Day: December 6, 2017

The Impending Death of Multiculturalism



Although leftists appear to love third-world immigration, they are not so dogmatically blind as they might seem. 



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Sexual Misconduct, the Loss of Virtue, and the Rise of Careers


The worst, and therefore most likely, outcome of the current rash of sexual misconduct accusations is that people will continue to think they are primarily about bodies, about who touched whose body, about who exposed his body when he shouldn’t have.  That most of us currently already assume that such incidents are mostly about bodies itself indicates our lack of vision.

Such interactions are really about souls – about the collective soul of our nation, and the sickness infecting it.

The disease afflicting our souls is liberalism, by which I mean not so much the policy positions of the Democrats, but all those cultural movements that have, in the modern era, conspired to liberate men and women from the strictures and formative influences of family, religion, tradition, and community.  Once we had thrown off these burdensome yolks, advocates of such changes promised, our lives would be free and unencumbered.  Instead, we now see that this revolution has led to an atmosphere of fear and decadence, where the only free and unencumbered thing is, allegedly, Matt Lauer’s penis.

The excesses of human misbehavior, we were told, could be curbed, if not eradicated, by a combination of education and legislation.  Sexual harassment seminars in the workplace combined with anti-discrimination laws would bring about a world where the age-old dynamics between powerful men and attractive women would evaporate like pheromones dispersed by the tender breeze.

The revelations of powerful men persisting in their scurrilous ways have exposed that lie.  Are we to believe that Louis C.K., for example, would have refrained from asking random women to watch him do disgusting acts if only he’d had an H.R. rep there to remind him that such behavior is wrong?  Indeed, that is exactly what we have been asked to believe until now: that telling people that forcing sexual conduct on the unwilling is “unprofessional” would somehow stop such things from happening.  What every human being knows, save members of Congress, corporate executives, and a few other comedians, apparently, is that human beings misbehave not because we lack knowledge, but because we lack love.

Because we lack love as individuals, the best of us once sought to build a culture that would encourage its development in the form of virtue.  It is precisely from the moral influence of that culture that we have been liberated.  Instead of virtue, we now have “careers.”

In all of the allegations so far, the notion of “career” as the ultimate source of meaning has been implicit.  Consider Gwyneth Paltrow’s allegations against Harvey Weinstein.  She did not come forward earlier, she said, because she feared that doing so would have hurt her career prospects.  For the sake of her career, she suffered whatever degradations Weinstein managed to inflict on her, and she allowed him and others in the industry to inflict even worse on other young women.  The idea underlying so many of these claims is that standing up to louche behavior puts at risk careers, and that careers are far too valuable to risk merely for the sake of doing the right thing.

We cannot blame Ms. Paltrow or any of the many other victims, though.  They were simply operating within the system of values they had been taught was normal.  They were operating within that scheme of liberation that we now see is its own sort of slavery.

To criticize our worship of “career” is not to say men and women ought to indulge in idleness or to refuse to cultivate industriousness.  But such virtues can be pursued in ways that do not place us so tightly in the liberal hold or leave us at the mercies of those whose appetites have, through indulgence, grown overpowering.

An example: I know a young woman who, as a teenager, started an online business.  By the end of high school, she had cultivated it to the point where she was able to open a brick-and-mortar store.  She has a secure income and a future.  Her most powerful coworker is her mother.  Her chances of being sexually harassed at work are, as you might imagine, slim.

This young woman’s efforts are entirely laudable, and she should be an example to others.  Work, even entrepreneurship, is not the problem.  The problem is “career” elevated to a source of spiritual meaning.  We cling to careers now, not only because they enrich us materially, but because, in our state of liberated poverty, they are all we have.

The answer to the problems that have come to light in recent weeks, we are told, is more education, more legislation, more shallow efforts to circumvent deep human nature.  In short, we are told that the solution to the problems liberalism causes is more liberalism.  This is always the way.  This prescription, we can be sure, will only worsen our malady.

The real and only cure for a sexually out-of-control culture is the cultivation of sexual self-control.  Only individuals, in pursuing the good, can heal societal moral sickness.  This does not mean that institutions play no role.  They do.  The role of our social institutions ought to be to reinforce and reinstitute the strictures that the bonds of faith, family, and virtue place on us.  When that happens, the number of such deplorable instances plummets.

But such medicine is repugnant to our body politic. It tastes bitter.  A society as deeply in the thrall of liberalism as ours finds itself is unable to consider ideas beyond that frame.  Thus does liberalism make all that truly leads to health seem noxious, everything that leads to life seem like steps backward toward decay.

And so, in the end, the steady flow of accusations will amount to little besides a bump in the ratings at The Today Show and grist for the gossip mill.  In a few weeks, audiences will tire of hearing about such things and will forget them.  Meanwhile, our culture will continue to weaken.  Our symptoms will only intensify.  And we, a sick and beleaguered people, blind to the causes of our pain, will deny ourselves the necessary treatment, darkening, ever more, our long-term prognosis.

The worst, and therefore most likely, outcome of the current rash of sexual misconduct accusations is that people will continue to think they are primarily about bodies, about who touched whose body, about who exposed his body when he shouldn’t have.  That most of us currently already assume that such incidents are mostly about bodies itself indicates our lack of vision.

Such interactions are really about souls – about the collective soul of our nation, and the sickness infecting it.

The disease afflicting our souls is liberalism, by which I mean not so much the policy positions of the Democrats, but all those cultural movements that have, in the modern era, conspired to liberate men and women from the strictures and formative influences of family, religion, tradition, and community.  Once we had thrown off these burdensome yolks, advocates of such changes promised, our lives would be free and unencumbered.  Instead, we now see that this revolution has led to an atmosphere of fear and decadence, where the only free and unencumbered thing is, allegedly, Matt Lauer’s penis.

The excesses of human misbehavior, we were told, could be curbed, if not eradicated, by a combination of education and legislation.  Sexual harassment seminars in the workplace combined with anti-discrimination laws would bring about a world where the age-old dynamics between powerful men and attractive women would evaporate like pheromones dispersed by the tender breeze.

The revelations of powerful men persisting in their scurrilous ways have exposed that lie.  Are we to believe that Louis C.K., for example, would have refrained from asking random women to watch him do disgusting acts if only he’d had an H.R. rep there to remind him that such behavior is wrong?  Indeed, that is exactly what we have been asked to believe until now: that telling people that forcing sexual conduct on the unwilling is “unprofessional” would somehow stop such things from happening.  What every human being knows, save members of Congress, corporate executives, and a few other comedians, apparently, is that human beings misbehave not because we lack knowledge, but because we lack love.

Because we lack love as individuals, the best of us once sought to build a culture that would encourage its development in the form of virtue.  It is precisely from the moral influence of that culture that we have been liberated.  Instead of virtue, we now have “careers.”

In all of the allegations so far, the notion of “career” as the ultimate source of meaning has been implicit.  Consider Gwyneth Paltrow’s allegations against Harvey Weinstein.  She did not come forward earlier, she said, because she feared that doing so would have hurt her career prospects.  For the sake of her career, she suffered whatever degradations Weinstein managed to inflict on her, and she allowed him and others in the industry to inflict even worse on other young women.  The idea underlying so many of these claims is that standing up to louche behavior puts at risk careers, and that careers are far too valuable to risk merely for the sake of doing the right thing.

We cannot blame Ms. Paltrow or any of the many other victims, though.  They were simply operating within the system of values they had been taught was normal.  They were operating within that scheme of liberation that we now see is its own sort of slavery.

To criticize our worship of “career” is not to say men and women ought to indulge in idleness or to refuse to cultivate industriousness.  But such virtues can be pursued in ways that do not place us so tightly in the liberal hold or leave us at the mercies of those whose appetites have, through indulgence, grown overpowering.

An example: I know a young woman who, as a teenager, started an online business.  By the end of high school, she had cultivated it to the point where she was able to open a brick-and-mortar store.  She has a secure income and a future.  Her most powerful coworker is her mother.  Her chances of being sexually harassed at work are, as you might imagine, slim.

This young woman’s efforts are entirely laudable, and she should be an example to others.  Work, even entrepreneurship, is not the problem.  The problem is “career” elevated to a source of spiritual meaning.  We cling to careers now, not only because they enrich us materially, but because, in our state of liberated poverty, they are all we have.

The answer to the problems that have come to light in recent weeks, we are told, is more education, more legislation, more shallow efforts to circumvent deep human nature.  In short, we are told that the solution to the problems liberalism causes is more liberalism.  This is always the way.  This prescription, we can be sure, will only worsen our malady.

The real and only cure for a sexually out-of-control culture is the cultivation of sexual self-control.  Only individuals, in pursuing the good, can heal societal moral sickness.  This does not mean that institutions play no role.  They do.  The role of our social institutions ought to be to reinforce and reinstitute the strictures that the bonds of faith, family, and virtue place on us.  When that happens, the number of such deplorable instances plummets.

But such medicine is repugnant to our body politic. It tastes bitter.  A society as deeply in the thrall of liberalism as ours finds itself is unable to consider ideas beyond that frame.  Thus does liberalism make all that truly leads to health seem noxious, everything that leads to life seem like steps backward toward decay.

And so, in the end, the steady flow of accusations will amount to little besides a bump in the ratings at The Today Show and grist for the gossip mill.  In a few weeks, audiences will tire of hearing about such things and will forget them.  Meanwhile, our culture will continue to weaken.  Our symptoms will only intensify.  And we, a sick and beleaguered people, blind to the causes of our pain, will deny ourselves the necessary treatment, darkening, ever more, our long-term prognosis.



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Experts Killed Epistemology


But 2017 is also ending on a note of embarrassment.  Fortunately, I do not feel embarrassed and should not.  Nor do most pro-Trump people allied to me.  But the firestorm surrounding Roy Moore’s candidacy for the Alabama Senate seat played out like a scene from an Aeschylus play.  Imagine a chorus, like the matrons in Seven against Thebes or Egyptian refugees in Suppliant Women, waiting for the next herald to bring more bad news.

“Yea, verily, I come to bring news of another traitor, who hath laid a hex upon Judge Moore, unleashing with the dark force of the winged harpies from the far-off wind caves, another warrior with well-crafted arrows, crying out the name of a fair maiden who tells of Moore the Tamer of Courthouses and his dark lusty deeds in the days of his unbearded youth.  Hark!  Here cometh another National Review column.”

Life is short, so I suggest you follow this link to see my explanation for why the claims against Roy Moore are absolutely, 100% garbage.  Let us just consider the baseline.

A few weeks before an election, a newspaper owned by Jeff Bezos publishes a rambling set of memories about dates that Roy Moore went on roughly forty years ago.  Three stories involve Moore dating teenage girls of legal age when he was in his early thirties but courting them with nothing more than a kiss and respecting their families and honor.  A fourth involves a far-fetched tale about Moore luring a fourteen-year-old out of a courthouse, stripping down to his underwear, and trying to molest her.

A din rises from the lairs of angry LGBT advocates who have hated Roy Moore for years. They just happen to have come under fire with unprecedented attention to pederastic grooming in gay Hollywood. Joining these longstanding antagonists of Moore are the familiar voices from the Southern Poverty Law Center and the predictable squad of NeverTrumps – Ross Douthat, David French, Ben Shapiro, etc. – rushing to drop more of the headlines we have come to expect from them.

The straw men multiply and start marching into the bonfire on cue.  The scrupulous solons tell us that Christians should not defend evil just because they are Republican.  They remind us that we should be as willing to hold our allies accountable as our friends.  Their many missives all overlook the fact that we are giving Roy Moore a pass not because he is Republican, but because he is innocent, and the charges are obviously phony.

They are convinced that the Washington Post accusations are “credible” based on what the Washington Post reported about the process of gathering the women’s testimonies.  After all, in 2017, if there is one thing you can trust, it is a newspaper.  “Credible” becomes like “edgy” and “full of heart” and other catchphrases used by people peddling screenplays in the San Fernando Valley.

Given the propensity of the Moore-haters to quote Bible verses, it is ironic that nothing in the Bible encourages us to rush into condemnation of people based on recent and suspicious claims.  Much in the Bible supports my view that we should rebuke foolish claims using our God-given sense of reason.

Proverbs 9:13 states, “The woman Folly is rowdy; she is gullible and knows nothing.”

Proverbs 26:11 states, “Like a dog returning to his vomit, so a fool repeats his foolishness.”

Proverbs 26:24 states, “A hateful person disguises himself with his speech and harbors deceit within.”

Proverbs 30:12 states, “Do not slander a servant to his master,” just in case Christians think the Bible thinks it’s great to send social media mobs to get people fired and blacklisted over allegations they read about online.

And of course, there is Psalm 9:9: “For there is nothing reliable in what they say, destruction is within them, their throat is an open grave.”

Nothing in the Bible implies that women never lie, even about something serious like rape.  The Mosaic code has quite deliberate rules about how to deal with rape accusations and what due process must be followed.  This is not surprising, given the tales of Potiphar’s wife (Genesis 39:7), Jezebel’s charge of treason against Naboth (1 Kings 21:10), and the whore who lied to Solomon to steal another woman’s baby (1 Kings 3:26).

Nowhere in the Bible does God glorify people who believe unsubstantiated gossip.  Evil forces use lies and manipulation in the way Satan tries to contrive a case against Job.  These themes complement the important lines from Jesus Christ, so often misquoted: “For with the judgment you use, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Matthew 7:2).

Many Christians have had to explain to gay people that this does not mean we cannot describe homosexuality truthfully as a sin.  But perhaps in the wake of the Roy Moore scandal, some Christians need clarification on what these lines mean.  Would any of you want to be called a “child-molester” because random people scored an interview with the Washington Post and said you raped little girls 40 years ago?  If that is how all of us must be judged, then we should dig mass graves, because we will all soon be executed and laid to rest.

As I discussed in Wackos Thugs & Perverts, 40% of American adults now get a bachelor’s degree.  The vast majority of these people are forced to take distribution requirements that ostensibly foster “critical thinking” and “critical reading” skills.  But the Moore controversy is final proof that higher education is an expensive cancer on society.  The people defending Moore as they should are largely unknown commentators standing up to the Big Lie through Facebook and Twitter posts.  Like much of Trump’s base, they did not go through college under the regime of “Composition & Rhetoric” feminists showing Jon Stewart monologues in class to explain rhetorical strategy.  In fact, the single best predictor of someone’s ability to see through a ridiculous political fraud is the absence of a liberal arts degree on his résumé.

Never has a more stunning indictment of the humanities presented itself.  Think of the following narratives, in no particular order: Music Man, Chicago, Elmer Gantry, 1984, Brave New World, Little Orphan Annie, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Scarlet Letter, House of the Seven Gables, “The Tell-Tale Heart,” Coquette, Sport of the Gods, “Narrative of the Life of William Wells Brown,” Invisible Man, Wag the Dog, True Colors, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” Blithedale Romance, To Kill a Mockingbird, and the list goes on.  American arts and letters are full – absolutely overflowing! – with stories about the classic tradition of the political fraud.  If our forsaken English departments would stop teaching seminars on Harry Potter and The Vagina Monologues, maybe they could prepare people for citizenship.

But how will critical thinking ever return to the American mind?  Only people with Ph.D.s are allowed to teach these great texts.  The people with fancy degrees are mostly believing the preposterous story that Moore stripped down to his underwear and tried to molest a little girl in 1979, whom he picked up at his job in a district attorney’s office of a small Alabama town without having been caught or called out on it for 38 years.  These are not people who would have noticed that the photos of Elmer Gantry with Lulu Baines were an obvious forgery.

I must put in a plug for the great books program at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, where I teach.  Proudly I force my undergraduates to get through the great literature of civilization in eight semesters.  This semester, by luck, I was teaching the Medieval Literature seminar.  We were studying William Ockham as the sex hysteria broke out!

As Ockham scholar Stephen F. Brown explains Ockham’s most famous contention about truth: “We are not allowed to affirm a statement to be true or to maintain that a certain thing exists, unless we are forced to do so either by its self-evidence or by revelation or by experience or by a logical deduction from either a revealed truth or a proposition verified by observation” (xx).

I can state this in simpler terms: most things we hear are not true.  We should give the title of “true” to things only if (1) they are immediately obvious; (2) they are divinely revealed to us, as in Scripture; (3) we saw them with our own eyes; or (4) we can test the reasonableness of them by seeing them as upheld by divine revelation, or we observe something that proves them.

If you can’t prove it, don’t believe it.  This is the beauty of the medieval science of epistemology, the quest to determine how we can know that something is true.  Thinkers like Ockham drew liberally from Aristotle, whose Categories and Nicomachean Ethics established clear terms to help us sort through confusing details.  Aristotle gave us the terms “kind” and “degree” so we would not be duped by people trying to group together a serious charge like child rape with a harmless claim like “he went out on dates with eighteen-year-olds when he was thirty and even tried to kiss one or two, forty years ago, when he was single.”

In Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle laboriously schematizes various levels of “responsibility” and “cause” to help philosophers examine the ethics of individuals.  He talks about intention, volition, wish, opinion, desire, and deliberation – all nuances that matter and demand thorough consideration before we publish an essay casually referring to Roy Moore as a man “credibly accused of molesting teenagers.”

Even among people who are experts in these very texts, a dam seems to store up analytical knowledge and keep wisdom from leaking out into the world in which we live.  We are truly living in a scary age.  I blame the thinkers whose job it was to prepare Americans for a civic realm that was bound to include the eternal dangers of demagogues, liars, tricksters, creeps, and con artists.  The thinkers may have been doing some thinking, but something went wrong.  Like the residents of River City incensed about a pool table, they lost their ability to reason and became the very thing they never wanted to be: a loud, stupid mob.

WORK CITED

Stephen F. Brown. Introduction. Ockham: Philosophical Writings. Trans. Philotheus Boehner, O.F.M. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing, 1990.

Well, 2017 is almost over, and what a year it has been.  A retrospective could leave you happy or depressed, depending on your focus.

Donald J. Trump is president.  The left has decided that its fundamentalist enemies were right about Bill Clinton’s impeachment. I held a conference attacking the LGBT agenda from every imaginable angle two weeks ago, without being thrown in a gulag.  Hope springs eternal.  None of this would have been conceivable only eighteen months ago.

But 2017 is also ending on a note of embarrassment.  Fortunately, I do not feel embarrassed and should not.  Nor do most pro-Trump people allied to me.  But the firestorm surrounding Roy Moore’s candidacy for the Alabama Senate seat played out like a scene from an Aeschylus play.  Imagine a chorus, like the matrons in Seven against Thebes or Egyptian refugees in Suppliant Women, waiting for the next herald to bring more bad news.

“Yea, verily, I come to bring news of another traitor, who hath laid a hex upon Judge Moore, unleashing with the dark force of the winged harpies from the far-off wind caves, another warrior with well-crafted arrows, crying out the name of a fair maiden who tells of Moore the Tamer of Courthouses and his dark lusty deeds in the days of his unbearded youth.  Hark!  Here cometh another National Review column.”

Life is short, so I suggest you follow this link to see my explanation for why the claims against Roy Moore are absolutely, 100% garbage.  Let us just consider the baseline.

A few weeks before an election, a newspaper owned by Jeff Bezos publishes a rambling set of memories about dates that Roy Moore went on roughly forty years ago.  Three stories involve Moore dating teenage girls of legal age when he was in his early thirties but courting them with nothing more than a kiss and respecting their families and honor.  A fourth involves a far-fetched tale about Moore luring a fourteen-year-old out of a courthouse, stripping down to his underwear, and trying to molest her.

A din rises from the lairs of angry LGBT advocates who have hated Roy Moore for years. They just happen to have come under fire with unprecedented attention to pederastic grooming in gay Hollywood. Joining these longstanding antagonists of Moore are the familiar voices from the Southern Poverty Law Center and the predictable squad of NeverTrumps – Ross Douthat, David French, Ben Shapiro, etc. – rushing to drop more of the headlines we have come to expect from them.

The straw men multiply and start marching into the bonfire on cue.  The scrupulous solons tell us that Christians should not defend evil just because they are Republican.  They remind us that we should be as willing to hold our allies accountable as our friends.  Their many missives all overlook the fact that we are giving Roy Moore a pass not because he is Republican, but because he is innocent, and the charges are obviously phony.

They are convinced that the Washington Post accusations are “credible” based on what the Washington Post reported about the process of gathering the women’s testimonies.  After all, in 2017, if there is one thing you can trust, it is a newspaper.  “Credible” becomes like “edgy” and “full of heart” and other catchphrases used by people peddling screenplays in the San Fernando Valley.

Given the propensity of the Moore-haters to quote Bible verses, it is ironic that nothing in the Bible encourages us to rush into condemnation of people based on recent and suspicious claims.  Much in the Bible supports my view that we should rebuke foolish claims using our God-given sense of reason.

Proverbs 9:13 states, “The woman Folly is rowdy; she is gullible and knows nothing.”

Proverbs 26:11 states, “Like a dog returning to his vomit, so a fool repeats his foolishness.”

Proverbs 26:24 states, “A hateful person disguises himself with his speech and harbors deceit within.”

Proverbs 30:12 states, “Do not slander a servant to his master,” just in case Christians think the Bible thinks it’s great to send social media mobs to get people fired and blacklisted over allegations they read about online.

And of course, there is Psalm 9:9: “For there is nothing reliable in what they say, destruction is within them, their throat is an open grave.”

Nothing in the Bible implies that women never lie, even about something serious like rape.  The Mosaic code has quite deliberate rules about how to deal with rape accusations and what due process must be followed.  This is not surprising, given the tales of Potiphar’s wife (Genesis 39:7), Jezebel’s charge of treason against Naboth (1 Kings 21:10), and the whore who lied to Solomon to steal another woman’s baby (1 Kings 3:26).

Nowhere in the Bible does God glorify people who believe unsubstantiated gossip.  Evil forces use lies and manipulation in the way Satan tries to contrive a case against Job.  These themes complement the important lines from Jesus Christ, so often misquoted: “For with the judgment you use, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Matthew 7:2).

Many Christians have had to explain to gay people that this does not mean we cannot describe homosexuality truthfully as a sin.  But perhaps in the wake of the Roy Moore scandal, some Christians need clarification on what these lines mean.  Would any of you want to be called a “child-molester” because random people scored an interview with the Washington Post and said you raped little girls 40 years ago?  If that is how all of us must be judged, then we should dig mass graves, because we will all soon be executed and laid to rest.

As I discussed in Wackos Thugs & Perverts, 40% of American adults now get a bachelor’s degree.  The vast majority of these people are forced to take distribution requirements that ostensibly foster “critical thinking” and “critical reading” skills.  But the Moore controversy is final proof that higher education is an expensive cancer on society.  The people defending Moore as they should are largely unknown commentators standing up to the Big Lie through Facebook and Twitter posts.  Like much of Trump’s base, they did not go through college under the regime of “Composition & Rhetoric” feminists showing Jon Stewart monologues in class to explain rhetorical strategy.  In fact, the single best predictor of someone’s ability to see through a ridiculous political fraud is the absence of a liberal arts degree on his résumé.

Never has a more stunning indictment of the humanities presented itself.  Think of the following narratives, in no particular order: Music Man, Chicago, Elmer Gantry, 1984, Brave New World, Little Orphan Annie, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Scarlet Letter, House of the Seven Gables, “The Tell-Tale Heart,” Coquette, Sport of the Gods, “Narrative of the Life of William Wells Brown,” Invisible Man, Wag the Dog, True Colors, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” Blithedale Romance, To Kill a Mockingbird, and the list goes on.  American arts and letters are full – absolutely overflowing! – with stories about the classic tradition of the political fraud.  If our forsaken English departments would stop teaching seminars on Harry Potter and The Vagina Monologues, maybe they could prepare people for citizenship.

But how will critical thinking ever return to the American mind?  Only people with Ph.D.s are allowed to teach these great texts.  The people with fancy degrees are mostly believing the preposterous story that Moore stripped down to his underwear and tried to molest a little girl in 1979, whom he picked up at his job in a district attorney’s office of a small Alabama town without having been caught or called out on it for 38 years.  These are not people who would have noticed that the photos of Elmer Gantry with Lulu Baines were an obvious forgery.

I must put in a plug for the great books program at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, where I teach.  Proudly I force my undergraduates to get through the great literature of civilization in eight semesters.  This semester, by luck, I was teaching the Medieval Literature seminar.  We were studying William Ockham as the sex hysteria broke out!

As Ockham scholar Stephen F. Brown explains Ockham’s most famous contention about truth: “We are not allowed to affirm a statement to be true or to maintain that a certain thing exists, unless we are forced to do so either by its self-evidence or by revelation or by experience or by a logical deduction from either a revealed truth or a proposition verified by observation” (xx).

I can state this in simpler terms: most things we hear are not true.  We should give the title of “true” to things only if (1) they are immediately obvious; (2) they are divinely revealed to us, as in Scripture; (3) we saw them with our own eyes; or (4) we can test the reasonableness of them by seeing them as upheld by divine revelation, or we observe something that proves them.

If you can’t prove it, don’t believe it.  This is the beauty of the medieval science of epistemology, the quest to determine how we can know that something is true.  Thinkers like Ockham drew liberally from Aristotle, whose Categories and Nicomachean Ethics established clear terms to help us sort through confusing details.  Aristotle gave us the terms “kind” and “degree” so we would not be duped by people trying to group together a serious charge like child rape with a harmless claim like “he went out on dates with eighteen-year-olds when he was thirty and even tried to kiss one or two, forty years ago, when he was single.”

In Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle laboriously schematizes various levels of “responsibility” and “cause” to help philosophers examine the ethics of individuals.  He talks about intention, volition, wish, opinion, desire, and deliberation – all nuances that matter and demand thorough consideration before we publish an essay casually referring to Roy Moore as a man “credibly accused of molesting teenagers.”

Even among people who are experts in these very texts, a dam seems to store up analytical knowledge and keep wisdom from leaking out into the world in which we live.  We are truly living in a scary age.  I blame the thinkers whose job it was to prepare Americans for a civic realm that was bound to include the eternal dangers of demagogues, liars, tricksters, creeps, and con artists.  The thinkers may have been doing some thinking, but something went wrong.  Like the residents of River City incensed about a pool table, they lost their ability to reason and became the very thing they never wanted to be: a loud, stupid mob.

WORK CITED

Stephen F. Brown. Introduction. Ockham: Philosophical Writings. Trans. Philotheus Boehner, O.F.M. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing, 1990.



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Our Reps Are (Still) Idiots


OK, so they finally passed it.  The Senate tax reform bill, however imperfect, will return money to taxpayers, spur business, and increase jobs.  Significantly, the bill repeals the Obamacare mandate and provides other benefits, such as opening portions of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil and gas drilling.  These are major accomplishments.  Yet nearly half of our representatives in the Senate voted no, and what with Sen. Corker’s obstruction, Republicans came close to stumbling once again.

The great historian Robert Conquest once pointed out that the Soviet system fell not just because of flawed ideology or Western opposition, but because its leaders were “stupid.”  They murdered, imprisoned, or exiled most of their greatest scientists; they ran the economy into the ground with inefficient state-run industries; they engaged in corruption at every level of society.  No wonder they failed.

Much the same can be said for our representatives in Congress.  Why would the people’s representatives, all of them, not rush to pass a major reform that would bring such good to ordinary Americans?  Obviously, because they are idiots.

In the course of the debate, one senator after another revealed himself as such.  The dunce hat passed from John McCain to Jeff Flake, Susan Collins, and Ron Johnson before ending up on Bob Corker’s head.  There’s also every Democratic member of the Senate, but they’ve voted that way for decades.  It would appear that these esteemed representatives don’t have the sense of the common people, who can tell at a glance that less tax is better than more.

Along with opposing tax reform, the entire Congress has once again failed to consider spending cuts of any sort.  In a federal budget totaling $3.54 trillion in 2016, Congress can’t find a dime that needs cutting.  Even a trained monkey could open the books and finger thousands of programs that deserve the axe, starting with Job Corps (saving $19 billion over ten years) and Titles II, VI, and VIII of the Higher Education Act (saving $25 billion over ten years).  Congress lacks the sense of a monkey, trained or otherwise.

Of course, one would expect the left to stand together in opposition to any reduction in the size or funding of government.  Cutting taxes for the middle class is, they say, a giveaway to the rich.  It is bad for the economy.  It will add to the national debt.  “A class war of the super-rich against the merely affluent,” the Washington Post calls it.  The tax cut plan would “destroy Medicare and Medicaid,” according to the Huffington Post.  Or as the N.Y. Times put it, with its usual classiness, “The Senate Is Rushing to Pass Its Tax Bill Because It Stinks.”     

What about Bob Corker?  He excused himself on grounds that he is a “dinosaur” who fears future deficits.  If that’s the case, what’s he been doing for the past ten years as the federal deficit more than doubled?  Or was his real motive testiness over Trump’s snubbing him for secretary of state?  Is that a good reason to sabotage the entire country?

Corker’s action was bad, but it was not uncharacteristic for a U.S. senator.  That title used to carry with it immense respect.  Now it just suggests a person of a high degree of pique and vindictiveness.  A person who allows his thinking to be ruled by pique and vindictiveness is, by definition, an idiot.

Ironically, the word “idiot” is derived from the Greek word “idiōtēs,” referring to a private citizen, not a public official.  A private person was assumed to lack the skill to participate in public life.  But it is now almost exclusively those participating in public life who lack the requisite skill to do so, and it is the private citizen who possesses it.  That’s confirmed by the Fox News poll showing that only 16% don’t find it important to pass tax reform this year – while 86% disapprove of the job Congress is doing.  Just so.

Among our modern-day idiōtēs, there is a special class who combine a lack of skill with seemingly unlimited quantities of duplicity.  Several Democrats in the Senate come to mind.  The liberal lions of the past were bad enough – now we have progressive punks like Chuck Schumer and Elizabeth Warren.  How can one with a straight face maintain that trillions in corporate and individual tax cuts for the middle class will harm the American people?  But that is what the Democrats have maintained from the start.  You’d think they would get tired of so much pretense.  But then Al Franken can get up and assert that “it won’t happen again” and think that acting sheepish will make it right.     

Another mark of the idiot is a lack of imagination.  Those who oppose tax reform lack the imagination of supply-siders like Art Laffer, who see that tax cuts always spur economic growth.  Laffer is correct in saying a vote against the tax bill is “a vote against America.”  The left is glued to its foundational idea that the welfare state is the solution, not the problem.  Leftists don’t have the imagination to conceive of a future in which they or their children can participate in a thriving economy, earn a good income, and sever their dependence on government.  In other words, they are idiōtēs.

Likewise, plenty of reps don’t understand how a booming economy is essential to the future of America, and especially to its senior citizens.  It is generally understood, by nearly all except our representatives in Congress, that economic growth is the only way that Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid can even begin to remain solvent.  If our reps understood this, presumably they would take action.  

There’s also the not insignificant matter of the future of American security.  Our nation remains secure because of the strength of our military, but that strength has been eroded by our inability or unwillingness to pay for it.  A strong economy produces the wealth to ensure a strong military.

 

In sum, the current tax reform bill, while it doesn’t go far enough, benefits nearly all Americans, including those not receiving an immediate tax cut (those in the highest brackets and those not paying taxes to begin with).  Just one group will really be hurt.  That would be the Washington elite, whose dream of complete control of the economy would be stymied.

The political elite and their allies in the media have feverishly lobbied against tax reform because cutting taxes slashes their power over ordinary Americans.  Edward McCaffery’s CNN opinion piece is typical.  Entitled “Trump’s Massive Tax Cut – for the Rich,” the article focuses on aspects of tax reform that might benefit the rich, such as elimination of the “death tax,” while it dismisses widespread tax cuts for the middle class and the benefits of economic growth for the population as a whole.

It was inevitable that the left would rush to label tax reform, no matter how modest, as a giveaway for the rich.  Clearly, the House and Senate bills are not that.  It was heartening to see Sen. Orrin Hatch finally explode when badgered by Sherrod Brown over “working for the rich.”  Sen. Hatch was actually quite restrained: the Left’s line on taxes, he said, was “bullcrap.”  Actually, it goes way beyond bullcrap.

The fact that class warfare is “getting old,” as Sen. Hatch put it, does not mean that the left won’t continue to use the line.  That line, along with race and gender, will be the basis of leftists’ 2018 congressional campaigns.

As for idiots on the right, they have less of an excuse.  One expects Chuck Schumer to be Chuck Schumer, but what about Bob Corker?  How could a rational man who purports to faithfully represent constituents, 70% of whom voted for President Trump, oppose a measure as important as the Senate tax reform bill?

As I said, our reps are idiots.

Jeffrey Folks is the author of many books and articles on American culture including Heartland of the Imagination (2011).

OK, so they finally passed it.  The Senate tax reform bill, however imperfect, will return money to taxpayers, spur business, and increase jobs.  Significantly, the bill repeals the Obamacare mandate and provides other benefits, such as opening portions of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil and gas drilling.  These are major accomplishments.  Yet nearly half of our representatives in the Senate voted no, and what with Sen. Corker’s obstruction, Republicans came close to stumbling once again.

The great historian Robert Conquest once pointed out that the Soviet system fell not just because of flawed ideology or Western opposition, but because its leaders were “stupid.”  They murdered, imprisoned, or exiled most of their greatest scientists; they ran the economy into the ground with inefficient state-run industries; they engaged in corruption at every level of society.  No wonder they failed.

Much the same can be said for our representatives in Congress.  Why would the people’s representatives, all of them, not rush to pass a major reform that would bring such good to ordinary Americans?  Obviously, because they are idiots.

In the course of the debate, one senator after another revealed himself as such.  The dunce hat passed from John McCain to Jeff Flake, Susan Collins, and Ron Johnson before ending up on Bob Corker’s head.  There’s also every Democratic member of the Senate, but they’ve voted that way for decades.  It would appear that these esteemed representatives don’t have the sense of the common people, who can tell at a glance that less tax is better than more.

Along with opposing tax reform, the entire Congress has once again failed to consider spending cuts of any sort.  In a federal budget totaling $3.54 trillion in 2016, Congress can’t find a dime that needs cutting.  Even a trained monkey could open the books and finger thousands of programs that deserve the axe, starting with Job Corps (saving $19 billion over ten years) and Titles II, VI, and VIII of the Higher Education Act (saving $25 billion over ten years).  Congress lacks the sense of a monkey, trained or otherwise.

Of course, one would expect the left to stand together in opposition to any reduction in the size or funding of government.  Cutting taxes for the middle class is, they say, a giveaway to the rich.  It is bad for the economy.  It will add to the national debt.  “A class war of the super-rich against the merely affluent,” the Washington Post calls it.  The tax cut plan would “destroy Medicare and Medicaid,” according to the Huffington Post.  Or as the N.Y. Times put it, with its usual classiness, “The Senate Is Rushing to Pass Its Tax Bill Because It Stinks.”     

What about Bob Corker?  He excused himself on grounds that he is a “dinosaur” who fears future deficits.  If that’s the case, what’s he been doing for the past ten years as the federal deficit more than doubled?  Or was his real motive testiness over Trump’s snubbing him for secretary of state?  Is that a good reason to sabotage the entire country?

Corker’s action was bad, but it was not uncharacteristic for a U.S. senator.  That title used to carry with it immense respect.  Now it just suggests a person of a high degree of pique and vindictiveness.  A person who allows his thinking to be ruled by pique and vindictiveness is, by definition, an idiot.

Ironically, the word “idiot” is derived from the Greek word “idiōtēs,” referring to a private citizen, not a public official.  A private person was assumed to lack the skill to participate in public life.  But it is now almost exclusively those participating in public life who lack the requisite skill to do so, and it is the private citizen who possesses it.  That’s confirmed by the Fox News poll showing that only 16% don’t find it important to pass tax reform this year – while 86% disapprove of the job Congress is doing.  Just so.

Among our modern-day idiōtēs, there is a special class who combine a lack of skill with seemingly unlimited quantities of duplicity.  Several Democrats in the Senate come to mind.  The liberal lions of the past were bad enough – now we have progressive punks like Chuck Schumer and Elizabeth Warren.  How can one with a straight face maintain that trillions in corporate and individual tax cuts for the middle class will harm the American people?  But that is what the Democrats have maintained from the start.  You’d think they would get tired of so much pretense.  But then Al Franken can get up and assert that “it won’t happen again” and think that acting sheepish will make it right.     

Another mark of the idiot is a lack of imagination.  Those who oppose tax reform lack the imagination of supply-siders like Art Laffer, who see that tax cuts always spur economic growth.  Laffer is correct in saying a vote against the tax bill is “a vote against America.”  The left is glued to its foundational idea that the welfare state is the solution, not the problem.  Leftists don’t have the imagination to conceive of a future in which they or their children can participate in a thriving economy, earn a good income, and sever their dependence on government.  In other words, they are idiōtēs.

Likewise, plenty of reps don’t understand how a booming economy is essential to the future of America, and especially to its senior citizens.  It is generally understood, by nearly all except our representatives in Congress, that economic growth is the only way that Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid can even begin to remain solvent.  If our reps understood this, presumably they would take action.  

There’s also the not insignificant matter of the future of American security.  Our nation remains secure because of the strength of our military, but that strength has been eroded by our inability or unwillingness to pay for it.  A strong economy produces the wealth to ensure a strong military.

 

In sum, the current tax reform bill, while it doesn’t go far enough, benefits nearly all Americans, including those not receiving an immediate tax cut (those in the highest brackets and those not paying taxes to begin with).  Just one group will really be hurt.  That would be the Washington elite, whose dream of complete control of the economy would be stymied.

The political elite and their allies in the media have feverishly lobbied against tax reform because cutting taxes slashes their power over ordinary Americans.  Edward McCaffery’s CNN opinion piece is typical.  Entitled “Trump’s Massive Tax Cut – for the Rich,” the article focuses on aspects of tax reform that might benefit the rich, such as elimination of the “death tax,” while it dismisses widespread tax cuts for the middle class and the benefits of economic growth for the population as a whole.

It was inevitable that the left would rush to label tax reform, no matter how modest, as a giveaway for the rich.  Clearly, the House and Senate bills are not that.  It was heartening to see Sen. Orrin Hatch finally explode when badgered by Sherrod Brown over “working for the rich.”  Sen. Hatch was actually quite restrained: the Left’s line on taxes, he said, was “bullcrap.”  Actually, it goes way beyond bullcrap.

The fact that class warfare is “getting old,” as Sen. Hatch put it, does not mean that the left won’t continue to use the line.  That line, along with race and gender, will be the basis of leftists’ 2018 congressional campaigns.

As for idiots on the right, they have less of an excuse.  One expects Chuck Schumer to be Chuck Schumer, but what about Bob Corker?  How could a rational man who purports to faithfully represent constituents, 70% of whom voted for President Trump, oppose a measure as important as the Senate tax reform bill?

As I said, our reps are idiots.

Jeffrey Folks is the author of many books and articles on American culture including Heartland of the Imagination (2011).



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BLACK LAWMAKERS FUME: DOUBLE STANDARD…


The stunning fall of Democratic Rep. John Conyers — who resigned Tuesday amid a growing sexual-harassment scandal — has left confusion, anger, resentment and bewilderment inside the ranks of the Congressional Black Caucus, a group that Conyers helped found nearly four decades ago.

Many CBC members see a double standard at play. They won’t say the treatment of Conyers is racist, necessarily — and all express strong support for his alleged victims — but they think white politicians accused of similar misconduct like Blake Farenthold, Al Franken, Roy Moore and Donald Trump get a “benefit of the doubt” that black politicians don’t enjoy.

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Some members believe House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and other party leaders moved too quickly in calling on Conyers to resign and should have let the process play out more, although they understand the pressure she was facing. And still another faction thinks Conyers’ declining health and mental acuity after more than 52 years in Congress led to the debacle, despite evidence that Conyers allegedly had been harassing female staffers for years.

There is also significant anger within the CBC, aimed at one of their own: Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas). Conyers was going to announce his retirement from Congress last Friday. Then Monica Conyers, the congressman’s wife, and Jackson Lee got involved and stopped it from happening, said several Democratic lawmakers and aides. That decision dragged out the controversy for five days, although the delay ultimately allowed Conyers to endorse his son, John Conyers III, for his seat. Ian Conyers, the congressman’s grand-nephew and a Michigan state senator, also may run, setting off an intrafamily battle.

“Certainly it seems as if there is indeed a double standard,” said Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio), who was involved in Conyers’ retirement negotiations last week before Jackson Lee and Monica Conyers derailed them. “When it happens to one of us, we’re guilty until proven innocent. They’re just finally starting to talk about Blake Farenthold, who is a member sitting here who paid out $84,000.”

A former Farenthold aide, Lauren Greene, received that settlement payment after filing a lawsuit against the Texas Republican claiming gender discrimination and a hostile workplace, with sexual harassment a key part of that claim.

“Do I think he was treated like everyone? No, he wasn’t. I think it was an easy call for people to talk about him,” added Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.), CBC chairman. “You didn’t see Speaker Ryan calling for the resignation of Blake Farenthold, who settled a case. Conyers denies it; Franken admits it.” Franken, a Democratic senator from Minnesota, has been accused of inappropriately touching or attempting to forcibly kiss six women. Franken is now under ethics investigation but has refused to resign.

“It’s a horrible situation, and if the allegations are true, then retirement or resignation was appropriate,” Richmond added. “The problem for me was I had the congressman vehemently denying it, and I have very credible-sounding victims.”

“When the deal goes down, John isn’t well. He was beginning to suffer memory loss, and physically, he isn’t well,” said Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.), who faced an ethics investigation and lawsuit over sexual harassment five years ago, both of which were later dismissed. “But sure, there are members of the Congressional Black Caucus who feel John was done in. I respect that, but I don’t have that feeling.”

Conyers allegedly harassed several former aides, including an ex-staffer who received a $27,000 settlement using taxpayer funds. After initially seeming to downplay the allegations against him, Pelosi quickly changed course, and by Thursday, she was calling for Conyers to resign. Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), the highest-ranking black lawmaker in Congress, also called on Conyers to resign, a huge blow to the Michigan Democrat. But Conyers — who had been hospitalized for “stress-related” symptoms — refused to leave office initially, and there were signs he intended to try to fight off an Ethics Committee investigation.

“Congressman Conyers has served in the Congress for more than five decades, and shaped some of the most consequential legislation of the last half century,” Pelosi said in a statement. “But no matter how great the legacy, it is no license to harass or discriminate.”

“This was as much about Pelosi’s own politics as it was about Conyers,” said a CBC member, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “I think she was forced into it, and I think it was very unfortunate.” Pelosi has come under fire for not taking a harder line against Conyers from the start, especially amid a broader push across the country to crack down on sexual harassment and assault.

Yet Richmond, for his part, doesn’t blame Pelosi. “I don’t think she was unfair to him,” Richmond said. “Part of it was unfortunately he got sick and went in the hospital and couldn’t defend himself. But only he knows and the victims know what happened. Looking at the amount of victims … it was troubling, and there was no way around it.”

Behind the scenes, there was an attempt to end this controversy last week, yet it fell apart under pressure from Monica Conyers and Jackson Lee.

According to lawmakers and aides, Fudge had brokered an arrangement that would save some face for Conyers while removing a big problem for Democrats. After some delicate negotiations, Fudge was going to read a letter on the House floor last Friday announcing Conyers would retire at the end of December.

By calling it “retirement” and not “resignation,” the move would give Conyers a “last shred of dignity,” said one source familiar with the discussions. Conyers would have time to clean out his Capitol Hill and Detroit offices. In return, Conyers would avoid an investigation by the House Ethics Committee that could lead to censure or expulsion.

Then Jackson Lee and Monica Conyers weighed in against the deal, and it was taken off the table, dragging out the scandal, said the sources.

“People are furious with her,” one CBC member said of Jackson Lee. “Absolutely furious.”
When asked about her interactions with Monica Conyers, Jackson Lee said she “cannot comment on anything involving Mr. Conyers. I am not Mr. Conyers.”
Jackson Lee added: “I have not spoken with Mr. Conyers. I have nothing to do with his decision.”

Jackson Lee would not discuss any conversation with Monica Conyers, who has emerged as a key player in the saga.

Monica Conyers was seen by CBC members and Democratic aides as the driving force behind Conyers’ refusal to resign. Some lawmakers even speculate that Monica Conyers was trying to position herself or one of her sons to run for the seat, which is what eventually happened.

Monica Conyers berated reporters staking out the family home in Detroit last week. “Do you all go and stalk other people’s houses?’’ she asked reporters, according to the Detroit Free Press. “Do you go and stalk white people’s houses or just come to the black neighborhoods and stalk our houses?”

The couple met when Monica Conyers was an aide on his campaign in the late 1980s. They were married in 1990 and have two children. She was elected to the Detroit City Council in 2005.

In 2009, Monica Conyers pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery in connection with a Detroit sludge-hauling scandal. As a member of the City Council two years earlier, she cast the deciding vote in favor of awarding a $1.2 billion contract to Synagro Technologies. She ended up serving 27 months in federal prison in West Virginia.



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