April 25, 2015
This post is arguing against using two specific terms which contribute to the debasement of the English language. (There are so many attacks on the dignity of the English language that every such Jeremiad is a drop in the bucket. But we have to try.)
These two terms are "bromance" and "mancrush." If you regard yourself as even culturally conservative, much less politically conservative, don't use these words.
April 22, 2015
This story on Wisconsin's "John Doe" invasions of conservative groups and individuals is terrifying. If you thought the IRS abuse of conservatives was bad, this is much worse: Police doing home invasions on the basis of political speech and campaign contributions and telling people that they cannot tell anyone, including a lawyer.
I've heard of court gag orders before, but I have never, ever heard of a blanket court order to all the subjects of an investigation that they may not talk to anyone, including a lawyer, about the existence of the investigation and their treatment in the course of an investigation. I don't care if this law was originally passed to assist investigations of mafia kingpins. Even a mafia kingpin is entitled to due process and to talk to his lawyer.
What is this craziness? How is such a law remotely legally possible? Why has it not been struck down long ago as unconstitutional?
April 20, 2015
The story has come through this week that Muslim immigrants threw fifteen Christians overboard from a large rubber boat between Libya and Italy. Other Christians who survived by resisting have testified against them upon arrival in Italy, and the murderers have been arrested and will be tried. (Originally when I read the story I believed that some of those thrown overboard were rescued by Italian Coast Guard, but that apparently was a misunderstanding concerning some other refugees whose boat had sunk.)
Now what is there to say to this? Well, a couple of things. First, this is an illustration of the ruthlessness and, for want of a better word, chauvinism of Islam. The killers here simply did not think there was anything wrong with throwing Christian fellow refugees overboard. There was no question of, "We're all in this boat together." No question of solidarity or kindness. One of the Christian refugees refused to pray to Allah, and that was it. Said the murderer, "Here, we only pray to Allah." It is important that we get it. While most of our readers here at W4 do get it, I fear that too many do not. This is a brutal religion to which any idea of tolerance is simply a joke.
April 16, 2015
Atheists and naturalists are always trying to get something for nothing, so they are always looking for some silver bullet argument that will make it unnecessary for them to get into the messy details. By far the most popular candidate in this regard is the claim that a miracle, or Christian theism, or a miraculous Christian theism, is just "too improbable" at the outset to be bothered with. In this category we can place Hume's claim in his essay on miracles to have delivered an "everlasting check to all kinds of superstitious delusion."
A more sophisticated recent version of this is the claim that Christian theism or even classical theism is so complex an hypothesis that it has a very large burden of proof--worrisomely and discouragingly large.
In this context there is a further fear that, in responding to the problem of evil (POE) by including the idea of a fall of man, chosen evil, Satan, or even just the general notion that God intended things to be perfect but that they were marred by the choices of finite beings, we have saddled ourselves with an ontologically complex hypothesis. The idea there is that such an ontologically complex is therefore a worse explanation of the data than some allegedly more modest naturalistic hypothesis. (E.g. Suffering is a result of evolutionary chance; nature and man were not created by a good God.)
April 13, 2015
I have a new post up at a relatively new web site: "The Stream" is a conservative news and culture site.
My post is called "Same-Sex 'Marriage' and the Persecution of the Hobbits" and emphasizes the relative powerlessness of the common victims of the "tolerance" bullies.
It seems to me that this is particularly important to keep in mind, because it is easy for "thinky" people to consider this fight in terms of a battle of ideas and hence to make it abstract, forgetting all the non-thinky people who are at grave risk. It's certainly true that those considering going into the world of academe have to watch their backs, especially when untenured, but by no means should "thinky" people consider that to be a persecution unique to them. In fact, I tend to see the boom swinging round at this point and making it even harder for people in business than for people in the academic world. At least the latter have tenure to strive for. Moreover, losing one's job is really bad, but losing one's job and one's house and one's entire life savings is worse. At this point the shrieking harpies of tolerance (HT to Jake Freivald for giving me that phrase) are definitely going after the total ruin of any who oppose them--a scorched earth policy--as we see in the case of Barronelle Stutzman. It seems plausible to me that small business owners may have the fewest protections against this.
I also published the post in deep disgust at any who claim to be "conservative" who are advocating homosexual "marriage." That they are undeniably giving aid and comfort to a near-Communist policy of sheer persecution and destruction, while sitting pretty in their cushy academic positions, is a revolting thought. I'm looking at you, Steven Calabresi.
April 11, 2015
Anyone who has done much reading of certain modern skeptics has probably come across the claim that the Gospels are an example of midrash. This line of argument has gained some popularity among the Jesus-myth crowd, fueled by internet atheists masquerading as scholars. So for example Robert Price has a lengthy exposition on what he claims are examples of midrash from each of the four Gospels. One of the complaints from actual scholars about many of these sorts of arguments is that the one making the argument spends little or no time defining midrash or explaining how they are using the term. In the view of critics like Price the Gospel writers read the Old Testament and then made up stories to conform to certain elements in the Scriptures. The implicit view of midrash here is one that was in vogue among earlier critics like Julius Wellhausen but has since been discredited: namely that midrash is a synonym for legend or fable. But this isn’t the case.
April 7, 2015
Word came out about a month ago: Over three hundred Republicans had signed an amicus brief supporting homosexual "marriage" and asking the Supreme Court to impose it upon the entire country, striking down multiple state marriage amendments. Erick Erickson at Redstate says, "The list reads like a who’s who of political consultants and pundits."
This probably is evidence that I'm not well up on my political consultants and pundits, because I didn't recognize the majority of the names. Among the few I did recognize, some I knew to be long-time cave-ins on issues related to homosexuality (Mary Cheney). Some I knew to be long-time RINOs on pretty much everything, this issue included (Rudy Giuliani). Some surprised me a little. I'm sure I remember once or twice voting for Mike Cox for Attorney General in Michigan, probably on the basis of his endorsement from RTL-Michigan. I never knew he was a traitor at heart on so-con issues. That'll teach me to accept a pro-life endorsement as a stand-in for social conservatism.
But one name stood out and surprised me (and others) quite a bit: Ben Domenech, publisher of The Federalist web site and of The City, a publication of Houston Baptist University.
April 6, 2015
We have had a lively discussion of usury here, and the question has come up as to just how it is that fractional reserve banking (FRB for short, hereafter) creates new money. Or, “creates new money”, if you would prefer. Part of the problem with that discussion is whether we should call what is generated 'money' or not. Before we delve into that, I think it would be beneficial to lay out in great detail just what we understand by the term FRB. Here is a short, pithy, fairly direct explanation of the skeleton of the animal:
How Fractional Reserve Banking Works
When you put your money into a bank, the bank is required to keep a certain percentage, a fraction, of that money on reserve at the bank, but the bank can lend the rest out. For instance, if you deposit $100,000 at the bank and the bank has a reserve requirement of 10 percent, the bank must keep $10,000 of your money on reserve and can lend out the $90,000.
In essence, the bank has taken $100,000 and has turned it into $190,000 by giving you a $100,000 credit on your deposits and then lending the additional $90,000 out to someone else.
Now, if you take this out a little further, you will see that your original $100,000 can become $1,000,000 by the time it is all over. Here’s how:
- You deposit $100,000 Your bank loans someone else $90,000
- That person deposits $90,000 Their bank loans someone else $81,000
- That person deposits $81,000 Their bank loans someone else $72,900
- That person deposits $72,900 Their bank loans someone else $65,610
- That person deposits $65,610 Their bank loans someone else $59,049
- That person deposits $59,049 Their bank loans someone else $53,144
- That person deposits $53,144 Their bank loans someone else $47,829
- And so on
Ultimately, your initial $100,000 can grow into $1,000,000 with a 10 percent reserve requirement.
To find out exactly how much money the fractional reserve banking system can theoretically create with your initial deposit, you can use the Money Multiplier equation:
– Total Money Created = Initial Deposit x (1 / Reserve Requirement)
For example, with the numbers we have used above, you equation would look like this:
– $1,000,000 = $100,000 x (1 / 0.10)
I would like to flesh out this skeleton with what I understand of what else is going on, so that we can see just what the argument really is all about. I will admit that I am no expert in this stuff, and if others have pertinent additions, I will be glad of it.
April 4, 2015
The Resurrection of Jesus is central to the message of the New Testament. Consequently many attacks against this crucial claim have been made over the centuries by opponents. The modern thesis is that the claims of Jesus rising from the dead were the end product of a process of legendary and mythological development. According to this view the belief of the earliest Christians was not that Jesus had risen bodily from the dead on the third day, but rather that Jesus had transcended death in some mystical sense and that his presence lived on in his followers in spite of his untimely demise at the hands of Roman executioners.
Some scholars have responded by appealing to the Jewish concept of resurrection in the first century, pointing out that resurrection in that context was only understood as bodily resurrection. N.T. Wright has done an excellent job of summarizing many of these arguments in his book, The Resurrection of the Son of God. But even if this is the case, isn’t it possible that the followers of Jesus had a different view? Concrete evidence of what the apostles themselves believed about resurrection would be preferable to general arguments about what first-century Jews (which of course the apostles were) thought about it.
March 31, 2015
This article and this article are two recent pieces that express distress at the current promotion of STEM fields in American discourse. The piece by Christopher Scalia specifically calls out conservatives (he regards himself as a conservative) for their over-emphasis on STEM fields and for "trashing" the liberal arts.
Let me say at the outset that my own degree (in English) and all of my publications are, officially speaking, in the humanities, although the majority of my publications are at a very STEM-like edge of the humanities (epistemology and probability theory). My husband is a professional philosopher, and I am an at-home homeschooling mother, so the humanities are, literally, our bread and butter. Moreover, I have great sympathy and admiration for (what I have heard of) a school like Thomas Aquinas College in California with its great books program.
In theory, I believe in the ideal of a well-rounded education that Christopher Scalia is promoting. In theory, I love literature, history, philosophy, and art history. In theory, I would love to see students gain a multi-faceted liberal arts education as college undergraduates to the extent that they do not already have that when they graduate from high school. They could learn to love and comprehend the great books of the Western canon and gain a deeper understanding of great works of art.
March 30, 2015
Manic-depressive patients, in their manic moments, the most improbable things in [that] state: plunder their bank account, weeks staying in a five star hotel, numerous cars on buying one day. At that stage they are not mentally competent, that is obvious. But come in moments of depression they back their exhaustion to the baseline, and they are indeed competent. Then they can say, for example: "I live for thirty years crazy highs and lows, I've tried everything to break that infernal cycle, including psychiatric hospitalization, but now I'm back on the baseline, and I know I have a few weeks left'm back for a dip in the depth or a jump in height. " These are people who are eligible for euthanasia.
March 27, 2015
Okay, that’s a highly tendentious headline for an article full of interest. It furnishes the canny observer with another aspect of the austerity puzzle.
A key ingredient in 3G Capital Partners LP’s recipe for reshaping the U.S. food industry — reflected in its roughly $49 billion deal to acquire Kraft Foods Group Inc. — is an arcane-sounding financial tool that slashes costs by focusing on details as minute as how to make photocopies.
On Wednesday, 3G confirmed plans for its H.J. Heinz Co. unit, which it bought two years ago, to buy the maker of Kraft cheese products and Oscar Mayer deli meats. The transaction extends the Brazilian private-equity firm’s acquisition spree in the food industry, where its previous purchases include Burger King Worldwide Inc. and Canadian coffee-and-doughnuts chain Tim Hortons Inc.
The latest deal would unite two of the industry’s biggest names in a company with combined revenue of about $28 billion and a roster of brands that are traditional staples of American kitchens but are struggling to keep pace with shifting consumer tastes.
At Kraft, as it has elsewhere, 3G plans to implement something called zero-based budgeting, an austerity measure that requires managers to justify spending plans from scratch every year. The technique has triggered sweeping cost cuts at 3G-related companies including Heinz — from eliminating hundreds of management jobs to jettisoning corporate jets and requiring employees to get permission to make color photocopies.
Investors have grown increasingly aggressive about second-guessing management’s operational decisions and use of capital. Several activist investors, including Nelson Peltz and William Ackman — himself a personal investor with 3G — have praised the Brazilian firm’s cost-cutting methods. Investors’ enthusiasm was evident in Kraft’s stock price Wednesday, which soared 36% on the merger news.
Private equity firms undertake to pool select partner capital, as opposed to accepting public shareholders, in order to operate in capital markets based on some management or financial strategy. Many of them focus chiefly on investing in rising enterprises, while they are still privately-held; some aspire to move these privately held enterprises to the stage of a public offering of stock, which, if successful with return enormous profit to the early investors. The downside risk lies in this: most enterprises fail, some fail spectacularly.
March 26, 2015
Regular readers will recall that I have identified a phenomenon that I call "choice devouring itself." This occurs when the left first promotes some choice as necessary in the name of individual freedom. Then, later on, this so-called "choice" is forced upon some of its alleged beneficiaries, and the left either does not care or denies the occurrence. In the area of abortion, choice devours itself when women (who were supposed to benefit from the wonderful opportunity to murder their children) are forced or highly pressured into abortion, and there is no outcry among "pro-choicers." Choice devours itself in the area of sex when slaves, victims of sex trafficking, are not rescued--treated as presumptively "choosing" their enslavement--and offered "help" only in the form of STD prevention tips. Choice devours itself when Planned Parenthood connives at statutory rape (or more-than-statutory rape). And in the area of death, choice devours itself when innocent people are killed who never even asked to die. Because the "choice" of death (when you are old or have a poor "quality of life") is just so wonderful, you see, that if you didn't make that choice...well...you should have. So let us help you.
The latest case of this kind comes from the State of Wisconsin, where murder was narrowly averted.
March 24, 2015
In this third and final part of my review of John H. Walton's The Lost World of Adam and Eve, I will survey and respond to both Walton's response to biblical arguments for an historical Adam and Eve as traditionally conceived as well as his positive arguments that Genesis 2 should not be taken to be describing the de novo creation of Adam and Eve. Parts I and II are already posted. My review of The Lost World of Genesis One is here.
If any fans of Walton's work read these reviews, it is possible that they will think all kinds of things--that I am unqualified, that I am unfair, that I have misunderstood. However, I hope that one thing is clear: I have taken Walton's work, not to say his influence, with sufficient seriousness to devote many, many hours to a sincere and careful attempt to understand, represent, and respond to his positions. I submit that this work rates, at a minimum, due consideration rather than hasty dismissal.
March 22, 2015
We recognize that the loss of a parent, by violence or calamity, is an indescribable and permanent agony for children. Our minds understand this fact by instant operation of analogic reason. Our social science shows it beyond all empirical doubt, such that violent or accidental death of a parent is often the standard of trauma for gauging other misfortunes by empirical means. It points, by cogent contrast, to the a normative ideal of the traditional family: married mother and father raising together their biological children.
Now to make, through calculated application of technology, a lesser but still very real condition of loss, bewilderment, privation, absence, to obtain in the life of a child, when one or both of his biological parents is removed from the outset, cannot possibly escape condemnation, should any functional argument from reason reign amongst us.
It’s bad enough when sinful liaisons result in the conception of a child whose mother and father never marry and who is condemned to live and toil under an ineffaceable disability of illegitimacy. Sexual desire being what it is, we cannot hope to be rid of illegitimacy this side of the Eschaton. Thus there are certainly times when a child already conceived needs a stable family which cannot be provided by either or both biological parents. In these cases there can be good reason for the child to be adopted and raised lovingly by those other than his biological parents.
But to deliberately set out, via commercial transaction abetted by technology, to raise a child without a father or a mother — to contract for the permanent absence of the biological parent — crowns selfish pride with inflicted harm on an innocent. To conceive the child as an object, a mere product of technology, who is kept and raised only because he passes quality control tests, whose biological siblings have been heartlessly killed or frozen indefinitely, and for whom even the biological strands of motherhood are sometimes deliberately disassociated from each other, is clearly immoral. It must be criticized. It should be outlawed.
Here two young victims of this folly reflect painfully on its ill-effects, and are moved bravely to criticize it.