Saturday, November 02, 2019

All right, I haven't seen this elsewhere yet and haven't had a chance to say it to anybody else...

...but why didn't they just refer to al-Baghdadi in his headline-eulogy as "someone who did something?"

It's close enough to accurate and rhetorically fitting.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

A prayer after communion

Lord Jesus, I praise You and thank You for deigning to come to me in so lowly a manner, for allowing me to approach You and receive You in this way.  I pray that I receive You to my salvation and sanctification, and not my own condemnation; and may every grace You pour out on me beyond my ability to receive flow out to all of my prayer intentions.  

I pray also You never suffer me to be farther from You than I am right now.


Sunday, July 21, 2019

My goal when I started this blog was really not to devolve into some conservative curmudgeon...

...but maybe it's just that as I've moved through life, I've drifted away from places where badly formed unorthodox opinions are rampant, and toward places where underdeveloped political opinions are mixed at the deepest levels with other things I'm interested in.

I tire of it.  I don't have the power to change all the minds of everyone on the internet who thinks that Jesus wasn't real because some other yahoo on the internet made up lies that are easily disproven after five minutes spent in any grade school library's mythology section.  I have some hope when I see Copernicus mistaken for Leonardo in the debate about the two world views and someone else chimes in with "I looked into this, and that's not quite true."  I can still make my contributions but God will have to do the heavy lifting.

I tire of the same kind of crap as "astronomers calculated the positions of the stars and planets and discovered a missing day that proves Joshua 10:13."  Why people would lie about this, I don't know.  Maybe it's all false flag operations, but these things just...smell like well intentioned lies by people who don't have the foresight to ask "if they discover this isn't true, are they more likely to throw it all away in a fit of doubt than to forgive me for tricking them into getting saved/opening their eyes to scientific materialism?"

But my point was to touch on a couple semi political things and call it a night.  Today's topic:  common core.

I'm not going to go deep, just hit a couple factors.

Supporters dislike the idea of what they call "hyper localization," that is, the idea that communities even down to the county level should have a say in their own school's curriculum.  They blame that for the whitewashing of history, for such things as learning little or nothing about the history of slavery in America and the Civil Rights Movement.  They want it standardized across the nation.

Problem is, the non-academics in Washington or San Francisco who are really more interested in training compliant future high tech employees--they will admit this is their goal when they publicize their support of the program, if slightly less directly--are not in any way immune to propagating other swaths of ignorance when they develop curricula far away from classrooms.

There's no guarantee a nationwide curriculum will be any more truthful about Wilmington or Custer, because there's no reason to be.  It's easier to reinvent the past to explain away the historical artifacts you can't or haven't yet been able to destroy, than to erase it all at once and hope no one notices or remembers what came before Year One.

Typical:  see a potential problem, magnify it into a crisis, and demand federal intervention.  Sound familiar?

But all that assumes that the curriculum reinventors and textbook compilers have all the pertinent knowledge at their fingertips and are simply making different choices about what to include and what to leave out, what to emphasize and what to deemphasize, what fits into the themes they want to teach and what doesn't, what themes ought to be taught and what are too difficult or inappropriate for each grade level, how to define the words "difficult" and "appropriate" in this context.

You get enough scholars and writers together, you'll have enough people who know enough that they do collectively have this knowledge (or at least have a passing familiarity so they'll be more effective at going back to do research to clear up the ignorance they know they bear), but there's no guarantee that this happened, and there's no guarantee that there are enough participants wise and sincere enough to make the optimal choices.

I went to a pretty good school.  Mostly we had pretty good textbooks.  But the time my history book spent on the Trail of Tears was about the same as that spent on the Grange, and while I recognized that both were just specific instances of bigger things, it wasn't clear how either fit into where the publisher put those few paragraphs.  The Trail at least was connected to some things I already knew about Indian reservations that still exist, but what I remember most about the Grange is being a boy sitting with book open to that page on my desk and wondering what it had to do with anything else going on at that time.

I have digressed, but permit me to regress.  I was going to say something about the statues of Confederate Civil War officers getting torn down.  Not about that, so much.  What I see a lot of here is a push to simplify history to singular ideas and motivations.  I may have written about this long before--or maybe I have a draft I never got around to publishing; been a while now--about how people will impugn the sincerity of someone who is trying to do the right things for allegedly the right reasons because they can imagine some other good that might come of it that would personally benefit the person trying to do the right thing.  Maybe that person recognizes the benefit but didn't have it in mind, maybe the person really didn't ever think of it and was trying to be altruistic because that's what virtuous people do, but it doesn't matter: an ulterior motive can be surmised, therefore the ulterior motive must be the only true one, and thus the virtuous person is just a hypocrite.  Utter bullocks, and the last rationalization of an insecure but happy vice-enslaved person.

I recognize how it is distasteful, to put it tastefully, to continue proudly displaying things that we as a society have come to recognize were not all that great after all.  George Wallace and Orval Faubus weren't just taking a principled stand against social decay, they were just wrong.  But I'd prefer to have things like statues of Robert E. Lee and George Custer put in historical museums where their real legacies can be depicted with some context.

Claims like "It was all about ending slavery" or "it had nothing to do with slavery; that was tacked on later" are wildly oversimple.  People are complicated and life is complicated and so is history.  I'm not expecting students to go to any historical museum and come out thinking the guys on the wrong side were all vilified angels, but I do want them to come out with a sense of these complexities, and some enhanced skill at looking at a story from both sides and seeing the truth and propaganda that each side relies on.

(and I realize I appear to be foisting myself onto my own petard.  Indulge me a bit more; I am not a historian and do not want to bore you in a bog of footnotes and tangential analyses)

Not just for the sake of history, either.  Yeah, Sherman might have been a horrible person for his practice of total war and his lack of enthusiasm for abolition, but he's not a monster.  And by that I mean "a horrible person is not an inhuman monster no matter how horrible," not "he wasn't so bad."

And if we can teach our students not to write off the villains of history as monsters, but to recognize them as fellow humans with motivations that are complex and often conflicted even when not wholly erroneous, then we will be teaching the next generation real lessons in how to understand and love one another.

I was going to make this a separate post, but i think it will be more fitting to finish this one with the following.

"They asked me if I was going to let politics get in the way of my friendship.  You're damn right I will.  I will not tolerate the presence of racists and homophobes."  This in response to the criticism that certain political strains tend to make everything political, that there are people you can't have a normal human conversation with because they are always having just one conversation whether you're part of it or not.  Zeal for one's principles is nice, but there's a problem with being the kind of person Winston Churchill described as being folks who won't change the subject.  It's the same problem the Pharisees had when they criticized Jesus for supping with tax collectors and sinners.

I don't need to spell it out, do I?

Wednesday, June 05, 2019

"It is possible to be pro-gun and pro-gun-control. As a gun owner with a clean record and a sound mind, why would I oppose legislation that does not affect me but has the potential to keep guns out of the hands of those who pose a threat?"

  1. Red flag laws.
  2. "First they came for the socialists ... then they came for the trade unionists...."
  3. Has the "potential?"  Now we're supposed to pass laws based on what we hope they might accomplish?  Laws have been overturned for being ineffective--recreational marijuana will probably be the next obvious example to make the history books--but we don't even have to entertain bills that have a reasonable expectation of achieving their intent with minimal side effects?  Well, I guess not; so much political posturing in Washington and the media is so ridiculous I doubt one person in twenty would believe a word of it if they got past how it makes them feel....

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

"If owning a gun were an effective means of self defense, insurance rates would go down, but they don't because you're more likely to shoot yourself than an attacker."

Insurance companies aren't concerned about crime, they're concerned about paying out on life and health insurance policies; if they're involved in any social engineering, you can bet it's not going to be in support of any actuarial data that show personal gun ownership stops home invaders and other criminals from causing harm, which we know is true--it's just more newsworthy to report "Joe Blow was apprehended by authorities, full stop" than "Joe Blow was arrested fleeing the home of Benny Hanna; police caught him running out the back door after hearing Hanna, 42, rack his shotgun."

My chances of drowning at home are much higher because I have a bathtub, but since my bathtub poses no political threat to busybodies and tyrants, the fact that having a bathtub provides benefits that outweigh the risks is not controversial.

Friday, May 24, 2019

"Alabama, get your act together. No state that bans abortions but is in last place for education and has had four mass shootings alone in 2019 really cares about kids."

Yet another argument based on moving goalposts and insufficient purity of intent or zeal, which will get its own treatment.

What about next to last place?  40th instead of 50th?  Second place? First? At what point will you allow us to say, O arbiter and czar of decency and liberty, “our children might not score as high as some states’, but stop shaming us for this perfectly respectable ranking, because it is not the only metric?” Education is important, even for people who may not be college material, but in a day and age where there’s a lot of training to blame capitalism (or “the heads of capitalism,” who I take to be not George Soros or Bill Gates and formerly not the Donald) for every human failure in history and conditioning to divorce personal responsibility from lifestyle outcomes, I’d be chary of making comprehensive moral judgments on the basis of a testing statistic.

I mean, really:it’s not fair to prioritize one issue, even life, and refuse to acknowledge the value of others, but you’re literally saying “the children we don’t kill do better on standardized tests than yours.”  Wow, way to set the bar, there.  It’s not like any true Scotsman would criticize the rope he was getting hanged with for being new, after all.

As for the mass shootings thing...the New York Times as of May 9 reports eight school shootings in the US, one being in Alabama.  These have resulted in four deaths and seventeen injuries. Wikipedia has some more interesting statistics:  124 events total nationwide as of May 16, with 129 fatalities and 468 injured. Three of these were at a school at one was at a church.  For comparison, it shows three mass shootings in Alabama with a total of five dead; New York only had one with one fatality, California had twelve with eleven fatalities, Texas had twelve with 21 fatalities, but the city of Chicago alone had four deaths across five mass shootings.  All these include bar fights and domestic incidents with multiple casualties, not just schools.  I'm not going to quote low-fatality statistics at you, but this should be enough for you to practice on when someone says you're not comparing apples to demographic apples.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Another sign I'm on the right side

I mean, yeah, sometimes even on the Internet I find my echo chamber pierced like a bubble and find facts and logic and decent human beings that don't fit my paradigm, and I wonder if maybe I just have a few good intentions but am largely mistaken.

But then something else happens.

A number of something elses, actually, but I'll talk about how 90% of the violence is either physically on the other side or exists only as rhetoric and accusation and invention but still is on their side later.

It’s not that both sides don’t have solipsism and myopia. It's not that both sides don't have some facts and logic to support their positions (gun violence is never a good thing, even if you can justify its necessity; rationalizing its expansion despite any consequences is inhumane and as bad as the argument that is aesthetic rather than moral that "guns are bad so it doesn't matter if they reduce violence overall").  It’s that on the libertarian side, problems tend to be self limiting; large scale benefits perpetually promised by socialism might not be possible, but neither are tyrannies that keep said promises poorly and then bring more problems.  So when I see situations as I describe below, I find them to be evidence that such beliefs are more dangerous than my own, instead of less.

A coworker of mine--I'll tell you more about him later; he's fun--was lamenting that unemployment was as low as it has been lately.  He has nothing against people working, mind you, and he recognizes that some unemployment is natural as it accounts for people who are willingly between jobs and are not suffering in any way. But his contention was that as unemployment drops below this natural level, competition for workers goes up and that translates into higher wages meant to entice job seekers. And the money for higher wages has to come from somewhere, namely, the price of whatever goods and services are sold by companies that are raising their wages. Thus we end up with inflation hand in hand with wage increases. Okay, that’s not the best situation, although on some level that’s just a tautological opportunity cost—even if the money came from nowhere, prices would go up because the supply of money was higher.

That’s why modern first world countries have the richest citizens in human history and the truly (even the marginally) destitute are not proportionately large in number.

But the kicker? He’s down with a “living” minimum wage.

That’s right. It’s not good for labor prices to rise from natural market forces because it will push inflation, but artificially raising it and letting inflation happen for the very same reason is A-OK. Whether this parallel is unimagined or there is an implicit assumption that enough wisdom and economic controls can be made implemented quickly enough to stave off a crisis, I have no faith that the outcome would be better than not interfering.