Self-loathing poster child displays self-loathing posters

03.22.2017 / Politics

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It was a only a few weeks ago that UC Berkeley descended into a riotous hotbed of anarchy. Leftists at Berkeley repressed free speech, vandalized public property, and assaulted innocents.

(Meanwhile, where outright violence failed, Berkeley’s foil has been taken down by conservatives who were not happy with his being welcomed at CPAC and being, ipso facto, welcomed into the intellectual conservative movement.)

Whether the same self-destructive provocateur will rise from the ashes remains to be seen… What is clear is that Berkeley’s own decline has reached rock bottom ideological incoherence.

Berkeley loathes itself.


You can't learn everything in books

03.20.2017 / Culture

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Brendan: “You can’t learn everything in books.” Aidan: “I think I read that once.”

A friend recommended I watch the Secret of Kells. It was an illuminating experience, so I pass the recommendation along to you.

It is a movie about books, which is an easy sell for the subset of movie lovers who are also book lovers. It’s a movie about the Great Book, which is an easy sell for “people of the book.”

The artistic style is unlike anything I’ve seen – blocky and geometric in form but lustrous and sumptuous in color. There is a justification for that style… but I won’t spoil the surprise.

Here’s the synopsis of the film from IMDB: Young Brendan lives in the Abbey of Kells, a remote medieval outpost under siege from raiding barbarians. One day a celebrated master illuminator arrives from foreign lands carrying an ancient but unfinished book, brimming with secret wisdom and powers. To help complete the magical book, Brendan has to overcome his deepest fears on a dangerous quest that takes him into the enchanted forest, where mythical creatures hide. It is here that he meets the fairy Aisling, a mysterious young wolf-girl, who helps him along the way. But with the barbarians closing in, will Brendan’s determination and artistic vision illuminate the darkness and show that enlightenment is the best fortification against evil?

You can watch Secret of Kells here.

MacIntyre's Criticism of "Human Rights" Talk

03.10.2017 / Philosophy

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I was talking with a friend about Nicholas Wolterstorff’s contemporary classic Justice: Rights and Wrongs, especially Wolterstorff’s argument that only Christian moral philosophy can give a proper grounding to human rights.

As I recall, Wolterstorff has to defend his front and flank: on the one hand, his liberal and/or secular readers hold an almost pious belief in the concept of human rights and so find it insulting to suggest that rights need a “grounding”; on the other hand, his conservative and/or pious Christian critics are wont to harbor skepticism about the very use of “rights” talk in doing moral philosophy, where alternate concepts such as love, humility, obedience, and self-sacrifice do more of the heavy lifting.

Alasdair MacIntyre is an example of the latter sort. MacIntyre is certainly a Christian, although he is inconsistently or only idiosyncratically conservative. More to the point, he is with Roger Scruton and Leo Strauss in being a critic of rights talk.

My friend asked for an example of his criticism of ‘rights’, so here goes. The place to look is in After Virtue, Chapter 5 (“Why the Enlightenment Project of Justifying Morality Had to Fail”) and 6 (“Consequences of the Failure of the Project.”) I’ll give a quick overview of After Virtue’s argument and explain the criticism of rights talk in that context.


When the Fear of Death is Politicized

03.07.2017 / Philosophy

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The fear of death is a real, abiding motive. Once you realize that you are mortal, nothing will ever be the same; you can settle upon a strategy or mindset toward death or you can avoid the thought. The fear of death drives people to party, to pursue wisdom, or to pray – or else to avoid thinking about it. One can come to peace with death, as Epicurus recommends, or come to view death as “gain”, as St. Paul says. Barring these reactions, one usually tries to avoid it.

Even the fascination of those who seem to “embrace” death through skull decorations, black hair, macabre humor, and a Gothic aesthetic, etc. are, in my opinion, trying futilely to placate death by hugging it close.

fear of death

All these negotiations with one’s fear of death are normal. All of us are or have been at some point neurotic about death.

However… When you combine the fear of death to a political ideology that equates society with the political the result is a state-sanctioned neurosis.


Thomas Sowell explains -- in a page -- why ObamaCare failed

03.05.2017 / Politics

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Thomas Sowell on the difference between Price and Cost

“Prices not only help determine which particular things are produced, they are also one of the ways of rationing the inherent scarcity of all goods and services. However, prices do not create that scarcity, which will require some form of rationing under any other economic system. Simple as all this may seem, it goes counter to many policies and programs designed to make various goods and services “affordable” or to keep them from becoming “prohibitively expensive.” Being prohibitive is precisely how prices limit how much each person uses.

Free-market prices are not mere arbitrary obstacles to getting what people want. Prices are symptoms of an underlying reality that is not nearly as susceptible to political manipulation as the prices are. Prices are like thermometer readings—and a patient with a fever is not going to be helped by plunging the thermometer into ice water to lower the reading. On the contrary, if we were to take the new readings seriously and imagine that the patient’s fever was over, the dangers would be even greater, now that the underlying reality was being ignored.

Despite how obvious all this might seem, there are never-ending streams of political schemes designed to escape the realities being conveyed by prices—whether through direct price controls or by making this or that “affordable” with subsidies or by having the government itself supply various goods and services free, as a “right.

If everything were made affordable by government decree, there would still not be any more to go around than when things were prohibitively expensive. There would simply have to be some alternative rationing method. Whether that method was through ration coupons, political influence, black markets, or just fighting over things when they go on sale, the rationing would still have to be done, since artificially making things affordable does not create any more total output.”

–Thomas Sowell, Basic Economics

How this works for ObamaCare

In summary, without high prices, scarce commodities (commodities with a limited supply) are purchased faster and their supply diminishes to zero and there will be a shortage. But limited supplies are not a function of economic policy but nature itself. There are only so many doctors to go around.


Divorcing Facebook

03.01.2017 / Culture

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Considering getting off Facebook? Ever feel that Facebook has negative effects on your life? Check out Audrey Wagner’s excellent new book.

I read her book and found it enjoyable and illuminating. She comes up with the perfect analogy for Facebook: a vacation home that you buy in order to have a place to relax but end ups up costing you more and more time (and stress) in the upkeep.

I’ve considered divorcing Facebook for some time. Facebook and I are serially separated. Wagner’s book makes a compelling case. Nevertheless, I haven’t taken the plunge.

Instead, I’ve changed the way I use the tool. For example:


Socrates is God's Gift to Athens (or a Troll)

02.27.2017 / Philosophy · Humor

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Socrates was put on trial 2,400 years ago, but he is as relevant as ever. Plato was right to call him “Socrates become beautiful and new” (Second Letter).

One of the ways Socrates is timeless is that he equates piety with the search for truth and thus calls the rejection of philosophy impiety. In a beguiling statement, he says this:

If you say to me, Socrates, this time we will not mind Anytus, and will let you off, but upon one condition, that are to inquire and speculate in this way any more, and that if you are caught doing this again you shall die; - if this was the condition on which you let me go, I should reply: Men of Athens, I honor and love you; but I shall obey God rather than you, and while I have life and strength I shall never cease from the practice and teaching of philosophy.

It is hard to interpret this statement. Either Socrates is being sincere or ironic. Either he is a humble, pious, god-honoring man standing up against an irrational group of hubris-blinded atheists or he himself is a hubris-blinded atheist with a death wish, seeing how far he can mock these men before they silence him.

Socrates is either God’s gift to Athens or the world’s first – and greatest – troll.

Funny YouTube Error Message

02.24.2017 / Humor

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Yesterday was one of those extremely rare moments when Google succumbs to technical difficulties.

In the split second before the site was back up, I caught YouTube’s error message. This is what it said:

Sorry, something went wrong. A team of highly trained monkeys has been dispatched to deal with this situation. If you see them, send them this information as text (screenshots frighten them):

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