Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The stupid party

Even liberals may be forced to conceed that the House Democrats' latest Iraq plan is a really dumb idea:
House Democratic leaders are developing an anti-war proposal that wouldn't cut off money for U.S. troops in Iraq while requiring President Bush to acknowledge problems with an overburdened military.

The plan could draw broad bipartisan support but was expected to be a tough sell to members who said they don't think it goes far enough to assuage voters angered by the four-year war.
Does this exercise have a point? The best guess so far is that:
The tactic is more likely to embarrass Bush politically than force his hand on the war. He would have to sign repeated waivers for units and report to Congress those units with equipment shortfalls and other problems.
The major flaw with this plan is obvious: Democrats have been trying to embarass President Bush politically ever since Election Day 2000. A big swath of the mainstream media -- stretching from Hollywood ("Fahrenheit 9/11", "The Day After Tomorrow", and innumerable documentaries), Television (Dan Rather's Texas Air National Guard memos most notably), Music (The Dixie Chicks), Blogs (The Daily Kos, Moveon.Org, etc.), Talk Radio (Air America, NPR) and Newsprint (The New York Times most notably) -- has retooled itself into a political machine devoted to humiliating President Bush on a daily if not hourly basis. Why would anyone think that some slight extra increment of embarassment might finally leverage the Bush Administration into caving in over Iraq?

The real problem is that the House Democrats are prosecuting their political war against the Bush Adminstration, unfortunately, like Democrats. This latest Democratic plan is just another "bomb" dropped from 20,000 ft: the plan will most probably implode harmlessly, but there's a one-in-a-million chance that it KO's something important, thus driving the enemy's chickenhawk leader into a surrender. But it doesn't really matter because the important thing for House Democrats is making sure that they don't take any casulties.

Friday, February 23, 2007

President Bush to reopen the African slave trade. News, weather and sports at 11.

Andrew Sullivan draws a parallel between the torture of terrorists -- that is, some of the most depraved human beings on the planet -- and the African slave trade (author's italics and included link):
On the aniversary of the abolition of the slave trade, it's worth recalling that torture is inextricably linked to slavery. As Scott Horton explains more fully here, when Wilberforce and Wesley aimed to persuade the British elites that the slave trade was evil, they did not cite Biblical proscriptions against slavery. Why? Because the Bible is actually very ambiguous about slavery (the Southern Baptist Convention even used scripture to defend slavery in America). So Wilberforce stressed that the slave trade required unspeakable cruelty, abuse and torture of its victims. That was his rhetorical gambit. He framed his case against the slave trade as a case against inhumane treatment of prisoners of war.
Hey, just because you're a mass murderer of civilians, a perpetrator of gruesome atrocities against innocents, and a warrior in a campaign of unrestrained mass violence for anarchy's sake doesn't mean that you're not entitled to possess the same human dignity as, say, Ghandi (assuming that you're still capable of possessing dignity, that is). John Derbyshire refers to Sullivan's type of argument here as the reductio ad servitum:
Well, there is a style of argumentation in present-day America that is starting to annoy me mightily. I call it reductio ad servitum — reducing to slavery. The arguer wants to show that some change, or some refusal to change, is desirable and correct, even though masses of people are opposed to it. “After all,” he says triumphantly, “masses of people supported slavery…”

Thursday, February 22, 2007

The real posts #100, #200 and #300

Apparently the old "Blogger" counted unpublished draft postings towards one's post total. This means that some of my old milestone posts have incorrect titles, depending upon how many drafts had built up at the time. So here are the real milestones not counting drafts.

#100: Education in America
#200: Post #200: Will Intelligent Design win?
#300: Thoughts about Mel Gibson's "Apocalypto" (The post titled "Post #300" is actually #297)

The Vacuum Energy LOST Theory

The strange happenings of the television show LOST are creating a lot of fan speculation about what is really going on. So here is a compendium of my thoughts on the subject. Minor updates will go into comments while major updates will spawn a new post.

In the beginning

Geological Prehistory
The "island" and its smaller companion form in the South Pacific. The island, due to its "geologically unique" magnetic properties, is a place with an unusually strong connection between magnetism, consciousness, and the nature of reality.

Evolutionary Prehistory
The human species evolves consciousness and intelligence. The interaction between human consciousness and the nature of reality is extremely weak and entirely subconscious, thus requiring 20th century scientific techniques to investigate. The "Monster" evolves consciousness and intelligence but remains dependent upon the island's unique magnetic properties for its survival.

Cultural Prehistory
Polynesian migrants discover the island and the monster. The statue is transported to the island by these migrants to serve as a warning to others.

The 19th Century
The ship The Black Rock encounters the island and is literally dragged out of the water by the Monster. Most of the passengers and crew, including Captain Magnus Hanso, are killed. Magnus Hanso is buried near The Black Rock's final resting place by the few survivors.

The 20th and 21st centuries

Foundation and Alvar Hanso
The matematician Enzo Valenzetti develops a rudimentory form of the mathematical field denoted "psychohistory" by the author Isaac Asimov in the book Foundation. Enzo's research leads to a conclusion much more dire than Asimov's: the extinction of the human race.

The industrialist Alvar Hanso becomes aware of Valenzetti's results. Possessing a significant fraction of the immense wealth necessary to even begin to engineer cultures on a global scale -- and thus potentially alter Valenzetti's conclusions -- Alvar Hanso begins the contruction of colonies similar to Asimov's "First Foundation".

Alvar Hanso and the island
Perhaps because of some resonance with the fate of his ancestor Magnus Hanso, Alvar Hanso chooses the main island and it's smaller neighbor as the location for one of his Foundations. These colonists and their descendents eventually become known to the "Losties" (i.e. the survivors of Oceanic flight 815) as "The Others".

The creation of the DHARMA Initiative
The Monster is encountered on the island by Alvar Hanso or his agents. The deep connection between magnetism, consciousness, and the nature of reality becomes apparent from debreifings of survivors of these encounters. These encounters lead Alvar Hanso to collaborate with Gerald and Karen DeGroot in founding the D.H.A.R.M.A. Initiative.

The purposes of the D.H.A.R.M.A. Initiative are two-fold. The first is to study, contain, and if necessary destroy the "Monster". The second is to collaborate with the new "Foundation" established on the island to produce what is in effect Asimov's "Second Foundation".

The D.H.A.R.M.A. stations that have been discovered by the Losties have their nominal functions at this time with two exceptions. The Swan station is devoted to electromagnetic research but "the button" and the magnetic anomaly are not yet present. The purpose of the Pearl station is to monitor the inhabitants of the other stations for signs of the Monster's psychic attacks.

The "incident"
Alvar Hanso and an unnamed individual whose initials are MDG and possibly others experience an "incident" that involves the Monster. The nature of the incident is sufficiently grave as to require drastic modifications to the D.H.A.R.M.A. Initiative's plans for the island. Following the incident, the magnetic anomaly and the computer control with the 108 minute countdown are purposefully installed into the Swan station as a "dead man's switch" in an attempt to protect those members of the D.H.A.R.M.A. Initiative still present on the island. The individual whose initials are MDG adopts the aliases "Mark Wickman" and "Marvin Candle" in the post-incident station orientation films.

The monster makes attempts to penetrate the Swan hatch and destroy the magnetic anomaly there (in a way that permits the monster to survive, of course). These attacks by the monster fail in their goal but eventually drive most of the D.H.A.R.M.A. Initiative personnel away from the island. The polar bears, who played some technical role in D.H.A.R.M.A. Initiative research, escape from their cages during this period

The "numbers"
The subconscious minds of the Swan station operators becomes programmed by a combination of the numerical computer code "4 8 15 16 23 42" along with the continued stress and anxiety of living in the Swan station. Over the years, this and the unusual properties of the island accumulates a vast psychic import to these numbers in this order.

The numbers occur as core numerical values in the Valenzetti equation and are continually transmitted from the island from a radio tower -- these events happen before the incident. This may be due to a process of reverse causality due to the import that the numbers are fated to acquire.

Sam Toomey and Leonard Sims hear the equations while stationed at the antarctic listening post that is later occupied by Mathias and Henrik. The numbers are eventually given to Hurley by Leonard.

The desire of the Swan station operators to escape from their duty combines with the unusual properties of the island to "suck in" potential replacements for the Swan station. Desmond, Rousseau, Henry Gale the balloonist, "Adam and Eve", and the Losties are ultimately brought to the island in this way.

The Losties
The Losties encounter various psychic phenomena due to the unusual properties of the island:
  • The subconscious desire to be healthy and whole (and perhaps pregnant) causes rapid and/or miraculous healing to take place on the island.

  • Desmond's flashes of premonition, which may stem from his desire to escape from the series of painful personal events that he experiences.

  • Eko's dreams up to the point where he adopts entering the control code into the Swan station computer. These premonitions are for the purpose of averting Eko's later death at the hands of the Monster by protecting Eko inside the Swan station.

  • Some of the premonitions seem to be real ("Bernard is alive" for example)

  • The whispers, which are presumably some form of telepathy operating on the island.

  • Some manifestations of physical objects. These may or may not be real.
Losties and the Monster
Locke is being manipulated by the Monster to destroy the Swan hatch, thus freeing the Monster from the dead man's switch. This explains Locke's sense of intelligent purpose from the island. That The Black Rock has some special importance for the Monster is indicated by it's attack upon Locke after his trip to that ship.

Many of the visions (Jack's father, Dave and the visions of Walt, for example) that the Losties experience on the island come very close to being lethal. This is the Monster's psychic attacks on them.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Political correctness attacks. News at 11.

Today was one of those news days in which people cause controversies by making politically incorrect statements that nevertheless express a certain truth. First at bat is Vice President Dick Cheney:
Vice President Dick Cheney on Wednesday harshly criticized Democrats' attempts to thwart President Bush's troop buildup in Iraq, saying their approach would "validate the al-Qaida strategy." House Speaker Nancy Pelosi fired back that Cheney was questioning critics' patriotism.
Given that al-Qaida's current strategy in Iraq is "wait for Democrats to withdraw U.S. troops" and that the Democratic Party's current plan for Iraq is "withdraw U.S. troops", there might technically be some "validation" occuring at some point. You do know that the Chinese communists call the United States a "paper tiger" for a reason, right?

Then there's remarks made by David Geffen (in a Maureen Dowd column in the New York Times) about Senator Hillary Clinton. For example, the article states:
Among other things, Hollywood and music mogul Geffen had told Dowd, "God knows, is there anybody more ambitious than Hillary Clinton?" and "Obama is inspirational, and he’s not from the Bush royal family or the Clinton royal family. Americans are dying every day in Iraq. And I’m tired of hearing James Carville on television.”
and also states:
They fell out in 2000, when Mr. Clinton gave a pardon to Marc Rich after rebuffing Mr. Geffen’s request for one for Leonard Peltier. “Marc Rich getting pardoned? An oil-profiteer expatriate who left the country rather than pay taxes or face justice?” Mr. Geffen says. “Yet another time when the Clintons were unwilling to stand for the things that they genuinely believe in. Everybody in politics lies, but they do it with such ease, it’s troubling.”
It's nice to know that Senator Joe Biden isn't entirely alone out there. But isn't this just the mainstream conventional wisdom from early 2001 -- the Clintons are ruthless; the Clintons are liers; the Clintons really screwed up the pardons; etc. -- basically timewarped into 2007?

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

An image problem for athiests

A recent poll suggests that athiest presidential candidates would find it practically impossible to be elected. I guess that means I won't need a copy of Isaac Asimov's "I, Robot" for the oath of office ceremony after all.

What goes around comes around.

I've mentioned the opinion of some that Barrack Obama is not black enough to be elected president in a previous post. The whole idea is just propaganda, of course, but apparently it has been such an effective propaganda ploy that it has gotten recycled for use against other candidates. That is to say, the question "Is Rudolph Giuliani white enough?" is now being asked:
Italians--like Irish, Jews, Poles, Greeks and now Hispanics and others--have struggled in our history to achieve "whiteness." It's not a given--not a fixed characteristic. It's always been a designation granted to a group by the dominant culture.

But that's a done deal for Italian-Americans, long ago. They're white--now. But the question for Giuliani is whether there is some shadow, some echo of the old attitudes in how some voters might approach his candidacy.
Of course, we also know whom the media thinks is too white to be elected President. Another thing about the article that's seems a little weird:
This is a party, after all, that has nominated precisely one ethnic immigrant candidate for national office in its history--Greek-American Spiro Agnew (the Roosevelts and Eisenhowers had been in America for centuries). Republicans have never nominated a Catholic for national office. Democrats have a different record--Irish-Americans Al Smith, John Kennedy and John Kerry; Polish-American Edmund Muskie; Norwegian-American Walter Mondale; Italian-American Geraldine Ferraro; Greek-American Michael Dukakis; Jewish-American Joseph Lieberman.
Note the subtle spin that excludes Ronald Reagan (Irish-American on his father's side) and Barry Goldwater (Polish/Jewish-American on his father's side) from the Republican list.

2000+ years of Hooked on Phonics

One of the many issues that divide conservatives and liberals is the teaching of reading to young children. Take this discussion with Ronald Kessler at the National Review Online for example (bold font in original):
NRO: What was the most surprising thing you learned about President Bush in the course of writing the book?

Kessler: Besides the diversity of his friends, I was amazed at how deeply Bush personally researched why kids can't read. Nationally, 40 percent of fourth graders cannot read a simple children's book. Among blacks and Hispanics, the proportion is as high as 65 percent. The reason is that in the 1970's, liberal educators decided that teaching kids to read with phonics — sounding out words — was dull. Instead, they said kids should simply be given books to read. Somehow, they will become excited by the books and guess what the words mean. In other words, under this approach, called whole language, kids are not taught to read at all.
Of course, it's always been something of a mystery to conservatives why liberals hate phonics so much. But I noticed something in a different context that may shed some light on the subject. As Anthony Everitt writes of late Roman Republic teaching in his book "Augustus: The Life of Rome's First Emperor":
Pupils had to learn the names of the letters of the alphabet before being shown what they looked like; they chanted the letters all in order forward and backward. Then they graduated to groups of two or three letters, and finally to syllables and words.
In other words, the ancient Romans used phonics! No wonder liberals hate phonics then: phonics teaching is traditional in Western Civilization, and we all know how liberals feel about that.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

A Response to Vox Day, Part II

Vox Day's original posts about the Euthyphro dilemma are here and here. My post in reply is here and Vox Day's criticisms of my post (this alone is quoted with a bold font in Part II of my response) are four numbered items here. My writings original to Part II of my response proceed on the definitions that I explain in part I. In particular, we have the "Euthyphro dilemma" defined differently than the "Euthyphro dialogue" along with three propositions of interest in the Christian context:

A2: God loves the pious.
B2: God loves the pious because it is pious.
C2: The pious is only pious because it is loved by God.

Now, the first criticism is this (all overcapitalization hereafter is the author's):
1. The decision that Euthyphro was relevant to a discussion of the question of OBEDIENCE was not mine, but an atheist on Pharyngurl's site.
Now whether this refers to the Euthyphro dialogue or the Euthyphro dilemma is unclear, but it seems like the word "Euthyphro" with whatever meaning you like entered the discussion in exactly this way. If I somehow implied otherwise then I was wrong. The second criticism is:
2. Therefore, my substitution of OBEDIENCE for THE PIOUS was not some sort of strange attempt to evade the Euthyphro Dilemma, but a clear demonstration that the "dilemma" did not apply to the subject being discussed.
Whether the Euthyphro dialogue has any relevance to Christianity is something of a technical question for the Greek scholars out there. As far as I'm concerned, a Christian might as well argue "Plato talks about multiple gods while we Christians only believe in one God. So screw Plato."

That a substitution of obedience for the pious is not a demonstration that the Euthyphro dilemma does not apply to Christianity is exactly my point, although I may have made some mistakes in making that point in my original post (see part I for a discussion of these mistakes). Whatever one is willing to believe about God and obedience to God, we either have to decide that some examples of obedience to God are pious or that no examples of obedience to God are pious. In the absence of any further argument, we either have an uncritical acceptance of proposition A2 or a denial of proposition A2 -- presumably these are unsatisfactory responses to the Euthyphro dilemma for the intellectual Christian.

That's as far as I argue, but Vox Day does go a bit farther with his arguments. He wrote that:
This is a known objection to the dilemma, in fact, which is described as being problematic only because "it implies that what is good is arbitrary, based merely upon God's whim; if God had created the world to include the values that rape, murder, and torture were virtues, while mercy and charity were vices, then they would have been."

But this can only be considered a genuine problem for those who insist that a fixed principle cannot be arbitrary, which is ridiculous. There are practically an infinity of fixed variables which, if they were different than they are, would radically alter the reality of our universe. If Moloch were the Creator God, then no doubt child-killing would be a virtue; this is hardly unthinkable let alone a logical impossibility considering how abortionettes here in the United States hold it to be just that.
By this I take it to mean that Vox Day has been arguing that both A2 and C2 above are true all along. This is a valid response to the Euthyphro dilemma provided one is willing to accept the philosophical pain of asserting C2 as true. If Christians are willing to do that, then there you go. But it hardly demonstrates that the Euthyphro dilemma does not apply to Christianity. If anything, this stance embraces the Euthyphro dilemma within Christianity.

There is one further argument that Vox Day presents which does seem to argue against the Euthyphro dilemma being applicable to Christianity. He writes:
To use one famous counterexample, David was loved by God although his actions in seducing Bathsheba and murdering Uriah were notoriously impious by our definition (obedience to God's Will) or by Socrates' definition (that which all the gods love). Either God ceased to love David, which we are informed was not the case, or Socrates' amended definition is merely a subset of "the pious and holy".
I would argue in response that God's love for the ordinarily pious but sometimes impious David is not the type of love that is referred to in proposition A2 as being love of the pious.

The next criticism is that:
3. The substitution of OBEDIENCE for THE PIOUS did show, however, that Euthyphro is not a valid criticism of Christian morality, although it is sometimes errantly considered one by those who have failed to read the entire dialogue or failed to understand it.
As I mentioned above in response to point 2, that the Euthyphro dialogue can rather easily be demonstrated to not be a valid criticism of Christian morality is not an argument that my original post makes. Plato's dialogue can sink or swim on its own terms as far as I'm concerned.

As I alluded to in the reponse to point 2 above, whether the Euthyphro dilemma is a criticism of Christianity or not is more or less a function of what kind of Christian morality you're willing to be satisfied with. The Christian might very well decide that (in the common internet idiom) asserting C2 to be true is "not a bug. It's a feature!" As with a big chunk of my response to point 2, I don't go this far in my original post.

The final criticism is that:
4. My demonstration of the basic flaw in Euthyphro is not based on this substitution of OBEDIENCE for THE PIOUS, but rather on Socrates' substitution of THAT WHICH ALL THE GODS LOVE in the place of THAT WHICH THE GODS LOVE as well as my ability to demonstrate that Socrates' arbitrarily narrowed definition of "THE PIOUS" does not inevitably lead to a circular conclusion, thereby eliminating the dilemma.
Stated again, my original post with concerned with the Euthyphro dilemma and not the Euthyphro dialogue, so since this criticism is exclusively concerned with the Euthyphro dialogue it doesn't really apply to my post. For example, I certainly agree with Vox Day when he writes:
In order to narrow the definition for his egalitarian polytheist environment, Socrates first removes all individual preferences from the gods. This means that war cannot be pious and holy even though Ares and Athena love it since Aphrodite objects, while happiness and love cannot be either if grim Hades takes exception to it. This means that Plato's definition of what is pious must be a vastly reduced subset of what any one particular god loves.
Anyway, hopefully this post and the already posted part I is a fair and correct explanation of the whole discussion so far.

A Response to Vox Day, Part I

Vox Day has responded to my recent post about the Euthyphro dilemma. It also seems to me now that my discussion of the dilemma was sloppy and might need to be amended. So I'll go through some preliminaries in this post and address Vox Day's criticisms in the next one.

To avoid any misunderstanding, here draw a distinction between the "Euthyphro dilemma" and the "Euthyphro dialogue". Let the Euthyphro dilemma denote the philosophical problem exemplified in the statement "Is the pious loved by the gods because it is pious, or is it pious because it is loved by the gods?"; this is a problem that we might pose for ourselves in multiple parallel forms if necessary. Let the "Euthyphro dialogue" simply be the particular form of the Euthyphro dilemma that Plato poses along with any associated arguments as set down in his book titled "Euthyphro".

To define what I mean by the Euthyphro dilemma (in the sense used above), consider the following propositions:

A1: The gods love the pious.
B1: The gods love the pious because it is pious.
C1: The pious is only pious because it is loved by the gods.

The Euthyphro dilemma is that propositions B1 and C1, independently asserted to be true (along with A1, which we presumably are attempting to save if possible), have a great deal of negative philosophical baggage attached to them. B1 and C1 simultaneously asserted to be true offer a circular definition of the pious.

To resolve the dilemma, one can either assert that A1 (and thus B1 and C1) are false, one can assert that A1 and either B1 or C1 (but not both) are true and accept the philosophical pain associated with the stance, or one can assert some superior proposition that that allows one to assert that A1 is true and that both B1 and C1 are false.

For the Christian we might wish to pose the parallel dilemma (which I'll also call the Euthyphro dilemma for simplicity) defined by:

A2: God loves the pious.
B2: God loves the pious because it is pious.
C2: The pious is only pious because it is loved by God.

Now, I orginally wrote this on the subject:
The Euthyphro Dilemma was described by Plato in his dialogue Euthyphro and is posed as a question asked of Euthyphro by Socrates: "Is the pious loved by the gods because it is pious, or is it pious because it is loved by the gods?" The nature of the dilemma is that one would presumably wish both assertions to be true, even though this would seem to lead to a circular definition of "the pious".
Certainly it is more precise to define the Euthyphro dilemma as I have done here than I had done originally. Instead of wishing two contradictory propositions to be true, the dilemma is to discover some superior proposition to replace them both. I then wrote:
If we suppose that God does not love at least one case of a pious sacrifice that is rooted in disobedience, then we have done nothing more than assert the negation of the dilemma (in the sense that one or both of its propositions would therefore be false). And if we suppose that God does love every pious sacrifice even if He decides to reject them on the grounds of disobedience, then we have simply evaded the dilemma without having resolved it. Alternatively, we could suppose that God simply loves "the obedient", but this is simply to say that only obedience is pious for God as described by Christianity.
In the context of Christianity, it is more correct to say that either God does not love at least one pious sacrifice that is rooted in disobedience (i.e. the assertion that A2 is false); that God does love every pious sacrifice even if He rejects them (i.e. the assertion that A2 is true without further explanation); or that God simply loves "the obedient", which is to assert that A2 is true with the understanding that only obedience is pious. This last option implicitly used the assumption that we are trying to save A2 to be true, by the way, so an extra option that I hadn't originally considered is that one could gratuitously assert that A2 is false by deciding that God only loves a non-pious obedience.

So, with these corrections to mistakes in my original post -- and before addressing the criticisms that have been expressed -- we tentatively conclude that my original conclusion still stands for now:
Thus, regardless of which interpretation we choose, Vox Day's argument that "God's priority is obedience, not piety" gives us no way of resolving the Euthyphro Dillemma that we didn't have available already.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Britney Spears shaves her head.

Britney Spears has apparently shaved her head bald before going out to the tattoo parlor for a few new tattoos. That she didn't have her skull tattooed is a complete mystery.

The meaning of these actions is all too clear. Obviously, the psyche-dominating alien entity that had previously been inhabiting the body of Michael Jackson has switched to a younger human host.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Vox Day confronts the Euthyphro Dilemma.

The Euthyphro Dilemma was described by Plato in his dialogue Euthyphro and is posed as a question asked of Euthyphro by Socrates: "Is the pious loved by the gods because it is pious, or is it pious because it is loved by the gods?" The nature of the dilemma is that one would presumably wish both assertions to be true, even though this would seem to lead to a circular definition of "the pious".

So how does WorldNetDaily columnist Vox Day tackle the dilemma? His argument is to switch from piety to obedience (author's overcapitalization):
Here the Christian must immediately disagree, at least within the context of the modern meaning of the term piety. (We'll get to Euthyphro and Socrates agreed-upon definition soon enough.) In this context, the Bible is clear on OBEDIENCE being God's priority, not piety, as there are several examples of pious sacrifices to God being rejected due to their being rooted in disobedience one way or another.
The meaning of this paragraph depends to a certain extent upon what the author intends by God rejecting a pious sacrifice. First, observe that, despite the stress upon obedience to God, Vox Day asserts that a pious sacrifice is still possible (which, by definition, must be an example of "the pious"). If we suppose that God does not love at least one case of a pious sacrifice that is rooted in disobedience, then we have done nothing more than assert the negation of the dilemma (in the sense that one or both of its propositions would therefore be false). And if we suppose that God does love every pious sacrifice even if He decides to reject them on the grounds of disobedience, then we have simply evaded the dilemma without having resolved it. Alternatively, we could suppose that God simply loves "the obedient", but this is simply to say that only obedience is pious for God as described by Christianity.

Now whether one cares about obedience to God or not, one has always been free either to ignore the dilemma altogether ("So, how about those Red Sox?"), to assert the negation of the dilemma, or to restate the dilemma without further argument. Thus, regardless of which interpretation we choose, Vox Day's argument that "God's priority is obedience, not piety" gives us no way of resolving the Euthyphro Dillemma that we didn't have available already.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Yet more examples of Democratic Party hypocrisy

As is well known, liberal Democrats have excoriated the Bush administration for falsely claiming that Iraq was an imminent threat to the United States in order to justify the 2003 war to depose Saddham Hussein.

For the sake of argument, let's assume that this charge was true. That is, let's assume that only a nation that poses a truely imminent threat to another nation can be preemptively attacked in response. Such a criterion would certainly apply to Iran with regards to United States: USAToday has reported that Iran is arming Iraqi militias, for example. An ongoing plot on the part of Iran to kill Americans and Iraqis in Iraq is, by its very nature, an imminent threat to American and Iraqi lives. You would thus assume that, insofar as it could be shown that a military attack on Iran would remove an imminent and ongoing threat to American and Iraqi lives, Democrats would conceed that the United States would be fully justified to act in self-defense by doing so.

Of course, you'd be dead wrong. The Democratic Party's response is that the United States cannot attack Iran preemptively to counter an imminent threat:
Kerry, the 2004 presidential candidate, said despite the evidence, the United States must try to engage Iran diplomatically.

"Ultimately, they want an Iraq that is stable. They want influence. They want to be players in the region. And we need to recognize that and engage in a kind of diplomacy that the Iraq Study Group recommended," Kerry told ABC's "This Week."
The Democratic Party has even begun manufacturing absurd conspiracy theories over Iran:
Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., said the administration could be laying the groundwork for an attack on Iran and that "I'm worried about that. That's how we got into the mess in Iraq," by relying on what Dodd called "doctored information."
This accusation of doctored information is not entirely true given that Senator Kerry himself stated in the first 2004 presidential debate that:
we got weapons of mass destruction crossing the border every single day, and they're blowing people up. And we don't have enough troops there.
Perhaps Senator Kerry might wish to explain why the United States should negotiate with a country that is actively trying to murder Americans in order to force the United States to negotiate with it.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Republicans win a battle for a change.

The Senate failed to end debate on the Warner-Levin resolution today:
The Senate's Democratic majority failed Monday to shut off debate on a non-binding resolution that "disagrees" with President Bush's troop surge in Iraq, throwing debate on the policy into limbo and depriving Democrats of a bipartisan rebuke of the White House.
If Republicans keep this up, I might start becoming optimistic about a Republican Senate in 2008.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Useful comments for an IATF RFC

The writer Arnold Kling over at TCS Daily has issued a "Request for Comment" on behalf of his "Ideological Affirmation Task Force" (thus IATF RFC). The request deals with comments referring to a list of principles of a "libertarian conservative" ideology that Mr. Kling has taken the liberty of drafting out. If I could describe the entire list with a single word, that word would be "wimpy". Let's look at some of the items on the list and you'll see what I mean.

Principle #1 is the first of the "economic principles":
We weave a thread of self-reliance into a sturdy fabric of interdependence. By respecting the law, we reinforce impersonal justice. By competing intensely and fairly in an impersonal global market, we raise our standard of living through specialization and innovation. By upholding Constitutional principles for limited government, we sustain our individual freedom.
Obviously this principle was written with equal parts pro-capitalism and pro-capitalist damage control in mind. That is, most of the principle is written from the point of view that a big chunk of the population believes that your average capitalist is either a ruthless "Gordon Gekko" or a sociopathic "Scrooge McDuck". Notice that there is a lot of useless verbiage -- "weaving the thread of self-reliance" and "competing intensely", for example -- which must be pleasantly reassuring for libertarians to read but is somewhat besides the point.

Principle #2 reads:
We are creative and pro-active in helping one another. We do not have the patience to wait for government, nor do we want to be lulled into passivity by the promise of government. Instead, to solve those problems that require collective action, we form voluntary associations, including civic groups, corporations, clubs, standards-setting bodies, consumer information services, and charitable foundations.
This is just as forceful and wordy as principle #1, and unfortunately still written from a defensive cringe. The first sentence in particular is a rather clumsy negation of a key principle of the modern welfare state: that individuals cannot be relied upon to held each other with private charity. And is it really necessary to elaborate all of the different voluntary associations in such detail?

Principle #3 is much the same as principle #2:
Government must be kept in its place. We hold government officials to high standards of competence, honesty, and fairness. However, we do not confuse government with family. We do not confuse government with religion. We do not confuse government with business. We are conscious that any expansion of government responsibility, however well-intended, crowds out those institutions that are the true bulwark of our society.
This is another clumsy anti-welfare state declaration, or at least an anti-something declaration. The sentence about "confusing government with religion" seems like a barrier for keeping people who think that the United States is a "Christian Nation" out of the "libertarian conservative" movement. As we'll see in the principles to follow, keeping the dope-smoking, non-traditional lifestyle, free love wing of libertarianism included in the ideology is a key priority of this list.

Principle #4 elevates the fetal-positioned cringe to a fundamental pillar of ideology:
We celebrate the successes of others. We are glad when an entrepreneur becomes wealthy by finding a way to fill a customer need. We are glad when an immigrant family climbs the ladder of success. We are glad when people living in other countries make economic progress and spur us to innovate and improve.
The economic principles do a pretty good job in covering the general basis of a free market economy in a somewhat haphazard way. It seems to me that this whole formulation of principles is really too mixed up with damage/image control to be of much use as an ideology. Principle #4 is especially ridiculous; why not just add in "I will not gloat when I screw you out of your last dime in a poker game. I will not blow cigar smoke rings in your face when my net worth increases on the New York stock exchange. I will not give you a $20 bill, then say 'Hey kid. Go buy yourself a decent meal.'" You get the idea.

Principle #5 is the first of the ethical principles:
Government cannot legislate morality, but it does mess with the incentives. Those incentives should never be tilted against the institution of the family whose mission is to raise children to be fine, upstanding citizens.
Not bad, although the first sentence is more cliche than anything else. But hey, alienate the pot smokers and your "libertarian conservatism" more or less becomes plain old "conservatism". Besides, government legislates morality (or messes with morality) all of the time. If government can't legislate morality, how do you expect that the principles of this ideology are going to be enacted?

Principle #6 is a no-brainer:
We maintain an ongoing conversation about morality and ethics. This conversation is informed by the Ten Commandments and Biblical scripture. It is informed by the Declaration of Independence, the Gettysburg Address, and Dr. Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech. It is vital to continue the conversation, even when consensus is difficult.
This is probably the most banal sentiment that can be expressed in our modern political idiom. Did Senator Hillary Clinton write this in a late night bull session or what? Notice the conspicuous Christianity included here; we don't want too many of the Bible-thumpers getting kicked out of the ideology.

Principle #7 reads:
Like new businesses, new moral ideals can revitalize our society, even though many of them fail. For example, we recognize that we are a better people without racial segregation or barriers to the education and career opportunities for women. However, we judge some social experiments to be failures, including eugenics, Communism, and nihilistic cultural relativism.
More damage control: just because we're "conservatives" doesn't mean that we want to "turn back the clock" on civil rights. But it also doesn't mean that our heads are as soft as overripe melons either. There is also a twinge of neoconservatism that pops up in the principles every once in a while. "Nihilism", for example, is considered a code word by many that indicates the "Straussian" neoconservative discipleship of the author.

Principle #8 is the first of the "international principles" and another banality:
Our ideology does not have to be sustained by military suppression. Although it can inspire people to fight against tyranny, ultimately our ideology allows us to live in peace.
In other words, we're willing to go to war, except when we aren't.

Principle #9 is an anti-Iraq declaration, plain and simple:
We believe that people all over the world yearn for liberty, and for them we stand as a beacon and a champion. But we recognize that freedom is not ours to give when community leaders are not ready to seize the opportunity that it offers.
And finally, principle #10 reads:
When foreign leaders issue threats against us, we take them at their word and act accordingly.
It's nice and direct. In fact, it's absolutely too direct. Certainly this is another correction of a standard neoconservative criticism of liberalism, but it seems much to specific of a correction. There must be other things the liberals are doing wrong in foreign policy if they can't be bothered to take the Osama bin Ladens of the world seriously.

All in all then, this is a list of sound basic principles buried under a pile of banalities designed to look good on television, the fashionable but brain-damaged slogans of the hour, thinly concealed euphemisms for critical problems of modern society that are somehow unmentionable in polite conversation, papered-over divisions for the sake of coalition building, and haphazard attempts to "reboot" the public image of capitalism in the face of public skepticism.

In the interest of providing some minimal level of constructive criticism, here is my list of replacement principles. Just throw out all of the original ones and substitute these instead:

Ethical and Economic Principles

1. The free individual, by virtue of engaging in lawful commerce, contributes to the general good of society.

2. Lawful commerce in modern societies requires the fundamental right of ownership of private property; the ownership of private property in turn requires the freedom of economic contract and the freedom of association for invdividuals.

3. Goverment is essential to the preservation of individual rights. A government that engages in unjust seizure or supression of these rights; whether by outright confiscation or usurpation, excessive taxation, the unequal enforcement of the laws, coercion via the threat of retaliatory action, or by undermining the private institutions of society; has become a danger to the general liberty of its citizens.

4. The family in particular is an essential private institution necessary for the continuation of a free society.

5. We recognize that the rights and freedoms of the citizens of any one nation depend, in part, upon the rights and freedoms of the citizens of other nations of the world. We further recognize that it is in the nature of free societies to extend the general scope of these rights and freedoms, and that it is in the nature of despotic regimes to extend the suppression of these rights and freedoms to the greatest possible extent. It is therefore an essential action of government to staunchly defend these rights and freedoms against despotic regimes, and to engage in peaceful coexistence or alliance with the free nations of the world.

6. Ethical behavior, being derived from numerous sources of wisdom throughout the cultures and history of the world, requires the freedom of private opinion, the freedom of speech, and the freedom of religion for its fullest acceptance by the people.