blame the Irish? (Of course, we should, but would such be causally accurate as opposed to morally justified?) Was it the Ivy League’s transformation into a Gramscian Marxist establishment that poisoned New England?

I have no idea. Clearly, New England was always a seedbed for political and religious lunacy. Mary Baker Eddy had a lot of company back then. We should not expect the progeny of utopian Calvinists to have turned out well balanced. Look at the history of the nineteenth century, and you will see that New England’s “progressivist” social engineers have been misunderstanding man and the human community for many generations. Perhaps, New England’s transformation was simply the maturation of its cultural life cycle. Maybe, secular Leftist Massachusetts is the existentially logical consequent of Congregationalism. Having no love for either, I still find it sad to know that the latter became the former.

Posted by Joseph on Monday, July 13, Anno Domini 2009
Saturday, July 11, A.D. 2009
Burnham’s Liberalism Test: Questions 32-39

(This is a continuation of my posts on Jame Burnham’s liberalism test from A.D. 1964. You may access the related posts at the bottom of this entry.)

James Panero informs us that questions 32-39 are taken from the United Nations’ Universal Declarations of Human Rights, which was adopted in A.D. 1948.

32. Everyone is entitled to political and social rights without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.

I do not believe in rights. See my answer to question 3 for my reasons. Given that, I do acknowledge that human beings have claims upon and duties to one another, but I believe that those claims and duties vary depending on the relationship. Thus, I think that we should treat all human beings with a certain level of dignity, but I do not think that we should treat all human beings equally. I owe much more and expect much more from my kin than from people outside my family.

Moreover, I think that any society may and should organize itself according to the order fitting to its regime, and such organization requires attention to the distinctions previously mentioned. In other words, a society’s constitutional order will grant its members powers, claims, and duties by discriminating on the basis of “race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.” It is upon such distinctions that regimes distinguish themselves from other regimes.

33. Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and expression.

I have addressed this issue in the answers to questions 2, 12, 17, 23, and 26. My short answer is no.

34. Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression.

Redundantly, I have addressed this issue in the answers to questions 2, 12, 17, 23, and 26. My short answer is no.

35. The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government.

What exactly does this statement mean? Popular sovereignty begs the question, “Who are the people?” Were human beings in a society equal and unanimous, then there would not be any difficulty in answering such a question. However, human beings are not equal, and they do not believe the same things, make the same decisions, or have the same insights.

Echoing the Schoolmen, I think that the basis of authority is God as the origin of power and of justice, though men share in that authority collectively inasmuch as they incarnate the divine law in themselves. If all men were virtuous and wise, they would flawlessly appoint the best among them to orchestrate communal power to maximize the common good. However, such is not the case, and the varying types of legitimate regimes attempt to approximate good government. Depending on the circumstances, certain regimes achieve this approximation better than others. So, I would argue that the worldly basis of authority resides in a regime’s ability to follow the principles of justice and to rule for the common good. On a practical level, though, such a view does not differ that considerably from Hobbes’ position where a state justifies its own legitimacy by providing and keeping order. I differ, though, in that I would more strenuously support a prolonged counter-revolutionary struggle following a disruption of traditional rule that was not sufficiently incompetent in justice. For revolutions almost always bring about worse regimes.

36. Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security.

See my answers to questions 3 and 7. My short answer is no, but I do think that a well constituted society looks after its weak members in ways that do not weaken the society or encourage dysfunctional behavior.

37. Everyone has the right to equal pay for equal work.

Market forces determine value in an exchange economy, and no other mechanism yet discovered comes closer to organizing a society’s production and consumption so efficiently. In that production and consumption are free, voluntary acts among free men, I do not see the justification for the state’s interference in such free association. An employer should be free to offer the salary and benefits that he wishes, and an employee should be free to accept or to reject that offer. As I state below, I also have no problem with guilds and unions who collectively regulate and represent workers in a trade.

38. Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions.

I come closer to agreeing with this proposition than with any other on the test. A trade union is another form of association, and unless such association undermines the regime, it should be permitted. I dislike the reality of contemporary unions, but I have no objection to them on principle. My only possible disagreement, though I am not sure of this opinion, is that state workers should not have unions. Such organizations seem to be seditious by definition; for they exist within the state to force the state to do their bidding. That said, the corruption and lawlessness that characterize most unions ought not to be tolerated.

39. Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.

Let me repeat my answer to question 36: See my answers to questions 3 and 7. My short answer is no, but I do think that a well constituted society looks after its weak members in ways that do not weaken the society or encourage dysfunctional behavior.

Links to this series of posts:

“Are You a Liberal?”
“Burnham’s Liberalism Test: Prelude”
“Burnham’s Liberalism Test: Questions 1-6”
“Burnham’s Liberalism Test: Questions 7-12”
“Burnham’s Liberalism Test: Questions 13-18”
“Burnham’s Liberalism Test: Questions 19-24”
“Burnham’s Liberalism Test: Questions 25-31”
“Burnham’s Liberalism Test: Questions 32-39”

Posted by Joseph on Saturday, July 11, Anno Domini 2009
Thursday, July 9, A.D. 2009
The Market Ticker Cleans the GOP’s Clock

You may wish to read a piece by Karl Denninger on The Market Ticker about the sorry state of the Grand Old Party, “Sarah Palin and the Republicans.”

If only Republicans would follow his advice and if only Americans were still the sort of people to support such measures . . .

Posted by Joseph on Thursday, July 9, Anno Domini 2009
Wednesday, July 8, A.D. 2009
My First Abortion Party

Should anyone out there doubt how corrupt our society has become, please read My First Abortion Party by Byard Duncan on AlterNet.

I am tempted to think that the piece is an excellent example of parody, but I fear that it was written in earnest.

For some laughs and horror induced tears, consider reading the comments thread. For more, look around the site.

As Derbyshire says, we are doomed, doomed, doomed.

Posted by Joseph on Wednesday, July 8, Anno Domini 2009
Tuesday, July 7, A.D. 2009
Burnham’s Liberalism Test: Questions 25-31

(This is a continuation of my posts on Jame Burnham’s liberalism test from A.D. 1964. You may access the related posts at the bottom of this entry.)

26. Qualified teachers, at least at the university level, are entitled to academic freedom: that is, the right to express their own beliefs and opinions, in or out of the classroom, without interference from administrators, trustees, parents or public bodies.

In the answers to questions 2, 12, 17, and 23, I acknowledge the importance of free inquiry. As with the Laws’ “Nocturnal Council,” there are matters ultimately more important to a society than its own stability. Truth is more important than convention on the final scale. Still, a society must regulate free inquiry so that it does not unravel the society by its transgression of convention. Perhaps I am naive, but I think that a regime may accommodate the philosopher, as long as the philosopher values social stability and realizes that his goal is not to transform the regime. As the pursuit of truth progresses, a society may slowly assimilate enlightenment into its conventions.

As such, I agree that academic freedom has a place, but such a place is limited. Unregulated social subversion “out of the classroom” is not a recipe for a healthy society, though a society respectful of the pursuit of truth must recognize the classroom itself.

27. In determining who is to be admitted to schools and universities, quota systems based on color, religion, family or similar factors are wrong.

I think that institutions, including schools, should be allowed to create the sort of atmosphere that they wish, as different demographics result in different atmospheres. As in my answer to question 15, my inner liberal does not want the state to interfere with people’s freedom in peaceful association. As in my answer to question 1, I do not think that discrimination is wrong in itself, though it can be at times irrational, harmful, and thus wrong in certain circumstances.

28. The national government should guarantee that all adult citizens, except for criminals and the insane, should have the right to vote.

This proposition triggers the most antiliberal response from me. Democracy is an idiotic system that puts power in the hands of the stupid, the ignorant, and the vicious, all of whom are utterly unfit to lead themselves, much less their betters. Unlike Churchill, I hold that most any other regime harms its people less than democracy. It is and always has been the rule of the mob, and it cannot be otherwise, given human nature.

29. Joseph McCarthy was probably the most dangerous man in American public life during the fifteen years following the Second World War.

If only the time frame were extended a bit, I could readily offer a substitute—Edward Kennedy, who unfortunately remains in the Senate. No other politician has done more to destroy our society than he.

30. There are no significant differences in intellectual, moral or civilizing capacity among human races and ethnic types.

I disagree completely. As men vary considerably one from another, so do groups of men in their families, tribes, and nations. It requires a massive amount of self-deception to come to a different conclusion. The Jared Diamonds of the world enrich themselves by telling soothing lies to egalitarian consumers.

31. Steps toward world disarmament would be a good thing.

If we could rid the entire world of nuclear weapons permanently, then such would be a good and advantageous boon for mankind. However, disarmament would be counterproductive for any armed state unless the disarmament were universal. The question, then, becomes how the international community could enforce universal disarmament without a real global government—an option that I find both unrealistic and horrifying. I have no answers. Men ought not to have such power. They will not use it wisely.

Links to this series of posts:

“Are You a Liberal?”
“Burnham’s Liberalism Test: Prelude”
“Burnham’s Liberalism Test: Questions 1-6”
“Burnham’s Liberalism Test: Questions 7-12”
“Burnham’s Liberalism Test: Questions 13-18”
“Burnham’s Liberalism Test: Questions 19-24”
“Burnham’s Liberalism Test: Questions 25-31”
“Burnham’s Liberalism Test: Questions 32-39”

Posted by Joseph on Tuesday, July 7, Anno Domini 2009
Friday, July 3, A.D. 2009
Burnham’s Liberalism Test: Questions 19-24

(This is a continuation of my posts on Jame Burnham’s liberalism test from A.D. 1964. You may access the related posts at the bottom of this entry.)

19. Corporal punishment, except possibly for small children, is wrong.

One ought to punish and to “rehabilitate” in the manner most effective and fitting to the person being punished. I agree that it is wrong to treat a rational man whose problems result from poor reasoning as if he were not rational. Yet, most crime is not a result of poor reasoning. “Irrational” methods such as lost privileges or even bodily pain might be more effective in retraining the soul.

20. All nations and peoples, including the nations and peoples of Asia and Africa, have a right to political independence when a majority of the population wants it.

As in the answer to question 14, I think that one must consider whether the rulers or the ruled are more fit to rule. In the case of sub-Saharan Africa, it seems to me that Europeans should have left those peoples alone to live as they have always done in their stone age cultures. However, once the European powers colonized them, they ought not to have left; the white man’s burden was heavy, indeed. For the West bequeathed men’s weapons to the nursery, and such a situation requires that adults stick around to make sure that the babes do not get into the gun cabinet. If they wanted out, they should have returned the land to its savage condition, taken all of their adult items with them, and left the locals to return to a form of society for which they are fit.

21. We always ought to respect the religious beliefs of others.

I suspect that most everyone misuses the term respect. Respect connotes an orientation of admiration and high esteem. As such, we ought to respect only that which is respectable.

I assume that when people talk of respect, they mean that we ought to treat people civilly or with courtesy—that we ought to act with some level of decent manners toward others.

As such, I do not think that we ought to respect religious beliefs that we find false, perverse, or wicked. However, I think that it is good manners to acknowledge that certain things are held as sacred by others and to act accordingly. Perhaps, this includes some level of feigned respect, though circumstances should be considered. I think that it befits a foreign guest not to offend the locals in their own land by following their customs. If such a custom violates one’s conscience, then I think that one should try to minimize offense.

For example, were I in Japan, I would not respect pagan shrines and temples as if they were really holy, but I would feign some degree of respect because I recognize that the Japanese find such places hallowed and sacred. Furthermore, I think that those tendencies in the Japanese are good and worthy of respect, though I find them misplaced and imperfect. Perhaps, then, I would not have to feign respect since there is something truly respectable behind their religious views that I do not respect.

22. The primary goal of international policy in the nuclear age ought to be peace.

The primary goal of international policy for any state is to advance that state’s interests. Most of the time, it is in the interest of every state to seek peace, though circumstances might require other options, as I wrote in the answer to question 18. The only difference that the “nuclear” age makes is that now we must weigh the consequences of nuclear war in our analysis of costs and benefits, which are frightfully considerable.

23. Except in cases of a clear threat to national security or, possibly, to juvenile morals, censorship is wrong.

As in the answers to questions 2, 12, and 17, I think that communities may and ought to exercise censorship for the good of the community. However, noting that free inquiry is useful for the attainment of truth, there should be some “censorship free zones” such as universities wherein intelligent pursuers of truth may transcend the bounds of convention for the sake of something higher than civic harmony.

24. Congressional investigating committees are dangerous institutions, and need to be watched and curbed if they are not to become a serious threat to freedom.

Burnham’s test is a bit dated, and I assume that this question concerns the McCarthy era. Inasmuch as the police always need policed at some level, I agree that investigators ought to be watched. Yet, in a republic where transparency is a key to the integrity of the regime, I wonder how we can attain such transparency unless there is an open and fair method for investigating corruption and sedition. Congressional investigations seem less likely to be wielded as weapons for personal or ulterior reasons than other models for investigation. A committee made up of political adversaries seems to be a better organ for such investigation than an agency under the thumb of one man.

Links to this series of posts:

“Are You a Liberal?”
“Burnham’s Liberalism Test: Prelude”
“Burnham’s Liberalism Test: Questions 1-6”
“Burnham’s Liberalism Test: Questions 7-12”
“Burnham’s Liberalism Test: Questions 13-18”
“Burnham’s Liberalism Test: Questions 19-24”
“Burnham’s Liberalism Test: Questions 25-31”
“Burnham’s Liberalism Test: Questions 32-39”

Posted by Joseph on Friday, July 3, Anno Domini 2009
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