Saturday, September 12, 2015

The Syrian Crisis and "The Religion of Peace"

While Americans continue to debate the appropriate approach to illegal immigration from Central and South America, Europeans now face their own immigrant crisis. Tens of thousands of refugees from various countries in the Muslim world have been making their way to Germany, Hungary, Austria, and other Western points of destination.

The cause?

Religio-Political conflicts across the Muslim world instigated and fueled by the “Religion of Peace.”

One gets the impression that very few Muslim countries feel a strong sense of national identity based upon language, ethnicity, or place. Turkey and Iran are the most obvious exceptions and are, interestingly, non-Arab Muslim states.

Pakistan and Afghanistan suffer from extreme tribal loyalties. And the Arab world divides over Sunni and Shia branches (among other smaller sects of Islam) and perpetually engages in proxy wars fueled by their religion.

Iran (Shia) challenges Saudi Arabia for leadership in the Middle East through supporting Syria, Hezbollah, and the insurgency in Yemen. Saudi Arabia (Sunni) and several allies provide financial and at least some direct military support for other factions. Then, of course, there is the notorious ISIS—a Sunni based group attempting to overthrow the Shite government in Iraq and the Assad regime in Syria. It also threatens fellow Sunni based governments in its pursuit of establishing a caliphate. Although condemned by other Sunnis and our theologian-in-chief as not constituting a true Islam, they embrace all the major tenants of the faith. ISIS represents simply a more extreme version. In other words, the difference of ISIS from other adherents of Sunni Islam is one of degree not one of kind. Because of cowardice, incompetence, or both, the Sunni and Shite opponents of ISIS have so far demonstrated that they are incapable of stopping them.

And the United States itself has contributed to the refugee crisis itself. We toppled Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq. Although a brutal ruler, he prevented the rise of militant Islamic movements and left the Christians to themselves. And we toppled another despot in Lybia—Muammar Gaddafi. In both of these instances, the United States and the people who lived in these nations suffered from that “law of unintended consequences.” Power vacuums left in Iraq and Libya opened the door to more religio-political conflicts and tens of thousands of refugees.

The war in Syria has displaced the most persons. An estimated 5 million Syrians have fled the violence of Syria's civil war. Most moved to neighboring countries such as Turkey and Iraq simply as a matter of geographic proximity. Now thousands have begun to head for Europe, either from refugee campsn Turkey or directly from Syria. You read more here.

Meanwhile the richest of the Arab states—Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, and the UAE—not only contribute less money than that United States for the support of these refugees, they also so far have closed their doors to them.

So much for hospitality from the “Religion of Peace.”

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Transmogrification TV

The first of possibly many observations on Hollywood here at Right Detour--entertainment entrails if you will.

E! Entertainment broadcast the first episode of I Am Cait, an alleged reality show documenting the transmogrification of Bruce Jenner into Caitlyn Jenner.

It is an "alleged" reality show in a number of senses.

First, like all reality shows, producers and directors stage events to some degree. In addition, everyone knows that when someone points a camera in another person's direction, they act differently.

Second, it remains to be seen whether or not Bruce will actually complete his transmogrification. After all, he still has his "junk."

That so far has made me skeptical of whether or not this "reality" show is real. I initially concluded that Bruce executed this as a stunt to secure his own show. Maybe he has tired of his supporting roll for the celebrity sluts known as the Kardashians and seeks stardom in his own right.

If not, his transmogrification hardly qualifies as an act of courage. Yes, he claims to be coming out as his "real self" despite the skepticism and hostility that he expects to face as a trans-gendered person. (As a side note, the notion of the "real self" is a puzzling one, at least from the perspective of progressives. Remember, they are the ones who claim that gender is a social construct--not a biological reality. According to this view, there is no real self, at least where gender is concerned.) But at this stage of our civilization's decay, what hostility could he face beyond talking heads on cable television and bloggers of varying degrees of notoriety?

If Jenner is sincere, then he is not displaying courage, but rather exhibiting a mental disorder. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders used to call it gender identity disorder. It asserted that people who desired to be the opposite gender suffered from a mental disorder.  The American Psychological Association now calls it gender dysphoria. Now the organization  denies that gender non-conformity is a mental disorder. It is concerned now only about the distress that one experiences from living as the gender into which one was born. The only reason for the change appears to be that calling it a disorder implies that someone possessing this disorder might actually be disordered.

This change parallels the change regarding homosexuality. The DSM used to identify homosexuality as a mental disorder. Now they consider it a mental disorder only if one feels distress over being a homosexual. (It used to be the distress over one's homosexuality was an indication of a sound emotional state--but never mind that now.)

With no psychology degree and analyzing the situation from my basement computer, I wonder if gender dysphoria may even be related to homosexuality. Despite the view of progressives that gender is a social construct, homosexuals distinguishing themselves by gender as "gays" and "lesbians." And many homosexual couples, especially lesbians, seen to adopt male and female rolls. For example, one of most well-known lesbians Ellen Degeneres clearly adopts a male persona in her dress and hair styles. Her partner identifies as "the wife."

Then there is the less well-known but more significant couple behind the fight over same sex marriage in California-- Kris Perry and Sandy Stier:

Maybe Jenner's reality is not related to his gender but to his homosexuality.

Who knows.

Perhaps he has mental disorder afterall.

That's what happens when you live with the Kardashians.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Happy Independence Day!

On this date two hundred nine eight years ago thirteen of Great Britain's twenty seven North American colonies declared independence.

The Second Continental Congress convened on 10 May 1776 to assess the progress made since its sessions the previous summer in maintaining their rights while at the save time preserving their union with Britain. The British Parliament had been attempting to fund the costs of empire through imposing various taxes on the colonies. The colonists had responding with protests and non-importation agreements, arguing the injustice of "taxation without representation."

The situation had worsened.

The previous October King George III charged in a speech before Parliament that opposition in the colonies was “carried on for the purpose of establishing an independent Empire.” The colonists, he continued, make “vague expression of attachments to the parent state, and the strongest protestations of loyalty to me, whilst they were preparing for a general revolt.” It was time, he concluded, “ to put a speedy and to these disorders by the most decisive exertions.” In response to the King's charges, Parliament passed the Prohibitory Act. This act declared the colonies outside the protection of the empire, prohibited all commerce with the colonies and initiated a naval blockade, and announced that all colonial ships and cargo forfeit to the Crown as enemy vessels.

Moreover, the month before the convening of the Congress, fighting erupted between British regulars and Massachusetts militiamen at Lexington and Concord.

During the month of May, Congress assumed the role of an unofficial provisional government, trying to coordinate the colonies and assume military control over the thousands of militiamen gathering in the Boston area.

Then on 7 June 1776, representative Richard Henry Lee of Virginia introduced the following resolution:

“That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved. That it is expedient forthwith to take the most effectual measures for forming foreign Alliances. That a plan of confederation be prepared and transmitted tot he respective Colonies for their consideration and approbation.”

After a couple of days debate, the Congress postponed additional discussion until July. At the time, only slightly more than half the colonies supported independence. A consensus had to be formed. Meanwhile, the Congress appointed a committee of five to draft a declaration of independence for adoption if the colonies reached a consensus. The committee delegated to one of its members, Thomas Jefferson, the task of writing a draft.

Finally, on 1 July, the Congress resumed debate on Lee's original resolution. Although no new points emerged, a virtual consensus had been reached. Only the delegates from the state of New York had failed to receive any instructions to support the resolution. So on 2 July 1776, the Continental Congress voted to pass the Lee resolution declaring independence. The United Colonies became the United States.

Richard Henry Lee

The Continental Congress then completed debate on Thomas Jefferson's draft of the Declaration of Independence. After some revisions that more accurately reflected the consensus of the delegates, the voted to approve Jefferson's Declaration on 4 July, 1776.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Of Courting and Marriage

To no one's surprise, the Supreme Court declared that a somewhat archaic eighteenth-century document and one of its somewhat archaic nineteenth-century amendments granted the right of same sex couples to marry. 

It just took us a couple of hundred years to learn it.

The Supreme Court ruled by a 5-4 majority in Obergefell vs. Hodges that the United States Constitution requires that states issue marriage licenses to same sex couples.

You can read the complete majority opinion of and the dissenting opinions here.

The decision was no surprise to any one after the Supreme Court ruling against the Defense of Marriage Act. Everyone knew where the court would come down on the question of same sex marriage and knew who would write the majority opinion--Justice Anthony Kennedy. He showed his hand so to speak in his intemperate comments regarding those who supported DOMA--in his words a "bare congressional desire to harm a politically unpopular group." He basically labeled President Barack Obama, Vice-President Biden, former President Clinton, the future presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, 342 United States Representatives and 85 Senators BIGOTS.

The legal basis of the decision rests upon the 14th amendment,  That amendment sought to protect the former slaves from legal disabilities imposed by states that might jeopardize their newly won freedom. Congress was especially concerned about blacks who traveled or moved out of their home state. In the decades before the civil war, many states refused to allow free blacks to enter their jurisdictions. Others required that free blacks post bond while traveling through the state for work or if they desired to live in the state. 

In fact, the 14th amendment actually echoes the provisions of Article IV of America's first constitution, the Articles of Confederation:

"The better to secure and perpetuate mutual friendship and intercourse among the people of the different States in this Union, the free inhabitants of each of these States, paupers, vagabonds, and fugitives from justice excepted, shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of free citizens in the several States; and the people of each State shall free ingress and regress to and from any other State, and shall enjoy therein all the privileges of trade and commerce, subject to the same duties, impositions, and restrictions as the inhabitants thereof respectively, provided that such restrictions shall not extend so far as to prevent the removal of property imported into any State, to any other State, of which the owner is an inhabitant; provided also that no imposition, duties or restriction shall be laid by any State, on the property of the United States, or either of them.

If any person guilty of, or charged with, treason, felony, or other high misdemeanor in any State, shall flee from justice, and be found in any of the United States, he shall, upon demand of the Governor or executive power of the State from which he fled, be delivered up and removed to the State having jurisdiction of his offense.

Full faith and credit shall be given in each of these States to the records, acts, and judicial proceedings of the courts and magistrates of every other State."

The 14th Amendment simply intended to extend these basic privileges and immunities to black citizens. The 14th Amendment had nothing to say about equal rights for blacks, women, homosexuals, or anybody else for that matter.

Although the history, circumstances, and limitations behind the passage of the 14th amendment are well known, Justice Kennedy wrote this fanciful characterization: 

"The generations that wrote and ratified the Bill of Rights and the Fourteenth Amendment did not presume to know the extent of freedom in all of its dimensions, and so they entrusted to future generations a charter protecting the right of all persons to enjoy liberty as we learn its meaning. When new insight reveals discord between the Constitution’s central protections and a received legal stricture, a claim to liberty must be addressed"

Justice Kennedy offered no evidence in his opinion for this claim. And there is good reason why he did not. 

There is no evidence.

The citizens of this country apparently lacked the "learning" about freedom and the "new insight" to which Kennedy alluded. This is why citizens consistently rejected attempts by state legislatures and state courts to expand marriage laws to includes same sex couples.

Kennedy wants to be our teacher.

That vacuous passage is about the extent of Kennedy's allusions to the Constitution. As in most Supreme Court opinions, Kennedy devoted most of the text to discussion of  Supreme Court's jurisprudence on the issues of marriage, privacy, homosexuality, liberty, and equality. That is the problem with our judiciary. As the courts build precedent upon precedent, their jurisprudential edifice moves ever more distant from the Constitution and the historical context, intents, and actual words of its provisions.

In his majority opinion, Justice Kennedy also wrote passionately about the special nature of marriage and the desire of same sex couples to live together in its bond. He retold the stories of the plaintiffs and the hardships they faced because state laws prevented them from enjoying the marriage bond. Kennedy shares the assumption of same sex marriage advocates that the lack of recognition of same sex marriage "stigmatizes" them. Because marriage laws remain some of the last remaining laws that distinguish people based upon their sexual orientation, Kennedy and other advocates of same sex marriage believe that removal of these marriage laws will result in the removal of this stigma.

Kennedy's sociology appears to be no better than his history. The lack of same sex marriage rights is not what stigmatizes same sex couples. Homosexuality itself is the stigma. For all of recorded history, even before the rise of the monotheistic religions notorious for their hostility to homosexuality and in cultures far removed from the influence of those religions, homosexuals have been whispered about, sneered at, mocked, physically abused, and even killed. Even 20th century communist regimes, officially atheist,  condemned homosexuality as "bourgeois egotism" and suspected homosexuals of serving as agents of "counter-revolutionary imperialism."  And the lack of "marriage equality" had nothing to do with it.

Contemporary Americans exhibit much more toleration (at least publicly) that previous generations. The fact remains, however, that large numbers of Americans believe that homosexuality is a sin, a biological anomaly, unnatural,  or, in the words of those following their feelings rather than any thoughtful consideration of the issue--"just plain weird." And for these and a host of other reasons and feelings remain cool to the idea of same sex marriage.

Kennedy and other advocates of same sex marriage exhibit an incredible amount of naivete in believing that simply a change in the law will transform hearts and minds.

And because the way the law was changed, not by deliberation of citizens but  by judicial fiat, it actually may make things worse. Doubters should simply reflect on the way that the Supreme Court's decision in Roe vs. Wade transformed a civil and even conservative approach to reform of abortion laws into a "culture war."

Below, another legendary constitutional scholar who opposed same sex marriage on religious and constitutional grounds:

Friday, June 26, 2015


As expected, the United States Supreme Court rejected the most recent legal challenge to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Commonly known as Obamacare, Romneycare, and now via Antonin Scalia, SCOTUS-care, the law faced its most recent challenge on the grounds the the IRS and the Obama administration violated their own law by providing subsidies to those who purchased health insurance in market exchanges set up the federal government.

The law explicitly restricts subsidies to those Americans who purchase insurance through "exchanges established by the states." The subsidies served as a financial incentive for the states to set up exchanges. Witness for the plaintiffs--Obamacare architect Jonathan Gruber.

 Moreover, Senator Max Baucus, Democratic chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who shepherded the PPACA through Congress, also affirmed that the bill restricted subsidies to exchanges set up by the states.

Because so many states refused to set up exchanges for their citizens to purchase insurance, the federal government set up its own. Then, in violation of its own law, the Obama administration began subsidizing the insurance premiums of those who purchased coverage in the federal exchange.

The court ruled, however, that "exchanges established by the states really means "exchanges established by the states and the federal government."

The Supreme Court justified their decision based upon the intent of Congress. According to John Roberts,

"Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not to destroy them. If at all possible, we must interpret the Act in a way that is consistent with the former, and avoids the latter."

Moreover, "Those credits are necessary for the Federal Exchanges to function like their State Exchange counterparts, and to avoid the type of calamitous result that Congress plainly meant to avoid."

Roberts and his fellow justices completely misconstrued the intent of Congress. Of course Congress intended the insurance markets to work. The purpose of subsidies was to force the states to set up exchanges by means of the promise of federal dollars. The "calamitous" death spiral is what happens when the intention of Congress fails--something that no one anticipated. Contrary to everyone's expectation, many states refused to set up health insurance market exchanges.  Once the Obama administration recognized what was happening, they intervened in violation of their own law. They set up their own exchanges and then subsidized the insurance premiums of those who purchased insurance in those federal exchanges. 

Concluding the the majority of justices simply have decided to protect the PPACT at any cost, including the integrity of law itself, Antonin Scalia dubbed the law SCOTUS-care.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Conservatism and The Confederate Flag

In a short break from the series of posts on Conservatism. . .

The vile and disgusting murder of nine church members by Dylann Roof has spawned a number of so-called "national conversations"--you know-- the ones in which everyone engages in a monologue of ideological sound bites instead of a dialogue that seriously explores alternative views. One of the latest involves revisiting the Confederate battle flag.

Here is my monologue.

Most black Americans see the flag as a symbol of hate. The battle flag originated in the American Civil War. That contest began, of course, when Southern states seceded from the Union to protect slavery from interference by a new political party that had captured control of the White House and both houses of Congress--the Republican Party.

Southerners resurrected the flag in the 1950s in reaction to the Brown vs. Board of Education decision by the Supreme Court that ruled segregated schools violated the United States Constitution and the subsequent efforts of the federal government to enforce that decision. The flag was incorporated into the state flags of many Southern states during this time period by Democratic governors and Democratic controlled state legislatures. It seems no one cared about the issue until Republicans began winning control of state governments. Then the Confederate flag became a controversy.

It doesn't take much empathy for one's fellow citizens to see why black Americans take offense at the display of that flag.

For many white Americans, the flag is a symbol Southern pride or Southern culture.

That's the wonderful thing about symbols: its all inside the head. (One witnesses the same fantasy when people burn the American flag over something is symbolizes in their imagination.)

There is one incontrovertible  fact, however, about what the battle flag symbolizes.

As the Confederate battle flag, it served as the banner under which Southern armies fought in their attempt to break up the United States over the election of the Republican Party in  1860.

That ought to be grounds enough for any self-respecting Republican to oppose the display of that flag in any official capacity that represents a state government. And Republicans need to point out who hoisted the flag in the first place--the Democrats.

When running for president, Barack Obama said that the Confederate flag should be confined to a museum.

That's right Mr. President. Put it in a museum dedicated to the rich history of the Democratic Party.

Don't be confused:

Confederate Battle Flag

First CSA national flag: Stars and Bars

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Traditional Marriage: A Brief Defense

Some brief arguments on behalf of traditional marriage:

Conservatives hold a deep respect for tradition. Every generation possesses a cultural inheritance bestowed to them by earlier generations. Whatever traditions constitute part of this inheritance rest upon the reasoning of those earlier generations. Traditions can be changed; some should be changed. Conservatives hold that tradition remains the default position, however,  and that suggested changes must have compelling reasons as justification.

Traditional marriage between one man and one women is such tradition. (It is, of course, a Western European tradition as part of our cultural inheritance from the Greeks and the Romans. It is NOT a biblical tradition, although Christianity has sanctioned traditional marriage. Biblical marriage, of course, is polygamous.)

Traditional marriage is a social reality based upon biological reality. Men  and women engage in sexual intercourse, procreate, rear their offspring, and form kinship networks based upon consanguinity. Homosexual couples cannot do these things. They cannot engage in sexual intercourse properly speaking. They cannot procreate. They cannot form new kinship networks based upon consanguinity.

Obviously, some marriage couples cannot procreate. Although evolution designed two genders for the continued preservation of the species, some people are unable to have children. The fact that some couples cannot have children or that some couples choose not to have children seems irrelevant to the question of same sex marriage. Marriage recognizes the potentiality for children. No same sex couple possesses the potentiality for children.

Centuries ago, Aristotle argued that to understand the justice of any social practice, one must understand its telos--its end or purpose. Only traditional marriage fulfills the fundamental purposes of family formation. Consequently, it is just to restrict marriage to the traditional formula of one man and one woman.

And this is why in every state the laws defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman constitute part of family law or family code.

Marriage is a social convention with social purposes that we as a society can change and define anyway we want. We can change the definition of marriage to include couples of the same sex. We change the definition of marriage to include good old fashioned Biblical or Koranic polygamy. We can change the definition to include new fashioned gender neutral polyamorous relationships.

There just do not seem to be any compelling reasons why we should.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Sexual Disorientation

Several recent posts, here at Right Detour explored the nature of marriage as part of human social reality that rests upon biological reality.

Four million years of human evolution has yielded two genders for the reproduction and rearing of offspring. Nature has provided that men and women are drawn together to some degree subconsciously by subtle visual, auditory, and olfactory cues. For centuries men and women have been engaging in sexual intercourse, giving birth, rearing children, and forming extensive kinship networks based upon consanguinity.

Over the centuries different societies have devised different social conventions that sanction human pairing and infuse it with meanings particular to those cultures. They call it marriage. They are all but universally based upon pairings between men and women. Marriage was created by heterosexuals for heterosexuals.

Yet homosexuals, who make up somewhere between 1%-2% of the population, claim to experience an innate attraction to persons of the same sex. (Because this describes one’s private, subjective mental state, no one can or should contest that claim). They also claim to be born "that way" and that homosexuality results from natural biological processes in the same way as heterosexuality. (That is a very different claim that is by no means obviously true). Consequently, they argue, homosexuality is just as natural as heterosexuality and should not be the basis of discrimination in the issuing a marriage licenses. But if homosexuality is explained strictly by biology, this makes homosexuality something of a biological anomaly.

Scientists do not usually talk about purposes when describing natural processes such as evolution. Modern science has long abandoned a teleological view of the universe for a mechanistic one. But the mechanisms of evolution have made heterosexuality the biological norm. It is not heterosexuality that needs explanation; it is homosexuality. How is homosexuality to be explained?

The traditional explanation of homosexuality is not biological at all, but psychological and /or moral. Until 1973, the American Psychiatric Association included homosexuality among its list of sexual deviations in its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. At that time it substituted Sexual Orientation Disturbance, which referred to people who were unhappy with , in conflict with, or wanting to change, their orientation. This did not mean the APA normalized homosexuality. The author of the change in nomenclature wrote that “by no longer listing it as a psychiatric disorder we are not saying that it is "normal" or as valuable as heterosexuality.” This change occurred, however, as a reaction to political pressure, not as a result of new research evidence or better reasoning about homosexuality. The American Psychological Association followed suit two years later.

At the same time, many jurisdictions in the United States still criminalized certain sexual practices associated with homosexuality. Statutes usually referred to such things as "crimes against nature" rather than violations of the Christian scriptures. As a society we have never squared homosexuality as a mental disorder with homosexuality as a criminal activity. If it is a mental disorder, why to we criminalized it? The same situation persists today with pedophilia. It is still considered a mental illness but is also criminalized.

A more contemporary explanation relies on genetics. Genes determine physical characteristics of biological organisms. It is possible that a mutation triggers drives in homosexuals that deviate from those inherited by the vast majority of other members of homo sapiens. Perhaps homosexuals carry an allele that accounts for the deviation from nature's norm. If true, it suggests that homosexuality is natural in that it results from natural processes. But it is certainly a maladaptive trait. The possession of a homosexual allele or some other genetic factor does not affect directly the viability of the individuals who carry it. But, like most mutations, it is does not appear to enhance the survival of the species as a whole. Homosexuals couples cannot reproduce themselves. If homosexuals found themselves separated geographically so that their gene pool became isolated, it would not lead to new species. It would lead to extinction. Some research suggests, however, the counter intuitive conclusion that homosexual factors in the genes actually increase the chances for reproductive success among heterosexuals. And this explains the persistence of homosexual genetic traits in the general population.

A somewhat different appeal is to behavioral genetics. Genes play a determinate role in the instinct bases species-specific behaviors exhibited by animals. Scientists have now embarked on studies of behavioral genetics in humans. They suggest that a variety of genes contribute to human behavior. This seems to be a much more difficult task, given that humans do not really exhibit instinctual behaviors like other animals. Humans distinguish themselves from other animals by the possession of free will. And this brings us back to the controversy over homosexuality as a matter of choice. Moreover, researchers have yet to find a "homosexual gene."

Some researchers believe that genes contribute to homosexuality indirectly. They suggest that some malfunction of the genes that govern intrauterine development result in homosexual orientation or at least susceptibility to the development of a homosexual orientation. This seems the most probable.

Perhaps homosexuality results from some combination of biological processes, social conditioning, and choice. A recent pamphlet produced by the American Psychological Association suggests just that:

"There is no consensus among scientists about the exact reasons that an individual develops a heterosexual, bisexual, gay or lesbian orientation. Although much research has examined the possible genetic, hormonal, developmental, social, and cultural influences on sexual orientation, no findings have emerged that permit scientists to conclude that sexual orientation is determined by any particular factor or factors. Many think that nature and nurture both play complex roles..."

Does this mean homosexual relationships are evil? No,

Does this mean homosexual relationships are less worthy? No.

But neither does it contribute much to the argument for homosexual marriage.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Marriage: Social, Anthropological, and Legal

Although rooted in biological realities, marriage exists mainly as a social convention.

Marriage is historically understood as a union between a man and woman. Efforts to describe just what kind of union reveals its multifaceted character. The most common models understandings include marriage as a social practice, a religious rite, a legal contract, and a civil institution.

First, marriage as a social practice is the most fundamental. As a social practice, marriage precedes political society and the modern state’s establishment of marriage as a legal institution. Marriage brings together a man and woman into a new relationship between them and into a new standing before the larger society. For most of human history and in traditional patriarchal societies today, fathers arrange the marriages of their children. Arranged marriages usually are endogamous in that they maintain existing kinship networks. Marriages between relatives sharing some degree of consanguinity reinforces tribal or clan identity. Of course, families arrange exogamous marriages outside the existing kinship ties as well in order to establish new ones. Enhancing the economic well-being or status of the families motivates many if not most arranged marriages. As a social practice, traditional marriage serves the related functions of regulating sexual behavior, establishing the legitimacy of offspring, and defining property arrangements. Romantic love or passion between spouse either do not constitute a crucial aspect of arranged marriages at all or is expected to emerge during the marriage. The rise of modern romantic marriage, however, fundamentally altered traditional practices. In the West and in other less traditional societies, modern marriage is understood as a matter of individual choice.

Second, because most societies contain one or more religious traditions, marriage is also considered a religious rite. The ceremony informs the event with religious meaning as the couple assumes a new standing before God--however he is conceived. This usually means some religious official presides over the ceremony, confers divine blessings on the union, and provides some sort of theological understanding of marriage within that society‘s religious tradition. Marriage as a religious right endures even in today’s more secular age. In most nations, the state authorizes religious officials to conduct marriages.

Third, because marriage involves some agreement between parties, whether between family heads in an arranged marriage or between individuals in modern marriage, it is also described as a contract. In fact, most civil codes today define it as such. When a proposal for marriage is agreed upon, the couple exchanges promises regarding rights and duties. Marriage differs from other legal contracts, however,  in that the parties rarely write out the rights and duties as clauses in a  formal agreement. The modern state has assumed regulatory powers over marriage through licensing. The state establishes licensing procedures and specifies who may enter into marriage contracts and what kinds of marriage contracts it will recognize. The state accords recognition based upon the interests of the state.

That last point is the essential one the in current debate about same sex marriage. Few people oppose, or at least possess any standing to oppose, a same sex marriage ceremony conducted in some liberal mainline church or Las Vega wedding chapel. Any same sex couple has the freedom to walk an aisle, make mutual pledges of love and fidelity,  and declare to their friends that they are now  . . .  well, spouse and spouse.

The point of debate is whether or note states lie under any moral or legal obligation to recognize such unions.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Marriage: Nature and Convention

As previously noted, marriage is an institution that constitutes part of the social reality created by human beings. It is rooted, however, on the biological reality of two genders.

An older but similar way of looking a marriage considers the question of whether the bonding of the sexes and the establishment of marriage as an institution is natural or conventional--or perhaps a little of both.

To the degree that marriage is natural , it should be rooted in human nature and  should possess a uniformity across time, place, and cultures. To the degree that marriage is conventional, it will differ across time, place, and cultures.

As is customer here at The Rational Right, Aristotle serves as the starting point.

Aristotle seems to think of the bonding of the sexes as natural. It is necessitated by those natural drives that lead to sexual intercourse and procreation. It is not a result deliberate purpose, i.e., convention:

 "There must be a union of those who cannot exist without each other, namely, of male and female, that the race may continue (and this is a union which is formed, not of deliberate purpose, but because in common with other animals and with plants, mankind  have a natural desire to leave behind them an image of themselves,), and of natural ruler and subject, that both may be preserved."

It is not certain what Aristotle means here by a natural desire to create offspring. Certainly men and women possess natural visceral urges for sexual intercourse. And although the natural purpose or function behind sexual intercourse is procreation, that is probably not what is foremost in the minds of couples in the heat of the moment. Either pleasure alone or its combination with the purpose of expressing one's emotional affection for another is in their minds--although physical pleasure is only accidental to the biological purpose of sexual intercourse.

Aristotle sees it as natural in another sense. It serves to meet human needs or ends. These needs are chiefly material. Aristotle sees the household as the primary wealth generating institution. The word Aristotle uses for household is that same by which we get word economy.

"The family is the association established by nature for the supply of men's everyday wants. . ."

Enlightenment era philosophers echoed Aristotle's assertions.

Jean Jacques Rousseau called the family "the most ancient of all societies and the only one that is natural."

John Locke, too, thinks along the same lines. In Locke's view, God put mankind "under strong Obligations of Necessity, Convenience, and inclination to drive him into Society, as well as fitted him with Understanding and Language to continue and enjoy it." He calls  the relationship between man and wife "the first society." This seems to fit the description of natural.

And like Aristotle, Locke notes the economic as well as the procreative ends or purposes served by the conjunction of male and female:

"Conjugal Society is made by a voluntary Compact between man and woman: and tho' it consist chiefly in such a Communion and Right in one anothers Bodies, as is necessary to its chief End, procreation: yet is draw with it mutual Support, and Assistance, and a Communion of Interest too, as necessary to their common Off-spring, who have a right to be nourished and maintained by them, till they are able to provide for themselves."

"For the end of conjunction between Male and Female, being not bare Procreation, but the continuation of the Species, this conjunction betwixt male and female ought to last, even after Procreation, so long as is necessary to the nourishment and support of the young Ones, who are to be sustained by those that got them, till they are able to shift and provide for themselves."

In Locke' view, the lengthy period that passes before offspring possess the ability to fend for themselves and the fact that a couple will continue to production additional children explains why the conjunction of male and female lasts much longer that that between other animals.

While Locke argues that the natural and "chief end" of the conjunction of male and female is procreation and the continuation of the species, in the passage above he also notes a conventional aspect as well. He calls conjugal society a "voluntary compact between a man in a woman." This characterization of marriage as a compact constitutes part of the foundation of his larger purpose: demonstrating that the formation of political society, too, is voluntary compact among citizens. It also seem to distinguish, however,  marriage as a conventional social institution distinct from the conjunction of male and female for the natural purposes of procreation and material well-being.

Immanuel Kant,too, rests his own definition of marriage on the biological reality of two genders. He defines marriage as "the union of two people of different sexes with a view to the mutual possession of each other's sexual attributes for the duration of their lives.”

Sexual intercourse leads to procreation and "from the fact of procreation there follows the duty of preserving and rearing children."

This duty (one of Kant's favorite words) of rearing children continues "so long as it is itself incapable of making proper used of its body as an organism and of its mind as an understanding."

Etc. Etc Etc.

Enlightenment era thinkers then, despite their attempt to break away from Scholastic and even classical philosophy, only confirm the traditional Western view of marriage and the family. In this view, marriage is a social convention that rests upon nature.

Or returning to the previous post, it is part of human social reality resting on the brute biological reality of two genders.

It seems beyond their wildest imagination that someone might conceive of marriage detached from the fact of sexual intercourse between men and women and the procreation  and the continuation of human species.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Marriage: Social and Biological Realities

In several previous posts, I noted the most fundamental difference between conservatism and liberalism lies in the contrast between virtue or liberty as the end or goal of any political society. Conservatism,  at least the version promoted here, envisions the end or goal of government as the inculcation of virtue or human excellence in citizens. Liberalism sees the primary goal of government as the protection of liberty.

I also noted that the inculcation of virtue, however, does not begin with the government. It begins with the family. So it is only appropriate to post some different perspectives on the family. This also will present the opportunity to make some observations on the current controversy over the controversy of same sex marriage.

Marriage constitutes part of the social reality created my human beings. Marriage, government, money, religion, schools, professional associations, and economic institutions are the most obvious constituents of the social reality of modern mankind. Marriage has been constituted in various ways in different places and human beings. As such, we can define marriage any way we want. This social reality is based, however, on a fundamental biological reality: the existence of two genders.

Over the course of four million years, biological evolution has yielded two sexes for the reproduction and rearing of offspring to perpetuate the human species. Human reproductive organs possess an evolved compatibility. The male's external reproductive organs and the female's mostly internal reproductive organs when properly functioning enable intercourse and reproduction. Although instinct does not determine human behavior the same way that it does in other species, natural tendencies involving various visual, auditory, and olfactory cues influence human mating. Facial appearance, voice pitch, and the more subtle influences of pheromones such androstadienone and copulance draw the sexes together. Sexual desire itself as a visceral urge is expressed through human sexual intercourse. These biological phenomena assist in establishing human mating generally and finding genetically advantageous mates specifically.

Some interesting and informative videos can be found here.

 (yes, it's capitalism, so you have to watch some commercials)

Men and women have been engaging in sexual intercourse, giving birth, rearing children, and forming extensive kinship networks based upon consanguinity since the emergence of homo sapiens. Wherever humans inhabit the globe, they establish families. And wherever humans establish families, they do so through the pairing of the two genders.

One way perhaps to clarify discourse on this topic (at the expense of brevity) is to define the biological reality as the bonding, pairing, or conjunction of the sexes and the institutional reality as marriage.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Flag Follies

Recently, air force veteran Michelle Manhart created headlines by interfering with a group of Valdosta State University Students from desecrating the American flag. She eventually found herself under arrest. The usual omnipresent cell phone video of the encounter below:

Manhart's own treatment of the flag in a Playboy pictorial is just a little suspect. She probably did not intend to cast disrespect for the flag or the republic it symbolizes. Is she suggesting that this (i.e., American womanhood) is what our forces overseas are defending? Who knows. She does violate flag etiquette. She apparently received a reprimand and a demotion from the air force for the stunt.

Meanwhile, the group protesting the flag refused to press charges. Neither did it even identify itself. Now we know why. The group is a black supremacist organization touting the falsehoods of African origins of civilization, black Jesus, and collective white guilt. A social media upload:

And you can find the group's leader, Eric Sheppard demonstrating how much he hasn't learned in college here.

And now, after complaints from students that someone (Sheppard?) had been threatening to shoot people, campus police found a book bag containing a firearm. They claim to have indisputable evidence that links the handgun to Sheppard. A judge issued a warrant for Sheppard's arrest.

VSU issued a campus alert, implicitly  admitting that Sheppard is the problem--not Manhart.

H/T The Conservative Treehouse

Sunday, April 5, 2015

He is Risen . . . Or has He?

The Christian scriptures record an oral tradition, some 40 years in the making, that Jesus of Nazareth died from crucifixion but rose from the dead. The four accounts differ in so many details, one wonders what really happened, or even if it happened at all.

To wit:

1. Jesus died.

And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last ( Mark 15:37)

2. Because the Sabbath approached, they found a cave nearby so that they could entomb Jesus quickly--even without proper preparation of the body.

When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who also was a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had cut in the rock. And he rolled a great stone to the entrance of the tomb and went away.  Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb (Matthew 27:57-60)

A couple of female disciples followed to learn the location of the tomb so they could return after the Sabbath to properly prepare the body for burial.

Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb (Matthew 27:61)


Joseph and Nicodemus already prepared the body for a proper burial, eliminating the need for the female disciples to return to the tomb.

After these things Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus, and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took away his body. Nicodemus also, who earlier had come to Jesus by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds in weight. So they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews. Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. So because of the Jewish day of Preparation, since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there. (John 19:38-41).

3. After the Sabbath passed, two women arrive after sun had risen to anoint the body for burial.

When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. ( Mark 16:1-2)


Before the sun rose, Mary came alone to the tomb. Because Nicodemus already prepared the body for burial, Mary brought no spices but only came to grieve.

Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark. (John 20:1)

4. Two women--Mary Magdalene and the other Mary arrive to witness an earthquake, the stoned rolled away from the mouth of the tomb, and one angel sitting upon the stone. Although the tomb guards fainted with fear, the two women approached the scene.

And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. (Matt. 28:1-4).


Three women--Mary Magdalene, the other Mary, and Salome arrive to find the stone rolled back and no angel upon it. They entered the tomb to discover one angel and were alarmed.

And they were saying to one another, "Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?" And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back— it was very large. And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. (Mark 16:3-5).


The women find the stone rolled back and no angel on it. They enter the tomb to discover two angels inside the tomb and became frightened.

And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground. (Luke 24:2-5).


Mary Magdalene came alone to discover the stone rolled away, saw no angels, and ran . . .

Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. So she ran . . . ( John 20:1-2)

5. The one angel sitting on the stone tells the women that Jesus has risen. He directs the women to tell the other disciples the good news of the resurrection and that they should go to Galilee to meet Jesus. As they leave, they run into Jesus, who greet them repeats the instructions given by the angels.

But the angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you." So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. And behold, Jesus met them and said, "Greetings!" And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, "Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me." (Matthew 28:5-10)


One of two angels inside the tomb tells the women that Jesus has risen. He gives no instructions about meeting Jesus in Galilee. Neither do they run into Jesus as they run from the scene to tell the disciples the good news.

And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, "Why do you seek the living among the dead?  He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise." And they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. ( Luke 24:5-9)


After Mary Magdalene, who initially saw no angels, told the disciples about the empty tomb, the disciples came and witnessed it for themselves. They returned home. Mary, still weeping by the tomb, then enters the tomb to see two angels. Then she turns to see the risen Jesus.

But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. They said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping?" She said to them, "They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him." Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?" Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, "Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away." Jesus said to her, "Mary." She turned and said to him in Aramaic, "Rabboni." (John 20:11-16).


The only angel inside the tomb tells them Jesus has risen and that Jesus will meet his disciples in Galilee. Because of their fear, however, the women told no one.

And he said to them, "Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you." And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid. (Mark 16:6-8).

He has risen!


Has he ?

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Conservatives and Culture

Often times Americans find themselves divided politically over questions that involve ethnicity, religion, language--in short--culture. Unfortunately, sometimes these disagreements provoke acrimony and mutual accusations of racism.

These specific occasions reflect attitudes about the broader ideas of multiculturalism and diversity.

Multiculturalism in one sense is simply the recognition of the cultural diversity that exists in nearly any given group of people. This common sense observation transcends  political ideology.

Multiculturalism in another sense is the celebration of diversity, often accompanied by efforts to increase that diversity. This is where conservatives and liberals part ways.

The United States always has been a diverse nation. Even though the vast majority of settlers and immigrants came from Great Britain, significant and enduring differences marked those first generations of Americans. These differences included speech patterns, housing, food, marital and child rearing practices, and nuanced differences about the concept of liberty.  You can read about it here. They did share, however, a broader culture unity rooted in language, religion, law, and national identity.

Over the decades, the United States has grown even more diverse. Millions of immigrants speaking different languages, worshiping different gods, and carrying cultural baggage very different from Great Britain and Europe have come to American for freedom and opportunity. Over several generations most of these immigrants have assimilated to varying degrees--most adopting English as their primary language and conforming to general American cultural norms--even while retaining important elements of their own important cultural practices. This state of affairs is captured by the by the historical metaphor of America as a "Melting Pot."

Our immigration policies helped preserve this state of affairs. Policies based quotas and caps for immigration on existing percentages of the population. In effect, this gave preference to immigrants who largely shared European cultural norms. This helps maintain something of a cultural continuity even in the face of technological change.

Most Americans in general, and Conservatives in particular, have embraced this vision of society as a unity that also preserves diversity.  It conserves the core of American cultural norms; at the same time it defers to  immigrants the freedom to maintain some of their own traditional cultural norms. Conserving our cultural norms is desirable because, first, they are ours, and second, they best maintain the conditions for human thriving. Conservatives recognize that some cultural practices are superior others.

Liberals have challenged this traditional approach to diversity. The Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965 fundamentally changed our policies. The United States opened its doors to much larger numbers of immigrants from third world countries. Like most earlier immigrants, they, too, have come for freedom and economic opportunity. Unlike most earlier immigrants, however, their cultural norms differ in fundamental ways. Assimilation becomes more difficult. The incentive to assimilate grows weaker, too, when a continual stream of immigration reinforces the cultural practices of the native country. This is especially true of immigration from Central and South America. Moreover, the emergence of Telemundo and Univision as sources of entertainment and news for America's Hispanic population additionally acts as a disincentive for assimilation.

Sometimes assimilation is actually discouraged. Modern liberals have abandoned the earlier consensus on diversity by celebrating cultural diversity and encouraging its persistence. Liberals condemn even the most benign efforts to encourage greater assimilation--for example, English usage for communication--as racist. Some liberals seem to celebrate every culture but their own.

Finally, many liberals even abandon the pretense of immigration laws altogether. They welcome and encourage illegal immigration. When borders and laws do not matter, it is outsiders who determine our immigration policy--not us.

As Conservatives suspect, the results of such policies are not encouraging. Harvard political science professor Robert Putnam published a lengthy study of the relationship between diversity and social trust. Diversity not only erodes trust between ethic groups, it also erodes trust of a community's traditional social institutions.

The money quote:

"The effect of diversity is worse than had been imagined. And it’s not just that we don’t trust people who are not like us. In diverse communities, we don’t trust people who do look like us."

—Harvard professor Robert D. Putnam

Friday, March 20, 2015

Conservatives and the Common Good of Capital and Labor

Conservatives also see economic activity as a largely cooperative enterprise.

Of course businesses compete with each other. Some see more success than others. And some disintegrate as the result of competition. And they also cooperate with each other to shared needs in some economic process. This phenomenon has been called "spontaneous order." (For the classic illustration see "I, Pencil--My Family Tree."

Every business, however, essentially operates as a self contained cooperative enterprise. The success and financial well-being of every individual depends upon the success and financial well-being of the whole enterprise. It is in the interest of every individual that the business succeeds. This starts at the moment of hiring, when a business negotiates with a prospective employee over wages, hours, and job class. It continues during each employee's career with the company through training, promotions, and financial reward. It can end, however, when employee no longer supports the enterprise and leave it for another opportunity. (Or when the company perceives that an individual no longer contributes to the success of the company and terminates the employee's status with the company. ) Success is “the common good,” if you will, of the business.

The directors of businesses obviously try to cultivate a sense of the common good among everyone involved. That is why they rarely describe anyone as “employees.” These days directors of even the largest corporations refer to employees as associates, teams, or even as family. It is perhaps ironic that this development emerged after relations in the workplace of larger corporations became more impersonal than ever before. Most people today work for entities in which ownership has long been separated from management and policies are established in a company headquarters hundreds of miles distant from a particular business location. Even the nature of ownership itself has changed. Most people today work for companies owned by millions of shareholders.

Conservatives generally share this view of every business enterprise and its common good. While tensions and disagreements emerge everyday in the work place between “labor” and “management,” conservatives see these disagreements subsumed by the shared common goals of the company as a whole. Perhaps they emphasize “the common good” to a fault.

This is why they generally are lukewarm about unions. They exacerbate conflicting interests in a company by institutionalizing them.

And this is why they never seek to inflame. tensions in the workplace for political advantage.

For Progressives, however, the conflicting interests between “labor” and “management” present an opportunity to exploit the difference for political purposes. Labor disputes become opportunities to promulgate the idea of a war on labor or a war on workers--waged, of course, by conservatives and Republicans.

Below, an adaptation of the original essay.


Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Conservatives and the Common Good of Women and Men

Progressives, then, see society consisting of autonomous rights-bearing individuals which they group together under various rubrics of “common interest” such as gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, and a host of others. Progressives believe—or at least say they believe—that such groups or “communities” live under siege by those who would take way their rights. Progressives pit every “community” against every other “community.” This way of thinking almost dispenses with “society” at all.

In contrast, most conservatives tend to overlook differences among individual Americans. Conservatives recognize that difference exist; they just believe that they was dwarfed in importance by the common interests that all individual or groups share.

We will take a look at several examples in separate short posts.

The recent example that stands out most is the supposed “war on women.” Progressives charge that conservatives not only oppose access to abortions, but also oppose access to birth control. “Opposing access” in this instance means refusing to require insurance companies or even tax payers to subsidize birth control. Sometimes Progressives spin the opposition as based upon religion. Other times they attribute it to sexism. Why any institution dominated by men—whether an insurance company, Congress, or the Supreme Court determine any individual woman's choices regarding birth control.

First, birth control and abortion are hardly issues that divide on the grounds of sex. Men find modern methods of birth control, including abortion, as almost as liberating for them as for women. No more unwanted pregnancies. No more financial support for an unplanned child. No more “shotgun weddings.”

Second, the progressive focus on birth control and abortion serves to narrow and minimize women. The horizons of most women extend beyond the narrow confines of reproduction services. Family budgets, national budgets, education policy, war and peace—all concern women as well as men.

Finally, this whole narrative ignores the greater common interest that men and women share. Men and women work together both as teams in the workplace and as partners in marriage. And there is nothing like the institution of marriage to demonstrate the shared common interest between men and women.

This perhaps explains why liberals attract more voter loyalty among single women while conservatives attract more electoral support from married women. Single women perhaps are less apt to recognize the interests that men and women share. Married women, engaged in the cooperative enterprise of marriage and family formation, seem less susceptible to rhetoric about the “war on women.”

Thursday, March 12, 2015

A Cancer Returns

Like a cancer that will not go into remission, the Clintons keep coming back.

As a malady debilitating the  body politic, this particular disease is a strain of the oral variety--they just cannot stop lying and obfuscating.

After delaying for several days to get her talking points in order, Hillary! Clinton finally answered--and dodged--questions about her use of a private email account on a private server for government business.

During the press conference, she claimed that she "opted for convenience" by using one device for both personal and government business. The "inconvenient truth," however, is that two weeks earlier at the Watermark Silicon Valley Conference for Women, she admitted to being a hoarder of sorts with electronic devices. According to Hillary!, she uses an iPad, iPhone, a mini-iPad, and a Blackberry.

If you can endure her phony cackling, you can watch the exchange here.

Hillary! explained that she and her staff went through 60,000 emails. About 30,000 consisted of personal emails, including those of her husband and another 30,000 government emails. The personal emails were deleted and the government emails were  turned over to the government.

A spokesman for Bill Clinton, however, says that the former president has sent only two emails in his life. Story here.

And although the personal emails allegedly have been deleted, she insisted that the server on which the emails were stored will remain private and off limits to any independent investigator.

 Hillary! assured the members of the press that the server is safely guarded by secret service agents. Of course, it is not through "breaking and entering" that  electronic data is stolen; it is through hacking.

 Hillary! asks that American trust her that she kept her personal and government email accounts separate--trust  her that she sent government business only to government based websites--trust her that she never sent classified documents by email at all.

Maybe there is nothing to this.

After Whitewater, Cattlegate, the so-called bimbo eruptions, and the preposterous claim that they were broke when they left the White House, however, it is difficult to believe anything they say anymore.

Theodore White once described Richard Nixon as a man who had told so many lies that eventually he found it easier to lie than to tell the truth--even when it did not matter.

It seems an apt description of that metastasizing malignancy from Little Rock--the Clintons.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Divided We Stand

Aristotle notes that “a state is a plurality, which must depend upon education to bring about its common unity.”

Although most conservatives see a natural unity in society, especially at the smaller segments of family and neighborhood, they acknowledge the plurality of individuals and their desires and interests. Conservatives believe, however, that the government, and its institutions such as schools and universities, should encourage unity among the citizens.

As seen in the last post, however, even in Aristotle's time demagogues attempted to stir up the poor against the rich. A cursory look at the headlines during the Obama administration shows how little has changed.

Class divisions are not the only ones, however, exploited by progressives in politics and the media.

In the progressive mind, most differences about public policy are cast in terms of capital vs. labor, men vs. women, natives vs. foreigners, and straights vs. LGBTTQQFAGPBDSM (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Transsexual, Queer, Questioning, Flexual, Asexual, Genderfuck, Polyamourous, Bondage/Disciple, Dominance/Submission, Sadism/Masochism).

There is always some kind of war going on against women, minorities, immigrants, homosexuals, unions, etc.

How much they really believe this and how much of it is simply political rhetoric is anyone's guess. Perhaps progressives themselves do not even know.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Makers and Takers in 350 BC

Aristotle observes that various kinds of inequalities can lead to factions. Both rich and poor exploit these kinds of inequalities for their own benefit.

“For those who are bent on equality resort to faction if they believe that though having less, they are the equals of those who have more. And too do those who aim at inequality and excess if they think that though unequal, they do not have more, but equal or less.”

When factions grow strong enough to dominate the government, they shape the constitution in their class interests. Aristotle studies dozens of constitutions of the Greek city-states of his era. He notes how some are dominated by the many—the poor, and others are dominated by the few—the rich.

“Democracy arose from the ideal that those who are equal in any respect are equal absolutely. All are absolutely alike free, therefore they claim that they are equal absolutely. Oligarchy arose from the assumption that those who are unequal in one respect are completely unequal. Being unequal in wealth they assume themselves to be unequal absolutely.”

Both conclusions are wrong, according to Aristotle. This does not stop the emergence of factions and even civil war and revolution.

Aristotle observes that in democracies, the government attempts to harass the wealthy and take their money. Leaders in a democracy stir up popular passions against the wealthy. This in turn moved the wealthy to unite against the multitude.
In order to win favor of the multitude, they treat the notables unjustly and cause them to unite. Sometimes they make them split up their possessions or income in order to finance their public duties. Sometimes they bring slanderous accusations against the rich with a view to confiscating their money.”

This is the origins of the demagogue.

Sometimes in democratic Greek city-states, the demagogues would go beyond slander of the property owning classes. They attempted to persuade the citizens to prosecute the wealthy in order to seize their money. This in turn moves the wealthy to unite and conspire against the democracy.

Sometimes the democracies resort to trumped up charges against wealthy individuals to seize their money.

“In democracies the most potent cause of revolution is the unprincipled character of popular leaders. Sometimes they bring malicious prosecution against he owners of possessions one by one and so cause them to join forces."

 Again, this forces the wealthy to unite against the democracy, overthrow it, and establish an oligarchy—a constitution devote to the class interests of the rich.

Aristotle suggests the path to civil peace:

“In democracies, the rich ought to be treated with restraint, there should be no redistribution of property nor of income, such as goes unnoticed in some constitutions.”

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Equality for Equals

The conflict over whether a government should promote virtue in its citizens or only protect their liberty stands as the most fundamental difference between conservatism and all varieties of liberalism. A similar controversy exists on the related question of equality.

As in other posts, Aristotle serves as the best starting point for exploring the question of equality.

In contrast to other posts, Aristotle on this question made a bit of a false start.

As Greeks looked about at other peoples around the Mediterranean, they developed sense of their own superiority. (This should not be surprising. Almost all groups believe they are superior to others.) One particular contrast they noted, however, was the apparent docility of the peoples of the near east living under tyrannies. The situation was so widespread that it seemed natural, i.e., as part of their nature. This led Aristotle to reach false conclusions regarding human equality.

In the opening chapter of The Politics, when addressing the question if slavery violated nature, Aristotle writes, “from the hour of their birth, some are marked out for subjection, others for rule.”

Aristotle's ancient error persisted until modern times.

As suggested already in an earlier post, human beings are equal in their humanity. They possess the same human nature and have the same human needs. We know this from modern biological science.

One aspect of human nature—a free will, or the ability to deliberate over different desires and to choose different courses of action-- accounts for the distinctiveness of individual personalities and differences in cultural practices. More importantly, when humans exercise their wills in pursuit of the desires and courses of action, all kinds of inequalities emerge.

So although all humans possess natural equality, over the course of their lives people come to have acquired inequalities. We see people manifest different degrees of achievement in education, business, politics, and sports-- just to name a few. When these inequalities emerge from circumstances free from artificial enhancements that benefit some person's thriving and obstructs that of others, conservatives see those inequalities as just. Under such circumstances, everyone's varying degrees of educational honor, socio-economic status, and athletic achievement are their due—what is owed them. This is where Aristotle is correct: justice is rewarding people according to their due.

In Aristotle's words,

“It is thought that justice is equality, and so it is. But not for all persons; only for those who are equal. Inequality also is thought be be just. And so it is. But not for all; only for the unequal.”

Aristotle—and most conservatives today—see reward as something that should be explicitly tied to virtue or merit.

In contrast, liberals seem to seek some other reasons for inequality than the relative merits of persons. They blame the capitalist economic structure, the wealthy, overt racism, institutional racism, or some ill-defined “forces of history.” Rather than apply some standard of justice to individuals and their accumulated decisions, liberals find injustice in external circumstances beyond the control of individuals.

Consequently, liberals attempt to erect artificial enhancements such as seniority, affirmative action, quotas, minimum wage hikes against virtue or merit--all designed to burden the thriving for the benefit of the languishing.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

How to Be Right on Rights

Traditional conservatives deny the liberal claim that government cannot enforce any particular notions of virtue because that would violate the rights of the citizens. Every citizen, so the argument goes, has the right to choose his own vision of the good life. For a government to deny a citizen's right to choose how he will live violates this fundamental right. Conservatives generally disagree.

Does this mean conservatives reject the idea of natural or human rights?


The Right, however, demands a little more thorough thinking about rights.

Liberals over the last several decades have inflated rights claim faster than the federal reserve has inflated the currency. Sometimes the rights claims resemble those television evangelists exhortation about praying the promises of God—just “name it and claim it.” And rights claims also serve as the purported end of many political discussions. “It's my right!” somehow trumps any and all other considerations in political debate. Little efforts is made to establish any philosophical or political basis for such rights claims.

A conservative view of natural rights considers the following.

All human beings possess the same basic human nature. We also have the same basic species-specific needs. Some examples include food, clothing, shelter, knowledge, and friendship. Because these goods are basic to meeting our natural needs—physical and psychological, we claim the right to secure them for ourselves. Natural needs serve the basis for natural rights. Conservatives maintain that human beings possess the natural right to secure what they need. Conservatives deny that which liberals claim for human beings—the natural right to what they want. As stated in the previous post, governments can and do make provision for securing the needs of their citizens because they are the same. Owing to the diversity of human wants, however, governments cannot even begin to satisfy them.

Because rights derive from human nature, conservatives deny the historical validity or philosophical need for John Locke's “state of nature” to explain natural rights and the origins of the state. That idea resulted from a wrong turn taken by Christians in the disputes within the Catholic Church over vows of poverty and the right to property. Theological discussions about property rights both in Eden and after the fall take on a life of their own. Hobbes and Locke sound like a faint and distance echo of those theological arguments.

Conservatives also deny the contemporary liberal replacement of John Locke's man living in a “state of nature” with John Rawls' unencumbered rights-bearing self with no duties but those to which he explicitly consents. No one comes into this world as an autonomous rights-bearing liberal—or anything else. All of us arrive dependent on parents. And we grow older we accept by custom duties to our family, community, and nation. And it is that family, that community, and that nation that enables us to successfully live out our rights to live, liberty, and pursuit of happiness.